Old Testament Fulfillment Series: Adam

Gen. 1:26-28, 3:1-7; Rom. 5:12-25

The Old Testament has such a wide array of books, 39, and hundreds of people, events and stories, such that it is not easy for many Christians to know exactly how or where to begin.  Most people know the story of Jonah being swallowed by the great fish or David slaying the mighty Goliath. Many will find the familiar strains of Psalm 23 comforting in times of sorrow. But how does it all fit together? You may feel a bit daunted by the Old Testament and not even know where to begin or what broader purpose these stories hold for us as Christians living today.  We meet hundreds of people in the Old Covenant: Noah and his three sons, Deborah and her victory over Sisera, Baalam and his donkey, Samson and Delilah, Solomon and his court, Elijah and Elisha, and Isaiah the prophet, to name a few. How do we make senses of all of this? How can we become comfortable with the Old Testament? And does it all point us to Jesus Christ, the culmination and apex of the whole redemptive story? 

We begin by recognizing that there are four figures in the Old Testament who are of such immense importance that every Christian must know these four figures and how we relate to them. These four serve as the kind of spine to which everything else can be related. These four figures are used extensively in the New Testament to explain the gospel and to fully reveal the person and work of Christ and the Holy Spirit. Now who are these four people?

Adam, Abraham, Moses, and David.

These four figures are essential to the whole theological foundation of the New Testament. We need to know who they are and how we relate to them as Christians. During this series, Lord willing, I am going to focus on these four figures plus the “surprise figure” of the prophets, namely, the Suffering Servant that is the collective experience of Israel, and demonstrate how they serve the Christian gospel.

In Genesis, at the apex of God’s creation, He created man and woman in His own image. We are bearers of the image of God. The text says that God breathed into us of His Spirit, the ruah of God; this enlivened us and made us partakers of a life unlike that of the animal kingdom. Eternity was placed in our hearts, and we bear His image. This image does not refer to a physical resemblance of God but rather to certain capacities we have been given that separate us from the rest of creation. We have three main capacities that set us apart: a moral capacity, a relational capacity, and a representative capacity. A moral capacity means that we are moral agents who have the capacity to receive God’s commandments and are accountable to God; we are called to be holy as God is holy. A relational capacity means that, unlike the animals, we are able to enter into a personal relationship with God; we can hear His voice, pray, and know Him. Finally, a representative capacity means that we have been given stewardship and dominion over the entire creation and, indeed, we represent God’s authority and dominion before the rest of the created order. So, as bearers of God’s image, Adam and Eve were holy, without sin or a sin nature. They were in fellowship with God and were placed in the Garden of Eden as God’s vice-regents and given dominion over the entire created order.

However, in the midst of that Garden was the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, which our first parents, Adam and Eve, were forbidden from partaking. The tree was there in the first place as an acknowledgement that an earlier rebellion had already taken place, not in this created order but in a different order of creation – that of the angels. An angel had led a rebellion against God that resulted in angels falling from their state of holiness before God. This is the origin of Satan and the principalities, powers and demons in the present evil age. God knew that Satan was going to tempt Adam and Eve. So, He told them not to go there; to just stay away from that tree. But God had an even greater purpose for that choice because it was the only way to confirm one in holiness and not just in a state of innocence. Where there is no choice, there is no true capacity to love. Love is the highest expression of a relationship. God could have created a legion of automatons, mechanical beings who flawlessly did His every bidding. But you cannot have a relationship with a machine. All relationships involve the possibility of rejection. You can make someone serve you, but you cannot make someone love you. Love cannot be coerced; it must be freely offered. God, in order to have the possibility of a true love relationship, permitted the possibility of our rejecting Him. And this is exactly what happened in the Garden of Eden.

Adam sinned and partook of the fruit. The fruit on that tree served as a kind of anti-sacrament, which Satan offered. A sacrament is a means of grace, a visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace. The fruit is a means of rebellion, a visible sign of an inward and spiritual rejection of God; an anti-sacrament. It was a sacrament that brought Adam and Eve into the fellowship of the rebellion rather than the fellowship of God. We are now all born as a part of this rebellion and are under this blanket of condemnation and death. We call this the Fall of Man (Genesis chapter 3).

Our text opens with a restatement of this doctrine by the Apostle Paul when he says in Romans 5 verse 12, “Just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way, death came to all men because all sinned.”

In this verse, Paul is reminding us of our connection with Adam and this movement of rebellion against God that has now swept through the human race. We need to be clear here, because we all understand that we have sinned just like Adam sinned. Adam disobeyed God in the Garden, and we have in several ways disobeyed God in our own lives. But every person is not just another Adam; it is not like Adam had a choice in the Garden, and you have a choice in your office in Lexington or your home in Wilmore. No, the Scripture teaches that Adam’s sin has consequences for the whole human race. Adam had the capacity and the choice to either obey God, deepening his relationship with God, or to enter into the rebellion against God. We, on the other hand, do not have the natural capacity to live a life apart from sin. We have sin natures; a proclivity or a bent towards sinning – a tendency that moves us away from God and from righteousness. You see it in a two-year-old child. What parent has not looked at their own child and said, “Where did this come from?” It came from Adam and Eve. We are born with that tendency or bent. Adam and Eve were not; otherwise, God would be the author of evil. God gave them a real choice, and they freely choose to sin and thereby became sinners. In contrast, we are born sinners (with a sin nature) and we sin as a natural outgrowth of our sin nature. As the first part of Romans 5:19 says, “By the disobedience of the one man, the many were made sinners.” 

Listen carefully to the key question that is before us: How did Adam’s sin make us sinners? Or, to put it another way, what is the relationship between Adam’s sin and our condemnation? Perhaps there is something inside of you that says, “Hey, this is not fair; Adam did something thousands of years ago, and you’re telling me I’m affected by it. Because of Adam, I have this sin nature that is constantly pushing me towards the rebellion and away from God.” You may say, “I don’t accept it. I make my own decisions; I am my own Adam or my own Eve. It’s not fair.” But be careful because, as we shall see, Paul is laying the groundwork for a very important doctrine in the Bible. That is the doctrine of vicariousness. Vicarious means for something to happen on your behalf apart from your initiative. If you cannot be connected to Adam because you say, “How can I be affected by the actions of a man who lived thousands of years ago?” then the knife cuts both ways; you have to also say, “I cannot be affected by the life and actions of Jesus Christ who also lived thousands of years ago and did things on my behalf just as Adam did.” While we were helpless, Christ died for us (Romans 5:6). So, let us stay with Paul here and try to understand his argument. We’re still in verse 12: “Sin entered the world and death through sin because all sinned.” Through Adam, sin entered the world, and death is the greatest emblem of sin; remember in the Garden, “If you eat, you will surely die” (Gen. 2:17). This means that physical and spiritual entropy would set in, which would result in physical and spiritual death. So, sin and death dominate us and are descriptive of the experience of the whole human race. But when Paul says, “because all sinned,” he is not simply saying that death came to all because all subsequently sinned as the generations unfolded. It is true that we have all sinned and have confirmed Adam’s choice to be a part of the rebellion. But that is not what Paul is talking about. When Paul says, “because all sinned,” he means that we all sinned in Adam. In other words, you were there in the Garden and sinned with Adam. This is a very strange doctrine to understand because modern people, especially Americans, do not have a very strong sense of how we are connected to one another or to past generations. This is part of our own cultural history that lacks the identity of ethnic roots, is multicultural, and is united to a strong sense of independence and individualism. Americans find this difficult to swallow, but here it is. The Bible has the concept that you are not just an individual but that inside of you, your loins, resides all future generations or progeny who will come forth from you. We cannot avoid this doctrine because we will see it again when we study Abraham; the writer of Hebrews argues that the whole tribe of Levi is in the loins or body of Abraham when he gives tithes to Melchizedek. So we can’t get around this doctrine.

When Adam sinned, the Bible teaches that you were present in the body or in the loins of Adam because the whole human race ultimately descends from Adam. So, it is not like some isolated Adam did something thousands of years ago and you now have a sin nature. Rather, when Adam rebelled against God, you and I were present there in Adam, in his loins, and therefore actually participated in the sin of Adam. Those maps in malls that show you the whole scheme of the mall and have those little signs, “You are here”; well, when you read that Adam and Eve take the fruit (the anti-sacrament) and eat, the Bible puts a little sign there that says, “You are here!” This shows a sense of solidarity within the human race and our connectedness as a race, which may seem strange for us, but it is part of the biblical teaching.  

You sinned along with Adam, and therefore you were judged along with Adam. Now, Satan was convinced that getting Adam to enter into the rebellion (Satan is the author of evil and the founder of the rebellion that began among the angels) was the ultimate coup, especially since he was able to tempt the very first man and woman. Because he has vicariously defeated the whole human race (because the whole human race was latent in Adam’s loins) we are now all part of the rebellion because we all disobeyed in Adam in the Garden (“You are here!”). In short, he got the whole human race to disobey God in one fell swoop. That’s the bad news. This is why we can refer to those apart from Christ as lost.

But, God always has the last word. That’s one of the great doctrines of the Bible; God always has the last word. But what can God do? It seems Satan’s victory is air tight. The entire human race has chosen to disobey God and to join the rebellion; there are no exceptions. As Augustine said, “We are sinners by birth and by choice.” We were all born into the rebellion because we were present in Adam, and we all have confirmed this in dozens of ways in our lives.  Now, this is a real conundrum, an impossible problem, a seemingly unsolvable dilemma for God. How can this problem be reversed? How can the human race be rescued out of the rebellion and avoid the inevitable condemnation when, without exception, everyone is bound to become a part of it? As members of the rebellion, we all collectively face condemnation: spiritual death. The only way is to bring another Adam into the world, someone who can, once again, have the choice to obey or disobey, but this time to get it right. We have to somehow run the tape back, push the rewind button, and redo that first scene. We have to find a way to go back and rewrite that first chapter of the human story, Genesis 3. But that’s impossible right? Because any man or woman that God raises up to serve Him is already, by default, part of the rebellion… this is the conundrum. So, God proposes a radical, universe-shaking solution. God says, “Okay, since the whole human race is ineligible – we can’t do an inside job – what if I become a man and enter the human race as a New Adam or a Second Adam?” God becoming a man – an outside job – rebooting the system and reformatting the hard drive of the human race (this is radical, there is no precedent for this), the angels are, like, “Whoa! This is radical!” But even this solution has problems, because even if God, the second person of the Trinity, enters the human race in the normal way, the Son of God Himself will be affected by a sin nature that is somehow passed on through the seed of the man. So, God says, “Okay, I’ll enter the human race through a virgin – the Holy Spirit will provide the seed, and I will be born into the human race as a second Adam.” This is exactly what the New Testament declares happens. Christ, the eternal Son of God, is born of a virgin into the human race as a second Adam. Satan also tries desperately to tempt Jesus – remember the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness after His baptism – this is a relentless period of an all-out assault on Jesus by the forces of the rebellion. But, unlike Adam, Jesus chose to obey God. He never sinned. He had the capacity as the God-Man to either sin or not sin, because although Jesus was one person, He had two natures, the divine nature and a human nature. He had a will. He could have chosen to disobey God, but He didn’t. The result is that we now have two Adams. Not one head of one condemned human race, but two heads of two different races: one under condemnation and one a new, redeemed humanity. If we trust in Christ, then by the same vicariousness we become a part of His obedience in the same way that we had formerly been a part of the first Adam’s rebellion. “The first man Adam became a living being… the last Adam, a life-giving Spirit” (I Cor. 15:45). There is now eternal life and hope pouring into the human race. Deliverance is at hand. “For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous” (Romans 5:18).

Between Adam’s disobedience and the giving of the Law, there was a period where people did not fully understand how deeply they were embedded in this rebellion because they were ignorant of its full force. The text says that before the law, sin was in the world but was not taken into account. This does not mean that there were not consequences for sin before the giving of the Law; it just means it did not register with full clarity – either the full righteousness of God or the sinfulness of man. We are also back to that point today, as many people don’t realize that they are part of the rebellion against God. They have no idea that the whole human race is under condemnation and that, at some point, God’s going to bring this rebellion to a decisive end and final judgment. There’s a curtain call for this planet – closing time. Most people don’t know that a second Adam has entered the world and provided a way out. This second Adam is so much greater than the first Adam. As our text declares, the first Adam committed one sin and brought judgment on the whole human race, and the second Adam had to bear millions of acts of rebellion in His body on the cross but was able to offer a way out. Again, the little sign, “You are here,” has now been moved. Before, we read about Adam’s rebellion against God and saw a little sign there that read, “You are here.” Now, as followers of Christ, that little sign is not there; praise God. Instead, I flip through the pages of the New Testament and read the account of Jesus in the wilderness being tempted, and He said He would worship the Lord God and serve Him only. There is a little sign there that says, “You are here”; you are in Christ as He obeyed, just as you once were in Adam as he disobeyed! You keep turning the pages of the New Testament, and you see Christ confronting the demonic world, exercising authority over the rebellion. You see a little sign there, “You are here,” in Christ, saying yes to God and no to the rebellion. You see, you are there through the whole life of Christ because in Christ, the entire history of the human race is being re-written. Hallelujah; we can turn the clock back and get it right because we can be there saying, “Yes, yes, Lord,” rather than, “No, no.” Everywhere the first Adam disobeyed, this Adam obeyed. Everywhere the first Adam said, “No” to God, this Adam said “Yes!” Wherever the first Adam blew it, this one got it right; hallelujah! In utter amazement, you keep turning the pages of the New Testament. It all culminates in the final test, in the Garden of Gethsemane. Would this second Adam be willing to go the whole way, or would He turn back? Would Jesus be prepared to accept the full brunt of God’s judgment against the rebellion? Would He really be willing to accept God’s judgment on all the sins that had been committed or ever would be committed? It meant being separated from His heavenly Father; it meant accepting God’s wrath on Himself. But it was the only way to provide a way out for us. A whole new humanity could be created through it, but the cost was high. Jesus sweated drops of blood in the Garden. This test was so intense. This is no charade; this is the real deal. The whole thing started in the Garden of Eden; now here we are in another Garden, the Garden of Gethsemane. This is amazing; it’s a back-to-the-future moment. You’ve got to go back in order to create a new future for the human race.

Finally, Jesus says those words that have changed the world: “Not my will, but thine be done.” You see, the motto of the rebellion has always been to say to God, “Not your will, but mine be done.” That is, in effect, what Adam and Eve said to God in that first Garden. But here in this Garden we meet the great reversal; Jesus turns the tables and says what no sinner can ever say: “Not my will, but Thine be done!” And there is a little sign there that says, “You are here” – saying yes to God! Man’s great “no” of rebellion is being swallowed up in God’s great “yes” of obedience. So, we keep turning the pages of Scripture and we keep on reading this unfolding plot of how human history is being rewritten. And we look at this man Jesus as He died upon the cross. We watch in horror as the God-Man, Jesus Christ, suffered the full judgment of God. There is a moment in the whole drama when the sky grows dark and Jesus cries out, “My God, my God, why have you forsake me?” And we just want to scream out. We want to stop it; it’s not fair for this man to suffer like this – it’s not fair for this innocent man who never sinned, who never said “no” to God, to experience all of this judgment, which I deserved. It’s not fair. Praise God: this is grace, this is the Christian Gospel. This is that choice of love we talked about that surpasses all human understanding. No one ever loved like this. No one ever made choices like this. And through the veil of tears as we read this account, we see a little sign there: “You are here.” When Christ died on the cross, you were in Christ. And we hear the words of Scripture that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting against us our trespasses, but nailing them to the cross: “You are here.” This is why Paul in chapter 8 verse 1 can no longer constrain his emotion as his words leap from the page and he shouts out with exultation, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ!”

There are now two Adams: the one who brings condemnation and death and the other who bring justification and eternal life. Under whose headship are you? Each member of the whole human race stands under one or the other. Where are you? Are you still part of the rebellion, or are you now in Christ and belong to the redeemed community? God has provided a way out of the rebellion at the cost of His own life, and Paul declares in this same book of Romans, “If you confess with your mouth, Jesus is Lord (renunciation of the first Adam and Satan) and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you shall be saved.” If you have not already, leave the rebellion, and be found IN Christ today! Amen.


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