As in Adam, So in Christ

Part 1

by: Ray Wooten

Email: ucm3821@aol.com

1 Cor. 15:22: "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive."

This is such a short statement, yet it holds such a vastly important and vital key to the fate of humanity! Are you sure you understand what the apostle Paul is saying here relative to our situation both in Adam and in Christ?

I believe this is one of the most misunderstood doctrines of the entire Bible. Yet it is vitally important to our salvation because the eternal destiny of all people who have ever lived past, present or future is intrinsically connected with these two men--Adam and Christ, who is the "Second Adam."

God's Purpose for Man

Gen 1:26" "And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness..."

God has never deviated from His purpose, which is stated in this verse. The entire Bible and the experiences of mankind revolve around God's purpose to create man in His image, after His likeness. This is today, and always has been, God's purpose, God's work. Everything He does with us revolves around this purpose. He began by creating man from the dust of the earth. However, creation did not end there. His purpose is for man to become Spirit Beings, in the likeness of God.

This whole process began when God created all mankind in one man-Adam (Genesis 1:27,28). Likewise, Satan ruined all mankind in one man--Adam (Romans 5:12,18; 1 Corinthians 15:21,22). And God redeemed all mankind in one man--Christ Jesus, the second Adam (1 Corinthians 1:30; Ephesians 1:3;2:5, 6). The Bible is clear that "in Adam all die" and that "In Christ shall all be made alive".

I am convinced that we can never fully understand all the implications and privileges of our salvation "in Christ" until we come to realize our situation "in Adam". Two New Testament passages - Romans 5:12-21 and 1 Corinthians 15:19-23; 45-49--explain in detail this important teaching of the two Adams. In this article we will cover Romans 5 and then we will cover 1 Corinthians 15 in an ensuing article". Now, let's look carefully at what they have to say.

Adam - A Type of Christ

In Romans 5:11, the apostle Paul states a glorious truth of the gospel. He says that we Christians can rejoice because we have already received the atonement (reconciliation). Then he goes on to explain in verses 12-21 how we have received this reconciliation. He does this by using Adam as a type of Christ, verse 14. He states emphatically that we are redeemed "in Christ" in the same way that we are lost "in Adam". The history of these two men - Adam and Christ - has affected the eternal destiny of all mankind. In order to use Adam as a type of Christ, Paul first explained in verses 12-14, what our situation is "in Adam".

In Adam All Die

Romans 5:12 "By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned". In this verse, Paul makes three statements about the problem of sin. He says that sin entered the world (that is, human history) through one man--Adam. Second, he says that this sin condemned Adam to death. Third, Paul says that this death spread to all humanity "for all have sinned". This last phrase has generated many controversies in the history of the church. Did Paul mean that all die because "all have sinned" personally as did Adam? Or did he mean that all die because "All have sinned" in Adam?

The conclusion we reach has important implications for our salvation, since Paul's purpose in discussing Adam is to use him as a type of Christ. I believe that when we carefully consider the context for all of this passage and the logic of Paul's argument, as well as his teaching regarding justification by faith elsewhere throughout the New Testament, we must conclude that Paul is saying here in Roman 5:12 that death spread to all mankind because "all have sinned" in Adam. Paul's logic is that all humanity was "In Adam" when he sinned, and therefore the whole human race was implicated, or participated, in Adam's act of disobedience. This is a very hard concept for us, but let me give you an illustration, which may help you grasp it. Let's say there's an ocean liner, very luxurious with thousands of passengers aboard. The ship has different class sections and all have certain amenities, etc. But it is headed on a collision course! Because of an order the Captain gave, finally, at full speed ahead, the ship hits an iceberg and disintegrates, killing all the passengers. Now, though the Captain steered the ship and caused the crash, everybody on board died because they were on the ship. It happened not because they did the same things the captain did, but because they were on the ship. This is analogous to mankind's circumstances in Adam. Therefore, Paul writes, the condemnation of death that came to Adam automatically passed on to every human being. In this verse there are five reasons to believe that this is what Paul is saying.

1. It simply isn't true that everyone dies because they have personally sinned as Adam did. For example, babies die even though they have no personal sins. The only explanation for the fact that death is universal is that all sinned "in Adam."

2. Grammatically, the Greek verb "sinned" in verse 12 is in the aorist tense. This tense normally refers to an act that took place in the past at a single point in time. Grammatically, then, "all have sinned" most naturally refers to a single past historical event (Adam's sin) and not to the continuing personal sins of his descendants over the centuries.

3. Paul explained in verses 13 and 14 what he meant in verse 12. He states that all those who lived from Adam until Moses died even though they "had not sinned after the similitude (likeness) of Adam's transgression" (vs. 14). Therefore, the immediate context of verse 12 contradicts the idea that all die because they have sinned as Adam sinned.

4. Four times in Romans 5:15-18 Paul explicitly states that Adam's sin (not our own personal sins) brought judgment, condemnation and death to the whole human race. So, the context of verse 12 clearly supports the idea that all die because "all have sinned" in Adam. (i.e. because we are aboard Adam's ship). In verse 19 Paul sums up his argument with a perfectly clear statement: "By one man's disobedience many were made sinners."

5. The logic of Paul's argument in this passage is that Adam is a type, or pattern, of Christ. What happened to us in Adam is rectified for us in Christ. Therefore, if we insist that verse 12 means that all men die because "all have sinned" as Adam sinned--then we must make the analogy fit by arguing that all men live (or are justified) because all have obeyed as Christ obeyed. Such an argument turns justification by faith in to salvation by works, the very opposite of Paul's clear teaching in Romans. The analogy here is that since "all have sinned" in Adam and are therefore condemned to death in him, so all have obeyed in Christ and therefore stand justified to life in Him (verse 18).

With this information, verses 13 and 14 make sense. Here Paul is simply proving what he stated in verse 12--that all die because "all have sinned" in Adam. He does this by looking at a segment of the human race, those who lived from Adam until Moses. To be sure these people were sinning, but since God had not yet explicitly codified His law until He gave it to man through Moses, He could not justly condemn these people to death for their personal sins. This is what Paul means in verse 13. Nevertheless, they were dying, as Paul clearly shows in verse 14. Why? His answer is that they were dying because all humanity stands condemned to death in Adam.

In spite of what seems to me to be the clear evidence of Romans 5, some still believe they can harmonize Paul's logic in these verses with the concept that all people die because all have sinned personally the same as Adam. They insist that the death which Paul says we receive "In Adam" is the first death, or "sleep" death. They say we receive the "second" death, i.e. the eternal death, as a result of our own personal sins. However, this reasoning will not stand up under the scrutiny of scripture, regardless of how convincing it may sound. The word death is used twice in Romans 5:12, once to refer to Adam and then to refer to humanity, Adam's posterity. In other words, the same death that came to Adam passed on to all humanity. What death was that--the first or second death?

Before his transgression, Adam surely knew nothing about the first death. Therefore, the death sentence pronounced on Adam when he sinned was the second death, the eternal death. Life was gone forever. Had there been no "Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Revelation 13: 8), Adam would have forfeited his life forever the day he sinned, and mankind would have died eternally in him (Genesis 2:17). No other human would have been born. So, it is the second death that has passed to all mankind "in Adam". And "through him" man has inherited the propensity to sin. In Adam the whole human race belongs on death row. It is only in Christ "on His ship", that we can pass from eternal death to eternal life (John 5:24; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; 2 Timothy 1:10; Revelation 20:6).

Heresy of "The Original Sin"

We need to be very careful in this study not to go beyond what the Bible says. We must not teach that all humanity also inherits Adam's guilt. This is the heresy of "original sin" introduced by Augustine and adopted by the Roman Catholic Church. Guilt, in a legal sense, always includes personal volition, will or responsibility, and God does not hold us personally responsible for something in which we had no choice. Only when we personally, consciously, deliberately, and persistently reject the gift of eternal life in Christ does the guilt and responsibility of sin and the second death become ours (John 3:18, 36; Mark 16:15; Hebrews 2:1-4; 10:14,26-29).

Adam and Christ Had Opposite Effect

Once Paul has established our situation in Adam (Roman 5:12-14), he goes on to show how Adam is a type, or pattern, of Christ (verses 15-18). He argues that just as Adam's sin affected all humanity for death, likewise, what Christ did as the second Adam also affected all humanity for life. The only thing that Adam and Christ have in common is that what they did affected all humanity. The ways in which they affected humanity are totally opposite. When Adam sinned, Paul shows that he brought the judgment of condemnation and death to "all men". In the same way, when Christ obeyed, He not only redeemed humanity from the result of Adam's sin, but much more He canceled all our personal sins, i.e. "many offence's", and brought the verdict of "justification of life" to all men (verses 16,18). This is the message of grace and truth that the gospel proclaims.

Paul adds another dimension to the problem Adam's sin caused for us (verse 19). It "made" all men into sinners. This means that in addition to condemnation and the death sentence that we received new "In Adam", we are also born slaves to sin and are therefore incapable, in and of ourselves, of producing genuine righteousness (Romans 3:9-12; 7:14-25). But in the second half of verse 19, Paul reminds us that because of Christ's obedience we shall "be made righteous". Notice Paul uses the future tense here-- "shall"-- indicating that this applies to those who receive Jesus Christ (verse 17). To demonstrate that Adam's sin has made us slaves to sin, God gave His law (verse 20; Romans 7:7-13). In other words, Paul is clear that God did not give us His law to solve the problem with sin but to expose it. The law showed how Adam's one sin "the offence," has produced a whole race of sinners. Again, the good news is that although sin multiplied through Adam's transgression, God's grace in Christ has multiplied all the more (verse 20).

Our Position in Christ

Is A Free Gift

Now we come to the next important point concerning Romans 5. Paul mentioned something in connection with our situation in Christ that He does not apply to our situation in Adam. He refers to what God accomplished "In Christ" for all humanity as a "free gift" (verse 16). This means that although all have been legally justified in Christ's obedient living and His sacrificial death, justification is still a gift. Like any gift, it belongs only to those who accept it. Only those who by faith receive God's gift of justification will enjoy the benefits of Christ's perfect obedience (verse 17).


Another expression Paul uses often when he is referring to the blessings we receive in Christ's obedience is "much more". In Christ, much more has been accomplished than Restoration, which is simply undoing the damage we inherit from Adam: For example, by His death Jesus not only liberated humanity from the condemnation of death resulting from Adam's transgression. Much more, He redeemed us from our own "many [personal] offenses unto justification" (verse 16). In Christ, we not only receive eternal life, but much more we shall "reign in life by one, Jesus Christ" (verse 17). This is abundant grace.

Paul concludes then "where sin abounded, grace did much more abound" (verse 20). As sin rules our lives from birth resulting in death, Paul pleads with us to allow grace to take over and reign in our lives, producing righteousness both now and eternally (verse 21).

How This Applies To You Personally

With the facts Paul has given about the two Adams in Romans 5, what conclusions can we draw concerning our salvation?

A. Whether you are deemed a sinner and condemned to death, or whether you are declared righteous and qualify for eternal life is inherently linked to the history of Adam or of Christ. Based on Adam's disobedience you are deemed a sinner. Based on Christ's obedience you are declared justified or righteous.

B. If you belong to the humanity produced by Adam (and all humans do), you are made a sinner and are condemned to eternal death. However, if you choose to renounce your place in Adam and accept your position in the humanity instituted by Jesus Christ, you are declared righteous and qualify for eternal life. To put it another way, your eternal destiny depends upon to which humanity you choose to belong.

C. All mankind by creation is "in Adam". This is the hopeless position we inherit by birth into the human race. Hence we are "by nature the children of wrath" (Ephesians 2:3). But the truth of the gospel is that God has given us a new identity and history "in Christ". This is His supreme gift to humanity. Our position "in Adam" is by birth. Our position "in Christ" is by faith. What God has done for the entire human race in Christ is given as a "free gift," something we do not deserve. That is why the gift is referred to as grace or unmerited favor. This is done objectively by God for all mankind. But for this gift to be made effective for you personally, you must receive it by faith.

D. Adam and Christ belong to opposite camps that cannot be reconciled. Adam is equated with sin and death; Christ with righteousness and life. Consequently, it is impossible for anyone to belong, subjectively to Adam and Christ at the same time. To accept Christ by faith means to renounce completely one's position in Adam (2 Cor 5:17; 6:14-16). Baptism is a public declaration that we have died to sin (our position in Adam) and have been resurrected into newness of life (our position in Christ) (Rom 6:1-4, 8; 2 Tim 2:11).

E. So, the human race may be divided into two groups: 1) the Adamic race, made up of many nations and tribes (Acts 17:26), and 2) believers who are all one in Christ (Rom 12:5; 1 Cor 10:17; Eph 4:11-13). Because of the gospel, we have the choice to belong to either of these two groups. We may hold our position in Adam by unbelief and reap death, which is the result of his sin. Or, by faith, we may choose to become united to Christ and receive the benefits of His righteousness.

My prayer is that you will choose Christ, and live.

Written by Ray Wooten, 
Evangelist, United Christian Ministries
P.O. Box 1505
Pelham, Alabama 35124-5505
Phone: 888-985-9066
Email: ucm3821@aol.com
Web page: United Christian Minsitries