(Romans chap. V. 12—21).
My desire is to take up and discuss as simply as possible, and yet as
fully as may be necessary, some of the leading truths of the epistle to the
Romans. My aim is not controversy, as I trust, but edification; yet on this
very account I shall seek to remember all through the need of those who have
been exercised by questions which have of late arisen. Exercise is not to be
deprecated. It is well to be made thus to realize how far we have really
learned from God, and our need of being taught in His presence that which
cannot be shaken. There is an uneasy dishonouring fear in the hearts of many as
to submitting all that they have apparently learned, through whomsoever or in
what way soever learned, to be afresh tested by what seems "novel" and in some
measure in conflict with it. But it will only be found, by those who in
patience and confidence in God allow every question to be raised that can be
raised, and seek answer to it from Him through the Word, how firm His
foundation stands, and how that which seems at first to threaten more or less
the integrity of our faith only in result confirms it. Difficulties are cleared
away, things obscure made to take shape and meaning, the divine power of the
Word to manifest itself, Christ and His grace to be better known. Much too that
we looked at or were prepared to look at as fundamental difference in
another’s view turns out to be only the emphasizing (though perhaps the
over-emphasizing) of what was really defective in our own. And so "by that
which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure
of every part," there is made "increase of the body to the edifying of itself
Let us now look at what is surely the key-note to the
interpretation of what is known to many as the second part of Romans (ch. v.
12—viii.), the two contrasted thoughts, "in Adam" and "in Christ." This is
what we start with in chap. v. 12—2 i, though as yet we have neither term
made use of. Indeed the first term occurs but once in Scripture, and that not
in Romans, but in i Cor. xv, where the first Adam and the last are put in
The statements of chap. v. 12—21 are the
exposition of the doctrine :— "By one man sin entered into the world, and
death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned."
"If through the offence of one the many be dead." "The judgment was by one to
condemnation." "By one man’s offence death reigned by one." "By the one
offence toward all men to condemnation." (Greek.)
"By the one man’s
disobedience the many were made sinners." "Sin hath reigned in death." (Greek.)
These are the statements as to the first man and the consequences of his
sin. They show that his sin has affected not himself alone, but many with him;
that it brought in death as a present judgment upon a fallen race, and tending
to merge in final condemnation.
Two things as to present fact: a race
of sinners; death as God’s judgment-stamp upon this race. The final
outlook or tendency for all, utter condemnation.
The first man was thus
in a very real way the representative of his race; not indeed by any formal
covenant for his posterity, of which Scripture has no trace; but by his being
the divinely constituted head of it. As the father of men, he necessarily stood
as charged with the interests of his posterity; from his fall, a corrupt nature
became the heritage of the race, and thus death and judgment their appointed
lot, the final issue no uncertain one. Thus in a real way he represented them
before God; but, as I have said, not by any formal covenant on their behalf.
His representative- character was grounded in what men call natural law, which
is nothing but divine law, and which is both evident in nature and asserted in
the plainest possible way in Scripture. "Who can bring a clean thing out of an
unclean? not one," expresses the law. "What is man, that he should be clean?
and he that is born of a woman, that he should be righteous?" "Behold, I was
shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me." The Lord’s
words in the gospel fully and emphatically confirm these sayings of saints of
old: "That which is born of the flesh is flesh." What men now call, The
principle of "heredity," is thus affirmed, and it is the whole scriptural
account of the matter. The theories of a covenant with Adam for his posterity,
and the imputation of his sin to them, are simply additions to Scripture, and
as such, not only needless, but an obscuring of the truth, as all mere human
thoughts of necessity are.
"By one man sin entered into the world, and
death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned."*
Such is the apostle’s statement here. It speaks of death as with every
individual the result of his own sins, although his being made (or "constituted
") a sinner was the result of Adam’s disobedience (v. iv). I know it has
been argued that this could not apply to infants, who if they sinned could only
have done so in Adam. But the apostle is not speaking of infants, nor did their
case need to be considered here. Sinning in Adam is not a doctrine of
Scripture, and it is not allowable to insert words of such a character and
importance in this place. The apostle is addressing himself to believers, to
show the application of the work of Christ to such, as delivering them from all
that attached to them by nature or practice. From this the case of infants may
be easily inferred;but it is not his object to speak of it, and it cannot be
shown that he does so at all.
Sin, then, came in through Adam. The
nature of man was corrupted; by his disobedience the many were made sinners:
and thus death introducing to judgment was the stamp of God upon the fallen
condition. Adam was the representative of his race by the fact that he was the
head of it, and thus, as it is put in i Corinthians xv. 22, "in Adam all
This expression, though found but once, is of great significance,
because it is contrasted with and throws light upon another expression which is
of the highest importance to us, and which the following chapters of Romans use
repeatedly. "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made
alive." We are now prepared to understand how "in Adam all die." In his death
was involved and insured the death of all men. As head of the race, his ruin
and death was theirs, and so "in him," their representative, they die. "In
Adam" speaks of place,—of representation; as the apostle argues as to Levi
and Abraham (Heb. vii. 9, 10): "And as I may so say, Levi also, who receiveth
tithes, paid tithes in Abraham; for he was yet in the loins of his father when
Melchzisedek met him." We too were in the loins of Adam when he fell and
sentence of death was passed upon him; and in him we die. Thank God, we have
heard the voice of Another, Head and Representative too of His race, which
says, "Because I live, ye shall live also." (Jno. X1V. 19.) In Adam we die: in
Christ we live.
As in Adam, then, we are completely ruined. We are
"constituted sinners "—sinners by constitution. Death and judgment are our
appointed lot. This is what has to be met in our behalf, if Christ comes in for
us. It is not enough for Him to be a new head and fountain of life for us from
God. He must not only be our new Representative in life, but our Representative
in death, and under curse also, taking the doom of those whose new Head He
becomes. Hence comes a distinction which we must bear in mind. In life, He is
our Representative that with Him we may live and inherit the portion He has
acquired for us: in death, He is our Representative that we may not die,
because already dead with Him. This last is substitution. He dies for us, and
He alone: in life He lives for us, and (blessed be God!) lives not alone.
Now let us look at the apostle’s statements. And first,—
Adam "is the figure of Him that was to come." (v. 14.)
Thus it is that
in i Cor. xv. 22 "in Christ" is set over against "in Adam," and that in ver. 45
again "the last Adam" is seen in essential contrast to the "first:" "The first
Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening Spirit."
But what, then, does a "last Adam" mean? The head of a new race. And
thus "if any man be in Christ "—set over against "in Adam" in the verse
already looked at,—" it is a new creation." (2 Cor. v. iv) The first Adam
was the head of the old creation; the last Adam is the Head of the new. "In
Christ" means to be long to the new creation and the new Head.
merely link these terms together now. I do not propose to examine here what
exactly the new creation is. The term is not used in Romans, though in
Galatians (its kindred epistle, though wider in scope,) it is. But it should be
obvious that the first Adam, as "the figure of Him that was to come," figures
Christ as "the last Adam," the representative Head of a new race. As such, the
apostle compares the results of the obedience of the One to "the many" who
stand in Him, with the results of the first man’s disobedience to "the
many" who fell with him.
But we must pause before proceeding with this,
to make it perfectly clear to any who have a doubt that Scripture speaks of the
last Adam as really the Head of a race. Spite of the term "last Adam," some
have doubt of this. They say, "We are never called children of Christ, but of
God;" which is true, because it is divine life that is communicated, and
"children of Christ" would imply only human life. "The last Adam is made a
quickening Spirit" surely proves, however, that in this character He quickens
(or gives life), while at the same time it shows the character of the life
communicated; for "that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." And this action
of the last Adam we find imaged by the Lord in resurrection breathing upon His
disciples when He says, "Receive ye the Holy Ghost." The first Adam was but a
"living soul" into whose nostrils God breathed the breath of life, that he
might become so. The last Adam breathes upon others; He is a quickening Spirit,
not merely a living soul.
Isaiah also, foreseeing the glory of the
Lord, declares, "When Thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin, He shall
see His seed" (liii. io). And again, in words which are quoted and applied to
Christ by the apostle, "Behold, I and the children which God hath given Me"
(ch. viii. i8; Heb.ii. 13).
There is surely no more need to prove that
Christ as last Adam, like him whose antitype He is, is the Head of a race. It
is the key to all that follows in Romans v. and the two next chapters, where
"in Christ" as Corinthians gives it, is in contrast, yet antitypical
correspondence, with "in Adam."
Now, as in Adam’s case we have
traced the results of the disobedience of the one to the many, let us trace the
results of the obedience of the new Representative-Head to the many connected
with Him. "Much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one
man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many."
"The free gift is of many
offences unto justification."
"They which receive abundance of grace and of
the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ."
"By the one righteousness toward all men to justification of life." (Gr.) "By
the obedience of the one shall the many be made righteous." These are the
statements corresponding to, yet contrasted with, the former ones which we
considered. One thing we must remember in considering them, that these two
accounts do not exhibit a mere balance of results. "Not as the offence so also
is the free gift"(v. ‘5). If righteousness be shown in dealing with sin,
the "free gift," while of course it must be righteous, absolutely so, is yet
measured only by the grace that has given Christ for us. Hence His work by no
means merely cancels the results of sin, but lifts us into a place altogether
beyond what was originally ours. Let us see what we have here, although even
here the tale is not fully told.
First, we have "life;" and this in the
next chapter (v. 23) is expanded into "eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."
It is not merely life from another source, but life of an entirely new
character and quality; not a restoration of the failed and forfeited life, but
a life infinitely higher—a divine life. There is but one life which is
eternal, and "in Christ Jesus our Lord" declares its source to be in a divine
Person, and now become man. Nor only so, for the force of the expression is
precise. It is not correctly given in our common version, but in the revised it
is, as I have quoted it. It is "in," not, as the common version, "through;" and
"Christ Jesus," not "Jesus Christ." Such differences, minute as they may seem,
are in Scripture never without significance. "Jesus Christ" is the Lord’s
personal name emphasized; "Christ Jesus" emphasizes His official title. It
speaks of a place now taken through His work accomplished. In the eleventh
verse it should read similarly, "alive to God in Christ Jesus." Again we have
it in the eighth chapter, "no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus;"
and in the second verse, "life in Christ Jesus." Elsewhere we have "sanctified"
and "saints in Christ Jesus," "created in Christ Jesus," "of Him are ye in
Christ Jesus," and so repeatedly. Except once—Peter (i Pet. v. Ia), no
inspired writer uses this order of words, but only Paul. "In Jesus," or "in
Jesus the Christ," we are never said to be, but only "in Christ," or "in Christ
Jesus." The special force ought to be therefore clear.
Our life, then,
is not only in Him, but in Him as now having accomplished His work and gone up
to God. There, as Peter on the day of Pentecost bears witness, He is made Lord
and Christ (Acts II. 36), actually reaching the place which was His already by
appointment, but to be reached only in one way. The last Adam becomes Head of
the race after His work of obedience is accomplished, as the first Adam became
head when his work of disobedience was accomplished. And as in the one case, so
in the other, the results of the work become the heritage of the race. The head
of the race represents the race before God. The ruin of the head becomes the
ruin of the race. If the head stands, so does the race.
In either case,
the connection of the head and the race is by life and nature, a corrupt nature
being transmitted from the fallen head, a divine life and nature, free from and
incapable of taint, from the new head, Christ Jesus. Death and judgment lay
hold upon the fallen creature; righteousness characterizes the possessor of
But here there is another need to be met; for these
possessors of righteousness in a new life are by the old one children of Adam,
and under wrath and condemnation because of manifold sins. Christ, the Son of
the Father, is not stooping to take up unfallen beings, and bring them into a
new place of nearness to God, but He is taking up sinners. For these, then, He
must provide, along with a new life, a righteousness which shall justify them
from all charge of sin. They must not only be delivered from inward corruption
by a principle of right eousness imparted; they must be delivered from guilt
also by a righteousness imputed. There must be a "justification of
life,"—that is, a justification belonging to the life communicated: "by
one righteousness toward all men,"—God’s grace offering itself for
acceptance by all,—" unto justification of life." Here, then, comes in,
not representation simply, but substitution,—representation under penalty
for those who had incurred the penalty. He who is our Representative-Head in
life must be our Substitute in death also. He must be "obedient unto death,"
standing in our place, that we may stand in His,—in the place He has won
and taken for us with God. His obedience avails for much more than negatively
to justify from all charge of sin: it has its own infinite preciousness before
God, in virtue of which we have a positive righteousness measured by this. He
"of God is made unto us righteousness" (i Cor. i. 30). We "receive abundance of
the gift of righteousness," as the passage before us says, and "shall reign in
life by One, Jesus Christ." Thus are the effects of the fall for us removed,
and we stand in a new place under a new Head. We are in Christ, not Adam; and
this, as we have seen, speaks of place in a representative,—that by virtue
of headship of a race. Our connection with Christ is now, as formerly it was
with Adam, by the life which we receive from Him, and of which we partake in
Him,—that is, by belonging to the race of which He is head. This and its
consequences are unfolded further in the following chapters, to which this
doctrine of the two Adams is the key.