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Are you in Adam or in Christ?

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by Jason Smathers on September 19, 2010

A sermon prepared for the Lord’s Day 9/19/2010

Romans 5:12–21 (ESV)

12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— 13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.

15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. 16 And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. 17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. 20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The book of Romans is like a systematic theology. In this letter that Paul writes to the Christians in Rome, he explains different doctrines. This letter is the closest thing we have to an inspired theology textbook.

In this passage, Paul is explaining the doctrines of federal headship, imputed sin and imputed righteousness.

Paul tells us that Adam is the federal head of his family and all his descendants.

Think back with me to the Cuban Missile Crisis – or for some of us, think back to what our history teachers said. The United States had over 100 missiles, all armed with nuclear warheads scattered among American bases in Italy, Turkey and the UK. They were all in key positions to strike Moscow. In turn, the Soviets began building bases in Cuba. They eventually had 40 missiles ready with the ability to strike anywhere in the United States, all armed with nuclear warheads. President Kennedy had the authority to launch missiles at the soviets at any time. What would have happened if Kennedy did just that? What would happen when a warhead was sent on its way to Moscow? Who would be blamed? Khrushchev and the Soviets would not have blamed Kennedy alone, but they would have condemned all of America. 40 nuclear warheads would have been exploding around this nation.

Just as Kennedy was the federal head of America in October of 1962, Adam is the federal head of all his family and all his descendants. Adam had authority to act on behalf of all mankind.

In the beginning, God entered into a covenant with Adam, we call this the “covenant of life”. Adam received great blessings out of this covenant:

  • He was placed in paradise,
  • He was free to eat of the fruit of the earth,
  • The creatures were put under his dominion,
  • God ordained marriage for his help,
  • He had communion with God, and
  • He was given the sabbath.

The condition of the covenant of life was Adam’s perfect and perpetual obedience. The tree of life was a pledge and Adam was forbidden to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The penalty for breaking this covenant was death. By death, God was talking about the same death he spoke of in Ezekiel 18:4 where he says “The soul which sins shall surely die.” To put it plainly, the penalty for breaking the covenant is eternal torment in hell, for Adam and for every person Adam represents—including you and me.

You might say, “but wait, that is not fair!” Our natural tendency is to reject such truth, because according to our flesh, it is not fair. God rebukes us for this kind of thought. We are told in Isaiah 45:9:

“Woe to him who strives with him who formed him, a pot among earthen pots! Does the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’ or ‘Your work has no handles’?” Isaiah 45:9 (ESV)

God made us and all things. He makes the rules. If you are still not satisfied, let me ask, would you have done better than Adam? Do you believe God choose poorly when he selected Adam as the federal head of mankind? Every one of us has confirmed God’s choice by sinning ourselves. Every one of us here today has sinned and earned death on our own. We would have made no better Adam. Let’s not point our fingers Adam’s way either, anger at Adam is anger at God. God knew what he was doing when he selected Adam.

We all know how this story ends. Adam did break this covenant which is why today’s text says in verse 12:

“Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—“ Romans 5:12 (ESV)

If you are still stuck on the fairness of being sent to hell for the actions of Adam, what comes next should wipe away your apprehension. Adam’s sin has been imputed on Adam’s people, but in a similar way, Jesus’ righteousness has been imputed upon Jesus’ people. Likewise, our intellect says wait, how can another man’s righteousness be imputed on me? But, we do not raise a stink about this one, because it is so much in our favor, it is the unmerited favor of God. It is God’s grace that we have done nothing to deserve.

Paul shows us very clearly in verses 18 and 19 how Jesus is the federal head of all in Christ, the same way Adam is the federal head of mankind. In verse 18, the Apostle Paul tells us:

“Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.” Romans 5:18 (ESV)

Adam’s one trespass led to the condemnation of all men, whom Adam represented as the federal head. Likewise, Jesus’ righteousness leads to the eternal life of all people he represents as their federal head. Jesus is the federal head of all who are joined to him through faith. We are called the church, the elect, or the bride of Christ. Every person who repents of sin and trusts in Christ alone to save them from the wrath they deserve is a member of this group. Christ is our federal head and his righteousness leads to our justification and our eternal life. If you are not sure if you are in Adam or in Christ, I urge you right now to repent and believe. Repent, turn away from your sins and turn to God for the strength to do what God wants. Believe that Jesus died for your sin, trust him to save you from the wrath to come. The moment you repent and believe is the moment to pass from death to life, it is the moment you are saved, it is the moment from when you move from being in Adam to being in Christ.

The Apostle Paul continues to show us the parallels between Adam as federal head and Christ as federal head in verse 19:

“For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.” Romans 5:19 (ESV)

Just as Adam’s sin was imputed to us, Jesus’ righteousness is imputed upon every Christian.

Adam is the federal head in the covenant of life, but Jesus is the federal head in a new covenant, the covenant of grace. The terms of the covenant of grace are truly amazing. We enter into the covenant by faith alone. Our faith joins us to Christ and we are provided with the Holy Spirit who dwells in us from the moment we first believe. Jesus lived a perfect and sinless life. Those in the covenant of grace are given the righteousness of Jesus. If you are in Christ, at the Day of Judgment, your sin will not be seen; instead you will be seen as being perfectly righteous because Jesus’ righteousness has been imputed on you. You will have eternal life in the presence of your holy Creator.

The covenant of grace is far better than the covenant of life. The federal head of the covenant of grace, Jesus Christ, likewise is far greater than the federal head of the covenant of life, Adam. We skipped down to see how Jesus and Adam are similar, but Paul has also given us a warning not to assume the two are equal. He makes it clear that Jesus is far greater than Adam and that the grace of Christ is far greater than the death of Adam. Look with me at verse 14:

“Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.” Romans 5:14 (ESV)

Adam is just a type of the one who was to come; he is just a type of Christ. Adam was a foreshadowing of Christ. Jesus and Adam were both born without being under the condemnation of sin, whereas the rest of us were born under condemnation even before we took out first breath. In this way, Jesus and Adam are similar. Yet, they are also much different. Jesus is God. Jesus is perfect in every way. Jesus lived a perfect sinless life. Adam failed. He gave in to temptation and sinned.

In verse 15, Paul continues to explain what sets Jesus and Adam apart with stark contrast:

But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many.” Romans 5:15 (ESV)

Jesus’ grace is not equal to Adam’s sin. Jesus’ grace is much more powerful than the death Adam earned us. Jesus’ grace is so great that once it has been given, it can never be taken away. But, the death earned by Adam has been overpowered by the grace of Christ for all who repent and believe.

Paul continues in verse 16:

And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification.” Romans 5:16 (ESV)

Here Paul shows us again how much more powerful Jesus’ grace is in comparison with the death earned by Adam. It is just a single sin of Adam’s which is imputed on us. However, Jesus’ grace covers not only the sin of Adam which we are guilty for, but it also covers every sin we have committed. Jesus’ grace covers every sin we committed in the past, present and future.

We see more, read verse 17 with me:

“For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.” Romans 5:17 (ESV)

We see here that grace is not automatic, it is not universal. We know Jesus is the only way. Nobody gets to the Father except by Him. Everyone who repents and believes receives the abundance of grace, but this grace is not for those who persist in their sin without repentance all their life. This abundance of grace has an effect far greater in the lives of Christians than the effect Adam’s sin had.

As we close, ask yourself if you have received the grace we just read about in verse 17. Are you under the covenant of life or the covenant of grace? Is your federal head Adam or is it Jesus? Are you in Christ or in Adam?

Faith and repentance are gifts only granted to those in Christ. These are the first markers in the life of a Christian. Search your soul for these gifts. If you hate the sin you once loved, this is the repentance God gives to His children. If you do not have this gift, ask God for it right this minute. Go to God in prayer right now. Confess Jesus as your savior to Him this minute. Acknowledge that Jesus died for your sins, a statement which is only true if you believe it because if you do not have faith, Jesus’ work on the cross did nothing for you. Understand that Jesus died, but he only remained under the power of death until the third day when he rose from the grave and conquered sin and death for all who trust in Him.

Let me warn you, this is not something you want to get wrong. You might think you need to clean up your life before coming to Jesus. If you think this way, you will wind up in hell. You will never be good enough for God. You will remain in the covenant of life, condemned for Adam’s sin, and condemned for your own sin. Yes, when you are saved your life will get cleaned up, but your obedience to God is a supernatural obedience. Come to Jesus just as you are, He is in the practice of saving sinners of all sorts. What you did last night is of no concern to Him.

You might say, “but I was saved many years ago. “ Repentance is for you too. Repenting of sin is the means God ordained to make you more like Jesus. You will not be perfect on this side of eternity, but you should progressively become more like Jesus. The Holy Spirit will convict you of sin, and you should react with repentance. If you are not regularly convicted of sin, if you are able to sin without anything stirring within you, I urge you to think again about your salvation. No matter though, because today is the day of salvation. Go to God now in repentance and faith, if you cannot muster up the faith within you, get on your knees and beg God for these great gifts.

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