OUR RELATIONSHIP TO THE TWO ADAMS
It is readily accepted amongst so-called Christians that forgiveness of sins is attainable through the sacrificial offering of the Lord Jesus Christ. But what is not commonly accepted, is the means whereby this can be achieved. In this article, we seek to demonstrate some of the Scriptural principles involved with the offering up of Messiah. The article is by no means exhaustive: there are many related principles that we only touch upon here, but nevertheless we hope to demonstrate that the original Christadelphian position is soundly based upon Scripture.
The Apostle Paul defines the present and future situation of believers in terms of a relationship between two Adams: the first, a historical figure referred to in Genesis as being the progenitor and head of the human race, and the second the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the life-giving head of a new creation. So we read:
“There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. And so, it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul: the last Adam was made a quickening spirit … the first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly …” (1 Cor. 15:45-49).
From these words, we see principles bound up with our own salvation. We are dying because we are physically made after the image of Adam in his fallen state, yet we have the opportunity to live endlessly, bearing the image of the glorified second Adam. Our salvation is bound up with the principles of our relationship to both individuals.
THE CAUSE OF DEATH
In ‘The Christadelphian’ in 1889 (when Brother Roberts was editor), Brother B J Dowling wrote:
“We cannot have a proper understanding of the death of the second Adam unless we have a clear perception of the cause of the death of the first … When Adam roamed in the beautiful fields of Eden he was not hampered with the shackles of sin, groaning under the bondage of corruption, with sorrow of heart and bodily pain. No; his home was one of ‘joy and gladness’, and he ‘a living soul’, neither mortal nor immortal, but entirely free from the ‘power of death’. But the transgression brought both a moral and physical change. His flesh and blood nature was then no longer free from the principle of death. There was infixed in it the seeds of decay, which ultimately brought forth death. His flesh became diabolos flesh, or ‘sinful flesh’. Sin became a law of his being – a physical principle in his constitution. This principle was denominated ‘sin in the flesh,’ and it was transmitted to all his descendants, Jesus Christ included, whose genealogy is traced back to Adam in the third chapter of Luke.”
This epitomises standard Christadelphian teaching, that Adam’s offence had a twofold effect, moral and physical, which also affected all who came from him. The penalty for disobedience to God’s law is recorded in Genesis 3, where in verse 19, Adam was told, “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return”. And so the process of corruption began, with travail and suffering as part of that process. In the day that “death” came into the world “by sin”, the physical condition of Adam’s nature was changed, the process of mortality began, and since then, “the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now” (Rom 8:22).
WHY WE DIE
As brother Dowling wrote, we need to understand the situation of sin and death that we are in through the first human, Adam. An issue which is often misunderstood, is why we die. The simple answer from Scripture, is that we are mortal, having a dying nature. So we read:
“Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body” (Rom. 6:12).
“… he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you” (Rom. 8:11).
“ … we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’s sake, that the life also of Jesus might be manifest in our mortal flesh” (1 Cor. 4:11).
We die then, because we have a “mortal body,” consisting of “mortal flesh”. But this pushes the question back one stage: why do we have a mortal body? Again, the simple answer from Scripture is that we inherit it from our first father Adam:
“ … by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, in whom all have sinned” (Rom. 5:12).
In these words, the origin of sin and death is traceable back to the actions of the first human pair, through whom sin entered the world, and through which death also entered the world, and “passed upon all men”. In short, we are sinful dying creatures, because we inherit a sinful dying condition from Adam. We have as part of our physical make up the Law of Sin and Death, styled the diabolos: “Him that had the power of death, that is, the diabolos” (Heb. 2:14).
The judicial sentence upon Adam was expressed thus:
“Cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow thou shalt eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it was thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return” (Gen. 3:17-19)
This death sentence is inherited as a physical principle by all who were descended from Adam. The Christadelphian Statement of Faith succinctly summarises the situation thus:
“Adam broke this law, and was adjudged unworthy of immortality, and sentenced to return to the ground from whence he was taken—a sentence which defiled and became a law of his being, and was transmitted to all his posterity” (the BASF, Clause 5).
This is in harmony with the teaching of Scripture:
“… the judgment was by one to condemnation … by one man’s offence, death reigned by one … therefore by the offence of one, judgement came upon all men to condemnation” (Rom. 5:16-19).
Bro Robert Roberts also spoke on this issue:
“The position of men was that they were under condemnation to die because of sin, and that not their own sin, in the first instance, but ancestral sin at the beginning. The forgiveness of personal offences is the prominent feature of the apostolic proclamation, because personal offences are the greater barrier. Nevertheless, men are mortal because of sin, quite independently of their own transgressions” (The Law of Moses, p173).
Again, he writes:
“My conception is this, that death became a physical law of Adam’s nature in consequence of Adam’s sin; that it became so by the power of the sentence of death operating physically upon him, as the sentence of life at the judgment seat will operate physically upon the bodies of the accepted, causing them to become incorruptible; that becoming a part of his being, it was therefore necessarily transmitted to all of Adam’s posterity who partook of that death-stricken being by physical descent, and became in them also a tendency to moral corruption; that therefore, as the whole mischief originated in sin, taking effect in the flesh, it could, by casual language, and on the principle of metonymy (putting cause for effect), be described as sin in the flesh: “sin that dwelleth in me”” (Preface to A Debate on Resurrectional Responsibility.
It is a common misconception that we die as a punishment for our personal committed sin. This is oversimplifying the issue, which I hope to shortly demonstrate. Whilst it is true that accountable and unrepentant sinners will die as a consequence of their sins following rejection at Christ’s Judgment Seat, it is also true that before the time when this punishment shall be inflicted, men and women grow old and die regardless of their personal righteousness or otherwise. That is, they inherit a dying nature from Adam. If we all die as a punishment for committed sin, that implies a judgment has been made upon us already—yet that event is future, when Messiah returns. As it is testified, he “shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom” (2 Tim. 3:1).
There are a number of important questions to ask, if it be said that we die because we sin:
- Why do babies die, sometimes in the womb, who cannot either sin, or do good? (Rom. 9:11)
Babies have committed no sin, yet they sometimes die anyway—they are not being punished for acts of sin. They die because they are “mortal flesh,” physically inheriting a condemned and dying nature.
- Why do those who are not under the Law of God die? (Rom. 4:15, 5:13)
People are not judged for disobeying a law that they knew nothing about. So it is written: “the law worketh wrath, but where no law is, there is no transgression” (Rom. 4:15). How can they die as a punishment for committed transgression and sin, if they have “no transgression” and no imputed sin? Yet we can readily understand how that men and women die because they have a mortal nature.
- Why do those who sins are forgiven die like the rest of mankind?
Our sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake: they are cast behind Yahweh’s back, as it were, to be mentioned no more: “I, even I am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins” (Isa. 43:25, also Jer. 31:34). How can the holy ones of Yahweh be punished for their sins, when those sins have been forgiven and forgotten? Their death is not a punishment for forgiven sins, but rather because they inherit “mortal flesh” by descent from a dying sinner.
THREE MISUNDERSTOOD PASSAGES
There are three passages used by advocates of the theory that we die as a punishment for committed sin, which we shall consider in turn:
“The soul that sinneth it shall die” (Ezek. 18:4, 20).
This, it is contended, proves that death comes as a result for committed sin. However, as with all passages of Scripture, the context is key. The context also speaks of the righteous: “he is just, he shall surely live, saith the Lord Yahweh” vs 9). So then, sinners die, but the just shall surely live. But in actual fact, the just also die. No matter how righteous a man is, he will certainly die—unless the Lord returns before that event. How are we to understand this passage?
It is self-evident that this is not describing the natural process of growing old and dying—both the just, and the unjust still grow old and die no matter what kind of lives they live. It matters not how contrite a man is, or how repentant he is, he still has the law of sin and death as part of his physical make up, and dying he will surely die – unless he is living at the time of Messiah’s return (1 Thes. 4:17). As I say, this passage is not speaking of growing old and dying naturally, but of a judicial sentence issued upon the basis of a wicked man’s lack of repentance. This is something that will be determined at the Judgment Seat of Christ, and not before. Likewise, Life will only then be given to repentant and Just men and women, as before then they do still die.
There is an interesting passage in connection with the incident of Korah’s rebellion, which is helpful in this context. The words of Moses are:
“If these men die the common death of all men, or if they be visited after the visitation of all men; then Yahweh hath not sent me. But if Yahweh maketh a new thing, and the earth open her mouth, and swallow them up, with all that appertain unto them, and they go down quick into the pit: then ye shall understand that these men have provoked Yahweh” (Num. 16:29-30).
Here there is a distinction made between “the common death of all men”, and a punishment for committed sin.
“The wages of sin is death …” (Rom. 6:23).
Again, the context is key. The full verse reads: “The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord”. When will the gift of “eternal life” be granted? Upon acceptance at the judgment seat of Christ, and not before. Similarly, death will be the lot of those who serve sin, and who will be rejected at that time.
A parallel idea occurs in Galatians chapter 6:
“… whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting …” (Gal. 6:7-8).
The one who works by way of sowing to the flesh, shall earn the wages of death— but those who sow to the Spirit will be given life everlasting, again, all to be determined at the judgment seat of Christ.
“Death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Rom. 5:12).
Yet again, context is key. We already visited this verse above, but cite it again here:
“wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned”
The context of this verse is demonstrating that we inherit death from Adam: it “passed upon all men”, for all men share his “mortal flesh”. There is an alternative rendering for the expression “for that all have sinned,” which is “in whom all have sinned”. All men (and women) are constitutionally “in Adam” (1 Cor. 15:22), they are part of his extended family by descent from him. Brother Thomas explains the situation by referring to Hebrews chapter 7, where it is written concerning Levi:
“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 Melchisedec met him” (Heb. 7:10).
In a similar fashion, we were in the loins of Adam when he sinned, and so we physically inherit the consequences of his sin—as it is written: “for as in Adam all die”. We naturally die because we are “in Adam”, not as a punishment for a specific committed sin. However, at the judgment seat, for those who are counted as being responsible, they will be rewarded with life or punished with death according to how they have sowed—to the spirit, or to the flesh.
THE LAST ADAM
We cited in the above section how that “in Adam all die”, but the chapter goes on to say, “even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Cor. 15:22). Christ is the “last Adam” spoken of in this chapter:
“ … the first Adam was made a living soul: the last Adam was made a quickening spirit” (1 Cor. 15:45).
“the first man is of the earth, earthy, the second man is the Lord from heaven” (1 Cor. 15:47).
Just as being “in Adam” we “bear the image of the earthy”, even so, if we willingly transfer to the family of Christ, we shall “bear the image of the heavenly” (1 Cor. 15:49). We will still die the death common to all men (unless we are alive and remain at the coming of Messiah), but we will be “made alive” by him at his appearing (2 Tim. 4:1). The Lord Jesus Christ is a new federal head as it were: the head of a new family who inherit the consequences of his one declaration of Righteousness (in God’s condemnation of sin in the flesh), in a similar way that they inherited the consequences of their first father Adam’s one act of sin. So we read:
“For if by one man’s offence, death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:17).
“So then, as through one offence to all men [it is] to condemnation, so also through one declaration of ‘Righteous’ [it is] to all men to justification of life” (Rom. 5:18, Youngs Literal).
“for as through the disobedience of one man, the many were constituted sinners: so also through the obedience of the one, shall the many be constituted righteous” (Rom. 5:19—Young’s Literal).
CHRIST DESCENDED FROM ADAM
In order to present an acceptable sacrifice as a representative of mankind before God, it was needful for our Lord to be made of a woman, and inherit the same flesh and blood nature that we all share:
“When the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law …” (Gal. 4:4).
“… God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but the spirit (Rom. 8:3-4)
“forasmuch as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death, he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the diabolos” (Heb. 2:14).
Being in the likeness, or sameness of sinful flesh, it is said of Messiah that God
“hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Cor. 5:21).
He was “made sin”, that is, he was made with a nature which is mortal and sinful—it has “the law of sin and death” as part of it’s resident tendencies. Speaking of how the Lord was “made sin”, Bro Thomas wrote:
“SIN” is a word in Paul’s argument, which stands for “human nature”, with its affections and desires. Hence, to become sin, or for one to be “made sin” for others (2 Cor 5:21) is to become flesh and blood. This is called “sin”, or “Sin’s flesh”, because it is what it is in consequence of sin, or transgression”. And again, “This perishing body is “sin”, and left to perish because of “sin”. Sin in its application to the body, stands for all its constituents and laws. The power of death is in its very constitution, so that the law of its nature is styled “the law of Sin and Death”. In the combination of the elements of the law, the power of death resides, so that “to destroy that having the power of death”, is to abolish this physical law of sin and death, and instead thereof to substitute the physical “law of the spirit of life”, by which the same body would be changed in its constitution, and live for ever”. (Eureka, Vol 1 p 247-248).
Again, in Elpis Israel he writes:
“The word sin is used in two principal acceptations in the Scripture. It signifies in the first place “the transgression of law,” and in the next it represents that physical principle of the animal nature which is the cause of all its diseases, death, and resolution into dust.”
“Inasmuch as the evil principle pervades every part of the flesh, the animal nature is styled “sinful flesh,” that is, flesh full of sin; so that Sin in the sacred style came to stand for the substance called man.”
DESTROYING THE DIABOLOS
It was necessary for Messiah to be made of sinful flesh in order to gain the victory over it. God could not have condemned sin in the flesh, if it was not in Jesus’s flesh to be condemned. When he died, there was a temporal victory for sin (as the serpent bruising the heel of the woman’s seed—Gen. 3:15), but in his resurrection he was demonstrated to be victorious in his battle against it. Before his resurrection, he was under the dominion of death, but after his resurrection he was no longer subject to it:
“… Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more: death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once, but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God.” (Rom. 8:9-10)
But then the exhortation continues for us:
“Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof …” (Rom. 6:11-12).
In our baptism, we demonstrate the resolve to “crucify the flesh” (Gal. 5:24), or as Paul has it: “our old man is crucified with him” (Rom. 6:6). The law of sin and death is permitted to run it’s course, in bringing its possessors to the grave, but our hope is in the resurrection of Messiah. In baptism, we recognise and acknowledge what is righteously due to sinful flesh, and we willingly demonstrate that recognition by submitting to a symbolic grave. We then rise up to a new life, passing from the natural family of Adam to the family of the Second Adam.
What we have demonstrated above, is that we are under a physical condemnation through descent from Adam – which means that we all grow old and die because we have the law of sin and death within our physical make-up. But when we come to be obedient recipients of the Gospel, we voluntarily submit our bodies to a death in recognition of that fact. We are baptised into the death of Jesus Christ, and become constitutionally “in” him, so that whilst we physically are not changed until the bestowal of incorruptibility, we are treated as having no condemnation: “there is therefore no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit” (Rom. 8:1).
FOR WHAT ARE WE BAPTISED?
The Scriptures testify that baptism is always for the forgiveness of personal offences (Acts 2:38, 22:26 etc), never for the removal of the imputed guilt of another. It is a means of becoming part of the family of which the Lord Jesus Christ is Head, for we are “baptised into Jesus Christ” (Rom 6:3), we “put on Christ” (Gal 3:26) and become “one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28,29). And we are introduced into a new relationship with the Father, as we are able to approach His Throne of Grace through Christ as our representative (Heb 10:19,22, Rom 5:1,2).
But there are some who maintain that Adam’s sin is in some way legally imputed to us, and that when we are baptised, we are therefore freed from this legal condemnation – as well as having our sins forgiven. So they reason that, unless we have this legal sentence of eternal death removed through baptism, we are not accountable to judgement. But we have already shown how the fact that our nature is mortal and sinful does not mean that we are accountable in any way for Adam’s transgression, and so there is no “legal condemnation” to be removed.
Whilst the fact that sins can be remitted in Christ is readily accepted amongst us, the issue frequently surfaces, as to how the principles of Atonement are brought to bear upon the mortal flesh of humankind. Clearly it does have a bearing, for the Hope of the faithful, made possible by that sacrifice involves a physical change to become immortal. But upon what basis? The question is sometimes raised as to whether or not the ‘flesh and blood’ of which the children are all partakers, itself requires a cleansing by sacrifice – and particularly whether or not if so, if the Master who “also himself likewise took part in the same” flesh and blood also had a personal need of cleansing, despite being without transgression. There are many doctrinal threads bound together in the Sacrifice of Christ, but as this issue appears to be surfacing once again in some quarters, it seems appropriate to consider it again.
Sometimes the question arises as to whether or not Messiah was physically cleansed by his death, or by his resurrection and subsequent bestowal of immortality. From the beginning, the Divine method for the condemnation of Sin has been death. Death came by sin (Rom 5:12), and is the “condemnation” (v 18) that falls upon all of Adam’s progeny, who inherit “the law of sin” (Rom 7:21) as the fundamental principle of their being, enticing them to transgress. The Lord Jesus Christ, as a consequence of also sharing the same “sinful flesh” common to his brethren, also fell under that condemnation, despite being wholly obedient, and without transgression. Yea, we say he willingly placed himself under that condemnation, for he willingly submitted himself to the sacrificial death upon the tree of cursing; and thereby acknowledged the Divine Condemnation of sin in the flesh.
But it could not be said that death had no more dominion over Christ (Rom. 6:9), until he was released from it. “The law of sin and death” being a physical condition, it was only through a physical change that it could be removed.
The Spirit’s Testimony is that Christ “appeared, to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (Heb 9:26). His Sacrificial offering is the basis of his putting away of Sin – and after the Type of the Mosaic system, his offering up of himself as the Sacrificial Lamb, is inseparable from his rising to the Father as a sweet-smelling savour. There cannot be the one without the other, any more than flesh can be consumed by fire, without the rising up of smoke.
Even so, Bro Roberts spoke of the matter:
“Christ was ‘the seed of Abraham’, the flesh of David, the sin-nature of the condemned Adam, for the condemnation of sin in the flesh. The condemnation rested on him, which was the uncleanness, and this antitypical uncleanness of the ‘one great offering’ could only be cleansed after the example of the type – by death and burning: the burning being the change effected by the Spirit on the risen body of the Lord after his death for sin” (The Christadelphian 1873, p 407).
Thus, “death and burning,” or Sacrifice and Rising as a sweet-smelling savour are both interrelated as a single process of cleansing and redemption. Through the sacrifice of Christ, the Father “condemned sin in the flesh” of his son (Rom 8:3), and the Sacrifice was not completed until the rising up of a sweet smelling savour before the presence of Yahweh. So it is written again:
“this man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; from henceforth expecting till His enemies be made His footstool” (Heb 10:13).
BEARING THE IMAGE OF THE HEAVENLY
We have seen above how that just as being “in” the first Adam we experience the consequence of his act of sin, so if we are “in” Christ—the second Adam—we shall experience the consequence of his act of righteousness. We voluntarily transfer allegiance to the family of Christ, by accepting the righteousness of Yahweh in condemning sin in the flesh, and demonstrate that acceptance by enacting it through Baptism. So we then, shall be fashioned after his most glorious body:
“… And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly” (1 Cor. 15:49).
“our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body …” (Phil. 3:21).
A physical change of nature is needed to finally overcome the physical law of sin and death. We wrestle with our own nature, seeking to bring every thought into captivity to Christ. Yet we recognise our own failures. So we can rejoice in hope with the Apostle:
“O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from this body of death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 7:25).
When we measure ourselves against the wonderful example of Christ, how inferior we feel, how conscious we are of our many failings! How aware we are that we are not capable of living the life of Christ for a day, let alone a lifetime. But this is the intention. At Eden, God was disbelieved. His Righteousness was questioned – His Truth doubted. But the way of salvation He has so graciously appointed means that “no flesh should glory in his presence” (1Cor 1:29). Salvation is not of ourselves; but of Grace, “lest any man should boast” (Eph 2:9).
And herein we see Love, God’s Love extended to those who are unworthy of it. As it is written: “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought to love one another” (1 Jno 4:9-11).
Let us then be provoked to deeply meditate upon the Love of God revealed to us in the provision of His Son. Let us resolve to walk in love, love towards God, and love towards each other. Let us take the example of the Lord to our hearts, and strive to be like him, in showing loving obedience to the Father’s requirements, in recognition of His Saving Grace. For then, if we seek to demonstrate our appreciation of what has been done for us in our lives, we will be given salvation in Christ, that we might rejoice with him in glorious immortality, throughout the Ages to Come.