The Two Adams


Adam is a "figure" or TYPE of Him that was to come, namely Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:14). Adam is a type of Christ. In 1 Corinthians 15:45 Jesus Christ is called "Adam" ("the last Adam") and Christ is also called "the second man" in contrast to the first man, Adam (1 Cor. 15:47). As we compare these two men there are both similarities and differences:


The Two Adams


The first man Adam (1 Cor.15:45)


The last Adam (1 Cor.15:45)

"Was made a living soul" (1 Cor.15:45)
(Adam was given life-Gen. 2:7).

"Was made a quickening spirit" (1 Cor.15:45)
(Christ gives life-John 5:21,25; 6:33 etc.).

"Natural" (1 Cor.15:46)

"Spiritual" (1 Cor.15:46)

ORIGIN--"of the earth" (1 Cor.15:47)

ORIGIN--"from heaven" (1 Cor.15:47)

Men reflect Adam (Cor.15:49 and see Gen. 5:3).

Saved men can and shall reflect Christ (1 Cor.15:49 and see Col. 3:10; Eph.4:24; Rom.8:29; 2 Cor.3:18; 1 John 3:2; etc.).

"Dead in Adam" (1 Cor.15:22)

"Alive in Christ" (1 Cor.15:22)

Adam is the Head of the Old Creation.

Jesus Christ is the Head of the New Creation (2 Cor.5:17; Eph.2:10).

Adam was a representative man (Romans 5), and he acted on behalf of the whole human race.

Christ was a representative man (Romans 5), and He acted on behalf of the whole human race.

Adam performed one act which had tremendous consequences.

Christ performed one act which had even greater consequences.

Adamís act was a sinful act (Rom.5:12, 15,16,17,18).

ChristĎs act was a righteous act (Rom.5:18--"the righteous act"--see NASB).

Adamís act was an act of disobedience, in eating the forbidden fruit (Rom.5:19; and see Genesis 2:17; 3:6).

Christís act was an act of obedience, in dying on the cross (Romans 5:19 and see Phil.2:8).

Here is what Adamís one act produced:

DEATH ( Rom.5:12,14,15)
JUDGMENT (Rom.5:16,18)
CONDEMNATION (Rom.5:16,18)

Here is what Christís one act produced:

LIFE (Rom.5:17,18,21)
THE FREE GIFT (Rom.5:15,16,17,18)
GRACE (Rom.5:15,17,20,21)
JUSTIFICATION (Rom.5:16,18,19)
RIGHTEOUSNESS (Rom.5:17,19,21)
REIGNING (Rom.5:17; compare verse.21)


The doctrine of the two Adams is unfolded in the latter part of Romans chapter 5.  A detailed study of these verses follows:

Romans 5:12 (Introduction)

In Romans 1-3 we learned about man's CONDEMNATION before a holy God.

In Romans 3-5 we learned about JUSTIFICATION (man being declared righteous by God based on the cross-work of Christ and according to the riches of God's grace).

In Romans 5:12-21 we have CONDEMNATION and JUSTIFICATION compared and contrasted. Note the words of COMPARISON: "AS . . . (EVEN) so . . ." (Rom. 5:18,19,21). Note the words of CONTRAST: "NOT AS" (Rom. 5:15,16); "MUCH MORE" (Rom. 5:15,17,20).

Notice also the TWO MEN who are compared and contrasted: Adam and Christ

Notice the TWO ACTS: Adamís act of disobedience when he ate the forbidden fruit (Gen. 3:6); Christís act of obedience when He died on the cross (Phil.2:8). See Romans 5:18-19.

Notice the awesome consequences: Romans 5:17-19.

Notice the TWO RESULTS: Because of what Adam did: DEATH, JUDGMENT, and CONDEMNATION. Because of what Christ did: LIFE and RIGHTEOUSNESS AND GRACE.

Notice that Adam and Christ were representative men. They acted on manís behalf (just as our elected representatives in Congress vote for us). Adam sinned for us and Christ died for us.

It is very important to see OUR HISTORY IN ADAM and to see OUR HISTORY IN CHRIST. It is important to realize that when Adam sinned in the garden of Eden, YOU WERE THERE! In Adam you sinned and you died. Likewise, it is vital to realize that when Christ died on the cross, YOU WERE THERE! "Were you there when they crucified my Lord?"--YES!

The main point of the section is the triumph of God's grace over sin (see Rom. 5:20-21). The key phrase is "MUCH MORE" (Rom. 5:15,17,20). If you think what Adam did was significant (and it was!), HOW MUCH MORE significant and greater and important is what Christ did. What Christ did far outweighed and outdistanced what Adam did!

The false doctrine of UNIVERSALISM might seem to some to be taught in Romans 5:18-19.  Universalism teaches that all men eventually will be saved. This is not true and it would be contrary to the message of the entire book of Romans which says that no one is saved apart from faith (Rom. 10:9-17; etc.). They key in this section is Romans 5:17--RECEIVE. What Adam did for mankind is inherited by birth. What Christ did for mankind must be personally received and appropriated by faith.

Consider the historicity of Adam.  Was Adam a real historical person who actually lived on this earth as the progenitor of the human race?  No one denies the historicity of Jesus Christ, that He was an actual historical Person who lived on earth. However, many deny the historicity of Adam. This is due to man's unbelief and the current evolutionary doctrine which rejects the first 11 chapters of Genesis and claims that these chapters are devoid of any historical truth.  Often proponents of this view say that the things that happened in these early chapters of Genesis are just interesting (but untrue) stories which contain certain moral lessons for us.  But in Romans 5:12 and following Paul assumes that Adam was a real historical person, just as historical as Moses (Rom.5:14) and Christ (Rom. 5:15). See also 1 Cor. 15:22,45,47; 2 Cor. 11:3 (if Eve must go, then the devil must go also!); 1 Cor. 11:8-9; 1 Tim. 2:13-14 etc. See also the genealogy of Luke chapter 3 which begins with Adam and ends with Christ (in reverse order). If Christ was a historical Person but Adam was not (as the unbelievers would like us to think), then at what point in the genealogy did we pass from fictional to historical or from mythology to historical?

For every Christian believer the final proof of the historicity of Adam and Eve comes from the words of Christ Himself as recorded in Matthew 19:4-5. These two verses not only show that Adam and Eve were real persons who lived in history but they also show that Christ fully accepted the truthfulness of the first two chapters of the Bible (Matthew 19:4 is based on Genesis 1 and Matthew 19:5 is based on Genesis 2).   For a further study on how unbelievers deny Biblical truth see A True Believer BELIEVES the Word of God.

Romans 5:12

"One man" = Adam. By Adam sin made its entrance into the world. And whenever sin comes along it brings its close companion with it: DEATH. Sin and death are a couplet--they always go together. Sin brings forth death (James 1:15).

"And death by sin" = This is an incomplete sentence. This is what the verse means when that which is missing is supplied:


Notice also the connection between sin and death in Genesis 2:17.

"For that" = because
"All have sinned" = should be translated "all sinned"

ALL MEN SINNED IN ADAM AND ALL MEN DIED IN ADAM. Illustration: Think of a great forest fire (James 3:5). You can take one little match, light it, and throw it to the ground, and as a result of that one little act, the entire forest could be doomed. Because one match fell, every tree in the forest would likewise fall. In like manner, because of Adam's one "little" act of disobedience, the entire forest of humanity fell and was ruined. Adam lit the match and every one of us has been burned. It is amazing what one man brought about.

The words "all men" (in the middle of Rom. 5:12) are emphasized in the Greek. Death passed upon whom? ALL MEN! Why did death pass upon ALL MEN? Why was all of humanity infected with this horrible disease of sin and death? Why all men? Why not just Adam? If he is the one who sinned, then should not he and he alone be the one to die? Why did death pass upon all men? Here is God's answer: WHEN ADAM SINNED WE ALL SINNED! When Adam fell, we fell. Why did death pass upon. all men? "Because all sinned" (Rom. 5:12, see the end of the verse). When did all men sin? When Adam sinned!

This truth, though hard to accept, is taught elsewhere in this passage: Romans 5:15--Through Adamís offense, many died! Because of Adams s sin, I died! Romans 5:18--Because of Adamís sin I am under condemnation and judgment! Romans 5:19--Because of Adamís act of disobedience I became a sinner! See also 1 Corinthians 15:22--IN ADAM ALL DIE!

In the old colonial schools in New England they used a wonderful educational tool called THE NEW ENGLAND PRIMER as their textbook to help the children to learn to read and write, etc. In teaching the alphabet a brief rhyme would be given to help the children remember each letter. For the letter "A" they learned this:


  2. Thus the young children were being drilled and taught the truth of Romans 5:12.

     Here are some of the other rhymes that go with other letters:
    How many children in schools today are taught about heaven?
    The cross had a central place in their education!
    How many children in school today are taught about the world-wide flood in the days of Noah?

In Adam all sinned. It is also true that in Adam all were created. Strictly speaking, people living today were not created. We came into the world by procreation, not by creation. The only people who were ever created were Adam and Eve. However, there is a sense in which it is correct to say that I was created in Adam. Apart from Adam I would have no existence. When Adam was created I was in the "loins" of Adam (cf. Heb. 7:10). I was part of "his seed." (Likewise we could say that the entire Jewish nation was in Abraham, Isaac and Jacob).

When Adam sinned, I was not even there. I did not eat the fruit, Adam did. I did not disobey God, Adam did. And yet there is a sense in which I was there. I was there in Adam. I sinned in Adam! I died in Adam! A person could be asked, "What is the worst thing that ever happened to you?" This could be answered in many ways: the death of a loved one, a terrible car accident, some unexpected tragedy, etc. But all such answers are incorrect. The Bible reveals the only true answer to this question: THE WORST THING THAT EVER HAPPENED TO ME WAS WHEN ADAM ATE THE FORBIDDEN FRUIT THOUSANDS OF YEARS AGO (Romans 5:12). Likewise, THE BEST THING THAT EVER HAPPENED TO ME WAS WHEN JESUS CHRIST DIED ON THE CROSS ABOUT 2000 YEARS AGO (Romans 5:18-19).

Why is it true that I SINNED IN ADAM, I DIED IN ADAM, I AM CONDEMNED IN ADAM? I was not even there when it happened, or was I? Consider the following:

  1. As Bible believers, we all would agree that Adam is the father of us all. We all came from Adam. We can all trace our ancestry back to Adam, not to ape-like primates. We are all the "children of Adam" (cf. Psalm 14:2-3; Genesis 6:5-6; 11:5).
  2. When Adam sinned there was a sense in which I was there. I was there in the loins of my Father Adam (I was there in his seed). To illustrate this see Genesis 14:18-20. Notice that Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek. Out of Abraham came Isaac and then Jacob. Jacob (Israel) had 12 sons, one of which was Levi. Out of Levi came Aaron and his sons who were the priests. With these facts in mind see Hebrews 7:4-10. If the writer to Hebrews could say that Levi paid tithes to Melchizedek because he was in the loins of Abraham, even though we know that Abraham was the one who really did it and Levi was not even born yet, then in the same manner I can say this: "I also sinned in Adam, for I was yet in the loins of my father Adam when Adam sinned." Thus, when Adam sinned there was a sense in which I was there. (This is similar to someone who has ancestors who crossed the ocean on the Mayflower saying,  "I came over on the Mayflower.")
  3. Adam acted for me as my representative. Adam was the head of our race and he represented the race. It is interesting to note that the fall of man is reckoned with the disobedience of Adam not with the disobedience of Eve, even though Eve disobeyed first. But Eve was not the head of the race. What really counted was when Adam ate. It was then that the race fell. A representative is someone who acts on behalf of another. Adam was there in the garden of Eden acting for you and representing you. Today we elect men to Congress called "representatives." They are there to vote for me. I can't vote, but they can and they vote for me. When Adam was in the garden of Eden, as my representative, he had to make a vote. He had to vote for God or against God. He had to choose to obey God or disobey God. He voted against God! He chose to disobey. There is a sense in which his vote became my vote.

    Before we condemn Adam for voting in the wrong way, let us put ourselves in his shoes. Suppose I had been there in the garden instead of Adam. Suppose I had been given that simple test of obedience. Would I have done differently than Adam?

You might object, "I do not like this doctrine of representation! It is not fair! I do not want to be represented by Adam!" But the moment you reject the doctrine of representation, you have rejected one of the most wonderful doctrines in the Bible. You see, not only was Adam your representative, but Christ was your representative also! Not only did Adam act on your behalf, but Christ acted on your behalf also! Adam got you into the mess but Christ can get you out of it! And if you say that it was not fair for Adam to represent you since you were not even there, then think for a moment about this:  How fair was it for Christ to represent you? Was it fair for a perfectly innocent Man to be put to death? Was it fair that He was judged for the sins which you have committed? Was it fair for the judgment and wrath of a holy God to fall down upon Him instead of upon you? Remember, what Adam did was the worst thing that ever happened to you BUT WHAT CHRIST DID WAS THE BEST THING THAT EVER HAPPENED TO YOU!!

Understanding this principle will help your Bible to come alive for you. When you read the account of the fall of Adam in Genesis 3, you will realize that this is not some remote account that has nothing to do with you, but that in a real sense you were there. Because Adam was your representative, you participated in what Adam did. In Adam's fall we sinned all!

Likewise, when you read the crucifixion accounts you will remember that in a very real sense you were there. His death became your death. His history became your history (as we shall see in Romans 6). When I read about Christ being crucified that becomes very personal because I was crucified there too (Gal. 2:20), and praise God, I also came forth out of that tomb with Him!

Romans 5:12 also says something which relates to science and in particular to the creation/evolution debate. This verse teaches that death resulted from the sin of Adam. The fall of man affected the animal kingdom as well, and as we will learn in Romans 8:19-22, the animals are groaning, waiting to be delivered from the bondage they are in because of man's sin. Prior to the fall of Adam, death was not a reality in the animal kingdom and therefore there could have been no animal fossils prior to the fall of man (contrary to evolutionary theory). Creationists believe that the vast majority of fossils were formed at the time of the worldwide flood in the days of Noah.

Romans 5:13-14

Here begins a lengthy Pauline parenthesis (from verse 13 to verse 17). Verse 12 connects with verse 18.

"Until" = up until, prior. Paul is considering the period of time prior to the giving of the law (see verse 13--the period from Adam to Moses). This is the pre-Mosaic, pre-law era (compare Rom. 4:15). In the period from Adam to Moses there was sin and death but there was no transgression. You cannot transgress a law that does not exist. There was sin, as seen by the murderous act of Cain (Gen. 4) and the wickedness of the pre-flood world (Gen. 6:5). Death was also in the world as seen by Genesis 5 (the tombstone chapter).

"Imputed" = reckoned, counted, considered. Sin was present but it was not counted (considered) as transgression until the law came. Compare Gal. 3:19 (the law was given to give sin the added character of transgression and that sin might become even more sinful--Rom. 7:13). Adam's sin was considered a "transgression (v.14) because he violated a divinely revealed law (Genesis 2:17). Death reigned as king (v.14) from Adam to Moses even though the people did not transgress in the same way that Adam did (they had not broken a clearly revealed command as Adam had done).

Paul's main point in these two verses is that death passed to all men (v.12), not because they sinned, but because Adam sinned. It was Adam's sin that brought death upon humanity. The people between Adam and Moses did not sin as Adam had (Adam's sin was a willful violation of a direct command from God). Yet death reigned even over them, not because of their actions, but because of Adam's act! Today we could use the illustration of infants who die. These babes know nothing of right or wrong, but they die. This should remind us of the universal effect of the sin of Adam. Because of his transgression, the sentence of death passed upon all men.

Romans 5:15

Notice the "much more" of this verse (the expression "much more" is found 4 other times in Romans 5. Can you find them? Verses ___   ___   ___   ___ )

Adam did "MUCH" (for bad) but Christ did "MUCH MORE" for man's blessing and benefit. Through Adam's offence MANY DIED (simple past aorist tense). In Adam's fall we sinned all, and in Adam's death we died all!

Note the precious expression: "THE FREE GIFT."  Salvation/justification is free but it is not cheap. It was purchased at infinite cost (1 Cor. 6:20; 1 Peter 1:18-19).

Adam's offense brought disaster and death upon the human race ("death passed upon all men"-v.12) but the free gift which the crucified and risen Christ offers brings forgiveness and life to all that will receive the gift. Through Adamís offense all men died (v.15--here is an important example where "MANY"="ALL") but through Christís death Godís gracious gift of life and righteousness is offered to all.

"Abounded" = overflowed, abounded abundantly. This is a reference to the overflowing, super-abounding grace of God (cf. v.20-21). Compare verse 12--"passed" or spread. Sin and death spread to all men. MUCH MORE Godís gracious gift overflowed to all!

Romans 5:16

In this verse there is a contrast between "one (offense) to condemnation" and "many offences unto justification." Out of Adam's one trespass came judgment. The remedy demanded that MANY OFFENSES be laid on Christ when He died on the cross. The one offense of Adam brought judgment and condemnation to mankind. What Christ did is far greater because He provided a way that would blot out MANY OFFENSES. Alva McClain gives this illustration: A man goes into a forest and takes a match and sets fire to a tree. This is a small action that anyone could do. Soon the whole forest would be blazing. Suppose somebody came along and put the whole thing out. Would not the second operation be vastly greater, "much more", then the first? By Adam's one offense the whole "forest" of humanity fell. By Christís righteous act millions and millions of offenses were paid for and were able to be blotted out! Christ accomplished MUCH MORE!

Romans 5:17

The word "abundance" is related to the word "abounded" in v.15. God's grace is super-abounding and overflowing! The free gift has been provided for all men but all men have a responsibility. They must RECEIVE it!  "Receive" is a faith word (see John 1:12).

Those that "receive" this abundance of grace have therewith the gift of righteousness. What a gift! Apart from works, apart from the Law, apart from ordinances, apart from worthiness, an out and out gift of righteousness from God! Many times in teaching this passage to Bible classes I have asked them to repeat three times over each of these expressions: "The abundance of grace," "the gift of righteousness." We earnestly commend this to you. Try it.   (William Newell, Romans).

Because of Adam death has reigned (and the numerous cemeteries bear witness of this). Because of Jesus Christ believers reign (literally they "reign as kings!").

Romans 5:18

The parenthesis has now ended and this verse should be connected with verse 12 (and probably the word "death" should be supplied instead of "judgment").

"By the righteousness of one" = by the righteous act of One (namely Christ's righteous act of dying on the cross).

The free gift came upon all men (Christ's cross-work was done on behalf of the whole human race) but sadly all men do not receive it (v.17). Calvin said it this way, "He (God) makes this favor common to all, because it is propoundable to all, and not because it is in reality extended to all (i.e., in their experience); for though Christ suffered for the sins of the whole world, and is offered through Godís benignity indiscriminately to all, yet all do not receive Him." (Note: Calvin here seems to teach that Christ died for all men.  For a fuller discussion of Calvin's views on the atonement, see For Whom Did Christ Die?)

Romans 5:19

"Were made" = became, were constituted. All who are in Adam are sinners; all who are in Christ are righteous. By birth we are in Adam; by new birth we are in Christ.

"The obedience of One"--this refers not to His obedient life in general, but to His obedient act of going to the cross (Phil. 2:8; Matt.26:42; and compare Heb. 5:8). Adam's act of disobedience centered around a tree (Gen.2:16-17) and Christ's act of obedience centered around a tree (1 Pet. 2:24).

Vicarious Law-Keeping

This verse (Romans 5:19) is often misinterpreted by those who fail to understand that the obedience here spoken of is Christ's obedience to the Father's will by going to the cross (Phil. 2:8).  Instead they say that it refers to His obedience throughout His life in keeping the law.  This theory, mostly held by Reformed theologians, is sometimes referred to as "vicarious law-keeping."    This theory says that Christ not only died for us as our Substitute (which we fully agree with), but that Christ also lived for us (during His pre-cross days) and kept God's commandments for us as our Substitute. They teach that the debt man owed to God was paid and fully satisfied not only by Christ’s substitutionary death but also by the obedience of His life (which they call Christ's "active righteousness"). They teach that justification is grounded not only in Christís death on the cross where He bore the penalty of Godís judgment against us but also "it is grounded in Christís lifelong obedience in which He fulfilled the precepts of Godís law for us" [Reformation Study Bible, see note under Romans 3:24]. Concerning this "obediential righteousness of Christ," they assert and maintain that Christ atoned by His life as well as by His death, and that this was absolutely necessary and essential in procuring our righteousness.  They say that when we get saved, God imputes to us the law-keeping righteousness of Christ.

First of all, we recognize that the Lord Jesus Christ lived a perfect, sinless life and that He perfectly obeyed God's commandments and always did those things that pleased the Father.  He was the spotless, sinless Lamb of God.  However, the righteousness by which we are justified does not flow from the earthly Jesus; it becomes ours because of the risen and glorified Son of God and our union with Him.   Please notice that Romans 4:25 does not say this:  "Who was delivered for our offenses, and who obeyed the law for our justification."  Reformed theology, as is often the case, has Christ on the wrong side of the cross!  We don't find our righteousness in the law or even in Christ's keeping of the law, but we find our righteousness only IN HIM, the risen Christ (2 Cor. 5:21).  Our righteous standing in Christ is due to the fact that we have been UNITED to the risen Christ, and He has become our righteousness (1 Cor. 1:30).

For an excellent discussion as to why "vicarious law-keeping" is an erroneous doctrine, see the discussion of this point in William Newel's commentary on ROMANS (see pages 190-193, his discussion under Romans 5:19).  For further study, see the MBC paper entitled, Vicarious Law-Keeping (Christ's Active Righteousness).

Romans 5:20

"Entered" = came in alongside. Why did the law come in alongside? Why was the law added (compare Gal. 3:19)? "So the offence might ABOUND" The law makes sin look even worse! The law gives sin the added character of transgression and it makes sin appear even more sinful (cf. Rom. 7:13). Think of a magnifying glass and substitute the word "abound" with the word "magnify":   "Moreover the law entered that the offence might be magnified. But where sin was magnified, grace was much more magnified!" The law magnifies sin. Sin magnifies grace! God's grace shines brightest against the black background of sin. "Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved A WRETCH LIKE ME!" Why did God allow sin into His universe? One reason (among others) is that He might show the MUCH MORE of His grace! WHERE SIN ABOUNDED, GRACE SUPER-ABOUNDED! Where sin abounded, grace did completely overflow!

Romans 5:21

At the beginning of this section sin and death were reigning; now GRACE IS REIGNING! "In order that, just as sin reigned-as-king by means of death: grace might reign-as-king, through righteousness, unto life eternal, through Jesus Christ our Lord." This verse unfolds God's great object: that Grace should have a kingdom where Death had had its kingdom: and that, of course, through righteousness,--that is, that all Divine claims should be first righteously met at the cross, and thus that all should be "through Jesus Christ our Lord." --William Newell. Thus the subject of the last part of Romans 5 is condemnation by Adam's trespass, and justification by Christ's righteous act of death.

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