Every Monday night, I meet with a group of men for Bible study. We are in Week 8, and just finished up Romans 5. We are using Tommy Nelson’s Romans: The Letter that Changed the World as our starting point. If you are anywhere near Prattville, AL, we’d love you to join us.
Romans 5:14 says that Adam was “a pattern of the One who is to come.” But it’s almost as if Paul realizes that he’s just compared someone to Jesus–the One with Whom there is no comparison. Tommy Nelson makes the point that Jesus is a far, far better Savior than Adam was a sinner. So no sooner does Paul say that Adam is a pattern, or type, of the one to come, that Paul starts walking back the statement.
“The gift is not like the trespass”–How they are different
Tim Keller, in his Romans 1-7 For You commentary, identifies three primary ways what Jesus did to save us is different (read: “greater”) than what Adam did to condemn us:
The Motivation was different:
Adam made a conscious decision to sin. The word “transgression” implies a deliberate decision to do what you know is wrong. So in Genesis 3, Adam bought in to the lie that the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil would make him like God (Genesis 3:5-7). In other words, he bought in to the lie before he bit in to the fruit! His motivation was that he wanted to be like God.
Like Adam, Jesus made a conscious decision–not to sin, but to obey. Verse 18 calls this the “one act of righteousness.” In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus deliberately bent His will to the will of the Heavenly Father when He accepted the cross (Luke 22:42). What was His motivation? Well, first and foremost it was to bring glory to the Father. But through His obedience, we have access to the Father (Eph. 2:18). And ultimately, we will be like God, when we see Him as He is (1 John 3:2). So at the risk of oversimplification for the sake of a great Tweet, Adam bit the fruit so He could be like God. Jesus bore the Cross so we could be like God.
Adam bit the fruit so He could be like God. Jesus bore the Cross so we could be like God.
The Results were different:
Tommy Nelson walks through four areas in which the gift of grace through Christ is different (and far better!) than the transgression of Adam:
- Our salvation is more certain than Adam’s sin. Verse 15: For if by the one man’s trespass the many died, how much more have the grace of God and the gift overflowed to the many by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ.
- Our forgiveness is more broad than Adam’s judgment. Verse 16: from one sin came the judgment, resulting in condemnation, but from many trespasses came the gift, resulting in justification.
- Our reward is more glorious than Adam’s punishment. Verse 17: Since by the one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive the overflow of grace and the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.
- The obedience (of Christ) was more redemptive than the disobedience (of Adam) was destructive. Verse 19: For just as through one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so also through the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.
Adam’s sin kicked him out of the Garden. Christ’s righteousness ushers us into Heaven. Adam’s transgression made us slaves. Christ’s righteousness makes us heirs.
The Power was different:
Finally, the power of grace is so much greater than the power of sin. Not for nothing do we sing, “Grace that is greater than all our sin.” How does Paul show that the power of grace trumps the power of sin?
- Reigning in life is greater than the reign of death. Paul says in verse 17, “Since by the one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive the overflow of grace and the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.” Don’t miss the change from “reign in life” to “reign of death.” The first is active: We who have been raised with Christ will reign with Christ. But the reign of death is passive. As Billy Crystal’s character says in The Princess Bride, “with all dead there’s only one thing you can do–go through his pockets and look for loose change.”
- The abundance of grace is greater than the increase of sin. In verse 20, we read, “Where sin increased, grace increased all the more.” The power of sin to kill is limited. When you are dead, you are dead. More sin doesn’t make you more dead, and less sin doesn’t make you less dead. But when Jesus makes us alive through His abundance of grace,
- We can grow in His grace and knowledge (2 Peter 3:18).
- We can have life, and have it more abundantly (John 10:10).
- We can grow in our faithfulness, and thus be given more responsibility (Matthew 25:21).
- We can “add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love (2 Peter 1:5-8)
“For Just As…” How They are Similar
Even though it seems like Paul spends more time talking about how Adam and Christ are not alike, don’t lose sight of his original thesis in verse 14: Adam served as a pattern, or type, of the one to come. So let’s end this post by looking at how the two are alike:
- Both the gift and the trespass bring something (v. 16): The gift of grace brings justification. The transgression brings condemnation.
- Both the gift and the trespass cause something (v. 18): The result of Adam’s one transgression is condemnation for all men. The result of Christ’s one act of righteousness is the possibility of righteousness for all men (hold that thought– I’ll get back to that).
- Both the gift and the trespass make us something (v. 19): The human race was made sinful by Adam’s disobedience. But the many will be made righteous through Christ’s obedience.
Conclusion: Is there any way the Trespass is Superior than the Gift?
Paul is clear. Grace is greater than sin. Christ is a far, far greater Savior than Adam is a sinner. Good triumphs over evil. The paradise we gain with Christ (see Revelation 22:1-5) is infinitely greater than the paradise we lost with Adam. At every turn, the power of what Jesus did is far superior to the power of what Adam did.
Well… at almost every turn. You may have already noticed it, but look again at verse 18:
18 Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people.
Does that mean that all will be justified? It does not. The condemnation of the human race through Adam is universal. But the justification through Jesus Christ is limited. It is available only to “as many as receive Him” (John 1:12). Romans 5:18 shows us that justification is available to all, but John 1:12 emphasizes that it is limited to the ones who will receive Jesus.