The Significance of the First Adam and the Second Adam; How is the Historical Adam Foundational to Our Faith (Selected scriptures from Genesis 2 and 3; Romans 5:17-20; 1 Cor. 15:20-22, 45-49)
Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Saturday, February 5 and Sunday, February 6, 2022
In Christ and the Meaning of Life, German theologian Helmut Thielicke tells the story of a young [soldier] who reached out to pick a bouquet of lilacs and uncovered the half-decayed body of [another] soldier beneath the bush: “He drew back in horror, not because he had never seen a dead man before—he drew back because of the screaming contradiction between the dead man and the flowering bush.”
Thielicke notes that the soldier’s reaction would have been different if the man had come upon a dead and faded lilac bush instead: “A blooming lilac bush will one day become a withered lilac bush—this is really nothing more than the operation of the rhythm of life—but that a man should be lying there in a decayed condition, this was something that simply did not fit, and that’s why he winced at the sight of it.”
We can only understand the mystery of death if we see it through the lens of Adam’s rebellion against God. We are pilgrims who traverse an “empire of ruins” with death as our fellow traveler. Unable to rid ourselves of this cheerless companion, we attempt to rehabilitate it instead, treating death as if it were a neighbor and not a trespasser.
We clothe it in our best dress and apply make-up to its waxen features. Laid out before us in stiff repose, death looks as if it were merely asleep and if we do not look too carefully, we can almost convince ourselves that it has a beating heart within its breast and warm blood pulsing through its veins. We whisper to ourselves that it is not as alien as it first appeared. But this fool’s dream vanishes the minute we attempt to embrace death, finding that it repays our kiss with only sorrow and loss.
Death is not a natural stage in the cycle of human development. Death is a curse. The presence of death is an intrusion. It is “natural” only to the extent that nature itself suffers from the stroke that fell upon Adam as a consequence for his sin. Nature endures death but not willingly. It groans in protest, loathing the bondage to decay which death has brought upon it and yearning for “the glorious freedom of the children of God” (Romans 8:21). Death is “the last enemy,” a tyrant who acts on sin’s behalf and whose sway over us was finally broken at the cross but will only be fully realized at the resurrection (Romans 5:21; 1 Corinthians 15:26).
Death is our enemy but, like the law, it is also a schoolmaster that leads us to Christ. Death’s hard lesson exposes the true nature of sin. Indeed, the law and death are strange allies in this mysterious work. In the hands of God both act as a goad, puncturing our denial and prodding us to turn to Christ for relief from death’s sting.
We are in a sermon series showing how Genesis chapters 1-11 are foundational to our faith. Last week we talked about the historical Adam and Eve. Today, I want to talk about how Adam’s sin points to Christ’s redemption. Today, I want to talk about how the New Testament shows how Adam was a type pointing towards Christ.
Theologically, a type is an OT person, object, or event that had a useful function in its own historical setting, but that also was designed by God to prefigure a greater, more spiritually potent situation or person. In this case, Adam was a “type” of Christ since he functions as the founder of the human race and his action had a profound influence upon it. Jesus, of course, is the superior “antitype” to Adam.
My theme is that Adam was a type and Jesus is the antitype. Adam’s sin led humanity into sin, but Jesus’ redemption makes salvation possible for all of humanity.
Let’s use three New Testament passages to show the importance of the historical Adam.
- Let’s first look at 1 Cor. 15:20-22:
- 1 Cor. 15:20-22: But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.
- Notice how in that passage Paul is looking back to Adam. Paul is showing how Adam is a type.
- 1 Corinthians 15 is known as the great chapter on the resurrection.
- So, here in this section Paul is showing that Jesus is the first fruits of the resurrection. This speaks of the first installment of harvest to eternal life, in which Christ’s resurrection will precipitate and guarantee that all of the saints who have died will be resurrected also.
- For as one man came death— that would be Adam— as one man, Christ, comes the resurrection.
- As in Adam all die.
- We all die because of the sin of Adam.
- Yet, we all can be made alive through Jesus.
- Next, let’s look at 1 Cor. 15:45-49:
- Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.
- Adam became a living being, right? Paul quotes from Genesis 2:7 about Adam becoming a living being. Jesus gives us spiritual life. Paul is saying that Jesus gives us our spiritual resurrected bodies.
- The first man, Adam, from the dust. The second man, Jesus, is from Heaven.
- Notice all the comparisons and contrast.
- As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust: they die right? Those in Adam die. But: As is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of Heaven- we live. We have resurrected bodies.
- Paul is comparing and contrasting the first Adam who brought death, versus Jesus being the second Adam bringing life.
- We will bear His image fit for Heaven.
- Notice that it is clear that Paul thought of Adam as a real man.
- More than that, Paul built theology around Adam. Adam was the prototype and Jesus the antitype.
- Adam was a type pointing to Jesus.
- I love this quote:
- Here’s the gospel: you’re more sinful than you ever dared believe; you’re more loved than you ever dared hope.
- Last, example: Romans 5:17-19:
- I have preached on the Romans passage, so I only want to briefly look at it.
- This passage is extremely important for the theology of the first Adam and second Adam.
- The section on the first Adam and second Adam begins at verse 12, but we will begin at verse 17:
- Romans 5:17-19: 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. Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 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.
- In the broader text, there is a dash at the end of Romans 5:12 because it is not picked up again until verses 18-19.
- Notice how verse 17 is an explanation and then verse 18 an inference.
- Adam is a type.
- Again, Theologically, a type is an OT person, object, or event that had a useful function in its own historical setting, but that also was designed by God to prefigure a greater, more spiritually potent situation or person. In this case, Adam was a “type” of Christ since he functions as the founder of the human race and his action had a profound influence upon it. Jesus, of course, is the superior “antitype” to Adam.
- I like how one source shares: In this passage Paul explores the contrasts between the condemning act of Adam and the redemptive act of Christ. They were different in their effectiveness (v. 15), their extent (v. 16), their efficacy (v. 17), their essence (vv. 18, 19), and their energy (vv. 20, 21).
- Again, verse 19 is restating this. The disobedience of Adam versus the obedience of Christ. Humans were made sinners through Adam’s sin because he represented humanity. As stated before, we were all in his loins. But in Christ we can be made righteous.
- Paul knew nothing of denying the real history of Adam.
- We must recognizing that cutting Adam out of our Bible has consequences on the reality of sin and forgiveness.
- Adam was a type and Jesus is the antitype.
- These texts (1 Cor. 15:21-22; 45-40 and Romans 5:17-19) show that Christ is the second Adam. This means that Adam was a type of one to come. We cannot, we must not, take the real Adam out of the Bible.
- We must worship Christ for doing what we could not do on our own. We all failed in Adam. We all sinned in Adam.
- To me, these are worship passages, do we worship Christ for the awesome salvation which He has freely provided?
- Do we try to earn our salvation? We cannot earn our salvation and that is why Jesus gave us the free gift of His righteousness.
- Adam sinned and we all sinned in Him, we needed Jesus to fix it.
- We must serve and worship Jesus who gives us His grace.
Most kingdoms do anything they can to protect their king. This is the unspoken premise of the game of chess, for example. When the king falls, the kingdom is lost. Therefore, the king must be protected at all costs. Another notable example comes from the Allied invasion of Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill desperately wanted to join the expeditionary forces and watch the invasion from the bridge of a battleship in the English Channel. U.S. General Dwight David Eisenhower was desperate to stop him, for fear that the Prime Minister might be killed in battle. When it became apparent that Churchill would not be dissuaded, Eisenhower appealed to a higher authority: King George VI. The king went and told Churchill that if it was the Prime Minister’s duty to witness the invasion, he could only conclude that it was also his own duty as king to join him on the battleship. At this point Churchill reluctantly agreed to back down, for he knew that he could never expose the King of England to such danger.
King Jesus did exactly the opposite. With royal courage he surrendered his body to be crucified. On the cross he offered a king’s ransom: his life for the life of his people. He would die for all the wrong things that we had ever done and would do, completely atoning for all our sins. The crown of thorns that was meant to make a mockery of his royal claims actually proclaimed his kingly dignity, even in death.
 Source: John Koessler, “Death: Our Enemy and Teacher,” on his blog A Stranger in the House of God (6-30-10)
 John F. MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2006), 1 Co 15:20.
Source: Tim Keller, in the sermon Treasure Versus Money, PreachingToday.com
 John F. MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2006), Ro 5:15–21.
 Source: From Philip Ryken’s sermon “Long Live the King!” PreachingToday.com