If there is one thing held in common by philosophers, scientists and theologians, it is a quest for answers! In a sense, much of life is characterized by a quest for answers. This fact alone should make it obvious to us that we human beings are not all-knowing, since we constantly learn new things (and re-learn some old things). Of course, there are countless questions that we can ask: How was the universe made? What is my purpose? Why are there so many religions? Is the universe expanding? Why do bad things happen? How does the human eye work? What should I eat for dinner on Thursday night? – all perfectly valid questions of course (especially the last one)! Yet, if we are honest, or if we think deeply, I think we would agree with one esteemed Bible teacher who made reference to two crucial questions underlying the human experience: 1. What has gone wrong with the world, and 2. How is it fixed?
The Two “Adams”
If one should doubt that something has definitively gone wrong with the world, all one needs to do is spend an afternoon in a hospital emergency room, or turn on the evening news, or attend the burial service for a loved one, or read in the newspaper about the brutal, premeditated killing of children. If one is still not convinced, think of the emotions that we might feel at the very threshold of death, as we know that we will no longer be able to spend time with the people we love, nor do many of the things we enjoy doing! The fact that these very things are painful things is a clue that our present experience was not the way it was originally intended to be. We desire endless life, joy, peace, and goodness. This is a clue that we were created to enjoy endless life, joy, peace, and goodness. Clearly, something is wrong! But what are the answers? Is there an answer?
Thankfully, there are answers to these two questions, and the Bible provides them both:
12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and
in this way death came to all people, because all sinned—13 To be sure, sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law. 14 Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come. 15 But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! 16 Nor can the gift of God be compared with the result of one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. 17 For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ! (Romans 5:12 – 17, NIV)
This passage contrasts two men, and the results of the work of two men. Each of the men represents an answer to one of the two questions posed above. The deeds of the first man, Adam (verse 14), answers the question of “What has gone wrong with the world?” The second man, Jesus Christ (verse 17) answers the question of “How is it fixed?” Both men are exactly that, men! By stressing men I do not mean to draw attention to their gender, but rather, to their shared and common humanity! Jesus Christ, though in every way God (John 1:1, 14; Philippians 2:5 – 6), shared Adam’s humanity at every point (“how” Jesus can be both God and human will be addressed in a future blog). Christ was a true man. He is in fact that the God-Man, incarnate deity. It has been said that if you want to know what God is like look at Christ! If you want to know what a human being should be like look at Christ. The Apostle Paul refers to Christ as “the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). It is of utmost importance that we grasp the reality of Christ’s humanity. Without in any way sacrificing His deity, we must understand that in every way, Christ experienced a true human existence. He partook of “flesh and blood”, that “through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.” (Hebrews 2:14, 15). Only as a true human being could Christ be our representative before God, since we are human beings.
What Has Gone “Wrong!”
As we saw in the Romans passage quoted above, death entered the human experience through the sin of one man – Adam. This is the answer to the question of “What has gone wrong with the world.” The man Adam, our ancient forefather, failed in His divine mandate to be God’s faithful representative in the earth (see Genesis 1:26 – 3:24). This “failure” to be perfectly obedient to God merited God’s judgment on Adam and his descendents, the result of which is separation from God. Since God is our very source and sustenance, separation from Him must result in decay and death – the fruits of which we see all around us, and experience ourselves.
It is not that God is “mean” or that He is a “tyrant” that He judges Adam, and Adam’s descendants, but actually, it’s out of God’s goodness and just nature. How many of us would like it if criminals and those who cause offence got away with their actions? Likewise, a perfect and Holy God cannot tolerate sin and disobedience towards Him. He must punish sin, since He is a just judge and God. By sinning as a human being, sin became a very part of the human experience (Romans 5:12), and death is a result of sin (Romans 6:23). Since all of Adam’s descendents (that’s us!) share exactly and in every way Adam’s humanity, sin and its consequences are a part of our very existence as well. The fruits of separation from God – which is the condition that all who are “born of Adam” (descended from him) find themselves in – is decay, sickness, heartache, trial, toil, death, and more.
How it is Fixed!
This, in essence, is what has gone wrong with the world, and what is wrong with the world. We (the human race) have become detached from our creator, the One who sustains us. This detachment occurred when Adam rebelled, and it is a condition that is passed on to all of Adam’s descendants (except Christ Himself, by virtue of His virgin birth). But here is the good news! Romans 5:14 says that Adam was a “pattern of the one to come.” That is, there was to come a “Second Adam”, who would redeem the first Adam’s fallen race and restore that “connection” back between us and God. 1 Corinthians 15:22 states: “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.” Here then is the answer to the second question: “How is it fixed.” Christ, the sinless “Second Adam”, has done what the first Adam did not do: obey God fully, perfectly, and at every point. This “Adam” did not yield to Satan’s temptations (Matthew 4:1 – 11). Rather, He was obedient to God, even to the point of death on a cross (Philippians 2:8). “For this reason”, the Bible says “God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus ‘every knee will bow,’ of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9 – 11, NASB).
In living a perfectly obedient life, Jesus accomplished that which Adam did not. In dying on the cross, Jesus suffered Adam’s penalty (and the penalty all of us deserve to suffer) – the just penalty of sin, which is death. And by being raised from the dead, God declared to the world that Jesus’ work was sufficient to pay for Adam’s rebellion and thus, conquered death! Christ is the answer to the second question. He, in a very real sense, reversed the curse that came through Adam. “..as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.” As a human being, Christ accomplished that which God demands of all human beings – perfect love towards God that is expressed in perfect faithfulness. Through God’s marvellous grace, He takes what Christ has accomplished and “credits it to the account” of all those who believe in Christ (pay close attention to Romans 4). We are acknowledged by God as being truly “righteous” when we believe in Christ. We are, in fact, credited with God’s own righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21), not our own. It’s not as if we earned something through good works, but rather, that Christ’s own righteousness is credited to us as if it was ours. Through faith in Christ, we are regarded by God as being as righteous as Christ Himself! Regarding Abraham’s faith in God, the Bible says: “…it was also credited to Him as righteousness” (Romans 4:22). We are then told: “Now not for his sake only was it written that it was credited to him, but for our sake also, to whom it will be credited, as those who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification” (Romans 4:23-25). As Adam’s sin brought ruin to the human race, so Christ and His work restores the human race.
But how does this play out in our own individual experiences? Obviously, we still see sin, sickness, death, and heartache all around. The answer to this is remarkably simple, yet thoroughly profound. All of humanity shares Adam’s sin nature and fate by virtue of being born of him. That is to say, all of us descend from Him – physically. We derive our humanity from him, and thus, experience everything he experienced in his humanity – including sin. It should be noted that God did not create humanity with a sin nature. Sin became a part of the human experience by virtue of Adam’s free choice to sin. If Christ is the “Second Adam”, and if he redeems humanity, then what must happen is that we must be born of God. As we are related to Adam by birth, so we must be related to Christ by birth. But it is a spiritual birth that must occur, not a physical one (John 3:1 – 16). We must be reborn spiritually, an even that “re-connects” us in spirit back to God in a way that undoes the detachment of spirit caused by Adam’s sin. This rebirth coincides with the moment one believes in Christ (John 3:16, Ephesians 1:14). In this “rebirth” process, the descendent of Adam (all of us) comes to recognize and receive Christ as their substitute – the one who bore their sin and took God’s judgement on their behalf. When this happens, a personal, intimate, relationship is established between the person and God – a connection that results in eternal life.
Because we are still in “the flesh and blood” (that is, we still live in this fallen tent of humanity), the results of Adam’s sin, and God’s judgment on Adam’s race, are still felt and experienced. For those who reject Christ, this is the only experience they will ever know (it will in fact, get worse). Yet, for those who believe in and receive Christ, there is a spiritual vitality and reality that is part of their human experience – being related to Christ, the Second Adam. Christ becomes their life (Colossians 3:3). The goal for believers is to depend on and draw on Christ for all we need for daily living. Whereas before we, independent of God, depended on our own selves to live and meet our needs – an attitude inherent to Adam’s fallen humanity – we must now depend on Christ and on the Holy Spirit (who comes to indwell those who believe in Christ) for our lives and our needs. Christ is our life! In time, God will restore and redeem the physical world around us (including our bodies) – all as an outworking of the salvation that Christ accomplished as the Second Adam. Christ promised to return, and associated with His return is the reign of righteousness and goodness in the earth! Ultimately, the curse of Adam’s sin will be removed, and righteousness, life and peace will openly triumph! The miseries of this life will one day be forever eradicated. More on this another time. Let me leave you with this thought: For millennia, many have strained long and hard to answer the grand questions of life, and to try to understand the “why’s” and the “what’s”. As is often the case, the answer lies right in front of us! God has spoken, but are we listening (Hebrews 1:1 – 4)?
If you would like to receive Jesus as Savior, you can be simply calling upon the name of the Lord (Romans 10:13). As one writer has noted, all that is required for us to escape God’s wrathful judgment of us, and enjoy heaven with Him, is to receive the free pardon of sin that He offers us through faith in His Son.You can pray the following prayer, which is not meant to be a “magic formula” of any kind, but is simply meant to guide you in expressing the desire of your heart to God. You can also visit our page “God’s Gift to You”. If you do pray this prayer, please let us know and we can guide you with respect to your next steps, such as getting plugged in to a good church.
Dear heavenly Father, thank you for your free gift of eternal life, which you have given to us in your Son Jesus Christ, who is Lord. I acknowledge that I have sinned against you, and that my sin merits your just judgment, but I also acknowledge that you are merciful towards sinners like me. Your Son died to pay the penalty for my sin, and I accept His sacrifice as the means by which my sin is paid for. Thank you Jesus for dying for me. I believe in you, and I believe that you were raised from the dead. Help me to live for you. Amen.