The influence that one person can have over other people is nearly incalculable. Throughout history there have been men and women who, because of their lives, have impacted and even transformed the lives of generations to come. This fact, however, is never more apparent than in the contrast between Adam and Christ. Both individuals influenced the entire human race. Through one man, death entered the entire human population and through another, life was given. More specifically, “In Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22).
This contrast is even clearer in Romans 5:17-21. There are five contrasts between Adam and Christ that we find in this passage and that have significant relevance for you and me. First, we find the contrast between death and life. Paul wrote, “For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ” (verse 17). The transgression of Adam introduced death to all human life. The Bible is clear that all of us have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory; moreover, all of us were dead in our trespasses and sins (Romans 3:23; Ephesians 2:1). Yet, Christ who is rich in mercy and filled with great love, even when we were dead in our sins made us alive (Ephesians 2:4-5).
Second, we see the contrast between condemnation and justification. Paul continued, “So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men” (verse 18). One man’s actions brought condemnation for all mankind. The entire human race has been found guilty of sin and outside of any spiritual intervention, we are condemned for all eternity. However, the single act of Jesus Christ enabled every human being to stand before God completely free of all sin and guilt. Every act of disobedience, iniquity, unrighteousness, and impurity can be totally wiped clean through the actions of Christ; that, my friends, is incredible news. That is justification.
Third, the contrast between being sinners and being righteous is uncovered. Because of the sin of one man, all of us became sinners. Regardless of how sophisticated or educated human beings have become, apart from Christ every person, by nature, is prone to selfishness and self-preservation. Our good behavior simply cannot mask the deep-seated issue of sin in our hearts. But through Christ’s single act, “the many will be made righteous” (verse 19). To describe a Christian, then, as a “sinner” is inappropriate and untrue. We have actually been designated or ordained (the meaning of “made” righteous) as righteousness; meaning that Christ’s single act brought something into existence that could not otherwise have occurred. A true Christian has “become the righteousness of God in Him [Christ]” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Fourth, Paul explores the contrast between increasing sin and abounding grace. The Law, given because of Adam’s sin, revealed how deeply sin had saturated mankind. We would not have known what sin was apart from the Law (see Romans 7:7). The Law shed light on how deep and wide sin had permeated our lives and, in a sense, our transgressions increased because of this revelation. Yet, because of what Christ did grace was introduced into humanity so that “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (verse 20). Grace extends beyond the damage and curse of sin because “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law” (Galatians 3:13). There’s no sin that you’ve participated in that grace cannot pardon. Through repentance, grace will abound all the more in your life.
Fifth, the contrast between reigning sin and reigning grace is revealed. Sin gives no other option but death. Sin is like a cancer that eats and devours its victims until every function of the victim’s life is impacted and eventually destroyed. When sin reigns it erodes our credibility, poisons our relationships, destroys our families, cripples our churches, ruins our cities, corrupts our nation, and eventually damns our souls for all eternity. However, because of the One, “grace [can] reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (verse 21). Grace enables, grace empowers, grace inspires, grace reveals, and most of all God’s grace produces a lifestyle that replicates Jesus Christ in every manner.
The question is will we die to the life that Adam generated and receive the life that Christ offers? If we die to sin then we are free from its grip and power, and we’re capable of experiencing everything that Christ initiated. Paul continued to say, “Knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin” (Romans 6:6-7). Doesn’t that give you hope?
Finally, “If we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection” (Romans 6:5). Because of what Christ has accomplished through His death and resurrection, we can “walk in newness of life” with Him (Romans 6:4). We are not just free of sin, but we are empowered by grace; we can walk in resurrection power. Christ made it possible for all of us to be just like Him. He conquered sin, flesh, hell, Satan, and death and now has offered us the grace to do the same. Additionally, through His grace we’re enabled to walk in love, power, faith, good works, and so much more.
Let’s give praise to the One who changed our lives for all eternity!
I praise you, Jesus. I celebrate your resurrection over the power of darkness and sin. I choose to die to my old life and receive a new life in Christ, amen.