Coming off of Paul’s hope-filled message of the love of God in Christ being the foundation for all hope and certainty, both past, present, and future (Romans 5:1-11), he then contrasts the results of Adam’s and Christ’s actions; one resulting in suffering and death for all people, and the other resulting in joy and life.
I’m sure that many of us are familiar with the Creation account and the first few chapters of Genesis. God creates the universe out of nothing which includes humanity (who are also made in his image), and God tells the first people, Adam and Eve, that they can eat from any tree in the garden he has placed them in except for one tree. Satan, in the form of a serpent, comes along and tempts the woman, Eve, to eat from the tree that God had commanded them not to. Eve gives in, and then her husband Adam followed shortly after.
It was at this moment that sin entered the world, just by one act of disobedience against God, who had created these creatures from the dust (Genesis 2:7) and given them only one rule: to not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:16-17). That was it, as far as we know. That was the only parameter that God had set for his most beloved creation. Yet when given the choice between worldly wisdom and godly wisdom, Adam and Eve defied their Creator, the One who had blessed them abundantly with a beautiful garden to live in, and in doing so, damned the rest of creation to death and suffering.
Sounds selfish, doesn’t it? Adam and Eve caused all this pain, suffering, and hurt we see today all so that they could “be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5). We know that Adam and his wife are the cause of this because Paul tells us so multiple times in Romans 5. He says, “Sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin,” (v.12) and “Many died through one man’s trespass,” (v.15) and “the judgement following one trespass brought condemnation,” (v.16) and “Because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man,” (v.17) and “one trespass led to condemnation for all men,” (v.18) and, finally, “By the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners,” (v.19). I think we get the idea. Adam sinned onetime, and that ledge to death and judgement for all people following him. That is abundantly clear in this passage.
Now, you may be thinking to yourself, “Wait, how is that fair? Why am I also condemned and subject to God’s judgement when I wasn’t even alive and didn’t have a say when Adam sinned?” The pride that puffs up within us when we raise this objection is the exact reason why God’s judgement towards us for Adam’s sin is fair. You see, while we think we would have done differently and been strong enough to resist Satan’s temptation in the garden, the truth is, every single one of us would have fallen to the exact same fate that we read about in Genesis 3. This is why, instead of being quick to judge Adam and Eve and say that it’s not fair we have to face judgement for what they did, we should really be looking beyond the present distress and trouble we face and instead look to the help that is offered to us.
Notice that right after mentioning the effect that Adam’s sin has on us, Paul immediately answers by offering hope in Christ. He says that, “The free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s sin, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many” (5:15). He basically says, “Yes, we know that Adam’s sin has ruined our lives. But, that does not mean there is no hope. There is the greatest hope offered to us all: salvation in Jesus Christ.”
We see this idea furthered in verse 19. “For as by the one man’s [Adam] disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s [Christ] obedience the many will be made righteous.” Adam’s sin of disobeying God doomed all people to death and judgement, whereas Christ’s sacrifice for our sins leads to life and right-standing with God.
What will you focus on today? Will you focus on the actions of others, blaming them for your own struggles? Will you never own up to your own mistakes? Or will you look to Christ, acknowledging your shortcomings, and trusting that by his perfect life, death, and resurrection, you are offered peace with God (Romans 5:1)?