This is the second week on our series on Jesus in the Old Testament, called Better. This week we look at Adam. And we'll see that Jesus is the better and truer Adam, because like Adam, Jesus faced temptation, too. But unlike Adam, Jesus resisted that temptation, and gives us the strength to resist the temptation in our lives, too.
This message is based on Romans 5:12-21.
Today is the second in our series titled Better. Last week we saw how Jesus is in the Old Testament. The stories we read about in the Old set the stage for the new, the characters in the Old Testament are often just like you and I, they sometimes fail, they sometimes have moral lapses, they struggle with obedience. Just like you and I do. But Jesus is better because He was free those moral lapses, He was always obedient to God.
Romans 5 kind of give us a birds-eye view of how God has worked all this out. It’s a really condensed version of the salvation story, how God saves us. And when I say condensed, I mean really condensed. Verse 12 starts with Adam, mentions the law and Moses, and then it brings us to Jesus. That’s a really short gospel message, right. The ultra-abbreviated version. Adam, the Law, Jesus. Boom, boom, boom.
Verse 12 says that when Adam sinned, sin entered the world. It says, “Just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, in this way death came to all men, because all sinned.” Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, because everyone sinned.
Let’s go back and look at creation, and we’ll look at Adam. In Genesis 1, we see that God created the world, the land, the water, the sun, the moon, the stars, the plants, the animals, and every day after He created things, He looked at what he made and He said it was good. Then we come to verse 27, and it says, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”
Up until the creation of human beings, everything that was made was described as being good. Once humans were created, God looked over everything he had made, and said it was very good. The creation of humans was kind of a pinnacle point in creation. It’s like we’re his masterpiece. He created the whole world, and then to top it off, He creates us. We’re like the cherry on the top of an ice cream sundae. Have you ever thought about it that way? Let’s face it, an ice cream sundae isn’t complete until it has the cherry on top, right? Humans beings were the grand finale, everything was good, but after humans, everything was very good.
And to take this a step further, if everything was very good, it was because there was no evil in the world. There was no sin, there was no death, there was no one who was disobeying God. So God places Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, he cares for them, he provides for them, and he gives them a job, you need to care for the garden.
Which is an interesting thing, sometimes we think of work as being an evil thing, something we have to do to pay the bills, but we wish we didn’t have to. But before evil came into the world, Adam and Eve had work to do. Work is not evil, it’s not something we have to put up with. It’s given to us by God. A lot of folks think their work is horrible, terrible, mind numbing, whatever, but work is a part of the gift of God, part of God’s provision. I think we all need something to do, I think work fills one of our basic psychological needs, we need to contribute to something bigger than we are, and work fills that need. If you hate your work, maybe you’re not at the right place, maybe you’re not doing the right work. But don’t think work in itself is a bad thing. We all need work for a variety of reasons. Work is good, and the right work can be fun.
So God places Adam and Eve in the garden, He gives them work to do, He tells them to take care of the garden, and as a result, they could eat of the garden. They could eat of the fruit of the trees, the produce that was harvested. Except there was one tree that they couldn’t eat from. They were commanded in Genesis 2:17, “you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.”
All is well for a while, we don’t know how long, but eventually God’s enemy enters the scene, and Satan tempts Adam and Eve. Sometimes we give Eve all the blame for this, but if you notice, Adam wasn’t a strong leader on the other side of the garden, oblivious to all that was going on between Satan and Eve. It says in verse 6, “…she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.” He was standing right next to her. If anything, he was the coward hiding behind her, waiting to see died, before he tried it. They both ate the fruit. They were both disobedient to God.
Adam’s sin had consequences. They didn’t die immediately, but their relationship with God was changed immediately. When Adam and Eve disobeyed, sin entered the world. And that’s what we see in our reading. Through Adam’s choice to disobey God, sin enters the world, and the result of that sin is death.
Now when we think about death, we tend to classify death into different categories. We tend to separate physical death from spiritual death. Paul brings both of these things together. Paul talks about the physical and the spiritual, and he teaches us that we don’t have to look at these separately, we can look at them as one. Sin leads to death. Spiritual death, separation from God, and physical death, the eventual death of our bodies. And Romans 3:23 reminds us that everyone sins. Adam is kind of like patient zero.
Have you ever noticed if there is an outbreak of some disease, they always try to isolate where it started, and who it started with? It’s not to fix blame, it helps them predict where it’s going next, by helping them understand how it’s spreading. Well, with sin, it started with Adam, he was patient zero, and from there it spread everywhere, and all of us are infected.
Romans 5:14 says, “Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses even over those who did not sin by breaking a command.” Death reigned. Everyone died. What happened with Moses? Moses brought the law, right. After Moses, you had this incredible list of sins, so you knew what sin was. But it says before the law, even if you didn’t break a direct command. I think this means that even you don’t know the commands, or you don’t know the bible, or you don’t know what sin is, maybe you don’t know what the bible says, you still die from your sin. Sin is just a part of who we are, we are born as sinners.
It’s our nature to disobey God. As parents, we have to teach our kids everything, right. But we don’t have to teach them to lie, do we. We don’t have to teach them to get angry, or how to get upset. That comes naturally. We do have to teach honestly, and self-control, and self-discipline, and patience, and understanding. But the sin they figure out by themselves. Because Adam’s sin has infected the entire human race. Because we share in his humanity, we share in his sinfulness.
And in Romans, something else I found interesting. Paul wrote in Romans about sin. Singular. Not my many sins. But sin. Sin is almost personified. Sin can reign, it can be obeyed, sin pays wages, sin seizes opportunities, sin deceives, sin kills. Sin has great power in this world, and our very lives can be defined by our sin.
This is something important to think about in Lent, because we are preparing ourselves, Lent is the time of preparation before Easter. We are thinking about our sin, so we can get right with God before celebrating the biggest event on the Christian calendar, the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus. So it’s important as we do this to understand that sin is universal, therefore, death is universal.
And as we think about this, we might think, Wow, this really isn’t fair. Why should I have to deal with the consequences of someone from thousands of years ago, in some garden somewhere, who made a bad choice. How is that my problem? And on the surface, you might say that, but the bible is also very clear when it says that each one of us sins. We all make those same choices that Adam made. We might lie, we might steal, we might gossip or spread rumors, whatever it is, we’ve all disobeyed God and done things our own way. We’ve all sinned. And the wages of sin is death. There’s nothing we can do. We’re going to die in our sin.
But let’s go back to Romans 5:14, I read some it earlier, but let’s look at all of it now. “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 was a pattern of the one to come.” Here’s what gives us hope. Adam is a symbol, he is a pattern of the one to come. I don’t mean he’s just a symbol, I believe he lived, I believe the story of Adam is true, but in this sense, he is a symbol of Christ who was yet to come. Adam is not the end of the story. In fact, Adam isn’t the story at all. Jesus Christ is the story.
Adam’s disobedience brought death to everyone, but Christ’s obedience, brings life to everyone. Verse 15 goes on to say, “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 in the many.”
Yes, because of Adam, we all sin, and as a result, we all die. But better yet, because of the obedience of Jesus, we all live. Jesus came to earth, that’s what we celebrate at Christmas. He lived His life, but He was different. He was tempted the same way we all are, but he didn’t give into that temptation. He didn’t sin. We talked about how Adam had the choice to obey or disobey. Jesus was faced with the same choice. But He decided differently.
Sometimes we think that because Jesus was God, he didn’t face the temptations we face. It was somehow easier for him. But Hebrews 4:14 says, For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet who was without sin.” Jesus faced all the same temptations we do, but he didn’t sin.
And because he didn’t sin, he became the better Adam. He was Adam, as Adam was meant to be. So Jesus is the better example of how to live our lives. Do you want to learn to love your neighbors as yourself? Look to Jesus. Do you want to learn how to use your finances, your stuff, in the best possible way? Look to Jesus. Do you want to see what it looks like to love our enemies? Look to Jesus. In the New Testament, we can see how we were meant to live our life.
And to take that a step further, because Jesus lived his entire life without sin, He was able to pay the penalty for our sin. He could die in our place. Only He could take our sin and our disobedience onto His shoulders and deal with it, so we don’t have to. Because we can’t. We can’t do it without Jesus.
1 Corinthians 15:21-2 says, “For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.” Romans 5:19 says, “For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.” So just as in Adam, sin came into the world, and so did death, through Christ, obedience can come into the world, and we can have life.
Now we might be tempted to look at this and think that if Jesus’ death makes everyone righteous, then what’s the big deal? Why do we have to follow Jesus? But in verse 17 we read about God’s gift of righteousness, for those who received it. Yes, eternal life is available through Jesus, but used the phrase, “to all who received it.” We have to choose to accept the gift, or the gift is useless.
I got the shirt I’m wearing today as a gift. But if I never accepted the gift, it wouldn’t be mine. If said, “No thanks, I don’t need it.” And I didn’t accept it, then I wouldn’t have it today. God’s righteousness is offered to everyone. But those that say, “No thanks, I don’t need it,” don’t get it. They didn’t accept the gift. You see, not everyone is made righteous. Righteousness is a gift. And only those that accept the gift, receive it. God is offering you the gift of eternal life, forgiveness of your sins, but you have to accept it.
Adam doubted God, he disobeyed God. Jesus trusted God, He obeyed God. Adam’s sin was the gateway through which death entered the world. Jesus’ obedience, and His death for our sin, was the gateway through which eternal life enters the world. We can have eternal life, not because we are righteous, because, let’s face it, we’re not. We can have it because Jesus was righteous.
Sin no longer reigns. God’s grace now reigns. The question is, does it reign in your life? Have you accepted that gift? If you have, then you have eternal life, and you use that life that life to serve Jesus. If you haven’t accepted, then you’re still living in your sin, you’re still in Adam’s place, where sin and death still reign.