Elder Beebe: I have been a reader of your paper for the last few years, and am pleased with them. I would like to have your views on Romans 5:12,18, and 19. By giving them you will oblige,
John W. Ferguson.
March 4, 1866.
Reply: The scriptures referred to read thus: “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned. Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous (Romans 5:18-19).”
These scriptures have often been so perverted by those who neither know nor love the truth as to perplex the minds of some of the children of God. Universalists and Arminians exultantly repeat them, as insuperable obstacles in the way of establishing the doctrine of election and sovereign grace, and scoffing skeptics and infidels use them to prove a want of harmony in the testimony of the Bible. It would seem unaccountably strange to find Paul, in these passages of his testimony, laboring to prove that what he had, in the eighth and ninth chapters of this same epistle, and in his epistle to the Ephesians, first and second chapters, positively asserted, was not true; but such would be the case if these scriptures were justly liable to the constructions which the Armiians are anxious to establish. To prove their unscriptural dogma of general provision and offered salvation, they blindly seize these passages without observing that they are as fatal to their cherished heresy as are all other portions of the word. If the words all, and all men, in these passages, are to have the universal application they are so eager to establish, they would prove quite too much for their purpose. Instead of leaving the matter of justification to be brought about by the will and works of men, it would establish the justification and salvation of all mankind quite as independently of the volition, instrumentalities and works of men, as does that doctrine of the Bible which they desire to refute. And if Universalist can satisfy their own minds, and even succeed in perplexing the minds of others in regard to the true import of these scriptures, their delusions would not change the truth, nor better their condition. It could make them neither wiser nor safer, while to those who know the truth it would give fearful evidence that these perverters of the word were among those to whom God has sent strong delusion that they may believe a lie, that they all may be damned who believe not the truth, but have pleasure in unrighteousness.
In replying to our correspondent, who asked for our views on these passages, whether we can clearly, truly and fully elucidate them or not will not alter their true import and scriptural meaning; therefore our views will give no just ground of assurance or comfort to those who live in darkness and unbelief. As a safe maxim for us to adopt and observe, we should accept as true that the scriptures being inspired by the Holy Ghost, must be in perfect harmony whether we can understand them or not. Any interpretation therefore which conflicts with other portions of the whole volume of the divine testimony must be wrong; and if we can persuade ourselves to believe such interpretations, it only shows that we are permitted to believe a lie.
In the discussion of our subjects, and in giving our views on the passages proposed, it will be necessary to observe the grand theme of our apostle in the whole connection; that he is stating and demonstrating the doctrine of the redemption, and free, full, and everlasting justification of all the people of God, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, and not by the good works which are or were found in them who are justified. (See Chapter 3:24.) And of this justification he says that he whom God has set forth to be a propitiation, through faith in his blood, that he, and not ourselves, is the justifier. That he, in his righteousness, as declared by the apostle, is just and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus, and in such a way as to effectually exclude boasting; “not by the law of works, but by the law of faith.” And summing up, he draws the conclusion “that a man is justified by faith, without the deeds of the law.”
In illustrating this doctrine of justification by the faith of the Son of God, the apostle brings to view the two distinct headships of the natural and the spiritual creations. The one is a natural, the other a spiritual man. The first is of the earth earthy, and the head and embodiment of all his posterity as such; the second Adam, he says in I Corinthians 15, is the Lord from heaven. The one was made a living soul, and the natural progenitor of all living souls as his natural descendants. The other is a “Quickening Spirit,” and the life and immortality of all who are born of God. In the same chapter, which contains the passages under consideration, and inseparably connected with our subject, he says that Adam is the figure of him that was to come; and in pointing out the analogy disparity and of the figure to that which it represents, has employed the passages on which our views are required. Observe, when the term man is applied to Christ, except when applied to his incarnation, it is in speaking of his Mediatorial character as the Man, Christ Jesus; the Man which is the fellow of the Lord of Hosts, and is designed to identify the Head, body, and all the members of the church of God. It is in this mediatorial sense that he is called the “Second Adam,” for in his eternal Godhead, he is the Lord from heaven, in which character he can be resembled by no figure, for nothing in earth or heaven can or may be compared to him. Then as the Second Adam, there are points of analogy to which the apostle calls our attention, and at the same time carefully instructing us of those points of disparity wherein the figure is not applicable.
In the creation of man, God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” God is represented by no image but by him alone who is the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person. Christ is the only image of the invisible God; and the making of Adam in “our image” was the making him the type of Christ, who is that image; and Paul, as we have seen, sets that matter at rest by declaring in our context that he “is the image of him that was to come;” and Christ is him that was to come. Adam was not like the invisible God, in infinity, self-existence, independence, spirituality or immutability, but he was clearly a type of Christ as the progenitive or seminal head of a progeny and the embodiment of a race, and in many other particulars which we will not now trace.
As the seminal head and progenitor of mankind, all the tribes of the earth were created in him, and were all embodied in him when he offended. He comprehended all the race of human beings which were created in him, and he was personally the whole human race before any of his sons or daughters were developed. Thus Adam and all his born or unborn seed or members are called man, and are embodied in the one man. It was thus, as a unit, the offence of one man was committed by us. “Wherefore, as by one man (embracing all his posterity), sin entered into the world; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” This declaration was made some four thousand years after the offence was committed, and all that had been born in that time had sinned; and all who have been born since this declaration was written by Paul, and all who are yet unborn, sinned. It takes them all to make this one man. They are this identical one man, by whom the offence was committed. And so death passed upon all men; for that all have sinned. Those who are yet to be born have sinned. So death passed. When God said to Adam, he said to us in Adam, and to us as Adam, “Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return.” Death, in its irrevocable sentence then and there passed on all the kindreds of the earth. The dreadful reality is upon us. Our belief or disbelief cannot alter the fact. We cannot parley or argue to the contrary with death. From the decree by which death has passed on us, there is no available appeal. Passing now from the consideration of the twelfth, we come to the eighteenth and nineteenth verses:
“Therefore, as by the offence of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation,” or death passed; for that was the judgment which came to condemnation in this case. “Even so,” or “exactly so.” After this similitude, according to the true import of this figure, “by the righteousness of one,” which one, he says in verse 17 is Christ, “the free gift (not offer or sale) came upon all men unto justification of life.” Now, how must this be, to have the thing pre-figured agree precisely with its figure? Why it seems to us more difficult to pervert than to understand that as all the human family were in Adam, and were Adam, in committing the offence, and receiving the judgment or sentence of death, so all the spiritual family in heaven and earth were in the second, spiritual and anti-typical Adam, when he performed that righteousness of obedience by which the free gift came upon them all, unto justification of life. The grounds of relationship and identity by which Christ and his members are vitally and legally connected are two-fold. First, as their spiritual Progenitor, they have and do exist in him, as the human family existed and do still exist in the earthy Adam, and have so existed in him as long as he has held the Mediatorial office, which we understand to be from everlasting, or ever the earth was. And secondly, in his having assumed their nature and law place, by taking on him the seed of Abraham; being made flesh, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.
I. As the “Second Adam,” and the “Lord from heaven,” his church existed in him from the beginning, just as Adam’s wife and posterity existed in him from his beginning. Hence, we read that “God has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, according as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love.” “For by grace are ye saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” “Sanctified by God the Father, preserved in Christ Jesus and called.” The vitality of this relationship is that eternal life which John says was with the Father, and was manifested. Jesus says, “I give unto them (his sheep) eternal life, and they shall never perish.” This imperishable and eternal life “is the gift of God, through our Lord Jesus Christ.” “And this is the record that God hath given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.” And his Son is eternal life. “He is the way, and the truth, and the life.” He is the “Resurrection and the life.” “He that hath the Son of God hath life; he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.” This life is manifested by a new and spiritual birth. Christ is the spiritual progenitor of all his members, as the earthly Adam was the natural progenitor of his posterity. But no progenitor can develop life that is not in him. Our very existence in the flesh proves that God gave us natural life in the natural Adam. And our possession of spiritual life demonstrates that God gave us spiritual life in Christ before the world began. By virtue of this, we are in due time “born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever.” As this eternal life cannot be separated from Christ, it is hid with him in God, and Christ liveth in us. Now, if any man have not the spirit of Christ, he is none of his. But as many as are led by the spirit of God, they are the sons of God; “a chosen generation;” “a seed that shall serve him, and that shall be counted to the Lord for a generation.” As in the book of the generations of Adam, God called their name Adam in the day when they were created (see Genesis 5:2). So, “in the book of the generation of Jesus Christ, all his members are written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there were none of them (Matthew 1:1).” When none of them had been brought into manifestation, and when none but the omniscient eye of God could see them (See Psalm 139:15,16). And as all the natural seed of the first Adam constitute but the body and fullness of the man Adam, so all the seed of Christ are but the fullness of Christ’s body. For God “hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all (Ephesians 1:22,23).”
II. As the law which Christ’s members had transgressed, and from which they required to be redeemed was given them in their earthly or Adamic standing; to redeem them required that Christ should be made flesh and dwell among them; that he should come under the same law. Hence we are informed that “He was made of a woman, made under the law, that he might redeem them that were under the law.” In doing this, we read, “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage (Hebrews 2:14,15).” In this chapter the first Adam is referred to as the type or figure of him that was to come. We see not all things put under the earthly Adam, “But we see Jesus, who was made (in his incarnation) a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man. For it became him for whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through suffering. For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified, are all of one; for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren.” Here again cavilers harp upon the words every man, as in our text, they play upon the words all men. But every man of whom? He is here brought to view as the second Adam, representing his own chosen generation and royal priesthood; not representing all the seed of the first Adam. He is the captain of the salvation of every man that is saved by him. But there can be no captain of the salvation of such as are not saved. A captain always represents a definite company, and when he says every man, it is understood every man of his company or command; but not every man in the world. Besides, these are more clearly and unmistakably designated as being one with him by whom they are sanctified, and his sufferings were to bring sons, not aliens, to glory. He took part of that same flesh and blood which his children were partakers of, and to deliver them. Instead of taking on him the seed of the first Adam, he took on him the seed of Abraham, which is comparatively a small part of the seed of Adam; but it embraces as many as the Father has given him; and he has given his word that they shall all come unto him, and he will raise them up again at the last day. And as their captain, he will bring them all to glory. “For he took not on him the nature of angels, but he took on him the seed of Abraham.” And who are they? Not the children of the flesh; these are the children of God. But, “If ye be Christ’s then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Who, then are Christ’s? As many as are led by the spirit of God, they are the sons of God; and if any man have not the spirit of Christ, he is none of his. Who, then, have the spirit of Christ? Only they who are born of the Spirit; for, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”
Well, Christ took on him the seed of Abraham, as thus defined, them that were his; his sons, his seed, his sanctified or set apart, his members, his body, over which he presides as the head in all things; those for whom he, by the grace of God, has tasted death, and whom, being made perfect through sufferings, he will bring to glory.
“Therefore as by the offence of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation.” All being in him, all are guilty, for judgment cannot righteously pass to the condemnation of the innocent, therefore the passage of this judgment from the infallibly just and holy Judge is proof sufficient of their guilt, and the certainty that all die is positive proof that all have sinned. “Even so, by the righteousness of one”, (or as the margin reads) “by one righteousness, the free gift came upon all men.” That is all his seed, all whom he had taken upon him; all whose iniquities were laid upon him. As Adam, by the offence, plunged head and body, all his seed or members, into condemnation and death, even so Christ, identified with all his body, seed, or members, which he took on him, and of whom he was the progenitor, high priest, captain of salvation, has raised up, and through him as their living head the free gift, which is eternal life has come to justification of life; for, “The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord,” even as the wages of sin is death, through our earthly head. “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners.” As a unit, Adam and all his posterity, by a single offence, were made sinners, guilty and subject to the judgment of condemnation and death, so as a unit, Christ and all his posterity or seed, by his righteous obedience, were made righteous. His blood cleansed them from guilt, took away their sins; for he was delivered for their offences, and was raised for their justification.
June 1, 1866.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 6
Pages 335 - 342