“Therefore, as by the offense 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.”
This, like all the inspired epistles, was addressed to the people of God expressly, and to them exclusively. Paul, after announcing himself as a servant of Jesus Christ, and his official character, an apostle separated unto the gospel of God, &c., thus defines the subject of his address: “To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints.” Although this department of the church was in Rome, and probably the members were generally Gentiles by nature, still they, as well as the Jews, were strongly inclined in their natural judgment to the legal notion that has always prevailed among carnal men, that the salvation and justification of sinners, depends, at least to some extent, on works to be by them performed as the condition on which they are to be saved. No error has ever been more prevalent among the fallen sons of Adam, more opposite to truth, nor more pernicious in its nature and tendency. Hence, we find the apostle Paul, in all his epistles to the saints, laboring to enlighten his brethren on this subject, and to clearly demonstrate to them that, By grace they are saved, through faith, and that not of themselves, for it is the gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast: for says he, “Ye are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that ye should walk in them.”
The text presents only a detached part of the argument of the apostle in establishing the true ground of justification and salvation. The term “justification,” in this connection, is used in reference to the justification of the ungodly, and is therefore spoken of as being through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus. By which redemption God’s children are not only redeemed from punishment, but from all guilt. Being washed from sin and transgression in that blood which cleanseth us from all sin, and clothed in the perfect righteousness, of him who of God is made unto us wisdom and righteousness, sanctification and redemption. To justify such as have never been involved in sin, only requires an exhibition of their righteousness. Thus, in the exhibition of the holy law of God, God’s righteousness appears, and he is justified, and every mouth is stopped, and all the world is guilty before him. Not that the exhibition of God’s holiness is the cause of our pollution and guilt, but it is that which makes our guilt apparent. We were found in opposition to God, enemies to him by wicked works. The law, therefore, which manifests God’s purity, proves that we are guilty, carnal and sold under sin. But the justification which is unto life, in our text, applies to the gracious work and righteousness of Christ, imputed to the saints, by which he has taken away their sins, washed and cleansed them in his own blood, and brought in for them everlasting righteousness. Hence, it is said, that we are freely justified through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
Now, in order that we may know upon what principle God can be justified, and the justifier of them that believe, we must be made acquainted with the gospel. The law, as we have seen, shows how God is just in condemning sinners; but the gospel alone can show how “Mercy and truth have met together, and righteousness and peace have kissed each other.” Merely the substitution of an innocent and sinless victim in our room and stead, to suffer all the penalty of the law due to our sins, could not effect this, unless that sinless victim stood in such relationship to us that he could legally represent us. Truth says, “The soul that sinneth it shall die.” Mercy cannot meet this truth in any way that would detract from the nature of truth. Truth has said, God is a jealous God, and that he will in no wise clear the guilty. How then can mercy reach the case of guilty sinners without doing violence to truth? Such a meeting of mercy and truth is impossible, unless the guilty sinner can be made perfectly free from guilt. But, as we have said, to merely visit the penalty of the guilt of sinners on one who is spotless, innocent and pure, would not sufficiently secure the truth and justice of the law of God, for truth has said, “The soul that sinneth it shall die.” Not another, that has not sinned. Hence, mercy cannot meet truth on any such ground. To condemn the righteous and to justify the guilty are alike incompatible with law, with truth, and with justice. Now to show how the law is honored, eternal justice perfectly satisfied, and truth maintained inviolate in the justification of the ungodly, is the very point which the apostle has clearly established in the text under consideration, and its connection.
In the latter part of the fourth chapter, and immediately connected with our subject, Paul shows that the righteousness of Christ is imputed to the saints, and that Christ was delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification. And to show how, and upon what ground, his righteousness can be accounted, or imputed to us, he refers, in the parenthesis, from verse 13 to 17th, inclusive, to the figure divinely authorized, for the illustration of this most important point. In elucidation of the doctrine of atonement, he says, “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: (For until the law, sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come. But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification. For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace, and of the gift of righteousness, shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.) Therefore, as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men” &c.
Now, let us carefully examine this illustration. “Adam is the figure of him that was to come.” And in applying this figure the parallel is run of the imputation of sin, judgment, condemnation and death by and through Adam, who is the figure, and of the imputation of righteousness, justification and life by and through him that was to come, as the antitype of Adam, or as the second Adam, the Lord from heaven.
As Adam is the figure specially provided and given by authority of God himself for the illustration of this mystery, it is very important that we observe the scriptural testimony of this important figure. Who and what is Adam? We are informed, Gen. v. 1, 2, “This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him; male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created.” Adam, as the figure of him that was to come, is a plural being, in the day when God created him. Embodied in his person was his wife, and in his loins were all the families of the earth. And God called their name Adam, in the day when they were created. This one form, into the nostrils of which God breathed the breath of life, was all the human family condensed in one bodily form. This unit by the decree of the Creator was to be fruitful and multiply, until all that was in that unit should be developed. It was Adam in the unit, and it is still Adam in multiplication or development. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of Adam is Adam. Before any of the sons and daughters of Adam were born, while the whole human race was a unit, by one offense or transgression of the authority of the Creator, sin entered the world. And death by sin, and death passed on all men, (that is, on all the unborn race,) because all had sinned. Not one of the posterity of man was yet born when all had sinned, and death had passed on all men. As further evidence of this, death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned, after the similitude of Adam’s transgression. Before the birth of Cain, the whole human family was driven out of Eden, and could not eat again of the tree of knowledge, and, as from the expulsion of Adam to the time of Moses, the preceptive law was not given, those over whom death reigned had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s sin, who is the figure of him that was to come; therefore, the fact that death reigned over them, and that it reigned by, and as a consequence of their being sinners, it proved conclusively that they were all identified in Adam, and all sinned in him.
It is therefore plainly to be seen that in the declaration of our text, “Therefore, as by the offense of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation.” Adam was all men, and all men are Adam. All men, in this case, signifies all that Adam was, and all that Adam is, and all that Adam ever will be, sinned in Adam, judgment came upon them, then and there, while thus embodied in him, unto condemnation. All men, therefore, in this case, clearly means all that Adam represented as their natural earthly progenitor, and no more. On this principle, Paul argues that when Christ died for us, we were even then sinners. Some of us were not born into the natural world for nearly two thousand years after Christ died, yet when he died, more than eighteen hundred years ago, we were all sinners. “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly”; we were then ungodly, and for that reason Christ died for us. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son; much more, being reconciled, we shall he saved by his life.
Now for the application of the figure to the second Adam, Jesus Christ, who is the Lord from heaven. The first Adam was not spiritual, but natural; he therefore represented his posterity, not as spiritual, but natural beings, as earthly beings, as living souls, and not as quickened spirits. Still the natural, earthly Adam, was the figure of him that was to come, namely, of Christ. As the natural Adam clearly represented and embodied an earthly race of human beings, so Christ the second Adam, who is the Lord from heaven, the spiritual Adam, and the quickened Spirit, as clearly, fully and completely embodied in his mediatorial Headship of the church, all of the spiritual family, or all of that seed which was ordained to serve him, and to be counted to him for a generation, whom he should see when he made his soul an offering for sin, and in seeing, be satisfied. As then all the members of the human family are partakers of, and involved m, the original transgression which brought sin and death upon all flesh, so all the members of Christ, whose spiritual and eternal life was given them in Christ, their spiritual Head, are as fully embodied in Christ, and as perfectly represented in him, as the great and glorious law-fulfiller; and as by relationship and identity with the first Adam, his transgression is reckoned to us, so by our spiritual relationship to, and identity with Christ, as the Head over all things to his church, all his members are represented in his righteousness, and on this ground of relationship, the free gift comes upon them all unto justification of life. In regard to the words “all” and “all men,” which occur frequently in the apostle’s argument on this subject, they imply just what they express. All men, in relation to the natural Adam, are all the human family as such, for they were all created in him, stood in him, and sinned and came under condemnation and wrath in him. The same term, “all men,” when spiritual men are referred to, means all who are the members of Christ, or that seed of whom he is the spiritual progenitor. And farther, as the children or members of the natural Adam were made sinners, while they personally lay unconsciously in the loins of their earthly progenitor, almost six thousand years ago, so all the children of God were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, almost two thousand years ago, when he (in due time) died for them, and arose again for their justification, and while they were undeveloped by personal and experimental development or manifestation.
Again, as the decree of Jehovah went forth, saying, Be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth, and did irrevocably secure the natural generation and perfect manifestation in time of the whole natural Adam, and all that was created in him, so the decree of God has gone forth equally firm and irrevocable, that all of Christ’s seed shall serve him, and be counted to the Lord for a generation; that they shall all be taught of the Lord; that they shall be a willing people in the day of his power; that they shall all come into the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.
As the fullness of the measure of the stature of the earthly Adam was perfectly open to the omniscient eye of the Creator from the creation, so the perfect proportion, symmetry and measurement of the mystical body of Christ was always with the Lord. Christ could and did, by the mouth of the psalmist, say, “My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.” - Psalm cxxxix. 15, 16. Therefore, as by the offense of one, (Adam the first,) judgment came upon all men, (who stood and fell in him,) unto condemnation. Even so, (or exactly so, after this similitude in perfect harmony with this figure,) by the righteousness of one, (Christ, the second Adam,) the free gift came upon all men, (all the members of Christ) unto justification of life. This free gift has come, and it has effected its object, and they upon whom it has come, are fully, freely, effectually and forever justified and reconciled to God, in Christ, raised up together, and they sit together with him in the heavenly places.
“And not only so,” says the apostle, “but we also joy in God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.” We were reconciled to God by the death of his Son. This was when, in due time, Christ died. But now being called, quickened, born of God, we have personally and experimentally now, received the atonement, and in consequence of having received the reconciliation or atonement, “we now joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Our carnal, fleshly, Adamic nature, is still under death; for, “If Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.” - Rom. viii. 10, 11. The old Adamic man must be dissolved and fall, for dust it is, and unto dust it must return. It shall be sown in weakness, dishonor and mortality, but it shall be raised in power, honor and in immortality. Our flesh shall therefore rest in hope. It shall be changed and made like Christ’s glorious body, and mortality shall be swallowed up of life.
“This flesh shall slumber in the ground,
‘Till the last trumpet’s joyful sound;
Then burst its bands with sweet surprise,
And in the Savior’s image rise.”
Lengthy as our article is, we have but glanced at the subject. Volumes might be written, and the subject still be unexhausted. May the Lord apply truth to our hearts by the Holy Spirit and pardon error, for the Redeemer’s sake.
Middletown, N. Y.
July 1, 1856.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 3
Pages 344 - 352