Summary: We cannot understand our own story until we understand how both Adam and Jesus have impacted the human race.
The story of Adam is really our story. From the time of Adam until today the story of disobedience against God has been repeated again and again. In fact, the Hebrew name "Adam" simply means "mankind" or "humanity" because the story of Adam and Eve in the book of Genesis in the Bible is our story as well. We can’t truly make sense out of our lives until we understanding how Adam’s failure has effected us.
We’re in a series through the New Testament book of Romans called GOOD NEWS FOR OUR TIMES. Today we’re going to talk about how to understand our story by placing in the context of the story of the entire human race. Today we’re going to see that our life story is intertwined with the actions of the two most significant people in human history. We can’t understand ourselves without also understanding how these people have impacted us. The two people I’m talking about are Adam and Jesus. These two individuals have impacted us more than our parents, more than our spouse, more than our teachers, more than anyone else in human history.
1. The Story of Adam (Romans 5:12-14)
Let’s begin by looking at Adam’s impact on the human race in vv. 12-14. Here again we’re presented with "sin" as if it were a person on the stage of human history, as if it were a living force (Fitzmyer 411). The way sin as a power entered into the human race was through Adam, the first man.
Notice that Paul treats Adam as a literal, historical figure, not as a myth or a fairy tale. For the apostle Paul, Adam was just as real and historical as Jesus was. According to the Bible, Adam and his wife Eve were the first two human beings in human history. In some mysterious way Adam’s disobedience against God unleashed sin on the human race. Adam’s failure was the bridgehead, the invasion of sin as a power into human experience.
And right on the heels of sin was another power, the power of death. Death followed sin like a shadow, going wherever sin traveled (Cranfield 1:274). And the death here is spiritual death (separation from God), physical death (our physical mortality), and eventual eternal death (eternal separation from God’s presence and love). Like a toxin, death spread to all people, to every human being who’s lived since Adam. Death has dominated the human race since Adam.
And this implies of course that death was not part of God’s original plan for the human race. Our culture tries to tell us that death is simply a part of what it means to be human, that it’s the normal state of the human race. But here we learn that death is a toxin that spreads, that it’s unnatural, a departure from God’s original intention for humanity.
Now the reason why the toxin of death has spread to all people is because everyone has sinned. Paul is telling us that all human beings since Adam have also sinned against God (Schreiner 275). Every person has rebelled against the creator; each one of us has chosen our own way and spurned God’s way. None of us has chosen the way of God, but we’ve turned to our own way. As Paul said earlier in Romans, "All have sinned and fall short of God’s glory" (3:23).
And because all of us have also chosen the way of Adam, death has dominated the human race ever since. In fact, even before God gave Moses the 10 commandments--the law--sin was still in the world. Death is presented in v. 14 as if it were a cruel emperor who’s ruthlessly ruling over the human race. Try as we might to escape the dominion of death with genetic engineering and cryogenics, all people still die. It was true of Adam and it’s still true today.
So here we find how understanding Adam helps us understand our story. Our experience of death is directly connected to Adam’s disobedience.
Death is not natural, it’s not inherent in being human, but it’s a direct result of Adam’s disobedience. As I mentioned earlier, this includes death in all its parts. It includes physical death of course: the fact that we’re mortal, that our bodies are slowly giving out, getting tired, and dying. But it also includes spiritual death, our separation from God, our need for forgiveness and restoration with God. And it also includes eventual eternal death, permanent separation from God.
You see, once sin entered into the world, it was like a virus that spread. I heard recently about an entire national forest in Oregon that had been infected by a fungus (The Daily News [8/5/00], from PreachingToday.com). This fungus started as a single microscopic spore, but it’s been weaving its way through this forest for about 2,400 years, killing tress as it grows. Today this fungus has infected 2,200 acres of this national forest. Essentially the fungus is a gigantic mushroom you can’t see from the ground, but it’s killed hundreds of thousands of tress, all from a single spore. That’s similar to how Adam’s sin opened the door for sin and death to spread like a fungus through the entire human race.