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THEOLOGY > Sin > Man's Disobedience > Two Men: Adam and Christ 


A valid perspective by which to view the history, plight, and hope of the race is to consider every individual in terms of Adam and Christ. Sin came by Adam, but salvation came by Christ; that is, what was lost in the one was gained in the Other. “As we fell in Adam, we are saved in Christ. To deny the principle in the one case, is to deny it in the other; for the two are inseparably united in the representations of Scripture” (Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology).

Scripture justifies the comparison and contrast between the two men. Adam is call “a type of the One who was to come” (Rom. 5:14). Or, to use other words of Paul: “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (I Cor. 15:22).

These two men are also spoken of in terms of “the last Adam” (ho eschatos Adam) and “the first man Adam” (ho protos anthropos Adam), indicating Christ and Adam respectively (I Cor. 15:45). The distinction and similarity between the two is given in the extended passage:

Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven (I Cor. 15:45-49).

With the first Adam there is his deed in the Garden and the resulting consequences. Adam’s disobedience was visited on his descendants, as well as the condemnation and corruption that came with the disobedience. When Adam sinned, all his descendants were affected and affected in the same way—sin and death were passed to all men. Because of Adam all men have a sinful nature and every aspect of man’s nature is affected: body, mind, will, speech, and morals—this is total depravity; no individual is excluded and no part of the individual is excluded. Adam is the father of every individual (see: By One Man).

Between Adam and the race there is union: a natural union, a union of identity, a moral union. Perhaps the best word to describe the relationship is identification (see: The Principle of Identification). The race was and is identified with Adam, an identification that is not of the individual’s choosing, but of God’s determination. Though the precise relationship cannot be stated with specificity, in the identification of the race with Adam each individual was present, present in the sense that Adam’s act had an effect on the race. Through his act and because of his act, each individual is characterized by deadness and depravity, by a sinful nature and sinful actions. There is an undeniable solidarity between Adam and the race (Rom. 5:12-21).

The sinful nature that characterizes each man because of Adam’s disobedience results in sinful actions by every individual; each man does what he does because he is what he is (Matt. 15:16-20). Sinful actions flow from a sinful nature—I do what I do because I am what I am (Jer. 17:9; Eph. 2:3; 4:18). Man sins because he is sinful; it is not that he becomes sinful when he sins.

Associated with Adam is sin; in contrast, associated with Christ is salvation. Paul in Romans 5:12-21 makes this point with force and clarity. Those identified with Adam, namely the entire race, came to experience death, condemnation, and judgment because of that identification with Adam in his disobedience; but those identified with Christ, namely, those the Father has given to Him, come to experience life, forgiveness, and righteousness because of their identification with Christ in His work on the Cross.

Identification with Adam on the part of the race resulted in death, whereas identification with Christ on the part of His people results in life. “Union with Adam is the cause of death; union with Christ is the cause of life” (C. Hodge, ST, II, 203). Early theologians liked to affirm that what was lost in Adam was gained, or renewed, in Christ.

However the relationship and consequences between the two be delineated (for instance, representative imputation, seminal participation, or identification), the point is that all of history and every man in history can be discussed in terms of these two men. If it be accepted that the sins of others were given to Christ, then why is an unacceptable thought to think that the sin of Adam was given to the race?

Identification of the elect with Christ brings forgiveness of sins, while identification of the race with Adam brings a state of sin with its accompanying guilt and condemnation.

Return to: Man's Disobedience; Next Article: The Principle of Identification

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