1 Corinthians 15:21-22
For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.…
The apostle is not content with affirming the obvious fact, that as Adam died, so all men die. He traces the death of all to the death of the one, and affirms the work of Christ to be coextensive and coefficient with the work of Adam. Just as in Romans 5:12-21 he connects the results of Christ's redemption with the sin which brought death into the world and all our woe.
I. Throughout the Scriptures CHRIST IS SET FORTH AS THE CREATIVE WORD AND WISDOM OF GOD. Without Him was not anything made that was made. By Him, "the Quickening Spirit," Adam was made in His image, after His similitude. Adam, by his trespass, defaced that Divine image; but he did not altogether obliterate it. He brought evil and death into our nature; but there was still in that nature some remnant of its original beauty and goodness. And to this day our nature is a compound in which good and evil are strangely blended; the good of God, the evil of ourselves. In every child we see some bad, some good tendencies. Whence do they derive that goodness? From Christ, the Creative Word. All in himself and in us that Adam could not, or did not, wholly spoil, is a remnant of man's original endowment; it is the work and gift of Christ. And therefore it is that the better man, the better self, in us speaks with an authority which the worse self never claims.
II. BUT IT IS NOT AS CREATOR ALONE THAT CHRIST SAVES US AND GIVES US LIFE: IT IS ALSO AS REDEEMER, the "Second Man, the Lord from heaven," who took our flesh and dwelt among us. Whatever our view of "original sin," we all admit that the sins of the father do affect the very nature of his children; and that therefore, if by transgression our first parents fell from their purity, it may very well be that we are the worse for their transgression. But it is not equally easy to see how the redemption of Jesus should have a similar effect on us before we believe on Him. Yet a little consideration may suffice to show us that whatever Christ does must affect the whole human race in the same way in which it is affected by Adam's sin. For what gave Adam his power over us and the renditions of our life? Simply the fact that he was our father; in the subordinate sense, our maker. Like begets like. God begot Adam in His likeness; Adam begot men in his likeness. As he transgressed, we suffer for his transgression. But who made Adam? Christ, the Creative Word, that afterwards took flesh and became man. If, then, whatever Adam did affects us, simply because we descend from him, will not whatever Christ — from whom also we descend — does, affect us? and affect us by so much the more as Christ is greater than Adam? If we can conceive that Christ, the Living and Creative Word, should have perished, should not we all have perished in Him? And if He, our Maker, assumes our nature, and renders a perfect obedience, must we not all be the better for His obedience? As well might the sun move from its place without influencing, in every part, the whole solar system, as the eternal Christ descend to earth, and dwell a Man among men, without sending a vital influence through the whole of humanity.
III. BUT HOW ARE ALL MEN THE BETTER FOR THE GRACE OF CHRIST? Death, moral and physical, was the consequence of Adam's transgression. Had he become only what he had made himself, he would have sunk irremediably into evil. Had we in our nature only that which, in the strictest sense, we derive from him, we should be only evil. That he did not, that we do not, become the mere bondslaves of evil, is all of "grace"; it is because we derive from Christ other and better qualities than we inherit from Adam, because Adam derived from Christ other and better qualities than those which he superinduced upon his nature. As we have seen, even before we believe in Christ we have a better and a worse self contending in us for the mastery. Consider the children you know. Nay, consider the very worst man you know. Is there not a double nature in him? Has not even he a better self? Does he not know that it is the better, and that it should be supreme? This is the benefit all men derive from the redemption of Christ, that they have "the Christ" in them, just as the harm they inherit from Adam is that they have "the Adam" in them. But for the grace of Christ they would never have had that "better self," of which they are conscious even when they wrong it by sinning against it. Conclusion: Perhaps it may be objected, "But Adam was the first man. Christ did not come into the world for four thousand years after sin was in the world." It might be enough to reply that Christ was in the world before Adam, or how could He have made Adam? that He has never left the world: that He was in Adam as a spirit of righteousness and truth after the Fall, and in all who lived before the Advent: for how else could He have taught them what they knew of the spiritual and eternal world? how else could they have striven against His Spirit? how else could they have tempted Christ (1 Corinthians 10:9). How else could all the fathers drink of the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ? (1 Corinthians 10:1-4; cf. Hebrews 11:26). But this objection springs from our purely human way of regarding things. We are in time, and judge events by the measures of time. We are so made that we can only conceive of events locally and in succession — i.e., within the limitations of time and space. But these limitations do not restrain the Inhabitant of Eternity. There is no before and after with Him. If the eternal Christ had been the last man on the earth, none the less His redemption would have passed in its effects through all the eras of time, and have moulded the destinies of all generations. We indeed cannot tell how; but neither can we comprehend the mere conception of eternity: how, then, can we hope to comprehend Him who sits above all of time, or to calculate the issues of His redeeming work?
2. Again, it may be asked, "But if all men are to live in Christ as all men die in Adam, does not the parallel involve the ultimate recovery of the whole human race? No; both the Adam and the Christ are in us: the Adam with his "offence," the Christ with His "grace"; the Adam with his "disobedience," the Christ with His "gift of righteousness." And we have to choose between them. Yielding to the Adam, we die; but if we yield to the Christ, we shall "never die," but "reign in life" through Him. If we are not obliged to yield to Adam's sin, why should we be obliged to yield to Christ's grace?
(S. Cox, D.D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.