1 Corinthians 15:47-49
The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven.…
In what sense is our Lord the second man? There were so many millions intervening between Him and Adam. The answer is that all the others were mere copies of the first; whereas Christ introduced a new kind of man, and became the head of a new family.
I. THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN ADAM AND CHRIST. There is a difference.
1. Of origin.
(1) The first man is of the earth, earthy."(a) Whatever may be said of Adam's Divine parentage, according to his physical nature, he and his belong essentially to this earth; they are part of its fauna, and stand at the head of long lines of animal life, which, commencing with the lowest of sensitive creatures, find their highest term in man. All the materials of his physical life and being belong to the planet of which he is the chief inhabitant, of whose vital forces he is simply the highest outcome, the most elaborated product.
(b) There are many who tell us that man is "of the earth, earthy," in the sense of being descended from the lower forms of animal life through the process of natural selection; but this can only be received as an hypothesis; yet there is nothing in it contrary to Scripture. If true it gives a new and most marvellous aspect to the Incarnation. Of course, if our ancestors were "marine ascidians," so were His; and thus we see Him in an unexpected sense, gathering together in one, and summing up in Himself all created life (Ephesians 1:10), and reuniting it unto God. I do not know why a Christian should be staggered at the thought of one unbroken continuity of life; for the great gap in the cycle of life, which seemed to be eternally impassable, was above man, not below him, and yet we know that this gulf which separated the highest creature by an infinite distance from the Creator was bridged by the condescension of the Son.
(2) For the second man was the Lord from heaven. His origin was as distinctly Divine and heavenly as Adam's origin was earthy.
2. Of nature. This difference was not in wealth, happiness, beauty, nor in any of those things which ordinarily make one man superior to another, for in all these things Christ voluntarily placed Himself at a disadvantage; but it was in holiness.
(1) Adam was a rebel, a sinner; and after him all we are the same. No doctrine of the Scripture is more confirmed by constant experience, or more in accordance with modern science than that of hereditary sin. For not only does every child afford a fresh example of the tendency to do wrong, but as the instinct by which the young bird feeds itself is the transmitted experience of its remote ancestors, so the mortal evil which began in Adam has become an inseparable characteristic of his race.
(2) But Christ was not sinful. Coming into the world by a miraculous and immaculate conception, it was said to Mary, "That holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God"; and this holiness, which belonged to Him by virtue of His origin, He kept spotless amidst all the temptations of His earthly life. And what was the consequence of this holiness? This — that He was by right immortal and incorruptible, even as man; death and the grave could have no claim on One who had no sin. But did He not die? Yes, truly; but it was by His own permission. Being holy, although He was capable of death, it was not possible that He should be holden of it. I have seen some large insect fly into a spider's web, and the hungry spider has come forth with haste, thinking he has caught a finer prize than has fallen into his clutches for many a long day. But the prisoner is stronger than any for which the web was made; he gathers up his might, he throws himself hither and thither, he shakes the web violently, he rends it from top to bottom — he is gone, and has left the broken net and the baffled spider behind him. Even so death had spread his snares for the sons of men, and had caught them all one by one, and had held them fast; at last came the Son of Man, and He, too, died like men, and death and hell rejoiced together over their notable captive. But they did not rejoice long; their toils were not made for Him. The bands of death were to Him as the "green withes" were to Samson. As the flush of morning comes back upon the earth, as the tints of spring return upon the trees, and we cannot say at what moment it begins, so did Christ rise, we know not when; it needed no effort nor preparation; it was as natural and proper to Him to live, to be abroad in the freedom of unfettered life, as it is for the dew to rise when the sun is warm.
II. CHRIST IS CALLED THE SECOND ADAM BECAUSE —
1. He introduced into the world a new type, a new order of humanity — a child of man, indeed, but such a child of man as had never been seen before. He was the beau ideal of the human race; all that is noble and lovely in other human beings was united in Him, and all that is noble and lovely in our dreams and fancies about what human beings might be was realised in Him. You have heard of those tropical plants which are said to blossom but once in a hundred years, then, having thrown up a single spike of exquisite white blossom, to die. This (however exaggerated in fact) may serve to illustrate the relation of Christ to the human race: once, and once only, humanity blossomed up and put forth one exquisite faultless flower, in which its entire life culminated, in which all its possibilities were exhausted; that flower was Christ, the Son of Man, par excellence, the second man.
2. But Adam not only set a type, but he began a race, a series like himself, and thus he became the fountain-head of a guilty and perishing humanity. In like manner Christ began a new race, and became the fountain.head of a new regenerate human life, cleansing itself from sin, rising victorious over death.
(R. Winterbotham, M.A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven.