Sunday, 6 March 2016

The two Adams

As in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive… So it is written, ‘The first man Adam became a living being’; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. 1 Corinthians 15:22, 45.

I wonder how many names or titles for Jesus you can think of in the New Testament. There’s no shortage…

Lord, Saviour, Messiah (Christ), King, Shepherd, Son of Man, Son of God, the Resurrection and the Life… I could go on.

But I wonder how many of us would have said Adam, particularly “the last Adam”?

It seems strange, doesn’t it? To be fair, it’s not a title that occurs very often – just here in 1 Corinthians 15, in fact, plus a slightly different angle on it in Romans 5:12-21. But it seems to have been an important part of Paul’s understanding of the gospel.

Adam is presented to us in the Bible as the founding father of the human race. Never mind for the moment how literally we are supposed to take the story of Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden: the story yields up its meaning to us however we take it, and it conveys key truths.

Adam stands for the beginning of human creation, the most important creature God has yet made, because he was made, as Genesis puts it, “in the image and likeness of God”. Adam and Eve were to be the first parents of a race that would perfectly reflect the glory of God.

But, to use the modern jargon, they messed up big-time. They disobeyed God. As a result they brought a curse on the earth, and the consequences – sin, corruption, death – are with us still today. Genesis 3, the story of the “fall”, makes sad reading – and it’s no surprise that it is followed immediately in chapter 4 by the story of the first murder.

God’s beautiful creation has been spoiled, corrupted. And the question obviously arises: can it be put right again?

This is where Paul and his teaching about Jesus as a second Adam, “the last Adam”, comes in. By his perfect obedience to God his Father he cancels the curse, and puts into reverse the trail of the first Adam’s destruction. His death by crucifixion is God’s chosen way to bring this about. As Paul puts it in Galatians 3:13: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us”.

Putting it another way, just as the first Adam was the founder of a creation which quickly became broken and fallen, a creation subject to death, so the last Adam is the founder of a new creation, a creation bursting with new and, indeed, never-ending life. That’s why Paul says that while the first Adam was “a living being”, the last Adam was far, far greater, “a life-giving spirit”.

So… what? What difference does all this make to us?

The heart of it is that while God of course loves and cares for each individual man and woman, his vision and ultimate objective extends far further than simply the salvation of you and me. He is in the business of bringing into being a whole new creation, you could even say a whole new race.

The Adam who fell to temptation is replaced by the Adam who stood firm. The Adam who died is replaced by the Adam who lives for ever. The tragedy of the Garden of Eden is replaced by the miracle of the Garden of Resurrection. The Adam who lost the “image and likeness” of God is replaced by the Adam who bears that image and likeness perfectly.

And he doesn’t just bear it himself. No – and this is the point we’re leading up to – he also restores it to those who love, trust and follow him. If we are followers of Jesus we aren’t just smartened up sinners, people God has applied a few spiritual cosmetics to. We are new people, growing more Christlike day by day.

There’s a favourite verse, 2 Corinthians 5:17, where Paul writes: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.” That’s a great truth. But in fact it isn’t quite what Paul wrote. His words, translated literally, are: “If anyone is in Christ – new creation”. Which suggests that not only are we new creations individually, but we have also become part of the great new creation that God is making in his troubled, fallen world.

As things are at the moment, the old creation brought down by the first Adam exists side by side with the new creation raised up by the second. But not until Jesus returns in glory will the new creation be finally completed.

So the question for us is this: During this “overlap” period, which of these two creations are you, and I, living in?

Lord God, help me to become daily more worthy to be part of your wonderful new creation, remade in the likeness of Jesus. Amen.

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