Did you ever have a homework assignment to “compare and contrast” two things? Maybe these were two books or two people that you had to consider. With good guidance, though, we can learn a lot when we appreciate what is the same and different about two ideas, individuals, or instances.
Romans 5:12-21 includes a “compare and contrast” between Adam and Jesus. Tied to Adam are concepts like sin and the law. In contrast, Jesus corresponds to grace and righteousness.
As background, let me quote from the Lookout (referenced below), “People died due to Adam’s work. People live because of Christ’s work. People were condemned due to Adam’s work. People are justified because of Christ’s gift. The gift of God is Jesus and salvation.”
Let’s take a look at the start of this text:
Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned—
Romans 5:12 NIV
From this verse, we see how “sin entered the world through one man”, bringing in death, and then leading to death for humankind. Maybe we could argue that there were a couple of possible exceptions to physical death for those like Enoch and Elijah, but Adam’s sin represented the fall of the human race, and death – separation of multiple kinds – entered the world.
Adam’s sin resulted in the condemnation of death and, as a commentator pointed out, descendants of Adam died too. In fact, once death entered the world, even those who didn’t sin (like innocent infants, or those without the mental capacity to understand right and wrong, I suppose) also died.
Let’s go ahead ahead to verses 15-19, from which the first verse is cited below:
But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!
Romans 5:15 NIV
I think of this passage as comparing and contrasting Adam and Jesus like this:
Adam did one bad thing (his initial sin), and brought death to vast numbers of human beings.
Jesus took all of the vast sins of humankind – including yours and mine – and through one good thing (exchanging His perfect life for our earned punishment) brought righteousness and life to vast numbers of human beings.
Adam broke things, to be sure, but we know that we probably can’t blame him any more than we can blame ourselves. The sins of human beings throughout history – including my own sins and yours – are vast and destructive. The curse on this world from sin is awful, and we suffer because of it.
Jesus brought blessings that surpass all of that mess that we made in this world. Through that one man – Jesus Christ, son of God and son of man – we not only receive life, but we get to “reign in life” through Him!
And, if you didn’t know how we receive this give from Jesus, see verse 17, which indicates that this blessing is for “those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness”. This righteousness that overcomes sin and death itself, is a gift, by the grace of God. We didn’t deserve it, but we can receive it.
Verses 18 and 19 continue to compare the great condemnation that Adam brought, with the great justification that Jesus brought. One sin condemned people. One act of righteousness justified and brought life to people.
In some way, we might say that we choose both our sin and our salvation: Even though Adam sinned, we still make our own choices to sin. And, even though Jesus died on the cross for our sins, we must still make the choice to accept that gift. In all these things, God gives us the ability to choose, but since we each made the choice to sin, He offers us that second chance – a second choice – to “be made righteous” (verse 19).
It only took one sin to ruin this world and condemn us to death. In the same way, only one sin on our part is enough to cause us to fall short of the perfection required by the law. But, through God’s grace, one perfect sacrifice by Jesus Christ was enough to restore us to righteousness and lead us to eternal life.
We praise God for that, but make sure that you – and everyone you know – has accepted that gift of grace, and continues to remember it. That is the freedom and hope that we can live in.
From Sunday School lesson prepared for February 13, 2022
- The Lookout, February 13, 2022, © 2022 Christian Standard Media.
- Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
- The College Press Commentary, Romans, Volume 1, by Jack Cottrell. College Press Publishing Company, © 1996.