In Romans 5:12 – 21 Paul writes about the two possible positions in which every human being stands in the presence of God.

Either we stand before God ‘in Adam’.

Or we stand before God ‘in Christ’.

There is no other position. In this meditation we focus on what it means to be in the ‘in Adam’ position.

Paul teaches that through the one sin of the one man, Adam,

Sin entered the world - 5.12
Death entered the world - 5:12
Death came to all men - 5:12
Death reigns - 5:14, 17
Many die by the trespass of the one man - 5:15
The judgement followed one sin - 5:16
And brought condemnation for all - 5:16, 18
Many made sinners - 5:19
Sin reigned in death - 5:21

Paul’s teaching here is grounded on the reality and accuracy of the Genesis 1-3 records.

Paul knows that there was a time when Adam, along with his wife Eve, existed as the only human beings in a perfect world in which neither sin nor death was present.

Paul knows that the first humans were created accountable to God and his command, leaving no room for the idea of gradual evolution from one (non-human) species into another (human) species.

Paul knows there were no long ages of death and destruction and suffering prior to this first, original sin. Death and suffering entered only consequent to Adam’s sin.

The evolutionary/long-ages perspective that other people were present at the same time, and that suffering and death existed before this sin of Adam, is inconsistent with Paul’s teaching in this chapter. His whole argument depends on the historicity and integrity of the Genesis record: that the entire human race is descended from the one original, created pair, Adam and Eve. Just as physically every human being that has ever existed was 'in Adam', so Paul says, we were all 'in Adam' spiritually when he chose to disobey God's command and by that choice brought death to himself and every one of his descendants. In his sin we sinned. Each one of us is trapped under the power of sin and the consequent death that entered the world through Adam's original sin. There was no sin in the world when God created it. There was no death in the world as God created it. Adam's sin brought both into the world.

We must not understand this 'death' to be speaking only of physical death. In Paul's teaching here, the focus is on death as a severance of the relationship between man and God. Death is severance, separation. At a spiritual level death is severance from God:

Sin separates the sinner from God - from God who is the source and goal of every human life whether we realize it or not.

Sin separates us from the one and only place where we can be truly and fully human.

When Adam sinned, he died. The severance from God was instantaneous. The record of Genesis 3 makes that clear. Shame began. Guilt began. The perceived need to defend, preserve, and justify oneself in the presence of God and others began. Suddenly this man is aware of himself as he never had been before, and it is a destructive, tortured awareness. No longer the peaceful communion that had been between him and God prior to his sin. He, by his choice, severed himself from life with God, and there is nothing left to sustain him spiritually, for man's spirit lives only when united to God. For this reason the Bible teaches that we are spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1,5). For this reason a restoration of (spiritual) life is possible only in and through reunion with God - a truth that is powerfully presented by Jesus Christ and recorded by John in his Gospel and first letter.

Romans 5:12-21 also teaches that condemnation and judgement entered the world and came upon all people through the one sin of the one man, Adam. In union with him, in our identification with him, we are all under this judgement and condemnation. No one escapes it. The entry of the law by which sin is identified, confirms this fact of our common sinfulness; it brings our rebellion against God out in the open; it exposes our sin by provoking it. The whole human race lives under this tyrannical reign of sin, of death, and of law. By this powerful trilogy we are all condemned - banned for ever from the right to live in the presence of God.

In the next meditation our focus will be on the other position: standing in the presence of God ‘in Christ’.

© Rosemary Bardsley 2020