by Rev. Antony W. Ball
Twice in his letters in the New Testament1, St. Paul compares Jesus with Adam, but the comparison is not immediately obvious apart from the scriptural claim that neither had a human father – and there’s more to it than just that.
According to the creation story in Genesis2, Adam’s disobedience of God, by his choice to eat the apple that God had forbidden him to eat, was the reason that sin, and consequentially death, entered the world. From then on Adam and his descendants, the whole of mankind, were banished from the ‘perfect’
Garden of Eden and destined to live out their lives being subject to temptation and ultimately death resulting from their sinfulness – they could no longer live in perfect fellowship/communion with God because God and sinfulness cannot co-exist.
God’s love of His creation and His creatures caused Him to try to ‘remedy’ that situation, from His perspective, in various ways. He selected one nation – His ‘Chosen Race’, the descendants of Jacob – and led that nation out from slavery in Egypt and led them for forty years under the leadership of Moses. During that time He gave them the Ten Commandments and the rest of the Law of Moses and waited until that whole generation had died, but still their sinfulness, through making wrong choices, continued. Joshua, Moses’ successor, miraculously led them across the River Jordan and into a Promised Land – a blessed land ‘flowing with milk and honey’ – but still their sinfulness continued. God sent prophets to speak on His behalf, some of whom had profound effects on that Jewish nation, giving them a fuller awareness of Himself than was granted to any other nation – but still their sinfulness continued.
It was finally time for direct, divine intervention. God sent His Son, Jesus, to be the Saviour of the World. He would be a ‘Second Adam’: born of the Virgin Mary, and therefore human, but without a human father and therefore not strictly a descendant of Adam. He would be subject to temptations – as all humans are – but He would resist them and live out the first-ever perfect human life. He would lead His followers both by word and by example – by what He said and by what He did. His followers would still go on making wrong choices, as all human beings do, but providing they admitted those sins, confessed them and truly regretted them, He would, as it were, die on their behalf. Having therefore lived the first-ever perfect human life, in the ‘real world’ (not just in the perfect Garden of Eden), and therefore not deserving the penalty of death as a consequence of sinfulness or for any other reason, He nevertheless suffered the most appallingly painful death by crucifixion. God approved – and showed His approval by resurrecting Jesus from the dead. The cycle of human sinfulness leading, one way or another, to death had been broken, once and for all – the legacy of Adam’s sinfulness had given way to the prospect of eternal, everlasting life.
So followers of Jesus (Christians) still have to die, but providing they have confessed their sins and truly regretted them – easier said than done, of course – they can claim that Jesus has ‘paid the price’ for their sins through His own, totally undeserved death and they can look forward to eternal life with Jesus, the new Adam. See you there ?
1 Romans chapter 5 and 1st Corinthians chapter 15
2 Genesis chapters 1 & 2 – irrespective of whether you take that story as literal or metaphorical truth