Defining our Nature
For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ. Romans 5:17
suggested further reading: Genesis 3
It may be useful to note here the differences between Christ and Adam. First, by Adam’s sin we are not condemned through imputation alone, as though we were punished only for the sin of another. Rather, we suffer his punishment because we ourselves are also guilty. As our nature is polluted in Adam, we are regarded by God as having committed sin. But through the righteousness of Christ, we are restored in a different way to salvation; for it is not accepted for us because it is in us, but because we possess Christ himself with all his blessings given to us through the bountiful kindness of the Father. Hence the gift of righteousness is not something that God endows us with, as some absurdly explain, but is a free imputation of righteousness. In this, the apostle plainly declares what he understands by the word grace.
Second, the benefit of Christ does not come to all men. Adam has involved his whole race in condemnation, the reason for which is indeed evident. As the curse we derive from Adam is conveyed to us by nature, it is no wonder that it includes all of humanity. But if we are to participate in the grace of Christ, we must be engrafted in him by faith. To partake of the miserable inheritance of sin, it is enough for us to be human, for sin dwells in all flesh and blood. But to enjoy the righteousness of Christ, it is necessary for us to become believers, for participation in him is attained only by faith.
for meditation: Thomas Goodwin pictured two giants who represent mankind: one is Adam and one is Christ. Every single person is hooked to the belt of one of these two giants. By nature, we are all hooked onto the belt of the first Adam. His fall became our fall. Paul teaches us in Romans 5 that the guilt of Adam’s sin is imputed to us and the pollution of his sin is inherited by us. By grace, the Holy Spirit unhooks us from the belt of the first Adam by regeneration and hooks us onto the belt of the Second Adam, Jesus Christ. Christ then becomes our representative head with the Father, and we, by grace, learn to live out of him. To whose belt are you hooked now?