But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. – Romans 5:15-17 ESV
Adam’s sin brought death into the world. And his sin, and that of Eve, was the result of disbelief. They doubted God’s word. When the serpent spoke to Eve in the garden, he got her to question the veracity of God’s word. He planted seeds of doubt in her mind and it led to disobedience. Doubt resulted in disobedience. Disobedience resulted in death – for all. But Paul delivers the great news regarding the good news of Jesus Christ: “The free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin.” Adam’s sin brought death. God’s free gift brought righteousness. Adam’s sin brought condemnation. God’s free gift brought justification. And the free gift that Paul is talking about is the grace of God made possible by the death of His Son, Jesus Christ. He speaks of this same amazing gift of God’s grace in his letter to the Ephesian church. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:4-5 ESV).
Adam’s doubt in God brought disbelief in God, and that disbelief led to disobedience and death. But the faithfulness of Christ to the will of His Father resulted in a life of obedience, even to the point of death. Paul describes it well in his letter to the Philippian church. “And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8 ESV). Jesus’ obedience to the Father resulted in justification for all men, not just Himself. His death paid the penalty for the sins of all men, for all time. Adam’s sin brought the reign of death to mankind. Christ’s sacrifice ended the reign of sin. John wrote, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 ESV). Jesus Himself said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life” (John 5:24 ESV). The free gift that Paul speaks of is free, but it must be accepted. It requires belief in the message of God’s grace as offered through the death of His Son. Any hope we have for being seen as righteous and acceptable in God’s eyes is found only in the saving work of Jesus Christ on the cross. Adam’s sin brought death and condemnation to all mankind, but Jesus brings the offer of eternal life and no condemnation to any and all who will place their faith in Him as their sin substitute and Savior. In chapter eight of his letter to the Romans, Paul writes, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1 ESV).
Many struggle with the idea of imputed sin. They find it unfair that one man’s sin could have infected and impacted and entire race of people. That we would be held responsible for a sin committed by one man all those years ago seems to make God out to be a tyrant. But it is not as if we stand guiltless and innocent before God. The sin of Adam and Eve introduced sin into the world, and it didn’t take long for it to take root. Adam’s own sons inherited his sin nature. Cain murdered Abel out of a heart of jealousy and anger. And Paul reminds us, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23 ESV). It is not like we are standing before God with our hands clean and our hearts free from sin and rebellion against Him. Adam’s sin brought God’s condemnation against sin into the world. Death became the penalty for man’s disbelief and disobedience. But God brought the cure for man’s inescapable and inevitable death sentence. He sent His Son as the payment for the sins of all men. He satisfied His own wrath against sin with the life of His own Son.
The first Adam could not remain faithful to God. He doubted God. He disobeyed God. But Jesus Christ, the last Adam, lived a life of obedience and faithfulness to God, fully meeting His righteous requirements and fulfilling His law. Which is why Paul writes, “‘The first Adam became a living being’; the last Adam a life-giving Spirit” (1 Corinthians 15:45 ESV). All Adam could pass on to us was his human nature and, along with it, his sin nature. Paul continues, “The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven” (1 Corinthians 15:47-48 ESV). With our belief in God’s gracious and merciful gift of His Son, we become new creations. We receive new natures. We become children of God, no longer enemies, alienated and under His wrath. We find ourselves standing in His presence covered in the righteousness of Christ and freed from the condemnation of sin and death. Not based on anything we have done to earn it, but solely on the free gift of grace made possible through Jesus Christ.