Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come. 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!
1 Corinthians 15:21-22
For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.
1 Corinthians 15:45
So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit.
Of all the people that we think about as we approach Christmas, there is one who never makes it into any of the carols: Adam. This is perhaps a little strange since it was because of Adam that Christmas was necessary. The New England Primer of 1690 gave children this rhyme to remember the letter “a”: “In Adam’s fall we sinnéd all.” As the catechism tells us, “The covenant being made with Adam, not only for himself, but for his posterity; all mankind, descending from him by ordinary generation, sinned in him, and fell with him, in his first transgression.” (WSC 16)
Adam, as our representative, was offered eternal life by God, upon the condition of perfect obedience. But he sinned, and thus plunged all of mankind descended from him into sin. Yes, that means even those sweet little babies of yours. If you don’t think they’re sinners, ask yourself one question: do you have to teach your children to be bad, or to be good? Every one of us, from our earliest days, knows how to be bad, all on our own.
Well, you may be thinking, this is a depressing advent meditation. But hold on! The gospel is the bad news of sin before it is the good news of salvation. Yes, as we read in Romans and I Corinthians, death came through one man, death reigns over all, and we will all die. But take heart! That is not the end of the story. Scripture tells us that the first Adam is a pattern of the one to come, that the last Adam is a life-giving spirit, that as in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive!
Did you catch that phrase in the catechism “by ordinary generation”? Yes, Jesus descended from Adam, but not by ordinary generation (being born of a virgin is certainly not ordinary!); thus, he was not tainted by sin. Christ, as our representative, was promised eternal life upon condition of perfect obedience, and he kept that covenant! And as by birth, we inherit the sin of the first Adam, along with death, by faith in Christ through the new birth we inherit the perfect righteousness of the second Adam, along with life eternal. Jesus, the last Adam, reverses the curse. As we joyfully sing,
No more let sins and sorrows grow
Nor thorns infest the ground
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found.
Praise God that even in death we can safely rest in the arms of our Savior. As poet and pastor John Donne wrote, “Look, Lord, and find both Adams met in me; As the first Adam’s sweat surrounds my face, May the last Adam’s blood my soul embrace.” Hallelujah! What a Savior!