Is the Christian in Adam or in Christ? and What Is the Result of This as Regards His Standing and Walk?

 •  23 min. read  •  grade level: 8
A deeply important question strikes the thoughtful Christian mind at the present day, when words are multiplied without knowledge — a question which affects the whole tone and character of Christian practice, and the steady, solid peace of the soul. The question is, Is his standing before God in the first or the second (last) Adam?
Is he in the first Adam, responsible before God since he chose the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the error of his way, and was driven out from the presence of the Lord God, the ruined head of a lost world, his access in such a state, cut off forever from the tree of life, death his portion here and the second death his end? Or is he in the second (last) Adam (who entered, in divine grace and love, into the place of responsibility, death, sin-bearing, and judgment, in which he lay, but who has passed out of that state, risen, ascended, glorified, seated at the right hand of the Majesty on high, head of the new creation of God), and is he made partaker, as born of Him, of a risen life, justified, sanctified, and waiting to be glorified?
Deeply important questions these, not only for individual peace of soul, but for walk and practice before God. May the gracious Lord vouchsafe His own guidance and teaching while we endeavor to answer these questions according to His truth and for His own glory.
In Romans 5:12-2112Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: 13(For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 14Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come. 15But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. 16And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification. 17For 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.) 18Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. 19For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. 20Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: 21That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:12‑21) we find these two great fountains, or heads of nature and of faith, contrasted. And the effect of the acts of Adam and Christ upon the two families, namely, that which ranges itself under the headship of the first Adam, and that which ranges itself under the Second. The question of sin and its results —death, and of grace and its results —life and righteousness towards each family, is discussed. “By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned... But not as the offense, so also is the free gift. For if through the offense of one many be dead, much more, the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many... For if by one offense 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. Therefore, as by one offense upon all men to condemnation, even as by one righteousness upon all men to justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.” Thus the effect of the transgression of Adam was not confined to himself but passed upon all his posterity, constituting them sinners before God. Even so Christ’s one accomplished act of righteousness and obedience, which reached unto death, the death of the cross, was not confined in effect with Himself, but flows to many, constituting them righteous before God. And as Adam, fallen and driven out from the presence of God, entered upon the headship of the family of nature, after his disobedience unto death; even so, Christ, enters upon the Headship of the family of faith, the new creation of God, after His one accomplished act of obedience unto death, the death of the cross.
Let us now look at the first of these. We turn to Genesis 3, and there we find Adam created in innocence, set in the garden of Eden, an earthly paradise, surrounded with blessing and good; and in this paradise there were two trees, the tree of life and the tree of responsibility (of knowledge of good and evil). He was left there to maintain himself in a position and in a condition in which he had been placed. He had access to the tree of life, but had no promise. He had simply to enjoy what God had given Him, and own the Giver in His gifts which surrounded him. He was given to understand that he had no further responsibility than to observe the command of God, to abstain from eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, failing which, death would be the effect and consequence of his breach of the command. This was the measure of his responsibility. He had no position to attain to or object to gain by his obedience to the command. Alive in a certain condition, and observing it, he maintained himself in that condition. He was not told to “Do this and live”; but, alive in the position God had placed him in, he was to retain it by doing as commanded, and so enjoy all the blessings of his position. Satan now comes upon the scene. He suggests the thought to his mind that God was withholding the richest blessing in prohibiting him to eat of the tree of responsibility; that His love was not such a love as he supposed; and, moreover, that God had not been truthful as to the result He had placed before him; for that, instead of death, God knew that they would become as God’s, “knowing good and evil.” Man’s heart, already turned away from God, opened itself to these suggestions — doubted the love that was thus withholding the best blessing from him — despised the truth, and offended the majesty of God, and aspired to be a god himself, knowing good and evil. Satan thus obtained the place in his mind that God should have had. Adam’s heart — turned away from God — readily hearkened to the suggestions of Satan and fell! He thus constituted God the judge by his fall. If God had judged His creature before this, He would have been judging Himself; for He had made man after His own image and likeness and had pronounced His work “very good.” This was His judgment upon His own workmanship when it came forth from His hands. But when Adam transgressed, he constituted God a judge, and obtained the knowledge of good and evil — good, without the power to accomplish it; and evil, without the power to avoid it. His conscience, thus obtained, told him that he had made God his judge; for when the voice of the Lord God was heard in the garden, the man and his wife felt that the covering they had made to hide their nakedness, and which had, perhaps, satisfied them for the time, was no covering when God spoke. So when challenged by God he says, “I was afraid, because I was naked.” Conscience awoke under the voice of God, and thus drove Adam to hide amongst the trees of the garden. The knowledge he had obtained when he fell had no power to make him draw near to God, but rather drove him from His presence. It was the sense of responsibility, united to the knowledge of good and evil. And so we find that God “drove out the man,” cutting off his access to the tree of life. It was a blessing and a mercy, in such a condition as that which he now had attained; access to the tree of life would only have perpetuated a life of misery and separation from God and good. The man and his wife pass out from the presence of God with a knowledge they can never unlearn, and with a nature that never can be innocent again. We cannot return to innocence, and we never can unlearn the knowledge of good and evil. Nor can we ever return to paradise again, such as that from which Adam was driven. The man and his wife, thus driven out, become the root and head of a lost world. Their sin does not stop in effect with themselves; but condemnation passes upon the whole race, which is driven out from the presence of God in them. Death is their portion in this world. Judgment, the second death, the lake of fire is the end. In the judgment-resurrection (Rev. 20) we find the two things brought on the scene again, the principle of the two trees —life and responsibility. The book of life is opened, and the books, I doubt not, of their responsibility. They are judged out of those things which are written in the books, according to their works, “and whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.”
Let us now look upon the Second. We turn to Luke 4, and there we find the last Adam — Christ. Instead of a garden eastward in Eden, surrounded with every good, as we saw at the beginning, we find Him led of the Spirit into the wilderness, and there He is confronted by Satan, who had succeeded in gaining the ear of the first Adam. Satan and Christ, then, stood face to face. The proof was there to undo Satan’s lie at the first, that God was withholding the best gifts in prohibiting to the man access to the tree of responsibility; for Christ, the Son of the Father, was there! The Son had come to prove God’s love as a Giver; and the Son, who was the brightness of God’s glory, and the express image of His person, had renounced everything, and humbled Himself — took upon Himself a bondsman’s form — to vindicate the outraged majesty of God — outraged by the first man, who had aspired to be a god. Confronted by the enemy, He stood in His inheritance, and found it in Satan’s hands. “The devil... showed him all the kingdoms of the world. and the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them, for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it (Luke 4:5-65And the devil, taking him up into an high mountain, showed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. 6And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it. (Luke 4:5‑6)),” defiled by sin, and in ruins. Had He put forth His power as God, there would have been no conflict; it would then have been merely the question of God’s power, and that of a rebellious creature. But all the tempter’s wiles were put forth against the self-emptied, obedient man, who had come to obey, and to conquer by obedience where the other had failed; and not only so but in circumstances of trial and difficulty, where dependence and perfect subjection to the will of God were needed. By His obedience He bound the strong man who was in possession of His goods, and presented in the midst of a ruined, sin-defiled world, a perfect, spotless man to God. Satan then departed from Him for a season. He found nothing in Him to act upon, or by which he might draw Him aside. With a perfect will as man, He did not put forth His will; He waited upon the will of God; and by the words of His lips He kept Him from the paths of the destroyer (Psa. 17), and triumphed where the first man had fallen, and in the midst of the circumstances brought in by his fall.
But, again, and now at the close of His ministry — of His course through a sin-defiled world, Satan comes again. Had He picked up any of the defilement of the scene through which He had passed? Had the Lamb of God contracted a spot or a blemish to unfit Him for God’s altar? And were the terrors of death in the hands of Satan, and the horrors of the moment when the Father’s face, which had shined upon Him all the pathway through, would be alerted? When He would be forsaken, not only by those whom He loved, but also of God? Would all these be sufficient to turn Him aside from the path He had taken upon Himself to walk in? We follow Him to Gethsemane, at the close of the pathway through the world, and there we find the dependent, obedient Man again, meeting with “the prince of this world.” He had tried to allure Him from the pathway of obedience at the first; but here he tries his other power, which he had wielded so effectually in the hearts of men; and he tries by the terrors of the hour of darkness to drive Him out of the obedient place, but no! “the cup which my Father hath given me shall I not drink it?” He who was the Prince of life, and had a title to it personally, accepted the responsibility of His people inherited from the first Adam, that He might vindicate the truth of God, who had said, “In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” For here we find those early principles of the garden again — life and responsibility. His presence in the world was the proof of the love of God. He had emptied Himself, as One who alone could do it, to vindicate the majesty of God. But there was His truth to vindicate as well, and we follow Him to His cross! There He offered to the righteousness of God a perfect, spotless victim; and He received from the righteousness of God the cup of wrath — the blow of divine judgment and wrath on account of sin. Spotless Himself, He was made sin on the cross. He could not be made sin otherwise than this. He stood there responsible for the glory of God on account of sin; and as the substitute for His people’s sins. Let us look at His cross. There the full evil of the heart of the first Adam, estranged from God, burst forth in its unmingled enmity against perfect good. The judge, into whose hands God had entrusted power and judgment, uses it to condemn the guiltless! Priests appointed to “have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way” (Heb. 5:22Who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way; for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity. (Hebrews 5:2)), set on their false witnesses, and plead against a righteous man, and urge on the multitude to clamor for the blood of One in whom no fault had been found. Disciples who had followed and leaned upon, and loved the Man who stood there, find the place too dangerous now. The most warm-hearted amongst them denies Him at the voice of a serving-maid — His “friend” betrays — the others forsake Him — and there He stands alone at the hour of the consummation of Adam’s wickedness! The cross of a rejected Christ exhibits the hatred of man’s heart against God and good. It displays ourselves by nature to ourselves. There we can read of what the heart of man, under every circumstance, is capable. It tells us of what we can be urged on by Satan to do under the plea of religion, loyalty, or what you will! But I follow on, and I find something more. I find God in judgment, and man in sin-bearing, face to face. The sword of divine judgment satisfying itself to the uttermost, and yet glorified in the sacrifice that presented itself to its demands. The cup of wrath wrung out and drunk to the dregs, and yet all the while the cry of conscious guiltlessness, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” The truth of God — His majesty — love — holiness — every moral attribute, was displayed, vindicated, and glorified in the death of Christ!
We read in Luke 23 that there were crucified with Him two malefactors, the one on the right hand, and the other on the left. Let us pause for a moment and contemplate this scene. Around the cross of Jesus every expression of fallen man grouped itself; some “reaping the due reward for their deeds,” others mocking the Man who had professed His perfect trust in God, and yet, strange to say, who was there forsaken of Him. In Him we find the spotless Man who had “done nothing amiss.” He had renounced all that He might go down to the place of ruin in which the sinner lay. There the crucifiers and the crucified met, in the place of moral death and darkness that surrounded the cross. One amongst that company of fallen children of Adam was destined to be something more — to be the first trophy of the victory to be held up before the world as the spoils of the hour, snatched out of the hands of the enemy; one of the blaspheming malefactors who had joined with his comrades in railing upon the One who hung beside him, with no better a portion than himself. Before the scene closes, his convicted conscience confesses that he was only reaping the due reward for his deeds, but that the Sufferer between him and the other malefactor had “done nothing amiss.” Blessed position, the first step of faith; a convicted conscience consciously guilty, and a spotless Christ, met together in the same place of death and ruin; the one reaping what he had sowed, the other full of grace! The first step of faith, a convicted conscience, led to faith’s second step; it turned from the darkened scene within to light outside itself. Faith opened his eyes, “and turned them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God” (Acts 26:1818To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me. (Acts 26:18)). “And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest in thy kingdom.” He had forgotten the cross, the pain, every surrounding circumstance in the scene; and instead of the darkness that hung around the cross to the children of Adam around, it was light to his soul, and in the far distant future he sees the Man who hung beside him, coming in His kingdom, and he merely asks to be remembered at that hour. Little did he anticipate the answer that awaited him. Place in the kingdom, perhaps a very lowly place, was his hope. “Verily I say unto thee, To-day shalt thou be with me in Paradise.” The veil of the temple was rent for his soul, and already he had passed into that Paradise of God with his Lord. Happy thief, thrice happy thief! The ruffian soldiers broke his legs, to be sure, to hasten his death, and to please religion in the world that was about to keep high Sabbath! But Christ had converted the gloomy portal, the entrance to the second death to the sons of Adam, into the entrance to the Paradise of God.
But the soul of Jesus had passed away meanwhile and the spear of the soldier is answered by the blood that expiates, and the water that cleanses. The responsibility was borne, and life and atonement come from a dead Christ. “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins (1 John 4:9,109In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. 10Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:9‑10)).” Here we have the two things again life and responsibility: the one communicated, the other borne and atoned for. Life, when dead in trespasses and sins; propitiation, when responsible and guilty. The responsibility of the first Adam borne for His people, and the sin that attached to the responsibility put away. the whole scene cleansed of the first man and his belongings, and the Second man introduced into the glory of God.
They take His body down from the cross and lay it in a tomb in the garden. Let us contrast the two gardens — that of Genesis 3 with that of John 19. In the one was placed the first Adam, innocent, with access to the tree of life; but he chose the tree of responsibility, in the error of his way, and fell. In the other, lay He who had a right to the tree of life, but who had answered the responsibility in the dust of death. To the one, the garden eastward in Eden became the portals to a lost world, which ends in the lake of fire. To the other, the second garden becomes the portals for His people, not to Paradise regained, but to the Paradise of God.
The life was gone to which the responsibility attached, and the sin that accompanied the responsibility with the life — sins borne, sin put away, to the glory of God. Sin had constituted God a Judge at the beginning; to put away sin had also constituted Him a Savior. Adam’s sin had made God a Judge, but grace in presence of it made Him a Savior.
We have traced Him to the tomb, and God had been glorified in Him. The mercy-seat had been set forth and the blood had been sprinkled upon it; the claims of the throne had been answered as well as the end of the worshiper, and now God comes in and takes up the surety from among the dead, and seats Him at His own right band in heaven. In divine love He took the place of death and ruin in which the children of Adam, fallen, lay; and the righteousness of God takes up the Man in whom He had been glorified, and seats Him in heaven. “And God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ (by grace ye are saved), and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:4-64But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 5Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) 6And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: (Ephesians 2:4‑6)).” Dead together — we in sin — He for sin — quickened together — made partakers of a risen, justified life, beyond the reach of death, sin, judgment, wrath everything (Christ having made satisfaction for all these, before He left the place of death), we are now one with Him in heaven. Dying for us on the cross we are one with Him in life, and “there is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:11There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. (Romans 8:1)).” We are in the second (last) Adam, not in the first; in the Spirit, not in the flesh; under His headship. Responsibility was borne by Him in grace. Propitiation flows to us from the death of Christ, and His people are introduced into the new creation of God. “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature (creation): old things are passed away; behold all things are become new. And all thing are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 5:17, 1817Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. 18And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; (2 Corinthians 5:17‑18)).” God has substituted His own righteousness and the person of the second (last) Adam for the sin and person of the first!
What now is the result of all this in practical life?
Before we answer this question, we must look back and ascertain what it was that applied to Adam, fallen, under the sentence of death. Man, alive and innocent in the garden, had but to retain the state or condition in which he had been placed; but to man fallen and driven out from God’s presence, with a conscience which he had received when he fell, is addressed the law, the requirement from God to him, a sinner, and which proposed life in the things of it, and gave him a rule to walk in, which would have been his righteousness if he observed it. In the law we find again the principle of the two trees, life and responsibility. It came in between Adam and Christ to propose the question, Had fallen man any righteousness for God? And it proposed “life in them,” upon the condition of man, thus responsible, fulfilling perfectly its requirements. His conscience tells him that he ought to fulfill all its demands; and he owns his responsibility to be all that it requires of him — to love God with all his heart, and his neighbor as himself; that he should not lust, &c. Had it been addressed to Adam in the garden, it would have had no meaning whatsoever, for it proposed to give life whereas Adam had not forfeited life; and it prohibited lusts which had no existence. To man, fallen, alone has it any application. It prohibited lusts in a heart that was full of lust, and brought to light and defined the lusts of a heart that had departed from God. It found him a sinner, and instead of bringing life, as it proposed on man’s observing it, it brought death to his conscience, constituted him an offender, a transgressor; for “by the law is the knowledge of sin.” We read, “The law entered (that is, between Adam and Christ) that the offense might abound,” not sin, for sin was there. Consequently “death reigned from Adam to Moses,” by whom was given the law. It could not, therefore, give life, and as a result, it could not give righteousness; for “If there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law” (Gal. 3:2121Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. (Galatians 3:21)). “It is not (therefore) made for a righteous man” (1 Tim. 1), but belongs to the first man, fallen and driven out from God, and has its direct application to none else.
What then is the guide for the practical life of the Christian, who has been made partaker of the risen justified life of the Second (last) Adam? The very essence of this flows from the fact that he has been brought to God in Christ, and placed in a new condition altogether in and by virtue of redemption. The life of the first man was forfeited; but Christ took the responsibility which belonged to His people, and bore it fully to God’s glory, when He went down into the place of death in which they lay as children of fallen Adam; and now life is come to them from the death of Christ, and their responsibility springs from the position in which they have been placed. As in earthly relationships, the responsibility of the child to his father flows from the relationship which exists — from the fact of his being a child; the wife’s to her husband, from the fact of the relationship she is in — that of being his wife. So the true Christian responsibility is founded on the existence of the relationship and the position he is in. Life has been communicated and he is before God, in the full light of His presence, in the Second Adam risen from the dead and gone up into the presence of God. It is the principle of real responsibility which sets him to act up to the place he is in, and to judge everything inconsistent with that place in his ways. It is not that he is to live up to what Adam, innocent, ought to have been; or to what the law required from fallen man; or according to the course of this world. But as dead to sin, dead to the world, dead to the law, in the body of Christ he is to let the life of Jesus be manifested in his body; to live the life that has been imparted to him, which was exhibited in Christ — a life that connects him with heaven, but is to be exercised in the world, and thus to bring forth fruit unto God. The law desired fallen Adam to love his neighbor as himself, and gave no higher standard or aim with regard to his neighbor than this. The new man has Christ for the measure of his walk and practice, and is not merely to love his neighbor as himself, but to renounce and surrender altogether, even as Christ did — “to lay down our lives for the brethren.” He is told to be an imitator of God, as a dear child, and to walk in love, having Christ for his example and standard; and abiding in Him, he ought so to walk even as He walked — surrendering self, life, everything for His enemies. Bible Treasury 5:316-320.