Two Men, Two Acts, Two Results, Life-Study of Romans, Message Ten, pp. 113-120


In Romans 5:12-21 we have two men, two acts, and two results. This passage is difficult to remember because everything in it transcends our understanding. By nature, we do not have the concept that is revealed in this passage of Scripture. If we did, we would easily be impressed with Paul's thought. Have you ever thought that in the whole universe there are only two men? Nevertheless, in the eyes of God there are just two men—Adam and Christ. We ourselves are nobodies. We are all included in either the first man or the second. Everything depends on where you are. If you are in Adam, you are a part of Adam. If you are in Christ, you are a part of Christ. Fifty years ago I was in Adam, but today and forever I am in Christ.

A. Two Men

1. Adam

Adam was the first man (1 Cor. 15:47). He was not only the first man, but also the first Adam (1 Cor. 15:45). Adam was created by God (Gen. 1:27), and had nothing of the divine nature and life of God. He was merely God's creation, a work of His hand.

2. Christ

Christ is the second man (1 Cor. 15:47) and the last Adam (1 Cor. 15:45). What does it mean to say that Christ is the second man and the last Adam? It means that Christ is the last man. After Him, there is no third man, for the second man is the last. This excludes the possibility of a third man. Do not consider yourself as the third. Christ is the second man and the last Adam. Following Him, there is no third Adam.

This second man was not created by God. He is a man mingled with God. He is God incarnated to be a man (John 1:14). The first man had nothing of the divine nature and life of God, for he was merely God's creation. The second man is the mingling of God with His creature, full of the divine nature and life of God. He is a man mingled with God, a God-man. The fullness of the Godhead is embodied in Him (Col. 2:9; John 1:16).

B. Two Acts

1. Adam's Transgression in the Garden

Romans 5:14 mentions Adam's transgression, referring to Adam's transgression of eating the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the garden. After God created Adam, He placed him in front of the tree of life, indicating that Adam should partake of this tree. This would have enabled him to receive God's life and to live with God. Adam failed. He forsook the tree of life that denoted God as life and turned to the tree of knowledge that signified Satan as the source of death. Thus, Adam's transgression consisted in leaving the tree of life and pursuing the tree of knowledge (Gen. 2:8-9, 17; 3:1-7). The issue of the tree of life is life, but the issue of the tree of knowledge is death. This means that Adam gave up life and chose death.

2. Christ's Obedience on the Cross

The second act was Christ's obedience on the cross (Phil. 2:8). This act of obedience, a righteous act performed by Christ, terminated the man of knowledge (6:6). Adam brought man to knowledge, making him a man of knowledge. Christ, by His obedience on the cross, terminated the man of knowledge and brought man back to life. First Peter 2:24 tells us that Christ's death restored man to life, and John 3:14-15 says that Christ was lifted up on the cross in order to bring man back to life eternal. Therefore, the obedience of Christ on the cross terminated the fallen man of knowledge, the man of death, and recovered man back to life, making him a man of life.

C. Two Results

These two men have two acts, and the two acts have brought forth two results.

1. The Result of Adam's Transgression

a. Sin Entered

Sin entered through Adam's transgression (5:12). It seems that sin is mentioned in Romans 5 through 8 in a personified way. It is like a person who can reign (5:21), who can lord it over people (6:14), who can deceive and kill people (7:11), who can dwell in people and do things against their will (7:17, 20). Sin is alive and exceedingly active (7:9). Thus, this sin must be the evil nature of Satan, the evil one, dwelling, acting, and working in fallen mankind. Sin is actually an evil person. Through Adam's transgression sin entered.

b. Many Were Constituted Sinners

As a result of Adam's disobedience, the many, including us, were constituted sinners (5:19). We not only were made sinners; we were constituted sinners. We were not created sinners, but constituted sinners. An element not created by God was injected into our being and constituted us sinners. We are not sinners by accident; we are sinners by constitution. Sin has been wrought into us and constituted into our being. Therefore, sin is not just an outward deed, but an inward, subjective element in our constitution. Thus, we are typical sinners by nature.

c. All Men Were Condemned unto Death

Furthermore, all men have been condemned to death (5:18). All men are born of Adam and in Adam. So, through Adam's one offense all men have been condemned to death in him as he was condemned.

d. Death Reigned Over All Men

Thus, death reigns over all men (5:14). Death has become a king ruling over all. "As sin reigned in death" (5:21) so death reigns through sin.

e. In Adam All Die

The final result of Adam's transgression is that in Adam all die (1 Cor. 15:22). Everyone has died in Adam. Sometimes we say of a certain person, "He is dying." When I first heard this phrase, I immediately thought, "Not only is that person dying—everyone is dying." Do not say that you are living, for you, like everyone else, are dying. You are living to die. The more you live, the more you die. In a sense, people are not living but dying. We are all born to die, because we have a powerful king over us named death. He was inaugurated by sin, his forerunner. Sin brought death into power. Thus, all men are under the reign of death. This dreadful person has been inaugurated as king. When we were born in Adam, we began to die. Before people die absolutely, they sin, and sin hastens the hour of death. The more you sin, the faster you die; the less you sin, the slower you die. If you do not want to die quickly, you should not sin. We must stay away from sin.

2. The Result of Christ's Obedience

Praise the Lord that we have the second man, the second act, and the second result! What is the result of Christ's obedience?

a. Grace Came

Grace came (John 1:17) through the obedience of Christ. "The grace of God has abounded to many" (5:15). Paul does not say that life has abounded. This is similar to Adam's transgression, in which sin came first and death followed. Likewise, through the obedience of Christ grace came first and life followed. Death is versus life, and grace is versus sin. Sin came from Adam's transgression, but grace came through Christ's obedience. Sin is Satan personified, come to poison us, damage us, and bring death into us. Grace is God personified, come to give us life and enjoyment. Through Adam's transgression, sin entered the human race as poison for man's destruction, but through Christ's righteous, obedient act God came as grace for our enjoyment.

b. Many Were Constituted Righteous

Romans 5:19 tells us, "through the obedience of the One shall the many be constituted righteous." We are not only righteous; we are constituted righteous. If you paint my skin green, that will not affect my inward constitution. However, if you inject green paint into my blood, my whole being eventually will be constituted with green paint. This would not be outward painting, but inward constituting. When the living God comes into our being as grace, we are constituted righteous.

c. Many Were Justified unto Life

A further result of Christ's obedience is that we have been justified unto life (5:18). Since we have been constituted righteous, we have come up to the standard of God's righteousness and now correspond to it. Thus, we are justified unto life spontaneously. In Adam, through his one offense, we were condemned unto death; in Christ, through His one righteous act, we are justified unto life. Justification is for life. First we have justification, then we have life. Justification changes our outward position, and life changes our inward disposition. Now we have both justification outwardly for our position and life inwardly for our disposition.

d. Grace Reigned Through Righteousness
unto Life Eternal

Romans 5:21 says, "grace might reign through righteousness unto eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." Grace reigns. We have another king because now we are in another kingdom. Once we were in the kingdom of death, and sin was our king through death. Now we are in the kingdom of life, and grace is our king. "Grace reigns through righteousness unto life eternal." This thought is very deep. Why must grace reign through righteousness? Because we were sinners. If we had not been constituted sinners, we would have been clean and righteous, with nothing in our being contradicting God's character. If such had been the case, we would not have needed righteousness. However, we were constituted sinners. How can grace, which is God Himself, reign over such unrighteous people? Grace needs an instrument, a means to reign. This instrument, this means, is God's righteousness. Thus, grace reigns through God's righteousness unto life eternal. Because Christ has died on the cross to accomplish redemption for us and because God's righteousness has been revealed to us, we have a position to enjoy God as grace. We even have the position to claim God as our grace. Therefore, grace can reign through righteousness unto life eternal.

Let us apply this to our experience. Suppose I am a sinful, dying man. I am condemned to death, and death reigns over me. One day I realize that Christ died for me on the cross to accomplish God's redemption, and God's righteousness is revealed to me. As a sinner, I come to God under the redeeming blood of Christ. Immediately, the righteousness of God binds Him to justify me, and He becomes my portion. I can claim Him as my portion because the redemption of Christ has fulfilled all the requirements of His righteousness. I now have the position to claim Him as my portion. He has no choice. Because of His righteousness, He has to come to me as grace for my enjoyment. Grace means that I receive a gift which I do not deserve. If I work for you, you owe me my wages as a debt, not as a grace. However, if you present me five hundred dollars as a gift, that is grace, for I do not deserve it. Through God's righteousness I receive grace, which I do not deserve.

God has given Himself to us as a grace that we do not deserve. We never worked for it and we cannot pay for it. The price is too high. God simply gives Himself to us as grace through righteousness. This grace becomes our portion for our enjoyment and reigns through righteousness, resulting in life eternal. This does not refer to eternal blessing, but to eternal life, which we may enjoy today. It is not the human life or the created life; it is the divine, eternal and uncreated life.

Under the blood of Christ, we claim God as our portion, and we receive from God a measure which we do not deserve. This measure is grace as our enjoyment. The issue of this enjoyment is life eternal, a life which will transform our whole being. It will sanctify us completely and deal thoroughly with our disposition. Thus, we will become sanctified, transformed, conformed and glorified persons.

e. In Christ All Shall Be Made Alive

In Adam all die, but in Christ all shall be made alive (1 Cor. 15:22). Adam's transgression caused and still causes all his descendants to die, but Christ's obedience causes all men to live. In Adam all are dying; in Christ all are living. The result of Adam's transgression is death unto all. The result of Christ's obedience is life unto all.