I apologize if what I am about to state has been more than obvious to the reader. I am sure that many such as N.T. Wright, Richard Hays, and Daniel Kirk have made this point already (heck, I likely first noticed it while reading Unlocking Romans, though unfortunately I did most of my reading in this book when I was working the graveyard shift, which is not the best means of securing retention), but it is new(er) to me. The Adam-Christ contrast is something that goes from the beginning to the end of Romans; it is not limited to 5.14-21.

While 1.1-4 may not be a direct reference to Adam it does appear that contextually the Davidic throne is a response to the fall of Adam. This becomes most evident when immediately after announcing his boldness in the gospel in 1.15-17 he launches into the story of the progressive fall of humanity into idolatry. In 1.18-32 this process is described. It is captured by the statement that humans “exchanged the glory of the immortal God” for images of the created order (v. 23). This would echo Genesis 1-3 where Adam and Eve where to rule over the earth yet succumbed to the lie of a snake. Of course, Paul expands this narrative to include more than the first two humans but instead the entire race. The sin of Adam, disobeying God and not representing God to creation (the glory of God) but rather obeying creation (the snake) has been relived over and over again by humanity as we refused to represent the creator but instead worship the creation.

This would reframe chapters 2-4 to focus upon subjects I know I have gleaned from Wright and Kirk; namely, Israel was to be the new Adam but failed and the “new Adam” happens to be in bad a shape as the pagans. Therefore, there is no one who can stand before God as the regent king representing creation to the Creator (except the Davidic king mentioned in the opening sentences, Jesus, who has been risen from the dead and who now reigns by the “Spirit of holiness”).

I am still working on the ever important allusions to Abraham and David that have been so important to the Reformed reading of Romans. Nevertheless, this does not stop the flow from resuming in the most obvious sense when Paul juxtaposes Adam–the one who sinned bringing death into the world–with Christ–the one who overcame death by the resurrection reversing the curse–in chapter five. This leads to Paul’s exhortation in chapters 6-7 that we seek to live as those who have died and who are now part of the Christ-humanity and not the Adam-humanity that could not live faithfully to the Law. The Christ-humanity fulfills the Law (meaning the Law was “intended” to bring forth this new humanity perhaps?). By what means does the Christ-humanity fulfill the Law? This is where chapter 8 becomes essential–by the Holy Spirit.

In chapter eight we have the Holy Spirit as the solution to our sinful flesh and the empowering presence to live as this new humanity. Likewise, we have the Spirit as the guarantee that we will overcome death just like Jesus because this same Spirit dwells in us (8.11). In 8.14-17 our designation as “sons of God” is likely another Adam reference since we are the new “sons of God”. The “sons of God” is redefined from being the humanity that failed to rule the created order to the new, resurrected humanity that will reign over the new, restored created order once the “sons of God” are revealed (vv. 18-23).

This is why the reader should not read over 8.18-23. It has important eschatological implications. It is most evident that as Kirk has pointed out in his aforementioned book the concept of a resurrected humanity is essential to understanding this statement. The new humanity replaces the Adamic humanity reigning over creation who breathes a sigh of relief because the curse that came through Adam has now been lifted as the “sons of God” prepare to do what Adam could not do. This is a climactic point in this epistle.

Likewise, it makes more sense of Paul’s sudden jump into a discussion on the role and future of Israel. If Israel was the “new humanity” yet God forsook Israel why should we–the real “new humanity”–trust that God will not do the same (I know I have read this in Wright’s writings somewhere). Then we have chapters twelve through sixteen where Paul explains what it means to be the new humanity during this interim “already, but not yet” period. Such living includes being a “living sacrifice” (read priesthood) unto God (12.1). It does not mean we should seek to establish our rule over the world on our own–therefore, obey the current authorities because God has placed the empire here to reign over the world for now (chapter thirteen). There should be charity as we work out what it means to live as this new humanity (chapters fourteen and fifteen).

One of the great, overlooked lines of the entire epistle may be 16.20 where the Gen. 3.15 promise is applied to the people of God (again, new humanity; new Adam) as Paul writes, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.” The Messiah is the one who crushes Satan, yet the saints share in this victory. So Paul begins by telling the story of how we forfeited our God-given reign over creation for idolatry with allusions to Genesis and Paul ends by telling of our restoration to our rightful place (again, 8.18-23) ruling creation with Christ by alluding to Genesis. The Adam-Christ contrast is much broader than I once imagined!