Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Adam and Jesus

For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ! Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous. (Rom 5.17-9)

Adam and Jesus have opposite effects, and our lives our variously changed in function of whom we approach, to whom we go in times of trouble.

All that is bad and ungodly comes from Adam, which in this context means humanity-in-the-flesh, humanity apart from the fellowship and renewal of the Holy Trinity. When we are confronted with difficulties and troubles of various sorts, the impulse to respond in an ungodly manner, embodying the demonic wisdom of which James spoke (Jas 3.14-6) comes from Adam. Bitter envy, selfish ambition, and all manner of evil come from Adam, and insofar as we are removed from God's presence, we are in Adam.

But all that is good and godly comes from Christ, when we approach him and seek to be united to him. If we feel the impulse to do good, it is because we have the mind of him who went around doing good to all (cf. 1 Cor 2.26; Acts 10.38). It is not natural for human persons to seek to do good and to sacrifice themselves to the utmost for the other, but we can be strengthened by Christ to do exactly that. From Christ and union with him in the Holy Spirit, we receive the character of God himself -- purity, love of peace, considerateness, service, mercy, goodness (cf. Jas 3.18).

Likewise Adam is characterized by death and decay. Paul affirms that through that man came Sin, and through Sin death. Of course, we know that death is the deepest fear of humanity, a ubiquitous phenomenon which calls into question the meaningfulness of everything we do. What point is there to the human life, with its numerous possibilities and potentialities which far surpass everything else found in nature, if it is cut short -- and I mean short -- by death, sometimes far earlier than expected?

But Christ undoes death and gives human life its value and its meaning once more. Paul notes that, just as the first Adam was given life by the breath of God (Gen 2.7), so also Christ himself has become a living spirit, breathing life into all of us who come to him (1 Cor 15.45). But Christ says that I am the bread of life . . . that comes down from heaven, which anyone can eat and not die (John 6.48, 50).

If we find, then, that Adam has ravaged our lives, and that our spirits are blackened and chained by sin; if the threat of death hangs constantly over our heads, haunting us and calling into question the very meaningfulness of our lives -- in these circumstances, we ought to seek Christ, to be united with him. This is why the Son of God took upon himself a human nature: to sanctify it, to redeem it, to reconcile it to God, and to offer himself to all who wish to benefit of these things, too. The divine Logos incarnates and takes upon himself our condition, so that he may conquer it; we share in his conquest when we unite ourselves to him. As Luther says in his Commentary on Galatians 1.1By His resurrection Christ won the victory over law, sin, flesh, world, devil, death, hell, and every evil. And this His victory He donated unto us.

But it is worth emphasizing that we must be united with Christ to benefit in this way. God does not act unilaterally from on high to heal the human condition, because this course of action does not adequately respect the role of human volition in salvation. As Stăniloae writes, Human beings are saved not as some objects, but through the free acceptance of communion with Christ, and in Christ with the entire Holy Trinity (The Experience of God, vol. 3, p. 86). So if we are troubled by sin or by death or anything at all, let us go freely and confidently into God's presence; let us seek Christ!