For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.
1. Who that one man was. Adam (ver. 14).
2. What his disobedience was. His first sin, the eating of the forbidden fruit, which opened the door to death (ver. 12).
3. Whom it concerned; "many"; the "all" (ver. 14). The alteration is not without reason, for there is an exception here of Christ. It reached many men, but not all simply; he, and he only, was excepted.
4. How it touched them; they were "made sinners" by it. There are two ways how men might be made sinners by the disobedience of Adam, viz., either by imputation or imitation. The last is not meant.
(1) Because some of those many who are made Sinners are not capable of imitation or actual sin, viz., infants.
(2) Because we are made righteous, not by the imitation, but imputation of Christ's righteousness; but as we are made righteous by the one, so we are made sinners by the other.
I. WHAT SIN OF ADAM'S IT WAS THAT THEY WHO SINNED AND FELL WITH HIM SINNED AND FELL IN. His first sin, the eating of the forbidden fruit. This was the sin that broke the covenant of works. Other sins of Adam are not imputed to them, more than those of any other private persons. So then, Adam quickly betaking himself to the covenant of grace, and placing himself under another head as a private man, ceased to be the head in the covenant of works. Adam had all his children in one ship to carry them to Immanuel's land; by his negligence he dashed the ship on a rock, and broke it all in pieces; and so he and his lay foundering in a sea of guilt. Jesus Christ lets out the second covenant as a rope to draw them to the shore. Adam for himself lays hold on it, while others hold by the broken beards of the ship, till they be by the power of grace enabled to quit them too, as he was.
II. WHO WERE THEY THAT SINNED AND FELL IN ADAM. All mankind, descending from him by ordinary generation. So —
1. Christ is excepted. Adam's sin was not imputed to the man Christ. He was separated from sinners (Hebrews 7:26), and was not infected with the plague whereof He was to be the cleanser. And so Christ comes not in under Adam as head, but, as in the text, is opposed to Adam as another head. Christ was indeed a Son of Adam (Luke 3). And it was necessary He should be so, that He might be our near kinsman, and that the same nature that sinned might suffer. But He came not of him by ordinary generation — He was born of a virgin. And upon this account He came not in under Adam in the covenant of works; for Christ was not born by virtue of that blessing of marriage given before the fall (Genesis 1:28), but by virtue of a covenant-promise made after the fall (Genesis 3:15). So that Adam could represent none in that covenant, but such as were to spring from him by virtue of that blessing.
2. All mankind besides sinned and fell with Adam in that first transgression. His sin of eating the forbidden fruit is imputed to them. Consider —
(1) The Scripture plainly testifies that all sinned in him (ver. 12). Hence it is plain that death has not come into the world but in pursuit of sin; all die, for all have sinned.
(2) All fell with him into misery by that sin. Now, a just God will not involve the innocent with the guilty in the same punishment.
(a) All fell under condemnation (vers. 16, 18).
(b) All fell under the loss of God's image, and the corruption of nature with him (Psalm 51:5).
(c) All the punishments inflicted on Adam and Eve, for that sin, as specified in Genesis 3, are common to mankind, their posterity; and therefore the sin must be so too.
III. HOW THE FIRST SIN OF ADAM COMES TO BE IMPUTED TO US. The great reason of this is, because we are all included in Adam's covenant. The covenant was made with him, not only for himself, but for all his posterity.
1. Consider here —
(1) It was the covenant of works, the condition whereof was perfect obedience.
(2) It was made with Adam for himself. That was the way he himself was to attain perfect happiness; his own stock was in that ship.
(3) It was made not only for himself, but for all his posterity descending from him by ordinary generation. So that he was not here as a private, but as a public person, the moral head and representative of all mankind. Hence the Scripture holds forth Adam and Christ, as if there had never been any but these two men in the world (1 Corinthians 15:47). And this he does, because they were two public persons, each of them having under them persons represented by them (vers. 14, 18).
2. But some may be ready to say, we made not choice of Adam for that purpose. Answer —
(1) God made the choice, who was as meet to make it for us as we for ourselves. And "who art thou that repliest against God?"(2) Adam was our natural head, the common father of us all (Acts 17:26), and who was so meet to be trusted with the concerns of all mankind as he?
3. But to clear further the reasonableness of this imputation, consider —
(1) Adam's sin is imputed to us, because it is ours. For God doth not reckon a thing ours, which is not so (Romans 2:2). If a person that has the plague infect others, and they die, they die, by their own plague, and not by that of another.
(2) It was free for God either to have annihilated all mankind, or to have given them no promise of eternal life. Was it not, then, an act of grace in God to make such a rich covenant as this? and would not men have consented to this representation gladly in this case?
(3) Adam being made after the image of God (Genesis 1:26) was as capable to stand as any afterwards could be for themselves; and this was a trial that would soon have been over, while the other would have been continually a-doing, had men been created independent of him.
(4) He had natural affection the strongest to engage him. He was our father, and all we the children that were in his loins, to whom we had as good ground to trust as to any other creature.
(5) His own stock was in the ship; his all lay at stake as well as ours. Forgetting our interest, he behoved to disregard his own, for he had no separate interest from ours. No man quarrels, that when a master sets his land in tack to a man and his heirs upon conditions, if the first possessor break the bargain, the heirs be denuded of it.
(6) All that quarrel with this dispensation must renounce their part in Christ; for we are made righteous by Him, as sinners are made guilty by Adam. If we fall in with the one, why not with the other? We chose Christ for our head in the second covenant no more than we did Adam in the first covenant.
1. See the dreadful nature of sin; one sin could destroy a world.
2. Let this be a lesson to parents to do nothing that may bring ruin on their children. Many times children are destroyed by their parents through their bad example and government.
3. This doctrine affords a lesson of humility to all. The rich have no cause to boast of their wealth, for they have as sad a heritage as the poor and needy.
4. View and wonder at the redemption purchased for sinners by Christ.
5. Quit your hold of the first Adam and his covenant, and come to and unite with Christ by faith, and lay hold on His covenant (1 Corinthians 15:22).
(T. Boston, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.