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As In Adam So In Christ

In Romans 5:12 to 21 we are not only told something about Adam; we are told also something about the Lord Jesus. “As through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the one shall the many be made righteous.” In Adam we receive everything that is of Adam; in Christ we receive everything that is of Christ.

The terms ‘in Adam’ and ‘in Christ’ are too little understood by Christians, and, at the risk of repetition, I wish again to emphasize by means of an illustration the hereditary and racial significance of the term ‘in Christ’. This illustration is to be found in the letter to the Hebrews. Do you remember that in the earlier part of the letter the writer is trying to show that Melchizedek is greater than Levi? You recall that the point to be proved is that the priesthood of Christ is greater than the priesthood of Aaron who was of the tribe of Levi. Now in order to prove that, he has first to prove that the priesthood of Melchizedek is greater than the priesthood of Levi, for the simple reason that the priesthood of Christ is “after the order of Melchizedek” (Heb. 7:14-17), while that of Aaron is, of course, after the order of Levi. If the writer can demonstrate to us that Melchizedek is greater than Levi, then he has made his point. That is the issue, and he proves it in a remarkable way.

He tells us in Hebrews chapter 7 that one day Abraham, returning from the battle of the kings (Genesis 14), offered a tithe of his spoils to Melchizedek and received from him a blessing. Inasmuch as Abraham did so, Levi is therefore of less account than Melchizedek. Why? Because the fact that Abraham offered tithes to Melchizedek. But if that is true, then Jacob also ‘in Abraham’ offered to Melchizedek, which in turn means that Levi ‘in Abraham’ offered to Melchizedek. It is evident that the lesser offers to the greater (Hebrews 7:7). So Levi is less in standing than Melchizedek, and therefore the priesthood of Aaron is inferior to that of the Lord Jesus. Levi at the time of the battle of the kings was not yet even thought of. Yet he was “in the loins of his father” Abraham, and, “so to say, through Abraham”, he offered (Hebrews 7:9, 10).

Now this is the exact meaning of ‘in Christ’. Abraham, as the head of the family of faith, includes the whole family in himself. When he offered to Melchizedek, the whole family offered in him to Melchizedek. They did not offer separately as individuals, but they were in him, and therefore in making his offering he included with himself all his seed.

So we are presented with a new possibility. In Adam all was lost. Through the disobedience of one man we were all constituted sinners. By him sin entered and death through sin, and throughout the race sin has reigned unto death from that day on. But now a ray of light is cast upon the scene. Through the obedience of Another we may be constituted righteous. Where sin abounded grace did much more abound, and as sin reigned unto death, even so may grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 5:19-21). Our despair is in Adam; our hope is in Christ.

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