It is in light of the imputation of Adam’s first sin to human beings that these guilty human beings, from the moment of their conception, inherit a fallen nature from their parents. For these reasons, there is no hope or help to be found in or among those who are “in Adam.” But hope and help are available for sinners. They are found only in Jesus Christ, the second and last Adam.
The Apostle Paul did not believe that human beings are basically good people who do bad things. The opening chapters of his epistle to the Romans are dedicated to the proposition that, with the exception of Jesus Christ, every human being is by nature unrighteous, guilty, and worthy of death. “All, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin,” Paul concludes (Rom. 3:9).
This bleak and unsparing portrait of humanity raises at least two questions: Why is it that we see no exceptions to universal human depravity? Is there any hope for sinners who stand under the righteous condemnation of God and who are helpless to extract themselves from the divine judgment?
Paul answers both of these questions in an unexpected way in Romans. Our plight as sinners can be traced ultimately back to Adam. Our only hope as sinners lies in the second Adam, Jesus Christ. In Romans 5:12–21, the Apostle helps us to see how the work of each man, Adam and Jesus, affects human beings today.
In Romans 5:14, Paul says that Adam “was a type of the one who was to come,” that is, Jesus Christ. Like Jesus, Adam was a true, historical human being. While Jesus is no mere man, He is a true man. Paul here affirms a correspondence between Adam and Jesus. It is in 1 Corinthians that the Apostle provides language that helps us better understand their relationship. If Adam is “the first man,” then Jesus is “the last Adam” (1 Cor. 15:45). Adam is “the first man”; Jesus, “the second man” (v. 47). Adam and Jesus are representative men.