Humanity in Christ
By John Crowder
(excerpted from Cosmos Reborn by John Crowder, available HERE)
The Trinity always intended to bring humanity into its circle of “other-giving” love. This was the very reason the Son of God became flesh. In the incarnation, God’s identity is forever merged with humanity. God has chosen not to be God apart from humanity. Behind all of history and creation lies His eternal purpose – the Gospel.
The incarnation is not simply a past-tense event we celebrate on Christmas. The incarnation is a present reality. Jesus did not evaporate into smoke when He ascended. There is forever a flesh and bone human being seated mystically in the middle of the Trinity. And we are seated right there, woven into the Trinitarian life in the humanity of Christ.
Jesus did not dread setting aside His celestial glory to step into our fallen world. It was always His ravishing desire to take a bride. Rather than a grueling task – a last ditch effort to come clean Adam’s mess – His advent into our skin was more akin to a plunge into Candyland. As Catherine of Sienna said, “You, high eternal Trinity, acted as if You were drunk with love, infatuated with your creature. … You, Sweetness itself, stooped to join Yourself with our bitterness. You, Splendour, joined Yourself with darkness; You, Wisdom with foolishness; You, Life with death; You, the Infinite, with us who are finite. What drove you to this?””[i]
Not caught off guard by Adam’s sin, it was always His prior intent to redeem us from it. “He planned that we would be woven into the fabric of Jesus’ existence,” writes C. Baxter Kruger. We cannot work our way into that circle of the Trinity. This is why Christ attacked our side of the covenant. He invaded our side of the divine-human relationship. He violently cleansed us through His death. He never intended us to fulfill our side of any agreement. He never for a moment entrusted His plan to us or expected us to be in charge of our own spiritual destiny.
Christ and Adam
Humanity was created as God breathed Adam to life from the dust of the earth. The Last Adam, Jesus Christ, entered that very same earth – into the cold locker of the grave – and stepped out again, recreating humanity.
Romans 5 tells us that sin entered the world through the one man Adam, and in this way death came to all people because all sinned. But Paul tells us “Adam was a pattern of the one to come” (Rom. 5:14).
But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! Nor can the gift of God be compared with the result of one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. 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.
The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Rom. 5:15-21).
Our relationship with Adam is not our primary, true, original nature. We have read the book from left to right. We thought first came Adam, and then came Christ. But the opposite was true. Before Adam ever was … I AM! All of us, Adam included, were made in the image of God. Jesus Christ preceded Adam. When He stepped into our world, He came to His own, and His own did not recognize Him (John 1:11). Jesus came to all sinful humanity – we who had identified with a false father, the devil, simply because we did not grasp our true origin. We forgot our authentic Father and Maker, the Rock from which we were cut.
Adam was not the authentic blueprint for mankind.
“In Adam we can only find it prefigured. Adam can therefore be interpreted only in the light of Christ and not the other way around,” writes Karl Barth. “Our relationship to Adam is only the type, the likeness, the preliminary shadow of our relationship to Christ. The same human nature appears in both, but the humanity of Adam is only real and genuine in so far as it reflects and corresponds to the humanity of Christ.”[ii]
Christ is the Original – the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. He was before time and space, and above time and space. He did not bring an end to the fallen Adamic era 2,000 years ago. The end of the Adamic era happened mystically before Adam ever sinned. The cross was the conclusion of that predetermined act. Adam’s sin was forgiven before he ever committed it. Before you ever fell in Adam, you had already been found in Jesus Christ.
“In His own death He makes (mankind’s) peace with God – before they themselves have decided for this peace and quite apart from that decision. In believing, they are only conforming to the decision about them that has already been made in Him,” adds Barth.[iii]
There are a number of strong parallels between Christ and Adam. Like Christ, Adam had no earthly father. But only Christ bears the distinct status as God’s only begotten Son become man. Neither was born of human choice or willpower. Christ’s birth is an act of grace. John 1:13 tells us He was not born of a “husband’s” will, represented by Joseph, but of God. In fact, Joseph’s name means “Jehovah increases.”
Your order of knowing Christ is the same as His order of being – both are gifts that come from above. No human willpower involved. Your new birth is merely an identification with His incarnation from above.
Adam only served as a “type” of the One who was to come. How was Adam a type? Only in the sense that the one affected all. Adam and Christ both came in a representative capacity. One is under the lordship of sin and death, which affected all men. The other is under the lordship of grace and life, which also overflows to all men. As theologian James B. Torrance said, both were vicarious men.
As death came through one man, so also the resurrection came through one man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive (1 Cor. 15:21-22).
How many died in Adam? All. We see the exact same all as recipients of Christ’s resurrection life. How quick we are to believe that Adam can bring death to all … but how we balk at the notion that Christ can bring life to these same dead men.
The Shadow and the Substance
We must see again that Adam was merely a shadow – only Christ, the true Alpha, has substance. The guilt and punishment we incur in Adam have no independent reality of their own – they stand to highlight the opposite reality of the grace and life we find in Christ – the One who would affect all, apart from their own choosing.
This vicarious, representative way in which these two men embody the entire human race is the final extent of their similarity. We can compare them no further. There is a massive disparity between them regarding how each one affected the many.
“But the gift [grace] is not like the trespass [sin]” (Rom. 5:15). Here the parallel stops. The one affects all, but in a radically different way. The sin-effect of Adam cannot compare to the grace-effect of Jesus Christ. Paul tells us here that infinite grace “overflowed” to all (eperisseusen) – how much more! The difference between the two is as radical as the difference between what God can do and what man can do. In comparing the ability of Adam to bring death and the ability of Christ to bring life, the two are diametrically opposed.
The first man is of the earth, earthy, the second man is from Heaven (1 Cor. 15:47).
“Paul is not denying that Adam’s sin still brings death to all men, but he is affirming that the grace of Christ has an incomparably greater power to make these dead men alive. He is not saying that there is no truth in Adam, but he is saying that it is a subordinate truth that depends for its validity on its correspondence with the final truth that is in Christ,” says Barth.[iv]
Adam brought no substance to the table – even by introducing us all to death, this was merely withdrawing from the substance of life. Death is not so much God’s direct action toward sin, as it as man’s attempt to evade life.
Yes, we all experience original sin in Adam. But the greater reality is the original innocence graced to us in Jesus Christ. Christ is your first nature. Kingship is your first nature. “Our former existence outside Christ is, rightly understood, already a still hidden but real existence in Him,” notes Barth.[v]
We cannot generate this true identity anymore than we can climb into Heaven.
“Adam has no power to identify himself with Christ, Christ has the power to identify Himself with Adam (by His saving act),” writes Barth. We cannot move from left to right – we cannot move from Adam to Christ. It is a dead end of religious frustration. You can’t move from man to God. It is impossible. The only connection between the two men is that Christ stepped in and died for Adam.
Christ the True Human
Adam is a shadow; Christ is the Substance. Adam is only a true man in that he points to Christ and therefore becomes a witness to the glory of Christ. We have to look at Christ to see what is truly human.
“For Christ who seems to come second, really comes first, and Adam who seems to come first really comes second. In Christ the relationship between the one and the many is original, in Adam it is only a copy of that original. Our relationship to Adam depends for its reality on our relationship to Christ” adds Barth.[vi]
This entire Romans 5 passage clearly connects and includes all of mankind as recipients of life in Jesus Christ – a fact that is fundamentally sidelined by the Western evangelical Church. Paul here is most clearly not talking about Christians only.
“Paul does not limit his context to Christ’s relationship to believers but gives fundamentally the same account of His relationship to all men,” adds Barth. “Our relationship to Christ as believers is based upon our prior relationship to Him as Adam’s children and heirs ... What is Christian is secretly but fundamentally identical with what is universally human.”
 Ibid., p. 75, 77.
[i] Paul Murray, “Drinking in the Word: Dominicans and the New Wine of the Gospel.” (http://www.op.org/international) January 23, 2008.
[ii] Karl Barth, Christ and Adam: Man and Humanity in Romans 5. Translated by T.A. Smail (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 1956), 17, 22.
[iii] Ibid., p. 12.
[iv] Ibid., p. 26.
[v] Ibid., p. 12, 16.
[vi] Ibid., p. 47.
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