A Commentary by John Stott
Adam and Christ are introduced (continued).
More important even than African and Asian models, however, is that Scripture itself contains a number of significant variations on the theme of human solidarity. The first takes us back to Abraham’s day and to the use which the author of Hebrews makes of that mysterious king-priest Melchizedek. He not only blessed Abraham, the ancestor of Levi, but accepted from him a tithe of the battle spoils. ‘One might even say’, the writer concludes, ‘that Levi himself, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, for he (Levi, long before his birth) was still in the loins of his ancestor (sc. Abraham) when Melchizedek met him’. (Heb. 7:9f., RSV).
Secondly, when Achan stole some Jericho treasure, which by God’s decree had been devoted to destruction, we read that ‘the Israelites acted unfaithfully’ and ‘the Lord’s anger burned against Israel’. That is, the nation was regarded as implicated in Achan’s sin. ‘Israel has sinned,’ God said; ‘they have violated my covenant.’ Jos. 7:1,11.
My third example takes us to the cross. We like to identify with Pilate, who washed his hands and declared his innocence. We were not guilty, we say; it had nothing to do with us. The apostles disagree. Not only did Herod and Pilate, Gentiles and Jews ‘conspire’ against Jesus (Acts 4:27), but the sins which led to his death are our sins too. Moreover, if we turn away from God, we ‘are crucifying the Son of God all over again’. (Heb.6:6). ‘Were you there’, the negro spiritual asks, ‘when they crucified my Lord?’ The only possible answer is that we *were* there, and not merely as spectators, but as guilty participants. Horatius Bonar, the nineteenth-century Scottish hymn-writer, expressed it well:
‘Twas I that shed the sacred blood;
I nailed him to the tree;
I crucified the Christ of God;
I joined the mockery.
My fourth and final example also relates to the cross, but sees it now not as a deed done by us but as a sacrifice offered for us. How can his death of long ago benefit us? One answer, specially developed by Paul, is that believers have become identified with Christ in his death and resurrection, and so have died and risen with him: ‘We are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died (sc. by union with him)’ and ‘live…for him who died for them and was raised again.’ (2 Cor. 5:14ff.). When we reach Romans 6 we shall encounter the same truth.
Thus, Levi paid tithes in and through his ancestor Abraham; Israel sinned in and through Achan; we hounded Christ to the cross in and through his enemies; and in particular, if it is true that we sinned in and with Adam, it is yet more gloriously true that we died and rose again in and with Christ. It is in this way that Adam’s sin and Christ’s righteousness have been imputed to us or reckoned as ours.
Paul ends this paragraph (12-14), in which he has concentrated on Adam’s sin and death, with the briefest possible allusion to the corresponding figure of Christ. *Adam*, he writes,… *was a pattern of the one to come* (14b), the Coming One, the Messiah. He will develop the analogy in the next paragraphs. For now, it is enough to call Adam the *typos* of Christ, because he ‘prefigured’ (JB) and ‘foreshadows’ (REB) him. Like Adam, Christ is the head of a whole humanity.
Tomorrow: Romans 5:15-17. b). Adam and Christ are contrasted.
The John Stott Bible Study is taken from The Message of Romans: Christ the Controversialist. The Bible Speaks Today John Stott. Used by permission of Inter-Varsity Press UK, Nottingham. All rights reserved.