The history of the world, as told by some people, runs like this: Adam disobeyed God and as a result brought death to all mankind, but Jesus came and put everything back the way it was. This sort of thinking puts Adam and his everyday sin on the same level of Christ and His incomparable gift.
What was Jesus’ greater work? In my last post I argued that the common answer to this question – Jesus made everyone alive – is dead wrong. I provided a few reasons as to why this is so but if you need more, I encourage you to look at my study notes on Romans 5:12-21. I don’t normally publish my notes, but since this passage of scripture is such an important and misread set of verses, I have made an exception. Much of what follows comes straight from these notes.
Jesus did not come from heaven to earth simply to resurrect the corpse of humanity and repair Adam’s sin. Certainly, Jesus did right Adam’s wrong, but if that was all He did, then His wouldn’t be a greater work and Jesus wouldn’t be the Great Redeemer. He would just be a cosmic Mr. Fix-It.
So in what sense did Jesus do a greater work than Adam? For the sake of convenience, I shall reduce the splendor and majesty of His finished work to three words beginning with R. I appreciate that much wonder will be lost in doing so but I trust you will see past my clumsiness, be inspired, and then ask the Holy Spirit to fill in the rest of the picture.
What did Jesus accomplish on our behalf?
1. Redemption: The guilty verdict has been over-turned. In Adam we were branded sinners but in Christ we are declared righteous. We are no longer counted with the condemned but are numbered with the justified. Satan has nothing to accuse us of and God remembers our sins no more. Happy is the man whose sin the Lord never counts against him (Ps 32:2). If you would know how much better the gift is than the trespass, then go ask someone on death row whether they would prefer freedom to captivity.
How did He do it? When you put your trust in Christ, He gave you a glorious new past – His past. You were included in His death on the cross severing all ties with your old man (Rom 6:6). The person you used to be is dead and gone along with your sin and any relationship you had with the law (Ps 103:12, Rom 7:6). The world as you knew it is no more (Gal 6:14). Your old sources of identity and security have been replaced with something infinitely better and your past has never looked so good!
2. Resurrection: You have been raised to new life. This is not more of the same; it is brand new zoe-life. Now Christ is your life (Col 3:4).
How did He do it? If we died with Him we shall live with Him. He has given us His life which includes His acceptance (Eph 1:6), His faith (Gal 2:20), His Spirit (Rom 8:11), His righteousness (Rms 1:17), His holiness (1 Cor 1:3), indeed, His eternal perfection (Heb 10:4). As He is so are you in this world (1 Jn 4:17), so obviously you do not have a sinful nature. You are not one person on Sunday and another on Monday. Sure, you can still walk after the flesh and reap what you sow, but you are not defined by what you do. And when you do sin, you have a mighty Advocate who speaks to the Father on your behalf (1 Jn 2:1).
3. Reigning: The grace cure is greater than the disease. One sin cell infected the human race with the fatal condition of sinfulness; grace not only cures us it inoculates us against re-infection. We have been made new. We have been rewired to resist sin and please the Father. Grace doesn’t just remove all traces of past sins, it empowers us to sin no more! Grace is both favor and divine influence through the Holy Spirit. We are not just freed captives; we are kings and priests called to reign with Him. This is not some reference to the hereafter for Paul says we will “reign in life” (Rom 5:17) meaning here and now. Through the power of the Spirit we can reign over forms of death such as sickness and all the things that lead to sickness (e.g., bitterness, unforgiveness). We are no longer victims; we are more than conquerors through Him who called us.
How did He do it? Jesus has not returned us to the Garden, He has taken us to Heaven (Eph 2:6)! From the position of rest we rule and reign with Him here on Earth.
Jesus did a complete number on us. His act of obedience dealt with our past (redemption), our present (resurrection life) and our future (reigning with Him). If anyone is in Christ, he is a completely new creature. The old Adamic way of life has gone. Since redemption always leaves you better than you started, the brand new zoe-life we now have in Christ is infinitely superior to the lonely and unaided life experienced by unfallen Adam. This is the greater work Jesus has done. Unfallen Adam tried to rule alone and failed. We get to reign with Christ forever and ever.
- Forgiven, reconciled, and saved?
- What happened to me on the cross?
- Did all die with Christ? (And what does it matter?)