Paul's message in the second half of Chapter 5 seeks to portray to the church in Rome the nature of man's redemption and the sins that lead to the need for such a redemption. It seeks to answer the basic question of how Jesus has changed man's relationship with God, and how man's accountability regarding the nature of sin has changed. Paul describes redemption as a free gift and portrays sin in the context of Jewish law. Paul's answer, based on his experiences, is that God has introduced a new order of existence. He has created a new creation, a new mankind. Paul wishes to tell the Romans that they once belonged to the old humanity, which God created in Adam that was fallen in nature due to its own disobedience to the law of its Creator. Man's nature had become a defaced and distorted thing with Adam's sin. God, however, had brought a new humanity into being in Christ, and to this new humanity he now had us belong. Values were to be seen in the context of this new life because it consists in our sharing in this new creation.
This way of thinking is implicit in the first words of the section: "Therefore, as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned..." Because this is essentially an equation, one expects Paul to finish his thought by saying something like.".. so righteousness came into the world through one man and life through righteousness and so life spread to all men." Instead, he takes pause to explain this further: the concept of Adam bringing sin into the world, then nature of sinfulness, and Christ's redemption of man. It is not till v. 17 that he tries to bookend this equation, and only in v. 18 does he re-state his thought: "As one man's trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man's act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men." As this is one of the central themes in Paul's letters, he re-states the theme with emphasis in verse 19: "For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man's obedience many will be made righteous." In the intervening verses 13-17 Paul develops a different thought about the nature of sin and the Law but even these verses do not get far from the main point about the "old man" and the "new man."
This same theme is repeated in I Cor. 15:2022, 45-49: "But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive....'The first man Adam became a living being'; the last Adam became a lifegiving Spirit.... The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so are those who are of the dust; and as is the man of heaven, so are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven." It must be understood that the duplication of this theme was necessary, as the ancient church would have conveyed such messages to itself only at great risk. Paul's letters, historically, occur at the same time period as Nero's accusation of the Christians as the culprits behind the burning of Rome.
The idea that underlies this whole way of thinking -- the idea of a total corporate humanity, of which Adam (the name means "man") is the progenitor - is thought to have had emphatic appeal among the gentile believers. Moderns may find it tough to relate to the idea of two representatives of mankind; be they Adam and Christ or Adam and Moses, spelling a major difference in the relationship between man and God: evangelicals stress the importance of a 'personal relationship' with God that doesn't touch upon the 'Christ as negotiator' conceptualization that Paul seems to draw strength from. When the Psalmist writes, "As for man, his days are as grass," or "What is man that thou art mindful of him?," we see figures of speech -- the image of a man represents all mankind. However, the difference between the universal and the specific was left to be further explored by Thomastic scholars in the Middle Ages: "man" was not simply an idea, or generalization, but an actual being. Although Aristotle and others had written about the differentiation between the idea of a universal category, such as 'man,' and the nature of individual man, this idea was not widely known in the ancient world. Scholars vary in their assumption of Paul's knowledge of such classical themes, but many conclude that his work reflects them to a greater degree than that of the disciples. Whereas we might conclude that we belong to mankind in virtue of the fact that we are men; Paul would have put it more naturally the other way: we are men because we belong to mankind. Every man is a man because he shares in a total corporate humanity.
God created mankind "in his own image"; and to him God gave "dominion over the works of his hands." However, in sin, Adam defined the nature of the parameters of mankind's mortality. God defined the nature of the original sin but left open the possibility of the commission of this sin. Once Adam couldn't comply with God's wishes, he incurred the penalty of mortality, as we know it; sickness and death, the necessity of labor and the pain of childbirth. In a parallel with the story of Satan's defiance, Adam proudly aspired to God's own place by acknowledging no sovereignty but his own.
We see three instrumental changes in Man's condition that are all predicated on his relationship with God; that which is the result of Man's fall, that which is the result of the introduction of the Law, and that which is the result of God's new covenant with man in Christ. All mankind shares man's mortality and wretchedness, as is his salvation in Christ; In Adam we were all created; in Adam we have all sinned; in Adam we all die.
Although moderns find this concept less intuitive than the ancients did, we cannot dismiss it, at least as Christians, because it does provide insight into the nature of God. God's favor shifted in nature from the universal when Man was in the garden, and after the fall God's primary interest was in restraining Man's activities on Earth as we can see in the story of the flood. However, it is important that Paul does not mention the flood story here because, although God promised not to destroy Man, this did not have any bearing on man's lack of salvation. This came only with Moses and with the Law. Paul states that sin existed before the Law but implies that Man new of it intuitively due to original sin rather than through a separately defined covenant.
One of the implicit concepts in Paul's work is the frailty of man. Although man is endowed with certain gifts, his nature is biologically constrained. It is interesting to us that the contextual nature of man's reality was only defined after the fall. Modern men have been the first to explore this context with any degree of accuracy, but the ancients were aware that it existed. Paul's argument was that regardless of how real individual freedom and responsibility are, that this sphere is small when compared with the area in which our attitudes and actions are determined by the nature and history to which man belongs. We are Man before (or more deeply than) we are men. When throughout the Old Testament, man is portrayed as straying from the word of God, he is seen as one that categorically strays from the word of God. We see this in the flood story, in Ezekiel when the Israelites are corrupted by their neighbors, and again in Jesus'es time where the truly righteous are confused with Pharisees and zealots. Our private guilt and grief are for the greater part our participation in the systematic grief and guilt of man.
Perhaps more importantly to Paul's audience, it is seen that God's favor can be extended beyond the Israelites. Paul thinks of God's saving act in Christ as the bringing into being of a renewed humanity -- a new Man. This is a fundamental shift from God's relation to the tribes of Israel through the Law, which Paul discusses in length in other chapters. As with Adam, with Jesus the catalyst of God's changed relationship with mankind is a single man. Through the locus of this man's behavior and teachings, we…