Today’s reading: Romans 5
In today’s reading Paul unequivocally identifies Jesus as the new Adam. An understanding of the implications of this revelation is foundational to understanding salvation history, the gospel, and systematic theology.
Paul points out in several ways that through Jesus “acts of righteousness” and “free gift of grace” the repercussions of Adam’s sin is undone. What is key to understand is that in coming as the new Adam, Jesus did not simply end the effect of Adam’s sin abruptly. Rather, Jesus undid the effects of Adam’s sin gradually, over the course of his life and ministry, thereby providing us the context by which to understand his actions. In looking at his life, we can see several examples where the events of Jesus’ life are the perfected fulfillment of Old Testament foreshadowing. Each New Testament counterpart must necessarily be greater than its Old Testament prefigurement.
Examples include Mary’s great “Yes” to the Angel Gabriel, which undoes Eve’s disobedience and Jesus submission to God’s will in the Garden of Gethsemane, which undoes Adam’s disobedience in Eden. Just as Jesus is greater than Adam, so then must Mary be greater than Eve. We see Baptism replacing the waters of creation (the Spirit hovers over Jesus at his baptism as it did over the waters at creation), the flood, and the Red Sea. We see Cain’s murder of Abel undone in the razing of Lazarus and others Jesus raised from the dead. We see the slavery of Egypt relived in the Jesus’ childhood exile to that land. We see Abraham's almost-sacrifice of Isaac fulfilled on Calvary. We see one of the punishments of Adam, that he will have to work to get grain from the soil for bread, undone and the Passover fulfilled in the Last Supper and the Eucharist. These are just a few parallels that can be drawn.
Thus, in understanding many of the things of Jesus, we cannot look at them in the context of the New Testament alone. In understanding New Testament events, it is often helpful to consider the event in context as a fulfillment of the Old Testament prefigurement. For example, can Baptism be a meaningless ceremony if we consider that it should be greater than its Old Testament counterpart of God’s spirit hovering over the waters of creation? Can the Eucharist really be considered only a symbol if it is greater than the Passover, when the Angel of Death left the Jewish people unharmed?,
By coming as the new Adam, Jesus provides for us the context and the benchmark to understand his teachings and the things that he did.
Tomorrow: Romans 6