Sometimes we say of someone, ‘I wish we could understand him. I wish we could fathom why he is what he is.’ Paul here goes further and tells us why everyone is what he or she is. And he explains it by referring what happened when Adam sinned.
Paul describes an event that affected everyone and that was done by everyone, even those not yet born. What event was that which affected every person in such a way that death became the outcome for them all? The answer to that question is the sin of Adam.
This means that it does not matter if a person lived in the period from Adam to Moses or in the period after Moses. All people in both periods died for the same reason – their connection with the sin of Adam. This is a reminder that Adam was the representative of all those people, that he was their agent acting on their behalf.
Paul reminds us, however, that Adam failed to do what was required of him. The apostle points out that Adam’s action was a trespass, a willing action that went beyond the limits that God had placed on him. We can read about his trespass in Genesis 3. Adam had a very simple prohibition to obey for his own benefit and the benefit of all those he represented.
Adam’s wrong action had very serious consequences for himself and for everyone else – he and they were condemned by God. The proof that they were condemned is the presence of death, although physical death is not the only aspect of condemnation that we should recognise. In addition to physical death, there is the loss of eternal life, which had been the prospect for everyone whom Adam represented. Instead of eternal life, they will have eternal condemnation, the conscious experience of divine judgement.
We are thankful that, although Adam failed, Jesus did not. In tomorrow’s reading we will think about what he did.