44. The Solidarity of Man

Tom Hamilton

The idea of a first and therefore last Adam is very ancient in Hebrew thought. They believed in a last Adam which was to come in as much as they believed in the first. Paul, therefore, in writing to the church at Corinth, used these precise terms to show, on the one hand, a fulfilment of this belief, and on the hand to show a vital truth which could not be shown more clearly using any other language. Not only this, but the very solidarity of man is a key factor in our understanding of our own redemption.

Solidarity, a word which has come into focus through recent news, means that “all are one, and one represents all”. Jesus spoke often of this (e.g. John ch.15, the vine), indeed His prayer in John ch 17 is centred upon this theme.

Let’s look, for a moment, at the first Adam. Look carefully at the following passage from Genesis ch 5 (vs 1-3):-

“This is the book of the generations of Adam (Heb Ahdahm). In the day that God created Adam (Heb Ahdahm), in the likeness of God created He him. Male and female created He them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam (Heb Ahdahm), in the day they were created. And Adam (Heb Ahdahm) lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat….”

There can be no mistaking here, that the Hebrew language has the one and same word for both the man Adam and his offspring. They are one and the same, and from this point on, throughout the entire Old Testament, the predominant name given to mankind is the identical name given to the man himself from whose loins they had come. We are all, in truth, Adam, and Adam is everyman.

There is a solidarity expressed in the Hebrew language which is not there in any other language, but which is vital for us to understand if we are to fully and properly understand our own redemption, and the work of Christ.

Consider now Paul’s meaning in Romans ch. 5:12:-

“Wherefore as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all sinned.”

Some translations have a marginal note for the words “for that”, giving the possible reading “in whom”. Whether or not this is the true reading, changes nothing of the true meaning, which is quite clear from the unmistakable Greek here. The two principle verbs, “passed” and “sinned” (and also “entered”) are in the Aorist tense. This Aorist tense, points to a moment in time, to an event. Death passed upon all men, and all men sinned. This is not an equivalent to our English Perfect tense, which would read “have sinned”, (referring to the fact that we have sinned, but having no particular reference to time), but rather it is pointing to an event in which we all participated, and therefore a consequence we all share – Adam’s sin, and the death which ensued, which passed upon all men as it did him. In this fact his transgression was unique, and our solidarity with him, meant that we were all inseparably and equally involved.

In the minds of those who could see it, this solidarity and the import of what it portrayed, pointed to another, a Last Adam, who was to come and who would be a redeemer.

(Note – the proof of this fact, our inclusion in Adam’s sin, was seen to be in the fact that those from Adam to Moses had died. Having had no law to transgress, they could not have died through their own sins. Death itself, therefore had reigned supreme through one sin, that of Adam.)

Then what of our solidarity with the Last Adam? This solidarity worked in exactly the same way as with the first Adam, except that it exceeded it in certain respects. Notice firstly in the same passage of Romans ch.5, how Paul likens Adam and his transgression to “the one who was to come” (vs.14). Here again, Paul shows how in Jewish thinking, there was a redeemer, a Messiah, who had been prefigured by the first Adam, and who would be in solidarity with his people in the same way.

The passage from verse 15 to verse 19 portrays a comparison of the first and the last Adam, and the effects of solidarity with them. Notice carefully the use of the word “one”. It is used in two respects throughout the passage. Firstly of the men, Adam and Christ. Secondly of their “accomplishments”, transgression by the one, the first, and righteousness by the other, the second. We have already seen that death passed upon all men through the “offence of one”, at the same time. Death also “reigned” by “one offence” (vs.17), and judgement came upon all men, just as it did upon the one. This is our solidarity with the first Adam. But what of the second? What did He accomplish on our behalf?

Deuteronomy 28.1, as well as many other scriptures, spoke of a promise of life and blessing to the one who kept the law and who continued in it in all its entirety. This is the great “if” of the law. “If ye obey…” “If ye are careful to do all…” Romans ch.5:18 speaks of the “righteousness of one”, which, in the Greek means “by one accomplished righteousness.” Also, verse 19 speaks of “the obedience of one,” which in the Greek means the “careful heeding of the one” (as opposed to the heedlessness of Adam mentioned in the same verse). The meaning here, is that Christ, as the last Adam, carefully heeded and fulfilled the law, and so not only qualified for the life and blessing that had been promised, but qualified us for it as well. So verse 18:-

“Even so, by one accomplished righteousness (the free gift came) upon all men unto justification of life.”

This justification, and the grace which abounds by the one man, the last Adam, Christ is unto all who are in solidarity with Him. We can only really understand and appreciate our redemption by an awareness of this solidarity that we have with the last Adam as we did with the first. Furthermore, this solidarity exceeds the former in certain respects:-

It abounded more (that is, grace abounded more than sin did through the law). It came from “many offences” (vsl6), as opposed to the death which came from only one, Adam’s God treats and considers those who are in solidarity with the last Adam, as having accomplished His own righteousness as expressed by the law.

Finally, let us consider one other scripture in 1 Corinthians 15, vs45-49:-

“The first man, Adam, was made a living soul; the last Adam a quickening spirit.”

The first man, Adam, was a “living soul”, that is, he was the subject of a life, but a life that was subject to limitations, restrictions, pain, toil and sorrow. The last Adam, a “quickening spirit”, that is, one who has life in himself, a source, spring of life, that quickens others, being without the restrictions, limitations, pain, toil and sorrow characteristic of the first Adam. The first soulish, the last spiritual. The first earthly, the last heavenly. As we have shared the likeness of the first, so surely shall we also of the second.

This beautiful truth cannot be understood properly without the Hebrew scriptures and thought. Paul understood it, being acquainted with the Hebrew thought, and expressed it as part of his gospel. The Hebrew language expressed a solidarity which was not possible to express so simply in any other language.

(Reprinted, with minor editorial changes, from Tishrei Vol2, No 4, Summer 1994, Community)



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