1 Corinthians 15:21: For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. (ESV)
In the previous post, we considered the connection between creation and living for God through Christ. This post's focus is the connection between the fall and living for God through Christ.
Understanding the Fall
What do we mean by "the fall"? This refers to the sin of Adam in the Garden of Eden which resulted in Adam and Eve being expelled from the paradise in which God had placed them. The term "fall" refers to a falling from a state of grace or favor into a state of disfavor.
The effects of the fall are so enormous that they can hardly be overstated. The passage above makes that clear enough when he says that death came by one man, the one man referring to Adam. This verse emphasizes the symmetry between Adam and Jesus Christ who represent humanity's fall from and return to grace, respectively.
When Paul writes that death came by one man, he is referring to the fact that the original design for humanity was immortality. Human beings were not designed to die. Death, therefore, is not a feature of humanity, but a distortion.
The implications for this are staggering. From our perspective, what is more basic to life than death? Our death is so baked into our understanding of life that we include death as part of our life cycle- and not just for us, but for the whole world. Death is endemic and pervasive, yet it is not, in the strictest sense, natural.
How should this understanding of the fall affect the way we live for God through Christ? At the most basic level, we must recognize the state of creation and of ourselves. What do we do about our fallenness? Our passage makes it clear that the answer does not come from ourselves. We do not raise ourselves out of our fallenness to a state of grace. Rather, this comes from the work of God in Jesus Christ to save sinners. To be moved from a state of disfavor to favor is a gracious work of God, and we apprehend it only by faith in Christ Jesus.
Furthermore, having been moved from a state of disfavor to favor in terms of our status before God, there is the additional aspect of our actually living life. Once a person has been saved, everything about their lives must change. Scripture makes this abundantly clear (cf. 1 John, Galatians 5-6, Ephesians 4-6, Romans 12). But what I believe we Christians often fail to comprehend is just how comprehensive this change must be. And we fail to comprehend it because we have not reckoned with the drastic changes the fall wrought in the original creation design. We think too little about our origins and thus take too much for granted the way things are to be more or less normal.
Our passage highlights what are perhaps the most basic aspects of the fall and the redemption offered in Christ Jesus: they both revolve around death and its reversal in the resurrection. But with the fall, death was not the only thing that occurred. Rather, death represents both the pinnacle, or perhaps nadir, of the effect of the fall, but with every other attending aspect implicated in it. And the same goes for resurrection.
This is to say that the death that came through Adam in this passage refers to death and everything else that comes with it by implication. With death, there comes corruption, rebellion, chaos, disorder, war, conflict, poverty, depravity, immorality, impurity, idolatry, murder, imbalance, neglect, disease, and every other evil thing. The death that came through Adam is comprehensive.
So also, the resurrection that comes through Christ must be comprehensive. We have not yet experienced the resurrection, but that does not mean that the rest of our lives should not be different in the meantime. Living the life of those no longer subject to death does not have to wait until after the resurrection. We have not yet physically died, but that does not stop us from experiencing the attending effects of the fall. In our lives now, before physical death and physical resurrection, the new life is to begin (Eph. 4:17-22).
Living as the Redeemed
The line of thinking so far leads nicely into the connections between the fall and living for God through Christ. By examining our origins in Adam pre- and post-fall, we can better understand the great reversal accomplished by our redemption in Christ Jesus. Understanding the fall provides much-needed contrast for how we are to live now that we have been restored to favor with God.
It lies before us to recognize what it means to be restored to a state of favor with God and to act accordingly. In one sense, it is quite clarifying: we can ask what characterized life in Eden for Adam and Eve, and how we ought to live in light of it. We should also ask what might be different since we live in a state of favor on this side of the fall rather than pre-fall.
The first part is simple. Adam and Eve were called to fill the earth and subdue it. They were placed in the garden to work it and keep it. And they spent time with God. In many ways, our lives are to be marked by a similar simplicity. We are to work and keep the earth, to continue filling and subduing it. And we are to worship God as Creator and Father.
The difference is in the way these things happen, the layout, if you will, of the board for us in light of revelation and the progress of history toward the parousia, or appearing, of Christ. The fall precipitated a cascade of effects in the world, and not all of them were bad. It is through the fall that we see the balance between God's justice and his mercy and grace. We see God choosing a people to whom to reveal himself and his will. Ultimately, we meet through this process the Messiah, the Christ, who is the Son of God incarnate, who comes to take away our sins and is the means by which we are restored to favor with God.
Life is not as simple as it was before the fall, but in some ways, it is even better. We have a knowledge of God's mercy and grace far exceeding anything we could have had if the fall had never occurred (Rom. 9:22-24). And now that the way to be restored to favor with God has been fully revealed in Christ Jesus, our lives should be marked by a doggedly faithful pursuit of the life to which God has called us in Christ Jesus rather than the one to which we were consigned by the sin of Adam.