REEVES: In Romans 5:12–21, Paul explained that humanity is under one of two men’s authority. Humanity does not consist of a vast throng of individuals where each determines his own destiny. Instead, Paul said that there is an old humanity under the headship of Adam.
When Adam sinned, all his family, those found in him and who are of his seed, share his destiny, status, and character. All who are born in Adam are born guilty, with a tendency to sin like Adam’s, which means you do not have the ability to solve this problem. Your only hope is to be born again under the headship of the other Man, the last Adam, Christ. When you are born again, united to Christ, you now share His status. You have His Spirit within you, who brings you to share His character.
The idea that every individual determines his destiny is a modern, individualistic understanding of man that does not square with the Bible. Augustine made an excellent point when he debated this issue with Pelagius. He said that if you imagine humanity as a vast throng of individuals, then sin is not inherited. If that is the case, what do you do with the child who is born with HIV or is born handicapped? If a child is born blind, and we do not inherit anything from Adam, then that child is born blind because of her own sin, which is a malicious thing to say. Instead, we see that the origins of humanity’s problems stem back to Adam and that we are reaping the consequences of Adam in our lives every day.
NICHOLS: Headship in the federal role of Christ is crucial to answering this question. In Romans 5:12–21, there is also the phrase “how much more . . . in Christ,” which is fascinating. This question goes back to the person of Christ. In his medieval text Why the God-Man?, Anselm of Canterbury explained who Jesus is as the God-Man. Paul expressed Christ’s headship beautifully: while there is condemnation, guilt, sin, and death in Adam, how much more is there grace and righteousness in Jesus Christ.