The very first covenant God makes takes place at the dawn of creation. As the world is breathing its first breath, God makes a covenant with the creature into whom He has poured His own breath- Adam. Indeed, Adam (and subsequently his descendants) was made expressly for this – a sacred and everlasting relationship with His creator.
And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. Gen 1:28-30
God’s first act of generosity was to bless His creation and to give charge of it to the first man and woman. As they were created in His image, they were to be His care-givers over all He made and enjoy all the pleasures of their new home. One translation says they were to “dress the garden”. I love that imagery as the garden and the animals were something Adam and Eve were to tenderly love and care for so that all would flourish. In Gen 2, a condensed summary of the creation account, we are also told of the condition of the covenant.
And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Gen 2:16-17
This covenant relationship was mutual – God was giving His creation and Himself to Adam and Eve, and to show their love for God, they were to obey His command. But they did not. Paradise was lost and the covenant was replaced with a curse. Their relationship with God, with creation, with each other were fractured. Their disobedience severed their connection with the Source of Life and death was the result, enslaving men and all of creation in its cruel grip. But sin and death would not have the last word. God left His promise that the curse would be reversed and the covenant kept, even though Adam could not keep it. Thousands of years later, the Second person of the Trinity, the One who formed Adam in His image, would take on flesh and become the Second Adam. Paul eloquently describes Christ’s role as the second Adam in one of my favorite passages of Scripture.
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.
But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.
Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Rom 5:12-21
I love the symmetry in this passage that mirrors the two trajectories that Adam and Christ have wrought on the world. While Adam’s sin brought condemnation and death, Christ’s death brings justification and life. Sin enslaves us, but Christ’s obedience frees us through grace: the dead come to life and the sinners become righteous. C.S. Lewis referred to Christ’s fulfillment of the Adamic covenant as “treading Adam’s dance backwards”. His act of obedience covers our disobedience and reverses the curse of sin. In our world it often seems as if sin and destruction are the most powerful forces. Even in examining my own heart I am overwhelmed by the degree of sin I find there. But these verses are a hope and victory because they state that God’s grace is more than sin. There’s no sin that hasn’t met forgiveness at the cross; there’s no power in sin that has not been vanquished by Christ’s obedience. And there’s no grave that has a tighter grip than grace.
Blessings to you,