Part 1 – Where Did We Come From?
CHAPTER 2 – THE PRINCIPLE OF HEADSHIP: IN CHRIST OR IN ADAM
LIFE IN ADAM
The Bible draws a distinct contrast between Adam, through whom sin and death entered the human realm, and Jesus Christ, through whom righteousness is offered to sinful man at such time as he is willing to receive Christ by faith in Him as Saviour, Lord, and Life.
The Apostle Paul indicates such a contrast by the terms, in Adam and in Christ. He also uses the terms, the first man, Adam, and the last Adam. Another contrast is the first man and the second man. By using such contrasts the Apostle is referring to two distinct families of mankind, the first having Adam as its head, the other with Christ as its head, (I Cor. 15:22,45,47). This is called by some scholars, “federal headship”1 principle. This principle of federal headship is helpful in understanding the meaning of these two family designations (Rom. 5:12,18). In the federal headship principle, Adam is representative of all mankind in God’s presence as to sin’s entrance into the human realm. Thus, when Adam disobeyed God’s command not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he represented before God what everyone born into Adam’s race would have done as the original individual, given the same test. The righteousness of God in using the federal headship principle is apparent when we realize that each individual sins early in life without being taught to do so, e.g., anger, lying, stealing.
The second headship, the headship of Christ, in contrast to the headship of Adam, provides the righteousness of God to man (Rom. 5:12‑21). The righteousness of Christ is imputed to the believer in Christ according to God’s reckoning. This is revealed in the scriptural term justification. It is experienced in the believer’s walk through God’s work of sanctification, i.e., the work of setting apart the believer from his natural condition to godliness.
It is well to see from Scripture several notable accounts of sin’s pervasiveness throughout the human family from mankind’s earliest history.
As mentioned earlier, Cain, the first son of Adam and Eve, was guilty of murdering his brother, Abel. Cain’s confession reflects the inner strife he experienced. The strife is obvious from the statement, My punishment is greater than I can bear (Gen. 4:13). In his relationship to God Cain confessed, from thy face shall I be hidden” (v. 14). Cain was keenly aware that sin separates the guilty one from God. But God, in His mercy, protected Cain, for the Lord set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him (Gen. 4:15).
In Cain’s conduct after that point we see the descent of man in sin’s grasp. The next step in Cain’s decline is seen in the words, Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, and dwelt in the land of Nod (meaning wandering) (Gen. 4:16). The descendents of Cain are noted for building a city (Gen. 4:17), for the first instance of polygamy (Gen. 4:19), for having cattle (Gen. 4:20), for developing musical ability (Gen. 4:21), becoming craftsmen (Gen. 4:22), killing in self-defense (Gen. 4:23), and boasting (Gen. 4:24), but there is a complete absence of any mention of God. All of Cain’s descendents were destroyed in the flood that had not died earlier through the normal process of death.
After describing the Cainite history, the Scriptures digress from the advance of the course of sin and death throughout the human race to briefly focus on the line of man from Adam through Seth which directs our consideration to the righteous line pointing toward the incarnation of the last Adam (I Cor. 15:45), our Lord Jesus Christ. We shall consider in greater detail the development of “the righteous line” after giving consideration to the fuller picture of the result of the principle of sin and death as the human race expanded.
An obvious emphasis is made throughout Genesis 5 on the prevalence of death for each of Adam’s descendents in the phrase, and he died. Although other descendents of Adam lived and died, the lineage from Adam through Seth, continuing to Noah is mentioned because only this line ultimately leads to that of Christ. After considering the Cainite civilization in chapter 4 of Genesis, the narrative begins with the Sethite civilization in chapter 5, opening the way for the continually unfolding account of redemption which is progressively developed throughout all of the rest of Scripture.
Approximately 2,000 years of time pass by between Adam’s creation and Noah’s day, as recorded in Genesis 5. In Genesis, chapters 6 through 8, our attention is directed to the condition of the human race in Noah’s time and the need God had to destroy the civilization of Noah’s day, saving only Noah, his wife, their three sons, and their wives.
The rapid expansion of sin’s destructive effects on the human race are described in Genesis 6. In verses 1 and 2, there appears to be a mixing of the line of Seth with the Cainite line through marriage. Invariably, mixed marriages of this kind would cause the righteous line of Seth to move toward a corruption of their society rather than their influencing the disobedient line of Cain toward godliness. The men were given to marrying wives of all whom they chose. The emphasis seems to be that mankind was willfully departing from God’s purpose, the purpose being for mankind to glorify Him. Their self-willed action of making choices independently from God enables us today to see examples of sin in its true essence.
In Genesis 6:3, God announces the time as 120 years that He has determined for the existence of that society before judgment falls. There is also a distinction made in this passage between the Spirit and the flesh, indicating an antagonistic relationship. That antagonism is stated most clearly in Galatians 5:17, when the Apostle Paul states,
…the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other, so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.
That antagonism is the obvious basis of God’s reason for deciding to destroy all those living on the earth excluding Noah, his family, and the creatures safely preserved in the ark, from whom all people and animal life on the earth today have their existence.
In Genesis 6:4, the result of the mixed marriages between the righteous line of Seth’s descendants and the ungodly Cainite line produced a generation of people who were acclaimed as mighty men… men of renown. Evidently there developed an aristocracy in these earliest days of man’s existence which prepared the way for people to be given high regard by other people instead of centering their regard on God.
Verses five through seven state God’s view of man’s rapid decline in the words, ...God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. Then there follows the stated purpose of God to bring the judgment needed to prevent man’s complete self-destruction through the unmitigated development of sin to its eventual terminus of absolute universal death. Thus, God’s intervention of judgment permitted Noah and his family to become the basis of a new beginning for mankind, free of the influence of the ungodliness of the pre-diluvian civilization. This perspective is given again in verse thirteen of Genesis 6, as God says, speaking to Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth.
The previously announced judgment of the world-wide flood is next described in Genesis 6:14‑8:12.
The beginning of the post-diluvian civilization is described starting with Genesis 8:15. By God’s command, Noah is directed to leave the ark along with his family and all the animals in the ark. Noah’s first act after leaving the ark was one of worship and thanksgiving by building an altar and offering burnt sacrifices taken from all of the clean animals and clean fowl that had been with Noah in the ark.
In Genesis 8:21, God states that He will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake. This is apparently a reference to the curse originally pronounced in Genesis 3:17 as a result of Adam’s disobedience. Thus, the present statement is spoken because of God’s mercy, indicating He will not place a new judgment on man for each reoccurence of sinful deeds in order that man would be allowed to be kept alive to respond to God’s redemptive grace. The principle that where sin abounded, grace did much more abound (Rom. 5:20) is inherent in God’s promise to not again curse the ground. The next phrase in Genesis 8:21 states, for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth – an apparent reference to indwelling sin within mankind.
In Genesis 8:22 the seasons of the year are mentioned for the first time in Scripture.
God’s purpose for man to Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish (fill) the earth (Genesis 9:1), is given primary emphasis for the future existence of man beginning with Noah and his three sons. Before long sin manifests itself in Noah as he plants a vineyard (Gen. 9:20), drinks of the wine and becomes drunk (Gen. 9:21). Ham, his son, seeing Noah’s nakedness, is judged through Noah’s curse on Ham’s son Canaan (Gen. 9:22‑25). In addition to the curse spoken concerning Canaan, Noah prophesied the future blessing on Shem (and his descendents) and on Japheth (and his descendents) and in each case stated that Canaan shall be in servitude to both of Noah’s aforementioned sons (Gen. 9:26‑27).
Genesis chapter 10 gives the generations from Noah until the account of the building of the tower of Babel. The genealogies of each of Noah’s sons and their immediate descendants are presented. Then the Scriptures turn from recounting the unfolding history of each of the three lines with equal regard, to focus primarily on the line of promise that leads from Abraham to the Messiah. Before this is begun, one more event is presented which influences all of mankind.
In Genesis 11:1-9, the account is given of mankind’s endeavor to create a society that would serve to unify all people in a common religion, language, and political entity. It appears to be the initial attempt of man to develop a one-world system which, in effect, lays the foundation for the entity of the world as described in I John 2:15,16:
Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
We see from this passage that a sharp contrast exists between the world and godliness; as a matter of fact, they are mutually exclusive even as flesh and Spirit are seen to be mutually exclusive in Galatians 5:16.
Because of the potential of man’s intent of building a one-world system, and by doing so, developing a sense of pride and arrogance which would hinder God’s purpose of calling a distinct nation through whom Messiah would come, God deemed it necessary to send a judgment which would thwart man’s design. Thus, God judged mankind with the confusion of languages as a result of the building of the tower of Babel. This confusion of tongues does not finally prevent man’s attempts to create a system which will seek to bring about a unified political and religious system, because in Revelation 17 and 18, we see that God must ultimately judge religious and political Babylon. Babylon can be seen as the final outcome of man’s original desire when he built the tower of Babel.
In confusing the languages of man, God also facilitated His original purpose that man should replenish (fill) the earth (Gen. 1:28 and Gen. 9:1). Genesis 11:8 states, So the Lord scattered them abroad from there upon the face of all the earth.
After describing God’s judgment of the confusion of tongues at the tower of Babel, the scriptural record moves rapidly from focusing on the corruption of sin in Adam’s race towards God’s preparation for introducing the Redeemer. The focus will take us quickly to Abraham and God’s promise for the promised seed, Jesus, to come through his lineage. (For more information concerning the lineage of Jesus, see APPENDIX A, The Lineage of Jesus, and APPENDIX B, Contrasting Genealogical Listings from Adam to Christ.)
As we see that God’s central purpose throughout the Old Testament is to take us through the course and influence of sin in Adam’s race, and to focus on the generations pointing toward the last Adam, Jesus, the basis of the contrast between the first Adam and the last Adam prepares us also to see a contrast between our LIFE IN ADAM (as unbelievers) and LIFE IN CHRIST (as believers).
1 Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology (8 vols.: Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications, 1993) II, 299; Kenneth S. Wuest, Romans in the Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1955) 84.
Used with permission.
A. Ward Brandenstein
Pastor Ward earned an M.A. in Guidance and Counselling from Eastern Michigan University after taking special courses in psychology at Wayne State University, and earned a Bachelor of Theology (Th.B.) from Baptist Bible College and Seminary with Greek and Hebrew studies, and earned a diploma from Philadelphia Bible Institute (now Cairn U.), including New Testament Greek studies. His knowledge of the Bible and close walk with God are appreciated by all who know him and have sat under his teaching. Pastor Brandenstein and his wife Rose Ann reside in California, teaching college level singles and married couples, young professionals, and retired pastors and missionaries.