J.R.R. Tolkien, author of The Lord of the Rings, coined the term “eucatastrophe,” which means “good catastrophe.” When it looks like a hero is doomed . . . but then the plot turns! The death of Jesus certainly qualifies as a eucatastrophe! As one writer explains, “Jesus’ crucifixion was the most evil event in history, but it secured the redemption of those who believe in Jesus’ substitutionary atonement for their salvation.”
Christ’s sacrifice made it possible for us (and all of humanity) to start over. That is why Paul depicted Him as the new Adam. Today, we begin the second section of our month’s study focusing on Christ’s role in salvation.
Paul explains that, through the first Adam, sin and death entered the world and affected all humanity (v. 12). No one was innocent then, and no one is innocent now. This “original sin” means we are all born with sin natures and stand condemned before God. The good news is that Jesus, as the new Adam, lived a perfect life of obedience to His Father. Through His sacrificial death and resurrection, life is possible for those who believe. We stand justified before God on the basis of Christ’s righteousness (vv. 18–19).
Notice the contrast between the old and new Adams. What Christ achieved is greater than what Adam spoiled (vv. 15–17). Jesus didn’t merely undo the Fall, salvation is a step up! His gift is greater than any trespass. Good is greater than evil. Grace is greater than sin. Life is greater than death. Furthermore, while sin and its consequences were deserved, the gift of salvation is undeserved by us, to God’s greater glory. The result? Whereas once “sin reigned in death,” now grace reigns and brings “eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (v. 21).
To give today’s passage even more context, re-read the record of the original Adam and the Fall in Genesis 3–4. How were Adam and Eve led to disobey? What were the consequences? What evidence was there that God continued to love them? Rejoice that “as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive” (1 Cor. 15:22)!