In the days before digital pictures, photographic negatives were common. A negative is an image where the light areas are reversed to appear dark, and the dark areas now become light. It creates a mirror of the photograph but is also its opposite.
Today’s reading describes the relationship between Jesus and Adam. It may be helpful to think about it as a photographic negative. When Paul calls Adam a “pattern of the one to come” (v. 14), he implies that we can better understand Jesus by looking to Adam. Because Adam was humanity’s representative, when he sinned, all sinned (v. 12). Sin and death passed on to the human race through Adam. Through the sin of one, all became sinners. Likewise, through the obedience of one (Jesus), we can all be declared righteous.
But Jesus’ obedience and death did much more than merely match Adam’s original sin. Jesus’ sacrifice surpassed what was needed. In this case, the gift was not like the trespass: “For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!” (v. 15). If God intended to offer righteousness as a gift through Jesus Christ, why did He give the law? Paul tells us in verse 20: “The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase.” God used the law to shine a light on human sin and to clearly show us our need for grace. Paul depicts the law as an assistant to grace, revealing our guilt and need for a righteousness that is apart from the law (Rom. 3:21).
>> If you’re taking notes on our study of Romans, add the terms “law” and “grace” to your definition list. The law reveals our guilt and our need for righteousness (Rom. 3:21). Grace is seen in God’s gift of righteousness, freely offered to you through Jesus Christ.