Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men in that all sinned… Romans 5:12
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. Romans 5.19-21
The divine Scripture also foretells this, saying in the person of God: “You shall eat of every tree in Paradise. But do not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. On the day you eat of it, you shall die by death” (Gen 2:16-17). This “dying by death”, what else could it be than not only to die but to remain in the corruption of death.
Athanasius, Incarnation 3
But if the power of sin lies in its capacity to lead humanity into the condition of “remaining” in its orientation to nothingness and so exploits humanity’s inherent ontological weakness, the final and definitive “remaining” in the “grace” of participation in the Word happens only through the humanization, death, and resurrection of the Word. Khaled Anatolios, Introduction to Athanasius
We are often blinded by our own presuppositions to reality that may or may not be true. Sometimes we live as though we are invincible and we can get whatever we want. I assume many people look back at their late teen years and early 20-something years this way. We all say that we were fools. Other times we live as though there is no God. Stephen Charnock has a wonderful exposition on this so called ‘practical atheism.’ In other words, we live selfishly without a care for God’s instruction through his church. Other times we spend every effort to overcome the latent death in our bones. Many in our world exercise, take supplements, and climb Mount Everest to prove that death has no sway in their lives…yet.
As Christians, we are easily fooled by all these false realities that our world wrongly puts forth as valid. One of the more depressing verses in the bible is God’s warning about eating the fruit and the eventual fulfilment of this warning. If you eat of the fruit you’re really going to die! Athanasius and one of his commentators, Khaled Anatolios help us here with words. I’ve said that we have this proneness to death. From birth, we are prone to die. I understand that this is not completely helpful language. But we must acknowledge this. One of the major effects of Adam’s fall is that death spread. Paul brings this out quite clearly in Romans 5.12: death spread to all men through Adam’s one sin. Just as God had foretold, it happened. Athanasius talks in very helpful terms: we humans of ourselves die and we remain in the corruption of death. As children are born, they are born into the corruption of death. We must never lose sight of this. It is so easy to speak as though God will only bring us health. When we are sick, we expect God will heal us. Yes our God is a healer, but this is not always realized in this epoch of history. God’s healing will be fully evident when our Lord Jesus Christ, the Word of God Incarnate returns.
But a Christian preacher doesn’t end at our corruption of death. Paul later on in chapter 5 of Romans contrasts that work of the first Adam with the work of the second Adam. The first Adam brought death to the world, the second Adam brought grace and resurrection life. For those who are in union with the Son, we remain in his grace and participate in the eternal life through Jesus our Lord. Because the Son of God added humanity to his person, we can participate in this salvation.
The implications of this are vast. Jesus’ work doesn’t simply restore us to humanity’s pre-fall condition. This is in fact a new condition not ever seen in the history of the world. We are no longer remaining in our created weakness. We are remaining in the powerful Word who advocates for us. Adam’s identity was never, ‘I am in Christ.’ But for those who have repented and believed in the gospel this is our song. Hallelujah, All I have is Christ. We bear a new image: the image of the Son of God who bled and died for us. Death no longer has a sting even though it is still present. When we die, we will be with our Lord, and we are assured that our loved ones are as well and will experience the resurrection life when Christ returns. So although we may feel burdened by the corruption of death that we carry with us in our flesh, remember also that those who are in Christ are a new creation and have resurrection life through Jesus Christ our Lord.