14 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.
who was a type of the one [Jesus Christ] who was to come.
This second clause refers to a special class distinguished from the general class in the first part of this verse. Adam’s sin had ramifications for the whole human race, so Christ’s actions had ramifications for all of humanity. There is a parallel between the first Adam and the last Adam.
1 Co 15:45 And so it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.
Adam is the only person in the Old Testament that is referred to as a “type” of Christ in the New Testament. Christ replaces Adam as the archetype and representation of those who come to know Him.
Adam was a parallel by contrast to Jesus. Both Adam and Jesus began an epoch. Their actions launch the character of each epoch. As all humanity was “in Adam,” so those who trust Christ’s salvation are “in Christ.” Adam was a “type” of Christ; he corresponded in some sense to Jesus. He prefigured the ultimate Federal Representative of Christ. Both Adam and Christ became heads representing bodies of people. That is the similarity, but Paul will continue to argue the dissimilarities between them later in this section of Romans.
1 Co 15:22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.
Just as Adam was the one man who performed a single act that affected the entire world, so also Christ was one man whose one act affected all humanity. Adam was a type because as he caused death that came upon all by his sin, so Christ procured righteousness independently by the cross for those who trust that work on the cross.
The Greek word “type” means pattern. Literally the idea was to strike something; a type was an impression made by a blow. It came to mean counterpart. There is a designed resemblance between Adam and Christ; the one prefigures and other commemorates. There is a similarity between the two—they were both heads of their representative peoples (federal heads). The sin of one was reason for condemnation, and the righteousness of the other is the reason for justification. Verses 15 to 17 will show the specific ways by which the comparison holds.
All mankind is connected to Adam by a bond that cannot be broken.
Federal headship of Adam, not personal sins, is at issue in this verse. Although the Mosaic law had not yet arrived to convict man of personal sin, both physical and spiritual death reigned in the period between Adam and Moses. The Mosaic law imputed personal sins to man. Federal headship of Adam includes the period from Adam to Moses. This includes all who sinned in the same manner as Adam. As a federal head, Adam represented all mankind who inherited his sin genetically. This is the idea of “according to the likeness of Adam’s transgression.”
Similarly, Jesus Christ is the federal head of all those who come to believe on Him. All die in the first Adam because of the imputation of his sin into the human race; those who believe in Christ receive the imputation of God’s righteousness. The issue is to whom are we related. If we are related only to Adam, we have only imputed sin. Every believer by his relation to Christ has the imputed righteousness of God. God appointed Adam to represent all mankind; God appointed Jesus Christ to represent those who believe on Him.
Death entered the world through one man’s sin (not the sin of many). Adam acted for the whole race in this. God instituted the unity of the human race in Adam. This was God’s action, not ours. We had no part in choosing Adam as our representative.
Adam disobeyed a specific command (Ge 2:17) and thus committed a transgression which his descendants did not do until God later gave specific commands. Even so, all sinned with Adam and received death; death proved all sinned in Adam.
As our federal head, we stand or fall in Adam. The one stands for the many. That is true in the Christian relationship to Christ as well. Our Lord stands as our Federal Head representing us as forgiven before God. Any defiled by the stream that comes from Adam can be set right by the stream that comes from Christ.