Romans 5:15-20 offers 5 contrasts between Adam and Christ:
1. The contrast of death and life.
“But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many.” (verse 15) Simply put: Adam = death and Christ = life.
2. The contrast of condemnation and justification.
“And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one man’s trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification.” (verse 16) “Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.” (verse 18) All those who remain in Adam will be rewarded with “condemnation.” They will be declared guilty before God, while all those who embrace Jesus will be rewarded with “justification.” They will be declared righteous in Christ and will enjoy an infinite reward in heaven.
3. The contrast of the trespass and the free gift.
“For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.” (verse 17) In the Garden of Eden and the fall of man, the “trespass” resulted in death. But thanks be to God that on the cross, the “free gift” of salvation was offered, which resulted in an “abundance of grace.”
4. The contrast of disobedience and obedience.
“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.” (verse 19) When we talk about the “trespass,” what it boils down to is that Adam disobeyed. As a result of Adam’s sin and disobedience, there were consequences. Not just for him, but also for his offspring. This takes us back to #1 and the contrast of “death” and life. The wages of sin is “death.” (Romans 6:23)
5. The contrast of law and grace.
“Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.” (verse 20) What does the law do? It exposes sin and uncovers iniquity. But Paul has already established that death reigned because of sin (Romans 5:14), so what good is it? This is where grace (the free gift) comes in.
One very simple way to understand the difference between law and grace is this: Law = do/don’t do, while Grace = done. The gospel frees us from trying to work our way to heaven. The Bible tells us that the work of salvation has already been completed. We don’t have to save ourselves because Christ has already accomplished what God required. Instead, we must repent (of our sins) and believe (in the finished work of Christ) for our salvation.
One concluding passage: “For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive…..The first man Adam became a living being; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.” (1 Corinthians 15:21-22, 45-49) Praise God for the last Adam!