The Bible is a massive book and we are kidding ourselves if we say it is easy to understand. After all, there are sixty-six books, 1189 chapters, multiple languages, differing cultures, dozens of authors with diverse vocabularies, and the timespan covered is thousands of years. If this is not enough to make the Bible challenging, there are hundreds and hundreds of commands and these commands can be quite confusing given there are also extraordinary promises! How can eternal life require flawless obedience (Luke 10:25-28) and be by grace alone? If there were only a way to read, interpret, and understand the Bible in part and whole that made it more manageable and also honored its one ultimate author. This would be an amazing help! In fact there is just such an approach and we can accept it with the confidence that it is just the way God intends.
The approach to reading the Bible that I am talking about is the one Jesus gives to us through His apostle, the Apostle Paul. It is found in the fifth chapter of Romans. In Romans 5 Jesus blesses us with a perspective for understanding Genesis through Revelation. Not by answering every question, but by addressing the most important ones, ones that can and should guide us in our understanding according to the author’s intention.
In Romans 5:12-19 Adam is specified as the representative of all human beings and therefore everyone stands condemned. Jesus on the other hand stands as the representative of everyone who would ever trust in Him. These two representatives are labeled the two “men” in Romans, but are otherwise known as the two “Adams” given that Jesus is elsewhere called the “last Adam” (1 Corinthians 15:45). Simply understanding this one reality can prove extremely valuable. Let’s consider just two reasons why.
The first thing this interpretive lens will do for you is it will make it plain that justification is based entirely upon the perfect obedient work of Jesus, the last Adam. This means that our obligation to obey God’s commands (i.e. to be righteous) has been perfectly met by the work of Jesus therefore assuring justification by faith in Him. Practically speaking therefore, all of the commands relating to loving God and neighbor have been kept by Jesus and all violations have been forgiven through His atonement. Because this is true for the believer there can never be any condemnation. The result is assurance and freedom to obey God out of gratitude as one who is now accepted by God in Christ. You are no longer under the commandments/law for justification as a believer because justification has come to you by grace through faith in the obedient work of Jesus who fulfilled the law’s requirements (Matthew 5:17). You are no longer under law for justification, but grace (Romans 6:14). Knowing this is the fruit of a biblical two-Adam perspective.
A second feature of reading the Bible from a two-Adam viewpoint is that you can avoid losing sight of the big picture as you read about the many events and people between the first Adam and the last Adam. By keeping in mind that God chose to relate to the human race through representatives (Adam and Jesus) and that this has been His purpose since even before He ever created the world (Ephesians 1:4), one can and should understand the other contours and happenings as playing supporting roles for this greater cause. Consider some examples. The OT book of Esther is not primarily about Esther the sinner who was in a questionable relationship with an unbeliever and not a model of virtue. Instead, the book named after her is the story of God working through sinful people to accomplish His greater purpose in preserving the Jews. From these preserved Jews would ultimately come the Messiah and savior of the world. Other examples afforded by this proper reading of the Bible include the OT priesthood foreshadowing the ultimate high priest of Hebrews and the Passover anticipating Jesus the Passover lamb of 1 Corinthians 5:7. Even Israel who is called God’s son is intended by God to be a type of Christ who is the true and ultimate son (see Hosea 11:1 and Matthew 2:15).
The reality of representation is wonderful and has wonderfully helped believers throughout the centuries. But be warned that not everyone approves of this approach to understanding. Naysayers may talk a good talk about needing to interpret the Bible without a “man made” hermeneutic (interpretive perspective) or they may warn of the supposed danger of reading the Old Testament in light of the New. But which is more reliable, the divinely inspired perspective of understanding all human history or the supposed unbiased interpretation that intentionally ignores Romans 5? Since it is the unbeliever who is known for deliberately repressing the centrality of Christ in reading the Bible (2 Corinthians 3:14-16; 4:3-4), let’s keep better company and enjoy the Bible the way it was intended to be understood and has been by countless millions.
The Bible is not a simple book. But we can read it with confidence, understanding, and joy knowing that we are reading the way it was meant to be read. My invitation to you is twofold. First, give glory to God for the wonderful revelation of His Son for He is central to everything (Ephesians 1:10). Second, prayerfully seek to disciple others in rightly interpreting both the Bible and human history through the biblical lens of representation. This will make you a great blessing to others.
Patrick Abendroth, is originally from Omaha and is a graduate of the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. It was during his time at UNL that Pat was converted and became a Christian. After earning his Masters degree from The Master's Seminary in Southern California and serving in two college pastorates, Pat came to Omaha Bible Church as Senior Pastor in 1998. Pat and his wife Molly met at UNL and were married in 1991. They have five children.
Seeing Christ exalted and lives transformed through expository preaching is the driving pastoral passion for Pat. Beyond proclaiming Christ at Omaha Bible Church, it is a pleasure for Pat to be involved in training pastors in the U.S. and abroad.
If you see Pat away from a pulpit, he will likely be either doing a flip on a wakeboard or peddling like mad training for a road race. It would be an understatement to say he enjoys both sports.
In 2016 Pat earned his doctorate from the Ligonier Academy of Biblical and Theological Studies. His doctoral project is a promotion and defense of classic federal theology. The project can be found here.