Men, Be Like the Last Adam, Not the First
Where did Adam go wrong?
This is an important question for all of us. However, it is particularly an important question for men. While God created us male and female in His image and likeness and even delegated the creation mandate (to subdue and rule creation) to us as male and female, God did not hold the man and woman equally responsible for the fall. The NT squarely lays the blame for the fall at the feet of the first man and not the woman (Rom 5:12; 1 Cor 15:21-22). Adam is the father of all sinners, and he is the prototypical sinner. By application then, shouldn’t men wonder if there is a cautionary lesson that all men can learn from Adam’s sin? When men are tempted like the first Adam, how can we respond instead like the last one, Christ (Matt 4:1-11)?
If this is the case, then it requires knowing what Adam did wrong and what Jesus did right. What did God expect of Adam, the man, and how did he fail? Likewise, what does God expect of Christian men today, and how can we succeed?
Thankfully, the Bible offers straightforward answers to such questions as we step through the story.
Represent and Rule
God made us to represent him and to rule his creation. The word “rule” in Genesis 1:26 and 1:28 refers to humanity having dominion—it casts man and woman as king and queen over the earth, not mere farmers tasked with keeping creation orderly. Genesis 2 provides the details clarifying how God designed complementarian roles whereby man and woman were to fulfill the creation mandate given in Genesis 1:26-28. In Genesis chapter 2, the reader learns that before God made the woman, God made the man, and he began to serve God as his vice-regent over creation by naming the animals. The apostle Paul makes much of the fact that the man was created first. Paul deduces from the creation order that the man held the primary role in ruling creation (1 Tim 2:12-13; Cor 11:8-9). God created the man and woman equal, as image-bearers, but different, to fulfill different roles within his plan. God created the woman with royal dignity as the man’s indispensable helper to rule and subdue creation with him (Gen. 2:20–22), but he was her king, and she was his queen.
Just as Genesis 2 clarifies man’s primary role in ruling, it also explains whom God made to be primarily responsible for subduing creation (Gen 1:28; 2:15). Throughout the Pentateuch and historical books of the Old Testament, “subduing” conveys bringing something under subjection or control, if necessary by force. Without exception, men who were the primary rulers, fulfilled this task. Joshua and David led armies that subdued the enemies of the promised land so that they could rule over it (Josh. 18:1; 2 Sam. 8:1, 11).
Similarly in the creation mandate to be fruitful and multiply, the woman had a more primary role. As a female, the woman was made to carry a child in her womb for nine months and give birth. Again, God created us equally with royal dignity, and he entrusted to both the man and the woman the creation mandate, but he designed us for and delegated to us differing roles to fulfill that mandate. God made the man with a unique role to guard/protect and God made the woman with a unique role to procreate.
Notwithstanding, before God created the first woman, he commanded the man to work and guard the garden (Gen. 2:15; cp., 3:24). The command to keep/guard in a linguistic sense relays to the man the primary responsibility from Genesis 1:28 to subdue, that is, to bring anything necessary into subjugation in order to keep the garden “very good.” In giving this command to the man before he gave the woman to the man suggests that God gave to the man a more primary responsibility to be the one to guard what was entrusted to both the man and the woman.
The fact that Genesis 2:16-17 warns Adam that death could enter creation reveals that creation wasn’t in a permanent state of confirmed holiness and goodness. This adds warrant to understanding the concept of to guard as potentially foreshadowing Satan’s attack in chapter 3. In further support of this reading of Genesis 2:15 is the realization that Satan was watching the affairs of chapter 2. He, then, twists the words that he heard and recites them to the woman in chapter 3:1-5 with a sinister motive. He wanted to entice Eve to get Adam to eat. In chapter 2, God states to the man (if you eat) “to die you will die” and the serpent quotes to the woman the exact same words but negates them, stating to her “No, to die you will not die.” In calling God a liar, the serpent tempts the woman to believe his lie, knowing that she didn’t have first-hand knowledge of what God had said. God, therefore, delegated to the man in Genesis 2:15 the primary responsibility of guarding against this!
God also shared with both the man and woman, in limited ways, some of his attributes. He made humans rational, volitional, emotional, moral, communicative and relational beings. In doing so, God afforded us the greatest blessing in creation—an intimate relationship with himself.
In ancient covenant relationships, love was not a feeling; it entailed commitment and obedience. In this vein, God commanded the man to walk in faithful love and dependence on him (Gen. 2:16–17; 3:8). Because Adam was a human and not a god, he had to trust God in order to fulfill the role of being the primary ruler and the one who was primarily responsible to guard/subdue in the garden.
But then everything went wrong.
- The man failed to represent God, which in essence was to deny his raison d’être, his reason for being. Instead of doing what God created him to do, he did what he wanted to do.
- The man failed to fulfill his role as the primary ruler. The order of creation was God, man, woman, and then animal. Instead of leading, Adam abdicated his role and followed the woman and the serpent, who is revealed later in Scripture to have been used by Satan (Rev. 12:9).
- The man failed in his God-given responsibility to guard God’s sacred place (Gen. 3:6b). Even though both the man and the woman ate the forbidden fruit, it was only after the man ate that their eyes were opened. God had directly commanded him not to do this. When God sought to hold accountable all the participants in the fall, God didn’t call out to the man and the woman. He called the man alone (Gen. 3:8–12). And even then the man did not repent or accept responsibility for his failure. Instead, he shifted the blame to the woman and even to God. As a result of his failure, the serpent subdued the man and gained illegitimate rulership over the earth (John 12:31; 16:11). Tragically, the man’s failure brought the intruders, sin and death, into creation (Rom 5:12).
- The key to the man’s fall was that he failed in his relationship with God. God indicted Adam for listening to Eve’s voice over his own (Gen. 3:17). The Hebrew word for listen is the word shama. It is variously translated to hear, to listen, to keep, to obey. Throughout the OT it often reflects God’s people staying in a faithful covenant relationship with him or straying from him (Deut 6:3-4; 10:12-13; 30:20; Judges 2:16-17; Jer 44:4-6). The man rejected the one absolute thing that he needed—God. In Samuel’s pointed words to Saul, he explained that not listening to God is worse than divination (1 Sam 15:22-23). It is rebellion and idolatrous mutiny. The serpent’s aim was to get the man to eat, and his scheme was to use the woman to accomplish that. It succeeded. The man rejected God and chose the woman in place of God and plunged the entire human race into sin and death.
So, what did the second Adam do? He did everything the first man failed to do when he was tempted (Matt 4:1-11). He listened to God. His relationship with the Father was perfect (John 5:19), and he perfectly represented him (John 14:9). He subdued and will subdue the serpent (Matt 12:29; Acts 10:38; 1 John 3:8; Rev 20:1-3, 10). Through his death and resurrection, he will restore all that the first Adam lost (Eph 1:9-10). He will reign, and all those who trust him will reign with him (2:12), and that’s good news (Mark 1:14-15). Christ laid down his life to guard his sheep, and He gave himself to protect his bride.
Men have a God-given unique responsibility to guard and protect their families (Gen 14:14-16), the church (Acts 20:17, 28) and their nations (Neh 4:14). Men, to various degrees, have struggled and failed. So what does God want Christian men to do today? To listen to him, which, in a covenant sense, is to love God with everything and above everything in our lives (Matt. 22:37–38); to rely on his Spirit and his strength (Eph. 5:18; 6:10); and to trust that he can mold us into responsible leaders who represent him and who faithfully guard what he entrusts to us.
We become like the last Adam by relying on the Spirit to apply to our hearts the blessings and grace that Christ secured for us (Eph. 1–3). Only then can we, as new creations (Eph. 2:10), hear and heed his voice through his Word. So how can Christian men respond when we are attacked by Satan? Prayerfully like the last Adam and not the first. We need to rely on Christ and faithfully discharge our leadership in our homes (Eph 5:25), in the church (1 Cor 16:13), and in the world (Eph 6:10-12).