Posted by: Jonathan Stepp | May 22, 2008

Christ and Adam

Is Adam saved? Irenaeus of Lyons believed that he is. Writing in the late second century, in his work Against All Heresies, Irenaeus said:

But inasmuch as man [i.e. humanity] is saved, it is fitting that he who was created the original man should be saved. For it is too absurd to maintain that he who was so deeply injured by the enemy and was the first to suffer captivity [i.e. Adam] was not rescued by Him who conquered the enemy [i.e. Christ], but that his children were, -those whom he had begotten in the same captivity. Neither would the enemy appear to be as yet conquered if the old spoils remained with him. ~ Against All Heresies, Book 3, chapter 23, paragraph 2.

Do you see what Irenaeus is saying? Since humanity is saved then Adam (and Eve) must be too. The Father wouldn’t send the Son to conquer Satan and rescue all of Adam’s descendants and leave Adam himself in captivity to sin and death.

That’s kind of radical, isn’t it? Most of us have never heard a theologian talk about all of humanity being saved in Christ, much less been aware that this was the teaching of the ancient Church.

Irenaeus bases his theology on Romans 5, where Paul says that in the same way that Adam took all humanity down into sin so also Christ has taken all humanity up into righteousness and life (Rom. 5:18).

Before you say “hogwash!” you might consider this: if Adam was strong enough to take us all down shouldn’t Christ be at least strong enough to take us all up? Or, do we have a theology that makes Adam stronger and more real than the incarnate Son of God?

Irenaeus calls it the “recapitulation of humanity”. The river of human existence now has a new headwater: we no longer have our source in fallen Adam but in the incarnate Son, Jesus Christ, in whom we have been adopted into the life of the Trinity as children of the Father.

So, is Irenaeus a universalist? Not really – because he realizes that not everyone believes they are saved. We, along with Adam and Eve, have all been saved in Christ but if we don’t believe we are saved we suffer the misery and hell of living a lie.

Heaven is when we stop living a lie and believe the truth: we sons of Adam and daughters of Eve have been made children of the Father by his Son, and nothing we say or do will ever change that truth.



  1. I just did a search on for “saved” and here is what I found. None of these passages talk about all of humanity being saved and a couple at the end imply the opposite. How do you reconcile what you are saying with these verses, particularly Romans 10:9 that uses the word “if” … then “you will be saved”?

    # Romans 8:24
    For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has?
    Romans 8:23-25 (in Context) Romans 8 (Whole Chapter)
    # Romans 9:27
    Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the Israelites be like the sand by the sea, only the remnant will be saved.
    Romans 9:26-28 (in Context) Romans 9 (Whole Chapter)
    # Romans 10:1
    Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved.
    Romans 10:1-3 (in Context) Romans 10 (Whole Chapter)
    # Romans 10:9
    That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
    Romans 10:8-10 (in Context) Romans 10 (Whole Chapter)
    # Romans 10:10
    For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.
    Romans 10:9-11 (in Context) Romans 10 (Whole Chapter)
    # Romans 10:13
    for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
    Romans 10:12-14 (in Context) Romans 10 (Whole Chapter)

  2. Since Jesus is the Word of God we have to see him as the context for all scripture. We interpret the bible based on who Jesus is.

    He is the one in whom all humanity exists (Acts 17:28, Col. 1:17) and in whom all humanity is reconciled to the Father (Col. 1:20). He is the one who makes one new humanity out of all people, both Jew and Gentile (Eph. 2:15). And he is the new Adam, in whom Adam’s fall is reversed and all people are “justified and given life” (Rom 5:18).

    The Romans 5:18 text is especially significant since all the verses you quote are from Romans. Paul says:

    “Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men.” Romans 5:18 (NIV)

    Romans chapter 5 is the basis within the book of Romans for understanding who Jesus is and it makes it clear that we were reconciled to God and given righteousness by Jesus before we ever believed.

    There’s no way that Paul would say that we have been given our salvation in Christ in chapter 5 and then turn around in chapters 8-10 and say that we earn our salvation by our belief.

    In the context of who Jesus is – as the new Adam – the verses in Romans and elsewhere that talk about the role of belief are emphasizing to us that we need to believe the truth about ourselves in order to enjoy it.

    I am saved in Christ and when I believe that truth then I can be what I really I am. It’s like when you’re playing basketball and you tell a fellow player “get in the game, man!” Obviously he’s already in the game but his thoughts are elsewhere and he needs to focus on what’s really going on around him. Humanity is really in Christ, but our thoughts are elsewhere, and we need to focus on who we really are and believe the good news about our adoption as children of the Father in his incarnate Son.

    In short, we have to allow Romans 5 to be the context of Romans 8-10, not the other way around. If we don’t then we end up with a theology that says our belief has the power to change us from unsaved to saved. In that theology it’s not Christ that saves us, it is our own belief.

    So, those are my thoughts on the scriptures you point out. What is your interpretation of Romans 5:18?

  3. […] to kill and bury our death, but then He raised His Man body (and ours) forever, never to die again! If He lives forever, we all live forever because his eternal existence is now bound up in ours!!! Period! YOU will never really die, even though your corrupt human body […]

  4. Somehow i missed the point. Probably lost in translation 🙂 Anyway … nice blog to visit.

    cheers, Kabbalist!

  5. How would you reconcile this text from Jude with your theology? – – –

    5Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lord[c] delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe. 6And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day. 7In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.

    8In the very same way, these dreamers pollute their own bodies, reject authority and slander celestial beings. 9But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” 10Yet these men speak abusively against whatever they do not understand; and what things they do understand by instinct, like unreasoning animals—these are the very things that destroy them.

    11Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error; they have been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion.

    12These men are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm—shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted—twice dead. 13They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever.

    14Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men: “See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones 15to judge everyone, and to convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done in the ungodly way, and of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” 16These men are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage.
    A call to persevere
    17But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. 18They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” 19These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.

    20But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. 21Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.

    22Be merciful to those who doubt; 23snatch others from the fire and save them

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