Both Adam and (new Adam) Jesus Christ are human beings. Probably Paul thought of both of them as historical figures. Both of them are set forth by Paul as representative figures, but they perform their representative roles in different ways.
Adam, as Kierkegaard saw, is ‘every human being’ or the ‘average human’, in the sense that every human being repeats Adam’s experience of temptation and falls into sin. We could say that Adam is a mythical figure construct representing a universal human experience.
Adam is a hypothetical figure postulated to account for the universality of sin, the human race. Jesus Christ on the other hand is a historical figure. He is not every human being’, not the average human who is also the fallen human; but rather the exceptional one who is also the true man, the fulfillment of the humanity which God indented in his work of creation.
Jesus represents humanity by having fulfilled the form of the human, a form in which the form or image of God in which human beings have been created shines clearly forth and humanity is transfigured.
Paul’s Teaching new Adam
Paul says, “The first person Adam became a living being, the last Adam became a life-giving spirit”. The first person was from the earth, a person of dust, and the second one is from heaven. The contrast here is between Adam, the person who sank into sin and death, and Jesus the one from heaven, who has risen above death.
The teaching here is that Adam remains on the level of the earthly. The second or last Adam is transfigured into the true humanity which reflects the glory of God. Paul puts Adam at the beginning and acknowledges him as a living being’ though a person of dust. Only after the physical do we come to the spiritual, to the ‘last Adam’, the transfigured one whom Paul describes as a ‘life-giving spirit.’
Here Paul’s basic Christology contrasts the first Adam (the one who failed) with the last Adam, the man Christ Jesus who fulfilled God’s intention for humanity.
Paul’s Christology is not revolutionary but restates the Christology already current among the earliest Christians. He also shared a primitive Christology. He teaches Christology from below’, this has considerable significance.
In a secular age like ours when teaching that begins from God or heaven or logos falls on deaf ears, Paul’s Christology and in particular his use of the imagery of the two Adams acquires new relevance. (John Macquarrie, Jesus Christ in Modern Thought, pp. 59 – 65).
The new Adam of new creation
Adam is a key figure in Paul’s attempt to express his understanding both of Christ and of man (and women). Paul neither understands the human being as he/she nor is heavenly influenced by the narratives about Adam in Gen 1-3 and especially the account of Adam’s fall in Gen.3.
The human being fallen, Adam. Salvation is the reversal of Adam’s fall; it is the fashioning or reshaping of the believer into the image of God. As Adam stands for fallen human beings, so Christ stands for the human being risen from the dead.
Adam denotes life that leads to death, Christ denotes life from the dead (I Cor. 15:21f) so more clearly later on in the same chapter, I Cor 15:45 Christ the last Adam, is the risen Christ.
Paul here makes a careful contrast between Adam and Christ. He takes the text from Gen2:7 ‘the man became a living soul’ and adds two words to highlight the anti thesis – ‘the first man Adam became a living being’ (I Cor 15:45). That is to say, Adam represents all human beings, every human with the breath of life in him or her. Where as ‘the last Adam became life-giving spirit – that is at his resurrection and exaltation when he came the ‘source’ of the Holy Spirit to all who believe.
The contrast is between old creation and new, between two levels of life – the life of this earth and this world, the human being the living soul, and the life of the world to come, the life beyond death. The contrast between the two men who represent there two creations –“the man of dust” who returns to the dust from which he was made, whose image all men and women fear, and the “man of heaven”, that is, not Christ thought of as pre-existent, but the man Christ into where image believers will be transformed when he returns from heaven 15:47-49.
Another significant passage is Romans 5:12-19 with its reported and forceful contrast between Adam and Christ. Adam and Christ are although (V 14) in that in both case the action of one man had fateful consequences for those who followed. Both also died, but here the similarity ends. For where Adam’s death was the consequence of his trespass, his disobedience, Christ’s death was his act of righteousness, his act of obedience.
The implication is that Christ willingly accepted the consequences of Adam’s sin, that Christ’s death was a freely chosen embracing of Adam’s death. By, freely following act the consequences of Adam’s disobedience (i.e. death) Jesus burst through [the ul-de-sac of] death into life.
Adam’s disobedience ……………death
Christ’s obedience to death…………..life
Idea is Jesus sharing the fallen-ness of sinful man, of Adam so that his death might become a means to creating a new man, new humanity. In other words, before he became the last Adam Jesus shared wholly the loss of the first Adam.