The representative relationship that God appointed between Adam and his ordinary offspring also testifies to the sovereignty and justice of God. Both Adam and we are the creatures of God’s hands. God has the right to order our lives in whatever way He wants, and we have no right to call Him to account (see Rom. 9:19–20). In acting as He does, He does no injustice to us. On the contrary, He acts according to His own just character.
We should remember at least two additional and related considerations as we think about the relationship that God instituted between Adam and human beings. First, God did not institute such a relationship among the angels. Each angel stands individually before God. Some angels have remained obedient to God, while other angels fell into sin. God has provided no mediator for these fallen angels, and He offers them no saving mercy. Having “left their proper dwelling,” they are “kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day” (Jude 6).
Second, it is through the very same kind of representative relationship in which we, in Adam, fell into sin that God has redeemed fallen, undeserving sinners. When the sinner is united to Jesus Christ through faith alone, he passes from condemnation to justification, and he freely receives the righteousness of Jesus Christ. This sinner does not receive this gift of righteousness because of anything that he himself has done, is doing, or ever will do. God, rather, graciously imputes that righteousness to the sinner, who receives it by faith. And even that faith is the very gift of God (Eph. 2:8; Phil. 1:29).
For this reason, we as Christians look at the salvation that we have received in Christ and say, “Not fair!” We say this not with the clenched fist of anger and defiance but with the open hand of praise and thanksgiving. The good news of the gospel is that God has not given us what we deserve. What we deserve is everlasting damnation. But God laid our sins on Jesus Christ at the cross, and He counted the righteousness of His Son to us when we believed (2 Cor. 5:21). God has not given us our due. He has given us Christ’s due. He has given us blessing for curse, justification for condemnation, life for death, and hope for despair. And in doing so, He has shown Himself to be both just and the justifier of the one who has faith in His Son (see Rom. 3:26).
On the day of judgment, impenitent sinners will be able to pin blame on no one other than themselves (2:1–11). They will be justly sentenced and condemned, and their “mouth[s] [will] be stopped” (Rom. 3:19). On that same day, we as the redeemed will not boast in ourselves. We will ascribe all praise and glory to our Savior, the second Adam, the Lord Jesus Christ.
That day has not yet arrived. Until then, Christians can begin the work of praising Christ in mind and body, in word and work. And we can point others to the God who, rich in mercy and abundant in love, makes dead sinners alive together with Christ (Eph. 2:4–5).