Does Romans 5:12-19 Demand a Covenant Relationship between God and Adam?

Many advocates of New Covenant Theology emphasize that the type – antitype relationship between Adam and Christ in Romans 5:12-21 (and 1 Corinthians 15) necessitates the existence of pre-fall / post-fall covenantal relationship between God and Adam. This theological argument is succinctly outlined in the following two syllogisms:


– Syllogism 1 –

Premise 1A: Christ is the covenant head of the New Covenant.

Premise 1B: The perfect righteousness of Christ is immediately imputed to all members of the New Covenant (cf. Romans 5:12-21).

Conclusion 1: The imputation of Christ’s perfect righteousness to the elect depends upon Christ Jesus’ role as the covenant head of the New Covenant.


– Syllogism 2 –

Premise 2A: The imputation of Christ’s perfect righteousness to the elect depends upon Christ Jesus’ role as the covenant head of the New Covenant.

Premise 2B: Romans 5:14 teaches that Adam is a type of Christ.

Conclusion 2: In a typological manner, the imputation of Adam’s first sin to all humanity (cf. Romans 5:12-21) depends upon Adam being the covenant head of a pre-fall covenant.


In other words, just as Christ is the Head of those represented under the New Covenant (i.e. God’s elect), Adam, so it is argued, was the head of those represented under a pre-fall covenant (i.e. all humanity, except Christ). Resultantly, the existence of pre-fall / post-fall covenantal relationship between God and Adam is considered to be a good and necessary consequence of the type – antitype relationship between Adam and Christ in Romans 5:12-21 (and 1 Corinthians 15).

 

Other adherents of New Covenant Theology insist that a pre-fall / post-fall covenantal relationship represents a theological concession to Covenant Theology. They consider such a relationship, no matter how defined, to be theologically deduced and unnecessary. Accordingly, these New Covenant theologians do not believe that the Adam-Christ typology of Romans 5:12-21 supports a pre-fall / post-fall covenantal relationship between God and Adam. On what grounds do they reject the preceding theological argument? First, although Romans 5:12-21 does teach by implication that the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to the elect is based on a covenantal relationship (i.e. the New Covenant), it does not teach that the imputation of Adam’s first sin is based on a covenantal relationship. When the word covenant appears nowhere in this text, they argue, how can it? According to these New Covenant theologians, to argue that Romans 5:12-21 teaches a covenantal relationship between God and Adam constitutes going “beyond what is written” (1 Cor. 4:6). Second, these individuals contend that in biblical typology[1] there is not necessarily a one-for-one comparison between the type (i.e. Adam) and the antitype (i.e. Christ). They also maintain that the preceding theological argument reads into the type aspects of the antitype. In other words, the fact that God’s elect are spiritually united to Christ via the New Covenant neither necessarily nor logically implies that the entire human race is spiritually united to Adam via a covenant. The principal point of the Adam-Christ typology is to highlight Christ’s greatness in terms of His total obedience and its super-abounding effects (i.e. the imputation of Christ’s perfect righteousness to the elect). It is not to typologically support the existence of a pre-fall / post-fall covenantal relationship between God and Adam.

 

Source Text:

4. The type anti-type teaching of Adam and Christ in Romans 5:12-19 demands that a covenant relationship existed between God and Adam both before and after the Fall.” (Long, New Covenant Theology, NCT Characteristics).

Footnotes:

[1] In biblical terms, a type is person, event, or institution which prefigures (or foreshadows) a far greater person, event, or institution (i.e. antitype).

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