Jon Paulien writes from Berrien Springs, Michigan where he is professor of New Testament Interpretation in the Theological Seminary at Andrews University.

In the beginning, God created . . ." (Gen. 1:1). "In the beginning was the Word . . ." (John 1:1). With these phrases we are introduced to the idea that the same Jesus who "became flesh and made his dwelling among us" (John 1:14) was the One through whom "all things were made" (John 1:3). John wants us to understand that when we read the creation story of Genesis, we must see Jesus if we are to fully grasp its message. The God who "created the heavens and the earth" (Gen. 1:1) was Jesus. The God who said, "Let there be light" (Gen. 1:3) was Jesus. The God who "formed man from the dust of the ground" (Gen. 2:7) was Jesus. The God who walked "in the garden in the cool of the day" (Gen. 3:8) was Jesus. "Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made" (John 1:3).

Being Creator implies, of course, that Jesus is fully God in every way. "And the Word was God" (John 1:1). John 1:1 is probably the clearest assertion of the deity of Jesus Christ in the New Testament. It tells us that when Creation took place, Jesus was already there. Although He was distinct from the Father from the beginning ("the Word was with God"), His relationship with the Father was an intimacy of equals, not that of a superior with an inferior. The Word shared fully in God's nature, "what God was, the Word was" (1:1-My translation).

But the New Testament view of Christ in the Creation goes much deeper than an assertion that Jesus is the One who made all things. For the New Testament, the story of creation becomes a marvelous parable also of Jesus' saving work and of the importance of His human nature. To fully understand the New Testament approach to creation, let's take a quick look first at the creation story of Genesis 1 and 2 itself.

The story of creation is really told twice in Genesis. In the first chapter (and spilling over to the third verse of chapter two), we find the big picture of creation as a whole. Day by day God's creation develops in complexity until it reaches its high point; the creation of Adam and Eve, the first parents of the human race. In the second telling of the story (Gen. 2:4-25) the writer elaborates on the creation of humanity. Whereas in the first story Adam and Eve were the high-point of creation, in the second story they are the center and focus of God's creative activity.

The passage in the first two chapters of Genesis that interests us the most in this article is Genesis 1:26-28 (NIV):

26 Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.

27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 

28 God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.

In this text it becomes clear that Adam and Eve were created as beings in relationship. Their lives were marked by three basic relationships; a relationship with God, a relationship with each other, and a relationship with the world around them. The thrice-repeated assertion that human beings are created in the image of God (26, 27) makes two points. First, Adam and Eve were intentionally created in likeness to God, which implies that a relationship with Him would be the natural thing. Second, the image concept also implies that God was prior to and superior to them. He was the Creator. They were creatures. Adam and Eve were in a subordinate relationship with God. It was a relationship of Greater with lesser.

At the same time they were in relationship with each other. "Male and female he created them" (27). It was not a subordinate relationship, however, like the one they had with God. "Eve was created from a rib taken from the side of Adam, signifying that she was not to control him as the head, nor to be trampled under his feet as an inferior, but to stand by his side as an equal. . ." (PP 46). The relationship between Adam and Eve was designed to be a relationship of equals, each loving and serving the other.

The third relationship was outlined in verses 26 and 28. Adam and Eve were to "subdue the earth" and "rule" it. This dominion is described in relation to the animal kingdom. They were to rule over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground; in other words, they were in dominion over all the earth. This dominion is clearly seen in the story of the naming of the animals in Genesis 2:19, 20.

The three relationships in which Adam and Eve were created can be illustrated by the following diagram in which X stands for Adam or Eve, G stands for God, O stands for the other of the pair and all future human beings that Adam or Eve would relate to, and E stands for Earth or Environment.

The upward arrow illustrates the superiorinferior relationship between Adam and God. The horizontal arrow illustrates the relationship of equality Adam and Eve had with each other. The downward arrow symbolizes the dominance or stewardship over the rest of creation that God gave to Adam and Eve.

When sin entered the garden, it began as a breach between Eve and God, but the consequences of sin quickly spread to all three relationships. First, Adam and Eve recognized the brokenness in their relationship with God by hiding from Him when He approached (Gen. 3:8-10). God acknowledged their need for space in the relationship by banishing them from the garden (3:23, 24). Immediately, they began to bicker and blame others for their faults (3:11-13). Man began to dominate woman (3:16). And the creation began to resist their dominion. The flowers wilted (PP 62), the ground produced thorns (3:18), and the animals ceased to respond as they had before. When Adam and Eve rebelled against the rule of their Creator, the environment rebelled against their rule as well. And the ultimate consequence of sin was the end of all relationships, death (Gen. 2:17).

What does this sad story of broken relationships have to do with Jesus Christ? In what way is the story of creation and the experience of Adam and Eve in the Garden a parable of Jesus' saving work and the human nature of the God-man? John 1:1 is the beginning of the answer. The nature and the work of Jesus is modeled on the original creation. Where John says "In the beginning was the Word . . . through him all things were made" (John 1:1, 3), Genesis says, "In the beginning, God said. . . (Gen 1:1,3,6,9, etc.) and it was so" (Gen 1:7, 9, 11, etc.).

In light of this it is most interesting to read Luke 1:35 (NIV).

The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God."

The concept of the Spirit of the Most High "overshadowing" Mary reminds the reader of Genesis 1:2 where the "Spirit of God was hovering over the waters." The result of the Spirit's work in Genesis 1 was the creation of the world. The result of the Spirit's work in Luke 1 was a new creation, the humanity of Jesus. Jesus is the fulfillment of the new creation promised in Old Testament prophets like Isaiah (Isa. 65:17).

It is not surprising, therefore, that New Testament writers freely compare Jesus with Adam (Rom. 5:12-19). The Adam of Genesis is the "first man" or the "first Adam" (1 Cor. 15:45), Jesus is the "second man," "the last Adam" (1 Cor. 15:45-47). Adam is "the earthly man", Jesus is "the Man from heaven" (1 Cor. 15:48-49). Like Adamjesus is "the image of the invisible God" (Col. 1:15).

In what sense is Jesus the new Adam? In what sense is he like Adam and yet greater than Adam? The crucial element is that Jesus is like Adam in His relationships. Jesus too had a perfect relationship with God, with others and with the environment around Him. Jesus came to earth to become Adam as Adam was intended to be when he came forth from the hands of the Creator. When this principle is understood, a number of simple concepts in the gospels become filled with fresh meaning.

In John 14:28 Jesus makes the statement, "The Father is greater than I." This text is freely used by Jehovah's Witnesses to show that Jesus is inferior in nature to the Father. But they have failed to understand the "second Adam" significance of this text. As the new Adamjesus was in perfect subordination to His Father. As the second Adamjesus obeyed the commands of His Father (John 15:10). As the second Adamjesus did not operate on His own, but was taught by His Father (John 8:28). He always did that which was pleasing to His Father (John 8:29). He was in a relationship of perfect subordination to His Father. He was Adam as Adam was intended to be.

Jesus also had a perfect relationship with His fellow human beings as He walked on this earth. This relationship with others was beautifully illustrated by the foot washing service in John 13. Jesus "did not come to be served, but to serve" (Mark 10:45). "He went around doing good" (Acts 10:38). "He made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant... he humbled himself" (Phil. 2:5- 8). If every person on earth had the spirit and attitude of Jesus there would be sweet harmony in the loving service each would provide for the others. True equality is found in mutual submission and service. Jesus demonstrated in His relationships with others that He was Adam as Adam was intended to be.

It is in His relationship with the environment that the parallels between Jesus and Adam become especially interesting. The first Adam was created to rule over the earth (Gen. 1:26, 28; Heb. 2:6-8). The second Adam inherited that role from the first by the new creation (Heb. 2:8, 9). He was Adam as Adam was intended to be. Thus many of the stories in the gospels make sense as illustrations of Jesus' dominion over the earth.

The disciples were out fishing on the Sea of Galilee one night, but they caught nothing (John 21:1-3). Why were they fishing at night? To understand that you need to know that there are two types of fishing, lure fishing and net fishing. Lure fishing takes place in daylight. You want the fish to see the lure, be attracted and bite into the line. But net fishing works best at night. The fish "stumbles" into the net without even realizing that anything is there. If you have had no luck during the night, the net fisherman has one last chance in the early hours of the morning. He can throw the net on the shady side of the boat. A fish enjoying the early morning sunshine wanders into the shadow of the boat, is blinded momentarily, and ZZZAAAPPP!!! The fish is caught.

But in the story there was this guy standing on the beach (John 21:4, 5). He knew a lot about preaching, but He seemed to know very little about fishing. He called out, "Throw your net on the right side of the boat" (John 21:6). Since the disciples weren't stupid, He was clearly inviting them to throw the net on the sunny side of the boat! Not a great strategy under ordinary circumstances. But this was no ordinary preacher. This was Adam as Adam was intended to be. He had dominion over the fish of the sea (Gen. 1:26,28)! In His mind He connected with several schools of fish totaling 153 and said, "Hey, you and you and you, all of you, into that net right now!" And they obeyed, because he was the second Adam, He was Adam as Adam was intended to be.

On another occasion, Jesus directed Peter to catch a particular fish that had scooped up just the right amount of change to meet an urgent tax bill! Jesus was in dominion over the fish of the sea. He also ruled over all the earth (Gen. 1:26). Even the winds and the waves obeyed Him (Matt. 8:26, 27). The disciples were right to ask, "What kind of man is this?" He was Adam as Adam was intended to be.

Sometime after this Jesus took a ride on an unbroken colt (Mark 11:1-8). If you or I were to try this, the ride would be a short and merry one! But Jesus had dominion "over every living creature that moves along the ground" (Gen. 1:28). He could freely declare, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me" (Matt. 28:18). He was Adam as Adam was intended to be. He lived perfectly in all three of Adam's relationships, He lived in obedience to God, in loving service to others, and in dominion over the earth and its animals.

Like the first Adam, the second Adam had a wayward bride. "I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent's cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ" (1 Cor. 11:2, 3). The church is here likened to Eve, carrying the "second Adam" typology a step further. The first Adam was put to sleep, and an opening was made in his side. From that opening came the substance from which God made the woman. Similarly, the second Adam was put to sleep (on the cross) and an opening was made in His side. From that opening came the substance (water and blood-cf. 1 John 5:6) from which God created the church.

Jesus Christ is all that Adam was meant to be. He was tempted on the point of appetite (in the wilderness, cf. Matt. 4:1-3). In his temptations He was passing over the same ground where Adam had failed, but where the first Adam failed, the second Adam conquered. In overcoming Satan's temptations Jesus passed over the ground of Adam's failure and redeemed it.

On the other hand, Jesus also accepted the consequences of Adam's failure. Because of sin, the first Adam came under the curse. He was cursed with nakedness (Gen. 3:10, 11), thorns (3:18), sweat (3:19), and death (2:17; 5:5). Likewise, on the cross the second Adam came under the curse of the first Adam. He too was naked (one purpose of crucifixion was humiliation in front of your family and friends, the PG* version of the cross found in most artwork is not historically accurate-Heb. 12:2), and suffered from thorns, the sweat of anguish and ultimately death.

So we see a great reversal in the experience of Christ. He lived a perfect life in our human flesh, though he had to battle the full force of human temptation. He was Adam as Adam was intended to be. On the basis of His perfect life, we inherit eternal life and justification. What had been the original Adam's by right of creation has been purchased back at infinite cost. At the same time, although He did not deserve it, He carried in His body on the tree (1 Pet. 2:24) all the consequences of human sin. He reaped the full force of the curse. As a result, the death and condemnation that we inherited from the first Adam is no longer held to our account.

"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. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous" (Rom. 5:19). "Christ was treated as we deserve, that we might be treated as He deserves. He was condemned for our sins, in which He had no share, that we might be justified by His righteousness, in which we had no share. He suffered the death which was ours, that we might receive the life which was His. 'With His stripes we are healed.'" (Desire of Ages, p. 25).

For the writers of the New Testament, to talk about Christ was to talk about creation, and to think of creation was to see Christ. And the greatest of all creations is the one Christ affects in the lives of His people (2 Cor. 5:17).

* Parental Guidance.


Jon Paulien writes from Berrien Springs, Michigan where he is professor of New Testament Interpretation in the Theological Seminary at Andrews University.