12Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned — 13sin was indeed in the world before the law, but sin is not reckoned when there is no law. 14Yet death exercised dominion from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who is a type of the one who was to come.
15But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died through the one man’s trespass, much more surely have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for the many.16And the free gift is not like the effect of the one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification. 17If, because of the one man’s trespass, death exercised dominion through that one, much more surely will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.
18 Therefore just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all. 19For just as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. 20But law came in, with the result that the trespass multiplied; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21so that, just as sin exercised dominion in death, so grace might also exercise dominion through justification leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Here, as in I Corinthians 15, Christ is contrasted with Adam. Jesus is called Second/Ultimate/Last Adam. In 1 Corinthians 15:22, Paul states that "as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive," while in verse 45 he calls Jesus the "last/ultimate/final Adam".
The big point is clear: the First Adam brought about sin and death, the Second Adam brought about righteousness and life.
A whole theology can be built around this Adamic model for Christ and His restoration of fallen creation.
For our meditation this morning, however, I simply draw your attention to verse 17.
The contrast between Adam and Christ is noted -- that death "exercised dominion" because of Adam's fall and that now there is the "... exercise dominion in life..."
I've used the ellipsis [...] on purpose because the structure of verse 17 isn't quite symmetric or parallel. To see this asymmetry, let's use symbols: "Because of Adam's trespass, Death Exercised DOMinion through Adam... [in contrast] Those who received grace and righteousness Exercise DOMinion in Life through Christ."
(The original Greek follows the exact pattern as the English.)
A strict symmetry or parallel would have been as follows:
Death Exercised DOMinion // Life Exercised DOMinion
But we do not get this. Instead, it is not "life" that exercises dominion, but people, namely those "who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness" (verse 17). A more strict translation would render this section, "death reigned ... those who receive ... reign in life through the one, Jesus Christ."
What's the upshot to all this? Before any of us became believers, children of God, there was a power that predominated that no one could escape -- the power of death. Biblically speaking "death" isn't simply that moment when life gives way. "Death" is the prevailing force of the fallen world: destruction, bondage, despair, loss, and, yes, dying. No one could escape this. No one, that is, until the death and resurrection of Jesus and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Jesus' death and resurrection (and glorification) and the release of the Spirit of God changed everything!!
Because of this New Reality through Christ, we get to "reign" in this life. We get to exercise "dominion" through the name of Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit. We get to expose the deeds of darkness, we get to cast out demons of destruction, we get to call to life things that are not, we get to command healing, we get to reverse the curse that came through Adam, we get to set a live-giving agenda according to the pattern set in Kingdom of God. We are no longer victims, but victors. We are no longer bystanders, but agents, of true transformation. Without sounding too dramatic, we are revolutionaries in the power of God, overturning the powers of darkness and evil. All this is possible and all this is who we are simply because we have "received the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness" through the One, Jesus Christ.
Let's pray: Father God, help us to believe deeply and truly what's said above, that we are called to reign in this life through the authority and power of Jesus Christ. Help us to exercise our dominion in a way that brings hope and life. Help us to exercise our authority and power in Jesus with faith, humility, and boldness! In Jesus' Name, Amen.