“So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men.” (Romans 5:18)
Adam and Jesus are referred to as the two men. Between them they represent all humanity, and everyone is identified in either one or the other. We are born identified with Adam, who brought upon all men the condemnation for his willful act of disobedience; we may be born again into identification with Jesus, who delivers the elect from the condemnation of many offenses by His greatest demonstration of obedience, His death on the cross.
Adam and Jesus are sometimes also called Federal Heads: Adam speaks for those he represents, and Jesus speaks for His people.
If someone objects that they never chose to have Adam represent them, you can tell them “Of course you did! You identified yourself with Adam with the first sin you ever committed.” It is absolutely true that we were born into our identification with Adam, but we also choose it with our individual acts of sin.
The outcome of this election – choosing Adam or Jesus – means everything. If we choose Adam we receive judgment and condemnation. If we choose Jesus we receive a free gift of God’s grace and justification.
When we read that the free gift came to all men, this does not mean that all men are justified by the free gift. This does not mean that all men will be saved. Without making a personal choice, without exercising personal faith in Jesus Christ, every person received the curse of Adam’s offense. Again, this does not mean that every person, apart from their personal choice, will receive the benefits of Jesus’ obedience.
First, Paul makes it clear that the free gift is not like the offense – they are not identical in their result or application. Second, Paul calls the work of Jesus a free gift, over and over, and he never uses those words to apply to the work of Adam. It is simply the nature of a gift that it must be received by faith. Last but not least, Paul clearly teaches throughout the New Testament that all are not saved.
The free gift came to all men in the sense that the gift is presented, but not necessarily received. The idea that all men are saved by the work of Jesus, whether they know it or not, is known as universalism. If the doctrine of universalism is being taught here, Paul would be contradicting himself, for as we have previously read together, he taught throughout the New Testament that all men are not saved but that they will perish because of sin.
Peace and Grace to you,