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Death in Adam, Life in Christ

By John V. Fesko
November 2017 | Review by Kevin Bidwell
  • Publisher: Christian Focus Publications
  • ISBN: 978-1-78191-908-8
  • Pages: 336
  • Price: 12.99
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Book Review

In the 500th year since the onset of the Reformation, this book is timely. Its focus is on one particular aspect of the doctrine of justification by grace through faith, namely the concept of imputed righteousness.

The title encapsulates this biblical truth, rooted in the reality of the two Adams: the first from the Garden of Eden and the last, Jesus Christ. It is also rooted in an understanding of covenant. Truly, ‘death in Adam’ is a reality, and ‘life in Christ’ is the only source of hope in this world of sin.

J. V. Fesko handles the subject in three parts. First, he gives a survey of church history and explains the nuanced ways in which the church has attempted to articulate imputed righteousness. This is helpful, though quite intensive at times. With the exception of Jonathan Edwards, who I think Fesko misreads at points, it is a good survey.

My favourite section is the second part. Normally, the doctrine of imputed righteousness centres on Romans 4-5 and 2 Corinthians 5, but this brings a fresh contribution in the survey of Old Testament texts, something often missing in such a doctrinal articulation.

It is engaging to consider the corporate effects of sin and righteousness in Israel’s history. Examples given are Achan’s sin, David’s census, the day of atonement, portions from Zechariah 3 and Isaiah 61:10’s reference to a ‘robe of righteousness’. Fesko counteracts contemporary and errant theologies in relation to this doctrine, ones put forward by people such as N. T. Wright.

How precious the gospel is! Despite our deserved condemnation as sinners, we look to Christ and receive a glorious exchange. Who can fail to praise God for the gift of a robe of righteousness?

Fesko outlines the Reformed understanding for a threefold imputation: ‘First, God imputes Adam’s first sin to all human beings. Second, in the redemption of the elect, he imputes the sins of the elect to Christ. And third, he imputes Christ’s righteousness or his obedience to the elect’ (pp.18-19).

Those wishing to be strengthened in their faith should read this book. It will inform your mind, stretch your thinking and establish you further in the Christian faith.

Kevin Bidwell


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