Jesus’s death was not merely substitutionary but also representative. The dictionary reads,
“When one person takes upon himself suffering which another would have had to bear, and therefore not only endures it with him, but in his stead, this is called substitution or representation—an idea which, however unintelligible to the understanding, belongs to the actual substance of the common consciousness of man….it has found its true expression in sacrifice….”1
Paul advanced Isaiah’s message: Jesus not only took our place; we, too, were crucified with Him. His death becomes an inclusionary2 substitution. Dr. Craig [in Atonement and the Death of Christ: An Exegetical, Historical, and Philosophical Exploration. Waco, TX. Baylor University Press. 2020] explains this using the illustration of a proxy vote. Whenever the shareholders meet to discuss any action to be taken over the funds I have investments in, I elect to sign my vote to a proxy. I allow someone else to vote in my place. But it is still on the record as my vote. I am included. In this way, consider the possible explanation the Adam in the garden was our proxy. “…in Adam all die…” [1 Corinthians 15:22] Adam was to blame and so was I …and you! We were in Adam at the time and sinned with him. “…because3 all sinned…” [Romans 5:12] And what is the benefit to including us in Adam’s sin?
This is great news because now God can show mercy to all who seek Him. “For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.” [Romans 11:32] Godet interprets this to mean moral solidarity or community of life.4 Perhaps the logic that says we were there is not sufficient to satisfy reasonableness. But if we were to say, “all humanity was represented in Adam” we have a clearer understanding. All died in Adam or as Godet interprets,“in whom they [all] were embraced.”5
Jesus’s victory over sin became ours! What was true of the first Adam, is true of the second Adam, Jesus. “He [Adam] is a type6 of the Coming One [Christ Jesus].” Paul taught [Romans 5:14]. But with a difference: Jesus did not sin and through Him God offers the gift of eternal life to all who believe. Jesus’s sinlessness is a critical aspect of His life that makes His death representative. In terms of our example of a proxy: My proxy has one vote. It is either his or mine. As my proxy, it is mine. Jesus’s death on Calvary was for my sin, humanity’s sins, since He had none of His own to expiate.
“… the gift is not like the trespass.” Paul continues. Adam brought death; Jesus brought eternal life. “For if [and it is true] by the one man’s trespass [Adam’s sin] the many [all humanity] died [spiritual death and natural death] , how much more [death is final but life is eternal] have the grace of God and [even?] the gift [the concrete expression of grace, i.e. our salvation] which comes through the grace of the one man Jesus Christ overflowed [as Paul wrote to the Ephesians 2:7, in the coming ages he might display the immeasurable riches of his grace] to the many [salvation is not universal but to those who believe].” [Romans 5:15] By summary: we sinned in Adam, we were crucified with Christ. “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.” [Romans 6:6]
And what is the ultimate truth here? “Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him, …So, you too consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” [Romans 6:8, 11] The overarching message of the cross for us is being “alive to God,” being made in His image, at last by the transformation of our minds (and hearts) we again, as Adam before the fall, can walk in the will of God and perceive it [Romans 12:2] as good [Jeremiah 29:11], and acceptable [1 Timothy 6:6], and perfect [Ephesians 4:13] for us. It will be, in this life, as if God rolled back time before the fall but this time we resist the snake. [Hebrews 5:14] When we reach the kingdom shore, we ought not look for the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It is not there, but the tree of life is. [Revelation 22:2, 14]
2 exclusionary is understood as “one party taking the place of another in such a way that the guilty party is excluded from the obligation or fate.” cp Craig page 81 footnote 2.
3 ἐφ᾽ ᾧ πάντες ἥμαρτον. ἐφ᾽ ᾧ in its primitive meaning translates “near.” With time it signifies “at the date of.” In a moral sense “on the ground of” and logically: “as may be seen by.” Professor Godet admits that the simplest interpretation might be “as a consequence” of Adam’s sin, all have sinned and all die, but he confesses that this meaning is “without precedent.” [Godet, Romans. 207ff]
4 Godet in his Epistle to the First Corinthians, 352
5 ibid. 353
6 “a person … prefiguring a future person.” Thayer. 632