Christians differ as to how to properly understand the story of Adam and Eve in Genesis. Some say it's literally true and that Adam and Eve are our first parents. Others say it's figuratively true and Adam and Eve represent the human race. Either way, the main points of Genesis are clear and what Paul says here about Adam's story still stands, whether it's literally true or figuratively true.
Paul talks about two men.
The first man is Adam. In Genesis we read that God made people good and gave them freedom to choose to love him back in obedience or to go their own way and rebel. They went against God and this brought consequences for all humankind from that point on: guilt and shame, work became toil, pain, struggle and ultimately death and separation from God (Genesis 3). Humankind was (and still is) in rebellion against God, sinning by nature and by choice.
The second man is Jesus. Paul says the implications of the gift of Jesus' death on the cross are far greater than the consequences of Adam. In other words - God's solution for sin is plenty big enough to deal with the problem of sin. The first man brought sin and death but the second man brings grace and life. The first man brought judgment and condemnation but the second man brings justification and righteousness. The single act of the first man's rebellion against God that started all this mess is undone by the single act of the second man's obedience to God on the cross.
Paul reminds us that the purpose of the law given to the Israelites through Moses was to show sin up more so we could know just how bad we are and how far we've fallen from God's standards. But it also goes to show just how gracious God is when he came to die in our place for our sin so we could be brought back from death to life.
1. What are the main points of Genesis chapters 1-3, whether you take it literally or not?
2. How good is God? How bad are we? How does the law help us?
3. Are you following the first man or the second? What does Paul say the consequences are for you?