Week of 8 October 2017
Romans 5:12-21 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man's trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one man's sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. For if, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For 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. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
We have here a tricky passage that none of us are going to like. It’s passages like this that probably convince most preachers to avoid teaching straight through Romans. But here it is, so we’ll tackle it!
Let’s start with context. Paul has just finished telling us that Christians can rejoice right now about where they are headed. They don’t have to wait until they get to heaven’s gate to know whether they will be let in. Our salvation is totally secure in Jesus for genuine Christians. But, Paul knows there could still be those who are wondering whether this free gift of Christ’s righteousness handed to us as our entry pass is really ours. Paul, in this passage, goes back to the beginning, and in so doing, he shows us that this isn’t the first time mankind has been handed such a gift. It’s just that the earlier gift was not much to cheer about. It was the proverbial bag of coal.
Paul takes us back to Genesis, when Adam, the father of the human race, committed the first, the original, sin. He had been told that the day he committed this sin, he would die. And on that day, he began to die. And what he didn’t know was that death was also coming for every one of his offspring, all the way through time. It was as if everybody through time was right there in the Garden of Eden with Adam, as if we had eaten the forbidden fruit of that tree with him. Adam’s sin was credited to our accounts as if we’d been there, too. That’s verse 12.
Well, Paul, that sounds interesting, as well as unfair. What’s your proof? Paul doesn’t say this, but his audience would know that, once Adam sinned, he and Eve are thrust out of the Garden of Eden and can’t go back. At that point, mankind doesn’t have any rules or laws to follow. Everybody was just on their own to do whatever they thought best. And with no laws to violate, there were no extra charges of sin that accrued to mankind during the time from Adam to Moses. Sounds good, right? Yeah, except everybody from Adam to Moses continued to die physically, even though none of them broke a specific law of God like Adam did. See, God’s law didn’t show up until Moses. And without law to articulate what’s right and wrong, God couldn’t justly charge someone with sin during the period. So, you smart ones out there want to know: If no sin got counted against people from Adam to Moses, why did everyone die who lived during that time? I mean, the world-wide flood that wiped out all but eight people occurred during that time. And the destruction of Sodom and Gomorroah happened during that period. Well, here’s what they had going against them--they had that original sin from Adam as an albatross around their necks. And that sin brought death. In other words, they all showed up on planet earth on death row, carrying the guilt and punishment from Adam’s original sin. This is verses 13-14.
When you think about it, that helps explain why seemingly innocent babies and children die, although it might not make us feel better about it. Death continues to come to all humanity, including to children in the womb, newborns, infants, toddlers, and older kids. Why is this, even though they haven’t knowingly violated a specific command of God. They come out, we all come out, tarred by the original sin of Adam.
Now, I didn’t want people to spend the rest of the message fretting about their children, so I spent some time talking about how sin is talked about in scripture and why I and a host of other evangelical and fundamental Christian leaders have concluded that little ones who die go to be with the Lord. For that full discussion, pull up the podcast or watch the full video on our website under the media banner.
After this, we zeroed in on verses 15-21, where Paul shows us that the crediting of our accounts as Christians with the righteousness of Christ doesn’t just get us back to square one. No, we gain far more from Christ than we lost when Adam sinned. As bad as Adam’s sin becoming our sin was, Christ’s righteousness becoming our righteousness overwhelms, in a good way, what Adam did.
Adam’s sin cast everyone into a death spiral, but Christ’s gift ends death, bringing life to those who have faith in Christ. Ok, we may die physically, but wait, we will be raised with new, impeccable bodies to live forever. What Christ did, was not just compensation for Adam’s sin, but all of ours, too. Because guess what? We not only inherited the guilt of Adam’s sin, but the guilt of our own sin. We are born with a sin nature that leads us to commit individual acts of sin by word, deed, motive and intent. Ever since God handed down the law to Moses, all mankind has known that there’s right and wrong, and they know they have done wrong. We all have individual sins in addition to Adam’s counted against us, but in Christ all those have been forgiven.
Beyond this, we don’t just get to return to what we think was the idyllic paradise of Eden. Truth is, Adam entered the Garden in jeopardy every day. Every day there was a choice he had to make: eat the fruit of that tree, or don’t eat the fruit of that tree. All it took was one bad choice. However, in Christ, we have not returned to that world. Our sin, all of it, has been totally wiped away by Christ. We live here, right now, experiencing the first part of what will be eternal life that will not be taken away. And more than just scraping by, we can experience victory in life because of our faith in Christ. The life we get in Christ is far superior to the life we lost because of Adam. He is a type of Christ in that his one act affected so many others, albeit negatively. By comparison, Christ’s one act of sacrifice benefited a host of others positively.
Armed with this information, it seems that God is wanting to make sure that everyone knows of their condition before Him and wanting to make sure that everyone knows that He has provided in Christ a way out. Trade up from death and sin to life and forgiveness. It’s amazing how few choose the latter. Don’t be one of them. Choose the wiser option.