13/5/01 10.45 a.m. Romans 5:12-21 ( John 8:31-37 )
In 1850 three pairs of European rabbits were turned loose in Australia. Within a few years Australians wondered whether the descendants could be checked before they swept the country clean. Millions of dollars were spent on bounties and devices for killing the rabbits or protecting the crops. One small, seemingly inconsequential act had a devastating outcome.
In today's epistle Paul is referring to an act of disobedience by one person and the consequence of this for the human race. He contrasts this with someone else's obedience and the effect that this has had on many people.
Adam was the one who disobeyed God's stated will. Jesus was the one who obeyed God's will for all of his life. There are parallels and contrasts between the two. This is what theologians call typology. Jesus is a type, a better type, of man than Adam. What each of them has done has affected many people.
These two men also sum up the message of the book up to this point. Adam stands for man's condemnation (1:18-3:20); Christ stands for the believer's justification (3:21-5:11).
Let us look at what Paul wrote about Adam...
verse 12, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned
Sin is falling short of God's perfect will. God told Adam not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil ( Genesis 2:17 ). Adam could have eaten the fruit from the other trees until he was bloated, but what did he do ? He ate the only fruit in the garden that had been forbidden. Adam not only sinned, but he transgressed, that is to say he went against God's revealed will. Revealed when God told him not to eat of this fruit. We will see later how this difference between sin and transgression is important.
When Adam disobeyed God he let sin loose into the world, like the rabbits rampaging and multiplying through Australia. Sin was free to affect the human race, the descendants of Adam.
Earlier in Romans 3:23 Paul wrote that 'all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God'. In 6:23 he continued that 'the wages of sin is death'.
Adam's sin resulted in everyone being in condemnation and death. We do not have a chance of living sinlessly because we are all born with a sinful nature (see Ps 51:5; Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.)
The sin of Adam and his descendants has resulted in death. Some commentators think this refers to physical death, but the principal meaning has to be spiritual death which is separation from God. This is what happened to Adam and Eve following Adam's sin Genesis 3:23f."23 So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. 24 After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life." God is set apart, perfect and cannot tolerate sin and the human race is separated from Him by their sin.
This is a reminder that sin has consequences, for people's relationship with God, their neighbour, and the created order. We see this in the way that, for many people in this country Sunday has become like any other day. A day to work or shop rather than to worship God and spend time with their families. We live in a culture where a person's individual pleasure is considered to be important. No wonder that drugs and alcoholism are on the increase and relationships are entered into without a real commitment. This reckless pursuit of pleasure affects the health of those who worship it and the well-being of the children they have and the partners they leave.
We have recently witnessed the President of the United States show his short-sightedness by failing to agree to the Kyoto Agreement to reduce harmful emissions. His reasoning is that it would cost his country too much, but this ignores the long-term damage that such a policy will have on his country as well as the rest of the world.
At a football match supporters of a team will wear their team's colours. Port Vale supporters will wear black and white scarves and some of them will wear football shirts. There is a solidarity, the supporters are identified with their team. The human race has a solidarity with Adam. We are all blackened by sin and, in this state, we are cut off from God.
13 for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law. 14 Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come.
This is the difference between sin, going against God's perfect will, and transgression, disobeying a revealed will
In the period when there was no (Mosaic) law, and sin was not counted against man because it there was no law to break. Physical death, however, continued to occur (v. 14). Since death is the penalty for sin, people between Adam and Moses were involved in the sin of someone else, namely, Adam.
Once the Mosaic law was given, the responsibility for not keeping it, and the subsequent condemnation is the individual's responsibility. This does not imply that anyone is good enough to always follow God's perfect, revealed will. As we saw earlier we are all born with sin in us.
Adam is described as pattern of the one to come. Adam by his sin brought universal ruin on the human race. In this act he is the prototype of Christ, who through one righteous act brought universal blessing
v.18 Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men.. There is a similarity in that the act of each one has affected many others. But there is the contrast that the act of one led to death, the act of the other leads to life.
15 But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God's grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!
A theme that runs through this section is that God's grace is infinitely greater for good than is Adam's sin for evil. So Jesus has not just restored believers to the position that Adam enjoyed before his disobedience. He has brought other benefits.
16 Again, the gift of God is not like the result of the one man's sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification.
A teacher came into a classroom to see with horror that someone had thrown something through one of the windows. She asked the class who had broken the window. There was silence. She asked again. There was still no reply. She declared that if the offender did not own up the whole class would suffer detention and the money deducted from their tuck shop proceeds. The class swot but his hand up and said, 'Please miss, I did it.'
The teacher knew he was the last one likely to have done such a thing. The whole class knew that he had no done it. But the innocent one was punished, and everyone else got off free.
Believers are justified. This is using courtroom language meaning to be declared "Not guilty". Those who are united with Jesus, rather than Adam, are under no condemnation. 8:1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,
On the cross Jesus received the punishment for the sins of the world so that those who follow him may be free from the punishment for sin which is separation from God.
But God sees believers as more than just 'not guilty', he sees them as 'righteous', that is to say morally prefect.
17 For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.
God sees believers as perfect because he doesn't see Jim Pye, sinner, but Jesus in my place in all his righteousness and perfection. This is about our status before God, not our moral character. So this does not mean that Christians suddenly become perfect when they turn to Christ. However, Christians should become more holy, a process known as 'sanctification' that we will be looking at next week when we study Chapter 6.
This gift of righteousness can only come through a single source, the one man Jesus Christ. Jesus said, 'I am the way the truth and the life, no-one can come to the father except through me' ( John 14:6 ).
No race, religion, moral code, or mystical experience can bring peace with God. As we read in the gospel, the Jews thought that because they were descendants of Abraham, had the law and tried to keep it that this would put them right with God.
But Paul wrote 20 The law was added so that the trespass might increase. The law could not bring about redemption but points to the need for it. The law made sin even more sinful by revealing what sin is in stark contrast to God's holiness. I am sure that, because it made something forbidden, some people deliberately defied God's law just for the sake of it.
Only a living faith in the Lord Jesus Christ can reconcile us to God. Whilst Adam's sin led to sin and death for everyone, Jesus' gift of life is for many, but not for all.
19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.
Jesus has secured a 'not guilty' verdict for every believer and for many believers. He has given us a righteousness that we could not earn ourselves. But he doesn't want to give us that ! He wants to give us more.
21 so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Jesus gives believers eternal life. What is eternal life ? The words of Jesus in John 17:3 tell us, Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. Eternal life is a right relationship with God the Father and the Son through the work of the Spirit. It is a quality of life. It is a life that we can start to enjoy today. It is a life that we can enjoy in its fullness in glory for eternity as we worship and serve God in his presence with all the others saints.
In our gospel reading Jesus said, 34, "I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
The idea of being a slave in our civilisation is foreign. People recoil against it. But people who are up to their ears in debt because their eyes are bigger than their wallets are enslaved by the materialistic culture in which we live. Some people are slaves to their ambition and will sacrifice their health, friends and even their family for their job
The middle letter in the word sin is 'I'. So I am at the centre of sin. That is the definition of sin. Putting myself before God and other people. Living for my own pleasure. It is not just about the wrong things that we do, it is also about the good things we do not do.
Jesus can free us from such a life which is actually a life of bondage. A life that will never satisfy. Jesus doesn't free people to do what they like, but to do what God wants them to do. This is freedom. Only this can provide people with God's peace, a sense of purpose and joy.
Today they may be people here who have wandered from God's purpose for them. Who have become entrapped by sin, and want to be free again. If this applies to you then you can repeat a prayer in the silence of your heart in a few moments time.
There may be others who have never let Jesus set them free, but want to for the first time today. If so, you can say the same prayer, after me in silence to God.
Lord Jesus Christ,
I thank you for your free and undeserved gift of forgiveness through your death on the cross for me.
I thank you that you offer me eternal life.
I am sorry for the many times that I have sinned.
I turn from everything I know to be wrong.
Gratefully I give my life to you.
Come in as my saviour to cleanse me.
Come in as my Lord to control me.
Come in as my friend to be with me.
And I will serve you for the rest of my life in complete obedience.