MESSAGE FOR NOVEMBER 1, 1998 FROM ROMANS 5:15-19
This week, we continue to study the second half of Romans chapter five. Last week, as we looked at verse 14, we saw that Adam was a type of Christ. Adam, before the Fall, in his humanity pointed to or foreshadowed Christ who was the ultimate human. Where Adam failed to show us what Godís ideal for humanity was, Christ succeeded. We saw that the purpose of humanity is ultimately to glorify God by living lives in total dependency upon Him. In this way, HIS power, HIS strength, His magnificence is seen in those who are created in His image. If we want to know how we are doing individually or as a church, we must see how we compare to the One we are called to reveal, Jesus Christ. In those areas where we show forth Christ, we are, by Godís grace, doing well. In those areas where we are NOT showing forth Christ, we need to repent and stop trusting in ourselves and begin leaning on Christ by the Holy Spirit. This is what true humanity does and the church is that group of people God has called to Himself to reveal Jesus Christ, just as Jesus Christ revealed the Father when He was on earth.
This week, we continue to look at the contrast between Adam and Christ as he spells it out in Romans 5:15-21. Paul is contrasting what Christ did for us through the gift of his atoning, redeeming work on the cross with what Adam did for us when he sinned and brought this reign of death which is his legacy to humanity. Paul writes, ďBut 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! 16Again, 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. 17For 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. 18Consequently, 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. 19For 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.Ē
Here, Paul takes pains to contrast, in a tightly paralleled structure, what Adam did and its results with what Christ did and its results. One of the main ideas he is seeking to get across is found in three words found in verses 15 and 17. These three words are ďhow much moreĒ and what Paul is saying through them is that what Adam did through his sin, Christ more than made up for in his gift of grace which is his atoning death at Calvary. The truth of this text we want to bring out this week is this: The grace of God shown in the giving of His Son, Jesus Christ did much more to bless humanity than Adamís sin did to curse humanity. Letís look at this with a wide angle lens first, then we will be able to better understand what Paul is saying in the detailed treatment he gives in these verses.
You have these two figures, Adam and Christ. Adam, through his sin brought a devastating curse on humanity. It messed up everything from a human point of view. His sin didnít effect select portions of humanity, it tainted, it polluted the whole bunch. Fallen humanity apart from Christ is not simply a slightly warped or distorted version of the original. It is totally spoiled. To illustrate: if fallen humanity were a standing rib roast, it would not be over cooked, dry and hard, it would be completely overtaken with mold and maggots. Itís putrid stench rises up to God. It is good for nothing. We saw this in chapter three when Paul discussed what is known as the total depravity of man. We see the evidence of Adamís lethal legacy every day as the sin and evil of this world seem to be more and more pervasive. Sometimes, when we are daily confronted with the power of the corruption of Adam, its easy for us to think that the sin of Adam has so spoiled and corrupted humanity that it is beyond hope--that Christís death and resurrection and what they accomplished are small in comparison to the massive destructive force of Adamís sin.
The broad point Paul makes here in these verses is that the goodness of the blessing of Christís redeeming work is far more potent than the badness of the curse of Adamís sin. This only makes sense when you think about it. Here is Adam--fully human and he wrecks havoc on humanity through his sin. But here comes Christ, not only fully human but also fully God. Adam is the source of the curse. Christ is the source of the blessing. Which of those two sources is stronger? To put it another way, Adam disobeys God. Christ obeys God. Does the act of disobedience have more power to spoil than the act of obedience has to redeem and bless? One scholar has put it this way, ďthe act of this second ďmanĒ [Christ] brings consequences even more glorious than those of the first man [Adam] were deleterious.Ē
To take it one step farther, what that means is this: When all of those who have been saved are completed in their salvation process--when they meet Jesus and are glorified--those people will be far more glorious than Adam was even before the Fall. There are probably many reasons for this but chief among them is this: Humanity was created to reveal the character of God. Two absolutely magnificent aspects of the glory of God are his grace and his mercy. Before the Fall, Adam did not reveal Godís grace and mercy nearly as powerfully as the redeemed community in heaven will. The reason for this is simple. In order to see some of the depths of Godís grace and mercy, there has to be sin. Sin must be present in order to reveal the depths of Godís grace and mercy. How are you going to know that God is full of grace--(that is, that He gives people what they donít deserve,) when the person has never done anything wrong? If humanity had never sinned, they would not be nearly as undeserving of Godís goodness as we are, who have sinned against Him in every way imaginable. How are you going to know that God is merciful--(that is, that He spares those who deserve punishment,) unless the person has done something to deserve punishment?
How are you going to know the quality, the depth, the tenacity of Godís love in a context where there is no sin? ďGod demonstrates his love for us in this: while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.Ē In order for God to demonstrate his love to the fullest conceivable degree, there had to be sin because what exalts divine love over every other love is that God loves people who are spitting in his face. God loves the totally unlovable--that is divine love. How is God going to demonstrate that kind of love in the spiritual terrarium of the garden of Eden? What is there UNlovable about Adam and Eve before the Fall? They were perfect, without sin, without rebellion. How are you going to know the depths of Godís patience without sin? How far did Adam stretch Godís patience before the Fall? Not at all. He did precisely what the Lord said when He said it. Itís fallen humanity--us, who spend years pushing God away from us that shows the depths of His patience. That reveal the depths of His glory.
We must understand that the Fall was no surprise to God, but was instead part of his eternal plan. We see this in several places. Paul writes to Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:9 that God saved us, ďaccording to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ FROM ALL ETERNITY.Ē God the Father planned to save a sinful humanity, creating a company of redeemed, glorified sinners he has made into saints from ALL ETERNITY. In Revelation 13:8, John is speaking of these who will not remain faithful in the persecution and says, ďAnd all who dwell on the earth will worship the beast, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life belonging to the Lamb who has been slain.Ē The Lambís book of life--that title speaks of Christís redeeming work on the cross, --the names in that book were written down BEFORE Adam and Eve stepped foot in the garden. God allowed Adam to Fall, in part so that He could reveal His greatness of grace and mercy and love and patience and sovereign power in a context of sin. His radiant, resplendent light is seen most clearly, most gloriously in the darkness of sin and death. If the Fall of Adam was part of Godís plan--(He did not CAUSE Adamís Fall--he simply knew it would happen)--if it was part of His plan, then how on earth can the sin of Adam and what it brought be more powerful than the grace of God through Christ and what that brought?
Now that we have seen the big picture, we can better understand the more detailed view. In verses 15-17, Paul makes the main points of his argument and in verses 18-19, he summarizes this section. When you sort through the rather intricate parallel arguments Paul carefully constructs to show the contrast between Adam and Christ, you discover he is simply contrasting the reign of sin and death which came through Adam and the reign of grace through righteousness, which leads to life which came through Christ. And his unmistakable conclusion is that the grace of God through Christ is much stronger than the sin of Adam.
One point to support the supremacy of Christís victory in comparison to Adamís defeat is this: Adamís sin left us sinners, while Christís work of grace makes us righteous. The fact that Adamís sin made us all sinners runs strongly throughout the text, but is stated explicitly in the conclusion in verse 19, ď...through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners...Ē On the other hand, the text says of Christ, ďthrough the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.Ē Paul says ďWILL be made righteous,Ē using the future tense because he is looking to the time when our righteousness will be completely realized in our glorification. He is not taking anything away from the truth which he has repeatedly stated, that those who are in Christ ARE declared righteous through the justifying work of the Son of God. Adamís legacy is to leave us as sinners, Christís work makes us righteous.
In order to see just how superior is Christís work in making us righteous over Adamís work in making us sinners, we need to look at what was involved in being a sinner. Without repeating all of what we have said earlier on this topic, we could say that to be a sinner is to be spiritually dirty, spiritually crooked and spiritually condemned. To be a sinner is to be defiled--tainted with the filth of sin. God created Adam without spot and blemish--morally perfect and he makes it clear that that kind of person is the only person He will accept-- ďBe holy, even as I am holy.Ē Adam was holy, morally like God until, with one sin, he and Eve became horribly tainted.
To see the superiority of Christís cleansing work over Adamís defiling work, all we need to do is think about what is involved in making something dirty and what is involved in making something clean. How much effort does it take to take a silk blouse and throw it in a pig pen or drop it in the sewer? Not much--clean things get dirty very easily. Its the same in the spiritual realm. One sin, one act of disobedience and an entire race of people become absolutely unacceptable before a holy God--one sin. But leave that silk blouse in the hog pen for a week. How much work does it take to make that garment wearable again? The truth is, no one here would be foolish enough to try--its ruined. Tattered, torn and full of the smell and stuff of animal waste. It wouldnít make a good rag--its destroyed by the filth.
Adamís work in defiling humanity took no great power. But Christ was presented with a group of people who had been tainted worse than that silk blouse left in the hog pen. And his mission was to cleanse them and heal them so that they would be ďholy, even as His Father is holy.Ē There is only one cleansing agent in the universe potent and miraculous enough to do that--his own innocent blood. But ďhis blood can make the foulest clean.Ē Do you see how much greater the work of grace in Christ is than the work of sin through Adam?
Another indicator of the supremacy of Christís work is seen in what weíll call the ďcrookednessĒ of sin. This is that part of the fall which bent the will of humanity away from God and toward ourselves. Another word for it is rebellion, but crookedness of will captures it well. Again, with one sin, Adam changed the will of man from being completely compliant and delighting to doing Godís will and transforming it into the rebel who thumbs his nose at God and who ďinvents ways of doing evilĒ according to chapter one. Adamís sin bent our will away from God. As in the case of dirtiness, which is the greater work, to make something crooked or to straighten out some thing that is crooked so it will do what it is supposed to do. Anyone here ever bent a drive shaft on a motor? Anyone here ever bent the shaft on a 3 iron? Did you bother trying to straighten them out?
Its easy to bend them--something coerces the shaft in a way not natural for it to go and its done. To straighten something that has been bent so that it is exactly as it was before is nearly impossible. Yet, when Christ came with his grace, he came on the mission to straighten out bent wills and he does this by giving us new hearts. A spiritual heart transplant will straighten a hopelessly bent will back to being God-centered and away from self-centeredness.
A third indicator of the comparative superiority of grace over sin is seen in the fact that sinners are not only spiritual dirty and bent, they are spiritually condemned. Paul says in verse 16, ď...The judgment followed one sin about brought condemnation.Ē Adam sins his one sin and God as the righteous Judge immediately renders the guilty verdict and condemns Him to death. As a consequence, ever person born into this world sits on a spiritual death row awaiting the spiritual execution with only one valid hope for rescue. Thatís powerful--that sin of Adam carried with it grievous and staggering destructive power. But Paul says in the second half of verse 16, ďbut the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification.Ē
This brings out the supremacy of grace in two ways. First, we see the difference in the depth of the power of grace versus sin. Adam sinned once and was judged and condemned. That is only good legal practice. The agreement was when they sinned, they would die. His sin brought no more and no less than it should have. There is nothing remarkable about that. However, when Jesus came to deal with the sin problem, he didnít have only one sin to deal with, He had untold trillions of sins to address. Yet in his one work of grace on the cross, he wiped all those sins away. Every sin we have ever committed is deserving of eternal judgment in hell. It only takes one sin to go to hell. How many times have we used up our quota--even this morning?! Yet, Christís work of grace is so much more powerful because it looks at the untold oceans of sin and with one work of grace totally removes the guilt of every person who trusts in Him.
But thereís more. Paul says we are justified. The sin of Adam put us on death row. The gift of grace in Christ did much more than simply reverse Godís verdict of guilty. Believers in Christ are more than just pardoned of their guilt. They have been taken off of death row, had their filthy criminal record tossed in the deepest sea, given a new set of clothes-the very robe of righteousness and made to sit at the table of the King who they now are able to call, ďFather.Ē Thatís not just a pardon. The condemnation of sin is more than totally obliterated. ďTherefore there is now, no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.Ē The most glorious hymn in Christendom says, ďNo condemnation now I dread; Jesus, and all in Him, is mine! Alive in Him, my living Head, And clothed in righteousness divine, Bold I approach the eternal throne, And claim the crown, through Christ my own.Ē
Now, what does this mean to us? Is this just a chance for us to sit back and say, ďYeah, that grace sure is a wonderful thing?Ē Often we are much better at celebrating truth then we are at applying truth. How do we apply this truth? One application is simply, do we appreciate the power of grace and is that power manifest in our lives? For many people grace is very delicate and gentle concept. Although it has that quality in its healing context, grace is not fundamentally delicate or gentle--it is virile--it potent--it is overcoming--it is victorious. We are saved by grace, this powerful force which has done so much more than we have discussed this morning--obliterating the power of Adamís sin. We have been given grace to clean us up, reshape our bent will and bring us from the pit of hell to the family of God.
Are we living like people who have access to this grace every moment? This same overcoming grace that cleans us, straightens us and re-positions us is--this spiritual dynamo of supernatural power is available to us every moment. Do we, who have this awesome power of Godís grace at our disposal live like people who have this grace? We say that the power of grace is immeasurably more potent than the power of sin. As people who have the grace of God at our disposal, do we live like people of grace? Are we overcoming sin, are we regularly experiencing things in our lives that are consistent with the awesome power of Godís grace? If we are not there is a huge problem! Our spiritual resume--that is, what God has given us to make us qualified to live supernaturally is impressive beyond comparison. We have been given the grace of God--this potent power of God which makes the sin of Adam look lame by comparison.
Our spiritual resume is impressive. If a violinist graduated as the concert master from the worldís best conservatory and spent years studying under Itzhak Perlman--that would be impressive. Would you expect a person with that kind of resume to play a pretty good fiddle? If that person were to come out on stage and play like an average junior high student, we would wonder what on earth was the matter with them considering their resume. Yet, we in the church have access to this grace which more than overcomes the power of sin and spiritually speaking, we often live, spiritually on a junior high level. How much that is truly unexplainable apart from this awesome power of the grace of God is happening in our lives? Are we overcoming sin, or are we still struggling with the same issues and on the same level as we did ten years ago? Something is wrong.
Are our expectations of what the Christian life should be like shaped by the fact that we have been endowed with this awesome grace? Or are they shaped by a church in North America which, frankly shows very little of this power. WHO ARE WE? Are we still only children of Adam or are we those who have access to the very grace of God? May God give us the grace to begin expecting of ourselves and of this church that which is consistent with people who have been given the overcoming grace of God.
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