Date: 03 Jul 2016
Text: Romans 5:12-19
As we went through Romans 5:1-11 we learned that we have been justified and reconciled to God and as a result have received three important gifts; peace with God, access to God and hope in the glory of God. The question that surely arises though from these eleven verses is quite simple; how did we get into a position where we needed to be justified and we needed to be reconciled? What went wrong to get us into that state? God created the universe and everything in it so surely that should mean that all is well?
It is true to say that far too many in the modern world deny that there is a God or if they accept that He may exist, see no need for Him. However, this situation of hostility between God and mankind has existed for many, many hundreds of years and the majority of people always seem to have been as far from God as it is possible to imagine. That is not however the main cause of sin being in the world.
Whilst that word “sin” does not actually appear in 5:1-11, the related word “sinners” does appear and is used to describe all those who have yet to come to faith in Jesus Christ. Whether we like it or not, or understand it or not, in God’s eyes we are therefore all sinners. How did this come about though, how did we get into the position where God does regard us as sinners? After all, He created us as part of His universe, so why should He now regard us as sinners?
Paul deals with those questions in these next few verses, 5:12-19, where he links together the death bringing Adam with the life giving Jesus.
Sin and Death
When God created the world and everything in it He fully intended it to be free of sin and evil. He created Adam and then Eve and gave them that wonderful attribute, free will. It is free will that allows us to think for ourselves and to make our own decisions. Without being given free will by God we would all be automatons simply going through the motions and doing God’s will because we know nothing else. That is not what God wanted. Yes, He wanted mankind to be obedient but He didn’t want us to be forced to be obedient; He wanted us to think for ourselves and to work out that obedience was the best path to take. Let’s face it; if that situation had persisted the world would be a far better place today.
That all changed when Adam disobeyed God’s strict instructions on what he could and couldn’t eat from the trees in the Garden of Eden. God had given Adam strict instructions, “... the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will certainly die.’” (Genesis 2:16-17). It was Eve who was duped by the serpent and it was Eve who persuaded Adam to follow suit. They both fell for the lie that God didn’t mean what He had told them and they would therefore be perfectly safe if they ignored God’s specific instructions not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge. They fell for the lie that they could be as clever as God, know all that He knows and especially know the difference between good and evil. However, as soon as Adam took that first bite sin entered into the world and things were never the same again.
Perhaps not unsurprisingly God was not best pleased and condemned Adam and Eve and the rest of creation in no uncertain terms. There are many of course who do not believe that God created the world. They prefer to believe that it was created by a big bang or by some mystical being with a handful of dust. I suppose to such people the thought of sin being in the world is totally alien. To those of us who do believe that God created the world what followed Adam’s first sin is perfectly logical. From the moment God discovered Adam’s sin, a sin that he tried to cover up by blaming Eve, He condemned the world to suffer. To give just two examples: firstly, God said that from that moment on women would always experience labour pains when giving birth; and secondly, He introduced weeds, the bane of every gardener’s life. There was much more that unfolded as time passed but those two examples will suffice for now.
It was then that God introduced death into the world; the fact that life would come to an end. Based on that thought I believe that God never intended anyone to become ill and die but to live for ever. I realise that that may sound strange but that has to be the logical conclusion of there being no death! However, the introduction of sin changed all that.
All of this took place long before God gave His Law to Moses. That Law gave specific details of what was and what wasn’t to be counted as a sin. It also gave strict instructions of the steps to be taken for sinners to be forgiven, and that forgiveness involved a blood sacrifice of the type that we have heard about on many occasions. Having said that, simply because a “legal” definition of sin wasn’t in existence at the time of creation doesn’t mean that sin didn’t exist; it did and was brought into the world by Adam in the Garden of Eden; as Paul makes very clear in 5:13a, “sin was in the world before the law was given”. Those who lived between the time of Adam’s original sin and the giving of the Law to Moses, did sin even though there was no Law to disobey. You see, just as we inherit the features or mannerisms or health issues of our parents and ancestors, so we inherited sin from Adam. He committed the original sin and as his descendants all of mankind is identified with that sin. Lest you wonder how this can be, let me remind that even the great King David admitted to being a sinner. He went so far as to say that he was a sinner even before he was born. This is what he said in Psalm 51:5, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” He went on to add in Psalm 58:3, “Even from birth the wicked go astray; from the womb they are wayward spreading lies.”
Up to the time of Moses in a strange way mankind were not regarded as sinners as such because there was no Law. One Bible translation puts it this way, “Yes, people sinned even before the Law was given. But it was not counted as sin because there was not yet any law to break” (5:13 NLT). From the time that the Law was given there was a yardstick against which mankind could be measured, and sadly mankind failed to measure up!
Just as sin came into the world through that one man Adam, so death also came into the world through that same man. Sin and death were inextricably linked from that moment on and such a link is mentioned throughout the New Testament. Perhaps the most famous or well known verse on that subject comes in Romans 6:23 where Paul reminds us that, “the wages of sin is death”. Just as we cannot escape our inheritance of sin so we cannot escape death; just like paying taxes it comes to us all! We need to understand though that this death is final, the end, and it leads to an eternity cut off from God with no escape route. If we die without being forgiven for our sins and being reconciled to God, then we will never have another chance to rectify that situation; that’s it, game over! We will actually die twice, first physically and then spiritually, never to be in God’s presence.
Grace and Life
Now, just as sin and death came into the world through one man, Adam, so life came into the world through one Man, Jesus Christ. God sent His Son into the world to bring life and to break the pattern of sin and death brought into the world by Adam. A super translation by the Bible Society puts it this way, “Jesus broke that pattern by replacing Adam’s death-giving life with his own life-giving death” (paraphrase of 5:15-17 Bible Society). Paul also reminded the Corinthians of that when he wrote, “as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22).
The coming of Jesus as a gift through Whom we could have life came as a result of the grace of God and not through anything that we could ever do. That meant that just as sin came into the world through one man so forgiveness also came into the world through one Man; and just as that sin led to judgement so does forgiveness lead to our being justified. Because of Jesus and God’s grace displayed through Him we can have life everlasting, a life in paradise with God. This life means that whilst we will die physically we will never die spiritually and we will for ever remain in God’s company, close to Him in heaven.
Adam’s actions brought sin whereas Jesus’ actions brought righteousness, the exact opposite of sin. Since sin is inherited from Adam we cannot avoid it, in fact we tend to add to it by disobeying God at every turn and by not living in the way that He wants us to. We can of course avoid the gift of life that is on offer through the death of Jesus. That free and lavish gift is an offer but as with any offer, it can be refused, and sadly, far too many do refuse. As sinners we cannot stand before God but, if we accept that wonderful offer then as forgiven and reconciled sinners our good standing before God is restored and we are thus enabled to stand before Him as righteous people, forgiven for our sins.
Adam & Jesus
Death in Adam and life in Jesus are not just opposites, there is far more to it than that. The life that is on offer in and through Jesus far outweighs the sin and death that Adam brought into the world and it will always do so. Paul talks in 5:17 of “God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness” that reigns in our lives through Jesus Christ. That grace and righteousness is far superior to the sin and death that emanates from Adam and surely must be sought by all those who seek to draw nearer to God.
Adam brought sin into the world though his one act of disobedience and in doing that he condemned the whole world to the promise of death. On the other hand Jesus brought forgiveness into the world through His act of obedience to His heavenly Father by dying on the cross of Calvary to bring the promise of life; life to all who accepted Him as Lord and Saviour.
Let me remind you again that death entered the world as a result of Adam’s actions in the Garden of Eden; but, by the grace of God, death was defeated by Jesus when He died on the cross. Paul told the Corinthians of this victory over death when he wrote: “’Death has been swallowed up in victory.’ ‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:54-57). This was not a new idea since Paul’s words echo the thoughts of the minor prophet Hosea who wrote, “I will deliver this people from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. Where, O death, are your plagues? Where, O grave, is your destruction?” (Hosea 13:14).
Parts of this passage aren’t all that easy to understand and I am grateful to God for the fact that I have the time to study them and to receive help and guidance from His Holy Spirit. I also have access to a number of different Bible translations and numerous reference works. I do acknowledge however that not everyone is so fortunate and so that makes it all the more necessary for us to study these verses very carefully if we are to fully understand what Paul is telling us. Read them, pray about them and I’m confident that God will help you to understand just what Paul is saying to us in these very important verses.
Put very simply, sin and death came into the world through that one man, Adam, disobeying God in the Garden of Eden. That sin was passed on through every generation of mankind resulting in everyone being regarded as a sinner simply through the sin of that one man. To counter that Jesus came into the world to bring forgiveness and life through His obeying God in the Garden of Gethsemane and going on to die on the cross of Calvary.
As a result of all that, we have a choice, an important choice, to make. We can choose to follow Adam and remain in sin which leads to death and an eternity away from God, or we can choose to follow Jesus and receive new life in Him which leads to an eternity spent with Him in God’s presence. I know which one I chose, how about you?