“Reign in Life through the One Man Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:12-19)

First Sunday in Lent
March 13, 2011

“Reign in Life through the One Man Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:12-19)

During this season of Lent, going on through Holy Week, and even on to Easter Day, we’re doing a series of sermons based on “Readings in Romans”: fifteen straight services in which our sermon texts are all from St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, under the overall theme, “Righteousness Revealed.”

Our text today comes from Romans 5, and I think we can get at the point of the passage as a whole by way of verse 17: “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.”

Paul is setting up a stark contrast. Through one man, and his trespass, death reigned over all of us. Through another “one man,” and his act of righteousness, you and I will reign in life. What a difference! It is literally the difference between life and death, what comes to us through these two men. So let’s listen up and follow along.

Who are these two men Paul is putting side by side, to make this contrast? They are the one man Adam, and the other one man, Jesus Christ. Adam was a “type of the one who was to come,” Paul writes. The word “type” means that Adam serves as a model, a prefigurement, in some respects, of the one to come.

But the parallel will run from the negative to the positive, in going from the one man Adam to the one man Jesus Christ. Adam will fall to temptation, fall into sin, whereas Jesus will not. And on this day when the Gospel reading is the account of the temptation of Jesus, and the corresponding Old Testament reading is the temptation of Adam, that contrast will become all the clearer, when we compare the failure of Adam vs. the faithfulness of Christ.

Paul begins this section of Romans 5 by saying, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man. . . .” Here he is referring to the fall of Adam, which we read about in our Old Testament lesson.

At first, in Genesis 3, it doesn’t seem to be so much about the man Adam as about the woman, Eve. But make no mistake, this is Adam’s fall as much as, if not more than, Eve’s. After all, Adam was the one who had received the command, directly from God, not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Adam, the husband, as the head of the household and the “pastor,” if you will, of the first mini-church–Adam had passed the command on to his wife. But the buck stopped with him. Adam failed in his leadership and his headship, big-time. He abdicated his responsibility. Adam listened to his wife, when he should have been listening to God.

Adam did not listen to the word God had spoken to him. He tuned out God’s word and yielded to the temptation. Jesus is quite the opposite. The word of God is uppermost in his thinking, as he takes temptation head on and overcomes it. Temptation #1, Jesus responds by quoting Scripture: “It is written,” he says. Temptation #2, he answers, “Again it is written.” Temptation #3, same thing, “For it is written.” Jesus takes his stand on the word of God, never departing from it. Indeed, as he remains faithful even while fasting, Jesus embodies the Scripture, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

How about you? Do you ever let temptation–the whisperings of the devil, the allurements of the world, or the desires of your flesh–do you let temptation get the better of you, and so you tune out the word of God? I guarantee you, you do. God, in his commandments, has told you to set aside time each week as sacred, inviolable, to come and hear preaching and his word, to gladly hear and learn it. But sometimes we would rather listen to our pillow than to God. God, in his commandments, has told you not to murder your neighbor, whether in thought, word, or deed. But how often, and how bitterly, do we hold a grudge? We tune out God, who tells us to forgive. God’s commandment tells you to not look lustfully at a woman not your wife. But do we listen, or do we tune out the Spirit’s voice and give in to temptation? You get the picture. It’s a family portrait, for all of us in the line of Adam.

Sin reigns in this family, and, as a result, so does death. “Therefore,” Paul writes, “just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” Death follows after sin as surely as night follows day. “Because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man.” Death is the curse and consequence of Adam’s disobedience. Adam sinned, and it corrupted the whole human race. The judgment for sin fell on the whole race. Adam sinned; we all sin. Adam was driven out of the garden and barred from the tree of life. Likewise, death consumes us all. It’s all of mankind that’s messed up, right from the get-go, when Adam gets the heave-ho. “Dust you are, and to dust you shall return.”

You and I follow in the footsteps of our father, Adam. Flesh gives birth to flesh. This tendency to sin is common to all the sons of Adam. The fancy term for this is “original sin.” It is the sinful nature of our origin in Adam. The evidence of this is the fact that we all sin and we all die. We’re showing the family trait, more telling than red hair or blue eyes or the distinctive shape of our nose. The family characteristic we all share alike, everyone on earth, is that we all sin and we all die.

Look, you’re not going to get any better, if all you are is descended from Adam. Sin and death is your sorry lot; there’s no escape if that’s all you got. You need to be related to somebody else, someone who can get you out of this mess. And that someone is Jesus.

This is where Jesus comes in, the second “one man,” the head of a whole new humanity. “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.”

Here is the “one man” you need to be related to, Jesus Christ. You could sum up his whole life, his whole ministry, his whole saving mission, as “one act of righteousness,” perfect obedience to the will of his Father from start to finish. “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.”

Adam wanted to be like God and so disobeyed and exalted himself. Jesus Christ, the very Son of God come from heaven, did not think his equality with God a thing to be grasped, but instead humbled himself, made himself nothing, and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. He did this, doing the will of his Father, in order to save and redeem mankind from the black hole of sin and death into which we had fallen. The cross of Christ is our tree of life. Jesus willingly dies in our place, thereby redeeming us from the curse of death. His resurrection proves it.

Jesus is the seed of the woman who would crush the serpent’s head. He is our divine Champion, delivering the whole human race. Jesus heads up a whole new humanity, of which, by faith, you are a part. God’s gift of righteousness, your right standing before God, is given you freely for Christ’s sake. You are justified, pronounced righteous, being found in him. Adam and Eve tried to cover their shame with fig leaves, a device of their own making. It didn’t work. God clothes us with the robe of Christ’s righteousness, purchased with his blood when he died in our place, the only righteousness that really does cover our guilt.

“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.”

God’s grace abounds for you, my friends! Much more than the sin of Adam is the gift of righteousness in Christ. Much more than the death we die as descendants of Adam is the life we live now in Christ! Our God is a “much more” God! Do you have sins and trespasses that weigh you down? There is much more grace, abundant grace. Do you have death looming ahead in your future, staring you in the face? Much more is the life–the eternal life–that is yours now and forever in 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.”

There’s an old rhyme that goes, “In Adam’s fall, we sin-ned all.” But I would like to propose this new couplet: “In Christ our Lord, we’ve been restored.” Or, to put it another way: “In Jesus Christ, we reign in life.”

“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.”

Advertisements
Published in: on March 12, 2011 at 10:27 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: