“Two Men You’re Related to” (Romans 5:12-19)

First Sunday in Lent
March 1, 2020

“Two Men You’re Related to” (Romans 5:12-19)

You know those ancestry tests you can take? You know, the ones where you spit into a little tube, and you send it off, and then they let you know what your ancestry is. And they’ll even give you lists of names of people you’re related to, including people maybe you didn’t know you were related to. Well, today I’m going to tell you about two people you definitely are related to, and–guess what–you don’t even have to spit into a tube. And so our theme this morning: “Two Men You’re Related to.”

The first of these two men you’re related to is referred to at the start of our Epistle reading for today. Reading again Romans 5, verse 12: “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. . . .” And then we’re told who that one man is, and what his sin was. It’s “the transgression of Adam.”

Who was Adam, and what was his transgression? Adam of course was the first man, the first one God created. The Lord God had formed the man out of the dirt of the ground, and he put the man into the Garden of Eden to take care of it. God blessed the man with all kinds of trees and their fruit, and he gave the man one specific commandment, to give him the opportunity to show his obedience. The Lord told him: “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” And then the Lord gave the man one more gift: a wife, the woman God created to be with him, to be his companion and his mate.

Well, this beautiful set-up didn’t last very long. Along comes the serpent–the devil in disguise. And he starts tempting the woman–but kinda subtle-like, so as to not make it look too obvious. He casts doubt on God’s word: “Did God actually say. . . ?” He dismisses the threat God had attached to the command, and then he impugns God’s motives for giving the command: “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” In other words: “God will not follow through on that silly threat he made. He’s just saying that to keep you from making your own decisions and being your own god! You know, wouldn’t it be nice to be your own god, to make your own decisions about what’s right for you?” Well, this sounds pretty good to the woman. And so she starts thinking about going ahead and eating from that tree. It looks pretty appealing. “I bet that fruit is good and tasty! And yeah, I’d like to be free to make my own decisions about what feels right to me, and not have to listen to that spoilsport God!”

So she takes, and she eats. And she hands some to her husband, and he eats. Yeah, Adam was there all along, listening to this dialog between the devil and his wife, and at no point did Adam intervene and put a stop to this nonsense. He should have. After all, Adam was the one who got the command directly from God. And yet he didn’t do anything. He went along with the temptation and gave in to it. This was “the transgression of Adam” that Paul refers to in our text from Romans.

And guess what? This same Adam, the original sinner, is the first man you’re related to. You’re just like him. You do the same sort of things. And, I am ashamed to say, so do I. How often do we tune out God? We know what God’s commandments are, but we ignore them anyway. We go ahead and do what we want to do, regardless. The temptation gets in our head, and we let it roll around in there, gaining strength, until finally we give in and go along. That’s how it works. And time and time again, even though we should know better, we repeat the same old pattern. It’s like it’s imprinted in our code as descendants of Adam. In theological terms, this is called original sin, the inherited sinful nature that has been passed down from generation to generation. This is our Adamic ancestry, and it shows up in the lives of every single one of us.

You and I–we all are descended from the same dad. Our ancestry report has just come in, and it shows that we are all . . . 100% sinner. No tube-spitting necessary. Just look in the mirror, and you’ll see a sinner staring back at you.

And what does being a sinner bring along with it? Judgment. Condemnation. And death. It started with Adam, and it hasn’t stopped since. “For you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” How about you? Do you see death staring you in the face? It’s coming for you, you know. The Grim Reaper. This Lenten season we’re reminded of our mortality. “Dust you are, and to dust you shall return.” The death rate is still one per person.

It’s like we sang in the hymn:

All mankind fell in Adam’s fall;
One common sin infects us all.
From one to all the curse descends,
And over all God’s wrath impends.

So, Adam is the first man you’re related to. We all are. But thank God there’s a second man we’re related to, too! Paul tells us about him. He says that Adam “was a type of the one who was to come.” And that second man, of course, is Jesus: “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.”

“That one man Jesus Christ”: What a man he is! He stood up to the devil and withstood his temptations. Each time Jesus took his stand on the word of God. “It is written,” he said, and he knew the right Scripture to fit the situation. Adam had dismissed and ignored God’s word. Jesus trusted and obeyed God’s word. Where Adam failed, Jesus stood firm. Three times the devil tempted him. Three times Jesus stayed true to his calling. One, two, three–three strikes and you’re out, devil! In Jesus, we see what a faithful, obedient man is supposed to be.

Jesus is the one obedient man. In fact, he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. That’s how far his obedience would take him. And thank God it did! For by Christ’s obedience, you and I are counted righteous before God. Jesus always did the right thing, and, since we are joined to Jesus, his righteousness gets credited to us, as well. And by his death on the cross, the righteous man Jesus, who is the very Son of God come in the flesh–by his death, by his holy blood shed on our behalf, we are spared eternal death, and all our sins are forgiven and washed clean.

The result? Resurrection. Life. Victory over sin and death. St. Paul sees the marked contrast between what followed in the wake of Adam’s sin and what now follows as the result of Christ’s righteousness: “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.”

My friends, this is the gospel! This is the good news that sets us free! Now we have hope. Now we have life. Because now we have Jesus. And it’s a free gift, all by grace. Take hold of this gift. God wants you to have it, free of charge.

What a contrast! On the one side, the Adam side: sin, condemnation, and death. On the other side, the Jesus side: righteousness, justification, and life. I think the Jesus side has a lot more going for it!

And Jesus is the man you are related to! You got joined to Jesus, you got connected to Christ, in your baptism. There Jesus and you got bonded together, for life! Jesus is your brother. You’re in God’s family now. God has put his name on you. You are his child, his son, his daughter. You have a new ancestry, and it’s a good one! And you will share in the inheritance that is waiting for you: resurrection and life everlasting. It all comes through this one man you’re related to: Jesus, your brother.

As by one man all mankind fell
And, born in sin, was doomed to hell,
So by one Man, who took our place,
We all were justified by grace.

We thank You, Christ; new life is ours,
New light, new hope, new strength, new pow’rs.
This grace our ev’ry way attend
Until we reach our journey’s end.

Published in: on February 29, 2020 at 9:14 pm  Leave a Comment  
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