Romans 5 Ruin and Rescue
Today, I will explore the second half of Romans 5. This might be familiar territory. Many of us have heard these lines before and many of my postings have been on this subject matter, but I would like to highlight it and show, I hope why it is so amazing and should be shared as much as possible. People need to hear this message. We should proclaim it until the whole world smells like Jesus.
Romans 5:15-17: 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! Nor can the gift of God be compared with the result of one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. 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!
After reading those verses, I want to say I amen. I want to shout Amen!
Paul spells out the contrast between Christ and Adam, between Jesus and us. Not only are the acts of the two antithetical, but the grace Christ is greater than the sin of Adam in the way it brings justification, righteousness, and life to all. This “much more” that Paul is proclaiming is more than any human words could ever describe properly. It must be accepted, experienced, and extended. Only when you have experienced the amazing blessings of God will you know how truly incredible this grace is. And, only when you have extended this grace will it be complete. You don’t do this to earn it, but as a response to it, you are compelled to share the good news that is just how very good it is.
Grace is not equal to sin. If one man’s sin put humanity at the abyss of separation from God, just think what grace poured through one man, Jesus Christ, will do! No comparison exists between sin and grace; the verdict on that one sin was death; the verdict on the many sins that followed is eternal life. If death was winning because one transgression, can you only imagine the awesome recovery life makes in those who grasp this wildly extravagant grace, the marvelous setting-everything-right that Jesus provides?
The world-renowned bible scholar William Barclay summed up these verses succinctly in this way, “By the sin of Adam, all human beings became sinners and were alienated from God; by the righteousness of Jesus Christ, all human beings became righteous and are restored to right relationship with God.”
To say “by the sin of Adam” does not necessarily mean original sin. Sin is not original. Blessing comes first, then we mess it up, yet creation remains good and a blessing. The great Jewish writer Elie Wiesel said, “The concept of original sin is alien to Jewish tradition.” Jesus nor Paul or any of the writers of the New Testament understood Adam’s sin in this way. Let’s see what this could mean than if original sin is not implied. The idea of solidarity is strong in Jewish understanding. Jews never saw themselves as individuals, but as part of a clan, family, or a nation apart from which the individual had no real existence. Thus, Adam’s sin means just as Adam sinned, all have sinned. We have all messed up. We have all taken a bite of the apple. Adam’s sin is the typical nature of humanity. I don’t have space here to develop this further, maybe at a future date I will explore this further. Others have written about this, so if this interests you seek them out.
On to Romans 5:18-21: Just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. 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.The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. Where sin increased, grace increased more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Paul returns to his main thrust, namely that there is a parallel between Adam and Christ in that condemnation and justification are the direct fruits of their actions. Because of the actions of “one,” “many” are either sinners or righteous. Adam is the represenitive of all, all sin and fall. Contrast, “by the one man’s obedience” those whom Christ represents are “made righteous” in Him. Jesus is our symbolic surrogate, as well as the spiritual foundation of the new humanity, for through His resurrection all are given new birth and a living assurance. There is a choice to be made. Will we continue to live in sin or will we respond to the free and radical redemption made possible in Christ. The choice is between a prison made of all our poor choices and wrongheadedness or the freedom of the Kingdom of God.
In the face of this increase of sin, “grace abounded all the more,” not only keeping pace with the offense, but also outdoing it, in the salvation accomplished through Christ. The grace of Jesus is greater than any human words could ever describe. God is in the process of blessing, gracing, and saving all of creation including you and me. All we have to do is wake up to it! Respond to it by extending it to others. Our salvation is already and not yet. Salvation is a life; a growing into all that God intends us to be with God in community.
As Brennan Manning writes, “To live by grace means to acknowledge my whole life story, the light and the dark. In admitting my shadow side, I learn who I am and what God’s grace means. For grace proclaims the awesome truth that all is a gift. All good is ours not by right but by the sheer bounty of a gracious God. The Good News of the gospel of grace cries out: we are all, equally privileged but unentitled beggars at the door of God’s mercy!”
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