Romans 5:12-19 (First Sunday in Lent—Series A)
“The Trespass and the Gift”
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield, CT
March 5, 2017
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our text is the Epistle lesson from Romans 5:
12On account of this, just as sin entered into the world through one man, and death through sin, so also death came to all people because all sinned. 13For until the Law, sin was in the world, but sin is not charged to one’s account when the Law does not exist. 14But death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam (who is a type of the coming one). 15But the gracious gift is not like the trespass. For if by the means of the sin of the one man the many died, how much more did the grace of God and the gift of grace which is of the one man Jesus Christ overflow to the many! 16And the gift is not like the result of the one man’s sin. On the one hand, the judgment of the one man led to condemnation, but on the other hand, from the many trespasses, the gracious gift led to a decree of righteousness. 17For if by the trespass of the one man death reigned through that one, how much more will the ones who receive the overflow of the grace and the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ! 18It follows then that just as what was through the one trespass results in judgment for all people, so also what was through the righteous act of the one results in righteousness of life for all people.
Eternal life. Immortality. That is what Adam and his wife, Eve, possessed in the Garden. They were created by God to live forever in perfect unity with their Creator. They were righteous and holy. They did God’s will. Imagine! Living perfectly with God, your Creator, forever. Picture living with the God who comes to walk in the Garden with you because He has a perfect relationship with you and you with Him! That was real life, abundant life, everlasting life. And in one short instant, it was gone.
Eve ate of the fruit of the tree of which God had given them the command not to eat. She gave some to Adam, who was consenting to all of it, and he also ate. That, as we heard in the Old Testament reading from Genesis 3, was the moment when “sin entered into the world through one man.” As James describes it in his letter, “Desire, when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown, brings forth death” (Jas. 1:15 ESV). Adam’s sin merited death exactly as God said it would, “In the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Gen. 2:17).
No, Adam didn’t drop dead in that very instant. However, Adam was immediately “spiritually dead” and physically dying, moving toward death. No longer immortal. No longer in possession of eternal life. Adam now possessed death, spiritual and physical, temporal and eternal. “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Gen. 3:19 ESV).
Death is the wage earned by sin (Rom. 6:23). It is God’s holy judgment against sin. Adam was warned. Disobey, or shall we say, sin, and you will die. This sin of Adam, the original sin, is like a highly contagious and infectious disease that is passed on from one person to the next. Perhaps a better way to put it, sin is a horrible hereditary disease in the sense that it is passed on from father and mother to child. Adam and Eve passed sin along to their children, who passed it on to their children, who passed it on to their children. And with the inheritance of sin, each succeeding generation also inherited death. As Paul says, “Just as sin entered into the world through one man, and death [entered the world] through sin, so also death came to all people because all sinned” (Rom. 15:12).
How utterly tragic that humanity, the crown of God’s creation, would lose eternal life with God because they are now separated from Him by the dividing wall of hostility which is our sinful condition (Ephesians 2:14)! You see, sin is not simply sinful “actions” or “doing sin.” Sin is a state of being. It is a situation in which all humans find themselves from the very moment of conception. It’s not a matter of a baby in its mother’s womb or after birth doing something sinful or contrary to God’s Word. It’s a matter of actually being sinful. In Adam’s (and Eve’s) fall into sin, the entire human race fell into sin as Paul says in our text. This means that every person is conceived and born without the ability to fear and love God. From the very beginning of our life in the womb, we are spiritually blind and dead. We are enemies of God with an incessant desire to do sin. Therefore, all people deserve God’s temporal and eternal death sentence. “By means of the sin of the one man the many died” (Rom. 5:15).
You and I, along with all of humanity, enter into this world already enslaved in a life-long sinful condition from which we cannot free ourselves. The judgment of God against Adam’s sin was condemnation. The judgment of God against your sin and mine is condemnation. Along with Adam and Eve, God’s justice and holiness must condemn you and me to death, eternal death, everlasting hell.
“But the gracious gift is not like the trespass,” Paul writes. There is a contrast in our text. One thing is not like the other. Remember from your Sesame Street days the part of the show where you had to pick which of the four or so items were not like the others? Adam sinned and so sin spread to all people through Adam and Eve. Death, the punishment of sin, also spread to all people because all people are sinful by nature and actually do sin. This is totally and completely different than the gracious gift that God chose to give to His fallen people. Paul shows us WHO this gift is and just how different it is from sin and death! “For if by the means of the sin of the one man the many died, how much more did the grace of God and the gift of grace which is of the one man Jesus Christ overflow to the many! And the gift is not like the result of the one man’s sin. On the one hand, the judgment of the one man led to condemnation, but on the other hand, from the many trespasses, the gracious gift led to a decree of righteousness.”
Jesus Christ is the gracious gift of God the Father to sinners. He’s the gift promised in Genesis 3:15 who would ultimately crush the head of the devil. Jesus, true God from eternity, and also true Man, born of the Virgin Mary, is the Lord who brings the gracious gifts of the Father to you and me. Adam’s so-called “gift” to us was sin and death. But Christ’s gift to us is forgiveness and eternal life! How can this be? That would mean a total change in our condition. That would mean that our sins would have to be removed from us so that the judgment of God could be changed to an acquittal and eternal life restored to us!
Precisely! Jesus Christ took our sins and the punishment for our sinful condition, the wages of sin, as His own. Jesus stood under the Father’s judgment and condemnation of death and hell while He was nailed to the cross. Peter writes, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God” (1 Pet. 3:18 ESV). What sin had done in separating us from God, causing us to be His enemies, Jesus atoned for. His death and the shedding of His blood purchased and won complete forgiveness for all our sins, including the original sin with which you and I were born. By the gracious gift of Christ’s own life given into death and His shed blood, Jesus has reconciled you and me to God by breaking down that diving wall of hostility. God is now at one with us on account of Christ. We are at one with our heavenly Father, reunited with God. The division begun with Adam’s sin in the Garden has been healed. By God’s grace, for the sake of the suffering and death of Jesus Christ on the cross, you and I receive a new judgment—a decree of righteousness for Christ’s sake. Not guilty!
You and I, then, have received “the overflow of the grace and the gift of righteousness” from Jesus. This, Paul says, results in “righteousness of life” for us and for all people. And that means you and I have what was lost by Adam’s sin. Eternal life has been restored to you and to me through the saving work of our Lord, Jesus Christ. On the third day following His sacrifice on the cross for us, Jesus rose from the dead. We have that resurrection life now through Holy Baptism. Through the gift of saving faith and trust in Jesus, which receives the forgiveness of sins, you and I are “born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Pet. 1:3 ESV).
As Jesus lives, so we too will live again in body and soul forever with Him. At His Coming Again, our Lord Jesus will create a new heaven and a new earth. There will be a new creation, the Garden of Eden restored, if you prefer, where we, together will all the people of God in Christ Jesus, will live together in perfect unity with our Creator. We will be completely holy. We will do God’s will perfectly. The promise is recorded in Revelation 21 and 22. “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. . . . No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever” (Rev. 21:3; 22:3-5 ESV).
And this is not something we have to imagine. It is our future reality because of Jesus Christ and the gracious gift of God in forgiving our sins and restoring eternal life to us through the saving life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. We now look forward to living perfectly with God, our Creator, forever. We will live in glorified body and soul with the God who will dwell among us. Because of Jesus, He has a perfect relationship with you and you with Him! That is real life, abundant life, everlasting life. And it is yours, already now, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.