Romans 5:12-19 (First Sunday in Lent—Series A)
“Team Death? No More!”
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT
March 1, 2020
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Our text is the Epistle lesson from Romans 5:
12On account of this, just as through one man sin entered into the world and death [entered the world] through sin, so also death passed through to all people because all sinned. 13For before the Law, sin was in the world, but sin is not being charged to one’s account while the Law is not existing. 14But death reigned from Adam until Moses, even upon the ones who were not sinning in the same way as the transgression of Adam, who is a pattern of the one about to come. 15But the trespass is not like the gracious gift. For if by the one trespass 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 not as through the one who sinned is the gift. For, on the one hand, the judgment from the one is for condemnation, but, on the other hand, from many trespasses the gracious gift is a decree of righteousness. 17For if by the trespass of the one death reigned through that one, how much more will the ones who receive the overflow of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one, Jesus Christ! 18Consequently, then, as through the one trespass come condemnation for all people, so also through one righteous act came righteousness of life for all people. 19For just as through the disobedience of the one man, the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one, the many will be made righteous.
Over the past few years, my daughter has enjoyed watching The Voice: Kids. Children of various ages go out on stage and sing for “coaches” who initially have their backs turned to them. As these coaches listen, they then decide whether they want that young singer on their team. If they do, they hit their buzzer, turn around, and see the singer for the first time. If more than one coach wants the young singer, the singer has to pick which coach he or she would like to help them along the path to winning the competition. It’s not a bad show. There are a lot of amazing young voices out there.
Now it happens that you and I are taking our turn on the “stage of life.” We’re hoping to have a coach and mentor pick us. You and I just happen to come from a pretty good pedigree. We have a biblical star in our family line—Adam. He was the crown of God’s good creation. He was created in love to care for the world God had made, “The Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed” (Gen. 2:7-8 ESV). Adam and his wife, Eve, were given “dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth” (Gen. 1:26 ESV). What a role! Caretaker, steward of God’s “very good” creation. What a relationship! Created in the image of God, knowing God perfectly as He wished to be known, holy and righteous.
That’s the Adam and Eve from whom we are descendants. I believe the Biblical account of Creation in six, 24-hour days, to be true. I believe that all people are descendants of Adam and his wife, Eve, “the mother of all living.” And that should look really good on our resumés as we take the stage of life. We are the living heirs of God’s first creation of man and woman. That should get us chosen for all the right “teams,” by all the best “coaches.” We should be set up for the prize, for the big win in life.
But the only coach that turns to face us is Death. Team Death claims us!
“What about our pedigree? What about our lineage back to Adam, created in the image of God?”
Death looks at you and laughs in your face. “You lost that a long time ago. ‘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). Your ‘prize’ on this great stage of life,” Death scoffs, “is the grave.”
You object. This can’t be right. Maybe a different tactic. Dissociate yourself from Adam. Maybe you don’t need him in your resumé. You are distinct. You are unique. You are so different from Adam, a real 21st-century man or woman. You don’t need anybody to make a name for yourself. You don’t need any help. Maybe this will net a different coach, a different goal.
Death is still the only one turned and looking at you. “You ever sin?” Death asks.
“What do you mean, ‘sin’?” you ask.
Death retorts, “Oh don’t play stupid like this mixed up world tries to do. You know very well what ‘sin’ is. You feel guilty for it. Oh, most downplay it and call it a mistake or a boo-boo or an unintentional “lack of judgment” on their part, but everybody knows what ‘sin’ is. They just aren’t all willing to admit it about themselves, that they are ‘sinners.’ And do you remember how all you humans got into that condition? It was read to you this morning! Your precious Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s command. They transgressed God’s Word. And then Adam blamed Eve; Adam blamed God—the woman you made for me! Eve blamed Satan. Fingers pointing every direction except at themselves.”
Death grins at you, “Sin entered the world. The perfect world God had created and now it’s all going to hell, literally. Sin’s like a genetic disease. Although you won’t find it in your genes. It’s a spiritual disease. And it’s fatal. Sin is going to kill you. And that’s why you have to be on my team. I own you. You sin. You die. That’s the perfect judgment of God against sinners. Call them mistakes or what you will, every time you fail to love God 100%, each time you do not love your neighbors and show them mercy, all the instances where you do whatever feels good to you and you disobey the Word of God, you sin. You sin. You die—an eternity of death. Hell. Welcome to the team.”
Romans, chapter 5: “But death reigned from Adam until Moses, even upon the ones who were not sinning in the same way as the transgression of Adam, who is a pattern of the one about to come. But the trespass is not like the gracious gift. For if by the one trespass 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!”
Team Death ruled. The big winner! But no more. God the Son left His glorious throne to become perfectly human, without sin. And this righteous Son of God, Jesus, in human flesh and blood entered into this world of sin and death. He obeyed the commandments of God perfectly, without spot or blemish. He loved God the Father completely. He loved His neighbors and showed them mercy completely. He loved the unlovable, the enemy, those who murdered Him, sinners all, you and me. Paul Gerhardt, the famous Lutheran hymnwriter put it so beautifully in his hymn, “Upon the Cross Extended,” writing, “Who is it, Lord, that bruised You? Who has so sore abused You And caused You all Your woe? We all must make confession Of sin and dire transgression While You no ways of evil know. I caused Your grief and sighing By evils multiplying As countless as the sands. I caused the woes unnumbered With which Your soul is cumbered, Your sorrows raised by wicked hands” (LSB 453:3-4).
Jesus received our sins in His own body on the cross. Having kept God’s commands for us, He then received the penalty for our sins—Death—Hell—Forsaken, abandoned by the heavenly Father as Jesus endured what Death had in store for you and me. And the result of this sacrifice in place of all sinners is righteousness and life.
You get the credit for Jesus’ perfect life. “The gracious gift is a decree of righteousness!” (Rom. 5:16). You are counted as having kept the commandments of God perfectly because Jesus’ righteousness is charged to your account. Jesus’ righteousness is applied to you in the Gospel Word, Absolution, and in the waters of Baptism. You are declared “not guilty” of sin. You are forgiven. In faith, as you eat and drink the true Body and Blood of Jesus, once crucified, now risen from the dead, you receive into your person forgiveness of sins. And where there is forgiveness, there is life! There is salvation from sin and death!
Where sins stand forgiven, Death cannot reign anymore. Where the righteousness of Jesus Christ covers the sinner with His precious blood, Death cannot hold power any longer. But what of death? We still die. Yes, until the Last Day when Jesus comes again and completes the defeat of Death, you and I will breathe our last in this world. But it will last but a moment. Immediately, your soul and mine will be with Jesus in Paradise to await the day of resurrection. On that day, the last enemy—Death—with be vanquished. You and I will rise again in our bodies to new life, to everlasting life in body and soul. From 1 Corinthians 15, “For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. . . . ‘O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:21–26, 55-56 ESV).
It is Christ’s victory over sin and death that means you are no longer on Team Death. You are no longer under the reign of sin, death, and hell. Adam’s destiny was death because of sin. Death passed through to all people because all sinned. And so your destiny was also death. But no more! Christ came and claimed you as His own. By the gift of grace, Jesus lived for you, died for you, and rose for you. Your sins are forgiven. You have Christ’s righteousness and resurrection to life everlasting. Amen.