A Tale of Two Men
A sermon preached on Romans 5:12-19 by Pastor Michael Johnson at Good Shepherd Lutheran in Sioux Falls, SD, on March 1, 2020. – www.gswels.org
12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned— 13 for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law. 14 Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come. 15 But 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! 16 Again, the gift of God is not like the result of the one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. 17 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. 18 Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. 19 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. – Romans 5:12-19
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times… so starts Charles Dickens’ famous novel A Tale of Two Cities. That is perhaps a fitting description and way to start off the tale we have before us today. Today we’re not looking at life in London and Paris during the French revolution but we’re looking at the difference between the lives of two men. Today, the Apostle Paul takes our first lesson on Adam’s fall into sin and he compares it with our Gospel on Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness by the devil. Today Paul gives us A Tale of Two Men We are 1. Sinful in Adam and 2. Righteous in Christ.
Paul writes: “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned.” Can one person really make a difference? A lot of younger people don’t care about voting because it’s just one vote and it doesn’t matter. Some people get afraid of trying to do something because they’re just one person and they’re too small to make a difference. Can one person really make a difference? Well have you ever tried to go to sleep in a room where there is one small single fly buzzing around? It was just one fly but it sure made a difference on your ability to sleep. Or what about the guy whose job it was to hand out the Oscar winner envelopes a few years ago? He handed out the wrong envelopes… he make a difference on the Oscars? Ya. One person can make a difference for good or bad.
Unfortunately, for Adam in our first reading this morning, Adam made a huge difference in the world for the worse when he fell into sin. God had created a beautiful world and an extra special garden for Adam and Eve to enjoy in Eden. It was full of fruit and vegetables for them to enjoy. And God gave them one single tree he asked them not to eat from – the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. One tree. Why did he even do this? Adam and Eve didn’t have a church building like we do to come and worship God – in a sense that was the purpose that tree served. Every time they walked by that tree and chose to follow God’s will not eat from it – they were worshiping God. And it’s not like that was a burdensome thing was it?
Yet, Adam and Eve chose to ignore God’s will and warnings and wanted to become more important so they ate from the tree and fell into sin. Sin entered the world through Adam’s sin. From that moment, the entire world itself became corrupted by and tainted by sin. Death wasn’t part of God’s original blue print, but now it was. Troubles and worries entered the world with sin. Even things that had once been good and pure now were tainted such as work. Works isn’t a result of sin – Adam had jobs to do in the garden before the Fall, but now jobs can feel tedious, burdensome, and painful. The inquisitive part of me wonders what other bothersome things were like before the Fall – What were the purpose of mosquitos before the Fall because now they just seem like a reminder we’re not in heaven yet.
But more seriously, Paul says: Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned. Adam’s sin corrupted the world – it corrupted his nature that he passed on. Adam and Eve were created in God’s image – that means they were perfect and holy. That was lost when they sinned. They couldn’t pass on God’s image, instead every child born from them and ever since was born – not in God’s image, but in Adam’s image – corrupted and sinful. The Bible describes it this way: “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5).
Every person, other than Jesus, who has ever been born was a sinner, naturally opposed to God from birth – in the womb even. We call that original sin. And it doesn’t take a lot of parenting to learn how true this is. I never had to teach my children to talk back. I never had to teach them to be naughty…they figured that out pretty well on their own because they inherited my sinful nature. That’s why we all eventually die, because we’re all sinners.
But our sins should result in more than just physical death. Paul says: “Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men…For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners.” We all stand as sinners before God because of Adam’s sin – we’re guilty of inheriting sin from our parents and we’re guilty of adding a mountain of our own sins to the pile. And we deserve to be condemned to hell for all eternity for that sin.
In this tale of two men – we are all sinful in Adam and we will all die in Adam. There is nothing we can do about it on our own because when you’re born sinful, you’re spiritually dead. The Bible says: “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). All would be lost if it were just a tale of Adam, but thankfully this is a tale of two men – and the other is Christ.
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. Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. 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.
There is nothing we can do about our situation before God. That’s why God did something for us. God himself took our place. Jesus is a person – 100% human, yet also 100% God so that he could live the perfect life we should have. And that’s exactly what Jesus did. He lived the life that Adam should have in the first place – always obeying God the Father’s will, always putting his heavenly Father first – his entire life. And today’s Gospel showcased one of the biggest head to head clashes Jesus had with Satan in his life. And Jesus crushed him. Satan tried to get Jesus to put his physical needs and hunger before God – yet Jesus quoted the Bible and served his Father. Satan tried to trick Jesus into testing God and being reckless and Jesus rejected his temptation. Satan tried to tempt Jesus with a way out of saving the world by dying (it was a fake way for sure) but the temptation was very real for a guy who knew how his life would end, and again gave glory only to his Father in heaven.
The result of his perfect life and innocent suffering and death? Paul says: so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. Because Jesus is true God dying for your sins, his death was a payment big enough that it satisfied God’s wrath for the sins of the whole world. There on the cross Jesus paid for every sin that has ever been made and will ever be made.
This is so important because how else would I ever have any confidence in Christ? How do I know that I too am forgiven? How do I know that I am saved that I am loved by God? Jesus died for the sins of the world… last time I checked all of my sins were committed here as part of this world – that means he has forgiven all my sins too. Have a bad secret deep down that you hope no one ever finds out? Do you sometimes wonder if God could even forgive that sin? He has won forgiveness for every sin – no sin is too big to overcome God’s love and forgiveness in Christ.
Yet, Paul says many will be made righteous through Jesus – he doesn’t say all will. Jesus won forgiveness for the sins of the whole world, but that forgiveness doesn’t do me any good unless I receive the benefits of that forgiveness through faith. Faith is the instrument God uses to channel the benefit of Christ’s life and death to us. It’s through faith that I am clothed in Jesus’ righteousness – his right with Godness. And here the doubt is removed as well – this too is a gift from God. Earlier we said we were dead in our sin by nature – there’s nothing a dead person can do. God works that faith in us through his Word. I never have to worry if I’ve done enough, do I believe enough. Are you part of this world? Then Jesus lived and died for you. You are forgiven. Believe it, trust it. Cherish it.
Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). That includes me. That includes you. Amen