Romans 5:12-19 What we have before us today in God’s Word is a wonderful summary of what the Bible teaches about sin and salvation.
Genesis tells us how sin entered the world and what it did to us. The Gospel lesson shows us what Christ has done to earn our salvation by remaining faithful to God in temptation. And Romans perfectly joins them together so that we can clearly see the terrible curse of original sin for what it is—but give thanks to God for his incredible grace that has made things right again in his Son Jesus Christ. The Bible says that:
Just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, so death spread to all men because all sinned—for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law.
Adam’s disobedience brought sin into the world and into every human life that followed including our own. From the moment that Adam disobeyed God and ate from the tree in the Garden of Eden that was forbidden to him—he and every one of his descendants have been affected by his sin and will die because of it, including us.
There are no exceptions or exemptions regarding the deadly effects of Adam’s sin. The Bible says that death spread to ALL men—even to those who did not break a specific command of God:
Death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.
Adam and Eve had a specific command of God not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil or they would die. Moses was given the Ten Commandments and death was the consequence for breaking those commandments.
But in between Adam in the Garden and Moses on Mount Sinai there was no particular, special revelation of God’s will-- and yet every single person within that great length of time also died. Why is that?
First of all, even though there was no audible command or written law, the will of God was still written in man’s heart. Every person knew that it was wrong to kill and steal and commit adultery because God had impressed his will upon their heart.
Ignorance of the Ten Commandments—or even the absence of the Ten Commandments (like there was for all those years between Adam and Moses) was no excuse. Neither is it an excuse today.
The Law of God is written on our heart. We can deny it—we can suppress it—we can join churches that tell us that it is no longer in effect--but we can’t get rid of it-- because it accuses us and convicts us and God holds us accountable for it.
Second of all, every person between Adam and Moses died because Adam’s sin had spread to them simply by virtue of their being a part of the human family.
Even little children died during that time just like they do today-- not because they had committed some great offence against the Ten Commandments or even sinned against the law written in their heart—but because they were descended from Adam.
The Bible says that death reigned over mankind even during this time that lacked a particular revelation of God’s will, because of the sin of Adam that was passed on to all of us.
Adam’s actions affected all of us and in this, the Bible says, he is a type or a picture of the Savior who would come, Jesus Christ, but only for this reason: that the actions of Jesus Christ would also affect all of us—not for our condemnation—but for our justification. The Bible says that:
The free gift is not like the trespass. 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.
One man’s disobedience brought about our condemnation. Adam’s sin destroyed our life with God and it is the reason we die.
But another man’s actions—Jesus Christ’s life, death, and resurrection-- made things right between us and God--so that Christ’s resurrection from the dead was God’s declaration of “not guilty” spoken upon us. Just as he had declared us guilty in Adam and condemned us to death, now, in Jesus, he gives us life.
In our Gospel lesson today we see how Jesus made things right between us and God—standing in Adam’s place where Adam fell (and where we fall) and succeeding in true obedience and righteousness of life—saying “no” to Satan every place where we have sinned and said “yes”.
Satan came to Jesus just as he did Adam: with food—with a promise of power—with a promise of a position equal to God. But where Adam fell into temptation and by his sin destroyed humanity (where we do the same) Jesus resisted temptation and was the faithful, obedient man whom God demands every one of us to be.
In that one powerful scene of our Lord’s victory over temptation in the wilderness, we see Satan’s reign over us being broken by Christ’s perfect obedience to his Father’s will
So it would continue throughout Jesus’ life—moment by moment fulfilling—for us-- in our place-- every thing that God wanted us to be-- right up until that moment when he suffered and died on the cross, in our place, for our sins.
When Jesus Christ was raised by the glory of the Father three days later—the death sentence that was pronounced on us by God because of the sin of Adam and our sin—was lifted off of us—and we were give life. Where there was condemnation and death in Adam, now there is justification and life in Christ. The Bible says that:
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.
Because of Jesus Christ we are right in God’s sight. Once again we know God and love God and have a life with God. How much clearer could the Holy Spirit make it than he does here, that our salvation—our justification before God—our right standing and right relationship with God-- is solely his gift to us based upon Jesus’ work?!
But we also need to know that that the gift of salvation through Christ’s righteousness must be received in faith by us if we are to benefit from it-- for salvation is not only BY grace alone, it is received by us THROUGH faith alone. The Bible says:
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.
God has reconciled us to himself in Christ. Jesus has fully atoned for our sins. He has destroyed the reign of death over us--and restored the reign of life by his own mighty resurrection from the grave. Our justification is an accomplished fact of history.
So does that mean then that every person will be saved? Does that mean that every person will go to heaven? No! Because each of us must receive in faith what Christ has done if the reign of Christ’s life is to be present in our life.
There are no exclusions or exemptions to the necessity of personal faith in Jesus to be saved—not because of gender—not because of race—not because of a lack of knowledge of the Gospel—not because of age.
Even babies need to receive the salvation Christ has won for them on the cross which is why we bring them to the waters of Holy Baptism so that they, who by birth are given death from Adam, can also receive life from Christ. The Bible says:
Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous.
It is the worst possible news that one man’s sin, thousands of years ago, has caused the death of every person who has ever lived. But that is not the end of the story about us and in fact, the certainty of our death points to something far better.
Besides the first Adam who brought sin and death into the world—there was another Adam—a second Adam—who brought righteousness and life. And just as certainly as we die for the first Adam’s sin—so we will just as certainly live because of the second Adam’s righteousness.
That’s the point the Holy Spirit is making here in these verses! There is simply no denying that all of us are alienated from God by nature and that we will all die. But neither is there any denying that we have been declared right in God’s sight and through faith in Jesus we will live forever in his presence.
What Jesus Christ did in his holy life, bloody death, and glorious resurrection MEANS life and salvation for us! Through faith in Jesus Christ you are right in God’s sight and restored to the perfect relationship Adam had with God in the beginning and you will live forever, for there is eternal life in Christ. Amen.