The man who is broken - original sin - Romans 5:12-19

This is a sermon by Lee McMunn from the evening service on 17th May 2009.

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One of my favourite questions as a child was why. I’m sure it was rather cute to begin with but then got very irritating as the years went by. I still love asking the why question because there are some things in life that I think demand an explanation. Sometimes these are trivial concerns and sometimes more important topics. Let me give you two examples of trivial things that are going through my head at the moment. 

•    Why do so many of us say sorry when someone else bumps into us in the street?
•    Why is it that I can go to the fish counter at Asda and select a few slices of Vietnamese Cobbler, which as the name suggests has been transported all the way from Vietnam, without any questions being asked but when I go to the checkout to pay for it and ask for a plastic bag I am given a look which says ‘You should be locked up’?

Why do these things happen? Some things demand an explanation. Some are trivial. Let me give you a more serious example. Why do people die? Why does everyone die? All around the world, in every country, every day, people die. Not just the old, why do young people die? Why do infants die? Why do babies die? Why is it that death is such a feature of our world? This is the question I want is to think about tonight. The reason is because we are given an answer in Romans chapter 5.

Two health warning. Keep with me. Listen up. Paul squeezes lots in. We need to follow what he is saying. You may not like what is written here. Is this what the passage says? Not, do I like what Lee is saying? But is this what the Bible teaches? Because if it is then let us believe it.

There are my health warnings. Let me show you what Paul says. We’ll start at verse 12. “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death came to all men, because all sinned” so also. Well, actually those are the words we would have expected but we don’t find them. Paul has started off the sentence with the intention of giving us a comparison but he gets midway through and changes tactics. This is not because he is absent minded and can’t finish what he should be doing without being distracted. It’s because he gets midway through his sentence and feels the need to clarify what he has just written so that people will not misunderstand him.

Let’s see if we can work out what he has written. We’ll take it phrase by phrase. Sin entered the world through one man and death through sin. Takes us back to the Garden of Eden and to the event of Adam and Eve’s disobedience. His focus is on Adam. He is held responsible for the rebellion that took place on that fateful day in years gone by. Because of him the world saw something it had never seen before. It saw rebellion. Sin means rebellion. Through Adam rebellion entered the world.

And what came next as a consequence? Death. Death through sin.  That’s what God had promised in Genesis chapter 2. If you eat of this tree you will surely die. That’s what happened. That very day the sentence of death was pronounced on Adam and that very day his body started to die. The clock started ticking until one day it would tick no more.

All seems straightforward so far. Adam was responsible for the first act of sin and as a result the death sentence was pronounced but then look at how Paul links what happened to Adam with what happens to us. Middle of verse 12, “and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned.”

What does this mean? Our instinctive answer is to focus on our personal sins. Adam sinned and so suffered the consequence. The same happens with us. There is a connection between sin and death. Most read ‘because all sinned’ to mean – we all die because all of us have committed personal rebellion and the penalty for rebellion is death. However, because of what Paul writes in verses 13 and 14 I’m convinced that this is not what Paul meant. What does he say? “for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law. 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.”

Sin existed before the law of Moses was given but it was not taken into account. That is not subject to punishment. Like a wheel clamper towing away your car without any notices. However, death still reigned from Adam to Moses and even over those who did not disobey a command. Paul is showing us that there were people in the time from Adam to Moses who died and who had not committed personal sins of their own. Why did they die? Why did infants who had not consciously rebelled? Paul’s answer is that they all sinned. Not by repeating Adam’s mistake and committing a personal sin but in some mysterious way the Bible says that the whole of humanity was united to Adam and we sinned in him and so all humans are now liable to the penalty of death.

Let me try and clear up what I am trying to say. The Bible is teaching us that the actions of Adam effect us all. Normally when Christians speak about the effect Adam has on us we speak about the sinful nature that we inherit from him. We are born with a selfish nature that leads to sinful behaviour. This is true and makes sense of the world we live in. It’s not just about social conditioning and upbringing. There is a sinful nature that we are born with.

It explains why children are never told to make sure they don’t share their toys. It explains why some of the most educated in the land fiddle their expenses. Of course they blame the system but the human heart is greedy for gain and if it thinks it won’t get caught it will sin. C.S. Lewis said that this doctrine is the basis of democratic government – where power is spread out over many people and where the rulers can be changed. In others words, the best argument for democracy is not that people are good enough to govern themselves, but that people are so bad that none can be trusted with absolute power.

The Bible does teach this link. See it in Psalm 51. That Adam’s sin effects our nature.

But it’s not what Paul is teaching in Romans 5. He is making a link between Adam and us but he is not saying that we inherit a sinful nature which then leads us to do sinful things which then make us liable to judgement. He is saying here that Adam’s sin has effected our status as human beings. That because we have been linked in some mysterious way to Adam we are all born with Adam’s sentence hanging over our heads.

This explains why everyone dies. We die because Adam sinned not because we commit personal sins.

Is this unfair? No. There are examples I could give you of one person effecting others and you would think are fair. Electing a prime minister who took us to war. Ah, you say, but we didn’t choose Adam to represent us? God did and he says it is fair.

This is reality. Everyone dies, whether in the retirement home or in the maternity ward. Everyone dies because everyone has sinned in Adam.

But here is the good news. Just as we suffer from Adam in this way, so we are saved by Jesus in the same way. Why has Paul been writing this. Not ultimately to tell us why everyone dies although what he writes does tell us why this is what we experience. But his ultimate reason for explaining how we are connected to Adam and so how we suffer the consequences of his sin, is to explain how Christians are connected to Jesus and so benefit from his perfect life and substitutionary death. Or as Paul puts it in verse 14, “Adam was a pattern of the one to come.”

We must understand how we are linked to Adam if we are to understand the glorious truth of how Christians are linked with Jesus. In verses 18 and 19 Paul will compare Adam with Jesus but before he does he, first of all, highlights their differences. His ultimate aim is to compare them but before he does this he contrasts them and let’s us know the important differences between the two.

We don’t have time to look at them in detail but the gist of what Paul is saying is that Adam brought death whereas Jesus brought life. Death was the result of God’s justice whereas justification was the result of God’s grace.

How do they compare? Verses 18 and 19, “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.”
Adam effects those linked to him. Jesus effects those linked with him. How? His act led to the death sentence for all. Jesus’ act of righteousness leads to life for all. What is this act of righteousness? It must include his obedience to death on the cross. Also his perfect life lived. What about his act of righteousness as his obedience to the Father’s instruction to leave the splendour of heaven to become the man who lived a perfect life and who died a death others deserved?

The result of this act of righteousness was justification that brings life to all men. Justification means to be given a status of being in a right relationship with God. All is well. All is right between me and God.

The important question is why? Why am I justified? Listen to what Paul says in verse 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.” To understand how a Christian is effected by Jesus it is crucial to understand how everyone is effected by Adam. 

How are we made sinners through Adam? In Romans 5 Paul means we are made sinners in status. So how are we made righteous by Jesus. In status. 

Do you see the horror that would result if we said Paul meant we were made sinners in nature. If we say that our condemnation is the result of our personal sins caused by our sinful nature inherited from Adam then we are in great danger of making our personal acts of righteousness the basis of our salvation. To be consistent we would have to say that to be made righteous means to be made good in our nature and do righteous deeds in order that we can be declared righteous. Thankfully this is not the link. It is about status.

Adam did this and we suffer his status but wonderfully Jesus did this and we benefit from him.

What does this mean?

You will understand the world. This is why people die. They are linked to Adam.

When we read the Gospels and see Jesus living a righteous life then we will thank God that he did this on our behalf.

We will understand salvation rightly.

If you are not a follower of Jesus do you see what this means for you? You need to get connected to Jesus.

How are we linked with Adam? We are born linked to him. How are we linked with Jesus? By faith.

If you are a believer you have been declared righteous because of the righteous act of God the Son who left the splendour of heaven to live a perfect life and die your death. This is reason to praise his name forever more and makes sure that God gets all the glory!


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