Romans 5:12-21 – (Rest in the Gift of Grace)

This sermon was preached at Peace Hill Christian Fellowship on January 22, 2006.  To listen to the audio, just click on this link – Rom 5B.

Be Guilty!

Sin is the Inevitable Fact of Our Lives:  “12 Therefore, as through one man sin entered into the world and through sin – death, so also death passed into all men inasmuch as all sinned”

Throughout Romans, so far, where Paul has spoken about sin, he has described it as men following their passions and desires.  But now Paul turns to consider an even more basic view of sin.

Sin, the infection of the soul with selfish desire – and the guilt under which we stand condemned before God –  entered the world through one man.  Sin does not , then, begin in our lives as a matter of personal choice – it is the state that all human beings are inevitably born into.

What does it mean to be born guilty?    It means that every action of ours – whether pleasant or unpleasant, friendly or hostile to others –  is the action of a rebel.  It means that every moment of my life – regardless of what I happen to be doing – is lived in separation from my Creator against whom I am in rebellion.

Sin is the unchosen reality of my life – the state into which we are born.   This is not to say that we are actually innocent – the tendency to sin comes out almost immediately after we are born – but there is no choice as to whether we would be born with or without sin – in rebellion or at peace with God.  We are born in rebellion and under judgment.

Sin and Death Rule Over Us Without Exception:  “13 for until the Law sin was in the world but sin is not reckoned 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 in the likeness of Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come.”

There are no exceptions to sin.  We are all rebels.  Paul deals with two possible exceptions to his argument:

  1. What about those who sinned in ignorance – who sinned apart from the Law which was given to expose the offense of sin?
  2. What about those who did not sin like Adam did – should they not be free from his guilt?

Paul gives the same answer to both of these questions – death, the result of sin, overtook everyone from the time of Adam until the present.

Reject any Claim to Innocence:  What is the point of this grim discussion?   Until we completely rule out any claim of innocence we might have – we cannot properly receive grace.  And so Paul exposes the true extent of our rebellion.  We were not born in innocence – we were born as rebels and the children of rebels.  We were born and immediately began to earn death.  Death and sin have ruled our lives from the day of our birth.

Until we understand and accept this fact – grace will be difficult if not impossible for us to accept.  This is why Paul is speaking about sin as an inevitable fact of our lives.  If we have any claim to innocence at all, then grace is robbed of its power, and we will vainly try to build on that imagined innocence.   We must be guilty – completely and without exception before we can receive the grace that will make us free.

Look at a Living Picture of Grace.

Grace is Overpowering Sin:   “15 But the free gift is not like the offense For if by the offense of the one many died Much more rather the Grace of God and the Gift in Grace of the one man Jesus Christ abound to the many.”

What Paul trying to say with this technical sounding argument is that sin and rebellion – which have ruled over us and dominated our lives – began through the action of a man – a human being like ourselves.   But the free gift of grace and forgiveness come from God.

What  does that mean?  It means that as powerful as condemnation is in our lives – our sin, and the origin of our sin – is merely human action.   The guilt and the fear and the condemnation we experience are weak and passing in comparison with the grace we have been given as a gift.

God’s grace overpowers the inheritance of our sin.  God’s gift is as much greater than our guilt as Christ is greater than Adam.  Grace is abundant to wash away sin.  The gift is much more powerful than the inheritance.  Grace and sin are not locked in a struggle in our lives – before God grace has abolished sin.  The grace of God is much more than our human sin.

Grace is Spreading:  “16 And the free gift is not like that which came through the one sinning;  For on the one hand judgment comes out of one offense – to condemnation On the other hand the free gift is out of many offenses to justification “

Here again, Paul’s argument seems a little strange – but what he is saying is that while sin began with one offense – one kind of rebellion – and spread,  grace began by covering many acts of rebellion – and spreads to cover all sin.  Grace was designed to spread.

In other words, there is only one kind of sin – deep distrust of God resulting in following our passions and rebelling against God’s rule.  But grace was created to deal with every expression of that sin – willful sin, thoughtless sin, every kind of sin.  And as we become more aware of the presence and ugliness of sin in our lives – grace spreads to cover our sin.

And Grace is Tearing the Rule Away from Sin and Giving it to Us in Christ:  “17 For if by the offense of one man death reigned through one man how much rather will the ones receiving the abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness in life reign through the one man Jesus Christ.”

This has already begun!   Grace has torn away sin’s domination in our lives.  We see this when we, (born into deep distrust and rebellion against God), turn to Christ.   Though we still live in the presence of sin, sin has been de-fanged and can no longer hold onto us as it did before we knew Christ.

We are the ones, now, who reign over sin by turning to Christ and receiving grace.  The situation has changed totally – from one in which we were born in rebellion without choice – to one in which we are able to choose love for God over rebellion.

Walk in Grace!

Be Overpowered by One Righteous Act:  “18 So Therefore,  as through one offense condemnation came to all men,even so through one righteous act justification of life came to all men 19  For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were constituted sinners  so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be constituted righteous.”

We were made guilty through one offense – one act of disobedience beyond our control.  Now we have been given the gift of one righteous act (Paul’s summation of the entire life of Christ).  This is the gift of righteousness given to us which constitutes (sums up in its entirety) our life.

How do we walk in this one righteous act?   By trusting in that one righteous act more than we trust in our own attempts at righteousness.  This has been the force of Paul’s entire argument.  We feel condemned because we are condemned outside of Christ.   But if Christ’s one righteous act (his life) is what we trust in – then we no longer are at the mercy of weighing every action, questioning every motive, being overwhelmed by our sin.

Believe that Grace has overpowered your life – that this gift of God has become the defining characteristic of who you are.

Let Grace Spread:   “20 The law entered so that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded all the more,   21 in order that just as sin reigned by death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Learn to understand grace as a spreading reality in your life.   We are so prone to believe that God has forgiven certain sins but not others – why?  Because our understanding of grace is often of  a dissatisfied, irritable God who is constantly surprised by the new depths o four sin.  We have our own system in which barely adequate grace (like a blanket that is too small), just covers us as long as our sin is under our control.

Grace Abounds!  Grace spreads and overtakes us – and it does so because God is not critical but overflowing with goodness and love.  Let  grace spread into the areas of your unacceptable sin.  Expand your view of grace – believe in Scripture’s huge view of grace – not as a barely adequate blanket – but as a covering ocean.   Despair of your own righteousness and receive the righteousness of Jesus.

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