Thursday, May 29, 2014

Romans 5: Grace is God's Response to Sin

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Rom 5:12-21 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and 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. Yet 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. But 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. And 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. 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. 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. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The word "sin" (Greek: harmatia) is used 53 times in the entire book of Romans, but most of these occurrences are concentrated in Romans 5-7. It occurs 8 times in chapter 5, 17 times in chapter 6 and 14 times in chapter 7.  After Romans 8, the word "sin" disappears until Romans 11:27. The word "sin" is found mainly before Romans 8 where Paul begins with his famous declaration: "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1).

But what is "sin"? The Greek word harmatia literally means "missing the mark": Paul says in Romans 3:23 that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." God's standard is moral perfection and sin is moral imperfection. In other words, because of sin, we are unable to live up to the full image of God implanted within every human person. Paul uses the word sin in the first 7 chapters of Romans as more than just what we do--he uses sin to explain who we are in Adam. As it has been said, "We are not sinners because we sin; we sin because we are sinners." Sin is the operating environment of all who are born of Adam: "Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man [Adam], and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned" (v.12).

We are all born with sin as the built-in Operating System: so even a child will start to sin without anyone teaching them how to do it e.g. rebelling, lying and bullying other kids. No matter how angelic our kids look, there is lurching within every child the built-in sinful predisposition simply because they were born of Adam, not of Christ. So, parents should not be shocked when their "cute" babies start misbehaving--it's to be expected and it's best to be prepared to handle it correctly right from the start through proper discipline. If we ignore this truth, we will reap our neglect of discipline years later when our children reach adolescence. Whether we want to admit or not, sin is a reality of human existence.

However, the word "grace" is also mentioned in Romans 21 times, 13 times occurring in the first 6 chapters of Romans while the rest after Romans 11. In other words, wherever sin is present, grace is also present. Adam is a type of sin, and Christ is a type of grace. In Adam we inherit sin. In Christ we inherit righteousness.

On numerous Alpha courses, I have often been asked why God didn't just stop Adam and Eve from sinning--that would have saved humanity all the pain and suffering experienced because of Adam. I have thought about this for a long-time and have come to this conclusion: if Adam was prevented from sinning, not only would he lose his freedom of choice as someone who bore God's image, but more importantly, we would have lost one of God's greatest revelation of Himself in the Bible. Adam and Eve's sin was recorded in Genesis chapter 3. Had God prevented Adam and Eve from sinning, we would not have the rest of Scripture (Genesis 3 through to the last book of the NT) which tells of God's gracious response to human sin and rebellion--even to the point of sacrificing His own Son at the Cross to redeem man from slavery to sin.

This "mystery" of God's grace would forever be hidden from the Universe has God intervened at the Garden of Eden. The greatest revelation of God in the Universe is not his power but his grace as revealed in Jesus Christ: "the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ" (v.17).  Since the whole purpose of God's Creation is to reveal the glory of God, sin has allowed God to display His infinite grace. So, Paul asserts: "where sin increased, grace abounded all the more" (v.20).

So, now we can experience God's grace through Jesus Christ by being "born again" to become members of the new human race born in Christ, not in Adam. Once we are born in Christ, we are born into the kingdom of light and delivered from Satan's kingdom of darkness: "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" (v.15). While we had no choice about being born in Adam, we can now choose to be born in Christ by receiving His free gift of righteousness: "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" (v.17).

Father, thank You for revealing Your abundant grace in Jesus Christ. We receive this gift of righteousness now by faith in Christ's atoning sacrifice at the Cross. Amen.

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