Friday, January 05, 2007

Romans 5:18-19

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.

V18-19 – One sin = condemnation; one act of righteousness = justification. For “all” or “many”? Paul now moves on to the similarities of Adam and Christ. Remember he said that Adam was a pattern of the One to come. That’s a type. But then he went and gave us anti-type examples. Now Paul is back to the similarities. First, we see that just as one man’s sin (Adam as our federal representative) equals condemnation for all, so One man’s righteousness (Christ, our new representative) equals justification for all. Second, we see that just as one man’s disobedience (Adam) makes many sinners, so the obedience of One man (Christ) makes many righteous. One act got all men into sin and condemnation; one act got many men out of sin and condemnation. Anything stand out to you about these comparisons?

Throughout this passage Paul uses the terms “all” and “many.” Does he mean something different by those terms? No. The words “all” and “many” in this passage are interchangeable as far as Paul is concerned. They are stressing two aspects of the same truth. Look at v15. There it says by the transgression of the one, the “many” died. Now, does Paul mean that by Adam’s sin some people died, but not all people? Is that why he uses “many” there? No. Go back and look at v12. Through one man, sin entered into the world and death spread to “all” men. “All” in v12, and “many” in v15 are parallel. Paul will use “many” in this passage to stress the amazing multiplying effect of sin; even though it was one sin, “many” are impacted. He’s not saying “many, but not all.” He’s saying, “Isn’t it amazing that one sin can wreak this kind of destruction?” But the parallel between “many” and “all” is exact.

There are “many” well-meaning people who come to this passage and say, “Well, it says that “all” die because of that one sin, and it says that the “many” died by that one sin, and it says that “all” were justified by Christ, and the “many” were justified by Christ. So I guess what this passage is teaching is that everybody is saved.” Is Paul teaching the doctrine of universalism here? Everybody is justly condemned, but everybody is also justified and saved through the work of Jesus Christ? Universalists say that it’s our job as Christians not to go out and say, “Repent and be saved.” It is our job as Christians to go out and say, “Look, you’re already saved. You just need to accept it.” The gospel is not to announce to everyone that they’re already saved. Universalism is absolutely false, and this passage, in v17, shows it.

Paul does not say the sin of Adam resulted in the reign of death over all and the righteousness of Christ resulted in the reign of life over all. The parallel is this: the sin of Adam led to the reign of death overall and the righteousness of Christ led to all those who receive Him reigning in life by His grace. Those who receive Him are the ones who participate in this great gift. Note also the parallel in 1 Corinthians 15:21-23 “For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. …then those who belong to Him (not all).” Will all be made alive (eternal life)? No, only those who belong to Him. So why does Paul even use the word “all”? The answer:

Paul is talking to Jewish folk who think that in order to be saved, you’ve got to become like them. And Paul is saying, “No, no, no. Salvation is for all (kinds): Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female.”

Now perhaps you're still asking about or disagreeing with me on this whole imputation thing. Maybe you’re saying, “I disagree that Adam does something and it’s imputed to me. I don’t understand how he can be my representative. And that sin can be imputed—you’re wrong about this whole representative principle. It’s not fair.” We'll answer that rebuttal next week, and it'll be a multi-faceted response.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Romans 5:15-17

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! 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. 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.

V15-16 – The gift is not like the trespass. Paul has asserted that there is something significant about our sin “in Adam” and our forgiveness “in Christ.” He’ll spend v15-17 explaining how being “in Adam” and “in Christ” are not similar; he wants to assert Christ’s superiority to Adam. Paul says, “Here are three contrasts of our conditions in Adam and Christ.” And then in v18-19, which we'll examine tomorrow, Paul will tell us how “in Adam” and “in Christ” are similar. Notice that Paul again divides all people in two groups: “in Adam” and “in Christ.”

The first discontinuity or distinction between Adam and Christ is found in v15, and it’s between God’s justice in condemnation, and God’s grace in redemption. In that way the covenant of works and the covenant of grace are totally different. God’s universal condemnation to hell of men and women who have rebelled against God is not surprising. It is deserved. But salvation, even the salvation of one single, solitary soul is gratuitous; it’s undeserved, unearned, surprising, and amazing. Many people, even Christians, think it’s unfair or surprising that God would condemn people to eternal hell. But Paul says, “That’s not surprising or unfair. It’s clearly deserved. You want surprising or unfair? How about that anyone would be saved? That’s surprising! That’s unfair, and there’s nothing deserving in us to get it.” The contrast made here is between God’s justice (deserved) and God’s grace (undeserved).

The second distinction, found in v16, is that through one man’s (Adam) sin came death for all, whereas, on the other hand, many sins were covered by the righteousness of One man (Christ). Paul says that Adam’s sin had race-wide implications. Everybody in the human race was involved, implicated, corrupted, and deserved justice because of Adam’s sin; in contrast many iniquities were covered by Jesus Christ. Because of one sin, all were judged and condemned. But in spite of billions of sins in the covenant of grace, Christ caused all who were in Him (many) to be acquitted. So Paul’s second contrast focuses on the consequences of Adam’s actions in distinction from the consequences of Christ’s free gift. We’ll see the third distinction in v17.

Adam is the only person in the history of the world who was an appropriate scapegoat in his life. Would you have liked to have been Adam living another 900 years after the fall? It would be pretty nice to live 900+ years. But think about this: everywhere he went, somebody pointed to him and said, “This is all your fault. You messed up. You got us in this mess.” And Paul says, “You know, that’s true, but think of the contrast. 150 generations of inherited sin and corruption reversed by the grace of God in Jesus Christ.” It’s not just that Jesus has put the lid back on Pandora’s Box. It’s better. He’s liquidated our debt. He’s absorbed our penalty. He’s acquitted us in court and transformed our hearts by grace. He has put a stop to the seemingly immutable pattern of sin and judgment and condemnation. And Paul says that’s surprising. You want to find something to be surprised about, don’t be surprised about sin in a fallen world. There’s nothing surprising about that. What’s surprising is the transforming grace of God.

Now in v17, the third contrast between Adam and Christ is that one man’s sin led to the reign of death, but on the other hand, One man’s death led to His people’s reign in life. The reign of death in this world can be traced to one moment: the sin of Adam. But the reign of life for believers is traced, similarly to one moment, but a different kind of moment: the death of Christ.

Why does Paul underscore these 3 distinctions? So we’ll understand how amazing grace is. And so that we’ll understand that Paul is not saying that what was lost in Adam was simply regained in Christ. That’s almost a parallel, and that’s not what this is about. As far as Paul is concerned, the story of redemption, salvation, and God’s grace is better than simply regaining what Adam lost. What God has done in His covenant of grace is beyond all that we could ask or imagine, and it so far outstrips what was lost in the covenant of works as it was broken in Adam that it should blow our minds to consider it. The gift of grace in Christ is incomparably greater than the condemnation which resulted from Adam’s sin.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Romans 5:13-14

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--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.

Paul gives two proofs that v12 is true. First, in v13, he says that the law wasn’t given until the time of Moses, yet sin was still present. This fact alone is evidence that all mankind sinned in Adam. Second, in v14, all people still died before the law was given and before sin was taken into consideration, even though they had not themselves sinned by breaking a command of the law (yet to be revealed), so that’s further proof that men sinned in Adam. All had effectively violated the covenant of works. They were guilty by nature, by association, by representation, and God is just in condemning them. And furthermore, this is the reason that Christ had to be born of a virgin. Sin is passed on, or imputed, through the father. Every person born of a human father is by nature an object of wrath, a sinner. But Christ was not born of a human father, and thus He did not inherit the condemning sin nature of the rest of humanity. Adam’s sin nature was not imputed to Christ, and thus He is righteous, like Adam was, before God the Father.

The Westminster Confession of Faith (modern translation, 1993) states: “Our first parents, being seduced by the subtlety and temptation of Satan, sinned in eating the forbidden fruit. God was pleased to permit this sin of theirs, according to His wise and holy counsel, because His purpose was, through it, to glorify Himself. By this sin they fell from their original righteousness and communion with God, and so became dead in sin, and wholly defiled in all the parts and faculties of soul and body. Since they were the root of all mankind, the guilt of this sin was imputed to—and the same death in sin and corrupted nature were conveyed to—all their posterity descending from them by ordinary generation. From this original corruption, by which we are utterly disinclined, disabled, and antagonistic to all that is good and wholly inclined to all that is evil, all actual transgressions proceed.”

Think of a man raised in an abusive home. His wife has born the marks of that abuse in his own rebellion. He is the recipient of things which he himself contributed nothing to. But he now bears the effects of it. If it is difficult for a counselor to come along side of that man and bring restoration to his life, how much greater is the difficulty to redeem a people that are to the very core of their heart involved in a sin which has existed and grown in our humanity for 6000 years. Jesus alone can redeem that kind of person.

Finally, notice the closing to v14, “A pattern of the One to come.” Paul says that Adam was a “type” of Christ. And Paul explains that thought in v15-19, at which we will look, Lord willing, tomorrow…

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Romans 5:12

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--

Paul now begins a new section of Romans. He spent from chapter 3:21 to 5:11 talking about justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone and the implications of that great doctrine. Now Paul, although he beings this section of the letter with “Therefore,” is kind of starting over. He’s going to take to the end of chapter 8 basically to say, “I said this already. You get it. Now here’s the meat behind the milk. I gave you the simple basics of man’s situation before the Holy God of the universe, and I gave you the provision that God has graciously and mercifully and lovingly made to reconcile His people to Himself by this doctrine called justification. And justification is by grace through faith. Now I’m going to go back so you can understand what’s backing everything I’ve told you.” We need to understand the doctrine behind the lifestyle application of justification in order to have consistency.

Paul starts here with “Therefore.” He is basically saying, “Since, or now that, we have received reconciliation through Christ, we must now realize that 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.” We won’t actually see that phrase until v18. It takes Paul that long to summarize and adequately support the statements that he makes along the way. Paul says, "You understand that all of mankind is sinful because of our deeds. We fail to glorify God as God, as Who He is. That’s sin. And we’ve all done it. But why? Why have we sinned? Let’s see why we’re all sinners. And it begins with our relationship to Adam." I think Peter must have been talking about this portion of Paul’s letter when he said that there are same hard things to grasp in Paul’s writings, because this can be very difficult to grasp.

Think of your sinfulness in light of the fact, not only that you have actually acted against God, but that you were “in Adam,” you are under Adam, the federal (or family) head and representative of all mankind (except for Christ Himself), and when he sinned and rebelled against God, you are justly condemned. We are held responsible for Adam’s sin. Just as David represented Israel when he fought Goliath, who represented the Philistines, so Adam spoke for all mankind. Just as genetic conditions are passed from parents to children, and the children have no say in it, so it is with sin. We inherit the condemnation that comes from being a descendant of Adam. And this seems unfair to most people today, but it’s effectively the doctrine of original sin. We sin because we are sinners; we are not sinners because we sin. This was the historic position of Augustine in the early church, and we see here that it’s the position of the apostle Paul. And it’s hard to accept, but it’s not that hard to understand. It’s not just because we do certain sins that we are called sinners; it’s that those sins flow from a nature which is itself corrupted by sin at its core. Ephesians 2:3 “We were by nature objects of wrath.” And note that the reason Paul is raising this point is so that we will be able to contrast Adam and being in Adam (negative) with Christ and being in Christ (positive). See v18 for the summary.

Paul’s argument is that all have sinned in Adam, not that they have individually sinned as a consequence of Adam’s sin, though that’s true, but that all of humanity actually sinned in Adam. Adam’s sin was imputed to us or credited to our account. Just as Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us, so Adam’s sin was imputed to us. Now you might not buy that, but see the rest of this passage:

In v15, Paul says, “For many died by the trespass of the one man.” Notice, he didn’t say the many died because of their own sins. That might be true, but that’s not what he said. The many died because of the trespass of one man. Notice v16. He speaks of the result of the one man’s sin, not the result of your sins, but the result of the one man’s sin. Notice the second half of v16. He says the judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation. In v17 he says, “By the trespass of one man, death reigned through that one man.” He doesn’t say sin reigned through the trespasses of all. That would be true, but that’s not what he said. It’s through the trespass of one man. V18: The result of the one trespass was condemnation for all men. In v19, through the disobedience of one man, the many were made sinners. Clearly throughout this passage Paul is concerned with Adam’s sin, and it’s implications for us. Sin is radical. It has invaded humanity. And by nature, by descending from a sinner, we are guilty, sinners from conception.

Finally, understand that Adam stood in for you, and as he stood in for you, and as he rebelled against God, you are implicated in that rebellion. It’s likely that you don’t like that. And Paul says, “You shouldn’t like that. But there’s only one way out; and that’s to get a new representative, and He’s the One that I want to tell you about—Jesus Christ. But Paul isn’t to that point in his argument yet, so we'll get there in the week to come.

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Romans 5:9-11

Since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through Him! For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life! Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

V9-10 – Justified by His blood, we shall be saved from God’s wrath. It is finished! Many Christians think that justification enables salvation, or makes it possible for a person to be saved. But that’s not Biblical teaching. The Bible repeatedly says that justification is certain to bring salvation. There’s no mere possibility about it. If you’re justified, you’re certain to be saved from the wrath of God. How is that possible? We are justified by the blood of Christ, which has already been shed. It has already accomplished its purpose. Consider the implications to your theology that we are justified by the blood of Christ. For whom was the blood of Christ shed? All or all who believe? If for all, then why are not all justified? Did the blood of Christ fail? No. The blood of Christ was shed only for those who believe. And this means that believers are certain to be saved from the wrath of God. Hold your thoughts on the atonement for a moment. Salvation is future. But it’s secure. It’s certain for all who are justified by the blood of Christ. We are justified now and glorified later, but it’s certain.

God was our enemy (we toward Him in rebellion, and He toward us in wrath) before our justification, but the moment the blood of Christ was shed for our justification, God reconciled us to Himself, and we experience this reconciliation in time through the channel of faith. And having been reconciled, we will be saved! What God begins, God will finish. He will completely accomplish all of His purposes in perfection. If you had no other verses in the Bible to prove the doctrine of the eternal security of believers, the perseverance of the saints, you would need to go to no other verses than Romans 5:9-10, where Paul makes it absolutely clear that once God has laid His hands on you, that once God has united you to Christ and justified you by grace through faith, that there is nothing in heaven or on earth that can separate you from His love. If while enemies, God reconciled us to Himself, how much more will He save us from the wrath to come? In v9-10, in all those actions we are being acted upon. God the Father is acting, justifying, reconciling, saving; God saves His people from Himself (His wrath) by the blood of His Son, by enacting His wrath, which was reserved for His people (and all), in its totality on His Son. Did He do this for all people or just His people? If for all, why is anyone condemned? How does this make you feel? We’ll break down the atonement when we do our Calvinism / Arminianism study.

How does the phrase, “How much more,” function in this passage? The hard thing has already been accomplished; how much more will the easy thing be done! If Christ died (the hard thing), He will certainly save (the easy thing).

V11 – Rejoice in God through Christ, for we have received reconciliation! Boast in the Lord! He has accomplished salvation in us. He has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and it has nothing to do with us. We’ve either received it through the channel of faith, or we haven’t. We know that we receive these incredible blessings of justification, peace, hope, sanctification, reconciliation, and salvation from wrath through faith. That’s why we believers pray that He would reconcile non-believers by granting them faith and repentance.

In v2 we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. In v3 we rejoice in our sufferings and tribulations, because they refine our faith by developing perseverance and godly character; they help us hope more fully in that coming glory of God. And now in v11, we rejoice in God Himself, in Who He is, in His holy and perfect character, in His majesty. That’s what Christians do: Receive Him, reconciled, justified, through faith. May God grant us the peace and certain hope in the truth of our secure and certain eternal salvation in Him; and more importantly, may God grant us joy in Him, in Who He is, and in His glory.