Sermon on Romans 5:12, 17-19
Text: 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.
17 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.
18 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. 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.
One of the many things that we can be thankful for in our country is the relative stability of our government. This is especially brought to light when you compare our history with the histories of other nations. For example, you might think of Russia in 1917, when the communists violently overthrew the tsar and his rule. There have been several attempts in past decades of various parties trying to overthrow the established government. Many times, the reason given for these attempts is the oppressive rule of those governments. This morning, the apostle Paul tells us of an oppressive ruler, who was overthrown. A TYRANT DETHRONED 1. Adam’s Sin Made Us Subjects of Death. 2. Christ’s Obedience Has Freed Us From Death’s Power.
Who is the tyrant that was dethroned? For the answer, we look to verse 17, where it says, “death reigned.” Death was in control. When the word “death” is used in the Bible, it will often have one of three meanings. The first is physical death. This is normally what we think of when we hear the word “death.” It is the end of our physical life. There is a separation of body and soul. Death can, also, mean a spiritual death, or a separation of man from God. All people are born spiritually dead. They cannot, by their own thinking or choosing believe in God, nor do they want to do so. The third meaning of death is an eternal death, or an eternal separation from God and his love. It is an eternity of punishment in hell. Here in this verse, it means all three — physical, spiritual and eternal. Death was in control. There was no one who was not subject to this cold, unfeeling tyrant.
How did this tyrant come into power? We look at verse 12 for the answer, “sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned.” Sin entered the world through one man. We know from our reading of the Bible that the one man through whom sin entered the world was Adam. Remember how God had placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Everything was perfect. There was harmony between the animals and mankind. God and man were in step with each other. In order to give Adam and Eve a way to worship him, God gave them one command. They were not to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. It was a very simple command. To show Adam that he was serious about this command, God added a penalty for disobedience. He said, “When you eat of it, you will surely die.”
We remember how Satan, in the form of a serpent, came to Eve and tempted her by raising doubt in her mind: “Did God really say . . .” Then, he called God a liar — “You will not surely die.” Eve chose to believe Satan rather than God and she took some of the fruit and ate it. She, then, gave some of the fruit to Adam, and he ate it. Thus, sin entered the world, through one act of disobedience. In addition, as it says in verse 12, “death (entered the world) through sin.” By that sin, Death became our cruel tyrant, who rules us with an iron fist.
Look at the effects of sin’s and death’s ruling have had on the world. All people are subject to death. All are born spiritually dead. We are all born enemies of God. By nature, we cannot help but do those things that are offensive to God. This sinful nature is shown every single time we commit a sin. Every time we lie, cheat, or steal, our sinful self shows forth. Everyone is born spiritually dead.
We also deserve eternal death because of our sins. God, in his righteousness, has every right to let mankind stew in its own juices. The world had chosen to be without God. Now they would be without him for all eternity. There is nothing more horrid than being separated from God’s love for all eternity. This death came into the world because of Adam’s sin.
But, some might be tempted to say, ‘It isn’t fair that I have to bear the consequences of Adam’s sin! I didn’t do it!’ However, we must realize that Adam was our representative. He was acting on behalf of all generations to come. As it says in verse 18, “the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men.” When Adam sinned, everybody sinned. That is what Paul is speaking of in verse 12, “death came to all men, because all sinned.” He is speaking of Adam’s one act of sin bringing death to all people. This is our inheritance from father Adam. We are all born sinful human beings. As it says in verse 19, “as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners.” Later, Paul reminds us, “the wages of sin is death.”
There the world sat, captive to the power of death. We were all born subjects of that cruel tyrant, death. It was out of our control to be born subjects of death, and it was beyond our control to do anything about it. We needed someone to come in and overthrow death, that cruel tyrant. Who could do such a thing?
We turn to verse 17, “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.” Throughout this section of Romans, the apostle Paul set two figures in world history in contrast to one another. While Adam’s sin brought death, Jesus Christ brought life.
This life is the exact opposite of the tyrant death, who ruled over us. Although we are all born spiritually dead, Jesus came and brought spiritual life. We were raised from that spiritual death to reach out and take possession of all of the gifts Jesus offers, such as the forgiveness of sins. Because we have been made spiritually alive, we have eternal life, rather than the eternal death we all deserved because of our sins. Because these sins have been forgiven, we will be able to spend an eternity with God in heaven, rather than being separated from God’s love for all eternity in hell. Jesus brought us life.
It might appear that death still reigns, because people die every day. Even believers have their physical lives come to an end. However, death is not reigning. For the Christian, physical death is just a sleep from which we will awaken. It is not permanent. Death has been completely defeated. As Paul writes in triumph in 1 Corinthians 15, “Death is swallowed up in victory . . . Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
How did Jesus overthrow this cruel tyrant? We again turn to verse 18, where we read, “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.” Just as Adam’s one act of disobedience condemned all mankind, Jesus’ one act of obedience justified all people. That one act of that brought life to all people was Jesus’ death on the cross. Because Jesus died, we have life. The reason is that Jesus died to pay for the sins of all people. God punished Jesus for our sins. Every single sin that anyone has ever committed was punished on the cross. Jesus paid the debt that we owed to God. Jesus died for us. We know that his payment was in full, for he cried out in victory “It is finished.” Everything was completed. All sin had been taken away. Jesus acted as our representative. He took all of our sins upon himself and paid for every one of them. He lived a perfect life in our place. His resurrection assures us that our sins are forgiven. Just as Adam acted as the world’s representative and brought all people under the control of death, Jesus acted as the world’s representative, overthrowing death and offering life to all. As it says in verse 19, “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.”
Death has been overthrown by Jesus. He did it all for us. He bought us back from the power of death to be his own. As Dr. Martin Luther wrote in his explanation to the Second Article, “For all this it is my duty to thank and praise, to serve and obey him.” We are now subjects of Jesus. We obey him, not out of fear of punishment if we don’t, but out of a thankful heart. Every day can be one of joyful service to our King, Jesus Christ. He is ruling within our hearts. He presents opportunities to do things that are pleasing to him. May we look for them and, when we find them, let us gladly do them. Jesus lived, suffered and died for you. He gave his all for you. How can we help but give our all for him?
It is offensive to natural man to think that God would condemn the whole world, because of the eating of one piece of fruit. Yet, it is just as offensive to natural man that God would forgive all people, because someone died on a cross. However, we thank our God that he has revealed this fact to us and caused us to accept it by faith. The cruel tyrant death has been overthrown. Although Adam’s sin made all subjects of death, Christ’s obedience has made us free. May we celebrate our independence every day by serving our gracious God with all our lives. As we learn of Jesus’ suffering and death this Lenten season, may we keep in focus that Jesus did this so that we might have life. As Jesus told his disciples in John 10:10, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Death has been overthrown. May we serve our King, Jesus, all of our days and for all eternity. Amen.
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