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The Superabundance of Grace

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God has more than leveled the field.

The Superabundance of Grace Romans 5:12-19 We are now come to the first Sunday of Lent which is a Christian season of reflection. It is a time of introspection in which we examine our hearts in light of Scripture. It is a time we remember who God is, who Jesus is, and what Jesus did for us. So it is also a time of extrospection as well, a time we look past ourselves. We remember that we are not what we ought to be. We don’t find the answer to our sense of dis-ease within ourselves. Instead, we look to Jesus who is our hope. The text for this Sunday in the epistles comes from Romans 5:12-19 which admirably fits this combination of introspection and extrospection which is Lent. Romans 5 and 8 are the two mountain peaks in Romans. The first four chapters of Romans sets this climb to the top of the book. Paul shows our dis-ability. We cannot be saved by the Law. It never was the purpose of the Law to save. We cannot be saved by Greek wisdom either. We cannot rely on our morality. We are not righteous but vile sinners. Paul tells us that God had chosen a better way from the beginning, even before there was the Law. The Law served its purpose, of course. It was not to save directly, but rather to prepare us for saving grace. God sent His Son, born of a woman to save us. We are saved by faith in Christ who justifies us. In the 5th chapter, Paul draws out what this justification by faith in Christ means. It means we have peace with God. Some texts use “let us have peace” as though we don’t actually have peace now but need to. But the best evidence is that it reads “We have peace.” This peace is a fact rather than a wish. This is similar to the end of the first chapter of 1 Corinthians where it says “We have the mind of Christ” and not “Let us have the mind of Christ.” God has already provide us with a new Christian mind and with it peace. But like a newborn, this mind needs development. The same is true for peace. The deed is done. We already have all the peace we will ever need. What we need to do it to appropriate it. The money is already in the bank. It is ours. But if we don’t take the opportunity, the money sits idle. The same is true of peace. Paul goes on to show us the ramifications of justification and just what the peace of Christ means. All four of the themes we remember at Advent are here. Peace, love, joy and hope are all here. The profound statement “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Sin puts us at war with God. We see God as an enemy. People might dare to die for a good cause or a good person. It does happen. We think of the recent death of an 89 year old school crossing guard who was killed when he pushed two young children out of the way of a speeding car. His death was rightly honored. We think of soldiers who cover a live grenade to save his comrades. Soldiers win the Congressional Medal of Honor for such things. But how many soldiers at war would cover a grenade to save the life of an enemy soldier. But in a figure, this is what Christ did when he died for us. It became the means of our reconciliation to God. The war is over. We are now at peace. We can now boast in Christ who has become the means of our reconciliation. This is an enormous gift which is not to be taken lightly. Now, when we come to verse 12, it begins with “wherefore” or “because of this.” This causes us to look back to the ground of our boasting. We have been reconciled. It also introduces us to new information. It adds specifics to what was just taught in concept. Why was this radical means of reconciliation necessary? It is because of the sin of Adam. Adam and Eve represent all of humanity. They were the first couple. So when they sinned, all of humanity that lived then sinned. As a result of this sin, they were cursed and banished from Eden. The curse of death was the worst of the several other curses of the ground, desire of the woman in subjection to man, and pain in childbirth. So not only man but all the earth became subject to decay and death. There is a lot of controversy over the doctrine of original sin, which some say are remedied in baptism. The vast number of translations for the Greek preposition “epi” makes the verse difficult to precisely determine, although the idea of “in who all sinned” is one of the possible translations. This was the understanding of Augustine and should be taken seriously. Others object on the grounds that one is responsible to God for his own sin. Why should we be held liable for sin someone else did? Surely the children should not be punished for the sin of the father is Biblical. Do we not see this in Ezekiel? Unfortunately, the controversy takes away from the main point of Paul’s argument which is the total depravity of man to save himself. It is certain that our DNA is affected. We all have the DNA of Adam. It is also true that every single person has or will die. DNA wears down. Cell replication diminishes with age. So even if we don’t die from disease, crime or war, we all shall die. It does not matter how well we care for ourselves. It does not matter is scientists make progress in reducing the wear of our telomers. Even if the potential for human life is extended to a thousand years, it will be a 1000 years of trouble. There will be even more wars and disease. There will be the nightly news. There will be no peace. We still will be at sorts with God who is the source of all life, both length and quality. So even if it is postulated that Adam’s sin does not condemn us, we must realize that we shall all inevitably sin and die spiritually. Exception should be made for those who suffer human death having not come to maturity. But Christ died even for these also. The reality of life in this fallen world is that the decisions of one person affect others, for good or ill. We have just observed the 100th anniversary of the end of World War 1. Decisions were made by leaders of several European leaders to go to war against each other. We remember the horrors of battles like those at Verdun or the Somme in which millions of soldiers in suicidal charges against enemy machine guns. War is often referred to as “a rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight.” These soldiers did not cause the war but became the casualties of war. These soldiers all shared in the guilt of the decisions of others. On the first Christmas, there was a truce. Germans and French came out of the trenches and celebrated together. They played soccer. Then the next day they were killing each other again. I am sure they would rather have played football and feasted. I can also remember in Erich Marie Remarque’s “All Quiet on the Western Front” of the time he had crawled into a trench and found a French soldier there. Instinct took over and he slit the man’s throat. All night long he heard the man gasp as he slowly bled out and realized that this soldier was a fellow human just like him. He would never go home to his wife and children again. Yet we are all thrown in the same trap together. So then, it isn’t a matter of who is more guilty of less guilty. It is that we all suffer in this world. Sometimes we cause our own suffering. Sometimes we are the victim. And other times, we cause suffering to others. It is one miserable trap. Jean Pau; Sartre wrote about this misery in a book called “No Exit.” What a depressing book it is. But there is good news. There is indeed an exit, just one exit. This is through the death and resurrection of Christ who gives us peace. This is the good news of the Gospel. Jesus brings the true peace that the world longs for and is incapable of attaining. God used the Law to shed this light upon this disability. But people still sinned and died both before and after the Law. But it was meant to lead to Christ as we have noted before. The effects of Adam’s sin was indeed great. Death hold all in its icy grip. We are all hostages, every single person. And after earthly death we face the even greater doom of eternal judgment from which there shall never be an escape. But now for us who believe in Jesus, the situation is radically and forever changed. Paul contrasts the misery of Adam with the peace that Christ provides. Just as Adam’s sin brought misery to all, Christ now brings peace to all who believe. It is provided for all. The price is paid. The money is in the bank. But one must act upon this. One must believe that there is an escape. One must believe that Jesus died for us. We must believe that the money is in the bank on account. But if we do not act upon it, we have nothing at all. Verse 15 sets up something even more amazing. The effect of Adam’s sin is not even to be compared to what Christ has provided. It begins with the strong Greek conjunction translated “But.” There are weaker conjunctions translated “but.” Paul could have used them. But here, there is an idea of replacement. The sin of Adam and its consequent misery is replaced by the righteousness of Christ and its consequent eternal peace with God. Then we read “not as.” This sets up the righteousness of Christ as superior in its effect than the sin of Adam. The two are not to be equally compared. Then we read “Where sin abounded, grace abounded even more.” The word Paul chooses indicates that the abundance of grace is far greater than the misery of Adam and sin from which we in this age suffer. What does this mean? It means that Christ has more than settled the score. He did more than undo the sin of Adam. Our final state will be even greater than that of Adam and Eve. Just think of this means. Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden, but we shall be with Christ in the City of God. Adam and Eve communed with God in the cool of the day, but we shall ever be in the presence of Christ. Adam and Eve were lightened by the earthly sun, but the heavenly Son is the light of that city. Adam and Eve were naked, but we are clothed in Christ. Adam and Eve were forbidden one tree, but we shall have the mind of Christ. Adam and Eve could sin and die, but we shall live forever. The final state in God’s plan for humanity is in all respects greater than what Adam and Eve possessed. God had a greater purpose for humanity then the Garden. Sin cast us out from Paradise. Whatever progress Adam and Eve could have made toward this final purpose was barred. But now, the way is open for all humanity to achieve this greater glory through Jesus Christ our Lord. God calls us to believe this Gospel and live. We shall rise from death to an even greater life which lies beyond our ability ot describe. So, it is at the time of Lent that we need to reflect upon just how great a salvation which has been provided. This hope brings us through the difficulties we still suffer in this world. The sufferings in this world are temporary, but life in Christ and His Kingdom is forever. We shall bask in the love of Christ. We shall be eternally joyful. We shall share in the abundance of peace. We don’t look introspectively at are dis-ability as much as extrospectively at the ability of Christ. Our hope, joy, love and peace has already been provided by what Christ has done for us. So let us grow into this new reality. This is how we should observe Lent.
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