Summary: Christ reverses the ruin of Adam.
Christ Delivers from Adam’s Death
Rev. Brian Bill
We’re going to begin a bit differently today. I’d like you to turn to the person next to you and first introduce yourself if you don’t already know each other and then share your answer to this question: “Other than Jesus, who has had the greatest influence in your life?”
Now let’s hear from some of you. Who has had the greatest influence in your life? So as to not embarrass anyone here this morning, you could just share in general terms, and not use any specific names.
[After listening to answers] Without minimizing the impact that any one individual has made in your life, there’s one person that has influenced you more than anyone else you’ve mentioned. If you wonder how I know this, it’s because he’s affected me as well. His name is Adam.
The section of Scripture we will be looking at today is complex and complicated and contains some of the deepest theological truths in the Book of Romans. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia refers to this passage as “the logical center of the epistle, the central point to which everything that precedes has converged, and out of which everything else will flow.” The Presbyterian preacher Donald Grey Barnhouse preached 25 sermons on these verses alone! I plan to preach only two, with next week’s focus on “The Greatness of God’s Grace.”
Paul’s argument is a bit challenging to follow and the verses themselves are not easy to outline. One person referred to this passage as the most difficult part of the entire New Testament. At first glance, perhaps this was what Peter meant when he said this about the writing of Paul in 2 Peter 3:16: “His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures to their own destruction.” While this is a deep section, and I don’t want to distort it, these verses are actually fairly easy to understand. We may not like what we learn, but I think we can all comprehend what is written here.
In essence, Paul is comparing and contrasting Adam with Christ and how we either have a legacy of guilt or of grace, depending on how we respond to Jesus. Adam and Christ are different in many ways but similar in the sense that they both represent a multitude and they both have passed along the effects of their actions to others. Before we look at some of their dissimilarities, let’s go all the way back to the beginning of the Bible and take a refresher course.
As we were reminded by the little girl who quoted Psalm 8 at the start of the service, human beings are the pinnacle of God’s creation, the apex of all His creativity. In the beginning, God walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Adam was king over all creation and the head of the first human family. He and Eve were given great gifts, and were encouraged to enjoy the pleasures of paradise. God gave just one restriction to Adam in Genesis 2:16-17: “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” Not content to be in close community with God, Adam and Eve want the one thing they can’t have.
Eve is tricked into eating the fruit and gives some to Adam, who ate willingly. But here’s the difference: Eve was deceived while Adam sinned deliberately. We see this in 1 Timothy 2:13-14: “For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived…” It was through that fatal choice that sin entered the world. Adam chose the wrong path, and in so doing, plunged people everywhere into the depths of depravity and despair. Theologians refer to this as the Fall, for when Adam ate the fruit he fell from grace into guilt; from communion with God to chaos; from sweetness to shame.
Romans 5:12 summarizes the entire section: “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 --.” We know from verse 14 that the “one man” is none other than Adam. Loved ones, before we go much further, allow me to make the obvious point that Adam was a real person, not the fabrication of some myth or legend.
Related to this, the opening chapters of Genesis are to be taken literally, just the way they are written. If you hold to the theory of evolution, and discount God’s account in Genesis, then you’ll never understand where sin came from and you’ll miss the whole meaning of why the Savior came. Not only is Paul’s argument wrapped up in the historicity of Adam, Jesus Himself held to the literal account of creation in Matthew 19:4: “Haven’t you read, he replied, ‘that at the beginning the Creator made them male and female?’” Destroying or distorting Genesis undermines and eventually unravels the Gospel message.