Summary: Original sin does not rate highly on a Christians favourite doctrine. However, understanding that all have sinned in Adam, and therefore will die, is the starting point for God's solution, the second Adam, Jesus.
When Rachel and I first visited Ridley Hall, Cambridge. The institution where I am currently training to be a priest with the Church of England. Someone there told Rachel and I about a conversation they had been having with some friends prior to the day. His friends had dared him to come up with the most shockingly awkward and potentially inappropriate thing to say to his future colleagues on this first day.
I think the best he could come up with was to say that on the weekends he liked to wear woman’s clothing and call himself Brenda! But I was then determined to come up with something much more awkward.
And perhaps I have been saved the effort of having to think of something awkward to share because of this wonderfully challenging passage from Romans. No better way to break the ice and make good first impressions than to preach on the original sin and death that we all have in Adam.
Original sin is difficult because generally we do not like to accept that someone has done something which is causing us to be punished.
Through my basic training in the Royal Air Force I became pretty familiar with corporate punishment. Being given restrictions of privileges because someone else messed up. On more than one occasion my entire squadron of 150 men and women lost their weekend because one person was found to have alcohol in their room. Or the entire squadron received additional physical training because one person had not done their share of cleaning for the block inspection.
We like to think at the least we control our own destiny.
Or we like to think that we start off with a clean slate.
Many people believe that they will be judged for the balance of right and wrong deeds they have done in their lives and hopefully the right ones will be enough.
I spent time with a mission organisation in Birmingham, England. We were doing some street preaching and one of the tracts we had was a short questionnaire. One question in fact, “are you good enough to go to heaven?” A bit pre-loaded, but neither the less, a way into conversation.
Paul writes this passage to the Romans so that they are left without a doubt that they are saved by grace through faith in Christ Jesus. And nothing else.
Last week Charlie reminded us that God is in the business of loving sinners. The Gospel is good news because not only does God love you as you are, but also God died for you as you are. This is radical love, sacrificial love, the kind of love that brings about a hope that cannot put to shame.
In this passage Paul uses a comparison between Adam, the first man and Jesus Christ.
This past two weeks, I have joined Charlie on many occasions in common place coffee. If you have not been to common place coffee, I might try to describe it to you, so that you could imagine what common place coffee is like should you want to visit.
I could say, it’s like Starbucks, but it’s independent. Or it’s like Starbucks, in as much it serves coffee and some snacks. But, it’s actually much more than Starbucks in that the staff show a real interest in how you are doing that day and truly care about the coffee they are serving. I mean you can get a cold coffee served from a jam jar… how cool is that!
I take something that you are likely to know, in this case Starbucks and make the comparison. Hopefully you’ll agree with me on this one, and apologies if any of you are passionate about Starbucks, but common place coffee is in a different league to Starbucks. Perhaps the only similarity is that they serve coffee.
It is this logic Paul uses in this passage to show us how the gift of grace through Jesus Christ affects the whole of humanity.
See how sin entered the world through one man…
Now see how much better the gift of righteousness is that will reign in life through one man.
Point 1: know the pattern. Paul wants you to see the pattern for all of humanity comes from Adam, the one man. That’s in versus 12 to 14.
“Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned – To be sure, sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where 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 is a pattern of the one to come.”