"Guilt Vs. Grace"
The first man, created in the image of God, to enjoy creation and uninterrupted communion with his Creator forever, died. He died because of sin. And this is true for all who would come from Adam including you and me. Paul reminds us in Romans 5:12-14 that all of humanity was in ruin because of Adam's sin. But, thank God, he goes on to describe in verses 15-19 the fact that we can be rescued from the guilt of Adam's sin by God's free gift of God's grace and go on to reign in that grace forever!
Paul, by the Holy Spirit, has been setting us up for this "salvation" summary since chapter four. He begins this section with the conjunctive adverb, "therefore", which says, in effect, "Because the preceding information is true, the following is also true". Believers in Jesus receive the righteousness that God requires as a gift through faith, a truth that is confirmed by Abraham's example (4:1-25). Therefore, believers have peace with God and have the right opportunity to live with assured confidence that when Christ eventually sets all things right, we will share in that victory (5:1-11). Therefore 5:12-21…
A "Cliff Notes" version of this passage could be formulated as follows: Adam's inheritance of guilt and death through disobedience is "less than" (<) Jesus' gift of grace and life through obedience. While the Law simply unwrapped Adam's gift, revealing mans' condemnation, faith unwraps Jesus' gift revealing mans' salvation.
12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus
death spread to all men, because all sinned—
[One of the most controversial and often misunderstood theological concepts it that of "Original Sin". The idea that our inheritance from Adam means that we are born as guilty sinners, seems fundamentally unfair to many people. Why should I be guilty before I do anything wrong? Let's run through the Genesis story to understand this idea.
- Man is unique in creation because of the Image of God:
Genesis 1:27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
- The original state of man was innocent, not tempted by our own imaginations:
Genesis 2:25 And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.
With the original sin of pride and envy we became ashamed of our own guilt:
Genesis 3:4 Then the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.
- This shame reflects a fundamental change in the nature of man from innocent (not tempted by our own imaginations) to corrupt. Before the fall, Adam and Eve had to be directly tempted by Satan, before they would consider sinning against God, but ever since that time man is tempted by his own corrupt nature:
Genesis 4:6 So the LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? 7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door.
And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it."
8 Now Cain talked with Abel his brother; and it came to pass, when they were in the field,
that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.
- Notice that there is no mention of Satan in this passage, his participation was not necessary because man had become corrupt in his own heart.
Genesis 6:5 Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that
every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
- So Original Sin does not mean that you are held responsible for Adam's sin, but that human
nature was changed from innocent to corrupt:
Psalm 58:1 Do you indeed speak righteousness, you silent ones? Do you judge uprightly, you
sons of men? 2 No, in heart you work wickedness; You weigh out the violence of your hands in
the earth. 3 The wicked are estranged from the womb; They go astray as soon as they are born,
As Pastor Dave likes to say we are sinners by birth and by choice, because each of us is born with a nature driven by our own desires.]
13 For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.
[Was sin wrong before the Law was given? Of course it was. We see this clearly illustrated in Noah's flood, when the violence of men was so pervasive it offended God to the point that He would destroy all mankind. So even violence that is not illegal, can still be wrong and offensive to God. We see this from time to time in our own laws where something that is clearly wrong, is not technically illegal. Former Vice President Al Gore had infamously violated campaign finance laws, but the law provided no enforcement. So Al explaining his actions while running for president excused himself by arguing that "there was no controlling legal authority".
So sin was wrong, it was a part of the fall, it was Adam's legacy even before it was against the Law. Every one born is born with the same sin nature, but God in His grace has put a fence around sin to limit it to the temporary life of this body, so that every sinner will die.
James 1: 14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. 5 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.]
15 But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man's offense many died, much
more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to
One translation renders verse 15, "But the gift of God through Christ is a very different matter from the 'account rendered' through the sin of Adam. For while as a result of one man's sin death by natural consequence became the common lot of men, it was by the generosity of God, the free giving of the grace of the one man Jesus Christ, that the love of God overflowed for the benefit of all men".
The "account rendered" of sin leaves us bankrupt; but, in contrast, the gift of God makes us sons of God and joint heirs with Jesus. The old song comes to mind, "He paid a debt He did not owe. I owed a debt I could not pay; I needed someone to wash my sins away. And now I sing a brand new song, 'Amazing Grace'. Christ Jesus paid a debt that I could never pay."
16 And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned. For the judgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation, but the free gift which came from many offenses resulted in justification.
Phillips translation is helpful here as well, "Nor is the effect of God's gift the same as the effect of that one man's sin. For in the one case one man's sin brought its inevitable judgment, and the result was condemnation. But, in the other, countless men's sins are met with the free gift of grace, and the result is justification before God". Before believing in Jesus, we deserve the blame for our sin; but since believing, sin's awful guilt is gone due to the gift of God's grace.
17 For if by the one man's offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.
Since all men inherit the corrupt nature of Adam and death ends that life of sin; by the grace of God Jesus leaves us an inheritance of His own righteousness so that our soul can be declared innocent, and that innocent soul can be translated to an eternal incorruptible form able to live forever. Verses 13 – 17 are one big parenthetical phrase explaining verse 12. Paul knew he was laying down some heavy theology here, the doctrine of redemption. Now since we understand verse 12 we can go on to the point he wanted to make.
18 Therefore, as through one man's offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man's righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. 19 For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man's obedience many will be made righteous.
So, while believers are still subject to sin's penalty (death) we are no longer subject to that penalty's permanence. The old gospel songs says plainly, "Ain't no grave gonna' hold my body down!" Paul reminds us in wonderful words of our rescue from own corruption leading to death; to our declared innocence making eternal life possible.
20 Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace
abounded much more, 21 so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through
righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Paul writes, "Where sin abounded, grace abounded MUCH MORE, so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (vv.20-21 NKJV).
When God finally gave the law through Moses it was so that the guiltiness of sin might become apparent; but then He manifested His great grace, His unmerited favor to guilty sinners. So, you have a choice, guilt or grace? You can hide your guilt and shame like Adam and Eve, and suffer the inevitable judgment for your sin – eternal, agonizing separation from God. Or you can come clean, acknowledge your sin, admit your guilt, trust in His righteous atonement, and receive His free gift of grace.
God sent Jesus Christ, to live the guiltless life we cannot live, to die the atoning death we deserve, to rise again and claim new life on our behalf, and to usher those who believe in Him to a completely new kind of existence. His gift is free, extended by grace and received through faith. So, the choice is yours - guilt or grace?
Questions to Consider:
- Why is the following theological statement true, "We are not sinners because we sin;
we sin because we are sinners"?
- How was God's grace demonstrated in the Garden after Adam & Eve sinned (see Gen. 3:22-24).
- In the lesson, I mentioned that the Law is like a light that exposes man's sin. How can he Law be used in sharing the gospel with unbelievers?