“Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned- “ (Romans 5:12)
I have to pause and say, that placing the Genesis passage first in our week was pure impulse on my part, but it works!
“ . . . sin was indeed in the world before the law, but sin is not reckoned when there is no law. Yet death exercised dominion from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who is a type of the one who was to come.” (Verse 13 – 14)
In seminary I was told that Paul compares Adam to Jesus, but that while it was through Adam that sin came into the world, it is through Jesus that sin in world is taken away. And that death likewise takes all people, but in Jesus death is loses it sting and potency. I tell you this, beloved reader, in order to explain this passage. Paul, in his involved theological discussion, also sets theological understandings which have not been shaken or changed.
Paul has constructed a tight argument (old meaning, a theological or philosophical treatise that can be examined and considered) for his Roman readers. I don’t exactly disagree with it or dispute it, but there is something here I am uncomfortable with. Let us continue though.
“But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died through the one man’s trespass, much more surely have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for the many. And the free gift is not like the effect of the one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification.” (Verses 15 – 16)
I know now what bothers me about this; it is discussion for the sake of discussion. It does not advance a theory or theology, but it is Paul making correlations and connections that are intriguing and complex. It is like a “compare and contrast” exercise that is designed to test how much you know about the topic and how elegantly you can display that knowledge. It is the sort of thing as a literature student I was called on to do often. But it does not help much to advance the general reader’s understanding. Paul continues.
“If, because of the one man’s trespass, death exercised dominion through that one, much more surely will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ. Therefore just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all. For just as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.” (Verses17 – 19)
It also frames Adam in a negative light, for the sake of the argument. Adam did not ask for an irresistible tree so he could sin by not resisting it. No more than we ask for sin to come into our life so that we can give in to it. As I said yesterday, Adam and Eve (let us not forget her) exercised free will, but chose to disregard God’s highest intention for them. But being flawed people and setting the potential that other parts of humanity might be flawed, God and Christ Jesus were given the opportunity to right what went wrong in the garden, and give humanity a chance to chose for God. (Okay, maybe I borrowed some of Paul’s approach. Mea culpa!)
But this move us further along to Ash Wednesday, and the beginning of Lent where we consider our choices. May we choice wisely – looking to the past, considering our present, and planning our future. Selah!