SIN AND DEATH.
SIN AND DEATH.
In the name + of Jesus.
Adam had one commandment to obey. The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:15-17) The Lord God had not been stingy in the Garden of Eden. He had given Adam and Eve all kinds of fruit trees and vegetables that they were free to eat. There was both variety and abundance.
The devil did not question God's goodness about what God had given. He questioned God's goodness about what he had forbidden. The devil convinced Adam and Eve that what God had forbidden was actually good. They believed the lie. They ate of the tree which was forbidden by the command of God. And so sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin. (Romans 5:12)
This is the sin of Adam. It is original sin—a sinful nature that originated with Adam and has been passed on to us from our first moment of life. It is the rooted in us and corrupts our reasoning, desires, and motives. This is why Satan is so convincing when he lies to us. He appeals to our sinful nature, using the very same reasoning that brought Adam and Eve into sin, under God's curse, and marked with death.
Satan does not try to convince us that God's good gifts are bad. When you pick a ripe, red apple, you do not say that it is bad. You recognize it as the good gift it is. The same is true for all of God's gifts. No one says that sunsets, waterfalls, marriage, or music are bad. You might think there are bad marriages or bad music, but marriage and music themselves are good gifts from God. For the most part, the devil does not challenge these things. The devil convinces us that what God forbids is good and urges us to take it. So we think that sex outside of marriage is good. We believe that drunkenness makes for good times rather than shame or that obscenity is to be laughed at rather than scorned. We covet other people's jobs or spouses or reputation because we think it would be good to have what God has chosen not to give us. We may even come to believe that God is evil because he did not give some things to us. Our sinful nature has warped us because we refuse to let God define good and evil for us, and we call what is evil “good.”
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. (Romans 5:12-14)
Sin entered the world through one man when Adam broke the one commandment. The Lord had not given other specific commandments until he gave them through Moses at Mt. Sinai. Still, death reigned over all mankind because all were guilty of sin. And death continues because all are sinners. You may think you should not be held accountable for your sinful condition because it was Adam's sin, not yours. It does not matter, because you are accountable for your own sins. It is you who have craved what God has not given you and seized what God forbids. It is you who have let vicious or perverse thoughts fester in your mind with no real attempt to root them out—plotting to sabotage another's reputation so that you can win pity or harboring jealousy because someone else is enjoying God's blessing. These are not Adam's sins; they are yours. Sin dwells in us and oozes out of us. Death comes to us all because we are all guilty. We have all earned the curse.
Throughout St. Paul's letter to the Romans, he employs the word “but.” This one word signals our hope. We cannot refute Paul's charge that we are sinners. We cannot avoid the consequences of our sins—death to the guilty. But … St. Paul points us to the place where we find hope. Grace overrules sin and death. And grace is given to us through Jesus Christ.
We are have no righteousness by our own efforts, but a righteousness from God has been revealed. We have all grabbed after what is forbidden, but God is still good and delivers his gifts to us. We do not deserve God's grace because we have trespassed into forbidden territory, but the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man's trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. (Romans 5:15) Grace overrules sin and death.
Adam tried to steal what was not rightfully his, but Jesus gave up what was rightfully his and became man. Though Jesus is true God, he did not consider equality with God a thing to be grasped. Jesus subjected himself to the devil's temptations, but he did not listen to the lies or regard his Father as evil for sending him to suffer and die for sinners. Jesus willingly lived under God's commandments, humbly served where his Father had put him, and gratefully accepted what God chose to give him. Jesus did not scheme for Herod's throne or for Pilate's power. He did not covet the Pharisees' reputation. He did not perform miracles for show or for money. Then, in obedience to his Father, Jesus went to the cross for sinners. Jesus went to the cross with our sins, and he went into death for our disobedience. Jesus' righteous obedience is the remedy for Adam's disobedience. Jesus' perfect obedience to his Father has rescued us from sin and death.
Grace overrules sin and death. For if many died through one man's trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. (Romans 5:15) The righteous life and death of Jesus Christ restores what was destroyed by the trespass of Adam. Adam had crossed the line into what God had forbidden. He had done evil and brought sin and death to all. But Jesus has restored us to his Father, taking away all of our sin. He has nullified the curse of death. We bury our fellow Christians in the grave, but the grave will have to give them back. As Jesus has risen, so we will be raised in glory to receive a place in the heavenly kingdom. The life we have always dreamed of will be ours—a life without pain or sorrow, without stress or strife, without broken homes or broken down bodies, without shame or regret, and without end. Grace overrules sin and death.
God has demonstrated his love to sinners. Satan continues to challenge that love, and he still tries to convince us that we will find good things in what God has forbidden. But if God was willing to give his only begotten Son into death and hell in order to rescue you from them, then why would God withhold from you good things? Our Lord is most merciful and gracious. He is not into messing with our lives; rather, he has cleaned up our mess. Therefore, if God forbids us from doing or saying or thinking certain things, it is because he is forbidding us from going back to sin and death, and from destroying ourselves or harming others. And if God chooses to withhold from you certain blessings, it is because he knows you and loves you and is doing what is best for you.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. When the Lord forbids you from anything, it is because that thing is evil; but he is good. When the Lord forgives your sins and delivers you from death, it is not because you are good; but he is good, and therefore he is gracious to you. And his grace overrules sin and death.
In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.