Have you ever considered what it is about God’s grace that makes it so amazing? Do you even think God’s grace is amazing? I’m sure all of us would say we think God’s grace is pretty amazing, but do we really, fully, truly appreciate God’s grace on a Tuesday afternoon? Do we really see ourselves in such a negative light that we need radical, life-changing, amazing grace? I believe many of us are glad that God’s grace exists, and we may even be glad God has shown his grace to us. But, I fear many of us also think very little about God’s grace every day. We fail to cherish exactly what God has done for us in Christ.
Romans 5:15-17 doesn’t allow for such oversight. No Christian can seriously read these verses and shrug their shoulders in apathy. After setting the stage in verses 12-14 by outlining why our problem with sin and death is so bad, Paul moves to compare Adam and Christ to show just how amazing God’s grace truly is.
Romans 5:12-21 is about two humanities represented by two different heads. Adam represents us in sin, and Christ represents us in righteousness. We are not connected with Adam or Christ merely by way of example. We are guilty of sin through Adam’s sin and we are counted as righteous through Christ’s righteousness.
The greatest barrier to fellowship with God is not merely sin, but the sin of Adam imputed to all his children. Our guilt is not ultimately the result of our personal sins, because death reigned without specific laws or instructions to disobey. We are counted guilty in Adam, so the effects of sin are inherited by everyone, even those who do not commit personal sins.
Just as Adam’s one sin leads to condemnation, so Christ’s one act of righteousness leads to justification. The similarities are focused on the effects of one act of one man on humanity. Through the disobedience of Adam mankind receives condemnation and death. Through the obedience of Christ, mankind receives justification and life.
In Adam, though you had done nothing, you were declared a sinner. The basis of your guilt is found in the guilt of another. This doesn’t absolve you of responsibility, though. Everyone who is a sinner by connection with Adam is also a sinner by choice. Your life in Adam bears the fruit of sin.
In Christ, though you had done nothing, you were declared righteous. The basis of your righteousness is found in the righteousness of another. This doesn’t absolve you of responsibility, though. Everyone who is righteous by connection with Adam is also righteous by choice. Your life in Christ bears the fruit of obedience, righteousness, and godliness. The pursuit of holiness begins with a jettison out of the realm of death and into the realm of life.
From one man, sin, condemnation, and death dominate all of humanity. We have seen that we are guilty of sin because Adam was guilty of sin (Rom. 5:12). In Adam all sin, and in Adam all die. But Adam’s sin is not like God’s gift of grace in the work of Christ. Through just one sin, all of humanity faces condemnation and death. But even after billions and billions of sins had been committed, God still showed his grace in sending Jesus to die for our sins. God’s grace in Christ’s death is so much higher, deeper, and wider than billions of sins that come from Adam’s first sin.
While condemnation comes from Adam’s sin, God’s free gift of grace brings justification. Death reigned through Adam, but those who have been justified will reign in life through Christ (Rom. 5:17), In Adam, the news could not be worse for humanity. Sin, condemnation, and death are unavoidable realities for those in Adam. But, in Christ the news could not be better. There is an abundance of grace in Christ. Jesus has overcome everything Adam has undone.
Mathew Gilbert (B.A. Boyce College) is Associate Pastor for Children and Preschool at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He is the author of Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (Westbow Press, 2016). He is an M.Div student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mathew is married to his high school sweetheart, Erica. Mathew and Erica live in Tupelo with their sons, Jude and Jack. You can follow him on Twitter @mat_gilbert.