Today we begin our 40 day journey of Lent to the cross of Calvary. It is a somber time for the Church because we reflect on what brought about this season in the first place: sin. How serious is this thing called sin? Paul tells us in Romans 6: “For the wages of sin is death.” You can’t get much more serious than death. Death has a 100% mortality rate. That means that one day, each and every one of us will die. There is no avoiding death. As the old saying goes, “There are only things certain in life: death and taxes.” Death is coming. Death is inevitable. Death is for everyone.
Paul tells us, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sin….” Sin has infected all of creation. That is just what sin is, an infection. An infection spreads, taking something that is healthy and then passing on a disease. The disease that is passed on is death. But this death has two levels of death. It has a temporal level and an eternal level.
We all know the results of the temporal level. All one has to do is look at the local cemetery to see what those results are. Death has come for many before us. Death is coming for us now. Death will come for many after us. It is inevitable. But even far more important than the temporal death is the eternal death.
From the moment of Adam’s transgression, he was spiritually dead. That spiritual death of Adam translates to us as well. Because we are Adam’s descendants, we too inherit that spiritual death of his. Whether you want to admit it or not, sin is a real thing and it has affected all of us. We all have been born with that original sin; that sin inherited from Adam and that same sin which has brought death to us all. Just as a prince does not become a prince but is born one and has no choice, so we had no choice; we were conceived and born in sin. David writes, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” Although we had nothing to do with our becoming sinners, we are not absolved of our responsibility, not even as infants. Adam’s sin has rendered the entire human race unable not to sin and has made all of us guilty before God, that is, liable to His punishment.
Like it or not, you and I and all mankind are sinners. It’s not something that we’re proud of and it’s not something that we like to admit; however, that is who we are. All of that is owed to our ancestor Adam. Through Adam, we are born with what is called original sin, “that total corruption of our whole human nature which we have inherited from Adam through our parents.” Original sin “has brought guilt and condemnation to all people; has left everyone without true fear and love of God, that is, spiritually blind, dead, and enemies of God; causes everyone to commit all kinds of actual sins.” We are guilty and condemned people. We are guilty of our trespasses against God and neighbor. Because of our sin, we are condemned – condemned to a life of eternal separation from God. Because of that separation, we are enemies of God. Remember what happened to Adam and Eve once they sinned? God kicked them out of the Garden of Eden and placed angels with flaming swords at the gate so they could never enter the Garden again. You and I cannot enter that heavenly realm because we are enemies of God.
Being an enemy of God is never a good thing. We see throughout Scripture in various places what happens to enemies of God. During the time of Noah, God wiped away the peoples of the earth because they were evil and God-less. During the Israelites’ passing through the Red Sea, God made the waters of the Sea converge upon the Egyptians after the Israelites were safely through, killing Pharaoh and his army. Being an enemy of God is not something that you want to be, but because of our sinful nature, that is exactly what we are.
Just prior to our text, Paul tells the Church at Rome, “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.” We were enemies of God and yet He chose to reconcile us to Him; that is, God made an exchange to receive us into His favor. Through the death of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, God made an exchanged. There on the cross of Calvary, God exchanged our lives for Christ’s life. God gave to us everlasting life but it came at expense of the life of His own Son.
This is the free gift of grace which Paul talks about here and in many other places throughout his writings. Paul is very quick to say what grace is: it is the undeserved, unmerited gift of God. The latter half of our text today talks about that free gift and what that free gift has done.
Paul writes, “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.” In simple terms, Paul is saying that because of Adam’s actions, everyone died spiritually. But because of Jesus Christ and His actions, the gift of everlasting life is intended for those who have been affected by the spiritual death through Adam – that is, it is meant for everyone. It is meant for you and it is meant for me. It is meant for the rich and it is meant for the poor. The love that God has for His creation doesn’t look at dollar signs and flashy cars. His love looks at what is most important – the fact that we are His beloved creation separated from Him by sin. That fact and that fact alone is what moved God to send His Son Jesus Christ into this world to live and to die and to rise again.
What was done for us was done by the grace of God. Through the grace of God, He sent His one and only begotten Son into this sin-filled world to redeem it. It is by Christ’s life, death, and resurrection that we have life and life everlasting. Jesus Christ took our place. He took our place in this sinful world. He took our place in the eternal damnation that was ours due to our sin. In turn, we took His place. We took His place in heaven, with the Father as His beloved children. We took His place in that we are seen as white as snow, pure and holy.
For us, the baptized believers, we have received everlasting life. We have had our sinful life taken away from us. We have been given a new life, a life in Christ. What did we do to deserve this new life? The answer is absolutely nothing! We had our first parents who sinned and passed that sin down to us. We sin and continue to pass that sin our descendants. We do nothing but sin, yet have been given a free gift from God our Father. It is through that gift of grace that we are made children of God.
Through Adam, “many were made sinners.” Through Christ, “the many will be made righteous.” God declares to us that we are not guilty, not by what we have done, but what the Son of God has done for us. In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in faith through Christ Jesus, amen.