The Reign of Death Defeated
THE REIGN OF DEATH DEFEATED (ROM 5:12-21)
As I write this sermon we are busy nursing Megan’s mom who is in the final throws of death. Every half hour we go in to her room to check on her and are confronted over and over with that formidable enemy which we will all one day face.
Every person without exception will have to face and confront death. People don’t like to talk about it, they don’t like to be reminded of it, they avoid death at all costs, they pretend it’s not going to happen to them – but it’s an undeniable fact of life.
Paul explained in 1 Cor 15, if the hope we have in Christ does not provide a hope beyond the grave, if Christ does not give us a solution to death, if we have hoped in Christ in this life alone – then our faith in Him is empty and useless because it ends in death anyway.
As I’ve already explained, the major overarching theme of Rom 5-8 is hope, the hope we have in Christ, the hope we have as a result of our justification. Obviously then, if this hope is to mean anything, it must offer us hope in the face of death. Which is exactly what the second half of Rom 5 does. It explains the origin and power of death’s reign and the reign of grace in Christ which ends the reign of death.
Read Rom 5:12-21
I’ve called this message, “The reign of death defeated” and we’ll look at
1: The reign of death in Adam (12-14)
2: The reign of grace in Christ (
1: The reign of death in Adam (12-14)
How did death come into the world? Through sin. And how did sin come into the world? Through the one man who in this context is Adam. Vs 14 makes it clear that the one man Paul is speaking of here is Adam.
death through sin (12)
· When did sin enter? When Adam transgressed and ate from the tree about which God commanded him not to eat.
· What was the result or punishment for this sin? Very close connection – sin resulting in death (God said in the day you eat of it you will surely die – Gen 2. )
· Death coming from sin. Rom 6:23 wages, the punishment for sin = death. Death = physical and spiritual
· That’s a universal principle. Vs 12 all die because all sinned.
All sinnned in Adam's sin
· Let me ask you this - Who sinned?... Adam
· Who died? Adam, Eve and every person who has ever lived
· Let me ask you again? Who sinned? Adam and all?
Vs 12 death came to all men – why? Because all sinned. Not all do sin or continue to sin or will sin – all sinned = past tense.
Definition of sin
That is hard to swallow, because we tend to think of sin merely as transgression, as doing something wrong, as disobeying. I used to teach my Sunday school kids this little rhyme: sin = when God we disobey in what we do think or say.
In fact, there are many different words used for sin. One of them is the word here in 12, which means literally to fall short, to miss the mark – It means we fail to meet the standard, we are defective.
Illustration: bottling inspection
Don't know if any of you have been to bottling factory. Most bottlers have a quality control section which tests the quality of the bottles they use and looks for any defects. The bottles all look fine but then they are passed in front of this ultraviolet light all the defects are highlighted. The ones that don't pass are removed, they are judged defective, unfit for further use, no longer able to serve their intended purpose.
What this text tells us is that through Adams sinful choice, the entire human race at that point was judged by God to be defective, disqualified, unfit to fulfil the purpose for which God created, fallen short by the standards of His glory.
How did it happen?
That's a bit hard to swallow isn't it? How can that be? We were not even born, we had no choice in the matter – it was his choice not ours.
Theologians with much better minds than mine have been debating for centuries how exactly this could be.
• Was it because Adam represented us
• Was it because we were physically already present in Adam in seed form. We trace our ancestry, our DNA literally back to Adam?
• Was it because God knew we would have done the same thing?
To be honest – I don't think the Bible tells us clearly how this happened. It simply is an undeniable fact. Vs 13-14 gives the evidence.
Proof from Scripture (13-14)
a) Before the Law was given, sin was in the world: Before God gave the law to Moses which put down in black and white what His will for His people is, what they are to do and not do. Before they had a choice to personally obey or disobey a specific revealed command – sin was already in the world.
In other words – sin is not merely the personal choice to disobey a direct command of God.
b) sin is not taken into account, sin is not imputed or charged when there is no law. You can’t be accused of being a lawbreaker or transgressor if no law or command has been issued. In vs 14 Paul switches to another word for sin, which has been translated “transgression.” It means literally to take a wrong step, to overstep the mark. Conveys the idea of willfully disobeying a specific command. So he acknowledges that before the Law was given through Moses, people didn’t sin like Adam did, by transgressing a specific command from God, they didn’t have any direct commands from God to transgress. Yet, they still died which shows that they were still sinners.
Sinners by nature and by choice
So where did their sin and condemnation come from? It came from their union with Adam. All people are in Adam and Adam’s sin is imputed to all people.
· In Rom 1-3 Paul has been arguing that all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory and Rom 1 and Rom 3 included a long and graphic description of the nature and extent of that sin. We all choose to sin.
· But here Paul takes the argument even further and effectively says, we are sinners by nature and by choice. Our very nature has become corrupt, our very nature in Adam is fallen and falls short of God’s glory.
· As David put in in Ps 51:5 “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.”
· We inherit our fallen sinful nature from Adam and because we all have been corrupted by sin, we a go on to live sinful lives, to use our minds and mouth and bodies to give expression to that sin.
· We sin because we are sinners.
Why babies die
Why does an unborn baby or a 3 month old baby die? That baby has almost no capacity to rebel against God’s authority or commands, it has no capacity to transgress the law….yet it is born into a fallen world, with a body corrupted by sin, which is sometimes not even able to function or survive.
Conclusion: Everyone is born a son or daughter of Adam, in a fallen, corrupted condition, under the penalty of sin. We are born alienated from God with a propensity to sin. Given the opportunity we will all sin – but even before we do, or even if we fail to get the opportunity to sin in acts of transgression, we are fallen and corrupted by sin in our very nature and deserving of death.
Evolution can’t account for death
This is one of the reasons why evolution is incompatible with a biblical view of humanity and how we got here. If evolution were correct, then we are not all descended from one man. If evolution were correct then you have millions of years of death before you have the first man coming into existence and sin of any kind coming into the human race. Evolution makes sin a natural process of life rather than the consequence for sin. In fact, evolution leaves no room for sin and the corruption that comes from it. Everything is the random product of chance and genetic mutations and death is nothing more than evolutionary processes leading to the survival of the fittest.
Evolution not only makes Adam a myth, it makes redemption from sin a myth – it makes the gospel irrelevant and unnecessary.
So evolution is completely incompatible with a biblical view of the nature of man and God’s plan of redemption.
Sin in Adam
We have a corporate “in Adam” nature and identity from which we cannot escape. Our standing before God and our nature and actions all flow from this identity, this union. Even in rigidly individualistic Western culture, we can see the principle of corporate identity featuring:
· Megan and I are married in community of property – that means her assets are my assets and my debt is her debt. We are regarded as one legal entity and we can’t really be separated from one another.
· If you appoint someone as your proxy or representative, then their decisions become your decisions. They stand in your place. Their achievements or accomplishments or failures are bound up with yours.
· When we say South Africa won the world cup, we don’t mean that every citizen actually played in the game – but that our representatives one a victory which we share in.
· A while back I got a traffic fine for speeding – it doesn’t matter that it was actually Megan who was driving the car and I wasn’t even in the car at the time. I’m still held responsible to settle the fine because the car is in my name.
These are not perfect analogies, but they do point to the fact that this principle is operational in many areas of life because we are not just individuals, our identity is bound up in the people we are in union or community with.
1: Reign of death in Adam.
2. THE REIGN OF GRACE In CHRIST (15-19)
The good news comes at the end of vs 14, “Adam was a type of the one to come” Adam was the head or representative of all who are in Adam just as Christ is the head or representative of all those who are in union with Him. This principle doesn’t only work to our disadvantage and detriment – it is the principle upon which our justification is based.
1. Because of Adams sin, God regarded everyone who is in Adam as sinners though they did not personally commit an act of transgression.
2. Because of Christ's righteousness God will regard those who have faith in Him as righteous though they did not personally commit an act of righteousness.
3. The pattern of how God deals with us in Adam is the same pattern of how God deals with us in Christ.
Theological Application: So here we see how the good news is really the flip side of the bad news. It is really to our benefit that God chooses to deal with us in this way – because this is the basis for our justification – that though we don't personally do anything right, yet God regards us as being righteous according to the righteousness of Christ. In both our condemnation and our justification our personal merit or demerit, our personal choice to sin or not sin – is not the determining factor.
Key words sin now grace
If the key word in the last section is sin, sin, sin, transgression, death.
Key word in this section is grace, grace, grace, life.
The key contrast from vs 15-21 is beween Adam and Christ. What resulted from Adams disobedience and what resulted from Christ’s obedience. What characterizes those who are in Adam and what characterizes those who are in Christ. God has accomplished much more for our good in Christ than what happened to our detriment in Adam.
Contrast and comparison
• Vs 15 If the many died through Adam, how much more will the many be made alive through Christ.
• VS 15 If death came by the one man Adam, how much more grace will be supplied through the one man Jesus Christ.
• Vs 16 Condemnation coming through the one man Adam; justification coming through the one man Jesus Christ.
• Vs 16 Just judgment coming in response to the one sin of Adam, underserved grace coming in response to the many willful transgression of many people.
• Vs 17 death reigning over all who are in Adam in other words death is the distinguishing characterisic and ultimate outcome of all who are in Adam, but life for all who are in Christ.
• Vs 18 one act of sin in Adam brings condemnation to all but one act of righteousness by Christ brings righteousness to all.
• The emphasis the whole way through is grace, grace, gift. God’s grace overcomes the sin of Adam and all its effects. Vs 17 Grace reigns in life through Jesus Christ!
I should clarify a few details in this text which are not immediately apparent.
One act of righteousness? (18)
The one trespass of Adam is obvious, his first act of rebellion, but what is the one act of righteousness that leads to justification? It might be a summary for the whole of the incarnation – everything Jesus did on our behalf, but more likely it refers to the climax of the incarnation which was Christ’s death on behalf of sinners. His complete surrender of his body and life as a sacrifice for our sin.
All men? (18)
· Vs 18 NOT ALL ABSOLUTELY. Not universalism all will be saved through the work of Christ irrespective. Vs 17 makes clear that it is those who receive the gift by faith who receive the benefits. Whole of Rom 4 dealt with necessity of faith as the means of receiving God's gift of righteousness in Christ.
· “All” here means all who are justified are justified by the righteousness of the one man, Jesus Christ.
· All who are in Adam are regarded as sinners and cursed with eternal death along with Adam and all who are in Christ are regarded as righteous and are a blessed with eternal life.
The law increases tresspass (20)
What then was the purpose of the law? Well the Jews believed that through obedience to the law one gained eternal life. But that was exactly wrong.
· If people were not already sinners in Adam, with fallen human natures – then if God gave them orders they would obey them and delight in them and gain God’s approval by carrying them out.
· But because people are fallen sinners in Adam who have a nature that is bent on sin as we have already seen in Rom 1-3. The law just gives them an occasion to sin. It makes them into willful transgressors as vs 20 explains.
· The law just made sin worse because now people knew better and were sinning anyway. They were no longer sinning in ignorance but in defiance of God’s law and character and ways.
· God gave the law so that people could see their sin more clearly….
· So that people would understand more clearly their need of grace.
Must make the point here that Bible does not make a clear distinction between personal transgression and legal guilt. Fact that fallen and corrupted in our very nature means will and do freely choose to sin. So we are guilty by nature and by choice.
Here we see the demonstration of that -
When God gave the law, God gave commands that required our obedience – what happened? Righteousness did not increase, sin increased. Transgression increased.
Humankind was already alienated from Him by nature but God gives the law to demonstrate that is also by choice. That our fallen condition means we will continually choose to alienate ourselves from God.
We are no better than Adam, we can't point fingers because we who would pass judgment do the same things. We all willfully transgress God's express commands just like Adam. So we stand doubly condemned as it were.
Grace greater than sin
But even though the law made humankind’s sin that much worse – yet God’s grace was greater even than their sin. As verse 20 puts it “grace abounded all the more” or to translate the text literally – sin increased but grace super-increased!
Grace, grace, grace – greater than our sin. As sin reigned in eternal death through Adam – grace reigns in eternal life through Jesus Christ.
Let me conclude by highlighting 3 very important and practical implications that flow from the truth in this passage
1: By grace apart from works
No person is an individual only. Our nature and identity is bound up in who we are associated with. The most fundamental defining union or association we have is that we are all in Adam. Because of this union or solidarity or corporate identity, apart from anything you have personally done, you were condemned.
Some of us are not only in Adam, but through faith are also in Christ. Apart from anything you have personally done you were justified because of this union. Your relationship to God, your status in God's eyes is determined apart from anything you do, whether good or bad....
This is the final nail in the coffin of any theory of salvation by works and that is why God has included this passage in Scripture. Our personal merits or demerits are irrelevant in determining how God views us....
2: Righteousness in Jesus better than righteousness in Adam
The righteousness that we gain through faith in Jesus Christ is greater than the righteousness that Adam had. What Jesus has accomplished is more than merely reverse the effects of the fall….
· Adam’s righteousness was based on his obedience or performance and was therefore always tentative. He was perfectly righteous before the fall, but it took only one act of discobedience to fall from that condition and plunge the entire human race into sin. His righteousness was never secure.
· In Christ, our righteousness is not based on our obedience, but on Christ’ perfect obedience on our behalf. We can’t undo what Christ has done – therefore our righteousness cannot be undone by anything we do. We are completely secure. Our sin has been cancelled, death has been defeated and righteousness has been gained for us forever because it is not based on our nature or acts but is a free gift from God
3: Union with Christ changes everything
The second implication is that union with Christ changes everything. Just like our union with Adam changed everything, it changed our relationship with God, our nature and our eternal destiny – so union with Christ changes everything, it changes our relationship with God, our nature and our eternal destiny.
It’s important you get this.
· We can’t see our union with Adam, yet it’s a reality that shapes our experience every day. Why do we sin, why do we love sin, why does God seem so far off, why do we experience such conflict within and without? Because of our union with Adam. Our union with Adam is a real and it shapes our reality every day – it is the most fundamental reality of our identity. Who are you? I am a son of Adam and inescapably so.
· But this passage is not only about union with Adam, but union with Christ for all those who believe. We can’t see our union with Christ, but it shapes our identity, our thinking, desires and actions. It shapes our relationship with God and our reality every day – it is the most fundamental reality of our new identity. Who are you? I am in Jesus Christ – and inescapably so.
· The next chapter of Romans is devoted to drawing out the practical implications of that union. Our relationship to sin and righteousness has fundamentally changed.
· As naturally as a son of Adam is given to sin – so those in Christ are bent on righteousness.
· What God gives us in union with Christ not only deals with the penalty of sin, but also with its power. It not only ends the reign of sin which leads to death, but it ushers in the reign of grace which leads to righteousness.
So to bring it back to where we started….
Death reigns in Adam: The most undeniable reality that forms a part of life as we know it, is death. This death is not only the final end of our life, it’s the distinguishing feature throughout – death characterizes our existence, we are busy dying from the moment we are born until death finally gains its victory over us. This death is not only physical, but spiritual – it effects every fiber of our being, every moment of our day, every relationship and our whole spiritual and physical condition. Death is our greatest enemy and our constant companion.
Grace reigns in Jesus Christ. This grace gives us eternal life as the ultimate destination toward which our existence is now heading. But this life is not only the final destination but it infiltrates every moment of our day, every fiber of our being, every relationship and our whole physical and spiritual condition. Those who are in Christ are already living in the reign of grace – whose reign will ultimately and completely swallow up the reign of death. Grace is slowly, but surely draining the life our of death.
1 Cor 15:42-55
Where Oh death is your victory, where or death is your sting!