SERMON TITLE: Justified Life
TEXT: Romans 5:12-21 (ESV)
SPEAKER: Josh Hanson
It’s great to be with all of you this weekend at Gateway Church. And one thing I want you to know is that God loves you and I love you too.
We’re in the third and final week of this short series in the fifth chapter of Romans. We’ll be continuing in Romans next week — moving on to chapter 6 — but Paul’s focus will change a bit — from justification — remember justification means our declared righteousness before God — God saying “you are no longer guilty” — Paul’s going to shift from justification to the freedom given to those who are justified — that’s chapter 6 — which we begin next week.
And before we jump into our text today, I just want to say that the rub for you — if you wouldn’t say you’re a Christian — or if you’re not sure about the reliability of the Bible — the rub for you in this sermon may be based on your view of Adam. OK a common argument today — against Christianity — is to question the existence of Adam.
Was Adam a real person?
Does all of humanity trace back to one man and one woman?
Those kinds of questions are being asked quite frequently today.
And I bring this up because our text in Romans — is built on Adam being an actual person — and why this is important — is because Jesus is compared to Adam.
So — without having time to talk through all of the reasons to believe in a historical Adam — let me just say this to those of you who have an interest in Jesus — maybe you like him — or you think he’s got some great things to say about love and justice and things like that — well, something you can’t ignore is what Jesus has to say about the writings of Moses — because these are the writings that talk about Adam. So I’d encourage you to explore what Jesus thought about the writings of Moses — because what Jesus has to say about any topic — including the writings that talk about Adam — should influence not only your view of Jesus — but also your view of that topic.
Now the reason why this is important is because it sets up what Paul’s going to tell us. Because what our culture denies is something that Paul argues as being true in our verses. So what’s the disagreement?
Well a commonly held belief among people today — is that we — humanity — do not have a sin nature. That the evil in our world — including the bad things we say, think, and do — don’t come from us having a sin nature — something we’ve inherited from Adam — but sin — if it’s even a real thing — is a choice. And many would say that only a few people actually choose to sin.
Now — let me say that sin is a choice. Whenever someone does something wrong — something that causes harm or pain or suffering — they are making a choice. Sin is a choice.
But where the Christian faith disagrees with this popular belief of our day — is that though sin is a choice — we Christians also believe that all humans are born with a sin nature. And because of this — unlike what many people think — the Christian faith teaches that humanity is not inherently good. We were originally created good — but because of Adam’s sin — we’ve all inherited a sin nature — which is not good. Yes we’re still created in the image of God — but we’re broken people born with a nature that’s bent — not towards God — but towards sin.
And — the response for the Christian — should be to acknowledge that all people have both a sin nature and all people choose to sin. And the reason why this response is so important is because when we acknowledge these two truths — that we have a sin nature and we make sinful choices — we highlight our need for the work that Jesus accomplished on our behalf. You see, it’s as we acknowledge our sin nature — and our sinful choices — and as we turn from our sin and turn to Jesus — it’s then that we begin to live the life God intends for us.
So let’s turn to our passage for today and learn how to live this life.
ANNOUNCE THE TEXT
If you have your Bible please turn with me to Romans chapter 5. We’ll be looking at verses 12-21.
And, if you’re a guest with us, something we like to do at Gateway is let you ask questions that we answer on our weekly podcast. So if you have a question, you can text it in to the number printed on the bottom of the sermon notes sheet or you can submit it on the Gateway app.
RE-ANNOUNCE AND READ THE TEXT
Here are the words found in Romans chapter 5. Beginning in verse 12.
“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 — 13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 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. 15 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. 16 And the free gift is not like the result of that one man's sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. 17 For if, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. 18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For 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. 20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 5:12-21 ESV)
So in our text we’re going to find the pattern of sin and the pattern of grace, and the results of each. So what are the results of sin and what are the results of grace? And this will show us how — if you’re a Christian — how you’re to live based on God — by his grace — having justified you — declared you to be right with him — because of what Christ has accomplished on your behalf — this is how you should live. What does this justified life look like?
THE PATTERN OF SIN
But first, let’s begin by looking at sin’s pattern. Verse 12.
“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 — 13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 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 ESV)
The pattern of sin. So here’s the pattern — we see it in verse 12. Sin came into the world through one man — Adam. And death came into the world through Adam’s sin. And death has spread to all of us because we’ve all sinned.
One more time. Adam’s sin — this is why a historical Adam is so important — Adam’s act of rebellion in the Garden brought sin into the world. And sin brought death. And death has spread to all of us. So get this — death — the fact that we all will die — has a theological implication to it. All of us die — whether or not you believe Adam is a real person — all of us die because we’re all united together in Adam.
Now stay with me — we need to swim in some deep theological waters here if we want to understand what it means to live the justified life. When Adam sinned, he represented all of us — that’s what I mean by us being united together in Adam. Someone’s said, “When Adam sinned, God thought of all who would descend from Adam as sinners [that’s everyone by the way]. Though we did not yet exist, God, looking into the future and knowing that we would exist, began thinking of us as those who were guilty like Adam.” (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 494-495.)
Now in our individualistic society this is hard for us to imagine. How can God consider us guilty for something Adam did? That doesn’t seem fair. We’re so individual focused that we have a hard time thinking in corporate terms. So let me give you a few examples where we see an individual representing a larger group.
When Lebron James led the Cleveland Cavaliers to win the NBA championship he was representing more than just himself, wasn’t he? He was representing a city — even more than a city — the entire area of NE Ohio — maybe even all of Ohio.
We elect government officials to represent — not themselves — but the people of their district or state or nation, right? An individual represents a larger group.
In the Bible, we see this same kind of “individual representing the corporate” pattern. For instance — in the book of Genesis — there’s a story of Abraham giving a tithe to a mysterious figure named Melchizedek. Well in the New Testament it’s said that — though Abraham gave the tithe to Melchizedek — it’s as if the Levites — the descendants of an unborn son of Abraham — “these Levites — the ones who collect the tithe — paid a tithe to Melchizedek when their ancestor Abraham paid a tithe to him. 10 For although Levi wasn’t born yet, the seed from which he came was in Abraham’s body when Melchizedek collected the tithe from him.” (Hebrews 7:9b-10 NLT)
And then there’s Jesus — oh how he often disrupts our way of looking at things. If you have issues with one man — Adam — representing all people when he sinned — well I guess you have issues with one man — Jesus — representing anyone other than himself when he died on the cross.
Now maybe you’re not there — yet — when it comes to Jesus dying for people’s sins. But if you are, how can you say that Jesus died for your sins if you have issue with Adam representing you when he sinned? Both situations require an individual to represent more than just himself.
Sin and the Law (v13-14a)
But let’s look again at Paul’s thought. “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 — 13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses...” (Romans 5:12-14a ESV)
Verse 13 is kind of strange, right? What can be confusing is the part that says “sin is not counted where there is no law.” All Paul’s saying is that the commandments couldn’t be broken before there were actual commandments. Let me say something that’s obvious: there were people who lived before God’s law was given — so technically — there was no way for them to break the law. But — Paul says — the consequence — of living in opposition to God — law or no law — has always been death. So even when there was no law — the penalty for being a sinner was still death.
I was once traveling to a church in South Charleston. And I noticed something when I turned off the Interstate to head towards the church. I had to take a road about seven and a half miles to get to the church. And from the Interstate — all the way into town — there wasn’t a single speed limit sign. I double checked as I headed back to my hotel and on my way back into town the next day. No speed limit sign on the road.
So here’s my question. Is it possible to speed on that road? Yes. In fact, my Google maps app knew the speed limit for the road without there being a sign. So the road actually has a speed limit.
But say you don’t have your app open and you’re going by the signs you see — or in this case — the signs you don’t see. Well it is possible to speed on the road even though you’ll never see a speed limit sign. You may not know you’re speeding, but you are. On the other hand, if there is a speed limit sign — and you do see it — and you speed — well then — you know you’re guilty of breaking the law. In the first scenario you don’t know that you’re guilty — though you are — in the second scenario you know that you’re guilty.
That’s what Paul is saying. Before God gave Moses the law, people were still guilty because of their sin — and death was the consequence. And this sin nature — this brokenness is something that’s been passed down to all of us.
Later Paul writes, “God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were.” (Romans 5:20a NLT)
Now this may be a new way of thinking about God’s law for you. Where the point of the law isn’t to give you a standard to achieve — “if you do these things God will love you” — but where the point of the law is to show you the standard that you’ve failed to meet because of your sin.
So here’s why this is important. When you misunderstand the law’s purpose, you end up trying to use the law in the wrong way — which can be disastrous. Have you ever seen someone use a tool for something it wasn’t supposed to be used for and things ended — how do I say this — BADLY! You’re all probably thinking of a guy with a hammer or a ladder or a saw — you may be thinking of our very own Rich St. Amour who shocked himself and subsequently nearly knocked himself out ramming his head into a kitchen cabinet while trying to fix his wife’s flat iron — one of our very own elders — that’d be a pretty good visual actually — but let’s not pick on Rich — so how about something — not so disastrous — that most of us are using the wrong way.
You know that drawer at the bottom of your oven? Did you know it’s not really meant for storage? It’s actually meant to keep hot food at serving temperature until you’re ready to serve it. Sure you can store stuff in there — if you want — but that’s not the purpose of the drawer.
So what’s the purpose of the law? In our Christian tradition, there have been — what theologians have called — three purposes of the law. First, the law shows us the righteousness of God. Meaning when you read the law you see God’s standard — which he meets — a standard of holiness and righteousness and perfection. And when you look at the law — you realize that you’ve failed to meet God’s standard. That’s one purpose of the law.
A second use of the law is a civil use. Think of it as a civil code that restrains evil, it secures order, it serves to protect the innocent from the guilty — much like the law of our land. This is why some of the laws in the Old Testament seem so weird to us — they were ways for the nation of Israel to maintain civil order.
Finally, the law is a guide for Christians showing us how we’re to live. The law shows us how — in being loved by God — how the Christian is to respond to God’s love by living in a way that pleases him.
Why is this important? Well I’m guessing that you’re someone who’s experienced firsthand the brokenness of our world — the brokenness of another human being — even the brokenness of yourself — because of sin. Not everyone likes to use the word sin to describe why things are the way they are — but I don’t know how anyone can see what goes on in the world around us and not conclude that something’s gone terribly wrong.
Maybe you’ve seen this in yourself and are at a loss as to what you can do to fix things.
You’ve tried and failed with that addiction more times than you can count.
You just can’t fix your marriage.
Maybe you experience depression or anxiety, fear or anger, loneliness or shame and — try as you might — you can’t rid yourself of such thoughts.
Taylor Swift’s advice of “shaking it off” just doesn’t seem to work.
And all of this can be true and you’re a Christian.
So what’s the solution because we’ve all experienced the reign of sin and death that’s caused a brokenness in us and in our world and we can’t fix things. Back to our text.
Adam and Jesus (v14)
“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 5:14 ESV)
The answer — and it’s not a cliche — is Jesus. The answer to our wanting to be healed of our addictions and our fears and our shame and our loneliness is found in Jesus. For Jesus is the “one” who Adam was a type of. What does that mean?
One writer has said, “In [this verse] we might well say that Paul presents the history of humanity as a drama in two parts — two epochs dominated by the two figures, Adam the tragic hero, and Christ the redeemer hero.” 9James D. G. Dunn, Romans 1–8, Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 38a, ed. Peter H. Davids (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1988), 288.)
Type — or typology — is something we’ve seen in our Finding Jesus series. For example — one way to find Jesus in the Old Testament — is to see how a person or an object — points us forward to Jesus. Think of a type like a hint about Jesus. And Adam — being a type — hints at Jesus. You see Adam represents mankind and the result of him being our representative — is sin and death for us — thanks Adam! But Jesus represents mankind and the result of him being our representative is grace and life — thanks Jesus! So Adam — and his choice of disobedience — hints at Jesus — and his choice of obedience. Which leads us to our next verses where we move from the pattern of sin to the pattern of grace.
THE PATTERN OF GRACE
Verse 15. “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. 16 And the free gift is not like the result of that one man's sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. 17 For if, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:15-17 ESV)
Jesus and Grace (v15)
So — here — Paul shifts his focus from the problem of sin to the answer to sin. And if Adam is a type of Christ, then we’d expect to find a comparison between Adam and Jesus. And that’s exactly what we see in Paul’s words. In fact — we find three comparisons between Adam and Jesus.
In verse 15, Paul compares death — brought on by Adam’s trespass — with grace — brought on by Jesus’ free gift.
“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 ESV)
Notice the difference here between the gift of grace and sin. Sin is an activity — it’s something Adam did — something we’ve all done. But grace — unlike sin — isn’t something we do — it’s based on what Jesus did for us — grace is a gift we receive not something we earn.
Jesus and Justification (v16)
The comparison continues in verse 16 — where Paul compares judgment — brought on by Adam’s sin — with justification — brought on by Jesus’ gift of grace.
“And the free gift is not like the result of that one man's sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification.” (Romans 5:16 ESV)
Adam’s sin brought on judgment and condemnation which led to spiritual and physical death for all people. Jesus’ free gift of grace — which comes after Adam’s sin — leads to justification. And these terms — condemnation and justification — are courtroom — legal — type terms. So there’s a verdict — a judgment — a ruling — because of Adam’s sin — we’re all guilty. But there’s also a verdict — a judgment — a ruling — because of Jesus’ free gift of grace — that all who receive the gift are justified — no longer guilty.
So even though the idea can rub us the wrong way — the thought of one man’s sin being the reason for a guilty verdict on all of humanity — look at the implication of what Jesus has done. With all of the accumulated guilt — because of the sins of all people of all time — the future of humanity should be hopeless. Yet God — in his great love for us — sent Jesus to be the means by which the free gift of grace would be offered to us. And that means — if we have no inherited guilt — because of Adam’s sin — then we have no grace — because of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.
Jesus and Life (v17)
Then in verse 17, Paul compares death — brought on by Adam’s trespass — with life — brought on by Jesus’ free gift of grace.
“For if, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:17 ESV)
Through Adam — we’ve received death — thanks Adam! But through Jesus — it’s not that we’ve just had our death sentence removed — as incredible as that is — what Jesus accomplished is the removal of the reign of death over his people and now life reigns over us instead.
Listen to Paul’s words again. “The verdict on that one sin was the death sentence; the verdict on the many sins that followed was this wonderful life sentence. If death got the upper hand through one man’s wrongdoing, can you imagine the breathtaking recovery life makes, sovereign life, in those who grasp with both hands this wildly extravagant life-gift, this grand setting-everything-right, that the one man Jesus Christ provides?” (Romans 5:16b-17 MSG)
It’s not just an avoidance of eternal death that’s being offered to us — through faith in Jesus Christ — God’s people are given a wildly extravagant gift — the gift of life — God’s “setting everything right” eternal life.
THE RESULTS OF SIN AND GRACE
And what is this life like? Verse 18.
“Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For 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. 20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 5:18-21 ESV)
Again, Paul emphasizes what Adam’s sin has brought on us all.
Condemnation for all — verse 18.
His disobedience made us sinners — verse 19.
And ever since, sin has been increasing — verse 20.
What does this increase of sin look like? Well...
One of Adam’s sons murdered his brother.
Noah — after God rescued him from the flood — responded by getting drunk and passing out naked.
David committed adultery and had the woman’s husband killed.
Jonah disobeyed God and went in the opposite direction of where God told him to go.
Peter denied Christ three times.
Judas betrayed Jesus for money.
A man named Demas — praised by Paul in some letters — well his story ends with these haunting words — “Demas deserted me because he loves the things of this life.” (2 Timothy 4:10, NLT)
Or how about our nation’s history which is full of war. And of shootings. Of racism. And of slavery.
How about all of the stories of pastors who’ve abused their position and taken advantage of men, women, and children.
Even Martha Stewart — “Ms. I even know how to fold fitted sheets” — was convicted of a felony — no one saw that coming. I mean if Martha Stewart is tainted by sin what chance have you got?
And the result of all of this — is death — that’s the way that sin rules and reigns.
And — yet — be reminded of what Jesus has accomplished for his people.
Jesus’ act of righteousness — his death on the cross — has led to justification and life for all people. Now Paul isn’t a universalist — he doesn’t believe that everyone’s going to Heaven — forgiven people will spend eternity in Heaven. What Paul is saying is that all who come to Jesus — repenting of their sins and turning to him in faith — will be justified — they will be given life. Jesus doesn’t turn anyone away who comes to him in faith.
And Jesus’ act of obedience makes us righteous. In another place Paul writes, “[Jesus] humbled himself, by becoming obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:8, NET)
And ever since Jesus’ act of obedience — ever since his death on a cross — grace has been increasing more and more.
And grace rules and reigns — not by death — but by life. Grace rules and reigns by eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
And this tells us that even though a lot of people look at Christianity and think it’s primarily a religion about doing good works and trying to live a good — moral — life — what Paul tells us — is none of that is primary. What Christianity is primarily about is God reconciling sinners to himself. Notice that I said God does the reconciling because there’s nothing you or I can do to reconcile our relationship with God. We can’t restore the relationship because our sin has rendered us incapable of doing what’s necessary to make ourselves right with God.
And that’s why the gospel is called Good News. Because God did for us what we could not do for ourselves. That’s the point of grace. That’s why it’s a good thing that the law shows us our incapability of being able to earn God’s love because of our sin. Because the point of grace is to show us that God loves us despite our failure to meet his standards.
Because — as one Bible translation says — “When it’s sin versus grace, grace wins hands down. All sin can do is threaten us with death, and that’s the end of it. Grace, because God is putting everything together again through the Messiah, invites us into life — a life that goes on and on and on, world without end.” (Romans 5:21 MSG)
Because of one person — Adam — all of us have inherited a sin nature that leads to death. Yes, we all choose to sin — but there’s more to us than our choices. And because of both our sin nature and our choices — there’s nothing we can do to save ourselves from the power of sin and its consequence of death.
Yet — Good News. Even though Adam brought sin and death into our world — let’s make it personal — even though sin and death are part of your life — another Man — a better Man — the Perfect God who became Man — has brought justification and life into our world — let’s make it personal one last time — Jesus has brought life into your world. For it is through his death and resurrection that we’re given the gift of the justified life. Will you receive this gift of life or will death and sin reign over you? Let’s pray.
Father, thank you for your Good News. Yes, Adam brought sin and death into our world. Yes, we all choose to sin. Yes, we all have a sin nature. Yes, sin has been increasing for thousands of years. Yes, it can seem that wars will not cease, shootings will go on, racism will keep raising its ugly head, and slavery will consume the lives of men, women, and children in our world.
But — there is Good News. Sin and death no longer reign and rule. For Jesus has come and defeated them on the cross. And though many still choose to have sin and death as their cruel slave master — we — your people — have been given freedom and life. We have a good and kind King who rules and protects and loves us.
Holy Spirit, for anyone longing for the reign and rule of grace in their life — may you give them a heart that desires all that Jesus has done for them. Open their hearts to your love. Awaken them to see who they are and who you are so they repent and turn to Jesus in faith. And it’s in his name that we pray. Amen.
(PRAY FOR: THOSE WHO’VE FELT TRAPPED BY AN ADDICTION OR A MARRIAGE YOU CAN’T FIX; DEPRESSION, ANXIETY, FEAR, ANGER...AND WANT FREEDOM)
May you go living the justified life — with God’s grace reigning and ruling over you. Amen.
God loves you. I love you. You are sent.