Well open your Bible and let's look at Romans chapter 5. Romans chapter 5, and tonight we want to examine the first few verses of this great section in verse 12 through 21. I want to read the section for you so that you'll understand what Paul is saying and then we'll begin to look at it, at least initially tonight, and continue on in the next time we meet.
Beginning in Romans 5:12:
“Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world and death by sin and so death passed upon all men for all have sinned. For until the law sin was in the world but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression who is a figure of Him who was to come. But not as the offense, so also is the free gift. For if through the offense of one many are dead, much more the grace of God and the gift by grace which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.
And not as it was by one that sinned so is the gift, for the judgment was by one to condemnation but the free gift is of many offenses unto justification.
For if by one man's offense death reigned by one, much more they who receive abundance of grace of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.
Therefore as by the offense of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation, even so by the righteousness of one, the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.
For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.
Moreover the law entered the offense might abound, but where sin abounded grace did much more abound, that as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Many people believe this to be the most difficult passage in the book of Romans. And just having read it to you, you may want to agree with them. At first reading it sounds intensely complex. And in a sense it is. But in another sense it's wonderfully simple and wonderfully clear. And I think by the time we're finished, you'll have that understanding.
But for tonight, we'll look at the first three verses, at least in part, and see how far we get in this great text. And I want to call to your attention initially that twice in this passage is repeated the phrase "death reigned." It appears in verse 14 and it appears again in verse 17, "death reigned." In verse 12 it tells us that death passed upon all men. In verse 21 it says sin hath reigned unto death.
Now all of this can be brought together to simply say that what Paul is teaching in these various phrases is that death is king over the human race. Death reigns. Because of sin, death reigns over human beings. Death is king. That's why the Bible calls death the king of terrors. The whole earth is pock-marked with graves to support the fact that death reigns. All men at some time become the subjects of death. Sixty million people, at least, die every year; two of them die every second. Death claims every one of us unless we be taken to glory in the rapture of the church.
In fact, one Washington D.C. undertaker, I understand, signs his stationery, "Eventually yours." Very true. All the time we are exposed to death. Its painful reality touches our lives continuously. Death is the ultimate obscenity. The Orientals say, "The black camel, death, kneeleth once at each door and each mortal must mount to return nevermore." Thomas Gray wrote those famous lines: "The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power and all that beauty, all that wealth e’er gave await alike the inevitable hour, the paths of glory lead but to the grave."
Shakespeare wrote in Richard II these words, "Within the hollow crown that rounds the mortal temples of a king keeps death his court and there the antic sits scoffing his state and grinning at his pomp, allowing him a breath, a little scene to monarchize, be feared and killed with looks, infusing him with self and vain conceit as if this flesh which walls about our life were brass impregnable and humored thus comes at the last and with a little pin bores through his castle wall and farewell, king."
James Shirley wrote, "The glories of our birth and state are shadows, not substantial things. There is no armor against fate, death lays its icy hand on kings." Death is the ultimate king. Death is the ultimate monarch. Paul is right when he says, "Death reigned."
Napoleon Bonaparte said, "I die before my time, and my body will be given back to earth and become the food of worms. Such is the fate which so soon awaits the great Napoleon, conqueror of the world conquered by death." Death reigns.
Now the question that comes to mind is why? How is it that death reigns in the world? Why is it that everyone must die, whether at the end of a long life or at the beginning? Whether dying in the 90s or dying in the first moments after birth, and all in between? Why is it? How did death come to be the reigning monarch of the world?
The answer is in our passage. And we're going to see it, particularly in verses 12 through 14 tonight. We'll get the answer to this question. And I want to warn you at the very beginning that you're going to have to concentrate and think with me because this is a very, very carefully detailed argument by Paul and it's one that plunges us deep into mysteries which we will never be able to understand until some day we get to heaven. But we want to do our best to grasp them.
Now let me confess to you at the very beginning that the intention of the passage is not primarily to teach why we all die. That just comes along with the rest of the things that he's teaching. The major lesson that he wants to teach here is that — now listen to it, this is the message of chapter 5 verse 12 to 21 — he wants to teach that one man's deed can affect many. That's the primary principle. Because, you see, he has just described in chapter 1, 2 and the first half of chapter 3, he has described the awful lostness and sin of man. Then beginning in the second half of chapter 3 and in chapter 4 and in the first half of chapter 5, he has told us how Christ has reversed man's lostness. Christ has justified by His death on the cross all who come to Him in faith.
Now the inevitable question that a Jew is going to ask or anyone who thinks with Paul, you say that every man is sinful, every man is lost, every man is doomed and damned and condemned to judgment, and then all of a sudden this one man Jesus comes along, does this thing of dying on a cross and rising and by the one act of one man you say that all men can be justified? The inevitable question is how can what one man did at one time affect so many?
Now in order to show us the answer to that we have in chapter 5 verses 12 to 21 a comparison between Adam and Christ. Because the one man Adam in the one act of sin affected the whole human race. And he becomes analogous to what Christ did in one act affecting many. The sum of it comes in verse 19, as by one man's disobedience, many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. And you have here a marvelous analogy, where Adam becomes the illustration of how one man's deed can affect many, many. Through Jesus Christ all men can be reconciled to God just as through Adam all men were alienated from God. That's his whole point in the text.
Now in this analogy there are many, many details that Paul presents that basically we'll be able to understand. And there are many that we will not be able to understand. And I hope you can accept what is clear and what is comprehensible and leave the infinite mysteries to the infinite God for the time when we have greater capacity to understand these things. And may I say this, that it isn't that they are not understandable, it is that we can't understand them. And there's a difference. It isn't that they cannot be explained, it is that we cannot understand the explanation. It is not the fact that they cannot be resolved, it is that we are inadequate in understanding the resolution. So the problem lies not with God but with us. And some day that problem will be resolved.
The verse that begins the section, verse 12, begins with "Wherefore." And that's because it ties in with the end of verse 11. Verse 10 says we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son. And then it says, verse 11, through our Lord Jesus Christ we have received the reconciliation. So it is through one individual that we have been reconciled to God. And the question comes immediately: well how can one individual do that? And so he says, "Wherefore as by one man sin entered into the world," and then the rest of the section he goes on to say, "so by one man can righteousness enter into the world." Do you understand now the context? But in the process of saying that, he answers our question as to where death came from and several other questions that we'll have answered as we move through.
Now let me say something else by way of footnote. The analogy is an antithetical analogy. It is an analogy of opposites, not an analogy of likes. In other words, it is that Adam is analogous to Christ only in the sense that one man could affect so many. Everything else about the analogy is an opposite. In Adam you have sin and condemnation and death. In Christ you have obedience, righteousness and life, so that the factors of the analogy are absolutely antithetical or opposite. The only analogous point comes in the one man affecting so many.
Now there is a word used in this section, the word is "one." And it is used eleven times. So the emphasis is on the impact of one, one, one, one, one. Eleven times it's used. The word "reign," r-e-i-g-n, is used five times. So this one individual has a whole kingdom, he reigns over a whole dominion. Adam reigns, as it were, over the kingdom of sin and death. Christ reigns over the kingdom of righteousness and life.
And there's another common word here, it's the word, or the phrase really, "much more." And it's used five times. And it is to say that everything lost in Adam is gained and much more in Christ. So that gives you some perspective on the analogy. We are looking then at the influence of one man so that he dominates a whole flow of human beings by his one act. Because of Adam's sin, all men are condemned. Because of Christ's obedience, all men are offered pardon.
Now let's begin by looking at Adam and the reign of death. And then we'll go on to Christ and the reign of life. "Wherefore as by one man sin entered into the world and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men for all have sinned. For until the law sin was in the world but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression who is a figure (tupos) of Him that was to come." Now there you have the idea that Adam is analogous to Christ. He's a picture, a figure, a symbol.
But as we look at these three verses I want you to notice four elements, or four phases, four steps in the logical progression of Paul's argument relative to Adam and the reign of death. Let me tell you something, folks, right here we're going to lay bare the root of human history. You want to know why the world is like it is? You're going to find out right now. It's right here. Here is the key to history. This is the key to understanding everything. It tells us why man is the way he is. It tells us why death is the dominant monarch. It tells us why human history has gone the way it's gone. It's a tremendously essential understanding.
Now the first point: Sin entered the world through one man. That's what it says in verse 12, "As by one man sin entered into the world." Now note that carefully. It does not say that Adam originated sin. Sin had already originated prior to Adam. For the Bible says the devil sinneth from the beginning. Now I don't know what beginning that was, it was certainly the beginning of his sin. But it predates Adam. So Adam didn't originate sin, he learned it from the one who originated it, the devil. He merely introduced it into the human realm. That's why it says as by one man sin entered not into existence, but into the cosmos, into the human system, into mankind. And Adam was acting as an introductory point. He was acting as an agent for Satan. Satan made the product; Adam just introduced it into the marketplace. First John 3:8: "He that commiteth sin is of the devil for the devil sins from the beginning (from the beginning). For this purpose the Son of God was manifest that He might destroy the works of the devil." So Adam was merely a pawn in the devil's attack on God.
Let's go back to Genesis 2 and see how it happened. Genesis 2 verse 15, amazing, the Lord God took the man, put him in the Garden of Eden to till it to keep it. It's the garden of paradise, perfect environment, without flaw, no sin. "And the Lord God commanded the man saying, ‘Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat. But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it, for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely (What?) die.’" Very simple prohibition.
Then you come to chapter 3. "Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made and he said to the woman, ‘Yea, hath God said (questions God's word) you shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” Did God really say that? “And the woman said unto the serpent, ‘We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden but the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden God has said you shall not eat of it, neither shall you touch it lest you die.’" Now we don't know whether she added that or whether Adam added that to her when he told her about it just to make sure. You know, like what you say to your wife, "We've got to be ready by 7:30," when you really mean 8:30 but you know her very well. Now we don't know whether Adam is hedging on the deal when he told her that or whether she just threw that in. But she knows that she's not supposed to eat that. In fact, she's gotten the word not even to touch it, or at least she's adding that from her own vantage point.
"And the serpent said unto the woman, ‘You shall not surely die, for God doth know that in the day you eat thereof your eyes shall be opened and then you shall be as God, knowing good and evil.’ And when the woman saw the tree was good for food and that it was pleasant to the eyes and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof and did eat, gave also to her husband with her and he did eat." That's disobedience, folks. That's the Fall of Man. Their eyes were opened, they knew they were naked. Sewed fig leaves together, made themselves aprons. They were self-conscious, they were embarrassed. They wanted to hide from God. They tried to run and hide but He found them and He cursed them in verses 14 and following. He cursed them. He cursed their marriage. He cursed them individually. And that's the Fall.
Now listen. Let me give you a perspective. God only gave Adam one command, just one. And that is the only thing that kept Adam in a point of submission to God. I mean, that's the only thing that differentiated between Adam and God. I mean, if there were no commands and no prohibitions, then Adam would have had the same right to rule as God had. But by giving him just one prohibition, He put him at that one point under Him, didn't He? And He said you're man and I'm God. And I'm only going to give you one little thing to show that it's so.
But there's something about man that can't stand to be ruled, even at that one small point. And he wants to be like God and that was the temptation, wasn't it? Satan knew that one well, by the way, because that's why he fell. He said, "I will exalt myself, I will be like the Most High God." That's always where man is, competing to be like God. And so Satan, who wanted to be like God, came and tempted Eve to want to be like God and Adam to want to be like God and to not be under anything, not even that one prohibition that was the only thing that separated Adam, as it were, from God, or made him distinct from God in terms of authority and dominion. And so, at the core of Adam's sin was selfishness, self. Self is at the core of sin always, as it was with Lucifer when he fell.
Now when Adam sinned something terrible happened. Go back to Romans chapter 5. When that man sinned, and believe me Eve is embodied in the sin of Adam, though Adam was the head of the race, the first one created, and Eve taken from his side, when that one man sinned, sin entered into the human stream. That's what Paul is saying. His sin brought a constitutional change of unholiness into his soul. That which had been pure, unstained by sin or disobedience, that which had been innocent of any guilt factor at all was now stained and corrupted instantly.
Now would you notice it says in verse 12 that by one man sin entered the world, not sins. It's not talking about acts, it's talking about the nature, it's talking about character, not deeds. When Adam sinned, the sin principle, the corrupt decaying principle of sin entered into the human stream. And just like Adam passed on to his posterity a nose, and eyes, and ears, arms and legs, he passed on the corrupting principle of sin. Sin entered the human stream.
You see, that's because God made us as a procreating race so that what we are is passed on to who we bear. And you have Adam and Eve, as well, sinners with a corrupting defiling principle in them. And when they procreate, they will procreate sinners and more sinners and more sinners and more sinners and here we are. And it all started when Adam sinned. The world of mankind was corrupted. John Donne was right when he wrote, "No man is an island entire of itself, every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod is washed away, Europe is less, as well as if a promontory were or a manor of thy friends. Every man's death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee." And what he is viewing in that piece of English prose is that man is seen as a solidarity. Man is seen as a mass. And Adam was duly constituted mankind. When Adam sinned he was the whole human race. He was mankind sinning. And in his loins was the seed that would bring forth every human life, every human life. When he was polluted, it guaranteed that everybody born out of his loins would be polluted. In fact, the pollution intensifies through history and Paul says in 2 Timothy that evil men get worse and worse. Instead of evolution, it's devolution, it gets worse and worse, it's degenerating, it's breaking down. The whole of mankind was in the loins of Adam. And all human history is encapsulated in Genesis chapter 3.
Now the Jews understood this concept of what we call corporate personality. We don't understand it quite as well as they did. So let me see if I can't help you. The Jew never thought of himself as an isolated individual. He didn't see himself that way. He thought himself a part of a tribe, a part of a family, a part of a nation. And in the Old Testament God treated people as whole units. Many times, for example, we see God destroying a whole nation of people because of a certain number of unrighteous people in that nation. Or God acting in judgment against a whole group of people though a few of them would be initially guilty. For example, you have Achan, and Achan, when the children of Israel are going into the land, does exactly what God told him not to do when you go to Jericho, make sure that you don't take any spoil. And he did. And God judged Achan and God not only took the life of Achan but he took the life of everybody in his family. And when Achan sinned at Jericho, all Israel paid at Ai at the next battle, because God treated the family and the nation.
In Genesis 18 God says to Abraham in his prayer, "If you can find ten righteous people in the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, I'll spare their judgment." In other words, the whole city will survive if there are ten righteous. So sometimes a minimal number of people become, as it were, the righteousness of a whole nation. Other times a minimum number of evil people become the condemnation of a whole nation. But God sees nations in solidarity, particularly in the Old Testament economy.
Let me give you an illustration of it. Look at Hebrews chapter 7. And this is really, this is an upper division seminary course in soteriology, harmartiology, the doctrines of salvation and sin. Hebrews 7 gives us this principle, I think, so that we can understand it. Verse 9, it's talking about Melchizedek. Melchizedek was a priest of the Most High God in the city of Salem, which is the ancient name of Jerusalem. He lived prior to the Israelites. He lived in the day of Abraham before Israel was a nation. Abraham went there after a great battle with the kings. He had won the victory. He wanted to worship God so he went to this place where Melchizedek was the priest and he offered offerings to God. And Melchizedek acted in the behalf of God as the priest. And it is interesting to note that in Abraham's act, verse 9 says, "Levi also who receiveth tithes," that's the Levitical priesthood, "paid tithes in Abraham, for he was yet in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him."
Now the Levitical priesthood proceeded out of the loins of Abraham. He was one of the sons of Jacob; Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and then Levi comes. But here Hebrews says Levi is paying tithes to Melchizedek bound up in the loins of Abraham, so that it sees Levi yet unborn three...two generations beyond or three, yes, three, still paying tithes in the loins of Abraham. Now that's a very Jewish concept of seeing people bound up in their ancestor's loins.
Now you carry that same concept back here to Romans chapter 5. And when Adam sinned; just like when Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek, Levi paid them in his loins. When Abraham... When Adam sinned all of the human race was duly constituted in the loins of Abraham, and we sinned in...rather of Adam...and we sinned in Adam. We were there.
So Paul presents Adam acting as mankind. That is, by the way, what his name means, mankind. He is the solid mass of humanity. By the way, I believe he was all the humanity there was then, he and his wife who is seen as one with Him for they two had become (What?) one flesh. And he introduces rebellion and evil into the human stream. So his is the act of humanity. He is not acting as a man, he is acting as man. And so he's the cause of all men becoming sinners. And that is why 1 Corinthians 15:22 says this, "In Adam all die.” In Adam all die. All men inherit corruption from Adam. We were there, as it were. As God views it we were there and we might as well have been there because we have inherited, as Augustine used to say, it is the seminal transmission of the sin principle.
Now may I just inject a footnote here that has nothing to do with what I just said, but it's important? In order to make this analogy work, in order for it to have any validity, since Christ is a historical figure, what must Adam be? An historical figure. I think this is one passage that strikes a fierce blow to the evolutionary hypothesis and to all of those people who say that Adam is representative of some sort of mystical pre-historic drama made up by men and so forth and so on. Listen, if Adam is not a real one man whose one deed corrupted the whole race, then Christ is not a real one man whose one deed gives righteousness to those who believe. So, when you're hassling on the scientific level about evolution, it would pay if you just get over here to the biblical level. If He is the second Adam, if He is as the Bible says the last Adam, then the first Adam has to be a real Adam.
So, principle number one, sin entered the world through one man. Principle number two — you're doing very well, by the way, good — principle number two, death entered the world through sin. “In the day you eat you shall surely (What?) die.” So when the corrupting principle came, so did its penal consequence. When the corrupting principle entered into the human stream, so did the penalty for that corrupting principle. Romans 6:23 says, "The wages of sin is death." Ezekiel 18:4 says, "The soul that sinneth, it shall die." The wages of sin is death, the soul that sins, it shall die. Genesis 2:17 says, you eat, you die. So death is not — now listen to me death is not — natural to the constitution of man as created in the image of God. God did not create a man who would die. That came as a penal act, a penalty, a consequent punishment to sin.
We were never made for death. Listen to me now. That is why hell was never made for us. It was made for the devil and his angels, not for us. That was never to be our place. But when we sinned in Adam and the evil was passed on through all the generations, along with that evil came its penal consequence, death.
If Adam hadn't sinned, people say, what would have happened? Well he would have been taken to heaven without ever dying. And the norm would have been Enoch and Elijah; just take a walk one day and walk to heaven, just jump in a chariot of fire and blast off. That would have been the norm. Death came as the penalty for sin. Death then is the unfailing fruit of the poison that entered Adam's heart. And solidarity and guilt involve solidarity and penalty. Sin and death will never be separated. And that's why Hebrews 9:27 says, "It is appointed unto men once to die." Adam died, so everybody who comes out of Adam's loins is going to die. The sin principle, its penal consequence is there.
Now notice again that it keeps using the word "sin." It says that by one man sin entered the world, and the second principle, death by sin. Now listen to me. Death comes not because you commit sins, but because you bear in you a sin principle, a corrupt nature. How do we know that? Well what about when a little baby dies? What about a baby that’s two hours old or three hours old or three days or four weeks or six months? Have they committed overt acts of sin? Are they guilty of unbelief and rejection of Jesus Christ? Lying, cheating, stealing? No, no, no. But they die, don't they? Why do they die? Because constitutionally they sinned in the loins of Adam and they inherited that sin principle and with it the penalty as well. And that's why death is in the world, because we're born to die. We have inherited a principle, a disposition, a state of existence. We like to call it, in theology, depravity, total depravity.
You see, corruption invaded the human realm and none of us can escape, none of us. So from Adam on, everyone has the sin principle. And the sin principle issues in what? Sins. And I would just like to remind you that you're not a sinner because you sin. No. You sin because you're what? You're a sinner. You're not a liar because you told a lie. You told that lie because in your heart you're what? You're a liar. You premeditated it before you ever said it. And you're not a murderer because you killed somebody. You kill them because in your heart you're a murderer. You see, it's what Jesus said in Matthew. We learned it there. It's in Mark as well. It's not that which goes into a man that defiles him. It's that which what? Comes out of him. “For out of the heart proceeds evil, murders,” so forth.
So, we have all been — look at verse 19 — by one man's act we have been made sinners. We didn't have a choice, we just came into the world and that's the way we were. And so death reigns over sin. Where sin reigns, death reigns.
Now what kind of death is it? And I'll give you a little thanatology here. First, spiritual death. When Adam sinned did he die on the spot physically? Did he die eternally? No. He just died spiritually. What does that mean? Separation. Death is separation. Physical death is separation from the living. Spiritual death is separation from the living God. Eternal death is eternal separation from the living God and the living who are living in the presence of the living God.
So there are three kinds of death. First, a spiritual death and that's separation from God. Paul talks about that in Ephesians 2 where he says you are dead in trespasses and sin, you walk according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that works in the children of disobedience. In other words, you are spiritually dead. In Ephesians 4, the key verse in understanding spiritual death might be verse 18, "The understanding is darkened, being alienated from the life of God." You don't have any spiritual life. You're alive to the world, you're alive to the physical dimension, you're alive to the things of man, you're alive to the things of the devil but you're dead to God, spiritually dead.
The second kind of death is physical death. That's separation from the living. And that's inevitable, too. Death is that great enemy of Hebrews chapter 2 who holds every man in fear. It always amazes me that people are mostly afraid of physical death when they mostly ought to be afraid of spiritual death because Jesus said, "Fear not them that destroy the body but fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body (Where?) in hell." If you want to fear something, don't fear physical death. I don't fear physical death. Those who know Jesus Christ don't fear physical death. We might fear the pain and the separation that we anticipate might be there, but we don't fear the death. If there's something to fear it isn't the physical death, it's the spiritual death. But once we've taken care of the spiritual dimension and we're living in spiritual life, then physical death becomes promotion. Then Paul can say, "For me to live is Christ and to die is (What?) gain." So there is spiritual death and there is physical death.
And then there's eternal death, and eternal death simply means the eternal state of both the ones I've just mentioned, where you're separated from the living God and you're separated from the people who are really living and you're with those who are eternally dying apart from God forever in hell. You're under wrath and this is called in Revelation 28...21:8, the second death. And so, when Adam sinned, pollution, corruption of a vile nature entered the human stream, and it passed on its influence to every human ever born and we come into the world spiritually dead. We come into the world heading for physical death and if something doesn't happen to make us spiritually alive, eternal death. That's how it is.
You say, "Well how did that happen?" It happened from one man. One man did that to the whole human race. You say, "Well if I would have been there I wouldn't have done it." Hindsight. If he looked back five minutes after he did it and had to do it over again, he wouldn't have done it.
So sin came through one man and death came through sin. A third principle — and these are overlapping, but stay in there now — death spread to all men because — here it comes — all sinned. Now here's... Here's the difficult part. And here's where you get back into the solidarity concept. It says there in verse 12, "Death passed on all men." Now we understand that. We just talked about that. Death passed on all men. Death came to all men. Nobody escapes. A very important theological truth, everybody dies because everybody sins because everybody has a sin principle because Adam sinned and introduced the whole thing and passed it on. And just like we got eyes and ears and noses and arms and legs, we got sin from him. But then we could have just left it there and we would have been so easily satisfied, I think, but then he adds that thing at the end of verse 12, "For all have sinned."
Now what are you saying? When did we do that? It's an aorist, a simple aorist, all have sinned. In one point, in time past, all have sinned. You say, "When did we all do that?" In the loins of Adam; we were duly constituted there in the loins of Adam. We were bound up in the loins of Adam. We sinned in Adam for he was the race. And that's why babies die, not because they commit deeds of sin but because they already sinned in Adam and they can be punished justly.
Now is that hard for you to understand? That's comforting, because it's impossible for me to understand. I just accept it by faith. We were born dead in trespasses and sin. And if we never lived long enough to commit an act of sin, we would be worthy of death because we sinned in Adam. That's what Paul is saying. You say, "Well, I'm not sure I've done that." Yes you have. And just give it enough time, you'll prove it. You'll prove the sin principle is fully operating.
Now listen. Our depravity, our sinfulness, our fallenness is not the result of our sinning, it is the cause of our sinning. You understand that? When a baby comes into the world you don't teach a baby how to disobey. You don't teach a kid how to disobey. You take a stick and teach him to obey. The sin thing is really going. Just leave him alone and see what happens to him. You'll have to put him in prison by the time he's eight.
Psalm 51:5, listen to this, "Behold, I was shaped in iniquity and in sin did my mother conceive me." The fetus is guilty because it bears, you see, it bears the Adamic nature. In Psalm 58:3, "The wicked are estranged from God from the womb." Jeremiah 17:9, "The heart of man is deceitful and desperately wicked." Job 14:4 simply puts it this way, "Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?"
Listen, you want to know why Jesus had to be born of a virgin? You want to know why Jesus had to bypass a human father? Because He had to be created in the body of Mary bypassing the human race or He would have been born what? A sinner. People say, "Is the virgin birth important?" Yeah it's important.
In Job 15 it says, "What is man that he should be clean? And he who is born of a woman that he should be righteous? How much more abominable and filthy is man who drinketh iniquity like water?" In John 8:44 Jesus said, "You're of your father the devil."
And so Adam sinned and he wasn't even tricked. First Timothy 2:14 says he wasn't even deceived. He just flat out sinned, willfully, deliberately, in full consciousness of what he was doing. In a perfect realization of the solemn consequences he deliberately chose to sin. And when he did, he brought death upon himself and he passed it on to everybody else because we all sinned in his loins, as he represented all of human history.
Now I know this is difficult to understand and I'm just going to give you a verse that will explain the whole thing, one verse. Deuteronomy 29:29, "The secret things belong to the Lord." But aren't you glad you can't understand the whole Bible? Because if you could you'd be God. And if you were God things would be worse by far.
Now think with me. This is difficult so we take it by faith. But several questions that we can't understand, we need to understand that we can't understand. All right? Listen. Here's the question people ask: Well, how can I sin in Adam when I wasn't even there? I mean, I didn't literally actually sin in Adam, I wasn't even there. I mean, how can I be held responsible for doing something in somebody when I wasn't even there?
Let me ask you this question. Have you died in Christ as a Christian? Are you willing to accept that wonderful fact? Did you rise again in Christ to walk in newness of life? Well how did you do that when you weren't even there? You didn't literally die on the cross. And you didn't literally go into the grave. And you didn't literally come out of the grave. But you welcomed the understanding that in a spiritual sense, somehow in the marvelous miraculous mind of God, He put you in Christ on the cross and in the grave with Christ and out to walk in newness of life, and you're eager to accept that and excited to accept it. It's no different, is it? If we can understand that spiritually we were there constituted in Christ when He died and rose again and we walk in newness of life because we died with Christ, we were crucified with Christ, then why can't we understand that we were there in Adam when he fell at the first? It's the same basic concept.
It doesn't give you an answer but it gives you another question that's somewhat comforting. The death of Christ legally and effectively was our death. And the sin of Adam legally and effectively was our sin. And that's why it says in 1 Corinthians 15:22, "As in Adam all died, even so in Christ shall all be made alive." We were in Adam, we are in Christ. Somehow we were in Adam when he did what he did. Somehow we were in Christ when He did what He did. And if we don't understand it, that means God has a mind beyond our mind. Not that it can't be understood or that it's in error, simply that we are too frail to comprehend it.
Let me ask another question. This is one that gets asked. Is it just? Is that fair? I didn't ask to be born and when I was born I had two sinners for parents. It wasn't their fault, they had four sinners for parents. And if you just keep going back you're going to find a whole bunch of sinners till you get back to Adam. Is that just? I didn't ask to be born. You can't blame me, I just... One day I arrived in the hospital and there I was, a sinner, condemned to hell. Is that fair? Is that just?
Let me ask you another question. Is it just that millions of sinners should be saved by the grace of God? Is that just? Is it fair that you should be able to go to heaven when you never paid the penalty for your sin, somebody else did? You don't want to be a sinner when somebody else sinned, but you sure don't mind getting saved when somebody else paid the penalty for your sin. It's the same question, you see. That's why this analogy is so masterful. I doubt whether a human mind on its own would ever have thought of this. The infinite nature of this analogy just boggles my mind. The longer I think about it the more frustrating it becomes, I promise you. Talk about headaches. It's like the man said, "You're trying to unscrew the unscrutable." It's...it's profound.
All we can say is that the answer is bound up somewhere in the character of God. And we have to go back to Habakkuk. And that wonderful little... You don't need to turn to it. It takes too long to find it. But Habakkuk... Whenever I think of that, I think you know, in Portuguese it's Habacuque. I remember hearing some people reading from that when I was in Brazil and I thought that was quite strange, Habacuque. But anyway, if you were to go back to Habakkuk... You know when you digress like this they say you're mind is going. Is it true? I don't know. Anyway, you go back to Habakkuk and Habakkuk looks at a situation. He can't understand it, right? Can't understand it, it doesn't make sense. Chapter 1, he cannot understand why God doesn't bring a revival to Israel. He cannot understand why God doesn't purify His people. He can't understand why God doesn't come to bless them, and so forth. And God says, "I'm going to do something. I'm going to destroy them." And now, number one, he couldn't understand why God didn't do good, now number two, he can't understand why God's going to do evil. And then He says I'm going to use the Chaldeans. That's number three, I don't understand how You could use a worse people to be their judge.
And so he can't understand anything. He can't understand the whole thing. He's got the problem of trying to figure out why it is the way it is. And finally he backs off of the thing and he just says, God, I'm just going to know that You're of purer eyes than to behold evil, cannot look on iniquity, You're from everlasting to everlasting, You don't make mistakes, You're a holy God, You're an almighty God, and in that I'm going to rest. And at the end of chapter 3 he says, "If the figs don't grow and the fields don't produce” and nothing goes right, “yet will I rejoice in the God of my salvation."
In other words, what he is saying is when you can't understand things with your own human mind, you back off of the quicksand of your own misunderstanding and you get on the rock of the character of God. And is God just? Yes. And is God wise? Yes. And is God loving and gracious and merciful? Yes. And is God who is loving and gracious and merciful and wise unnecessarily going to create souls for hell? And the answer is no. And so we are comforted in the character of God that we'll never be able to unscramble all the mysteries of His infinite mind in this life.
Now God had some options. When Adam sinned He could have just killed him. That's it. Whack, you're dead. And we wouldn't be here. That would have been it. No humans, we tried it with two of them, that was two too many. It's all over, ended human history with the first two. You say, "Well why didn't He?" Well it's funny when you try to speculate how things might have been. Let me give you my feeble inept understanding.
God created angels, right? And He created angels to do what? What are they supposed to do? Give Him what? Give Him glory. They just fly around and give Him glory and offer Him praise and do what He asks and they give Him glory. But they don't fully understand God. They don't. You know what they don't understand about God? There's a whole side of God that they don't understand. This is what they don't understand. Grace, mercy, forgiveness, compassion, tenderness, they don't understand any of that. And yet that is in the nature of God. That is in God's character. That is a part of God's living attributes. In other words, that's a whole element of God's nature, that's a whole part of God's character, okay, that they don't understand. Now why don't they understand it?
Listen carefully. Angels were created. They were made all what? Holy angels, true? They're all holy. Does a holy angel need forgiveness? Nope. Does a holy angel need mercy, compassion, tenderness, gentleness, grace, long-suffering, patience? No because a holy angel is a perfect being. They were worthy beings. They could say praise and hallelujah and glory to God and give Him honor, but only from a limited perspective because they were worthy beings to begin with. And so there was a whole element of God's nature that needed to be glorified and needed to be praised and needed to be exalted that angels couldn't exalt. You say, "But then the angels sinned." That's right, the angels sinned and they fell and Revelation 12 says a third of the angels went with Lucifer and they fell. And you know something? They were damned to hell forever and were instantly unredeemable. No angel was ever redeemed. No angel was ever saved. No angel was ever forgiven for that fall. They fell individually. They didn't fall procreatively. Angels didn't re-create, they were all instantly created at one moment as individuals and each of them acts independently as an individual. The ones that fell fell as individuals. They were constituted as damned forever, there is no redemption of angels. And that's why 1 Peter 1:12 says that the angels wish to look into the doctrines of salvation, because they don't understand those.
So here was this whole dimension of God that was never able to be praised and never able to be fully glorified unless God would create some people who, having fallen could be redeemed, you see. And then out of their redemption would come an understanding. Do you understand grace? Do you understand mercy? Do you understand compassion, forgiveness, tenderness, patience? We understand those well, very well. We have trouble with the stuff the angels understand, the worthiness and the perfections. We have trouble understanding the perfections of God, the infinite mind of God. But we understand the mercy. And I think that's the reason, the best that my feeble mind can understand, that when Adam sinned God said, I'm not going to let him go. I'm going to say... I'm going to give them a message of redemption. And so God didn't create men and then say, all right, in Adam you're all damned to hell. God said, because you sinned, you come prey to death that is spiritual, physical and eternal. And then God set about to stop men from hell, you see? And Jesus is sitting over the city of Jerusalem in Matthew 22 and tears are running down His face and He is saying, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how oft I would have gathered thee as a hen gathereth her brood and you would not." And He is saying, "You will not come to Me that you might have life." And He wept when they turned their backs on Him because, you see that’s... And God did it back in the prophet Jeremiah, you remember, when He says to them, "You are proud and you will not give Me glory." And then He says, "Mine eye will run down with tears." That's the broken heart of God.
It isn't that God said, all right, Adam, go ahead and produce your damned race and let them all go to the hell I prepared for the fallen angels. No, it's that, I want that glory of which I am worthy. And if you think God's out of line for wanting it, then that shows how little you understand about God's worthiness. He deserved the praise from those who would understand His grace. And, you see that's why, when having redeemed us, Ephesians 3:10 says He takes the whole church and uses them to teach the angels about His manifold wisdom. Because we can fill up for their understanding that which they without us would never understand.
And if the purpose of creation and the purpose of heaven and the purpose of eternity is the eternal praise of God, then it's fitting that we should be there, isn't it? I believe with all my heart that those who go into hell without Jesus Christ go there because they reject the redemption provided. And it says it in 2 Peter 3, “God is not (What?) willing that any should perish, but all should come to repentance.” And that's why the death of Jesus Christ was universally applicable to every soul.
So, maybe that helps. Sin entered the world through one man, death through that man. And death passed on all men because all have sinned. We all sinned in Adam. But nonetheless He allowed us to be born to call us to redemption so that we could be to the praise of His glory forever and know the eternal bliss that comes to those who make that commitment.
Well, there's a fourth point. And this sums it up. History proves this to be true. History proves it to be true. Sin came through one man, death came through sin, death spread to all men and history proves it to be true. Verse 13: "For until the law, sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there's no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from Adam to Moses even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression." And we'll stop there.
Now watch, this is so interesting, just very briefly. The main thought is this, death reigned, verse 14, from Adam to Moses. Now listen. When did the law come? When did God give the law? Moses. If death reigned, did all the people before Moses die? Sure did. If death reigned from Adam to Moses, then death is not a result of sins, it's not a result of breaking a direct commandment, it's not a result of violating a direct statement from God because prior to Moses the law was not there. And verse 13 says sin can't be charged to one's account when there is no law. In other words, how can you be guilty for breaking a rule if there's no rule? Right? So if you have a period of time from Adam to Moses where there's no law and death reigns and they're not dying because they broke a law, then what is it about them that's causing them to die? It isn't an act of sin they commit, it is what? The sin nature.
So this period of history from Adam to Moses verifies that men die not because they do acts of sin, but because they bear a sin corrupting principle within them. And they're born into the world on the way to hell. God in His marvelous mercy calls them to Himself. And so even though we don't, verse 14 says, sin after the similitude of Adam's transgression. And Adam sinned by breaking a direct command, didn't he? God says do not eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and he did it. And that similitude is to break a command. When Moses gave the law, you had that same idea, breaking commands. So in a sense Adam's sin was a sin against law. But from Adam to Moses there is not a great revelation of laws. And so everybody didn't sin after the similitude of Adam's kind of sin, violating a known revealed law, but everybody died. And the conclusion then is that we die not because of acts of sin but because we bear the sin principle, which ultimately kills us.
It's like having cancer, folks. It's just there eating you away till ultimate death occurs. And God is not doing anything other in this world than trying to call people back from death to life. That's His desire.
Now, all of that is only an illustration. That isn't even the point of the chapter. It isn't. It's only an illustration. Verse 14: "Of the figure.” It is a figure, a type, a symbol of Him that was to come. So Adam then is a type of whom? Christ, as one man's act affected all, so there will come another man, the second Adam, the last Adam, and His one act will affect all.
Let's bow in prayer. Father, we have learned tonight that death is built in like a fuse. It burns lower and lower and lower. Like a countdown, it ticks off till zero. And it is appointed unto men once to die and after that condemnation. Adam and the reign of death, we're all there. And into that tragic, ugly, fearful scene comes Christ, and the reign of life. O, we thank You, Father, we thank You that You have redeemed those who respond, that we forever may give glory to Your grace and mercy, we may forever praise Your name and join with the angels. They glorifying You for what they understand best, we glorifying You for what we understand best, and together throughout all eternity the universe shall ring with our praise. We pray, Father, that if there is a soul here tonight who does not know You, is still in the kingdom of Adam and death, that they may be translated into the kingdom of Christ and live.
In this parting moment while your heads are bowed. This is such a, such a fearfully important message. Death is inevitable. It awaits us all. You can fear it, or you can anticipate it. It can be the beginning of a worse death forever without God and without those that are alive forever. Or it can be the beginning of eternal bliss in the presence of the living God and those who live in His presence. The choice is yours. Yes, you were there in Adam, and you sinned and you'll die. But you can also be there in Christ with the payment of your sins made in His death and you can rise in His resurrection to newness of life. Which will you choose?
Father, bring to the prayer room those that You desire to come. Do Your work in every heart and we'll thank You in Christ's name. Amen.
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