I know, I know. We just looked this passage a couple of weeks ago when we discussed the issue of homosexuality a couple of weeks ago. But I was using that passage to look at homosexuality as it relates to the common defense of “Well, God made me this way.” It’s really a deep passage that deals with a lot more than that.
This passage chapter could be placed under the heading: “Two Heads, Two Destinies.”
As I’ve talked about before, being an American comes with so many advantages, but it can skew our understanding of Scripture. We’re very big on the rights and well-being of the individual. Unlike most cultures and societies in history, we couldn’t care less who your great-great-granddaddy was, whether he was a street sweeper or a nobleman. Each person is expected to make it on their own merits, and it shouldn’t matter where you came from. At least that’s the theory. It’s something we’re proud of, and for the most part I think it’s a good thing.
But where I think we mess up is that we go so far in this direction that we neglect this sometimes inconvenient truth: Where you came from does affect your circumstances in the here and now. If you pretend like it doesn’t—which tends to be an affliction of the young and/or naïve—then this truth doesn’t go away; it merely hides in the background and will affect you without you even knowing it.
So here we have the first “man,” Adam (whose name literally is “The Man”). He was the prototype of the new race called human beings. All people come from him and his wife, so we’re made in his image, sort of the same way that Adam was made in God’s image. As we discussed re: homosexuality, in some mysterious way, when Adam sinned, he gained a propensity to sin (disobey God) which he passed down to us. It specifically says he sinned, “and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned.” Not most—all.
This is the point where we have to shed our thinking (somewhat) as Americans with our notions of individualism. And this is where my title for this passage comes into play. By “head” here I don’t mean “person in charge,” although Jesus certainly is that. By the term, as applied to both Adam and Jesus, I’m referring to the sense as in “source.” Think of the “head” of a river, where the river actually starts.
It’s a really good illustration. What if you dumped toxic waste at the head of a river? What would be the condition of the water downstream? Obviously what happens at the head affects everything else.
In the same way, Adam’s sin affects all of his children. This is what vss. 13-14 are talking about. Even though the generations between Adam and Moses didn’t have the Torah in written form (so none of them disobeyed it), they still were affected. How could this be? How could sin affect them when they didn’t have the Mosaic Law to disobey? Remember, all people everywhere have both the outer witness (creation) and the inner witness (a sense of morality), and we’ve all disobeyed the witnesses God’s already placed before us. General revelation is enough to condemn us, and thus is enough for sin to affect us.
But thank the Lord, there’s more than one Head of a race here. All of us are Adam’s kin and thus under the power of sin, with all that entails. Enter Jesus. He's the Second Adam. He's the Head of the new race. Adam was tested and failed, and thus brought condemnation and death onto everyone further along his line. But Jesus came, without sin, was tested and succeeded brilliantly. Everything that Adam was supposed to be, Jesus was and is.
What are the effects of this new Head’s person and work? What does he give all of his “children”?
1) Justification instead of condemnation
2) Grace (undeserved favor) instead of judgment
3) Righteousness (his own) instead of sinfulness
4) Life instead of death
He ends on an explanation about the real purpose of the Law. It was there “so that the
trespass might increase.” He’ll explain this more in chapter seven, but the main reason (or at least one of them) he gave us the Law was to show us our utter moral bankruptcy before him. But where our sin increased, his grace increased “all the more.” We could never “outsin” his grace. No matter what we did or didn’t do, his grace more than makes up for it, turning mortal enemies of God into beloved children.
Yes, Lord Jesus, your grace more than covers my sin. You do more than reconcile your enemies to yourself. You give abundantly more than we could ever dream of. Thank you.
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