This quotation from Paul’s letter to the Romans is the heart of the Gospel. Though it's not a terribly difficult verse to understand, it's incredibly hard to believe. And so, this Sunday we will analyze together more fully its message of Good News for our lives.
Let's take it in two parts. The first part is this: "For as in Adam all die..." The reference is the story of Adam and Eve. After their creation God placed them in a lovely garden teeming with beauty and abundant with every good food to eat. (Genesis 2) Unfortunately, they ate the forbidden fruit and took life into their own hands.
We commonly call this story, The Fall of Adam, because it was here that Adam fell from grace. So did Eve, for that matter. It's important not because of what happened to Adam and Eve eons ago, but what it says about human nature from the beginning of time. In short, the story of Adam and Eve is our story too.
We call this original sin, and that's a good term for it in that it stems from our origin. It's not that we're prone to making mistakes; it's that our very nature is corrupt. We can be counted on to do and say hurtful things, to act selfishly, even to do good things for the wrong reasons.
And so, the bad news is, "As in Adam all die . . . ." The Good News is, "so also in Christ all will be made alive." What we have here is nothing less than a New Creation: Just as the Old Creation started with Adam, the New Creation started with Jesus Christ. As the Apostle Paul told the Romans: "So then as through one trespass, all men were condemned; even so through one act of righteousness, all men were justified to life." (Romans 5:18)
What's important for us to understand is this: Just as we had nothing to do with the fall of Adam, neither are we responsible for this New Creation God has established in Jesus Christ. What's more, we're just as sinful as ever. The Good News is that, now, God has chosen to count us as righteous, even though we are not. This is the way Paul puts it in his Letter to the Romans: "For all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." (Romans 3:23)
This has nothing to do with how deserving or undeserving we may be; it has everything to do with the miracle of God's grace and the sovereignty of God's love. As Paul said, "But God commends his own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8)
As incredible as it may seem, God has acted, once and for all, to reconcile the world to Himself through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Overlooking our sinful nature, God has chosen to love us anyway and is hoping we'll choose to love him, in return.
Next Sunday we will study the scriptures that pertain to Adam’s transgression as well as our redemption through Christ as Paul describes in his letter to the Romans. This study is very purposeful in this Lenten season as we prepare ourselves for the Resurrection on Easter Sunday.