I will need your imaginations this morning. Imagine that long ago one man, out of curiosity, uncertainty, and doubt took hold of a piece of fruit. A piece of fruit he was told specifically not to eat. A command which was in essence an act of worship for him, because by obeying that one command he was showing his love for the God who told him to not eat the fruit. Yet, this one man took that fruit from the hand of his wife and he bit into it. And as the juices of that fruit ran down his chin, and as he slowly chewed that bite, his eyes were opened. His eyes were opened and he realized that his entire life, his entire world had changed. All of it, through one transgression, through one sin – through his sin! – was ruined.
Moreover that sin wasn’t just restrained to that one man’s time and place, but it was passed on from generation to generation all the way to now, to you. You inherited that sin. You were conceived in it. You were born in it. And that sin, which came through that one man, made you by nature an enemy of the creator, of God Almighty. That one man brought ruin to you and your life and to your children’s lives, a ruin that on your own you cannot escape. Were you able to imagine that? Because unfortunately, what you just imagined is reality.
One man did this. How much can one man do on his own? One man can and did ruin all of God’s perfect creation by disobeying God’s only command to not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. “And in this way” Paul tells us “death came to all men, because all sinned.” Through Adam sin spread like a virus attacking and killing everyone and everything in the world. Like each member in a family who is included in a parent’s will and receives a share of the estate, we have received this damning legacy from Adam, from one man! The result of that sin is death. Not just a physical death, but a spiritual one as well.
And that seems unfair, doesn’t it? What did you do to earn this condemnation? Adam was the one who fell into sin. Adam was the one who ate the fruit. He was the one who brought this ruin into the world. Because of one man we have to deal with sickness and disease. You wake up with back pain, thank that one man. You go to the doctor for cancer treatments, one man brought that disease into your life. You deal with rebellious children or broken marriages, another ruin of sin brought on by that one man. You struggle with learning disabilities in school and face ridicule from so-called friends, another result of one man’s sin. One man! He did it!
This is offensive to us. Why do we suffer in a ruined world because of one man? I mean how would you explain this to someone who didn’t know the bible? It’s ludicrous! Some guy I never met ate a piece of fruit he was told not to eat and now everyone and everything is ruined by sin and faces death? What? How do you explain it? Because we can sit here and blame Adam all day for the wretched situation we are in. We can call God unfair and unjust. We can rant and we can rave, but did you catch what Paul said at the end of verse 12 – I’ll read it again – “Death came to all men, because all sinned. “
One man brought ruin into this world, but billions of men and women have continued in the legacy of Adam’s sin, openly rejecting and breaking God’s commands, you and I included. Not one of us has lived that life God demanded in Leviticus to “be holy, because I am holy.” And that is a disheartening, depressing, and disastrous message for all of us to hear. We are sinful from birth. We are sinners in life. We are destined to die. But Paul gives us a glimmer of hope at the end of verse 14 he tells us that Adam, “was a pattern of the one to come”
Paul only mentions Adam so that he can mention Christ. The one man who was sent to bring restoration to a world ruined by sin. If the world had not been ruined by one man, it would not have had to have been saved by one man. And the one who ruined it, Adam, is now compared by Paul to the one who saved it, Christ. If you will, picture it like a boxing match. A boxing match between Adam and all humankind
Adam, he threw the first punch – boom! – And with it came that ruin of sin and death; it seemed like the end. Mankind was down for the count; finished. But then God did something for us. He tapped in; he took our place. He tapped in, even when we had no ability to ask him for help. And you would think when Jesus stepped into that ring that he would, in one swift blow, knock the socks off of the sin, death, and ruin that was brought on by Adam, but that’s not what Jesus did. Instead, he lost. He took the punishing blows of sin that we deserved. Blows that finally ended with his own death. He became obedient to death even death on a cross. And with that death, the death of one innocent man, he won. If we struggled earlier to accept that one sinned for all, than how much more will we struggle to accept that one died for all? Yet, that is God’s grace
God chose in undeserved love to use his son as a substitute for us. To give us a gift, and that gift, Paul says, “is not like the trespass” – it is far greater! How is it greater? Look who the trespass came from? One man, a sinner! But what of the gift? It “came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ” and it “overflows to the many” God’s gift to us in response to sin doesn’t rely on us or our own efforts. It is completely unmerited. It is completely unearned. Thank God for that! We saw in that boxing ring how useful we’d be in our own salvation, we were already finished; dead! So Jesus took our place and he won such a victory that the effects are everlasting! We see that in verse 16 and 17
Starting in 16, “…the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification.” The gift that came from Christ? It brought restoration. It declared the world not guilty of any sin. And notice, it didn’t just forgive Adam’s one sin. It forgave the “many trespasses”. Every sin that has been committed since the time of Adam has been wiped clean. Through faith in Jesus your sins and my sins are gone. They don’t exist in God’s eyes. Remember that the next time the devil try to plague your conscience with sins from your past! Remember that when you wonder to yourself if God will really forgive that sin you are so ashamed of! Yet again we see just how much greater the gift of the one-man, Christ, is over the trespass of the one man, Adam. But that still isn’t the end of it Paul adds more in verse 17!
“For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.” When Jesus fell in that boxing match with sin and died, his death defeated death because death didn’t reign over him. What? Jesus didn’t stay dead. He got back up. He rose from the dead and sent quaking into the corner of the ring sin and death. He then picked you and I up and breathed life into us. He gave us his gift of righteousness. A key that opens wide the door to an eternal life reigning with him forever in heaven. Those who continue to embrace this gift have something that outstrips the result of Adam’s sin. Not only are they freed from death, but they will also rule with Christ in life eternal where death doesn’t exist.
And until that day Jesus stands in that ring with us and continues to fight on our behalf. “Surely I am with you always” he tells us. “Call upon me he” he says “and I will deliver you.” This one man, our Savior, the Son of God, didn’t leave us to fend for ourselves after freeing us, but is with us every step of the way guiding and encouraging us unto life everlasting.
He is with us every step of the way as he himself watches over us and then sends his angels to guard and protect us. He guides us by giving us his law to show us what his will is for us in our lives. He encourages us by reminding us daily when we confess our sins that they are forgiven; we have been made righteous in his sight. All this came through the one-man Jesus. All this completely overpowers and overshadows what the one-man Adam did. In one man, in Christ we were brought to life when we were in death. The legacy that we inherited from Adam has been destroyed and our relationship with our God has been restored.
So, what can one man do? In Adam and in our sinful nature we have seen the ruin and destruction that one man can bring. But in Christ we have seen the restoration that one man did bring. In Christ sin has no power. In Christ death has no power. “Death has been swallowed up in victory!” That is why we rejoice at the death of a brother and sister in the faith and that is why we look forward to our own reign in heaven where we will live for all eternity with our God. Let us then live each day rejoicing that we live in God’s overflowing grace. And let us look forward to the day when Jesus returns to deliver the final blow, the final bang, to sin, death, and the devil when he returns on that Day of Judgment to take all believers home with him forever. Amen.