WHAT IS WRONG WITH OUR WORLD?
God’s Invitation to Grace ❧ Part 27
Romans 5:12-14 ❧ Pastor, Dr. John Denney
This morning we’re going to look at a passage in Scripture that is, hands-down, one of the most challenging, complex, and troubling passages in the Bible. It is going to answer the question: What is wrong with our world? Now many of you may be thinking, “John, the answer is as plain as the nose on your face. You know it and I know it. It’s sin!” I wouldn’t disagree with you. But our passage this morning is not going to let us off the hook that easily. Instead, it’s going to force us into the deep waters of God’s Word where our faith perhaps has never ventured to sail before. God wants us to have a deep-water faith.
Turn with me to Romans 5. It’s been a while since we’ve been in this great book. Of the thirteen New Testament letters the Apostle Paul penned, Romans is without question his magnum opus – his greatest work. A more accurate way of saying this is that Romans is the greatest letter the Holy Spirit penned through Paul. Why is this letter so great? Because in it, Paul shows us how we are made right with God through our faith in Christ alone. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are(Romans 3:22, NLT). Several verses later, he says, People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood (Romans 3:25). And again, he stresses, Our acquittal is not based on obeying the law. It is based on faith (Romans 3:27). And yet again, There is only one God, and he makes people right with himself only by faith, whether they are Jews or Gentiles (Roman 3:30). This repeated theme of our being made right with God through our faith in Christ alone is deeply woven through the entirety of Romans. Why does Paul repeat this great truth again and again? Because we need to be reminded – often. Why? Because we’re forgetful. But Paul is not merely repeating the same thing over and over simply to remind us, though we need it. He wants to do even more. He wants to strengthen and deepen the roots of our faith in the very character of God and the structure of our salvation so we will stand strong in the face of life’s inevitable storms.
I’m praying God will continue to do just that as we step back into Romans. I’m leaning on God’s promise: So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; it will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it (Isaiah 55:11).
As we jump back into Romans 5, I need to catch us up with what Paul is doing. In Romans 5:12-21 – where we’re going, Paul is summarizing what he has said in preceding chapters (1:1 – 5:11) regarding our lostness and need for God’s rescue through Christ. But he is more than summarizing, he’s deepening our understanding like the layers of an onion. Paul shows us three things in these ten verses: 1) Our ruin (Vv. 12-14), 2) Our Rescue (Vv. 15-19) and 3) Our Reign (Vv. 20-21).
We’re going to look at just three of these verses this morning (vv. 12-14) – our ruin. Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all 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 until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come(Romans 5:12-14). What is Paul saying? Well on one level, he’s answering the question “what is wrong with our world?” But he’s doing something more. We’ll see it as we unpack these verses.
What Does the Bible Say? Paul gives a four-fold answer that follows a logical flow. 1) Sin entered our world through one man. 2) Therefore death entered our world through sin, 3) Death spread to all because all sinned, and 4) Sin and death reign over us all because of one man.
- Sin entered our world through one man. Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into
the world(Romans 5:12a). How did our world get so messed up? The Bible says it all began in the Garden of Eden with one man – Adam. Adam and Eve had complete run of The Garden of Eden. God made them vice-regents over the earth (Gen. 1:26-28; 2:15). They were free to thoroughly enjoy a sin-free stress-free paradise. They enjoyed an unbroken fellowship with God and with each other. But there was only one prohibition – they were not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:16-17). That abruptly ended the moment Satan temped Eve to doubt God’s word and disobey Him. Eve convinced Adam to do the same and the moment they did – sin entered their once perfect paradise leaving a wake of unbelievable destruction that swept through their lives, their world, and their relationship with God, and all their future descendants. Adam’s sin caused a universal ripple effect touching every human life following him. Several points need to be clarified here.
Sin’s origination. One is Paul is not saying sin originated with Adam, but rather entered into mankind through Adam. Sin started with Satan who rebelled against God desiring to usurp Him (Isa. 14:12-14; Ezek. 28:11-19). 1 John 3:8 says he sinned from the beginning. Since Satan tempted Adam and Eve, he was the first to sin. But sin entered mankind through Adam.
Eve’s disobedience. You might ask, why doesn’t Paul mention Eve? After all, Eve is the one who first disobeyed. Our answer is found in the Bible. When God called Adam and Eve on the carpet, He held Adam primarily responsible, not Eve. Paul does the same thing. It’s not that Eve was not responsible, or God doesn’t hold women in account. It’s that God holds men, husbands uniquely responsible to lead and protect their families.
Adam’s sin – not sins. Notice Paul doesn’t refer to Adam’s sins, but sin singular. In fact, when Paul wrote sin, he literally says “the sin”(ἡ ἁμαρτία) meaning Adam’s one sin transformed his entire inner nature. And that sinful nature was then passed on to his descendants. Sin, like a virus, infected all humanity through Adam.
At this point, some of you might be thinking, “Wait a minute! You’re saying because Adam sinned, I’m a sinner too?” Yes, that is exactly Paul’s point. The sin nature Adam obtained through his disobedience spread to us as well because we all came from Adam. Just as Adam passed on his physical nature to us, so he passed on his spiritual nature that is now poisoned by sin. But Paul is not finished.
- Death entered our world through sin. and death through sin(Romans 5:12b). So, sin came by
way of Adam and from Adam’s sin death.
God did not create Adam and Eve to be subject to death, but to live forever. But when they sinned by eating the forbidden fruit, death came through sin. God had warned them death was a consequence of disobedience (Gen. 2:17; Rom. 6:23). Paul’s point is that because Adam sinned, we all have a sin nature and with that sin nature comes death. Paul writes in Ephesians, we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest(Ephesians 2:3). Sadly, even babies die, not because they sinned, but because they inherited a sin nature from Adam.
The Bible tells us someone does not become a liar because they tell a lie, but because the lie is already in their heart. Someone does not become a murderer when he kills someone. He kills because he already has murder in his heart. Jesus was very clear, For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander (Matthew 15:19, NLT).
- Death spread to all because all sinned. so death spread to all men, because all sinned—
(Romans 5:12c). We don’t see it in our English texts, but the verb here for “sinned” (ἥμαρτον) is in what is called the aorist tense, which points to a completed action in the past. In other words, all of us sinned in Adam’s one simple act.
All of this reinforces the fact that Adam was an actual historical figure representing mankind in our sinfulness and consequential death. Where did sin and death come from? Adam, the first man. Russ Miller, who spoke here this past spring, makes an excellent point in his book “Cost.” He points out that the secular world view (evolutionists and Old-earth tenets) says the world is billions of years old and there were billions of years leading up to mankind through the Darwinian evolutionary process. Russ writes, “Well, if billions of years of death brought man into existence there would have been no original sin that brough death into the world while separating us from our Creator. In turn, there would be no need for Jesus’ redeeming work on the cross…the truth is if billions of years leading to mankind is true, then God’s Word is not true. Frank Zindler, Editor of American Atheist Journal stated, ‘If there never was… an original sin…there is no need of salvation… that puts Jesus …into the ranks of the unemployed.’”(Miller, “Cost,” p.3).
One of many major problems with atheism and the belief that the world is billions of years old is their claims can be backed up by real science. In fact, the evidence of science points to a young earth and man did not evolve but is created in the image of God.
I don’t want us to miss what Paul is saying in this text. The problem, he says, with humanity is our connection with the historical figure Adam and his sin. From Adam’s sin we inherited his sin nature and death. This is Paul’s repeated emphasis: V. 12 “death spread to all men, because all sinned.” V. 15: “By the transgression of the one the many died.” V. 16: “The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation.” V. 17: “By the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one.” V. 18: “Through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men.” V.19: “Through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners.”
This means Adam is the father of us all. There is only one human race. We’re all in the same boat. This also and most importantly means Jesus substitutional atonement and our resultant justification by faith alone in Him is for all people in all places at all times. It is for the Buddhist as well as the Muslim, for the Hindu as well as the Sikhs, for the Agnostic as well as for the Atheist, for the Capitalist as well as the Marxist. No one is excluded. There is only one answer to our deepest problem and that is Jesus Christ. Only trusting in Christ can undo the fatal damage of Adam’s sin.
Why Does This Seem Unfair?
This is difficult for many of us because we can’t understand how we can be held accountable for Adam’s sin. I will try to give you some answers.
- We do not view sin as God does. There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the
way of death(Proverbs 14:12). Our strong sense of individualism causes many of us to reject
how we could possibly share in Adam’s sin. It “seems” unfair. We can’t buy into Paul’s statement: all sinned(V. 12). Or, through Adam’s disobediencewewere made sinners(V.19). But God does not see it that way. The name He gave the first man, “Adam” means mankind. That is, we share what is called a corporate solidarity with Adam. Adam is mankind, F.F. Bruce writes. God sees all of mankind as a whole represented by Adam its head. Like a president or a monarch who acts on behalf of the people and then reaps the consequences for his or her choices, policies, programs, etc. This is the sense of corporate solidarity. John Donne captured this in his 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 were washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a manner of thy friends or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tools for thee.
The other side of this same coin is that if we don’t think it is fair to be represented by Adam, then we should see it as unfair for us to be represented by Christ and to be forgiven and made righteous by our faith in Him alone.
- We underestimate our own sinfulness. We might think, “If I were in Adam’s place, I wouldn’t
have eaten the forbidden fruit!” If so, we underestimate our own sinfulness. If we don’t believe this is true, then we’re closing a blind eye to our own tendency to rebel against God. Have you ever lied? Have you ever stolen something? Have you ever coveted something someone else has? If we’re honest we know all of us have lied, stolen, or coveted.The Lord has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside, together they have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one(Psalm 14:2-3; Romans 3:11). We underestimate our own sinfulness.
What is wrong with our world? The Bible says sin. We inherited a sin nature from Adam and from that sin nature, death. And that sin and death universally spread to all mankind. That’s the bad news. We may not understand it, or like it, but what we do know is light of this is God is wise and gracious. It was not fair for Christ to suffer and die for my sin on the cross either, but He did. God could have all mankind off. But He didn’t. He sent His Son Jesus Christ to die for our sins. He is the only answer to our broken world and our only hope for our eternity.