UNSHAKEABLE: If you are a follower of Christ, you already know that Christ’s substitutionary death commuted your own eternal death sentence and replaced it with an eternal life sentence. So what’s the big deal; how should this affect your life today? Well, among other things, when sin (both your sin nature and your individual acts of sin) tries to remind you that you are still under the death penalty of Adam’s disobedience (which, by the way, is so paradoxical: the world says there is no guilt while at the same time, the god of this world reminds you that you’re as guilty as sin), you can remind sin that Someone else paid the death penalty for you. You were a “Dead man [or woman] walking” but you have been declared “not guilty!” You have walked out of sin-prison a free man or woman by the gracious act of Another.
Unshakeable Living // Romans 5:17
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.
The problem is simple — yours and mine: We’re dead men walking. We are all under a death sentence because of Adam’s sin:
You know the story of how Adam landed us in the dilemma we’re in— first sin, then death, and no one exempt from either sin or death. (Rom 5:12, MSG)
Since Adam was the first human being created and, therefore the head of the human race, through this one man’s disobedience sin entered the genetic code of all humanity. That might seem unfair, but that’s the way it works. Every human being, without exception, even the best among us — the sincere, good-hearted, law-abiding citizen — is horribly infected with sin-tainted DNA:
Even those who didn’t sin precisely as Adam did by disobeying a specific command of God still had to experience this termination of life, this separation from God. (Romans 5:14, MSG)
And even though there was no real accounting for sin before the Law of Moses was revealed (“Yes, people sinned even before the law was given. But it was not counted as sin because there was not yet any law to break” Rom 5:13), the consequence of sin still reigned: Death for all—both literal, physical death and spiritual, eternal separation from God. What God created human beings to experience and enjoy — an intimate relationship and forever life in his presence — was erased the moment Adam chose to disobey God’s commands.
Yet as horrible as this situation is, the good news is that through another man’s obedience, Jesus Christ, our death sentence was commuted to a “life” sentence — a restoration of intimacy with God and forever life in his presence. You see, Jesus is the last Adam (“The Scriptures tell us, ‘The first man, Adam, became a living person.’ But the last Adam that is, Christ — is a life-giving Spirit” 1 Cor 15:45), and as the head of a spiritual race, our rebirth through him permanently alters our genetic code with life — eternal life that cannot be taken from us. Just as the first man’s singular act of disobedience (eating from a forbidden tree) had the universal effect of trumping life with death, so the last man’s singular act of obedience (dying on a tree) trumped death with life eternal for all who believe:
If death got the upper hand through one man’s wrongdoing, can you imagine the breathtaking recovery life makes, sovereign life, in those who grasp with both hands this wildly extravagant life-gift, this grand setting-everything-right, that the one man Jesus Christ provides? (Rom 5:17, MSG)
Of course, if you are already a follower of Christ, you know all this. So why does Paul keep bringing this up here in Romans? What’s the big deal; how should this affect your life today?
Well, for one thing, it ought to affect your attitude toward people who are far from God. They are genetically infected with Adam’s sin-tainted DNA and therefore sentenced to death. And there is just one way out: only rebirth into eternal life through Jesus Christ can rewire their Adamic genetic code. Don’t ever forget that! In an age that pressures us into believing that there are many ways to God, that if you are just good enough and sincere enough, then in the end, you’ll be just fine, remember the truth: In Adam, all die! But in Jesus, all live!
Here it is in a nutshell: Just as one person did it wrong and got us in all this trouble with sin and death, another person did it right and got us out of it. But more than just getting us out of trouble, he got us into life! One man said no to God and put many people in the wrong; one man said yes to God and put many in the right:
Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone. 19 Because one person disobeyed God, many became sinners. But because one other person obeyed God, many will be made righteous. (Rom 5:18-19, MSG)
And for another thing, when sin (both your sin nature and your individual acts of sin) tries to remind you that you are still under the death penalty for Adam’s disobedience (which, by the way, is so paradoxical: the world says there is no guilt while at the same time, the god of this world reminds you that you’re as guilty as sin), you can remind sin that Someone else paid the death penalty for you. Your death sentence has been commuted to eternal life!
Should that make a difference in your life today? You bet! You were a “Dead man [or woman] walking” but you have been declared “not guilty!” You have walked out of sin-prison a free man or woman by the gracious act of Another.
Should that make a difference in your life today? You tell me!