2nd Sunday after Pentecost – A (Proper 6) LSB #562:1-4, 6
Text – Romans 5:12
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, & death through sin, & so death spread to all men because all sinned.
THE SPREAD OF DEATH
It was early, this past Wednesday morning, when a man filled with hatred & rage attempted to kill a group of people whose politics he did not agree with. There was a highly disturbed human being pulling the trigger of the rifle, but his desire to spread death across that baseball diamond did not originate with him. Sin came into the world through Adam.
The wages of sin is death & it has infected everything in creation. It spread across the universe the moment Adam rebelled against the design of His Creator, as he ate the forbidden fruit. It was a simple act that many today would label a victimless crime, but it came with far reaching & horrific consequences. Yet, few people ever grasp the enormity of what Adam did.
St. Paul understands that, so the Holy Spirit guides him to point us in the direction of our Creator’s solution. In this 5th chapter of his letter to the church at Rome Paul does so not by zooming in on the details, as St. Luke does in his Gospel. Rather, Paul does it in the fashion of a big picture flyover, beginning with someone we would least expect.
The United States is a throwaway society. If something breaks we throw it away. If something gets old we throw it away. If the latest fashionable colors change we throw it away. You should thank your heavenly Father that He is not a throwaway God. Adam screwed up all right, but his Creator doesn’t just toss him into the scrap heap.
That’s good news for Adam. It’s good news for you & me as well. You see, Romans 5:12 isn’t exactly happy news. I’ll read it again to remind you: “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, & death through sin, & so death spread to all men because all sinned.” Sometimes people get mad at Lutherans because we talk a lot about sin. It’s a depressing topic, & what St. Paul wrote in Romans 5:12-14 has a very dismal tone to it. Yet, in the midst of that, the Apostle concludes verse 14 with a glimmer of hope. He writes, “[Adam] was a type of the one who was to come.” And that is the unexpected part.
By now, you should know who is the One to come. It’s Jesus! Messiah! Savior! Lord! What you may not have been aware of is that Adam was the prototype for Him. That’s what St. Paul just wrote: “[Adam] was a type of the one who was to come.” Now, here’s a question for you. Why was Adam the prototype?
In case you’re stuck, here’s a clue – I already gave you the answer. Yeah, our heavenly Father is not a throwaway God. Even though Adam had just plunged God’s entire creation into the throes of sin His Creator calls for him & says, “Where are you?”
The Lord of the universe was looking for Adam, not to throw him into the scrap heap of history, but to put Adam to use as the prototype for an entirely new creation. St. Paul wrote to the church at Corinth: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV)
As Adam is the head of a race of mortal sinners, so Christ is the head of a new race – the redeemed & eternal people of God. St. Peter expands upon that as he writes to Christians experiencing the trials of persecution, & probably some doubt concerning their status:
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for [God’s] own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have...” (1 Peter 2:9-10 ESV)
You too have been called out of darkness into His marvelous light, & that’s not just any
light. Jesus said: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12 ESV) At His resurrection from the dead Jesus is the beginning of the new creation. He is human flesh & blood recreated in the image of God for all of eternity. Where Adam failed Jesus succeeded as the son that Adam was supposed to be.
St. Paul mentions Adam in comparison to Jesus for the purpose of bringing out more clearly the magnitude of the work of Christ. In essence, Paul compares the Light of the world to the darkness of the world so we can more fully understand the incredible nature of our salvation. The New Living Translation words it this way:
“But there is a great difference between Adam’s sin & God’s gracious gift. For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace & His gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:15) Adam’s sin involved us all in a situation of sin & death from which there is no escape other than in Christ.
Because of Adam death has spread to all mankind. Because of Jesus life is spreading to all who believe His Word. Still, the saving death of Christ is not something we need only for a single past experience of conversion.
Instead, Christ’s death once & for all is the ongoing power that overcomes our pathetic spiritual weakness, the sin that so easily entangles us, & the awful hostility toward God that lurks inside us, & sometimes springs forth even against our will. So how many of you are too busy?
You hear it in conversations every day. We run here, we run there, we always have stuff going on. Retired people wonder how they ever could have worked for a living. So I’m going to ask you point blank to name one thing you did this past week for God’s kingdom here at St. Matthew Lutheran Church. If you can think of one thing, how long did it take you?
Did you spend 2 minutes, 15 minutes, maybe one hour? If we go by the OT guideline of
10%, you would need to spend over 16 hours every week to be contributing what God considered the standard amount of financial support for His kingdom. Or, if you want to compromise & look at only a 40 hour work week, 10% is still 4 hours each week. How does death spread? It spreads in many cases one person, & one decision, at a time.
One child of God says, “I no longer want to serve.” They justify it by saying, “I’m too busy. I have too much going on,” & that’s all it takes for death to spread. You see, you don’t have to point a rifle at someone & pull the trigger to spread death. You simply need to be working for the darkness. Satan loves to have people on his side so he can devour them.
Nevertheless, “…as sin came into the world through one man, & death through sin,… much more have the grace of God & the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many.” What our Lord is teaching us is this: His forgiveness does not simply balance our act of sin, it overbalances it.
The old man doomed the world; the new Man recreates it in even more glorious splendor. The sins we commit, by what we have done & by what we have left undone, are completely erased & a new kingdom is being created in their place. What we miss through our sins is the joy of participating in God’s kingdom as Jesus saves lost sinners.
His work on the cross is finished, yet His work is never done. Jesus is constantly, & at all times, working to bring all things together for the good of those who love Him. As we are deceived into spreading death whenever we sin, Jesus continues to spread life even more abundantly. He is always creating new opportunities for us to join Him in service to others.
When it seems as if we’re too busy, we need to reorder our priorities so that Jesus is once again 1st in every aspect of our lives. Nowhere else will we find the strength & the ability to serve. It is Jesus alone who has overcome sin & all its effects. He is the Light & our life, yet the best news of all is that He is not a throwaway God. He loves to welcome us home whenever we turn our hearts back to Him. As the Gospel reading from Matthew told us, “When [Jesus] saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, because they were harassed & helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36 ESV) Amen.
Through all our powers corruption creeps & us in dreadful bondage keeps; in guilt we draw our infant breath & reap its fruits of woe & death. But Christ, the 2nd Adam, came to bear our sin & woe & shame, to be our life, our light, our way, our only hope, our only stay. We thank You, Christ; new life is ours, new light, new hope, new strength, new powers. This grace our every way attend until we reach our journey’s end. Amen. LSB 562:2, 4, 6.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet