Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned - for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.
But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man's trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one man's sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. If, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.
Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (ESV)
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Another Fine Mess
Tuesday of Holy Week
31 March 2015
During a Laurel and Hardy film Oliver Hardy would inevitably say, "Well, here's another nice mess you've gotten me into, Stanley!" He was trying pawn off his own failures on his always fumbling, but repentant partner. We laugh because Hardy was as much or even more at fault than the lovable Laurel. There is an element of truth in all comedy. We are more capable of failure in community. Together we can make a bigger mess than we could separately. Laurel and Hardy were much more creative in their mischief making together than separately. Perhaps this is why the monks of the East often sought the solitude of hermitages; they fled the company of humans in an effort to avoid their pernicious influences. Of course, this simply ignored the perversity of the fallen human mind and will. We humans are more than capable of getting into deep trouble on our own, even if it seems we do so more creatively in the company of others. Adam and Eve certainly fell in community; together seeking a way they preferred over the way a gracious God had mapped out for them in His Word.
That failure in community went beyond Adam and Eve to infect all their offspring. It became failure for the entire human community. The fact is that even when alone we are dragging the ball and chain of a shared depravity with us. Human solidarity means solidarity in failure. Paul proves God's grace to the fallen from the example of Abraham (Rm 4), from the Spirit (Rm 5:5), and from Christ's death (Rm 5:6-11). Now he will prove God's grace by highlighting the dilemma for which Christ comes among us as one of us.
If we are so fallen, so deeply damned, so completely under the burning wrath of a righteous God, what less than the substitution of the eternal Son of God on the cross of Calvary could ever bring us righteousness before God? And in a uniquely powerful turn of the argument, our human solidarity in sin with fallen Adam is turned to point out our solidarity with the incarnate Son of God, so that we share equally in Adam's fall and in the new Adam's justification before God. Human solidarity with the fallen world makes us susceptible to solidarity with God's Son.
We know how desperately our heavenly Father has loved us and to what extraordinary lengths He was willing to go to rescue us only when we know how desperate our condition is according to the fall. We need to know how big the mess is into which Adam got us. Christ's love for us extended to His substituting for fallen humans like us that by taking our place He might restore us to His kingdom and give us a place in God's presence as His righteous children. We're in a fine mess and God has done something about it in His only Son, Jesus Christ.
"'Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned' (Rm 5:12).As the best physicians always make great efforts to discover the source of diseases and go to the font of the trouble, so the blessed Paul does also. So after having said that we were justified, and having shown it from the Patriarch, and from the Spirit, and from the death of Christ (for He would not have died unless He intended to justify), he next confirms from other sources also what he had already at such length demonstrated. And he confirms his proposition from the opposite, that is, from death and sin. How, and in what way? He inquires how death came in and how it prevailed. How then did death come in and prevail? 'Through the sin of one man.' But what does, 'because all sinned' mean? He means that having once fallen, even all who had not eaten of the tree became mortal from him."
John Chrysostom, Homilies on Romans, 10.1
Lord Jesus Christ, we are justified in You because You would not have died unless You intended to justify us. You saved us from death and sin. Help us to live in peace and joy under the comforting care of Your divine Word proclaimed to us in preaching and sacraments. Amen.
For Walter Friend, who is suffering from cancer, that the Lord of all compassion would watch over him and grant him healing
For Pastor Bart Day and his family, that the Lord Jesus would be with them as they live out their lives under the cross of Christ
For those who grieve the loss of loved ones who have paid the ultimate price for our freedom, that the Lord would grant them meaning in their loss
Art: GRÜNEWALD, Matthias Isenheim Altarpiece (1515)
© Scott R. Murray, 2015