Worth Hearing
Wednesday of Easter 4
15 May 2019
I often marvel at my own deafness to the Word of God. I don't always hear rightly what the divine Word is saying. How I meddle with the Word and manipulate it to say what I want to hear! Oh, not that I try to bend it, but my perverted human heart puts a bent on the Word that is misleading and misrepresents the divine speech. For example, I was quite deaf to a particular text: "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" (Rm 5:14). I wondered how those who died from Adam to Moses, could possibly have died without transgressing the law, which had not been given by God to Moses. How foolish I was!
Of course, the very point that Paul is making for his readers is that all were subject to death's reign because the law was still condemning both inherited guilt and actual sin in those who did not have a written code. The law's code had been encoded in their hearts and brought the sentence of death against their sin. Although, when I matured as a pastor and a student of the Word I started to clue into Paul's goal, I was helped and confirmed by Augustine's interpretation of this text.
It is helpful to see how the great interpreters of the divine Word have understood a particular text. This rescues us from our own time-bound interpretation of God's speech. Although Augustine was definitely a child of his time (who isn't?), he was not a child of our time. His perspective though bent by his time is not bent by ours. This can be helpful to us, because his interpretation, when it is shared by us or even when it criticizes our own, leads us out of ourselves to the limit of our experience and we discover the ragged edge of the divine reality. He sees what we cannot and even perhaps will not see. And despite our own weakness it is an enriching experience.
Augustine sees that the law of itself has only the power of command not the power of assistance. It only kills and brings down to death those who have fallen in Adam. Yet, those who lived from Adam to Moses and had the messianic hope first proclaimed to Adam and Eve in their fallen state, also lived by grace in the hope that the seed of the woman would be their Lord and Savior (Gn 3:15). So the law, whether written on hearts of flesh or on tablets of stone, had not the power to give life. Only the hoped for blood and death of the Savior, who was promised to our fallen forebears, could bring rescue and life to us fallen and condemned sinners. This text of Paul is written to give us hope through pointing out the hopelessness of obedience to the law and to highlight the absolute graciousness of the God who rescues him who fell and all those who were subject to death through his fall. Our salvation's glory is burnished by the depth from which we have been raised by that salvation. Clarity about the power of death through the law is no shame to us Christians who have been rescued from it. Death's reign has been cut short by the death of death in Christ. This is worth hearing.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   Augustine of Hippo
"Paul says, 'Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses' (Rm 5:14), that is, from the first man even to the time of that law which was promulgated by the divine authority, because even it was unable to abolish the reign of death. Now death must be understood 'to reign,' whenever the guilt of sin so dominates in men that it prevents their attainment of that eternal life which is the only true life, and drags them down even to the second death which is an eternal penalty. This reign of death is only destroyed by the Savior's grace, which worked even in the saints of ancient time, although previous to the coming of Christ in the flesh. They lived in relation to His assisting grace, not to the letter of the law, which only knew how to command, but not to help them. In the Old Testament, what was hidden (according to the most just dispensation of the times) is now revealed in the New Testament. Therefore, 'death reigned from Adam to Moses,' in all who were not helped by the grace of Christ, that in them the kingdom of death might be destroyed, 'even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam' (Rm 5:14), that is, those who had not yet sinned of their own individual will, as Adam did, but had drawn from him original sin, 'who was a type of the one who was to come' (Rm 5:14), because in him was constituted the form of condemnation to his future children, who should spring from him by natural birth; so that from one man all men were born into condemnation, from which there is no deliverance but by the Savior's grace."

 Augustine, On the Merits and Forgiveness of Sins and the Baptism of Infants, 1.13
Romans 5:12-17

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. (ESV)
Rescue us, O Lord Christ, from the death that hovers nearby because our Adam is within. Keep us from despair and lead us out of the darkness into the light that we see only in You. Amen.
For members of the Board of Regents of Concordia Theological Seminary, who are traveling to meetings in Fort Wayne, that their ways would be guarded by the holy angels
For all the graduates celebrating the gift of education, that they might use that gift in their vocations and serve their family, community, and church by it
For the regions that are suffering from too much rain, that the Lord would send clear skies to make the earth fruitful
Art: GRÜNEWALD, Matthias,  Resurrection (c. 1515)
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2019
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
Sent by smurray@mlchouston.org in collaboration with
Constant Contact
Try email marketing for free today!