Rev. Andres Miranda

Through One Man

Heredity

Romans 5:12 –21

 

Every baby starts the journey of life with some physical qualities that are inherited from each parent. In the field of human development this is called heredity. The Bible also speaks of heredity. But it tells us something else. It tells us that not only do we pass on physical qualities from one generation to another, but we also inherit from the people that we are connected to –a serious problem. The theological description of this problem is the doctrine of the fall of man, or the doctrine of the transmission of sin.  Our text talks about this problem, and shows us very clearly that sin is part of our human inheritance.  Look what Romans 5:12 says:

 

Therefore, just as a sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because of sin.

 

And again in verse 19:

 

For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.

 

The apostle Paul is making a contrast between Adam and Jesus, the representatives of the human race, to show us the consequences of the sin of Adam and the value of work of Jesus. The apostle tells us that everyone that starts to live in the human race becomes dysfunctional from the beginning, right from the moment of birth! In fact, Paul is even more specific. He says that all human beings have inherited evil tendencies from someone before them. It doesn’t matter if that person was your father or your mother, Paul tells us in verse 19 that through the disobedience of Adam “many were made sinners”. So- we are sinners by birth, and we are sinners because Adam transmitted his sin to us.

We have a tendency to different forms of sin in our natures. And because of this sinful tendency inherited from Adam all people will die as the punishment of sin. You see, from the time of Adam sin and death became inseparably connected. Sin is very serious. It’s universal and it has terrible consequences. This text also underlines an important teaching about the character God. What’s that? God deals with us individually and personally. But what about Exodus 20:5?

You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me

 

Doesn’t this text show that God punishes children for the sin of the parents? No. It doesn’t? Read it carefully. Listen again:

I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

 

The meaning is pretty straightforward: If the generations continue to hate, they’ll be punish. Then verse 6 says:

But showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

 

So, if the father or mother show covenantal faithfulness, but the son hates the Lord –the son, not the parents will be punished. Moses and Paul want us to see that God won’t punish people because their parents were unbelievers. God will punish people because our inherited tendency to sin makes us disobey God. But there’s another important truth in the text that Paul explains side by side. That truth is found in the same passage, in the second half of verse 20:

Where sin increased, grace increased all the more.

This statement is obviously connected to verse 19:

 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.

 

So- “where sin increased, grace increased all the more”. The contrasts here are between the reign of death and the reign of grace. And between the one through whom the trespass came, and the one through whom the free gift came. Now, notice how the contrast is emphasised by the phrase, “grace increased all the more”. Paul is saying that in the gift of grace we have an overwhelming provision for the catastrophe of inherited sin.  Sin doesn’t have a chance with the large, unlimited amounts of divine forgiveness Paul calls grace. No matter how far the sin of Adam has, and is spreading, the blessings of the work of Jesus are even more extensive and rich for our deliverance. We have two inheritances in the world then: one is the inheritance that we are born with and makes us do sinful things. But we also have an inheritance available in Jesus Christ that releases us from the power of sin.  This inheritance is more than power to be righteous. Think again about the magnificence of verse 20 and 21:

but where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. 

 

Paul mentions three consequences of the grace of God coming into this life because of Jesus Christ: (1) The reign of sin has been overthrown, and (2) in its place the grace of Jesus takes the throne and begins to reign, and (3), the result of all this, is the inheritance of a kind of life that goes on and on, without end. Not just eternal. But a kind of life that is transformative, abundant, and unlimited in possibilities for a living a real life with God.  What this passage says is not complicated:  It’s now possible for every human being to escape from the actions of Adam and Jesus by choosing a relationship with either of them. By faith in Jesus, a person can be set free from the all the inherited consequences of sin. By continuing in the inherited tendencies of the sin of Adam, a human person will be excluded from all benefits of the work of Jesus.

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