This parenthetical (in parenthesis) statement starts off with the word "For". It means Paul is about to explain something really important; he's saying, "Y'all got that? Let's really understand it..." Verses 13 and 14: "(For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. (14) Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come."
Verse 13 is tricky, and one that many folks have interpreted in wacky ways, especially in pairing it with Romans 4:15 where it says, "where there is no law there is no transgression." Paul tells us though that sin was going on in the world between the time of the fall, and the time when the law was written down, so those without the law are still transgressing. However, Paul's idea here is not to confuse us! His objective is to point out that death reigned, even during a time when the people had no way to tell their sin besides what was written on their hearts. We need to realize that we are all dying and that death reigns. If you didn't read the sermon notes on original sin from last week, I encourage you to do so here.
We've been talking a lot about how Adam was a picture, or type, of Christ. His flannel-graph. The scriptures are full of parables designed to get the main point across and if we draw out every detail trying to make it mean something, we're going to have inconsistencies or get side tracked and lose the point. So, Paul spends verses 15-17 contrasting the ways that Adam and Christ were different so that we don't lose sight of just how great Christ's love for us is. What Adam did, Jesus' grace far surpassed. This passage points out 4 dissimilarities:
1) Verse 15, there is a dissimilarity in the nature or character of their actions. Adam offended. He had an obligation to stand and he failed. This word offended is the same Hebrews 6 uses to describe those who fall away. We must understand that Adam was obligated to obey and he did not, but Christ was under absolutely no obligation to save us, yet he did. His was a free gift. We often presume on God and, yeah duh, of course he's gonna save people. But He didn't have to. That's His grace. We need to train our expectations of how we should be thinking about God so we don't presume on His grace and get angry when we are handed a less-than-desirable lot in life. God doesn't owe me a thing. Doesn't this make God's grace all the sweeter?
2) There is a dissimilarity in their extent, verse 15. Adam brought us to death, so it follows that Christ would bring us to life, does it not? However, that is not what the text says. It says that grace and the gift of God abounded. Jesus doesn't just take us back to a pre-fall state. He doesn't just bring us back to physical life, the thing Adam's sin took away. Christ's grace gives us a positive righteousness that Adam did not have-- we are given eternal security, not probation with conditions like Adam. When we're stuggling with physical ailments, we need to remember this! In Christ we don't just have physical life over death, but we have been glorified as co-heirs with God's Son! Paul is using these dissimilarities to heighten the grace of Christ. In Him we have far surpassed the fall.
3) There is a dissimilarity in the amount of sin of which that came. Verse 16, "For the judgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation, but the free gift which came from many offenses resulted in justification." Because Adam's one sin brought judgement to all, then there is none good, no not one, and everyone is guilty. We should expect God's wrath to be built up-- with this thought, Christ's free gift is all the more astounding. Christ paid for all my sins! Not just one, which on it's own is deserving of death. On the backdrop of many sins comes justification and life.
4) There is a dissimilarity in the position that they leave us. Verse 17 completes the parentheses, "For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.)" This whole thing was to highlight God's grace! We expect to have death vs life, but actually it's death vs reigning in life.
We are subjects to death, but in Christ we are moved to a position of not just life, but of reigning as co-heirs in the kingdom with Him! We are not a slave to this earthly life, but we reign! We have conquered. Wow, what grace. Y'know, as young people, we often stuggle with finding "who we are"-- we hear, "follow your heart!" but we don't know our hearts. We are undecided, confused, unsure of ourselves. We like one thing one day and another thing another day and all the while we are trying to please others+ourfamilies+us. Should we follow our parent's instructions, step out on our own, and/or wrap our identity in our favorite boy? All these things are us not knowing who we are, which is natural. Romans helps us here. We are Christ's! All that we are and all we have and all we do should flow directly from our relationship with, and our standing before, Him. All this "death reigns, judgement comes, Adam's sin vs Christ's free gift" digression is there to draw attention to the surpassing greatness of God's grace. And wow, is that awesome.
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