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Monday, June 24, 2013

The Gospel of God's Grace # 44

A Study of the Epistle to the Romans

Work of Christ Greater

But that is not all. The apostle shows that Christ's work not only goes just as deep, but that the work of Christ goes deeper and is vastly greater than the work of Adam. He indicates this three times: "Much more the grace of God ..." (v. 15); "much more ... abundance of grace ..." (v. 17); "And grace did much more abound" (v. 20). In the Greek, Paul's phrase "much more" implies "much more exceedingly," and is translated that way in the ASV.

Many commentators have covered this passage in hundreds of pages. After much investigation, it becomes difficult to be original. But both with the help of others and through independent study, the following outline has become clear:

1. Adam, sin, and death (vv. 12-14)

2. Adam and Christ contrasted (vv. 15-17

3. Adam and Christ compared (vv. 18-21)

4.Christ, righteousness, and life contrasted with Adam, sin, and death (v. 21)

Adam, Sin, and Death

The first word of this passage is "wherefore," or in the ASV version, "therefore." Whenever a man says "wherefore," in his mind is something that has gone before. He is about to sum up an argument, and in this case, Paul is about to sum up all that he has said about condemnation and justification.

"Therefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin; and so death passed unto all men; for that all sinned." That is not a complete sentence, which has made commentators frantic in their effort to find out how to complete the sentence. It starts out, "Therefore, but has no concluding phrase.

A passage with a parallel construction is Matthew 25:14. Present in it are a number of italicized words. While it is possible to read the passage and leave out those italicized words, it is then an unfinished sentence. The Greek does that very often. The reason the translators put in the italicized words "the kingdom of heaven is" was because Christ had been talking about the kingdom of heaven. The ASV has put in three other words: "It is ... when." We ask the question, "What is?" the answer must be the thing he was talking about, namely, the kingdom of heaven. With this guide, turn to Romans: "Therefore, it is." What is? The thing Paul had been talking about, namely, justification in Christ. "Therefore, justification in Christ" is like something else. It is like condemnation in Adam. This makes a complete sentence, and the translators are right in supplying the two words "it is." They are understood in the Greek, but must be supplied in the English translation.

Sin has entered into the world, and there is something else that came in too. Sin has not come in alone. "Sin entered ... and death trough sin." The two always go together, like that other pair in the Bible, grace and peace. When grace comes in, peace comes in. When sin comes in, then death comes in at the same time. So the movement is "death through sin."

Is death natural? Certainly not! Death is the most unnatural thing in the world, and it is possible to put your finger on the spot where it entered into the race. God did not start out this world with death, as far as the human race is concerned.

You may say, "What if Adam had not sinned?" Perhaps if Adam had not sinned there would have come a time in his life when he would have been changed, as we are going to be changed when the Lord comes - raised to a higher life and to reign. But Adam did sin, so there came "death through sin."

But that is not all. "And so death passed unto all men." The two Greek words used here are descriptive, sin entered. The figure is that of a house; somebody opens a door and enters. When sin came in, death entered through the same door. After death entered, death moved into all the rooms of the house - "unto every man." Sin entered, but that was not all. Death did not remain isolated - he began to penetrate to everyone. Eventually death will come to every one of us, unless the Lord comes. Death penetrated to all men.

Some protest that it is not fair of God to bring death upon all because of what Adam did back there. They insist it is wrong to argue that sin entered into the world through Adam, and therefore death passed to all men. To answer that objection, Paul gives that last clause: "For that all have sinned."

The man who objects to condemnation in Adam needs to be reminded of the fact that he himself has sinned. Paul has dealt with it - this is just a reminder. Paul says, "If you cannot accept the fact of condemnation in Adam, then reflect upon the fact that you yourself are a sinner and deserve condemnation on the basis of what you have done."

A great many commentators have taken this phrase to mean that all have sinned through Adam. And that is true. But it is laying direct responsibility on each individual man. Paul is dealing with facts. There is a great mystery in connection with sin: how can sin start with one man and spread until it permeates the whole world? What should the whole human race be condemned by the sin of one man? Paul answers these questions, and in doing so he deals with the facts. It is a fact that sin entered into the world and that death entered as a  result. It is a fact that men sin. Paul does not attempt to expand his explanation.

Can sin exist without law? Yes, it can. "Until the law, sin was in the world." Read Genesis 6:5-8. Paul has the Jew in mind, and he reminds the Jew that sin was real before the law came into existence. How could man then expect to be justified by law? Even if it had existed, all it could do was to condemn him. But the Jew would say, "Sin is not impute where there is no law. Sin is not put to his account. God can't put sin down to a man's account where there is no law." Paul admits it, but he does not argue. He merely said, "Yes, but nevertheless, sin was there, even though it was not put down to man's account."

Sin is a vastly greater thing than mere transgression of the law. Sin is lawlessness. It exists where there is no law. In the second chapter of this book, the apostle said, "As many as sinned without the law shall perish without the law." And if men have sinned under the law, then they shall be judged by the law. God puts it down to their personal account.

At this point the statement of verse 14 confronts men with a fact. "Nevertheless death reigned." That is proof of it. If you do not believe that sin is in the world, and you do not believe that it is a real thing, go out to the cemetery. There is the evidence of the reign of death! That is the final proof whether sin is a real thing or not.

~Alva J. McClain~

(continued with # 45)

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