The Redeeming Effects of Christ’s Obedience Part 1 – Romans 5:15-17
Pastor Mark Hardy July 8, 2012
In a search for the 100 most influential persons in human history, one of the most famous lists is in a book by Michael H. Hart who ranks Jesus Christ as third behind Muhammad and Isaac Newton and he doesn’t even mention Adam. And yet from God’s perspective in His Word, Jesus Christ and Adam in that order are the top two most influential persons. It was because of Adam that sin and death have entered the entire human race, but only the God-Man, Jesus Christ, has overturned what Adam introduced for all those who put their faith in Him. This is what we will be looking at this morning.
Last time as we began looking at Romans 5:12-21 we saw that this is one of the most profound, and yet difficult passages in Romans, if not the entire New Testament, since its structure does not flow smoothly. It is a comparison between the first Adam and the second or last Adam, Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 15:45, 47), known as “Adam Theology.” We saw that the essentials of this Adam Theology include: Two men, two acts, two results, and two constituencies or communities.
• The two men are Adam and Christ. These two men respectively represent condemnation and justification (v. 16), disobedience and obedience (v. 19), law and grace (v. 20), sin and righteousness (v. 21), and death and life (v. 21).
• The two acts are Adam’s one transgression in the Garden and Christ’s atoning death on the cross.
• The two results are Adam’s sin, condemnation, and death, and Christ’s righteousness, justification, and life.
• And the two constituencies are all of humanity in Adam, and a new believing humanity in Christ.
Now in v. 14 we saw that Paul called Adam “…a type [a pattern or model] of Him (i.e. Christ) who was to come.” But this similarity is only in regards to the common principle that the one act of one man affected countless others. Other than that the similarity between Adam and Christ ends! John Stott said it well, “How can the Lord of glory be likened to the man of shame, the Savior to the sinner, the giver of life to the broker of death? The correspondence is not a parallel, but an antithesis. So before returning to the solitary similarity between them (vv. 18-21), Paul elaborates their dissimilarities.” (pg. 154) Therefore, as we now come to vv. 15-17, Paul sets forth a contrast between Adam and Christ. Turn in your Bible to Romans 5.
In Romans 5:15-17 we can see three contrasts between the disobedient act of Adam and the obedient act of Christ that have practical applications for every believer.
The first contrast between Adam and Christ focuses on:
I. The Benefit of Each Man’s Act
A. Look at v. 15: But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many.
1. Paul begins with the word “But” because he is now qualifying what he just said in v. 14 about Adam being a type of Christ. He then states, “…the free gift is not like the transgression.”
2. In addition to the words “sin” (v. 12) and “offense” (v. 14) to describe Adam’s representative act of disobedience, Paul now uses the third term “transgression”. The word “transgression” (paraptoma) means a false step, a deviation from the path which God had clearly shown him.
3. C.E.B. Cranfield says about this word “…it does not focus attention on the fact that Adam’s sin was a transgression of a definite commandment, but rather characterizes it simply as a false step, a going astray, and so a misdeed which violated his relationship with God.” (pg. 284)
4. But in stark contrast to Adam’s transgression stands the “free gift” of Christ. The one Greek word translated “free gift” (charisma) is from the word “grace” (charis), and is thus a grace gift that is freely given to the undeserving.
5. The word “gift” is a key word that is used five times in vv. 15-17. Whereas some say it is the gracious gift of righteousness that we see in v. 17, it is probably best to see it here as the gracious act or saving work of Christ’s atoning death on the cross.
6. Douglas Moo observes, “…this ‘gift’ could be the righteous status that God gives to people, but the contrast with ‘trespass’ points to an act of Christ rather than the effects of that act. This is confirmed by v. 16, where the gift leads to ‘righteousness.’ In this verse, then, ‘gift’ denotes not the gift given to the believer (as is usually the case in Paul), but the act of Christ himself considered as a ‘work of grace.’ Paul chooses this unusual way of designating the work of Christ to accentuate its gracious character and its power: Christ’s act, being a work of God’s grace (charis), is far more potent than Adam’s act.” (pg. 335)
B. Paul then explains the reason Christ’s act is not like Adam’s sin in the last part of v. 15, “For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many.”
1. Now the word “if” (ei) here is a first-class condition in the Greek meaning “if-and-it’s-true,” “since,” or “because.” Thus it reads, “Since by the transgression (singular) of the one [i.e. Adam] the many died…” (Stop there)
2. As we saw last time in v. 12, it was because of Adam’s one sin that all men, here called “the many” and referring to the entire human race, died (1 Cor. 15:22). Universal death is the result of Adam’s one sin because he is our representative head and we have a corporate solidarity with him.
3. All of humanity is in the mess we are in because of Adam’s original sin. Instead of becoming “like God,” as Satan had promised (Gen. 3:5), Adam’s transgression delivered him and all of his descendants over to the dominion of sin and reign of death in all of its spiritual, physical, and eternal aspects.
4. Therefore, Adam’s one disobedient act of rebellion in the Garden brought him and us absolutely no benefit whatsoever! But Christ’s one obedient act of grace on the cross brought immeasurable benefit.
5. Look again at what Paul says in v. 15, “…much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many.”
6. The heart of the contrast between Christ and Adam lies in the words “much more.” In other words, if the one thing has happened, how “much more” certain can we expect the other thing to occur and be relied upon!
7. Notice that “grace,” God’s unmerited favor, is linked with both God the Father and Jesus Christ. And it is because of the grace of God and Christ that the gift of Christ’s saving work will “abound to the many.”
8. The word “abound” (eperissensen) here means “to exceed beyond measure” and “exist in abundance.” In other words, Christ’s gracious work on the cross is far greater than and superior to the devastation caused by Adam.
9. C.K. Barrett said, “The act of grace does not balance the act of sin; it overbalances it.” Jesus Christ didn’t merely balance the scales of Adam’s sin, He went exceedingly beyond that and overbalanced them by the power of His grace.
10. Leon Morris said it this way, “Adam did his descendants a grievous wrong, but Christ gave his people an abundant gift. He not only reversed the effects of Adam’s sin, but brought an abundance of positive blessings: he brought a whole new life.” (pg. 236)
11. We won’t see some of these positive blessings until we get to v. 17, but here Paul proclaims that whereas Adam’s one act of sin in the Garden brought the entire human race absolutely no benefit, Christ’s one grace gift on the cross brought “the many” an abundance of benefit.
12. Now Paul uses “the many” in a twofold sense: In his first use where “the many died” because of Adam’s one sin it refers to the entire human race. But here where the grace gift of God and Christ “abound to the many” it refers in a limited sense only to those who belong to Jesus Christ through saving faith in Him.
13. Contrary to what some believer, Paul is not teaching universalism here, which states that ultimately everyone will be saved through the universal redemption of Christ. Although he has already made clear that people are justified by faith alone in Jesus Christ in 3:21-5:2, Paul will drive this home in v. 17.
C. Now practically, how can the truths of this contrast apply to us? Here’s one way:
1. By letting the exceeding benefit of Christ’s saving work on the cross in overturning what Adam lost in the fall to fill our heart with gratitude and praise to God. The grace gift of Christ reversed and nullified the deadly effects of Adam’s sin for all those who have put their faith in Him.
2. Therefore, we as believers have the confident assurance that we are eternally secure in Christ and that sin and death will never triumph over us.
3. The second contrast between Adam and Christ focuses on:
II. The Broadness of Each Man’s Act
A. Look at v. 16: The gift is not like that which came [e.g. probably referring to the “condemnation” from the next sentence] through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification.
1. Whereas in v. 15 Paul speaks of “the transgression of the one,” where the emphasis is on Adam’s sin, here in v. 16 he speaks of “the one who sinned,” emphasizing the sinner, Adam. But the basic truth is the same, for it is the one sin of the one man Adam that resulted in all mankind being condemned.
2. But the “gift,” the free grace gift of Christ’s saving work is “not like,” it stands contrary to the condemnation that came upon all humanity through Adam’s sin.
B. Paul again proceeds to explain the reason why this is so in two phases, as indicated by the “for” in v. 16 and the “for” in v. 17.
1. The first phase of Paul’s explanation is in v. 16, “…for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation…” (Stop there)
2. The word “judgment” (krima) speaks of God’s judicial verdict or sentence. It was Adam’s one transgression that resulted in God’s verdict of mankind’s condemnation.
3. The word “condemnation” (katakrima) speaks of all humanity being found guilty at the bar of God’s judgment and thereby being destined for divine punishment and doom.
4. But in stark contrast to this Paul states, “…on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification.” Justification in Christ is the complete opposite of condemnation in Adam.
5. The word “justification” (dikaioma) here also speaks of a sentence or verdict. Since “justification” stands in contrast to “condemnation,” which is a pronouncement of punishment, justification here represents a verdict of acquittal or being declared not guilty.
6. Now notice the difference in the number of sins taken into account in the actions of Adam and Christ. In contrast to the “one transgression” of Adam stands the free gift of Christ that arose from “many transgressions.”
7. This is the broadness (the extent or scope) of each man’s act. The judicial verdict that brought condemnation on the entire human race was based on Adam’s one sin; but the free gift of Christ’s saving work took into consideration “many transgressions.”
8. John Murray said it well, “Judgment and condemnation take into account only one sin of one man and the whole race is condemned. But the free gift and justification take into account the many sins, the multitudinous sins of a great multitude. How aggravated must sin be and unspeakable grace must be.” (pg. 196)
9. It is this broadness of each man’s act that displays the wonder of God’s grace. Grace triumphs even over a flood of sin.
10. No wonder C.E.B. Cranfield declared, “That one single misdeed should be answered by judgment, this is perfectly understandable: that the accumulated sins and guilt of all the ages should be answered by God’s free gift, this is the miracle of miracles, utterly beyond human comprehension.” (pg. 286)
C. The truths of this contrast can practically apply to us in two ways:
1. First, since it took only one sin to condemn the entire human race, this gives us a glimpse of the infinite holiness of God and just how much He hates sin. And He hasn’t changed today!
• In 1 Peter 1:14-16 we read: As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior, because it is written, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.”
• Praise God that He has given every believer the indwelling Spirit and all the resources they need to live holy lives of love, if we will but allow Christ’s Spirit to control our lives. For Galatians 5:16 says, “…walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.”
2. Second, the only thing that is more powerful in the heart of God than His hatred of sin is His matchless love and amazing grace toward sinners. Because of His love and grace, on the cross Christ became sin for us, took upon Himself all of the holy wrath of God against sin, and paid in full the penalty that we deserved.
• In 2 Corinthians 5:19 we read, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them.”
• Therefore, although Adam’s one transgression condemned everyone, Christ’s grace gift bore the “many transgressions” of all mankind so that “WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED” (Rom. 10:13).
• The grace of God and Christ is not only greater than Adam’s one sin that brought death to all men, but it is also greater than all the accumulated sins that mankind will ever commit to the end of time. What amazing grace!
3. The third contrast between Adam and Christ focuses on:
III. The Blessings of Each Man’s Act
A. Paul now comes to the second phase of his explanation in v. 17: For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.
1. Once again the word “if” (ei) is a first-class condition in the Greek meaning “if-and-it’s-true,” “since,” or “because.” Thus it reads, “Since by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one.”
2. Because of the one sin of the one man Adam, “death reigned” as king. Not just temporarily “from Adam to Moses,” as we saw last time in v. 14, but also permanently.
3. This is the blessed heritage given to all of us by Grandpa Adam. Some blessing! The first part of 1 Corinthians 15:22 says, “For as in Adam all die…”
4. Absolutely no one escapes the ruling clutches of death. And all of the cemeteries of the world are proof of that fact!
5. Douglas Moo accurately states, “Paul’s purpose is not….to leave us depressed and hopeless in the face of this tragic and inescapable fact of human existence. Quite the contrary, he wants to cheer and encourage us by showing that the same connection between the act of one man and the fate of all that obtained in the case of ‘the one man’ Adam also obtained in the case of another act of another ‘man,’ and that the act of this second ‘man’ brings consequences even more glorious than those of the first man were deleterious [harmful].” (pg. 339)
B. Look again at the second part of v. 17, “…much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.
1. Once again the heart of the contrast between Christ and Adam lies in the words “much more.” If the one thing has happened, how “much more” certain can we expect the other thing to occur and be relied upon!
2. And notice that this much more glorious thing is only for “those who receive.” The phrase “those who receive” here is a reference to born-again believers who have personally received Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord.
3. John 1:12 says, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.”
4. Here Paul shows three blessings that believers receive: First is the blessing of “the abundance of grace.”
• The word “abundance” (perisseian) is the same word for “abound” in v. 15, and means “to exceed beyond measure.” In receiving God’s unmerited favor of salvation in Jesus Christ, believers receive the measureless generosity and overflowing abundance of God.
5. Second is the blessing of “the gift of righteousness.”
• It is the free gift of Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross that provides all believers with the gift of righteousness. This is the very righteousness of Christ bestowed on us in justification (2 Cor. 5:21).
6. Third is the blessing that believers “will reign in life.”
• In stark contrast to the reign of death through Adam’s sin, Christ’s grace gift enables believers to reign in life as kings. Because we are in Christ, the mighty Victor, our reign has already begun.
• Although the first part of 1 Corinthians 15:22 says, “For as in Adam all die…,” the second part states, “…so also in Christ all will be made alive.”
• Eternal life is both now and forever, and comes only through faith in Jesus Christ. There is no other way!
• John Stott said so beautifully, “Formerly death was our king, and we were slaves under its totalitarian tyranny. What Christ has done for us is not just to exchange death’s kingdom for the much more gentle kingdom of life, while leaving us in the position of subjects. Instead, he delivers us from the rule of death so radically as to enable us to change places with it and rule over it, or reign in life. We become kings, sharing the kingship of Christ, with even death under our feet now, and one day to be destroyed.” (pg. 156)
• Therefore, as believers we reign right now in Christ. This means that sin no longer is master over us, unless we let it (Rom. 6:14).
• Because God’s grace is sufficient for every circumstance, we can do all things through [Christ] who strengthens [us] (Phil. 4:13).
• Since Christ conquered death, no longer should we fear death, for to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:8; 1 Cor. 15:55-57; 1 Tim. 1:10; Heb. 2:14-15).
• And one day in heaven we will reign with Christ in indescribable glory throughout all eternity (Matt. 25:34; Rev. 1:6; 3:21; 22:5). What glorious blessings!
7. And notice at the end of v. 17 that these are only possible “…through the One, Jesus Christ.” It is only because of what Jesus Christ has done for us on the cross that these gracious blessings can be enjoyed by believers.
C. How can we practically apply this to ourselves? Here are two ways:
1. First, we should never minimize the fact that these blessings are available only to those who personally “receive” Jesus Christ by faith alone. This is the only way people can be saved!
• Here we see the importance of human responsibility within the realm of divine sovereignty.
2. Second, we should be amazed by the literal transformation that God has made, and continues to make, in our lives through the saving work of Christ and His Spirit.
• Second Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”
• God’s gracious blessings in Christ begin the moment of salvation as we are transformed from being spiritually dead to spiritually alive, from being unworthy sinners to righteous saints, from being slaves of death to kings in life. And by His grace we are given all of the resources we need to live in a holy and loving way that bring glory to Him.
In closing, just as Adam’s one act of disobedience in the Garden, without any sin of our own, brought sin, condemnation, and death to all mankind; Christ’s one act of obedience on the cross, without any merit of our own, brought righteousness, justification, and life to all those who receive Him as their personal Savior and Lord. And it’s all because of the grace of God.
May we as believers revel in the wonder of God’s amazing grace in Jesus Christ, who infinitely superseded all that was lost in Adam’s sin by His atoning death on the cross.