In 1 Corinthians chapter 15, the Apostle Paul reminds us that we can't fully understand all that Christ gained for us at Calvary until we understand all that we really lost in Eden. In fact, the story of the Gospel is really a story of 'Two different Adams: the one who obeyed God and the one who didn't.' So join Stephen in his new series "The First and Second Adam "as he expounds that truth for us.
The first epidemic recorded in human history was called the “Black Death” – later known as the “Bubonic Plague.” It started in China around the year 1334 and quickly spread to India, Persia, Russia, and then into Europe. Before it was over, some 60 million people became infected, their throats swelled up and their bodies broke out in black splotches. After a few days of high fever and pain, they died. 60 million people died – if you can imagine the panic – 1 out of every four Europeans would die before it was all over.
Well, according to the Bible, that wasn’t the first epidemic to affect mankind . . . and it wouldn’t be the worst.
There is a plague of a different kind, a far more deadly epidemic that has spread throughout the world. It has infected now some 5 billion people. It a plague called sin – and it’s fatal.
The statistics have been consistent – 1 out of 1 dies!
But do we really have to talk about it?!
There aren’t many people who stare death in the face and want to talk about it.
Christianity Today recently carried excerpts of interviews with very old people. Like Jeanne Calment, the oldest living human whose age is verified at 120. She was asked to describe her vision for the future. She answered, “Very brief.”
Another woman was asked the benefits of living to the age of 102. After thinking she answered, “There’s no peer pressure.”
I really like this one ladies spunk – she had never married and had requested that her pastor, John Fetterman, make sure there were no pallbearers at her funeral. She explained, “They wouldn’t take me out while I was alive; I’m not gonna let them take me out when I’m dead.”
Once, when I was in Middle School, I was traveling with my family – I do not remember where or any of the details about the trip. According to my parents, something alarming happened one night while we were sleeping in a hotel room. I was sharing a bed with one of my brothers and, my mother told me later, that suddenly, without any reason or provocation, I sat up in bed, looked straight ahead at the wall and called out one word – death! After which I laid back down and went back to sleep. My poor mother, of course, was ruined for the night – was this some sort of sign – some mystical omen?!
I’m sure that would be a little scary for any parent – to hear their sleeping child suddenly call out – death! We’d rather not think about that!
Frankly, the world doesn’t really want to think about it either and so it has come up with several ways to skirt the issue.
A number of philosophy’s have been promoted through the centuries, such as:
Fatalism – this could be called, “the doctrine of despair.” It promotes the belief that events are fixed in advance – man has no responsibility . . . people are like leaves in the wind, blown about without any true purpose or direction. There is nothing you can do but see what fate brings you.
Skepticism – endorses the view that nothing can be known for certain; we can’t know God personally; there is no absolute answer regarding the meaning of life or what happens after death. Any view that seems dogmatic regarding life and death is presumptuous.
Epicureanism/Hedonism – says, life is all you’ve got, so live it up! This is all there is so get all you can get out of life – enjoy everything and anything you want – there are no moral restraints because your desires are sovereign; don’t listen to your conscience – forget about tomorrow . . . don’t think about consequences . . . certainly not eternal consequences – today is all you have to get all you can.
Jerry De Luca told the story about the man who lived this way – he chief end in life was to get as much money as he could – he loved money more than anything. He hoarded it all too – he wouldn’t let his wife spend hardly any of it – in fact he selfishly told her that when he died, he wanted her to put all of his money in the casket with him. He wanted to keep it for himself. His wife promised she would. He made her repeat the promise many times over his declining years – and every time, she would promise. Some time later he died, enormously wealthy. And at his funeral, just before the casket was closed, his wife put a box in the casket with him. The wife’s close friend said, “I know you aren’t foolish enough to put all that money in there with him. . .” She said, “But, I promised him I would put that money in the casket with him.” Her friend protested, “Oh, no, you mean to tell me that you kept that selfish demand of his – you actually put all that money in the casket with him?” “I sure did,” said the wife, “I wrote him a check.”
I guess he knows now that, in a way, all he got was all he had while he was alive.
Citation: “Money in the Casket,” GCFL.net (7/9/02)
Another philosophy is evolutionism – is the logical philosophy of a generation trained to consider themselves as merely passing along some process – we are no different than animals in our living and our dying. Why worry about death when we will be no better off nor worse off than a dog. When death comes we’ll simply be a part of the circle of life – our bones will nourish some plant which will feed some animal which will evolve, perhaps into something better.
Then there is Universalism – Universalism was created by people who intuitively knew that a creator existed and they were probably going to meet Him one day. So they created a God who exists to make everybody happy. A God who doesn’t ask you to believe in Him because He only wants to believe in you! Eventually He will embrace all people – no matter what they believe. Just be sincere and you’ll make it to God.
Adapted from The Darkness and the Dawn by Charles Swindoll, p. 272
Bind all of those philosophies together and you get one main idea – we really don’t like the idea of death and we’d rather not discuss it so we’ll come up with ways to deny it, ignore it, recreate it, or simply refuse to believe it’ll ever happen.
In our generation, perhaps more than any other, our culture is living in that kind of state of denial.
We’re gonna live forever . . . and we’re not gonna accept the reality of death.
The philosophy of life that our culture has embraced is best expressed by one advertising slogan for face cream that says, “I don’t intend to grow old gracefully. I intend to fight it every step of the way.”
James Montgomery Boice, Romans: Volume Two (Baker Book House), 1991, p. 572
People are frantic today with their age defying creams; their wrinkle erasing shots, face lifts and health spas and exercise regimes and health foods and vitamins and Krispy Kreme . . . what’s that doing in the list.
I’m not against exercise and a healthy diet and age defying creams and – ha – maybe even a little Rogaine for men, huh?! Worked a miracle for me!
The tragedy is that someone can do all of the above for no other reason than to try and drown out the message that grows louder as he grows older – you are going to die!
More tragically is the hope of people like one baseball hall of famer who recently died. As they had planned, his body was handed over to a Cryogenics Center where his family shelled out $120,000 to have his body frozen in hopes that eventually medical science will discover the answers to physical regeneration and immortality and bring his body back to life.
Cited in, 2003 Preaching Today.com & Christianity Today International
Why all the philosophies and speculations and denials? Because the Bible says and the law of God whispers into the heart of every person – “It is appointed unto man, once to die – and after that the judgment.” Hebrews 9:27
You’re gonna die!
Humanity stuffs things and events and noise and people and entertainment and sports and music and education and business; none of which are evil in themselves, but they are used to fill the minds and hearts and lives of people who are frantically trying to escape the fact that they have an appointment with death!
The trouble is, mankind is terminally ill – he has been infected with the scourge of sin and sin brings death.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Christianity is the only explanation for universal sin and universal death – and, Christianity offers the only solution for both of them!
I want you to turn in your Bibles to Romans chapter 5, verse 12, where you will discover both the explanation and the solution for sin and death.
As we travel along the interstate highway of this text, I want you to notice 3 mile markers of Divine truth.
The first one is this:
1) Adam initiated the universal epidemic of sin!
Paul writes in Romans chapter 5, verse 12, “Therefore, just as through one man, sin entered the world.”
In other words, through Adam’s disobedience, the epidemic of sin entered the world.
The origin of sin, in the world, is Adam.
You might notice that Paul did not write that “sin came into existence through Adam.” Why? Because the first sinner was Satan.
Satan had already rebelled against God, before the creation of Adam and Eve.
But it would be Adam who would be held responsible for introducing sin into the realm of humankind.
Maybe you’re thinking, wait a second, it was Eve who first ate the fruit of that tree. That’s true. But the responsibility for sin was Adam’s. He was the one whom God commanded in Genesis 2:16. The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; 17. but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.” Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.”
In other words, God gave Adam the responsibility to obey him and subjugate the earth and cultivate the garden, and Even had not been formed yet.
It was after God communicated this one prohibition to Adam that God then created for Adam his life long partner to not only keep him from being lonely, but keep him out of trouble. She was his helpmeet – that is, among other things, she would help him obey and perform the will of God in serving God.
I Timothy tells us more details about that scene in the garden where Paul informs us that Eve was deceived . . . but not Adam. That is, Eve literally believed the serpent who came along and said, “God really didn’t mean if you ate that fruit you would die! In fact, He’s really keeping something from you that you deserve to have – it’ll make you wise and you will become like God . . . I know Adam said that God said you shouldn’t eat it, but Adam just doesn’t understand – I mean, look at it Eve – it’s pleasant to the eye . . .besides, everything else in the garden is good – how could this be bad – take a bite!” And she did – she was deceived into believing that this was actually a good thing!
Now Adam comes along and the Bible says, “She gave it to her husband and he ate it.” There’s no serpent around . . . there’s no crafty insight from Satan when Adam ate it. Adam wasn’t deceived. He was fully cognizant of the fact that if he ate it he would be rebelling against the command of God. He was not deceived into believing it would make him wise – he was not deceived into believing that he would become like God – in other words, he was fully aware that he was choosing to violate the word of God – and he ate in utter rebellion against God.
When Adam disobeyed God, sin entered into his life and, theologians summarize, “sin generated a constitutional change in his nature. He went from innocence to sinfulness – an innate sinfulness that would be transmitted to every one of his descendants” . . . to this very day.
John MacArthur Jr., Romans (Moody Press; Chicago Illinois) 1991, p. 292
The singular word “sin,” in verse 12, does not represent a particular act of disobedience, but a fundamental propensity toward unrighteousness. We call it the sin (what?) – the sin nature.
David wrote, “In sin my mother conceived me.” He isn’t saying that his mother was sinning when David was conceived, what he is actually saying is that he was a sinner at conception! (Psalm 51:5). In other words, David is saying that there is never a time in anybodies life when they are not considered a possessor of Adam’s nature – even at conception.
Let’s move on to the next mile-marker.
2) The epidemic that Adam initiated is not only universal, but terminal!
Paul writes in verse 12, “just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin and so death spread to all men . . .
The wages of sin is what? Is death!
What eventually happened to Adam? He died!
The consequence of death followed the introduction of sin.
Read the tragic record of Genesis . . . And Adam . . . died.
The record of our forefathers continues throughout chapter 5 . . . “and he died . . . and he died . . . and he died.”
Paul anticipates the Jew saying, “But the law wasn’t given until Moses – therefore, how can a person be considered a sinner without the law of Moses being given?”
Paul answers by saying in verses 13 and 14, “the law wasn’t given, but man was still a transgressor – still violating the character of God – read the story of Noah and Sodom and Gomorrah – even before the law of God declared, “Thou shalt not kill,” mankind knew that killing was wrong. And the proof of the law of God written on their hearts was the fact that between Adam and Moses – before the writing of the law on tablets of stone – mankind was still dying.”
Death is proof of sin
For the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23)
The Greek words in verse are chilling in their description: Paul writes here, “sin entered the world and death through sin.” The verb “to enter” is used of someone who enters a house through a door that’s been opened.
Paul is describing the introduction of sin and death into the world – let me expand and paraphrase verse 12 this way, “Adam opened the door to the house where all of humanity lived and he invited sin to come in – and sin came in, but then stopped and held the door open so that death could slip in too.”
But some might argue and say, “Listen, I wasn’t there in the garden; why does God hold me responsible, in Adam, for having sinned?”
Good question . . . but in case you’re not sure that’s exactly what Paul means, look at the last phrase of verse 12, Paul tightens the noose even more - “death spread to all men because all sinned.”
He isn’t saying that everybody eventually sins – and so they’re gonna die – no, this verb is in a tense that refers to a past event that created a present state. He is saying that everybody sinned in the past – in Adam, the head of our human race.
Adam is the head of the human race. Paul says we all sinned, in Adam, our representative. Here’s the important point that Paul is going to make; Since we sinned, in Adam, the head of the human race; we are sinless in Christ, the head of a new race.
Since you were in Adam, the head of the human race, when he sinned – you are also in Christ, the head of a new race, when He hung on the cross; when He was buried; when He arose. You can say with Paul, “I am crucified with Christ. . .”
Because you were in the first Adam as he sinned and fell, you are in the Second Adam when He was buried and arose from the grave.
Paul wrote, “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:22)
These objections adapted from John MacArthur Jr., Romans (Moody Press) 1991, p. 297
Paul also wrote in Romans 6:8. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him.”
Now, if you’re getting lost, I need to tell you that everything we’ve talked about so far is easy to understand, compared to this part . . . this is where it gets difficult. . .so look at the person sitting next to you and say, “Stay alert.” Go ahead; “stay alert .”
Paul’s explanation of sin and death is based on headship (in fact, that’s a great word to write in the margin of your text – headship).
That’s exactly what he’s explaining in Romans 5:17. 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.
Did you catch that contrast?
In Adam you have the reign of death.
In Christ you have the reign of life.
Adam, as the head of the human race, sinned. God saw, in Adam, the whole human race as guilty. On the other hand, the Second Adam, Jesus Christ, did not sin, and all who unite themselves to him by faith, are also considered sinless. . .and that’s the good news.
Let me put it to you this way: just as we get the blame for Adam’s sin – so we get the credit for Jesus Christ’s sinlessness.
Here is the contrast in Romans 5:
Adam is the head of the human race, into which we were born and we will die as sinners and go to hell;
Jesus Christ is the head of a new race, into which we were born again by faith, and we will die as saints and go to heaven.
And that leads me to the last mile-marker:
4) Jesus Christ is the antidote for terminal humanity!
Look at verse 15. But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one (Adam) 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. 16. The gift is not like that which came 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.
Three times, we’re told the antidote is free. Verse 15 – the free gift; the beginning of verse 16, the gift; the end of verse 16 – the free gift.
And so what about death – that enemy we don’t like to talk about – the mystery we resist.
Death is now simply the hand that turns the latch and opens the door to heaven.
Death is a defeated tyrant – he no longer reigns over the believer. Yes, he’s the king in this world, but for us he’s nothing more than a hired hand who opens the door whenever a believer dies and says, “Here, let me help you . . . your King awaits you, the everlasting King has called you home!”
The cause of sin was the first Adam . . . the cure for sin is the Second Adam. The first race from Adam is terminally infected. The second race from Jesus Christ is eternally healed.
By His stripes, Isaiah prophecied, we were healed! The awful effects of evil have been dealt with by Christ . . . our case is no longer permanent death, but passing death into permanent life.
My friend, because of Adam, you were born into a funeral procession – that’s why there is no lasting joy – that’s why life is meaningless; that’s why every promotion and every thrill you get out of life doesn’t make you happy and no amount of money satisfies you – you’re in a funeral procession. But, through faith in Jesus Christ – you’ve left the funeral procession and you’ve joined the wedding procession. You are now the bride of Christ.
You know what that means? That means you’ve stepped out of the funeral march and you’ve gone and joined a wedding party.
Did you hear me? We’ve left the funeral procession and we’re heading for a wedding reception; it’s gonna be like a Northern wedding with a sit down dinner that cost the family fortune – this will be the marriage supper of the Lamb – and all the wedding expenses have already been paid in full by the Living Lord who takes His bride away.
For those of Adam’s race . . . there is no hope!
The last words of Queen Elizabeth the First were, “It is over. I have come to the end of it – this is the end.”
Thomas Carlyle said “I am without hope.”
Is that your fear as well?
My friend, you are not ready to live, nor are you able to live, until you answer the question of life after death. Until you’re ready to keep that appointment with death, you are not able to really live.
Where are you today? Are you a child of Adam . . . or are you a child of God? You were not born into the family of God – you were born, first into the family of Adam. You must be born again – into the family of God. And that comes by faith as you receive from Him the gift of salvation.
John recorded the promise, “But as many as received Jesus Christ, to them he gave the right to become the children of God.” (John 1:12)
And what is the child of God’s view of life and death?
Thomas Watson – the puritan theologian and church leader: “The world is but a great inn, where we are to lodge a night or two, and be gone; what madness is it to set our heart upon this inn, and forget our home.”
Just think, the poet wrote,
“Of stepping on shore, and finding it heaven,
Of touching a hand, and finding it God’s,
Of breathing new air, and finding it celestial;
Of waking up in glory . . . and finding it home.”