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(Romans 5:18-21) Triumphant!

(Romans 5:18-21) Triumphant!

Ref: Romans 5:18–21

Have you ever thought about how many parallels there are to Calvary in the first few chapters of Genesis? There's the parallel between The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and the cross.



Romans 5:18-21

At the height of the Civil War, Oliver Winchester married Sarah Pardee of New Haven, Connecticut.  Because of Oliver’s invention, the first true repeating rifle known as the Winchester rifle, the Union army was given a huge advantage.  And Oliver became enormously wealthy.  This young couple was rich beyond belief.  Four years after they married they had a little girl named Annie, but the baby died soon after.  Sarah was so shattered that she withdrew into herself and nearly lost her mind. Several years later, William himself developed tuberculosis and died.  As the heir to this vast fortune, yet overwhelmed by grief, she didn’t know what to do or where to turn.  A friend suggested that she seek help from a spiritist . . . someone who believed they could contact the dead.  During their session, the medium said, “Your husband is here.  He says there is a curse on your family which took his life and that of your child.  It is a curse that has resulted from the thousands of people who died because of the terrible weapon created by the Winchester family.  You must make amends . . . leave New Haven and move west.  Your husbands spirit will tell you where to stop and build a house.  You must build a home for yourself and for the spirits who have fallen from this rifle.  You can never stop building the house.  If you continue building, you will live . . . stop building and you will die.”

Now I won’t take time to uncover all the deception of this spiritist and these supposed spirit guides – as always, they led this woman away from the truth and from peace and satisfaction, into a life of aimlessness and fear. 

Sarah Winchester obeyed and moved to San Jose.  She purchased 162 acres and began to build.  For 36 years her crews built and rebuilt, altered and changed and constructed and demolished and built again all over again.  The sounds of hammers and saws sounded day and night.  Railway cars brought in supplies and every morning Sarah met with her foreman to sketch out some new room or addition.  Rooms were added to rooms, towers and peaks were built. Staircases led to nowhere.   Closets opened to blank walls.    Doors opened to walls.  Hallways doubled back upon themselves.  The house became a vast, expensive maze, designed to avoid death for herself and house the supposed spirits of the dead.  Sarah Winchester depleted the fortune.  She believed that as long as she continued building, she would stay alive.  But she didn’t.  On September 4, 1922, following a séance with her medium and the spirits, she went to her bedroom and died during the night at the age of 83. 

She had bought the lie – that she would somehow cheat death!

The first lie ever communicated to a human being by the fallen leader of demonic hosts, was, “You shall not die . . . what does God know . . . what is He talking about . . . Eve, listen to me, you can sin and live forever.”

Peter Marshall often told the legend of the middle eastern servant who went to the market to purchase food for his master’s household – he turned a corner in the market and came face to face with Lady Death – wearing a black hood over her face – Death raised her hand, and he turned and ran, terrified that Death had come for him.  He ran to his master and begged him to allow him to take a horse and flee for a few days, to the village of Samara.  His master agreed.  The servant fled his village and the master went to market to purchase the food himself.  He also turned a corner and came face to face with Lady Death.  He said to her, “Why have you threatened my servant?”  She said, “What do you mean?”  “Well,” the master responded, “you raised your hand to strike him.”  She said, “No, I raised my hand in surprise . . . wondering why I would meet him in this village . . . for you see, I have an appointment with him tonight in the village of Samara.”

Now most people don’t build houses or flee on horses, but humanity has attempted different ways to escape the reality of sin and death.

Fatalism, Skepticism, Hedonism, Evolutionism, Universalism to name a few have come up with ways to deal with death without dealing with sin.

The Bible says, “There is a way that seems right unto a man, but the end thereof is death.”

In our last session, we began to understand God’s explanation for sin and death.  And I repeat this morning, Christianity is the only explanation for universal sin and universal death – and, Christianity offers the only solution for both of them!

We have discovered in Romans chapter 5 the reign of death exists because of the sin of one man – Adam.  And Adam, as the head of the human race, passed along to every person, the Adamic or the sin nature.  A nature transmitted at conception.

King David wrote, “In sin my mother conceived me.”  Literally, when I was conceived by my mother, I was in sin . . . or, I was a sinner.”

At the moment of conception, David inherited his father Adam’s sin nature.

Turn again to Romans 5 and listen as Paul describes the effect of Adam’s sin on all of humanity.  Look at verse 12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.

You might say, listen, I don’t like being associated with Adam’s sin – that’s not fair.  My friend it is no more or less fair to be associated with the sin of Adam, as the head of our race, than it is to be considered righteous in Christ, the head of a new race.

The truth is, whether we want to admit we’ve inherited the nature of Adam, we all act like him . . . we have his same penchant for sinning.

We’re all like John J. McGraw.  You ever heard of John J. McGraw?  Would you like to hear about him?  He’s the man responsible for the decision to install a third base umpire during baseball games.

John J. McGraw was the third baseman for the old Baltimore Orioles before he went on to manage the New York Giants.  If you know anything about baseball, you know how a runner has to stay on base, whenever a ball is hit in the air – until it is caught – then he can run for the next base . . . that’s called “tagging up.” If the ball is hit deep enough, even if it is caught, the runner on third base will have a good chance to run from third base to home plate and score before the outfielder’s throw reaches the catcher, but he can’t run until the ball is caught. Well, John J. McGraw played third base.  And he had the habit of hooking his finger around the belt of the runner who was tagged up on third base.  He’d stand real close to the runner, with his finger hooked around their belt.  For just a split second, he’d be able to hold back the runner – enough to throw the runner off track and give the outfielder a second head-start to throw the ball home.  Everybody violently protested this, but nobody could prove it – and John J. McGraw would just as violently defend his innocence.  These were before the days of television and slow motion and instant replays.  John J. McGraw got away with it time and time again, until one runner, who was tagged up on third base, unbuckled his belt.  Sure enough, McGraw hooked his finger in this runner’s belt, and when the guy took off running for home plate, there stood John J. McGraw with a belt dangling from his finger.

After that, professional baseball instituted a third base umpire.

That’s classic humanity.  “I haven’t done anything wrong . . . I’m not that bad . . . I’m not even a sinner.”

Yet the belt of sin dangles from our fingers even while we protest our innocence. 

Paul declares without apology, all have sinned.

Now, having revealed our connection with the sin nature of Adam, Paul will begin a series of contrasts from verse 15 through verse 21 to show the effects of Adam’s sin and Jesus Christ’s righteousness.

This morning I want to do something shocking.  I am going to summarize these remaining 6 verses in this chapter instead of taking 6 more sermons to finish it . . . you okay with that?

Actually, I’m going to summarize these 6 verses simply because they all illustrate the same point.

Adam and Christ are contrasted as heads of two races.

The first Adam began the fallen race of mankind.

The second Adam, Jesus Christ, began a new raced of redeemed mankind.

Adam bred a race of sinners; Christ breeds, by faith, a new race of saints.

I want to stop briefly here because throughout the centuries, men have taken this paragraph in Romans 5 and twisted it into false doctrine. 

People have extracted everything from Universalism to even a modified universalism from this paragraph – that all of humanity is going to be redeemed in Christ just as all of mankind is condemned in Adam.

I’ll simply answer that by saying that we all are condemned, but all who receive Christ are justified – verse 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.

Yes, all of humanity is lost, but all within humanity who receive the gift of Christ’s righteousness are justified.

Another false doctrine taken from this paragraph is Arianism. 

This view teaches that because Adam is contrasted with Christ, and because Christ is called the second or last Adam, as he is by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:45, Christ then was only another human being.

He wasn’t divine, he was a human who became divine through his obedient life.

This false doctrine of Arianism, after Arias, the founder was condemned by the early church.  It has resurfaced and has been repackaged in modern day Mormonism. 

Mormonism takes a casual glance at this passage in Romans chapter 5 and declares that Adam got it wrong by abandoning God’s will, but Jesus got it right and because of that, Jesus has been elevated to His own status of divinity that we too can reach one day.

In addition to that, they believe that Christ was the first spirit son of God the Father who with His many wives bore many sons – Lucifer was one of those sons, effectively making Jesus the brother of Satan. 

What about that verse by Paul where he says, “And He (Christ) is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation.”  (Colossians 1:15)

Arianism, or of late, Mormonism teaches that, “Jesus Christ was the first creature God ever pro-created.”  Isn’t that what it says?

“He is the first-born of all creation.”

The Greek word for “first-born” (prototokos) can, in fact, refer to the birth of a first born child.  I can use prototokos in referring to my son Benjamin – he was the first born, of twin sons.  He was the first born son, followed 2 minutes later – 2 very long minutes later – by our second born son, Seth who’s never been happy with second place ever since. 

It could mean first born of many born.  However, this same Greek word can also mean first in rank, first in prominence.  Jesus Christ is the prominent One over all of creation.

That would be consistent with the record of scripture that Jesus Christ was, in fact, the creator of all of creation.

So as we compare the first Adam with the Second Adam, we want to avoid the pitfall of Arianism or Mormonism.

As the head of two races, they are similar but eternally different.

Here are some more similarities and contrasts.

Adam was created out of dust.  Jesus Christ had no beginning.

In fact, according to Colossians 1:16, He was the creating agent – for we read, “For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth.”

Another contrast:

All mankind is fallen through Adam sin.

Believing mankind is redeemed through Christ’s sinlessness.


Mankind is lost in Adam . . . it is saved in Christ.

Notice verse 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.


We are called sinners because of Adam; but because of Christ we are called, saints.

Still again, we inherited death through Adam;  we inherit eternal life through Christ.

Notice verse 18.  So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men.

19.  For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.

If I could go outside of this text for a moment, the comparisons and contrasts between these two Adams are not only fascinating, but Divinely orchestrated to prove the beauty of grace and redemption.

For instance:

Adam disobeyed the will of God in the garden;

Christ obeyed the will of His Father in another garden where He prayed, “Not my will, but Thine be done.”

After sinning, Adam was banished from the garden by angels.

After defeating Satan, Jesus was ministered to by angels.

Adam sinned while surrounded by beauty and love and a perfect environment; Christ refused to sin all the way through the crucifixion while surrounded with hatred and ugly cruelty and bitterness.

Now Paul moves to the climax of this text. 

Verse 20. The Law came in so that the transgression would increase;    What does that mean – “the law makes transgressions increase?”  

In my neighborhood, which is now completed, they have put up 2 stop signs . . . if I were to give you directions to my house, I’d say, go to dead end and turn right . . . go to the next dead end and turn right and we’re up on the left.  Once you pull into my neighborhood, it’s an easy drive – come to the dead end and make a smooth right . . . go another block to the dead end and you bear right . . . now they’ve put 2 stop signs at those dead end streets.  Stop signs!  Why were they put there?  To remind me that I am a sinner.

I don’t see that sign and think, “Oh boy . . . now I have one more opportunity to be a perfect, law abiding driver . . . I love new opportunities like these to reveal the purity of my heart.”  I can’t just swoop to the right and keep moving and then at my street, flow to the right and up to my driveway – now I have to stop! Those stop signs are messengers of Satan sent to buffet me.

They recently changed a section of Kildaire Farm road from 45 miles an hour to 35 miles an hour.  Just past Cary Parkway . . . this is a 5 lane highway!  45 miles an hour was already slow enough (now some liberal who moved here to Cary from the north east – sorry, I didn’t mean to offend 80% of you, somebody thought 35 miles an hour was safer.)

When I saw that street sign – did I say to myself – “They’ve changed the speed limit here – I will be among those who abide by the new speed limit with great joy!”  No, I’m thinking, will they grandfather me in since I lived here before they changed it – and I get to go 45. 

Have you ever thought, “I wonder how much I can exceed the speed limit without being pulled over.”  Raise your hands.  “How many of you have seen a highway patrol car on the side of the interstate and you instinctively put on the brakes.”   I am a sinner speaking to a multitude of sinners.

And you have unconsciously discovered the truth of Paul’s declaration in verse 20 – And the Law came in that transgression might increase.

More laws only meant we would break more laws.  Why?  Because at heart we are just like Adam – and even though he only had one rule that he had to keep – he couldn’t keep that one little rule.

He could eat from every other tree in the garden, but one.  Put 10 pieces of candy in front of a kid and set one over to the side – tell him, you can have any one of these that you want, but you can’t have this one.  Which one does he want?  Like Pavlov’s dog, he salivate and negotiate for that one piece of forbidden candy.

Where the law abounds, sin piles up.

But here’s the good news, Paul continues in verse 20. but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more. 

There are two words used by Paul that are missed by many translations.  The word translated increased and the word translated abounded are two different words in the Greek language.

Paul wrote, “where sin increased” – that word is pleonazo – which has the idea of numerical increase.  One sin upon another.

By the way, do you remember from the record of Adam and Eve, how many sins did it take to expel them from the garden?

One.  One sin, and paradise was lost.  Even if you don’t like the idea of the transmission of the Adamic nature to all of humanity, then stand on your own two feet – have you committed at least one sin?!

How do you think you will inherit heaven, having committed at least one sin – when Adam and Eve were expelled from the garden for one sin?

According to the implication of scripture – the truth is – we are not guilty of one sin, but a multitude of sins.

But here’s the good news!  “But where sin piled up, Paul writes, grace abounded.”  Abounded!  What a great word.  It’s the word Perisseuo – which means, to abound. But it has the Greek prefix “hyper” - hyper-perisseuo – to abound more exceedingly.

You didn’t know the word “hyper” was a Biblical word did you?!

You ever been around a hyperactive child?  You live with one?  The throttle is stuck in 5th gear.  They never stop!

You could paraphrase this to read, “But where sin piled up, grace was hyperactive.”

You can’t slow grace down . . . it never will cease its activity.  It is never ending, never stopping grace.

Paul’s statement means at least 2 things:

1)  The grace of God is never withdrawn because of sin.

            We don’t operate that way, do we?   When someone hurts us, we withdraw from them . . . we withhold kindness . . .  we stop talking to them . . . you hurt God because of sin, and guess what . . . He doesn’t withdraw from us . . . in fact, when Adam sinned, you remember God came calling. 

For the believer, grace is never withdrawn because of sin – no matter what law you’ve broken . . . no matter how many times you’ve broken it.  This truth is so incredible that many people thought Paul was condoning sin.  He wasn’t  . . . and he’ll talk about that in chapter 6.  This is one of the mystifying things about the grace of God to His sons and daughters . . . sin and you discover His grace is still His gift to you.

2)  The grace of God will never run out because of sin.

One author said we tend to think of God’s grace as a bucket full of water.  You sin and He sloshes a little bit on you to put out the fire.  You sin a little more and a little more, and your brothers and sisters sin with you and God’s sloshing out the water of grace, but eventually the bucket is empty.  Sorry, no more grace.

Paul is teaching the unbelievable, inhuman, divine characteristic of God’s grace – sin spills into your life, but grace rushes over it like the Niagara Falls.   

This is also the attraction of Christianity – James Montgomery Boice provoked my thinking as he wrote, “There are a lot of things about Christianity that are unattractive to the world, but grace is attractive.” 

That’s so true.

Holiness!  Hey world, wouldn’t you like to come to Christ and you too can pursue holy living?!  Humility . . . that’s an attractive feature of Christianity!  Servanthood . . . abhorrence of sin . . . repentance . . . spiritual discipline . . . self-sacrifice. 

These will never be a billboard for the world to read and say, “That’s what I’ve been missing . . . I don’t need a new boat or a new car or home or job . . . what I’ve been missing is servanthood.  Please give me some of that self-sacrifice.

But grace!  Oh that winsome quality in the believer that gives to others what they don’t deserve . . . just as Christ has, by grace, given us everything . . . grace is contagious . . . the world is attracted to grace.

Someone took the word “grace” and made an acrostic out of it.

G  R  A  C  E;

God’s riches at Christ’s expense.  Say that with me . . .

That’s a wonderful attempt at putting Niagara Falls in a bottle.

But this is Paul’s point:

With Adam you have the waterfall of never ending guilt;

With Jesus Christ you have the waterfall of never ending grace.

An anonymous poet wrote:

Have you on the Lord believed?

There’s so much more to follow.

Of his grace have you received?

Still there’s more to follow.

Oh, the grace the Father showed;

Still there’s more to follow

Freely He his grace bestows.

Still there’s more to follow.

More and more and more and more,

Always more to follow;

Oh, His matchless, boundless grace,

Still there’s more to follow.

                  Kent Hughes, Romans,  pg. 119

Now notice verse 21.  as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Adam took of that tree and began to die; We believe in Christ who hung upon another tree; and we begin to live.

Adam was a thief. And he was cast out of Paradise; Jesus Christ hung next to a thief and promised him, “Today, you shall be with me in Paradise.”

Adam lost Paradise through greed . . . Jesus Christ promises paradise by grace through saving faith.


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