The 2nd Sunday After Pentecost June 2, 2013
234, 369, 314, 50
Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned— (For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 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. But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many. And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned. For the judgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation, but the free gift which came from many offenses resulted in justification. 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.) Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.
Dear fellow-sinners who are redeemed through the work of Christ:
There was a young priest in the mid 1800’s who used a monastery’s gardens to conduct plant-breeding experiments. The young priest, Gregor Mendel, took pea plants, controlled the way they were pollinated for reproduction, and studied the effects.
Mendel’s experiments opened a door of understanding the complexity and orderliness of God’s creation. Through his experiments, Mendel learned that each plant had a certain genetic makeup that would determine the traits of that plant’s seeds and the traits of the second-generation plants those seeds would produce. Mendel was a pioneer in the field of genetics that now has unlocked even more of the wonder of God’s creation through the detailed study of DNA and the genetic code.
Among other things, Mendel discovered that if he took two pure-bred plants that produced red blooms, all of their seeds would of a certainty produce plants with red blooms. The same was true of green seeds vs. yellow seeds and smooth peas vs. wrinkled peas. Red with red produced red. Green with green produced green. Wrinkled with wrinkled produced wrinkled —it was a genetic fact.
The way genes produce characteristic traits in plants, animals, and human beings is a most fascinating science in the study of God’s creation. God’s Word directs us to another study in genetics that isn’t so enjoyable. God’s creation teaches us that red with red produces red. God’s Word teaches us that sinner with sinner produces sinner. It is a sinner’s SPIRITUAL GENETICS. There is I. An inherited flaw, there are II. Many visible traits, and there is III. One transforming alteration. Come with me as we study our own spiritual genetics.
Our inherited flaw is not an original flaw. The creation of man and woman was originally, like all the rest of God’s creation, completely perfect without defect. God’s creation of Adam and Eve was even better than all the rest of the universe because “God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them” (Genesis 1:27). Being created in the image of God made Adam and Eve holy and righteous (cf. Ephesians 4:24) and gave them a perfect and happy knowledge of God and His will (cf. Colossians 3:10).
Adam and Eve, created in the image of God, lived in the perfection of Eden also created by God, but into this perfect world came an outside influence seeking to bring corruption to the perfection. Through the words of the Old Testament lesson we have remembered how Satan came to Eve, deceived her with a half-truth, and that she and Adam fell into sin that day. That day, that sin changed everything. What was once perfect was now flawed with corruption. Paul brings this truth home to us again and again with the words he uses in our text: by one man’s offense/failure (falling when one should stand upright)…through one man’’ offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation…as by one man’s disobedience.” [v.17ff]
“Failure, offense, judgment, condemnation, disobedience” are not words found in the vocabulary of perfection and the image of God. The image of God was lost. The corruption, the flaw is not something that was found in God’s creation, it is a flaw that was introduced through Adam’s disobedience. God had placed Adam and Eve in dominion over all the rest of creation. He had given them complete freedom to eat freely from the fruit of every tree in the garden with only a one-tree exception. God’s command was “do not eat from the tree in the middle of the garden.” Adam and Eve ate from that tree. It was blatant disobedience. Disobedience rightly brings with it judgment and punishment. The burden of sin, the responsibility for corruption, lies squarely on the shoulders of Adam because of his disobedience.
Adam does not stand alone in his corruption. The perfection was lost for both Adam and Eve and every one of their natural descendants. We are children of Adam and Eve—albeit removed by a great number of generations—and as their offspring we share their spiritual genetics, their imperfection, our inherited flaw. “…through one man sin entered the world and death through sin and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned…” [v.12]
The sin that we inherited from our parents as they did from theirs all the way back to Adam and Eve is real sin. It is real sin that brings God’s just wrath against us. Because of the sin we inherit we are from the moment of conception lost and condemned creatures. David acknowledged, “Behold! I was brought forth in iniquity and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51:5).
Sin has completely infected and corrupted what began as a perfect creation. Sin has attached a mutation to God’s perfect creation. It is a mutation that clings to mankind and is always passed down to the next generation. As a result of the fall into sin, every one of us inherits a heart and mind that is completely opposed to God. “The carnal mind is enmity against God” (Romans 8:7). “The imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth” (Genesis 8:21). Martin Luther commented: “This hereditary sin is a corruption of nature so deep a corruption that reason cannot comprehend it. It must be believed because of the revelation in the Scriptures” (Smalcald Articles III, #1).
Call it inherited sin, hereditary sin, birth sin, original sin—t is really sin, it really deserves God’s judgment, and we really all inherited it.
When Mendel was experimenting with peas he couldn’t really see the genes of the plants. The genes were invisible to him, but Mendel knew what they did and how they worked together. He knew this based on the traits they produced in the plants. Neither you nor I are genetic scientists with equipment to look at the DNA, but we know and understand genetics when we see a son who looks like his father or a daughter like her mother.
God tells us through His Word that we have inherited sin, but if there remains any doubt that this is true we need only look at the visible traits which our inherited flaw produces.
The characteristics which sin produces in sinners were evident right from the beginning of sin. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God and ate the fruit, they immediately knew they were naked. They had never been clothed, but now sin was a factor. Because of the underlying sin, the naked human body now gives rise to lustful, sinful thoughts and that is a matter of shame; whereas before sin, nakedness gave no opportunity for wickedness but only holiness in the beauty of God’s creation. As for those who say that even now there is no shame in public nakedness, let the record show that God says, “Yes, there is!”
Before the fall into sin, Adam and Eve had a happy, peaceful, perfect relationship with God. They talked to God, God brought the animals to Adam so he would name them, God created Eve and brought her to Adam—God gave them everything. Then after sin entered the world, the very next time Adam and Eve heard God approaching in the garden they were afraid and hid themselves. The underlying sin produced fear of standing in presence of God—the holy Creator. Fear in the presence of God remains a trait of any condemned sinner.
Of all the traits that sin produces, death is by far the most noticeable and the most significant. Death is the unavoidable and inseparable partner to sin. Paul wrote in our text, “…sin entered the world and death through sin and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.” [v.12] Death is the consequence of sin. With His command not to eat the fruit of the middle tree God also said, “in the day you eat of it, you shall surely die,” literally: “dying you will die!” that is, there would be no doubt about it (Genesis 2:17).
Death is separation. Spiritual death is separation of the soul from God, losing peace with God. Adam and Eve died spiritually immediately after they sinned. They became afraid of God. Temporal death is the separation of body and soul, the end of this life. God created Adam and Eve to live forever. Adam did live 930 years but then he died. The genealogy in Genesis chapter 5 is like a tolling funeral bell because after each name (with the exception of Enoch), follow the words, “…and he died.” Eternal death is the separation of both body and soul from God forever. That is the death that awaits every guilty sinner.
Of the three kinds of death, temporal death is the most visible. Everything on this earth dies. Paul uses this observable trait produced by the genetics of sin to support the truth that we have all inherited sin from Adam. “For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 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.” [v.13-14]
God gave Adam and Eve the express command not to eat the fruit of one tree and if they did they would die. Many years later, God gave specific written laws to Moses and the Children of Israel with the consequence of death if they disobeyed. In the years between Adam and Moses there was no detailed express law from God. What was right and wrong, what pleased God and what displeased Him, was the same then as it is now and as it always has been and always will be. The people had that general knowledge of God’s law but there was no express command or detailed law from God.
In a situation where there is no law there can be no identification of sin, no crime against a law. Paul says that in the time between Adam and Moses there was no detailed law so in that sense the specific sins that would show up later under the written law could not be identified and charged to anyone’s account. However, Paul points out that sin was still in the world and ruling there. The proof is that even in those years between Adam and Mount Sinai, sin was observable in the world through the visible never-ending chain of death.
There are still more visible traits. Simply look at the world, but even before you do that look at your own life. Do you find thoughts, words, and actions in your life that are not God-pleasing? No one on the earth can say “no” to that question and still be honest. We have evil thoughts, we find a world filled with adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts. We know what it is like to be covetous, discontent, greedy. We witness wickedness in what we say, think, and do, and in the world around us. We observe false witness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy. Who can entirely escape pride and foolishness? We can see these things and many more in ourselves and the world around us, and from where does all this wickedness come? From where comes unbelief, distrust, contempt hatred and for God, anger at God’s Words and ways? Jesus’ answer is, “…out of the heart” (cf: Matthew 15:15ff; Mark 7:15ff).
The sins we commit come from us. The words are ours. The actions are ours. The thoughts are ours. Oh yes, the Devil and others may tempt us into these sins, but we are the doers. Those sins belong to us. And what is it within us that produces these sinful traits and characteristics? Our original sin, the inherited flaw.
That inherited flaw is like the root of a tree—underground and invisible to the human eye, but what grows out of that root is surely visible. The trunk of the tree is like the sin that is being acted out in our lives. These sins may be doing what God forbids or not doing what He commands. Yes, we can sin by doing nothing! “Therefore, to him who knows to do good, and does not do it, to him it is sin” (James 4:17). No matter on what branch sin grows, the end result is always the same: death.
An inherited sinfulness produces more sinfulness and every kind of sin brings God’s wrath and judgment of death upon the sinner. A sinner’s spiritual genetics are depressing and frightening to say the least. If this is where our spiritual genetics stopped, why would we want to continue living on this earth? Why would we ever bring someone else into this misery of deadly existence? Judas thought this is where his spiritual genetics stopped so out of despair he killed himself. Some who are focused on this life and can’t see beyond this world, make it a point to not bring children into this wicked misery because they can see no hope and believe it is an existence that only ends in death. But is this where it ends? Are these genetics of death all there is? By no means! Yes, the perfection of creation is utterly corrupted by sin. Yes, we do inherit that corruption and add to it by our own disobedience, but God has provided a transforming alteration.
The words of our text are actually the “closing arguments” for a whole section of Paul’s letter. In the words just before our text, Paul gives a glorious message of hope and life. He wrote, “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly… But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.” (Romans 5:6,8-9).
Sin entered the world and we inherited it, but here is our joy: The first day of sin is also the first day of God’s promise to send a Savior from that sin. For us who have an inherited flaw in our spiritual genetics, this is good news! Jesus came to live and then die for sinners such as you and me. He DIED. Death is the consequence for sin. Jesus had no sin. Jesus took our death, our sins’ consequence, upon Himself in our place. Jesus has wiped out the guilt of our sin by His death on the cross so that now our inherited flaw does not damn us to eternity in Hell.
Paul called Adam a type of Christ. Adam and Christ share one similarity, namely, that each one’s action affected all of mankind. However, that is where the similarity ends because the effects of their actions are complete opposites. “But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many. And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned. For the judgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation, but the free gift which came from many offenses resulted in justification. 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.)Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.” [v.15-19] Jesus gives life as a free gift of undeserved love even in the midst of all of our sins. The guilt of our sins—both the original sin and the sin we commit—is completely forgiven by the grace of God in the work of Christ Jesus.
The original sin that we inherited from Adam still sticks with us even though we are forgiven sinners. Noah and his family were all believers, God tells us so. Their sins were forgiven through their faith in the coming Savior. After God destroyed the earth and all of the wicked people who lived on it, only those 8 believers, forgiven sinners, came out of the ark. Still, we soon hear of sinful acts even after the flood. Why? Noah and his family were believers, but they still carried their original sin and that produced sin in their lives.
We will have our corruption and flaw until the day we die. We drown that Old Adam with daily sorrow for our sins and by returning time and time again to the cross of Christ to receive forgiveness, trusting that He does forgive. It is a life-long battle between the Spirit-created new man who wants to please God and the inherited Old Adam who delights in sin. Remember, however, that sinfulness came in from the outside and was not part of God’s original creation. Sin has completely corrupted what was created perfect but Christ has restored it. When our Savior comes again, He will raise everyone back to life, but for all who have washed their robes in His blood He will remove the corruption and leave only the perfect behind. We will be raised once again to perfection in glorified bodies for eternity.
In today’s text, the apostle Paul goes back and forth several times between what we have inherited from Adam and what we have been given through Jesus in order to show us the depth of God’s love in Christ. We who are born in sin and completely corrupt are now God’s beloved children. That is amazing! That is God’s love for you. We who are born in sin and completely corrupt owe our life and hope to Christ.
This is why, as our Lutheran Confessions say, if the truth about original sin is lost or denied then we have robbed Christ of His glory. If we have not inherited sin and are not condemned by it, then we have no need of Christ, no need for a Savior. That would make everything He did pointless and would leave Him just another fool. If we are not born sinners then we have a way of escape in ourselves and that leaves room to glorify us, the creature, instead of God our Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier.
A mark of the truth is that it always glorifies God and never glorifies the sinner. When we understand original sin and our spiritual genetics as revealed in the truth of God’s Word, we are going to be fully aware that there is no cause for glory in ourselves; but we will see every reason under Heaven to give full glory to God. Through our Savior, Jesus Christ, we leave a sinner’s spiritual genetics behind and rejoice in the free gift of salvation! Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.