March 13, 2011: God’s History of the World in 262 Words

Let us pray: Dear Savior, when we look at Your passion, we see our sins, our failings, and our arrogant rebellion against You. We see what our inner evil has wrought: summarized in Your pain and death on the cross. Fix in our hearts a resolve to combat such inner evil with the antidote to it that works: Your grace which You have given to us by the wondrous gift of saving faith. Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE PURCHASE PRICE OF OUR SALVATION!

TEXT: Romans 5: 12-19

Dearly Beloved By Christ:

What’s the one city you would like to visit, the one you’ve dreamed about since you were just a wee one? Paris? Rome? Tokyo? St. Petersburg? Now, imagine planning your trip. But, this isn’t merely a sight-seeing excursion. No, you plan to turn that city and its inhabitants on their head! Even though you don’t know the language very well, or the customs of their culture, your goal is to get them to believe you when you outline to them a new and never-heard history of their society. Your goal is to give them a new and revolutionary history lesson that they have never heard. Well, that was St. Paul’s task when he wrote his startling letter to the Romans and by proxy, to us. Yes, before us today we have:

GOD’S HISTORY OF THE WORLD IN 262 WORDS

I

When Paul wrote his words in 56 A.D. Rome was the capital of the world. They were the only superpower. Their legions were unmatched in fighting prowess. Their bureaucracy was unmatched in their ability to conquer and subjugate any enemy. They were a proud and arrogant people. Roman citizens had special rights, world-wide, that no one else possessed. They truly believed they knew it all and to have some pitiful preacher from the provinces come and re-write their history was unthinkable. And yet that is exactly what St. Paul does under the amazing inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

So, how are you going to get such people to actually listen to what you are saying? You need a common contact point with them. You need to zero in on a universal truth that none of them can deny. That’s exactly what Paul does. He begins by focusing on the reality of death and the reason it afflicts us—personal evil in the form of sin.

“Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned—for before the law was given, sin was in the world.” He takes them back to the progenitor of the human race: Adam. We all came from one central human being. That man being Adam. And Adam’s history was failure. It was to elevate his will over God’s will. Thus, that act of disobedience to the Creator of all ushered in punishment and death to Adam. Note well, this all happened before the law, the 10 commandments, had been given and written down. Humans don’t need the 10 commandments to teach them right from wrong. Adam had such truths written into his heart by God. And those heart-truths were overwhelmed by his own arrogance and pride. Adam sinned and earthly and eternal death was the result. It had to be. God is perfect justice. For Him to let such direct disobedience pass by and do nothing about it would be for God to deny Himself. It would be as if God committed suicide. And then the universe would cease.

So, before Moses went up on Mt. Sinai to receive the two tablets of stone from God, sin was already in the world. Paul goes on: “But sin is not taken into account when there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come.”

Technically if I removed some dollars from the church collection plate after this sermon, I could say that I didn’t steal—if no one ever told me it was wrong. Well, that’s the basic argument some employed against the commandments. Because no one had spelled sin out to them, they pleaded: Not guilty! Wrong! They still possessed a conscience. Doing something out of ignorance doesn’t change one’s guilt. Just because you didn’t see the 55 mph speed limit won’t excuse you if you travel at 100 mph. Before God the Perfect Judge guilt is guilt. And the fact that all die proves all are guilty in His sight because Adam’s guilt has been passed down, transferred to every single soul. It corrupted his genes and by transference to our genes.

II

By now Paul has these learned Romans attention. They are guilty before God Almighty of violations to His holy will. Death, even their own deaths, prove that fact. So now Paul changes tacks as he outlines human history from God’s perspective.

“But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man (Adam who passed this rebellious proclivity down through his gene pool), how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!” What’s all this talk of a gift, a gift from God of underserved love? Why would the Judge of the universe give the guilty defendants before Him a gift of love? How could one man, Jesus Christ, change world history—remaking sinners into saints? And of course, the answer is: Jesus was God’s Son. When He assumed our flesh He assumed our sins and the death that goes with them. But as true God, His death was weighty enough to appease God’s anger against us, to wash away that anger, and to remake us into spotless humans. Christ the One Man won forgiveness for all men. He triumphed over death for all men. And all this is God’s gift of grace to people who did nothing to deserve it.

Paul goes on. “Again, the gift of God is not like the result of the one man’s sin: ‘the judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification.’ For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.”

Is Adam’s sin of greater consequence to God than God’s own loving heart? Is earthly death greater and of more consequence than the gift of eternal life purchased and won for us by God Himself, in the person of Jesus Christ? Obviously not!

“Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.”

We don’t much use that word justification in our modern world. Yet, it is the sweetest word in all human language. It encapsulates the entire history of the world. It means: God has declared human beings righteous, holy, forgiven, and guilt-free in and because of Jesus Christ. It means our death sentence was already paid for by Him. It means we’re at peace with the Lord of the universe. It means we have absolutely nothing to fear either in this life or the one to come. For if death is the worst thing we’ll ever face, we can laugh at death, because our death has already been paid for by God’s Son, and so now it is but a sleepy portal to the joys of eternal life. And all this is yours through simple, humble faith in Christ.

Well, you’ve just heard God’s History of the World in 262 words. You know Paul’s logic is impeccable. You know what he says is true and utterly amazing. So, are you going to reject it or believe it? Choose wisely, my friends. Amen