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Just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned - for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man's trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one man's sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. If, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (ESV)








God Says So

Monday of Lent 3

24 March 2014

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then fallen Adam is the most sincerely flattered person in human history. Yet, if Adam's influence on the world is only by emulation or imitation, then his fall shouldn't be much of a problem. Malignant influences can certainly be avoided, even one so often imitated as old Adam. Adam's influence is far more than mere imitation, and thus far more pernicious. The fall has become our common heritage not just through imitation, but through inheritance and imputation. The inheritance of Adam is sin, depravity, lack of proper fear of God or trust in God, and finally the end stop of death. Adam attempted to remake himself in the divine image, even though it was already his as a gift. Imagine the unbelief in the one who abandons the true divine image to make up one of his own. It would be like trading a new Mercedes for a broken down old Honda. We fail to see how deep the fall was because we don't know any longer what the image of God could possibly be like. And while we are unable to say exactly how the inheritance of sin and death is passed on to posterity, it remains our inheritance. Death is a pretty clear outcome of the fall; try though we might to deny it. We are born dead and into death. Our ignorance of how posterity is burdened by death does not make death any less certain. "Sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned' (Rm 5:12). Death is our common inheritance through the sin of the one man. God says so.


The divine Word also attributes the outcomes of the fall to all humans through imputation, not just inheritance. God has accounted all under sin (Rm 5). He does this to seal human fate under the law with its burden of death. Our heavenly Father understands how clear He must make the unbridgeable depravity of humans to those whom He desperately desires to redeem out of their sin and its attendant mortality. We would not know our need, except that the Lord delivers to us the bad news of our desperate fall and that He declares us to be fallen creatures. We would not fully recognize our fallen state had God not declared it to us in the divine Word.


Apart from a clear sense of the rescue worked by the true image of the Father, who is Christ our Lord, we would desire to rebel against the verdict of God against our sin. Many people do live in rebellion against the reality of death through their demonic carelessness, "Born to be wild." We would not rebel against death if we lived in the life of true image of God restored in Christ our Lord. This is why only those who believe in Him are freed from their fear of death and the grave. When my Lord declares me depraved and fallen because of Adam, by faith I can say, "Yes, amen. Lord, You are just when You judge and right when You speak (Rm 3:4). I fear not Your judgment because I know that You also have counted me right in Christ my Lord, who died for me that I might never die" (Rm 5:18-19).


Apart from this verdict of vindication in Christ we struggle mightily against the verdict of depravity. The ancient Pelagians hated the doctrine of original depravity, because it denied the possibility of self-vindication through obedience to the law. Augustine perceptively recognized the connection between the teaching that man was fallen in nature and the gospel grace in Christ the Lord. Ethical heroism had no place where man was fallen. There could only be humble reception of the divine gifts. Those who are fallen need to be set right. He also saw that all persons, infants and old people, men and women, all fall equally under the divine verdict, and so all are eligible for the divine grace in Christ. The Pelagians struggled to reinterpret the teaching of Paul so as to stamp out the reality of the inherited depravity after the fall. Augustine specifically accused them of misinterpreting 'sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned' (Rm 5:12). He pointed out that they would have rejected out of hand this opinion if it had been expressed by any other speaker beside the divinely-called apostle to the Gentiles. Now they had no choice but to contort it. The Pelagians may have failed to convince Augustine, but they have convinced many modern adherents.


Augustine of Hippo


"Those imitate Adam who by disobedience transgress the commandment of God. However, Adam is one thing as an example to those who sin because they choose; and another thing as the progenitor of all who are born with sin. All His saints imitate Christ in the pursuit of righteousness; therefore, the same apostle whom we have already quoted, says: 'Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ' (1Co 11:1). But beside this imitation, His grace works within us our illumination and justification, by that operation concerning which this same preacher, Paul, says: 'Neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth' (1Co 3:7). For by this grace He grafts into His body even baptized infants, who certainly have not yet become able to imitate anyone. Therefore, just as He, in whom all are made alive, beside offering Himself as an example of righteousness to those who imitate Him, also gives to those who believe in Him the hidden grace of His Spirit, which He secretly infuses even into infants; so likewise Adam, in whom all die, beside being an example for imitation to those who willfully transgress the commandment of the Lord, depraved also in his own person all who come of his stock by the hidden corruption of his own fleshly concupiscence. It is entirely on this account, and for no other reason, that the apostle says: 'sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned' (Rm 5:12). Now if I would say this, they would raise an objection, and loudly insist that I was incorrect both in expression and sense; for they would perceive no sense in these words when spoken by an ordinary man, except that sense which they refuse to see in the apostle. Since, however, these are the words of Paul to whose authority and doctrine they submit, they charge us with slowness of understanding, while they endeavor to twist into some unintelligible sense words which were written in a clear and obvious meaning. He says, 'Sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin.' This indicates propagation, not imitation. For if imitation were meant, he would have said, 'By the devil.' But as no one doubts, he refers to that first man who is called Adam. And so he says, 'death spread to all men.'"


Augustine, On the Merits and Forgiveness of Sins and Baptism of Infants, 1.10



Lord God, You have counted the whole world to be sinful and depraved so as to make more beautiful our salvation and vindication in Christ our Lord. Grant that we might fully believe this and proclaim it without apology in the world. Amen.


For Larry Smith, who is undergoing a heart catheterization, that health professionals might see to his needs and that he would receive the gift of healing


For President Barack Obama, that he might be upheld in his work and office as a servant of the people and a defender of their constitutional rights


For clement weather, that we might enjoy the fruits of the earth from the hand of our gracious God


For Pastor Charles St-Onge and family, that their work in Asia would be successful

Art: GR�NEWALD, Matthias Isenheim Altarpiece (1515)

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