God’s Christmas Gift: JESUS !
OBSERVATIONS AND INSIGHTS FROM ROMANS 5
Dr. James J. S. Johnson
As sinning humans, we need the gift of redemption in Christ — that’s what Christmas was, historically, all about — and that is why it is just as relevant and vital, today, for us all.
In Christ, as a free gift, we (human sinners) can be made right with God, by Him imputing to us the righteousness of Christ, if we believe His promise that Jesus is the Scripture-prophesied Messiah! That is the theme and doctrine of Paul’s epistle to the Romans. This good news, at least in a foreshadowed form, was “promised afore by [God’s] prophets in the holy Scriptures” (Romans 1:2), but now it is clearly presented to all the world (Galatians 1:6-12; Romans 1:16-17).
Romans chapter 5 describes how God has accomplished, in the completed redemptive work of the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 3:21-25; Romans 5:8 & 5:12-21; 2nd Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews chapter 10), what was needed in order for God to be able to justly justify the (otherwise) unjust children of Adam: we are now “made the righteousness of God” in Christ, because of Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice of Himself at Calvary!
In a sense, the 5th chapter of Romans is summed up in this one verse:
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift [charisma] of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
What wonderful news for Adam’s children! What good news for forgiven sinners! Eternal life is a gift – it is free! This fits the teaching of Romans chapter 4, that God imputes righteousness to believers. Righteousness is not earned by good behavior; rather, it is imputed graciously by God. And the basis of that imputation of God’s righteousness is Christ’s role and finished work as our Kinsman-Redeemer. That righteousness-imputing redemption was motivated by God’s love and it was accomplished by Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice of Himself for us, followed by His resurrection (Romans 5:8-11).
But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement. (Romans 5:8-11)
However, for this good news to be truly reliable, theologically (and logically), Paul’s explanation of Genesis chapter 3 must be reliable. That means that Genesis must be accepted as trustworthy information, because Paul trusted its history literally (as did Christ Himself – see John 5:45-47!).
Thus, the historicity of Adam (and of the Genesis account of his failure in Eden) is used, by Paul, to argue the efficaciousness of Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice of Himself for us, in order to provide us with redemption, propitiation, and reconciliation. This requires an analysis of how Adam’s first sin has impacted humanity (and the rest of creation), followed by an analysis of how Christ’s substitutionary death and resurrection has overruled that those impacts.
Death was alien to God’s “very good” creation, until Adam sinned. The trustworthiness of the holy Bible hangs upon the accuracy of this fact: There was no death before Adam sinned. To err about when and why death came to Earth is to err about the theological and historical foundation of the Gospel. The death of Christ, and therefore the Gospel of Christ, won’t make sense if death came to Earth any other way than by Adam’s sin in Eden. If death came first, the New Testament would be worse than unreliable—it would be irreparably wrong about salvation.
Although more could (and should) be said about how and why Adam’s sin triggered death, two major points will be reviewed here: (1) The Gospel of Christ depends on the truth of Adam’s sin triggering death on Earth; and (2) the reliability of the Bible depends upon the truth of Adam’s sin triggering death on Earth. Put bluntly, if death somehow came to earth apart from Adam’s sin, we cannot be confident that Hell is escapable. Those reasons guarantee that this topic is anything but trivial. The stakes are as high as can be.
“Very good” creations don’t “groan”. The original condition of God’s creation at the end of Day Six was “very good” (Genesis 1:31), displaying the perfection of providence. However, the earth is now fallen—the current condition of God’s creation is good (Acts 14:17) yet “groaning” (Romans 8:20-22). That groaning now includes the reign of sin and death over both humans and animals, a terrible situation that will one day be overcome (1st Corinthians 15:26 & 15:54-56; Revelation 21:4 & 22:3).
What caused this change? God did not leave us to guess the answer: Genesis 3 provides the history of that change; the New Testament (especially in Romans 5 and 8) provides the theology of that change. If we ignore God’s authoritative explanation in Genesis and Romans by relying on theistic evolutionist lies, we inexcusably err. Why? Because only the Bible’s teaching of the history and theology of human sin reveals the true etiology of death (Romans 5:12).
Death had a beginning; death is not eternal. In order to have the possibility of death, there must first be mortal life. Accordingly, death could never occur unless and until God created living creatures that were capable of dying. Genesis 1 and 2 describe and report how God created such creatures. At the end of Day 6, all was “very good” (Genesis 1:31)—which means that there could not be any death on earth at that time because death is not morally good (Romans 8:20-22; 1st Corinthians chapter 15). The Bible reports no animals dying before Adam sinned. (Notice that no nephesh-bearing animals were to be eaten by humans until after the Flood, according to Genesis 1:29-30 & 9:1-4.) In short, the Bible clearly reports that it was Adam’s sin that triggered the curse of death, in fulfillment of God’s warning:
Therefore, just as through one man [i.e., Adam] sin entered into 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.…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 by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous. Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, so that as sin hath reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:12-14, 17-21, emphasis added)
Death was unknown to Adam and Eve before Adam sinned. Adam had never seen death before. People on Earth today do not personally see Heaven and Hell, yet God teaches us – through His written Word — vital truths about the conditions and importance of eternity. When we are taught what we should believe about such things, our own faith in God’s Word is tested: Either we believe what God reveals to us about the unseen (e.g., heaven and hell), or we don’t. God is pleased to test our faith about such unseen things, just as God was pleased (6,000+ years ago) to use information about unseen realities to test Adam’s faith and loyalty. That kind of testing is the essence of faith (Hebrews 11:1-3).
Notice that, like Adam’s testing by God, God’s testing of our faith and our loyalty to Him (as our Creator) is always coupled with consequences—good consequences for good choices, bad consequences for bad choices.
Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to tend and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:15-17)
Adam, the first human to sin, quickly learned a lot about consequences—the consequences of his sin included a new thing, death (Romans 5:12; 6:23). The Bible teaches, quite clearly, that the paycheck that sin earns is called DEATH. (Of course, God had already foreseen and fore-planned a redemptive solution to that sin-and-death problem — see Genesis 3:15.)
Consider how God chose to test Adam’s faith and loyalty. The test was simple: Don’t eat from one specific tree in the Garden of Eden. God designed Adam’s test to have built-in consequences. Adam could make the choice, but Adam could not control the consequences that would flow from that choice. Why not? Because the consequences were built in to the alternative choice options: The good choice would produce a good result (life eternal); the bad choice would produce a bad result (death).
In effect, God designed the gun, including the trigger—but it was Adam who aimed the gun and pulled the trigger, thus starting the dying process (“you shall surely die”, in Genesis 2:17, could be rendered “dying, you will die”) that leads ultimately to death itself. The test was all part of God’s glorious plan for human history, and God foreknew what would happen. However, Adam’s choice was nonetheless a true test of Adam’s faith and loyalty, because Adam did not experientially know the outcome in advance.
Adam could have believed God to avoid the “death” that God warned of, but he chose otherwise. Only then did Adam experience the “dying” condition that God had warned him about. Dying began, as did thorns, pain in childbirth, and, in time, death itself.
But the dying was not limited to Adam! Because God had placed all of the life forms of the world under Adam’s authority (Genesis 1:26-31; Psalm 8), the world fell with Adam and was “cursed” with death (Genesis 3:17-19).
For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. (Romans 8:20-22)
Consequently, all of the world’s living creatures—both humans and animals—have been “groaning” under the curse of sin and death ever since, although eventually the time will come when Christ’s completely applied redemption will be applied to His believers (1st Corinthians chapter 15), and even to the earth itself to overcome the Edenic curse of death (Revelation 20:11; 21:1-5; 22:3).
Why does it matter?
The New Testament directly links sin’s cause and sin’s cure by tying the Gospel of salvation to Adam’s sin (compare Romans chapter 5 with 1st Corinthians chapter 15).
And, Christ’s vicarious payment of humanity’s total sin-debt is the redemptive solution to the otherwise-hopeless problem of sin and death — and is available to everyone, as John 3:16 teaches, who chooses to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as personal Savior!
Paul’s definition of the Gospel of Christ contextualizes the Gospel as being “according to the [Old Testament] scriptures” (1st Corinthians 15:3-4). The New Testament Gospel of Christ depends upon the Messianic prophecies of the Old Testament (e.g., Isaiah 53; Psalm 16; etc.) being true.
Indeed, the Old Testament is authoritatively relevant, true, and perfect—every “jot and tittle” (Matthew 5:18) of it. Christ Himself said that Moses would judge people after they die according to whether they believed the words of Moses (John 5:45-47). If the books of Moses, which include Genesis, were authoritatively good enough for the Lord Jesus (Matthew 24:35; John 17:17)—and they were—they are authoritatively good enough for us. And what we believe about death being the consequence of Adam’s sin in Eden is a test of our own love and loyalty to God Himself.
[ ><> JJSJ March 7th AD2015 ]