1st Sunday in Lent
Mar 9, 2014
The Two Adams
So often we say death is a natural part of life. In a sense it is because everyone dies. Some people are taken from us sooner than we’d wish. Some are simply ready. Yet, death is something that haunts us. It is the fear of the unknown. Why does it cause so much pain? It seems so natural but why does it seem so unnatural. That can’t be the way that life was supposed to work. We look at death and it’s hard to say that it is normal. There is something completely wrong with this picture. Why do people die, whether young or old? Of course, we make up excuses as to the cause for our death rate. Well, I’ve heard that we are dying because of all the plastics we are using. Or it must be the microwaves cooking our food. There must be something to that. Maybe it’s our cellphones and the radiation caused by them. Or maybe it’s all the processed foods that we eat. But why then are the extreme health conscious people still dying? Why do the cars with the highest safety standards still crash and kill people? Why is it that as soon as a child is born, that child begins the process of dying? Death isn’t normal! Paul was getting at that point in our lesson. It wasn’t supposed to be this way.
You can understand then why people throughout history have always tried to reverse that process of dying. It’s scary and an inescapable fate. Maybe you have heard of the legends of the Fountain of Youth. People supposedly would search high and low for this fountain of youth so that they would never experience the pain of death. Or maybe you remember the ever trustworthy historical source of Indiana Jones. Indiana Jones searches for the Holy Grail that could keep a person from dying. He discovers it, and gives it to his father, which is my theory as to why Sean Connery is still an awesome actor. You can’t help but think, what is it like to live forever?
There was a time when people didn’t die, well at least not yet. We go back to the garden of Eden. Adam and Eve lived perfectly in the garden. They had no sin. Death didn’t lurk around every corner. Death wasn’t haunting every thought of theirs. Their lives weren’t a perpetual avoidance of everything that would lead to death quicker, like we do in our lives. Death wasn’t even on their minds. Their minds were only fully devoted to serving and praising God. They were perfect.
But as we saw in our Genesis lesson, Adam was tested. Satan came to Adam and Eve and convinced them that what they had wasn’t enough. That little question, “did God really say?” messed with their mind. With that little question, Adam was tested and he failed. Oh did he fail! He brought sin and death to every single person of all time. None of us had even been born, but somehow, Paul describes to us that death went through to all of us. In some fatal way, all the unborn people sinned through Adam and through his one sin. God had promised them that if they ate of the tree, they would die. Right there in the garden, sin and death reached all people. Death is the direct result of sin, not plastics or microwaves. When holiness and life left the garden of Eden, sin and death filled in that vacuum.
Sin and death are what separate us from a perfect and holy God. His law demands that all people be perfect and holy. With that, Paul brings up an interesting point because he was predicting this question: Well, what about when there was no law? What about all the people before Moses and before he had received the ten commandments from the Lord on Mount Sinai?
Between Adam and Moses, there was no formal law from God for all people. Our logical thought process would take us to, if there’s no law, then there can’t be any sin! Right? However, Paul points out that there was still the evidence of sin: people were dying. Sin was in the world. All kinds of sin. The absence of law made no difference whatsoever. Sin was here and was here to stay. In other words, the presence of the law shows the seriousness of sin and it charges sin as sin. The fact that people didn’t have a specific law command that Adam had, in no way prevented them from sinning. But death still reigns through sin, whether some law-code does this charging up or not. That inherited sin that had been passed down from Adam to every other person, was at work.
I think sometimes, we secretly wish that we didn’t have God’s law written down before us. It would probably appease our sinful nature. We wouldn’t feel as bad when we sin. We would be free to do whatever we want whenever we want. You can just hear Satan inquiring of us with those same words that he used with Adam and Eve. Did God really say that? Did God really say that you would be punished for the sin that you’re doing right now? Go ahead! Just do it! What’s the harm?
Satan is always attacking. He is dangerous and he is lethal. Satan is out for blood. He could care less about your feelings or your social status. He wants to take you down. We always forget about the implication of the sin. And sometimes we try to justify our sins by deeming them as trivial: We call little lies white lies, because there is supposedly no harm in a white lie. Or we think that we were only looking for 5 seconds at an inappropriate website, what’s the harm? It was just a quick look! Or maybe we continue to hold on to a grudge because a person wronged us, even when they are repentant. Our sin is lethal and God had in mind eternal consequences because of our sin.
Adam’s sin set our world on a path for destruction. However, Paul speaks of another Adam that would come. God in his ultimate love and mercy never let his people down. Still in the garden, God speaks to Adam and to his people. Genesis 3:15 seems to be the only verse in the account of the fall which holds out any hope for us and for his fallen world. God never broke that promise that he made in Genesis.
Jesus Christ is that second Adam. He had to be a second Adam in order to save those drowning from sin and death by the first Adam. That is us and all sinners. The effects of Adam were catastrophic, cataclysmal, and calamitous! But the effects of Christ were so much more! The difference that Paul makes is in the terms he used. Christ did far more to restore than to destroy. Unlike the the first Adam, Christ did not fail when Satan tempted him. Our Gospel lesson shows how Jesus fought as the champion of mankind by walking to the cross in obedience to his Father’s plan. Satan would have had his way with us, but not with our champion! Jesus won this and every battle with the devil.
Through Christ, we get the complete opposite verdict of what we deserve. You know, a lot of times, we selfishly say that God isn’t fair. Something happens to us, be it sickness or financial difficulty, and we shout out that life isn’t fair! When it comes to our spiritual condition, we don’t want God to be fair! If he were to be fair, he would line up every single sin of thought, word, and deed before you and say, away from me, you who are cursed. Thank God that he gave us the verdict that we didn’t deserve, through Jesus. A mere man’s grace would have amounted to nothing. But the grace of the one man who is the Son of God, that was the duplicate of God’s own grace. He brought about the world’s justification. Christ won for Adam and for all of us life everlasting.
But Paul makes the point to say that not all will inherit eternal life. That would be the idea of universalism, that all people are saved whether hindu or catholic or muslim or Christian. No, he doesn’t say that all will inherit eternal life. Rather, Paul clearly points out that our salvation comes through Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ alone. Salvation is for all people, but only the believers in Christ will have the benefit of receiving that glory. The world of sinners did nothing to bring about this change. They have not changed themselves to become holy. It is only through Christ that God looks at sinners as if they were holy. Christ brought us life. He gave us the comfort that the death which we face every day is not the end. In Christ, we have the hope and the sure confidence that we won’t just become worm food in the ground when we die. He gives us the confidence that we won’t face eternal death. Rather, we have the confidence that we will spend the rest of our days praising God and serving him.
Paul placed these two Adams side by side and compared them. The first Adam grasped at equality with God, disobeyed, and brought guilt and death upon everyone. The second, as Paul says in Philippians, “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” Adam brought on death for the whole world. But through Christ’s death, we were given life. Let us simply marvel at the mercy and grace that God has given to us. Amen.
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.