March 1, 2020 From Tragedy to Victory

From Tragedy to Victory

"The outline for this sermon, as well as portions thereof, is taken from the excellent message by Jeffrey Mercer entitled "The Attack on the Gospel Narrative" given at the Doctrine & Life Conference 2020."

Scripture reading: Romans 5:12-21.

 

This passage in Romans reveals the great and insurmountable plight that afflicts every person who has ever lived other than the Lord Jesus. Besides him there are no exceptions. Some are aware of at least the results of the tragedy in their own lives when they see their own sins. Others just meander through life, ignoring their own sins, and are even foolish enough to hardly give a thought to what awaits after death.

 

The apostle relates a narrative. It is the story of mankind. It is not the only story out there. Other stories have been made up. There is the story of evolution that attempts to explain man’s origin and man’s plight. There is the story of Hinduism that does the same thing, to name only two. There are many more that have been invented in order to make sense of the world.

 

You must know that there is no narrative that is told that is neutral. Each narrative, by necessity, says other stories are false. Therefore, other narratives (what we may call worldviews) attack the gospel narrative in their very telling.

 

Because all other stories of life are false, they leave those who believe them in their great and insurmountable plight. If a person dies believing the lies of the world then, according to the Lord Jesus and his apostles, their destiny is the lake of fire – an eternity separated from God and all good things.

 

The apostle Paul here reveals four truths that will set a person free if they have been captured by a false view of life. These same truths will stir a follower of Christ to love the Lord even more than they do. What are these four truths?

 

[1] The first truth is that tragedy afflicts the world and every person in the world. This tragedy is death.

 

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned[1]

 

Here, the apostle says that death, meaning physical death, spread to all men because of Adam’s sin. Adam sinned and death came to all of creation! That is how momentous the first sin was! We are all going to die, unless we happen to be alive when the Lord Jesus returns to the earth, and this death is tragic because we were meant to live forever in our physical bodies.

 

Before I became a Christian, when I was a teenager, I recall how the thought of dying filled me with dread. The very idea that I would cease to exist one day terrified me. I was an atheist in High School so that was my notion. My only hope was that, some day before I die, researchers would discover a means to extend life forever. It was a futile, desperate hope with no foundation. But it was all I had.

 

Physical death looms over every person and there is no escape from it, unless you belong to Christ.

 

However, physical death is not the only tragedy. The tragedy is more extensive than that. In chapter six Paul reveals that sin not only brings physical death but spiritual death, meaning separation from God for eternity.

 

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. [2]

 

See that Paul is contrasting death in this verse with eternal life. It is eternal death verses eternal life. Physical death is brought about by Adam’s sin. Eternal death is brought about by your sin.

 

You might say we have a double tragedy. There is physical death which no person can overcome. No amount of money, no amount of right eating or good exercise, will avoid death. And, because of our sins there is no escaping eternal death. There is no way to remove our sins. It is only through the sacrificial death of the Lord Jesus (5:6-8) and faith in Him that our sins can be done away. And, this is the second truth.

 

[2] Recovery of our lost righteousness is a gift from God. Our insurmountable and irreparable condition of sin and guilt can only be taken away by God and only through Christ. This is revealed in the verses just before our passage:

 

God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.[3]

 

The recovery of who we were meant to be is because God loves those who place their faith in Christ. He doesn’t love them because they place their faith in Christ. Rather, he loves some before the foundation of the world and, because he loves them, they put their faith in Christ.

 

Because Christ died for those God loves, they are justified. To be justified means to be declared right before a holy God. Not only justified but also reconciled.

 

For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.[4]

 

All people, in their natural and sinful condition, are enemies of God because God hates sin. But we were reconciled! This reconciliation is only through God’s Son. There is no other way.

 

In verse 15 Paul continues this theme.

 

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.[5]

 

Because of the Father’s love he grants favor – grace – to certain ones. The love brings grace and the grace brings a gift. What is the gift? It is something that we could never obtain on our own. It is righteousness. God gives us righteousness!

 

For 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. [6]

 

Notice that in both verses 15 and 17 Paul uses this phrase, “much more.” Whatever negative things that we received because of Adam – sin, guilt, the propensity to sin, physical death, spiritual death – we will receive much more of the positive things – grace, justification, the free gift of righteousness, even a reigning in life!

 

This is a recovery of life beyond all that we could hope for! There is going to be a resurrection for those who belong to Christ. How certain are you that you will die physically? Most of us would say, “pretty certain.” But, we can be more certain of our resurrection than we can be of our death! Our resurrection is more certain than our death! This is because not all will die. But all who do die in Christ will be resurrected as part of the “much more” promise! There are some, like Enoch and Elijah, who didn’t die but will be resurrected with a glorified body when Jesus returns!

 

[3] The third truth is one of identity. Every person has one of only two identities.

 

Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 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.[7]

 

Every person is either condemned or justified because of whether they are in Adam or in Christ. There is no in-between. No one can say, “I am not in either Adam or Christ. I am my own person.” That is what some would like to say because many are independently minded. But, according to divine revelation, that is not the way that God has established reality. Every person is either in Adam or in Christ.

 

The “all men” in verse 18 is not an all without exception, rather it is an all without distinction. That is, all kinds of men, whether Jew or Gentile. We know Paul does not mean all without exception here because not all men in that sense will be justified. Some will die in their sins (John 8:24) and go the judgment unjustified.

 

Every person you meet is either in Adam or in Christ. Every person dies either in Adam or in Christ. Every person dies either condemned or justified. In whom is your identity found?

 

[4] For those in Christ the final outcome is victory over sin and death.

 

Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. [8]

 

Before the apostle announces the victory he tells us that the law, which the Jews were relying upon to make them right with God, came in to increase sin. Not just the Jews. In the modern era you will meet people who are basing their hope of eternal life upon how well they live, morally speaking. If you ask them their hope they may tell you that they don’t steal, they don’t commit adultery, they don’t lie, etc. They actually think that God will accept them because they obey the law. Sadly, they fail to see that they neither obey it as well as they think (because God looks on the inside of a person) nor was God’s law ever intended to impart life.

 

Paul says that one of the purposes of the law was to increase the knowledge of sin (see also 7:7), even to increase sin itself. But, no matter how much sin increased, grace came in with even more abundance!

 

Grace came in a greater way than when sin came. For those who are in Christ, grace will reign over them, not sin. This is a marvelous thing! To be reigned over by God’s favor is simply to experience God’s favor in your life. It is a favor so extensive that death itself is overcome. It is a favor so extensive that God considers us to possess the righteousness of Christ himself! There is no better news. This is victory over both sin and death.

 

[5. Application & Conclusion] What are we to do with this knowledge?

 

You must consider whether you are in Adam or in Christ. Here is where some people get confused. Many think that, because they made a profession of faith at one time in their lives, they are in Christ. This is a great error because a profession of faith does not save. What saves a person is the reality of faith. And faith is not merely assenting to some facts about Jesus. I say this because this has become the common notion of faith in the modern era. Biblical faith is not just assenting to facts. (Although there are certain facts that one must believe in order to have saving faith.) Biblical faith is trusting in a Person and this trust is manifested as a commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ. You see, a person can profess faith in Christ but when they actually live their lives, who is their lord? Many who made a profession of faith, and even baptized, live according to their own desires and preferences – they are their own lord!

 

Unless Christ is your Lord in reality then you are not his.

 

Look at this well known gospel passage:

 

if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. [9]

 

What does Paul mean when he writes, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord?” Does he mean that if you simply say, “Jesus is Lord,” out loud then you are saved? He cannot mean that. Remember what our Lord said: “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21)

 

Paul means that when a person actually submits to the Lordship of Jesus Christ then they are saved. In other words, when a person says, “Jesus is Lord!” and means it. Their life will then manifest that Jesus is, indeed, their Lord.

 

I remember when I was in my early twenties and I went to a rock concert featuring Jefferson Airplane. They would later change their name to Jefferson Starship. The lead singer of that band was a woman by the name of Grace Slick. She had a good singing voice but was a godless rebel. I recall her talking between songs and in one interlude she started mocking Christians. She feigned being one, saying, “Jesus is Lord” out loud. Was she saved because she said those words? Of course not! And neither is anyone saved by saying those words today if there is no reality behind them.

 

First then, determine whether you are still in Adam or in Christ. If you suspect that you are still in Adam then the Lord calls you to come to Christ for salvation and to be identified with him. You can do this by surrendering your life to him right now. This is called repentance. You turn away from your sins and you commit to follow the Lord Jesus Christ – that is what it means to have him as your Lord. You also believe that he died for your sins, taking them away, and that he rose from the dead as a testimony to the truth of all these things.

 

I want to give an opportunity for someone to do that very thing. [allow time]

 

What if you determine that you are already in Christ? Then this knowledge should greatly encourage you.

 

  • You were in the most tragic of circumstances. You were dead in your trespasses and sins, following the course of this world (Eph 2:1). You were without God and without hope (Eph 2:12).
  • God recovered you because of his loving you from before the foundation of the world (Eph 1:4-5).
  • He identifies you with Christ.
  • He promises you the victory! Your resurrection is more certain than your death!

 

With these encouragements you can live the life that you were called to live. Live for your Lord more faithfully from this very hour! Is there a certain area of your life that you have not permitted the Lord to address so that you will listen? Let the love of God in Christ be your encouragement. Let the promised victory be your encouragement. Step up to higher ground!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ro 5:12). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ro 6:23). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ro 5:8–9). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ro 5:10). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ro 5:15). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ro 5:17). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[7] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ro 5:18–19). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[8] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ro 5:20–21). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[9] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ro 10:9–10). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.