Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Sunday, March 9, 2014
One for One - March 9, 2014 - First Sunday in Lent - Text: Romans 5:12-19
Today is the first Sunday in Lent. Today, this Sunday, we begin our trek to the cross and during our trek to the cross we are reminded of our part in putting Jesus on the cross. Yes, it was because of our sins, your sins and mine, our sins of thought, word and deed, our sins of omission, not doing what we are supposed to be doing and our sins of commission, doing what we should not be doing, it was because of our sins that Jesus had to go to the cross.
Today is one of those somewhat rare occasions when all our readings for the day very easily interrelate with one another. We understand that the context of the day is the fall into sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and the temptation of Jesus, also in the wilderness. The Old Testament reading shows the original temptation, the first temptation of the devil who tempted Eve and Adam in the Garden of Eden. It was this temptation and the falling into sin of Eve and Adam that brought sin into the world and the need for a Savior.
In the Gospel reading we see Jesus as our Savior. We see Jesus as He came, not only to suffer and die for us, but also to live for us. This Gospel reading shows Jesus our Savior taking our place in temptation, except that Jesus does not fall but overcomes the devil and his temptations. Jesus wants us to know that He can and will help us when we are faced with the temptations of this world and as He has overcome, so He can and will help us to overcome.
Our text is the Epistle lesson in which Paul is writing to the Christians in Rome and to us here at St. Matthew Lutheran Church of Westfield. Paul reminds us that sin came into the world through one man. Although, as we read in the Old Testament reading, it was Eve who sinned first and then gave to Adam to sin with her, it was Adam who was responsible for the two of them in the Garden and so it was the sin of Adam which brought sin and death into what was a perfect world. This sin of Eve and Adam brought sin into the whole world, because their sin was passed on from generation to generation and continues to be passed on. We call this original sin and this sin infects all of creation, that is, the Lord cursed the very ground on which Adam and Eve were standing and depending and the punishment includes all of humanity. Because God had put Adam in charge as His first creation, He held Adam accountable. Next Paul tell us how Adam, who was accountable for our inborn sin, was a type of the Savior to come.
Paul tells us that there was sin in the world even before the law was given. We might ask, “How can this be that there was sin in the world before the Commandments were given?” God had written His law on the hearts of Adam and Eve. They knew what was right, and that is all they knew, only what was right, remember the fruit of the tree of which they ate was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They only knew what was good, what was right and yet they gave up what was good and right, falling for the lies of Satan, the lies that they could be come like God, the lies concerning what God really said. Interestingly enough, we continue to fall for the same lies as Adam and Eve did in our world today. How often are we tempted to think we can be like God, or we try to be our own God by doing things our way, making our own decisions and the like. How often do we question or at least hear questioned whether or not God spoke about certain sins? Just as we see sin operating in our world today, even so, before the written law was given, there was sin and there was death which showed that there was sin in the world.
Just as sin came into the world through one man, so Paul goes on to tell us that justification came into the world through one man. Justification is that word which we define as reminding us that we are seen before God “just as if I’d never sinned.” To be justified is to be made right and just and holy in God’s eyes. Through one man sin entered the world, so justification entered the world through the one man Jesus who was born perfect, holy, sinless.
Jesus was born as the embodiment of Israel, that means that Jesus was born to do what all of humanity could not do. Jesus was born to live perfectly, holy, sinlessly, for us in our place. Jesus was born to do what Adam and Eve could not do. Jesus was born to do what the whole nation of Israel could not do. Jesus was born to do what we cannot do. In the Old Testament reading we saw Adam and Eve fail, miserably. In the Gospel reading we see Jesus triumph, gloriously, defeating Satan and temptation and we see Him do this for us, in our place, because we cannot.
Because Jesus was born without sin and because He lived perfectly and never sinned, so He was able to take our sins upon Himself and then, having our sins upon Himself, God held Him accountable for our sins. The punishment which was not fully given out in the Garden of Eden was inflicted on Jesus. Yes, there was physical death from the moment of the first sin in the Garden of Eden Adam and Eve began to die a physical death, but the eternal, spiritual death penalty was not given until it was given in Jesus.
So, Adam is an opposite of Jesus. Through the one man Adam, sin entered the world and with sin came death, physical death and worse, apart from faith in Jesus, eternal spiritual death. But through the one man Jesus forgiveness entered the world and with forgiveness came life, even eternal life in heaven with Him. So we see that the free gift of grace is greater than the sin of man.
What Does this Mean? This means that it is a fact that we are conceived and born in sin. The sin of our first parents has been passed down to us. The premise of Paul Meier’s book A Skeleton in God’s Closet is that archeologist thought they found the bones of Christ, and what would that mean? I suggested that someone write a book with the plot being that scientist believed they found the original sin gene and what would that mean? But as I make such a suggestion I want to make sure that you know that I believe that could never happen because I do not believe that there is one gene that is the original sin gene, rather original sin permeates and affects all the genes and we see this as the sin of Adam and Eve has so corrupted the very fibers of our world that as Paul says elsewhere, the whole of creation is groaning for the last days when it too will be relieved of the pains of sin. Yes, we are conceived and born in sin and we daily sin much adding to our sinfulness and our need for forgiveness. We sin in thought, word and deed. We sin sins of commission, not doing what we are supposed to be doing and more often, I believe, because we know what we should not being doing, so more often we sin sins of omission, that is we actually sin by not doing what we should be doing. And so, we cannot save ourselves. As a matter of fact, left to ourselves we would be eternally condemned.
Thanks be to God that he provided the solution. God provided the solution in His Son, Jesus. Jesus was God and still is. Before He came down to earth, He was in heaven enjoying all the glory that was His and yet, He gave that up in order to take on Himself human flesh and blood. He was born the way we are born, of a human mother. He was not born of rich parents, but humbly and lowly, with His first bed being a manger, a feeding trough for animals. He was circumcised and later as an adult He was baptized. All the things He did He did for us, so that He might be our substitute.
Jesus was true God and He had to be true God so that He could be perfect, holy and sinless. He was “conceived by the Holy Spirit,” as we confess in the creed, so that He is truly God. He was true God and He was true man. He had to be truly human in order to be our substitute. Only as a man could He suffer the punishment inflicted on man. As a man, Jesus did what we were unable to do. He lived perfectly for us in our place. He fulfilled all God’s laws perfectly. He fulfilled all the prophecies, all the promises of God for us, perfectly.
The price for sin was set in the Garden of Eden. God created Adam and Eve and told them that the day they ate of the fruit of the tree of Knowledge of good and evil they would surely die, that is they would begin dying a physical death, but also, apart from Jesus they would die an eternal, spiritual death. The consequences of their actions was that sin and death entered the world. All things were now subject to death. Paul reminds us earlier in this same letter that the wages, that is the price, what sin earns is death, eternal, spiritual death. The price for sin had to be paid and Jesus came to pay the price and He did pay the price, all of the price, once and for all.
Jesus’ life and death was for all people, that is what we call universal atonement, it was for the universe. However, even though Jesus’ life and death brings universal atonement, this atonement needs individual application or what we call vicarious atonement, that means that it must also be for me. And yes, this vicarious atonement is for me and for you. The only exception is this that anyone may refuse this gift of vicarious atonement, that is anyone may refuse the gift of forgiveness, life and salvation and one does this, refuses the gifts by not believing and not confessing.
How fitting to begin the Lenten season by being reminded of the reason we have Lent, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter morning. Certainly we know and believe that God created the world, perfectly in six days, but we also understand that because of the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, their sin has infected and permeated the whole of creation. At the same time we are reminded that God promised to take care of the sin of Adam and Eve, the sin that separated God’s creation, His creatures, we humans from a right relationship with Him. His promise and solution was to send His Son, whose birth we recently celebrated at Christmas, to do what our first parents and we are unable to do. How fitting even more that we see Jesus doing what we and our first parents were unable to do in our Gospel reading as Jesus overcomes the temptations of the devil. And finally, here in our text, Paul writes putting these two events into perspective for us, just as through Adam sin entered the world, so through Jesus justification and righteousness enter the world. Thanks be to God that He has given us faith through His Word and Sacraments, that He continues to strengthen us in faith and keep us in faith until He comes again. And thanks be to God that His righteousness far exceeds our sin. To Him be the glory for Jesus’ sake. Amen.