For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die-- 8 but 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. 10 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. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men[e] because all sinned-- 13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 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.
15 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.
Trinity 2/Pentecost 3
Pastor James Preus
Trinity Lutheran Church, Ottumwa and Faith Lutheran Church, Mount Pleasant
June 17 and 18, 2023
At the beginning of Romans chapter 5, St. Paul writes, “Through [our Lord Jesus Christ] we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand…” So, by faith we obtain access to God’s grace. But what is God’s grace? Many define God’s grace as God’s help. We are weak, so God helps us with his grace to make us strong. And there are examples in Scripture of grace being used in that way. However, when it comes to us being justified, reconciled to God, and saved, grace is not mere help. Grace is much more than help. Grace is God’s undeserved love for us. Grace is everything. Grace is God raising the dead, changing the sinner’s heart, converting His enemy!
“For while we were still weak at the right time Christ died for the ungodly…God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” This is God’s grace in action. While we are ungodly, Christ dies for us. While we are sinners and want nothing to do with God, God sends His Son to pay for our sins. While we are His enemies, He makes restitution for our sins, so that we may be reconciled to Him. This isn’t we do our part and God does His. This isn’t God seeing that there is some good in us, so He gives us a nudge in the right direction. No, we were God’s enemies, and God sent His Son to die for us. We were in debt to God and merited eternal damnation, and God paid our debt. He didn’t owe us anything, but He gave us everything. That is God’s grace.
This definition of grace tears down the proud and exalts the lowly. If you think you deserve to go to heaven, this definition of grace will cast you down to hell. If you think that you don’t deserve to go to hell or that God should let you into heaven because of your own goodness, this definition of grace will humble you. Yet, if you recognize that your sins put you at enmity with God, that you have followed the ruler of this world by your sins, and that you deserve to go to hell, then this definition of grace raises you from the depths of woe, and sets you in the heavenly places. God did not send His Son to die for you, because you deserve to go to heaven. He didn’t make peace with you, because you were willing to make peace with Him. God made peace with you when you hated Him. If you are the worst sinner on this planet earth, God sent His Son to die for you.
This brings us to our next point about God’s grace. First, we learned that God’s grace is undeserved. Second, we learn that God’s grace is universal. This means that God’s grace is for everyone. This is significant, because everyone needs God’s grace. If God does not rescue you entirely from your sins, then you cannot be saved. And there is no human being, except Jesus Christ alone, who does not need to be rescued by God.
St. Paul teaches this point by showing that Adam is a type of Christ. A type is a figure, which foreshadows a figure to come. Paul calls Adam a type, meaning Christ is the Antitype. There are plenty of examples of types and antitypes in Scripture. St. Peter tells us that Baptism is an antitype of Noah’s flood, making the flood a type of Baptism (1 Peter 3:21). Just as the flood washed away all wickedness, yet Noah’s family was saved through the ark to receive a new life, so Baptism washes away all sin and grants you new life. Moses is said to be a type of Christ, because like Christ, he led God’s people Israel, baptized them, taught them God’s Word, and even fed them miraculously. David too is a type of Christ, as he slays Goliath, a figure of Satan, and leads the people of Israel as their king. And there are many other types of Christ in Scripture. All these types of Christ of course were flawed. They were sinners, who ultimately failed to grant God’s people the salvation they needed. Yet, none of them failed as catastrophically as Adam! So, why is Adam included as a type of Christ?
It is exactly because of the magnitude of his failure that Adam is a type of Christ. Paul points out that Adam is very dissimilar from Christ in the result of his action. Adam’s disobedience led to sin, death, and condemnation for all mankind, while Jesus’ obedience led to righteousness and life for all mankind. And here is why Adam is a type of Christ, because as Adam’s action affected the entire human race universally, so does Christ’s action affect the entire human race universally.
Through Adam all are made sinners, and so, all die. Through Adam, all become disobedient and merit condemnation. Adam is the father of us all. And through Adam, every one of us has inherited original sin. Original sin is the inborn desire to sin. We sin, because we are sinners. We are born without original righteousness, without fear, love, and trust in God. That is our inheritance as Adam’s children. Only Christ, the Virgin-born, was born free of original sin.
Yet, Jesus was born a human. Although He did not inherit Adam’s original sin as we did, He does share in our human flesh and blood. As Adam is the father of us all, so Christ Jesus is the brother of us all. He is the Second Adam.
Adam’s effect on the human race is total. Every human being born of natural conception is conceived and born in sin. Every human is born an enemy of God. Every human is born with the innate desire to sin against God. And so, every child of Adam has merited eternal condemnation. Jesus’ effect on the human race is total. The sins of every human being have been washed away in Jesus’ blood. Every human being has been reconciled to God. Every human being has been declared righteous by God.
St. Paul cannot get any clearer. He writes in verse 18, “Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.” To be justified means to be declared righteous. To be justified means that you are in a right relationship with God. Justification is the same as reconciliation. Reconciliation is the act of making an enemy into a friend. God reconciled the world to Himself by sending His Son Jesus Christ to die for our sins, so that we may be forgiven. Whom did He reconcile to God? Everyone. St. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5, “In Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.”
This is the message of the Gospel. God has reconciled the world to Himself. He has forgiven the sins of the whole world. He has made atonement for every sin. As Adam plunged the entire human race into sin, death, and condemnation, so God has justified every human being through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
So, we have learned that God’s grace is undeserved. Christ died for us while we were God’s enemies. We have learned that God’s grace is universal. There is no one for whom Jesus did not die and reconcile to God the Father. Yet, God’s grace is not absolute. What this means is, not everyone is saved. Although Christ has won reconciliation between God and man for all people, has washed away their sins in His blood, and indeed has justified every man, woman, and child, yet not everyone is ultimately saved. Because this justification and reconciliation must be received through faith.
The first words of this chapter of Romans are, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God. through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace.” Faith is believing and trusting that God is reconciled to you for the sake of Jesus Christ. If you do not have this faith, you cannot receive this reconciliation. If faith does not receive it, then you lose it.
People often equate justification and salvation, and for good reason. If you are justified, then you will be saved. Yet, you will be saved is in the future. Yes, even St. Paul will speak of salvation as in the completed past tense, “For by grace you have been saved through faith.” (Ephesians 2:8) Paul speaks as if salvation is a completed task. And in a way we should think so. You should not doubt your salvation. If you have faith in Christ Jesus, you should have confidence that you will inherit salvation. St. Paul writes, “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by Him from the wrath of God.” He writes, “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.” Yet again, that is in the future, isn’t it? When you are saved, you no longer sin. When you are saved, you no longer suffer and die! When you are saved, you live in paradise, no longer in danger of the devil and his attacks!
And so, while we should be absolutely confident in our salvation through Jesus Christ, we should remember that we have not yet obtained that salvation. We still must travel through this valley of the shadow of death. And so, we must continue to live by faith in Christ, repenting of our sins and trusting that God is reconciled with us now, that we are justified before God now, so that through trial and hardship, we may finally obtain our promised salvation. St. Paul again writes in this chapter, “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
And so, the Holy Spirit must continue to pour God’s love into our hearts, so that we may maintain this saving faith and so obtain the salvation promised to us by grace. Yet, how does the Holy Spirit accomplish that? Through the proclamation of the Gospel. In our Gospel lesson, Jesus sends out His disciples to proclaim the Gospel. If people don’t hear the Gospel, they cannot be brought to faith. If they are not brought to faith, then they lose God’s reconciliation and justification, and with that their salvation. Yet, this faith is not just given to us once and done. We need to maintain this faith by continuing to hear and learn God’s Word. Our old sinful Adam will not let us hang onto this faith without a fight. Satan will oppose it until we obtain our salvation. This world wants you to lose this faith. So, Christ has designed for you to hear the Gospel often, to sustain you on the way.
Recently, all three “Jeopardy!” contestants were stumped by the following statement. “Our Father, Which art in heaven, this be Thy name.” None of them even ventured a guess. They had plenty of knowledge between those ears, but not the knowledge needed most. We need to hear the message that God is reconciled to us through Christ Jesus. And we need to continue to hear this message, until we finally receive our long-promised salvation. May God keep us faithful to His promise until we receive this salvation. Amen.