Why Christmas? #1 = To Fix Adam's Error
Image by James Best, (C) 2020, https://www.behance.net/gallery/90621713/Sermon-Illustrations-2020
A website named Quorra asked the question, “What’s the worst thing anyone has ever done?” People gave various responses; one that stood out to me as being particularly evil was the verbal and physical abuse of Sylvia Likens by Gertrude Baniszewski in 1965. Time magazine called it “the most terrible crime committed in the state of Indiana.”
Gertrude had taken Slyvia and her sister into her care after her mother had been jailed for shoplifting. Sylvia lasted just three months before the abuse took her life.
I will spare you the gruesome details of Sylvia’s suffering. What makes this case particularly evil is not Gertrude’s abuse alone, but the way she enlisted her own children’s help in the abuse and also involved neighborhood children, none of whom told their parents about what was going on. What makes this worse is that two movies have been made about Sylvia’s mistreatment: people have profited from offering this child’s suffering as “entertainment.”
Gertrude Banizewski was convicted of Slyvia’s murder in 1966; she was sentenced to life in prison but served only 20 years before she was paroled. She died of lung cancer six years later at age 61.
As horrible as this story is, it is not the worst thing anyone has ever done. Even Judas did not commit the worst sin ever when he betrayed Jesus. No, as we shall see in this passage, the worst thing ever done was the sin of disobedience committed by our father Adam. He ate the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and thereby brought sin & death into God’s good creation.
Jesus became one of us to save all of us from death.
1. Adam made a deadly mistake. (12-14)
Sin brought death into the world. (12) This is an unfinished sentence (hence it ends in a dash). Did Paul assume the remainder would become obvious after reading this section?
SIN ENTERED INTO THE WORLD THROUGH ONE MAN, namely Adam. And as follows, DEATH THROUGH SIN. The Apostle Paul made plain the doctrine of sin in 3:23, ALL HAVE SINNED and in 6:23, THE WAGES OF SIN ARE DEATH. DEATH here includes physical death, but it also refers to eternal separation from God after Judgment Day, referred to in Revelation 20 as the SECOND DEATH.
The blame is not only Adam’s as ALL of us have SINNED; we are all guilty. We cannot blame Adam as if we are otherwise innocent bystanders. We have all committed sins for which each of us is personally responsible.
As a pious Jew would, Paul’s thoughts turned to the Law of Moses and what role it played as Adam’s sin predated the Law, which is the “official” definition of sin. In verses thirteen and fourteen Paul showed the Law was not a factor in Adam’s sin nor his condemnation. This fact does not relieve Adam’s guilt as he knowingly disobeyed God’s command, “Do not eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil,” which he received directly from God.
In his disobedience, Adam was a PATTERN OF THE ONE TO COME, who is Jesus Christ. That sounds strange; the connection between Adam and Jesus is this: just as Adam’s sin affected the entire human race, so has Jesus’ sacrifice made salvation available to all who receive it by faith. This passage is a set of comparisons between Adam and Jesus, just as we see in 1 Corinthians 15.
2. Jesus made a life-giving gift. (15-17)
The gift is grace; Jesus gave it. (15) GRACE is God showing mercy, even favor, to people who do not deserve it. The GIFT and the TRESSPASS are similar in that they both came about through ONE MAN. (The word for TRESPASS literally means “to fall aside,” a word picture of falling off the path God has set before us.) Jesus’ GRACE affects MANY, only those who receive it by faith.
Jesus’ gift is our salvation. (16-17) Though they are similar in scope, THE GIFT is unlike the TRESSPASS in its effect; the GIFT brings life, the TRESSPASS, death. Adam’s SIN brought death, JUDGMENT, and CONDEMNATION. Jesus’ GIFT brings GRACE, JUSTIFICATION, and righteous life.
3. Jesus’ gift corrects Adam’s mistake. (18-21)
One sin has been made right by one righteous act. Here Paul contrasted Adam and Jesus. Adam’s sin resulted in the CONDEMNATION of all people but Jesus’ righteous act results in JUSTIFICATION THAT BRINGS LIFE TO ALL MEN (that is, it provides the possibility of salvation to all people but it must be received in order to take effect). Adam’s DISOBEDIENCE made all of us SINNERS but Jesus’ obedience made it possible for MANY of us to be declared RIGHTEOUS when Jesus comes again and we face Judgment Day.
The good news is that grace cancelled the Law. The LAW INCREASED sin by defining it, applying a penalty to it (death), and by requiring sacrifice to fix it. But the LAW also INCREASED GRACE by creating a need for it. GRACE is the complete solution making it possible for us to have RIGHTEOUSNESS that brings about ETERNAL LIFE THROUGH JESUS CHRIST OUR LORD.
Jesus became one of us to save all of us from death.
When I returned to the internet to ask the opposite question to the one I cited at the beginning of this message, I typed in “What’s the greatest thing anyone has ever done?” I was unable to get a single reply to that question. After surveying over two billion websites, the top responses were all answers to a slightly different question; “What is the greatest thing anyone has ever done for you?” It seems we aren’t interested in great acts unless we are the direct beneficiaries. Self-centeredness is alive and well in our culture, isn’t it?
No matter. By now the answer to my question must be obvious. The greatest thing anyone has ever done was done by Jesus Christ. He gave His life on the cross to provide forgiveness of sins and eternal life. To do that, to have a life to give, to have blood to be spilled, Jesus had to be a human being.
The question before us this Advent season is “Why Christmas?” We are going to determine why was it necessary, in the plan of God, for Jesus to be born and live a human life. As we see answers from God’s word, we will come to a deeper appreciation of the Incarnation and have more reason to celebrate Christmas. We start here; Jesus was born to correct Adam’s deadly sin.
Zondervan Bible Commentary, Romans, Leslie C. Allen