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Edward F. Markquart

Books of the Bible - Romans
Adam and Christ

Romans 5:12-22

The message for today continues a series of sermons from the book of Romans.

The gospel are essentially four histories of the life of Christ. What are the names of the first four gospels? Can you tell me?  Matthew, Mark, Luke, John. These four gospels are essentially histories of the life of Christ. These histories are composed of teachings, miracles, parables, and narratives about Jesus of Nazareth, and these elements are woven together to make a story. The truth of Jesus Christ was expressed through an accumulation of stories.

After John, comes what book? Can you tell me? Acts. Luke wrote Luke about the life of Christ and the book of Acts is about the early Christian leaders. It is essentially a history book of the life of the early church. Again, the history of the early church is a accumulation of stories about the early church, especially an accumulation of stories about the Apostle Paul. We learned the stories about Paul watching the martyrdom of Stephen, his conversion on the road to Damascas and his three missionary trips. The truth about the Gospel was expressed through an accumulation of stories.

What is the book after Acts? Can you tell me? Romans. Romans, yes. Romans is the first of fourteen letters written by the Apostle Paul. Romans is his last book before he died, his summary of his theology, and the book of Romans was so good that the church put the book of Romans at the top of the list of all of Paul’s letter. Romans was written in about sixty AD, and Paul sent this letter to the Romans before he traveled there.

Now, the book of Romans is not a history book like the first four gospels and the book of Acts. In fact, in the book of Romans, there are no historical facts about Jesus nor even historical facts about the life of the Apostle Paul. In the book of Romans, there are no parables, no miracles, no historical anecdotes about Jesus nor about Paul. The book of Romans is almost pure theology, pure doctrine, pure thoughts about God. You learn nothing about the life of Christ. From Romans, you learn almost nothing about the life of the Apostle Paul. Unlike the gospels, unlike the book of Acts, even unlike Paul’s earlier letters, the book of Romans is almost all pure Christian theology and pure Christian doctrine.

Paul was part of a triangle of three people who wrote most of the New Testament. Paul, Luke, and Mark, three primary authors of the New Testament, were great friends and traveling companions. They spent many years together traveling and being missionaries for Christ. Mark and Luke loved history. Mark and Luke loved to tell stories about Jesus, stories about his parables, his miracles, his teachings, the anecdotes from his daily life. But Paul was not a  historian. Paul didn’t use any history of the life of Jesus. In Paul, there are no parables, no miracles, no historical anecdotes about Jesus. Paul doesn’t even give us any historical anecdotes about himself in the book of Romans. You have to read the book of Acts by Luke to find any historical anecdotes about Paul e.g. the death of Stephen the Martyr, his conversion story on the road to Damascus, his three missionary trips. None of this is mentioned in the book of Romans. Romans is pure doctrine. Romans is pure theology. Romans is filled with ideas about the Christian faith.

The first idea and  sermon. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We sang the song, Me and My Shadow, and none of us can escape the shadow side, the dark side, the sin side of our personality and we are saved by grace.

The next idea and  sermon was: what is the center of the Christian faith, the nucleus, the core? Faith in Jesus Christ. And to understand faith, we need to understand the faith of Abraham.

The third idea and  sermon: who is going to pay the price for all of my sins? Who is going to pay the price for my mistakes which my mistakes have been so costly. I gave examples: I book the window in the house of the Chief of Police in Jackson, Minnesota when I was boy of seven. How could I pay the $300 for the debt? The debt was too great and my father paid it for me.  So likewise, we cannot repay our debt to God for the bad sins we did and for the good that we did not do. Christ paid the penalty for all of our sins.

So today, we continue with the theological truths about Jesus. Not the histories of Jesus as in the four gospels, nor the history of the early church as in the book of Acts. We focus on one primary idea of Paul today, one primary theological notion. Paul says, from one man, Adam, sin spread throughout the whole world. In the children’s sermon for today, I took one drop of food coloring and put it into a pitcher of water and that one drop of food coloring spread out through all water. You could literally see it spread. So also, from Adam, the first man, sin began and has spread throughout the whole human race. Paul then says, even stronger than Adam is the one man Jesus Christ and his grace has spread throughout the whole world. And importantly, the power of grace is much stronger than the power of sin. The power of Christ is stronger than the power of Adam.

Would you please turn to your bulletin insert for today so we can closely examine the Bible passage from Romans 5. Through Adam, death has spread to the whole human race and everybody has sin. Everybody has the shadow. No one is exempt. Then skip a few lines where it says that “God’s grace is much greater than the power of Adam’s sin and so is God’s gift to so many people.”  The power of grace is much stronger than the power of sin.  Focus on the line, “how much greater was what was done by one man, Jesus Christ.”  “All who receive God’s abundant grace.” Circle the word, abundant. God is never penurious. God is never stingy. The word, abundant, when it is used, always precedes the word grace.” … “Where sin increased, God’s grace increased much more.” Circle the “much more.” “God’s grace rules in our hearts by means of righteousness or right relationships, leading us to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

My mind goes to work and I need to visualize death or evil, when death or evil starts at one point and then spreads.

Such as cancer. Cancer always starts in one little place in your body and then it spreads to another place, and then another and then another, to the lymph system and the into the bones. And by the time you go to your doctor, it may have spread all over the place. No matter where the cancer is, the doctors always try to trace it back to its beginning, to that spot where the cancer all began.

Another example. Chicken pox.  A little kid comes to his school class room and he has the chicken pox. No other kid in the class chicken pox. The little infected boy touches everybody, breathes on everybody, sits by everybody, and next week, nearly everybody in the class has chicken pox. You could trace the chicken pox in the classroom back to the one little boy who infected all his friends. Chicken pox begins with one and spreads to almost everybody. That is jus the way chicken pox is.

Another example: AIDs in central and south Africa. It started in the hill country in Uganda, then into a city, then into the people who drove the trucks and traveled the highways and had sex in brothels. And pretty soon, AIDs spread throughout several countries and is the worse epidemic since the fourteen century bubonic plague. You can trace AIDs back to one little spot and it grows and grows and grows until it infects an enormous section of a continent.

It is with these images that we begin to understand the thoughts of the Apostle Paul. The Apostle Paul is a thinker, a theologian. He is the one who has big thoughts about so many aspects of Christ and the Christian faith. Paul thought about sin. Sin started with one man, Adam. Sin slowly spread so that it infected the whole human race.

Sin spread, not because of genes or chromosomes. Not because of genetic mapping and biological determination. But because of human inter-relatedness.  Because all of us human beings are forever inter-connected. Because our lives are inter-woven at human beings.

So a little kid comes into the classroom and everybody has chicken pox. It has nothing to do with genes and chromosomes. It has to do with the inter-relatedness of the human family. So sin is spread in the human community, not be genes and chromosomes, but because we are inter-related. There is something “copy cat” about human beings.

The spread of teenage suicide. If there is a teenage suicide in a school, you do not want to put it into then newspapers because people are legitimately fearful that it will set off a whole number of teenage suicides all over the country. You want to put that article on the back page of the paper and not the front page, because the front page is suggestive that I can do that as well. How does this spread? Copy cat. Imitation.

The spread of shootings in schools. It starts with one place, with one situation, and that evil idea spreads and soon we face a rash of shootings in public schools. How does it spread? Genes and chromosomes? No, copy cat. Imitation.

The spread of divorce. What I am suggesting to you is that what I do influences what you do. If my wife and I do not solve the conflicts between us and get a divorce, that suggests to the children that they can do the same thing. That suggests to the friends that you can do the same thing when you can conflicts in your marriage.  The way we live life, we are not islands to ourselves. The way we do sin, influences others the way they do sin. The way you do sin is suggestive to other people to do the same.

That is what the Apostle Paul understood. He understood that the nature of sin is copy cat, is imitative, is suggestive and it spreads throughout the whole human race, not because of genes and chromosomes but because of the nature of inter-relatedness of human beings and the nature of sin itself.

But…that is not the point. What Paul said is true, but that is not his point for the primary point or thrust of the sermon. It is true that our sin is copy cat, imitative and suggestive; but that is not the point. The point is; how much greater is the power of God, how much greater is the power of God’s righteousness, how much greater is the power of God’s grace. The second half of the sermon.

So my mind says, how can we visualize taking one drop of goodness and seeing it spread. Like with the children’s sermon, where I put in one drop of green dye and it spread throughout the whole pitcher of water. So how do you take the drop, the Presence of Christ, and drop his presence into the whole world and it spreads. How does God’s kingdom, how does God’s righteousness, how does God’s goodness spread throughout the whole wide world? God’s kingdom, God’s righteousness, God’s goodness is not spread genetically or chromosomally, but God’s goodness is also spread through our inter-relatedness, our inter-connectedness, our lives inter-woven together. How do we visualize this?

All you gardeners understand plants that spread e.g. the ivy on our hillsides or banks of flowers. My wife planted the hillside below our deck many years ago, and now that hillside is lush and full as the plants have spread. The kingdom of God, the kingdom of life, is like that. In the kingdom of life, goodness and beauty spreads.

Johnny Apple Seed. The kingdom of God, the kingdom of life, is like this. Do you remember the Johnny Apple Seed song? Johnny came west in the seventeen hundreds and he spread all kinds of apple seeds. You remember the song, “O the Lord is good to me, and so I thank the Lord, for giving me, the things I need, the sun and the rain and the apple seed.”  Johnny went and spread apple seed all across the United States, weaving over hill and dale. And it all began with one source: Johnny Apple Seed spreading his seeds. The kingdom of life is like that. It spreads.

The Palouse country. Or, you go over to the Palouse country and you see mile after mile after mile of wheat fields. Originally, there was not one wheat ranch there. And it began with the first wheat farm, and then another and then another and pretty soon as far as the eye can see, all you see is fields of wheat. But it all originally began with one wheat farm.

Or, the universe itself. What a grand picture. Some theorists theorize that the universe all began with a big bang. God set off the fire cracker, the gases of the universe, and the universe continues to spread into the infinity of space at the speed of light. My mind cannot begin to comprehend the expansion and spreading of the universe at the speed of light, but yet I can comprehend the idea of it.

Christianity in America. I have been thinking about those things which are good, which began from one source, and the goodness spread and spread and spread. I am thinking about the spread of Christianity here in the United States. In 1491, there were no Christians in America; the name of Christ was not here; the grace of Christ was not known here in North America. Soon there were thousands of Christian immigrants to our country. Soon there was Jonathan Edwards and is great revivals. We skip forward to 1850 and the great historian, Alec de Tocqueville wrote the following comment, “There is no other nation on earth which is more Christian than the United States where one in six, 16%, belong to the church.” Between 1850 and 1950, there were enormous numbers of Christian immigrants moving to this nation; there was an enormous religious revival going on in our nation. By 1940, 67% of the population belonged to the church. From 16% to 67% in merely one hundred years. The growth of Christianity in the United States has been staggering. Five hundred years ago, Christ was not known in America. Look how Christ and grace have expanded.

What Paul is saying is this: through one man, Adam, sin spread throughout the whole wide world. And through one man, Christ, grace spread throughout the whole world. And this grace of our Lord Jesus Christ is much stronger than sin. The power of grace is so much stronger than the power of sin in your life and so….

So what does this mean for our daily lives? Don’t ever give up hope. Don’t you ever despair of God. When things are down in the mouth in your life, and you feel you are being overwhelmed by temptation and sin, don’t you ever give up. The message of the gospel is this: the power of grace is so much stronger than the power of sin. Everyone once in a while, when you get overwhelmed by the power of sin and darkness in your life, and every once in a while when you feel like throwing in the towel, remember the gospel of God, the truth of God, the grace of God. And the gospel is this; the power of grace is so much more powerful than the power of sin.

This is also true in our personal lives. I would like to tell you a story which illustrates what I am talking about. One day, some time ago, this family ran into tough times and ran out of money. He was a recovering alcoholic.  So we got several people in our church and helped this family move as they had been evicted from their apartment. It was really a hard time for the family. They were all so depressed. This family moved into a little trailer down the block and lived there a few years. Mom and Dad both got help and that was a miracle for both of them, he with his alcoholism and she with her co-dependence and depression. And then, another miracle happened and they moved into their first house. This family had moved from homelessness to a home. The family was so excited about their first house and they ran and showed me the whole house and yard with glee. He said, “Come to the back of the yard,” and he showed me the first garden he had ever had in his whole life. He said, “I believe in miracles. I am a walking miracle.” He said, “I didn’t know that miracles were so much work.” And now they are leaders in our church. … This family. They never gave up. No money, no apartment, no possibilities and they never gave up. The power of the gospel, like the spreading of the green food drop in the pitcher of water, spread in their lives and transformed them, changed them, and made that family well. Not perfect, but well.

Christ is much more powerful than Adam in us. Amen.

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