Robert Pirsig, wrote a book called Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance in 1974…
It sold 5 million copies.
It centered around a motorcycle trip he took with his young son Chris blended together with his thoughts on the philosophical foundations of western civilization.
Pirsig was a precocious child, with an IQ of 170 at age nine. (Albert Einstein range)
He finished high school at age 14 and studied Biochemistry at the University of Minnesota.
While doing lab work in biochemistry he became great troubled by the existence of more than one workable hypothesis to explain a given phenomenon…and that the number of hypothesis appeared unlimited.
This limitation of science (its inability to find certitude) troubled him and he lost interest in his studies and was expelled from the university.
He eventually (after a stint in the Army) studied Eastern Philosophy in India…and later wrote the book that made him famous.
I haven’t read it…but have heard of the book throughout my life.
I didn’t pay much attention to it, until I read he had died last week and became more interested in his life.
He suffered from mental problems, and spent time in institutions…tragically his son Chris was murdered at the age of 22 and the only reason he and his wife did not abort a child born several years later was they were convinced that the child was the continuation of the “life force” of their dead son.
My point in discussing his life is that he was a man who seemed to be searching for absolute certainty.
So he was drawn to science…after all science is the realm of brute facts…no need for or room for faith…it was the place for young man looking for absolutes
Then to his dismay…he found no certitude there
I believe his dismay took him down a wrong worldview path…from the search for hard facts to embracing a fuzzy eastern worldview.
Okay, one more guy…he’s not dead yet…Bill Nye the science guy.
Bill is an agnostic (meaning he doesn’t know if there is a God)…I heard him speak on the radio last week.
He spoke boldly of science and how too many people put belief over facts.
A not so subtle jab at religion.
But religion is no enemy of science…nor science of religion…they both speak of the same realities…the world God has made.
But science is limited…there are more things that Bill believes than there are things that he knows…he may not believe that is true but it is a fact.
Bill Nye the science guy is also a faith guy…everyone is…because science, like all human endeavors is limited.
Science is the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.
Observation and experimentation…this excludes a whole lot of what can and needs to be known by humans.
Our Zen motorcycle guy was nearly undone by science’s inability to provide absolute certainty… Bill Nye believes that science trumps belief
The fact is in terms of our knowledge of the physical world we know many things accurately and adequately…But there are more things we don’t know than we do about the physical universe
Bill Nye has a new series on Netflix called “Bill Nye saves the world.”
Bill Nye the science guy cannot ultimately save the world, he knows he can’t…but I think he does believe science can.
But his confidence is in science is unwarranted…it can’t answer the big questions…they are beyond observation and experimentation…these answers can only be revealed…they cannot be discovered.
We have, thanks be to God, been given revelation (revealed knowledge) of God by God.
This information is limited because we are limited…we would have to be God to fully comprehend all there is to comprehend about God.
But this limited information is accurate (true) and adequate (enough) so that we can live lives that both enjoy and honor God.
In terms of things that require certainty in order to live God honoring and God enjoying lives…we have been given certainty…the Bible is not fuzzy on these things.
So…we today are in Romans 5:12-21…one of the more challenging sections of the Bible.
It deals with huge topics of great importance…sin, death, redemption
What we have here in this passage is difficult but possible to understand accurately and adequately.
Some are troubled by our inability to not have exhaustive answers to questions of faith…so like Bill Nye…they pit believe against science.
But this lack of exhaustive knowledge is true in every human endeavor…science or faith…because we are limited beings.
We have true truth about ultimate things…because God has given us his word.
But we will always be learning because we will never be God…he alone has complete understanding.
We are going to try to stay out of the weeds on some of the questions that might arise from this passage…but still try to get a handle on it…so we can apply it to our lives.
An important key to understanding this passage is…
5:14b: “Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come.”
Pattern is “typos” or “type”…not as in use a keyboard but as in “prototype” or typology.
Typology is putting things into groups according to how they are similar.
So Christ and Adam are going to be shown to be similar…Adam was a pattern of the “second Adam” Christ.
Paul will also make it clear how they are very dissimilar
So though Adam was a real fella…Paul is also using him as a model or figure of two different kinds of humanity.
Adam: all who are “in him” sinned and died in him…so all humans are in that sense “in Adam”
Christ: all who are “in him” will live with him…so all believers, Christ followers.
The first Adam(a real, historical person) brought death into the world through sin.
The second Adam, Jesus (Also, a real, historical person)…through his righteous act of obedience on the cross has overcome the disastrous results of the first Adam’s sin.
So as we move through this passage remember Paul is using the two Adam analogy
Adam was a real guy, but his name means “man” or “humanity”
So two humanities, with two “figurative heads” are on display here.
- V. 12: Adam introduced Sin, and Universal death to the world.
Adam is introduced as the one responsible for sin and death entering the world.
Rom. 5:12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned —
His rebellion against God introduced sin into the world and death came as a result of sin.
There are a ton of questions related to this verse…and much controversy and speculation related to those questions.
We are not going to look at them…we will stick with what seems clear and actionable (able to be acted on in our lives).
For all the centuries of questions related to the idea of “original sin” and its implications…here’s what seems to be patently clear from scripture and human history and today’s news.
Sin and the spiritual death that results from sin are universal…applies across the board.
Something is very, very wrong…it started with the first Adam…the head of the sinful human family.
- 13, 14…Sin and death were present long before God gave the law.
Rom. 5:13 for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law.
Rom. 5:14 Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come.
13 & 14 are a bit confusing at first glance (and second, and third)…here’s why
In verse 12 he starts a thought that he will pick up again in verse 18.
“Just as”….we are waiting…
So in some translations a “dash” is added to indicate “hold that thought”
Then from verse 12-17 Paul gives important elaboration on his opening statement before he finishes the thought.
So here’s how this passage seems to work:
This passage is about comparing the “two Adams” “two heads of humanity”
The head of all lost humanity: Adam
The head of all saved humanity: Christ
So he will say over and over: “Just as (Adam)…so also(Christ)”
In verse 12 he says “Just as in Adam” and in verse 18 he will give us the “so also In Christ”
But in verses 13-17…he fills in some important data points for us…before he moves on to his “just as, so also” proofs.
Here in verses 13 and 14…the reality of sin and death even apart from the law are demonstrated.
Why did Paul break his thought to add this in?
Its likely that he is addressing the fact that many Jews (his audience included many Jewish background believers) believed that there could be no sin or death apart from the law.
You can’t break a law if there isn’t one to break…can you?
Yes, if the laws are tied to the reality of God…and in our core operating systems as humans.
So Paul is showing that sin and death existed before the law was given to and through Moses…in fact death (the penalty for sin) reigned from Adam to Moses…even over those who did not sin by “breaking a command”
He didn’t say they didn’t sin…they didn’t break a command…because in the course of salvation history…God had yet to give the law.
But sin and death were in effect before the law was given.
In the Greek this phrase…”break a command”…is a single word…”transgression, or violation”.
So the presence of the law turns “sin” into “transgression”
So before God said directly “Do not commit adultery or murder”…it was still sinful, wrong…and that sin brought death.
Now with the giving of the law it is also a “transgression”…breaking a direct command.
So Paul wanted to get their thoughts back on track…”Wait a minute…there can’t be sin if there is no law…”
Yes there can be…sin and death reigned from Adam to Moses…but after Moses…sin (a violation of God’s moral code) also became transgression (a violation of God’s direct command)
Now before Adam and Christ are compared…he is going to contrast them…show how they are different.
- V.15-17 Adam and Christ are totally different…here’s how
The bottom line difference between the two: In Christ God deals with people on the basis of of grace.
Count how many times Paul uses the word grace and its sister word (comes from the same root) gift…as I read this passage.
Rom. 5:15 But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! 16 Again, the gift of God is not like the result of the one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. 17 For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.
How many did you see?
In Adam, humanity got what it earned…condemnation
In Christ, people get what they have not and cannot earn…the gift of grace.
And to emphasize the difference in Adam and Christ look at verse 17.
“Death reigned (king death) through the sin of the first man…how much more will those who receive God’s grace reign (King Jesus) in life.”
Two reigns…the kingdom of death that came through Adam, the kingdom of life that came through Jesus.
*Great contrast between the two “Adams” or lines of humanity.
Now, Paul is going to return to where he began in verse 12…”Just as sin entered the world through Adam…”
In Christ we get the “so also…”
- Adam and Christ are similar…here’s how…comparison.
Rom. 5:18 Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men.
Rom. 5:19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.
Each “just as” is Adam
Each “so also” is Jesus
Compare actions and outcomes
Just as Adam’s one sin brought condemnation for all.
So also (similarly) Christ’s one act of obedience (on the cross) brought justification for all.
There is an important question this passage raises…Does this imply that all will be saved…none will be lost?
Verses 18, 19 are often referred to by those who believe that in the end God will save all people
After all…if Adam brought condemnation to “all” why doesn’t Christ bring justification to “all”?
The problem is that this view is contrary to the plan biblical teaching that some people will not, in fact, be saved.
That was part of Paul’s whole argument in the first three chapters of Romans…so using the principle that Scripture interprets Scripture (it is not self-contradictory)…we know that Paul is not saying all will be saved here.
Paul is very clear in his letter to another church…about this.
2 Thess. 1:8 He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power
So what is he saying if he doesn’t mean all will be saved?
Look back at verse 17
- 17 how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace reign in life…
Throughout this passage Paul demonstrates how Adam and Christ are parallel in many ways…”just as…so also”
But in verse 17 he indicates a huge difference…to be “in Adam” you need only be born into the human race.
To be “in Christ” you need to be born again…”receive God’s abundant provision of grace”
So all who are “In Adam” die…(all humanity”)
All who “In Christ” live…(all of redeemed humanity)
*The reality of hell (separation from God) is an appalling, horrifying thought.
If we consider it even lightly and momentarily…it is terrible.
Now the question must be, as always, with everything…what is real? not what do I want to be real…or hope to be real?
As I heard recently from a military commander: “Hope is not a strategy.”
Likewise…”Hope or want something to be real is not the same as what is real.”
In regards to hell some say…”I can’t believe in a God like that!”
This statement is as dangerous as it is foolish…we must only believe the God who is actually there…as he has revealed himself (because we cannot on our own discover him).
“I can believe in him if I must…but I do not have to love a God like that.”
True…we do not have to love a God like that…but the phrase a “God like that” betrays some wrong thinking…I think.
It was Jesus who spoke of hell most frequently…the same Jesus who went to the cross and asked his father to forgive those who were torturing and murdering him.
So, the largest problem we have is our pride…we demand that God make himself more understandable to us (or worse, more accountable…that he do things as we would have him do them.)
Now we are back to where we began.
We, like our Zen Motorcycle guy…want certitude on everything…the fact is we would have to be God to fully understand him.
The reason I think human pride creates a problem here is because we do tend to believe God (if he exists) is a powerful being…but we cannot really imagine what…God being God really means….I can’t.
But considering this will be important as we move through Romans and get to Romans 9 and read this…
Rom. 9:20 But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’”
This infuriates people who believe they have rights…and God cannot violate those rights.
God is God…he spoke all that is into existence…we cannot comprehend his greatness.
The fact is, God is a being of such unimaginable “otherness”…such holy power…that humans in history have barely survived glimpses of him.
In our present state we would fly into pieces if he showed up in his glory.
We must take God at his word and trust him with the things beyond our understanding.
Deut 29:29…the secret things belong to the Lord our God.
Again…it is why it so important when you are struggling with love of God, his goodness in the face of suffering…or thoughts of hell…to look to the cross.
Greater love has no one than this…that he lay down his life for his friends.
God demonstrates his love for us in that while we were sinners, Christ died for us.
When the explanation isn’t making sense to our heads…the demonstration can make sense to our hearts.
Conclusion: Grace Reigns!
Rom. 5:20 The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, 21 so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Adam sealed the fate of all people…Christ, the second Adam (new humanity) enables people to escape that fate.
But now Paul is back to addressing a huge question for the Jewish people…”But what about all God did for Israel…what about the law…was all that for nothing?”
Paul, of course, believes in the enduring value of the OT…it is all a part of God’s revelation of himself in human history.
But the fact is…the law does not alter the situation he has described here.
The law, shockingly, has a negative role in salvation history.
It did not bring relief to the human predicament…it made it worse.
How can that be?
Because before the law was given…people sinned and died for their sins…after the law they continued to sin…even though God had graciously given them direct commandments.
Adam, broke the one direct commandment he was given “Don’t eat of that tree.”
Israel and all after the law was given continued to break the clear revealed will of God.
*Not a very robust example but it helps me to think about this.
A man has a deep sense that he should not steal from an empty home…he doesn’t know the law but in his conscience there is a built in sense that this is not right…yet he does it anyway…he sinned.
Later he discovers a law has been written down regarding stealing…he reads the written legal code and now he has in writing what his conscience has been saying.
If that man shrugs his shoulders and says “Ehh, oh well…I want what that guy has…I’m going to take it.”
He was guilty of a sin before, he is in a real sense “more guilty” now.
Paul is not allowing them or us to take refuge in the “law”…to somehow believe that we can rescue ourselves through acts of obedience.
We were sinful unto death before the law…and the law did not fix this…it just made us more accountable.
He wants them, and us to take refuge only in grace…not in law, not in self-help…there is no self-help.
Certitude: Absolute confidence in knowing something is the case.
There are mysteries…things that will always be above our pay grade as humans.
But here in this challenging passage we see Paul hammering home some things we can know for sure: Specifically…our root problem, and the only solution to our problem.
Two Adam model:
-First Adam: In him all sinned and all die
-Second Adam…He died that all who are in him will live.
Some have said that God is guilty of wanting to “have his cake and eat it too.”
An old idiom that means literally “You cannot simultaneously retain your cake and eat it”
Once the cake is eaten…it is gone…it simply means “You can’t have it both ways.”
A cake that remains on the table…and cake that is now in your tummy.
In this case…God is said to want to give blame for sin and take credit for salvation.
Adam, and in turn all humanity are to blame for their (our sin) though God made us with the opportunity or possibility of sin.
And yet, he alone wants to take credit for the solution…or redemption.
This is a large topic in itself…original sin…so I will simply give a street level application.
If you want to live a life that best aligns with the way things really are…and in turn, experience a life that is spiritually, mentally and in every way…healthy…then embrace this…”Take blame, give credit”
I don’t mean take blame that it not yours or give credit that is not due…don’t over apply it.
I mean in regards to your relationship with God…you do not have to understand all the ins and outs of sin and grace to understand this…
I alone am to blame for my sin, God alone deserves the credit for my salvation.
God in fact, can have his cake and eat it too…he can have it both ways…because both ways are true.
Spend all the time you want trying to think through the deep theology tied up in those simply truths.
But as you do (if you do, you don’t have to if you don’t feel the need to)…“Confess sin and Enjoy God’s free grace…take all the blame due you, give all the credit due him.”
*As you embrace this in regards to God…you will find yourself doing the same in regards to others in your life.
Many move through life taking credit and giving blame…a double graceless life.
As you grow in Grace…you will be empowered to “give credit and take blame” more readily and more appropriately in the other relationships in your life.
This is a tremendous thing to grow in…and it is a practical benefit of his grace operational in our lives.
Here’s your takeaway…your hook for today…”Give credit, Take Blame…grow in grace with God and others”