12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men 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. 16 And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. 17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.
18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. — Romans 5:12–19 (ESV)
I have a problem called Scotch broom.
Every year, hideous gray-green shrubs swarm the perimeter of my property spewing their seeds — and don’t try to convince me the flowers are pretty — I won’t have it.
It is a problem that’s exacerbated by the fact that these plants never go away unless you dig them out by their clutching roots.
That’s how problems work, they persist unless you identify and address their root.
We read in Romans that sin, our deadliest problem, results in our alienation from God and our condemnation. We’re also told this problem has roots that go all the way back to Adam in the Garden of Eden.
Is that difficult to wrap your head around?
“How could this guy from ages ago have an impact on me?”
Consider an analogy. When a king goes to war, the nation he represents also goes to war. Similarly, when Adam rebelled against God, he also plunged us (his nation) into a war against God. Or, consider a baseball player of your team striking out in the bottom of the 9th inning. When he struck out, you struck out. When Adam fell, we fell.
What these analogies fail to convey is how Adam’s sin plunged each of us into the darkness, distortion, malice, and rebellion of our sinful nature. We didn’t just lose in Adam, we became losers. This has tangible and distressing consequences. This isn’t merely a theological concept, it bears tragic fruit in our lives through our self-destructive enmity with God.
Being “in Adam” also means we are culpable perpetrators, not merely victims. Rather than being an excuse to downplay our own participation in sin, the fact that our sin is rooted in Adam ought to impress upon us our utter desperate need for salvation that comes from outside ourselves. In Adam all die; no one in Adam is able to save himself or others any more than a dead man is able to give himself or others CPR.
How can this problem be uprooted?
This is the miracle of Christmas! Into this cul-de-sac of perpetual dead ends came the glorious and gracious free gift of Jesus, born of the Virgin Mary. Jesus is Immanuel, God with us. He is the incarnate God-man that came from outside ourselves and outside of Adam to save rebels condemned “in Adam”.
Where the rebellion of Adam brought death and condemnation, the obedience and sacrifice of Christ, our second Adam, brings life and freedom from sin. The good news of Christmas is that by faith in him you can be severed from the root of Adam and brought into Christ.
You looked upon us, Author of love and light,
as we were holding fast to the twisted roots of our depravity,
and still, you saw us as your own.
We, the noxious descendants of sin itself,
washed clean by your mercy.
Who would do this, but our blessed Savior?
Could anyone else have such grace to bestow?
These dry bones were brought to life by your love.
You made yourself small to sever us from sin.
How small we must be.
The world preaches that we are liberated by our darkness, but we know that only you can set us free.
In a culture that worships autonomy,
we profess that we are not our own;
Because of the Bethlehem rescue.
When the glory of Christmas roars like a lion,
let us hear it.
When we’re served a feast in lieu of the crumbs we so deserve,
let us savor it.
When your vast love trumps our broken deviance,
let us know it deeply.
The story of your abounding mercy
does not end at the manger.
Christmas: The beginning of darkness’ end.