Tom: For the past few weeks in our ongoing study of the gospel of salvation, we’ve been studying Romans:5:6-21, which, as we’ve noted, the Apostle Paul presents as an advocate before the highest court in the land, and, of course, the logic is compelling. I’ll quickly review verses 6-15, and we’ll pick up with verse 16: “For when we were yet without strength, in due time, Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die, but peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more, then, being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more being reconciled shall we be saved by His life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement. Wherefore, as by one man, sin entered the world, and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men for that all have sinned. For until the Law, sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him who was to come; but not as the offense, so also is the free gift. For if through the offense of one, many be dead, much more the grace of God and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, has abounded unto many.”
Dave, picking up now with verse 16: “And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift, for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offenses unto justification.” In other words, through Adam’s sin, mankind came under condemnation, but through Christ’s sacrificial death came justification.”
Now, we have, going back and forth between those who are in Adam and those who are in Christ, there’s an interesting parallel here.
Dave: Well, I think it’s also saying that it was just one sin. In fact, a very simple sin, seemingly, that brought death and judgment upon all mankind: “Just don’t eat of this tree.” We’ve talked about it before. I think it was the easiest command God could give. There must have been thousands of trees—maybe millions, I don’t know—in this huge garden, the Garden of Eden. And I don’t believe there was anything special about that fruit. In other words, physical fruit isn’t going to “make you wise.” There may have been other trees just like it, with the same fruit, all around it. But God said, “Don’t eat of that tree.” That’s the easiest command He could give to Adam and Eve. And they failed!
So, the problem was not that this was some magical kind of fruit. The problem was that they had disobeyed God. But it was only one command. A simple command. I mean, you wouldn’t think that that would be so serious! “Well, okay, God, so I did eat that fruit that you told me not to. I ate of that tree that you told me not to.” That was rebellion against God, and that was why James says, “He who offends in one point [talking about the Ten Commandments] is guilty of all,” because to break any one of the Ten Commandments is just as serious as to break any other commandment. It’s simply like thumbing your nose at God. It’s rebellion against God.
Tom: Dave, as a former Catholic, we had the venial sins and mortal sins, but sin is sin.
Dave: Right. But it’s saying here there was only one sin, but now there are many offenses, verse 16 says, and yet, those have been overcome through Christ. And you look at this world, the evil in this world is beyond our comprehension, and we don’t even know the wickedness of man—what goes on in some cities and houses and secret places, and the plans in the heart of man is so wicked—and yet, all of that (I think this is what this verse is saying) all of that is overcome by the sacrifice of Christ upon the cross, who paid the full penalty for every sin.
Tom: Right. Verse 17 amplifies what you’re saying: “For if by one man’s offense, death reigned by one; [and death did reign—destroyed the whole universe—nothing like what God had originally designed. He said it was “very good” at the end].
Dave: Yeah. Adam and Eve were separated from God—the Spirit of God departed from their spirits, and their bodies began to die, and that was all that they could pass on to their children now.
Tom: “Much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.” Listen—most people would say, “Wait a minute! What did he just say?” What God offers here is not just eternal life with Him, but we’re…the gift of righteousness—we’ll have Christ’s righteousness for eternity! And all the blessings that flow from that. That’s staggering!
Dave: It is, Tom, and it’s the only righteousness that will stand before God. It’s not my own righteousness. If I could become righteous of myself—and you know, as a Catholic, that’s the teaching. It’s not imputed righteousness. In other words, credited to my account that a Catholic strives for. Well, there’s no striving for that. It’s a gift, but it’s infused righteousness.
Tom: We had to become righteous, and expiation of sins was not only what Christ did, it’s what we had to do through suffering.
Tom: Here, in purgatory, and so forth.
Dave: That’s what purgatory is all about. To purge you. To make you righteous, so that you would be able to boast before God: “Well, I suffered to get myself here, too! So I get part of the credit because I became righteous in and of myself through being purged by those things that I suffered.” That is absolutely contrary to the Bible. It undermines the gospel.
Tom: Well, it’s not…Dave, it’s not a gift.
Dave: That’s right. The gift of righteousness… it says. Wow! We have been given the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ accredited to our account…
Tom: At no small cost. We might think it’s a gift—at no small cost to God. He sent His Son to pay the full penalty for it, which is, again, staggering!
Dave: Which we don’t understand.
Tom: No. But we’re incredibly thankful for it.
Dave: Amen. That’s why we would love Him and serve Him, out of gratitude. I sometimes say that, you know—Jehovah’s witnesses… We were just in Europe and we were going on a train from Czech Republic to Slovakia—you know, the Lord is gracious! Who does He bring to me? Two young Mormon missionaries!
Tom: Mormon or JW?
Dave: No, Mormon missionaries. But it’s similar, I’m saying. I often say to Jehovah’s Witnesses or to Mormons: they’re knocking on doors, trying to earn their salvation. They even have to pass a test after Armageddon! But I’ve knocked on more doors than I think most Jehovah’s Witnesses—probably thousands of them, back in the days when the Lord gave me time for that sort of thing. But I do it out of love and gratitude to the One who gave me eternal life. That’s a higher motive than doing it in order to earn eternal life. And so, it’s because of this gift—that’s what wins our hearts, and now we love Him because He first loved us—not because we managed to work this love up within ourselves. And we will be in His presence forever because He has credited to us the perfect righteousness of God, and it is only possible because Christ paid the full penalty for our sins.
Tom, that’s something to get excited about! That caused you to really be happy, to rejoice, and to anticipate being in the presence of this wonderful God and Savior who loves us so much. And it’s going to take eternity for Him to pour out His infinite love upon us.
Tom: Dave, what really grieves me in this, those who do these kinds of things, whether they be Mormon works, or Jehovah’s Witnesses, out working, knocking on doors, putting in all these hours—on the one hand, yes, there’s a sincerity there. But the thing that grieves me is that they don't understand that it’s a rejection of this gift! It’s a rejection of what Christ has accomplished. So it’s grievous that sense.
Dave: Yeah, and it grieves us because they have a false hope. The writer of Hebrews says, “How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?” And they’re really neglecting the salvation God has given them as a free gift, and they’re trying to earn it, as you said: you offer to pay anything, you’ve rejected the gift. It’s heartbreaking. And, Tom, it is so difficult, to help these dear people understand this, because, as the Bible says, “The god of this world has blinded their minds,” and he has people trying to earn their salvation, and that is an affront and an insult to God.
Tom: Please, for our listeners out there. Don’t take our word for this. What we are trying to do is to go through God’s Word and point to the Scriptures. You read them for yourself. Let the Holy Spirit bring understanding, conviction, first, and then understanding of these things, and you’ll know. God will reveal these things to you.