The letter to the Romans is one long discussion of what it means that God was revealed in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. For Paul’s argument he take a story of the Jewish faith and uses it as a symbol to describe what God is doing through the life and death of Jesus.
The only good new is that in Paul’s version of the Fall from Grace, Eve does not get the blame for Adam’s choice. The bad news is that Paul’s focus probably means that women don’t even count into the equation of what God is doing in the salvation history he describes.
So, the story is that Adam made the choice to not listen to the warning of God. Adam set his will over and against the will of God and therefore brought death to the human race. (Have you ever thought that the harsh environment in which these creation stories were written is did literally mean death if you did not listen to the wisdom of the Elders. – my brain does weird things.) Paul’s uses this a symbol of one man bringing death, so he can get to the punchline of one man bringing life – Jesus.
It is so sad that we (I) usually leave the story there: Adam = bad; Jesus = good. But, I don’t have to prove the point that Paul did about eternal life in Jesus, because we are all on board with that idea. So, I can think about the nature of the men he proposes and think about the choices that lead to life in the presence of the eternal. In The Message, One man said no to God and put many people in the wrong; one man said yes to God and put many in the right.
We have the story, made into symbols and it all comes down to choice. A choice to say yes or no to The Divine.
Please take time to read these 9 verses. They are from The Message and easy to read.
12-14 You know the story of how Adam landed us in the dilemma we’re in—first sin, then death, and no one exempt from either sin or death. That sin disturbed relations with God in everything and everyone, but the extent of the disturbance was not clear until God spelled it out in detail to Moses. So death, this huge abyss separating us from God, dominated the landscape from Adam to Moses. Even those who didn’t sin precisely as Adam did by disobeying a specific command of God still had to experience this termination of life, this separation from God. But Adam, who got us into this, also points ahead to the One who will get us out of it.
15-17 Yet the rescuing gift is not exactly parallel to the death-dealing sin. If one man’s sin put crowds of people at the dead-end abyss of separation from God, just think what God’s gift poured through one man, Jesus Christ, will do! There’s no comparison between that death-dealing sin and this generous, life-giving gift. The verdict on that one sin was the death sentence; the verdict on the many sins that followed was this wonderful life sentence. If death got the upper hand through one man’s wrongdoing, can you imagine the breathtaking recovery life makes, sovereign life, in those who grasp with both hands this wildly extravagant life-gift, this grand setting-everything-right, that the one man Jesus Christ provides?
18-19 Here it is in a nutshell: Just as one person did it wrong and got us in all this trouble with sin and death, another person did it right and got us out of it. But more than just getting us out of trouble, he got us into life! One man said no to God and put many people in the wrong; one man said yes to God and put many in the right.
20-21 All that passing laws against sin did was produce more lawbreakers. But sin didn’t, and doesn’t, have a chance in competition with the aggressive forgiveness we call grace.When it’s sin versus grace, grace wins hands down. All sin can do is threaten us with death, and that’s the end of it. Grace, because God is putting everything together again through the Messiah, invites us into life—a life that goes on and on and on, world without end.
Paul’s argument is that The Law does not bring righteousness (right living) of life. But relationship, grace, brings righteousness – right living – eternal living. This living is which has an awareness of the Divine Presence bring wholeness and holiness. It is choosing for God, each day, each moment considering our response to life circumstances and finding The Way.
I think this is the real problem with Paul placing the “sin” on Adam’s shoulders. It makes us distant from us, AND it makes us believe that simply believing in “the other guy” is sufficient for right living. But actually it is not believing in Jesus as much as living like Jesus (not the robe and sandals) but the choices and relationship with the eternal, ever-present God. Wow, that’s harder. So, much for a holiday weekend. The Good News is that God is there, helping us, holding us up, and enabling us to walk the path of light and grace.