March 23, 2010

It's Worse than I Thought

Sometimes, though you have read a particular Bible verse a dozen times before, you read it the thirteenth time and something new strikes you. No, it’s not that the verse changed. Nor is it that the verse ‘means something different’ to you now than it did before. Not for a moment. The meaning of any particular verse is the exact same today – for every single person on earth – as it was when Moses, or Paul, or David first wrote it. The truth is the truth is the truth.

And yet it is true, though the same truth has always been embedded in such and such a verse, that you or I may have read it a dozen times before without actually seeing the truth that was there. The same way some people walked up to me, several weeks after I got my new glasses, and said: ‘Something’s different about you.’ It took them that long to notice. And, sometimes, the same is true with noticing Bible truth.

One such example, for many people, might be Romans 5.19a. It reads as follows:

Through one man’s disobedience [namely, the disobedience of Adam, Genesis 3] the many were made sinners.

Did you ever look really closely at what that verse says? Here is a list of things it does not say, but that many Christians assume it means:
  • Romans 5.19 does not say: Through one man’s disobedience the world was put under a curse. That is true. But that is not what this verse says.
  • Romans 5.19 does not say: Through one man’s disobedience the possibility of other men sinning was opened.
  • Romans 5.19 does not say: Through one man’s disobedience the many inherited a propensity to do evil.
No, it is worse than that. Paul (by inspiration of the Holy Spirit) does not say that Adam’s sin merely made sin a possibility for the rest of mankind. And he does not say that Adam’s sin merely bent us toward sin (though it is true that we are bent toward sin the way the day lilies are bent toward the sun!). No! It is far worse than that. Adam’s sin made us positively sinful in ourselves. It’s not that we merely inherited the option to sin, or the propensity to sin. It’s that we inherited, from Adam, a nature that is, at its very core, sinful. Because he sinned, we became sinners.

Indeed, that is why we sin. Not because there are so many temptations in the modern world (though that fact certainly ‘helps’ us along, doesn’t it?). And not because we are merely bent toward sin. No, we sin because that is the most natural thing in the world for us to do. We were born twisted, crooked, warped, sinful. Indeed, the psalmist David confessed that he was, in fact, born into sin (Psalm 51.5). And Romans 5 teaches us that we must say the same. Because Adam sinned, we came out of the womb – and even lived inside the womb – with hearts whose most natural inclination is not to cry “Abba, Father”, but ‘me first!’; not to cry “praise the Lord”, but ‘look at me!’; not to bow our knees, but to stick out our chests. That is me, apart from Christ. And, without the Savior, that is you, too.

I understand that this isn’t a very palatable truth. In fact, it sounds a little unfair, doesn’t it? ‘I was brought into this world a depraved sinner – with no recourse and no way to rescue myself – simply because some person who lived 6,000 years ago ate fruit that God told him not to eat?’ Yes. ‘Well that is not fair.’ Perhaps not … in our way of reckoning.

But (as I once heard Paul Washer point out) if we refuse to accept that one man’s sin can, apart from anything we do, bring about our depravity and corruption … then, logically, we also have to refuse to accept the latter half of Romans 5.19 – that one man’s obedience (that of Jesus) can, apart from anything we do, bring about our redemption and rescue. And surely we don’t want to refuse that!

So, if we are to accept the truth of Romans 5.19b, we must also accept the truth of Romans 5.19a, distasteful as it is. We are not just open to sin. We are not just bent toward sin. Apart from the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, we are positively sinful in the very center of our beings. It’s worse than we think! But, then again, that is what makes the gospel of Jesus far better than we can ask or imagine!

No comments: