|Romans: The Clearest Gospel of All
by E.H. “Jack” Sequeira
I receive in the mail now and then a little package that comes from Palo Alto, California. Its a bunch of papers called Discovery Papers and they are actual transcripts of Biblical sermons preached by different Evangelical preachers put together by a very famous evangelical scholar by the name of Ray Steadman. He does it because he has a tremendous burden; his burden is the preaching of the Bible be restored in the pulpits of North America. I think it is a very worthwhile burden because the crying need of not only the Evangelicals but the Adventist church is Biblical preaching.
When I received my last package, I looked through to see what the sermons were all about and one of the sermons was on Romans 5:12-21. My ears pricked because normally most preachers, Evangelical or Adventist, wont touch this passage. Its too controversial; it has too many difficulties. And I said, Here is somebody who is trying to preach it, I wonder what he has to say.
I read through the paper but, unfortunately, he tried to deal with the whole passage in one sermon. You cannot do justice to such a passage in one sermon but I was impressed at his introduction; so I thought I would read it to you because it is basically what I have been trying to tell you and I am glad that there is somebody else who feels the same.
The preacher is Brian Morgan and this is what he says in his introduction: Of all of Romans, I find this text [i.e., Rom.5:12-21] the most difficult to teach. In fact, I was dreading it. [He wanted to bypass it, but he felt his conscience wouldnt allow him.] For years I taught this material without discovering a clear outline or an understanding of Pauls argument. If you read most of the Evangelical scholars on this passage you will see what hes talking about. But, as I meditated on this truth this week, I realized that our difficulty lies in the fact that we do not approach this passage with the mind of Paul. Because we do not think as he does, we cannot fully comprehend the thoughts of God. So how does he solve this problem? Here it is: By changing my way of thinking. Not by changing Pauls way of thinking, which is what most people do, but by changing my way of thinking, the magnitude and the glory of the work of Christ revealed in the passage became greater than ever before.
Then he ends, I pray that this might happen for you as well, and this is my prayer, too.
Im convinced that it is essential that we understand this passage to understand Christ our Righteousness. It is essential to understand this passage to understand the In Christ Motif which is the central theme of Pauls theology. To me, it is crucial that we understand this passage if we are to understand Romans 6, 7, and 8, which are key passages in Romans.
As I said before, please put away your preconceived ideas. Come to this text with an open mind. I was amazed that, when this man came to the text with an open mind, we came to the basic same conclusion. So it gave me courage. But I will respect you if we disagree. However, please be honest with the text. Dont go beating around the bush; give me a correct exegesis of this text. If Im wrong, Im willing to change, but be honest with the text.
Now were spending three studies on this. Weve covered two and we come to our final study on this passage. I want to remind you that, in the last study we dealt with verses 15 to 18 and we discovered that, because of Adams sin, we received condemnation and the sentence of death. And because of Christs obedience, we receive the verdict of justification by faith. Christ cancelled not only Adams sin, but ours also by His life and death.
As I mentioned once before, this is the passage that is used primarily by those who teach the doctrine of original sin. I want to go on record so that you are aware of my thinking on this. I believe that Augustine was the one who coined the term original sin and he had a mixture of truth and error. For example, he taught original guilt, which is unbiblical because guilt in its legal sense involves responsibility; it involves volition. And God doesnt hold me responsible for Adams sin. He doesnt hold me guilty. The Bible doesnt teach that.
Yes, I participated in his sin so I suffer the results, but I am not guilty. I am guilty, according to the New Testament, if I willfully, deliberately reject the gift of God, Jesus Christ; then I become responsible.
This teaching of Augustine was a mixture of truth and error. He taught that every baby is born with a stain of sin, which is unbiblical, and which has to be removed by baptism, which is also wrong. Baptism doesnt remove any stain of sin, Adams or yours. Baptism is a public confession of faith and we will deal with this and the significance of baptism at another time when we study Romans 6.
Please remember that, while Augustine had errors, so did Pelagian, who was the opposite of Augustine and who taught that babies are born innocent. He was just as much a heretic. So whichever we belong to, we must forget names; we must go to Scripture and ask God, What are You saying?
When we come to Romans 5, verse 19, we discover that Paul adds another dimension to our problem in Adam and also another dimension to the solution in Christ. So lets look at verse 19. What is this added dimension that Paul adds to what he said in verses 15 to 18?
For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners....
Im not saying it; Paul is saying it. Adams sin not only brings the condemnation of death, but Adams sin made us sinners. But many dont like that. Many feel that babies are born innocent and that it is when they sin they are made sinners; so they dont like the word made. The Greek word actually means constituted. But whatever meaning you give the word, you have to give the same meaning when its used in terms of Christ and us, because Paul uses the very same verb. He doesnt use a different word; the tense is different but the verb is identical. The same word is used in terms of Adam and and us and in terms of Christ.
Now let me emphasize this because if you get this wrong in terms of Adam you will go wrong in terms of Christ. For example, let me start with babies. The New Testament and the Old Testament have very little to say about the salvation of babies and I prefer to keep silent. So is E.G. White. The fact that she makes one statement in The Great Controversy that when Christ comes there will be some babies who are resurrected without mothers does not prove that all babies will be saved because they are innocent. Thats reading into the statement more than she is saying. The Bible is silent. I have my views and I can explain them to you if you come to me privately. But I will not express them here because I prefer to stick with Scripture and the Bible is silent.
However, I do know one thing from Scripture and the writings of Ellen G. White and that is that no human being whether its a baby or an adult, whether its male or female or whether Jew or Gentile, whether you lived in Old Testament times or New Testament times no human being will be in heaven apart from the saving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Everybody born in this world needs a Savior and nobody will be in heaven apart from the grace of Christ. That is the clear teaching of the Scriptures.
Now we come to the second issue which is a continuation of the first. Do we sin because we are sinners, or is it our sin that made us sinners? Which is true? Let me put it another way. When does an apple tree become an apple tree: from the time it germinates, from the time its a seed, or when it begins producing fruit? If I go to the nursery to buy an apple tree and I say to the man, I need an apple tree.
Well, he replies, this tree looks like an apple tree but I cant guarantee that it is. You wait until it produces fruit and then you will know whether or not its an apple tree.
Do you think Ill buy that tree? Id say to the man, Where did you go to school? Youd better learn your job before you sell things youre not sure of. How do I know its not a crab apple? I dont want crab apples, although some folks can make jam out of it. I dont enjoy jam; I like apples.
When do we become sinners? According to this passage, we are made sinners by Adams sin. Therefore, we are born sinners and our sins are simply the fruit of what we already are. Now if I reverse it, then I have to reverse my situation in Christ. Is it my righteousness that makes me righteous or is my righteousness evidence or fruits of what I already am in Christ? Does God first make you righteous before He declares you righteous? If you teach that, I have news for you, you belong to the Roman Catholic Church and your name has no right to be in the Adventist Church, because that is Roman Catholic theology: God infuses you with grace, makes you righteous, then He declares you a saint.
But I thank God that all believers, according to Paul, are sanctified. Look at 1 Corinthians, where Paul introduces his letter; hes talking to the saints in Corinth. 1 Corinthians 1:2:
To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ their Lord and ours....
They were anything but saints in their behavior, but he calls them saints because, in Christ, we are righteous. The righteousness that God produces in me is simply the evidence, the fruit of what I already am in Christ. This is the conclusion, if I understand Romans 5:19. Lets look at the text a little closer. First of all, lets read the whole verse, Romans 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.
Is there any difference between those two statements, especially in the word made? You will discover there is a difference in the tense. Paul uses what we call in Greek the aorist tense when he talks in terms of our position in Adam. He uses the future tense when he talks of our situation in Christ. In other words, everyone of us was already born a sinner because Adam made us sinners at the fall. When we are born, we are born sinners (past tense). But we are not yet made righteous. We will be made righteous at the second coming of Christ when this corruption puts on incorruption. Then and only then will you and I and all of us be made righteous who accept Christ. Until then, the just shall live by faith. And both justification and sanctification are by faith alone.
Now let me give you some texts to show that this is what Paul is teaching in other places. Turn to 1 Corinthians 15:49. Paul is saying the same thing but from a different angle. Read verses 48 and 49 to get the whole picture. 1 Corinthians 15:48:
As was the earthly man [Adam], so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven.
Adam was made of dust and you and I were born made of dust. Those who are of heaven are those who accept Christ. Now look at verse 49. When will this take place?
And just as we have borne [please notice, it is not future, it is something that is already true of us] the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear [future] the likeness of the man from heaven.
When shall we bear? Paul goes on to explain it was sown in corruption, it was raised in incorruption. At the resurrection, we shall be raised incorruptible. Read the whole passage of chapter 15. By the way, 1 Corinthians 15:21 to the end deals with the same topic, the two Adams. Maybe I should read you verses 21 and 22, which is the key statement on this passage in Corinthians:
For since death came through a man [singular], the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man [singular again]. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive [future tense].
We shall be made alive in Christ; we shall be made righteous (future tense), but now we are righteous only in Him by faith. Our position in Him is by faith not by reality. Does this mean that we cant live a righteous life? No, Im not saying that; well come to that when we reach verse 21. But Im simply saying that even when God gives you total victory over sin you are still a sinner by nature. Your nature will not change until the second coming of Christ, and this is what Paul means when he says we are made or constituted sinners through Adams sin.
I would recommend that you read the second chapter of Steps to Christ [by Ellen G. White]. When Adam sinned, his nature became bent. Love disappeared; selfishness took its place. And we were born, every one of us, with a bent towards sin which is with Satan and not with God.
But now lets go on, back to Romans 5. In Romans 5:20 Paul proves what he says in verse 19:
The law was added so that the trespass might increase.
Some translations read, the law entered... Lets look at the word entered. Entered what? What did Paul mean? It entered what?
God came to Abraham and gave him a promise. The promise was of a Messiah that He had given before to Adam and Eve at the fall. Four hundred years after Abraham, God comes to Moses and says, You know, Moses, I really goofed up. I meant to give the law to Abraham but I forgot so I need to add this.
Did He do that? Was the law added as an extra requirement for salvation which He forgot to give Abraham? No. What Paul means by the word entered is the law entered the promise. The reason God gave the law was not an extra requirement to faith. The law entered that the offense might abound [KJV]. If you look at the statement at its face value it sounds terrible. It sounds as if God gave the law to increase sin; but that is not what Paul is saying. Look at the word offense or trespass or whatever word is used in your translation. Is it singular or plural? Is it offenses or offense? It is singular. Therefore, in the light of the context of this passage, the word offense or trespass from verse 15 onwards, all through, always refers to Adams sin.
So what is Paul saying in the first half of Romans 5, verse 20? He has told us in verse 19 that Adams sin made us sinners. Now lets go back to verse 19 again because there is something I need to add. Lets read the statement again. Romans 5:19:
For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners....
Some translations read many, which has caused a problem to many of our people. They say that not all were made sinners, only many. The King James Version omits one word that is in the original, and thats the word the, the definite article. So what Paul is really saying in verse 19 is, THE many were made sinners.
And when he uses the definite article it means, the human race, mankind. The same is true in verse 15. Paul is saying in verse 19 that Adams sin made the human race sinners. Then in verse 20 he says that God gave the law to prove that Adams sin made the human race sinners. In other words, we were all born sinners, and sinners all produce sin. But how do you know that you are a sinner? Who told you that you are a sinner? The law. God gave the law to prove that this human race produced by Adam is a bunch of sinners. That is why, in chapter 7, Paul says [Romans 7:7]:
...Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law.
It was Adam who made us sinners. God gave the law to open our eyes to prove to us that we are sinners. Why? So that we may accept His grace, His Son Jesus Christ. Because He goes on to say in the second half of Romans 5:20 that:
But where sin increased, grace increased all the more....
We are sinners by nature. Therefore, the only thing that you and I can produce is sin. You cannot produce righteousness out of sin. That is impossible.
I mentioned this illustration before, but I will repeat it. When we were in Kenya, two brilliant young men from Oxford University came to our college there. Since I was in charge of the Department of Religion, they asked me if they could show a film on moral rearmament. It is a movement that is dying out today but it was a theory that, if every human being could arm themselves with three fundamental principles love, purity, and honesty this world would have peace and we would have no need of war. They had a beautiful film. You know what films are like, they can prove anything. They can make you do anything; you know Hollywood is expert at that. They were trying to prove to young people that if they armed themselves with these three fundamental principles, Africa would be a wonderful place to live in.
They needed my permission to show the film. So I said, I have nothing against this film. I appreciate your concern, but you are trying to produce bananas from an orange tree.
They asked me what I meant, so I told them, You can only produce sin from sinners and you are trying to produce righteousness from sinners. You cant do that, only God can. The thing you need to teach is that you must be born again. That is what Jesus taught Nicodemus. He said, Flesh gives birth to flesh [John 3:6]. That which is born of the flesh will always remain flesh, and the flesh can only produce sin. It can produce self-righteousness, but in Gods eyes, self-righteousness is sin also. It may not be in our eyes, but it is in Gods eyes.
Remember that the law simply proved that we human beings are sinners. The law did not make us sin, it simply took the lid off of our self-respectability and showed us what we are like inside: rotten. Dont tell me that babies are not born sinners. When they awake at 3:00 a.m. and demand breakfast, if that is not sin I dont know what is. I couldnt tell our son to go back to sleep, that 6:00 a.m. is breakfast time. Nothing doing! I want it now! He got it from me and I got it from my parents and so on and so on until we come to Adam. Now lets go on to the second half of verse 20:
But where sin increased, grace increased all the more....
What God did in Christ is superabundance. He not only cancelled Adams sin but He also cancelled our sins past, present, and future. We touched that in verse 16. But more than that, He did not only cancel sin (which would make us neutral, clear up a bad debt), He also brought in the verdict of justification to life for all men. He didnt only do that. He did much more. He condemned sin in the flesh. So where sin increased, grace increased all the more. He did it for us, He did it for the whole human race. In view of this, Paul says in verse 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.
You were born a sinner and if you allow sin to reign in your life it would end up with eternal death. But now that grace has come in, may grace reign through righteousness to eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ. You see, Adam brought to this world a reign of sin. You and I were born under that reign. You had no choice. Just like you had no choice being born in America. You had no choice.
When we first came to this country in 1964, I was on a student visa and they charged me Social Security even though I was not an American citizen. One day I asked the Social Security people why I had to pay Social Security since I wasnt born here and I wouldnt enjoy the benefits. He said, Too bad, you were born in the wrong country. Well, I wish I knew who he was. I would write him and say, Now I belong to this country. Shell out that money so that I can retire. Now theyre telling me its about to go bankrupt. You cant win in this world but by grace we have much more than what this world and what this country can give us.
Now Paul is here saying that we were born under the reign of sin and death and, if you remain there, you would end up dying eternally. But we dont need to remain there, he says, because there has been a new reign that has been established in Christ Jesus and if we move to that reign, letting it reign over us, producing righteousness in us, the end will be eternal life.
I would like to turn back to 1 Corinthians 15 because there is a point that is not extremely clear in Romans 5:19-21 but which Paul makes clear in 1 Corinthians 15. This chapter is important as it helps us understand the reign of sin and the reign of grace. So please turn once again to 1 Corinthians 15. And this time Im going to look at two verses, 45 and 47. I want you to notice the two terms Paul uses concerning Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:45,47:
So it is written: The first man Adam became a living being; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. ...The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven.
Now look at the two terms applied to Christ. In verse 45 He is called the the last Adam. (By the way, the term second Adam, does not appear in the New Testament. Its a term used by Ellen G. White. Nothing wrong with the term as long as you dont bring a third Adam; theres no third Adam. The second Adam is also the last Adam, but the New Testament only uses the expression the last Adam.) In verse 47, He is called the second man.
These two terms last Adam and second man are very significant, especially as you read the entire passage. What do they mean? As the last Adam, Christ gathered to Himself all that is of the first Adam, i.e., you and me and everybody else. He gathered to Himself all that is of the first Adam and He did away with the Adamic race at the cross. Because the life of Adam has to die; there is no choice there. The Lord never changes and Christ did not come to change the law or to sidetrack it. He came to fulfill it and the law says [Ezekiel 18:4]:
The soul who sins is the one who will die.
And we have sinned in Adam plus we have our personal sins. So whichever way you look at it, we have to die. At the cross, in Christ, the human race, died. That is why in 2 Corinthians 5:14 Paul says:
For Christs love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.
The death of Christ was not one man dying in the place of all men, which is the false teaching of substitution. It was all men dying in one man, which is the Biblical definition of substitution. We all died, the Adamic race came to an end, at the cross. But in the resurrection, God raised up the human race, in Christ, with a new life, the very life of His Son, which is eternal and which is immortal. And so I read in in 1 John 5:11
And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.
So Christ rose up with a new human race that was redeemed from the old. It is in this sense Paul can say in 2 Corinthians 5:17:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
To review from Romans 5:
All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.
We are by nature the children of wrath, which is saying the same thing as here. In the same way, says Paul, Christs perfect righteousness brought the verdict of justification to life to all humanity. This, by the way, constitutes the good news of the gospel.
Okay, these are the facts. But simply giving you the exegesis of a passage is not preaching; it has to be applied to our lives. So I want to apply this. I want you to listen very closely now. I just have three points, but very important:
To continue to live under this reign is to end up with eternal death. There is no reason why we should remain under this reign. Why? Because Christ has made a way of escape. To deliberately remain under this reign is to ask for eternal death, which means that you can no longer blame Adam. Because no longer are we lost because of Adams sin, because that was cancelled by Christ. We are lost because we deliberately, willfully, persistently reject the gift of God.
Thats why the real issue in the judgment is not the sin question but the Son question. God will ask each unbeliever, Why did you deliberately reject My Son, Whom I gave you at infinite cost? (Ive already touched on this last study.) To accept this gift of grace by faith is to live under the reign of righteousness which ends up with eternal life.
You cant have it both ways. You cant say, Ill accept Christ because I want to go to heaven, but at the same time I want to enjoy sin. Thats a contradiction, and when we come to Romans 6 we will see, he brings it out very clearly that you cant. To receive Christ, the Author of Righteousness, means to say good-bye to Adam, the author of sin. That is why I touched 1 Corinthians 15:45 and 47. He did away with Adam and raised up you in a new humanity. So, if you want to accept Christ, you have to give up your position in Adam.
Let me put it this way, and I will explain it in more detail when we come to Romans 6. In this world, you begin by life that is passed on to you from Adam. But you end up with death, because the life he passes on to you is a life that is condemned to death. So you begin with life in this world, and you end up with death. In the gospel, it is the reverse: you begin with death and you end up with life. And there is no life unless you first die. You cannot belong to Adam and Christ at the same time.
Several years ago there was a man who emigrated to America from Germany. He was very clever and became an excellent photographer; he became a millionaire in this country in New York. Several years later, He decided to visit His homeland, Germany, that was his birthplace. And because he was famous, and because he was wealthy, He wrote to Emperor William. And this is how he wrote: Youve probably heard of me. I am a German-American and I want to visit my birthplace, and I would like to have an audience with you.
Emperor William wrote back, a very nice letter. He said, Germans I know, and Americans I know, but German-Americans I do not know. If you were a German, and became an American, you no longer have the right to claim to be a German.
When you become a Christian, you are no longer an Adamite; youre a Christian. Your citizenship is in heaven. You are no longer of the world; you are living in the world, but you are no longer of it. You cannot be in Adam and in Christ at the same time. You have to make your choice. That is the clear teaching of the New Testament.
Now Im not talking of the struggle, Im talking now of choosing. Unbelief is the deliberate, willful choosing to remain under the reign of sin which is in Adam. Belief means willfully choosing to be in Christ and in the reign of righteousness. And this Paul spells out in detail when we come to the second half of Romans 6. The master you have chosen you must serve: sin unto death or righteousness unto life. You cant have both. And that is why this passage is crucial in order for you to understand chapter 6, 7, and 8.
So what is Paul telling us. He thinks there are two humanities: one that was introduced by Adams fall and the other one that was initiated by Christs obedience, His life and His death. We are by nature in Adam. We are born in Adam; therefore, by nature, we are children of wrath. But whoever believes in Jesus Christ shall not perish but have eternal life. It is possible for every one of us to move from that position to the new humanity, because, in Christ, God has already accomplished it as a gift.
He put you in Christ 2,000 years ago, and rewrote your history in Christ, so that, in Him, you stand perfect, or, as I may use the words of Steps to Christ, God looks at you as if you had never sinned (in Christ) and He gave you a new life, a new position, and a new destiny. And He says, Please, will you accept it? I cant force it, Im not a Communist, please accept it. And if you say, Yes, then Jesus will say to you what He said in John 5:24:
I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.
It is my prayer that on this platform you will build your Christianity. Christianity is not simply joining a denomination. Becoming a Seventh-day Adventist will not save you. Christianity is not baptism by the act; the act doesnt save anybody. It is the truth of baptism that saves.
And what is the truth of baptism? Dying in Christ, saying good-bye to Adam, being buried in Christ, terminating in sin, and resurrecting to newness of life in Christ. And that is why it is important that we really preach the true meaning of baptism.
I even heard last week on the radio that baptism is a memorial service. Show me one text in the Bible that teaches that. Baptism is not a memorial service; it is a confession service. The Lords Supper is a memorial service. But baptism is a confession to the world, just like when my wife and I became American citizens. We had to swear that we would give up all allegiance to foreign potentates. My wife said in her heart, I cant say good-bye to the queen. But you cant belong to Britain and America. Now I know there are people with dual passports; but, when it comes to a crisis, you have to choose one.
And as for me and my household I have chosen Christ, to be my Righteousness, to be my Life, to be my Savior and my Hope. And I have lost all confidence in the flesh.
It my prayer that you will join me. And if we build our Christianity on this platform, the platform of not I, but Christ, there will be revival in this church, and we will lighten this valley not with our human glory but with the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. And this is my prayer in Jesus name. Amen.