“Union with Christ”
Series: The Gospel for Real Life (2 of 8 )
Team Preaching with Rev. Todd A. Linn and Rev. Rich Stratton
Words in Black: Todd Linn
Words in Red: Rich Stratton
- Take your Bibles and open to Romans, chapter 5 (p. 760).
In a moment I’m going to invite Brother Rich to join me here on the platform as we look at this text together. If you’re visiting with us we began last week a special 8-week study of the Gospel. We are reading through this wonderful book by Jerry Bridges, the Gospel for Real Life. Our Sunday school classes are reading two chapters a week and studying them together each Sunday in their small group Sunday school class. Incidentally, we had 625 in Sunday school last Sunday and we rejoice in that. Thank you, classes and teachers, for your faithfulness. Keep inviting folks to your classes and, if you’re here this morning and not in a Sunday school class, now is the best time to get into a class. If you need a recommendation, just ask me or Rich or another minister or member and we’ll make a recommendation.
In our worship time, we are preaching a text that is related to the material you studied for the week. This serves to reinforce that teaching from Bridges’ book and to solidify our understanding of it. So this morning we’re looking at Romans, chapter 5 and we’re going to be reading about two men: Adam and Christ. Now, let me invite Rich to come up and join me in our preaching of this passage. Rich, what is the context of this passage in Romans 5?
The context of chapter 5 is the assurance of our salvation. What does that mean, assurance of salvation? It means if we are Christians that we may be assured that our salvation is secure and that it lasts forever. That’s what Paul is writing about in Romans 5, especially the first 11 verses where he writes about our being justified, or “declared righteous” by God. When God justifies us, He declares us righteous, or “not guilty” of all of our sins.
This is what Jerry Bridges was referring to in the book when he speaks of a day when he was feeling particularly convicted of his sin and said, “God, You would be perfectly just in sending me to hell.” But then immediately thought “No, You wouldn’t, because Jesus satisfied Your justice for me.” The reason he was able to say God would not be just in sending him to hell is because he had already been declared righteous, that means once we are declared not guilty, we are just that, not guilty.
Then, in verses 12 and following, Paul tells us what the basis of our assurance is. He tells us why we can be declared righteous. And basically what Paul says in verses 12 and following is that there are two important men—Adam and Christ— Adam brought sin into the world and Christ dealt with that sin, He overcame all the negative effects of Adam’s sin.
That sounds pretty heavy. You think we ought to pray and ask for God’s help before we preach? I think that is a great idea.
- Let’s stand and I’ll lead in prayer.
Most of you will remember the story Jerry Bridges told in the opening chapter of The Gospel for Real Life. He said that his pastor had once told about a southern plantation owner who left an inheritance to a former slave, a slave who had been faithful to him all his life. So this plantation owner left a sizable inheritance, $50,000, which was a lot of money in those days, maybe as much as half a million dollars today. So the plantation owner died and his lawyer contacted this former slave, a kind and humble old man, and told him of his inheritance. The lawyer also told the old man that he had deposited the inheritance in the local bank and that he could draw upon it anytime he liked. Several weeks go by and the old man never once called the bank to get any money. Finally, the banker called the former slave in and told this old man again that he had this $50,000 available to draw on anytime he liked. And the old man replied, “Sir, do you think I can have fifty cents to buy a sack of cornmeal?”—When we hear that we think, “Fifty cents?! How about, fifty dollars, or five hundred dollars or five thousand dollars?!”—but the former slave, not having handled money most of his life, had no understanding of his wealth. As a result, he was asking for fifty cents when he could have had much, much more.
So Bridges says:
That story illustrates the plight of many Christians today. The apostle Paul wrote of preaching… “the unsearchable riches of Christ (Ephesians 3:8).” Paul was not referring to financial wealth but to the glorious truths of the gospel. To use the figures from the former slave’s story, Paul was saying that each of us has $50,000 available to us in the gospel. Yet most of us are hoping we can squeeze out fifty cents’ worth. Why is this true? The answer is that we don’t understand the riches of the gospel any more than the former slave understood the riches of $50,000 (p.16).
But before we can appreciate the unsearchable riches of Christ we need to understand our need for Christ. We’re going to read through this passage in Romans 5, verses 12 to the end, and we want to suggest that you think in two broad categories: “Union with Adam” and “Union with Christ.” Paul is comparing and contrasting these two men and every one of us in this room is connected to one of these two men, either connected to Adam or to Christ. Verse 12:
12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned —
And then Paul pauses and begins to speak parenthetically. That’s right. At the end of verse 12 there’s a dash in nearly every translation. Do you see that? There’s a dash there because Paul takes a detour here and begins to talk about the Old Testament Law. So he speaks in brackets, clarifying is point from verse 13 to verse 17. If you look at verse 18 you’ll see that that is where he picks back up his initial thought: “Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life.” Verse 17 finishes Paul’s initial thought back up in verse 12. Look again at verse 12. It is a very concise statement about how sin entered the world:
12 … through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned —
Paul is referring here to what theologians call “The Fall.” We live in a “fallen world.” Genesis 3 teaches us about Adam and Eve. Most of us know the story. Satan tempted Eve to eat fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and Eve gave into the temptation. We could say that she sinned first, but it is Adam who bears ultimate responsibility because God created Adam first as spiritual leader, provider, and protector of his home. So in a very real sense he sinned in his failure to be who God had commanded him to be. Therefore, God holds Adam accountable and this is why Paul speaks of this first sin as coming “through one man.”
Remember we are thinking about these two men: Adam and Christ. Through the first man, Adam, sin entered the world and death through sin. That’s why we live in a fallen world. The phrase refers to Adam’s fall. Adam fell morally.
So it is really kind of like Humpty Dumpty. What?! You know, Humpty Dumpty. “Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall. Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. All the king’s horses and all the kings men couldn’t put Humpty together again.” Adam is like Humpty Dumpty, he fell and nothing could fix him.
Yeah, that works. Adam is like Humpty Dumpty. Adam fell and brought sin into the world. And that’s also why we have death in this world. Death—both spiritual and physical death—was the penalty for Adam’s sin. In Genesis 3 God told Adam and Eve, “If you eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, you will surely die.” Adam and Eve partook of this fruit and the result is spiritual and physical death.
Then Paul says in the latter part of verse 12, “and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.” Paul is teaching that “we all sinned” when Adam sinned. Adam was the federal head, or representative head, of all human beings. He represented us in the Garden of Eden much the way our country’s president represents us in overseas affairs. So when Adam sinned we all sinned.
So Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. And while all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty together again, there is a man who can fix things. His name is Jesus.
That’s good. Jesus is the one who fixes the fall of Humpty Dumpty—or Adam. He reverses the fall. Paul goes on in this passage and shows that just as Adam is the representative of all who are his, all who sinned and thus died, so Christ is the representative of all who are His, all who are forgiven and thus made alive. Just as Adam is the representative of every man who is born, Jesus Christ is the representative of every man who is born again. So, lest we cry, “But when Adam sinned I wasn’t even there! How can I be guilty?!” If we say that, we must also say, “But when Christ died I wasn’t even there! How can I be forgiven?!” Both men are our representatives. Adam is the representative of every man who is born, Jesus Christ is the representative of every man who is born again. Verse 13:
13 (For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law.
What does that mean, Rich? Paul is saying that sin existed before the Old Testament law was given through Moses. Sin was not absent during the time between Adam and Moses, it just wasn’t officially recognized at that time as a breaking of the law. Look at verse 14:
14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.
That means sin that even though the Old Testament Law had not been written people were still sinning.. All have sinned, even if it wasn’t the same kind of transgression Adam committed (a commandment specifically revealed by God), all are guilty of sin.
Paul also says in verse 14 that Adam is “a type” of Him who was to come. Just as Adam is a representative of humanity, Christ a representative of humanity. Adam represents the old humanity, Christ represents the new humanity. Adam’s sin means all humanity is condemned in him, resulting in eternal death. Christ’s righteousness means that a new humanity may be justified in Him, resulting in eternal life. As he puts it in 1 Corinthians 15:22, “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.” Or again, as you put it earlier, “Adam is the representative of every man who is born, Christ is the representative of every man who is born again.” Okay, I’ll pick up here. Verses 15 and following:
15 But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many.
16 And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned. For the judgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation, but the free gift which came from many offenses resulted in justification.
17 For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.)
See how Paul compares and contrasts these two men? In Adam all die. In Christ shall all be made righteous. But this doesn’t happen automatically. We must receive Christ as our Lord and Savior. Verses 15 and 16 say, “The free gift.” A gift is to be received, and verse 17 says, “much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life.” We must “receive” Christ as Savior. But if we receive Him, then we may be assured that Christ has done everything necessary to overcome all the negative effects of Adam’s sin. Verse 18:
18 Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life.
19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.
So Christ comes as “Adam in reverse.” He is a new representative. Through His work on the cross, he restores us to a position Adam enjoyed before the Fall. Christ was obedient in life and death. In life, He obeyed the law perfectly, obeying all its commands. In death, He willingly laid down His life for us, dying as our substitute, taking our sin upon Himself so that we would get credit for what He did. Verse 20:
20 Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more,
Paul teaches that the Old Testament law—the moral commands of Scripture—was given in order to highlight our sin, to really point out our need for a Savior. “The law entered that the offense might abound.” Sin was already in the world, but when the law came through Moses, sin was even more pronounced. It’s kind of like when you are told not to do something, what do you then want to do? You want to do the very thing you are told not to do! But Paul says, “where sin abounded, grace abounded much more.” No matter how great our sin, no matter how many sins—past, present, and future—if we are “in Christ,” connected to Christ, then grace abounds “much more.” Verse 21:
21 so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Sin reigns in death. If we remain “in Adam,” we remain under the reign of sin and death, sin remains in a sense our king. But if we receive the free gift of God’s grace, then grace will reign through the righteousness of Christ leading to eternal life. So either we are connected to Adam and die or we are connected to Christ and live, we either have “union with Adam” or “union with Christ.”
So what we want to do now is talk about what “union with Christ” looks like, or what it means. How many of you would say, “I enjoy union with Christ?” Me too. Here’s what it means. First:
I. I am forever Connected to Him
If I were to use my hands, it looks like this: (fingers interlocking). To use the phrase Paul loves to use. I am “in Christ.” You will read that phrase, “in Christ” or “in Him” or “in the Lord” several times in the New Testament. John Stott, the British minister and author, says Paul uses this phrase 164 times in his letters. I am “in Christ,” forever connected to Him.
As Rich said in the opening, this passage is all about the assurance of our salvation. When Jesus Christ died on the cross, He took the penalty I deserved. He died for my sins. He died to satisfy God’s holy wrath directed at me because of my sin. Christ took care of that. He took care of my spiritual death and died that I might have eternal life.
And Paul goes on to say in Romans 8 that nothing shall separate us from this love of God. He asks rhetorically, “What shall separate us from the love of Christ? (8:35).” And the answer is, “Nothing.” He says that nothing in all creation “shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:39).” Our salvation is secure. We are forever connected to Him.
We sang of this last week in the hymn, “Before the Throne of God Above.”
One in himself, I cannot die
My soul is purchased by his blood
My life is hid with Christ on high,
With Christ, my Savior and my God
This leads us to the next blessing of union with Christ. I am forever connected to Him and, secondly:
II. I am forever Covered by Him
If I were to use my hands again, it looks like this (one hand covering the other). Christ’s righteousness covers me. Jesus not only represented me on the cross by dying to take the penalty I deserved for my sin, but He also lived the perfect life I could never live. Both His life and death were perfect. He perfectly fulfilled all the moral commands of the Bible. So Christ is perfectly righteous, infinitely perfectly righteous—and the amazing thing is that I get credit for all this! I get credit for His righteousness. He covers me completely with His righteousness.
It’s like when Michele is cold and I offer her my coat. She puts on my coat and is covered. God the Father offers us the coat of Christ’s righteousness. If we will receive it, He will cover us in the righteousness of Christ. And Christ’s righteousness completely covers us.
This is what the hymn-writer meant when he wrote:
When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh, may I then in Him be found,
Clothed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne!
See, even though we are Christians and have been saved from the penalty of sin, the presence of sin is still with us. So when we sin, we may feel shame and guilt and, though we know that God loves us we may wonder whether He likes us, but He does. And this picture (one hand covering the other) is a reminder that we are forever covered in Christ’s righteousness. It means when God looks at us He does like us because what He sees is the righteousness of Christ. To quote again from “Before the Throne of God Above,”
When Satan tempts me to despair,
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look, and see him there
Who made an end of all my sin
Because a sinless Savior died,
My sinful soul is counted free;
For God, the Just, is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me
God looks on Christ and pardons me. God cannot see me without seeing the righteousness of Christ covering me.
You may recall reading last week where Bridges refers to Christ’s baptism and Christ’s transfiguration. Remember what the heavenly Father said about His Son? He said, “This is my Son in Whom I am well pleased.” And Bridges asks, “Did it ever occur to you that when the Father says, ‘This is My Son in Whom I am well pleased’—that He includes you in that warm embrace?” He includes us!
I am forever covered by Him, so again, Bridges says:
We don’t have to feel guilt-ridden and insecure in our relationship with God. We don’t have to wonder if He likes us. We can begin each day with the deeply encouraging realization that I am accepted by God, not on the basis of my personal performance, but on the basis of the infinitely perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ (p.18).
Union with Christ means I am forever connected to Him, forever covered by Him and, thirdly:
III. I am forever Complete in Him
Paul writes in Colossians 2:9-10, “For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him…”
Jesus Christ is our ‘everything.’ Since we’re quoting hymns, let’s do one more. Listen to the opening words of the hymn, “In Christ Alone.”
In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This Cornerstone, this solid ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm
What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My Comforter, my All in All
Here in the love of Christ I stand
And let us stand right now, stand for prayer. Union with Christ means I am forever connected to Him, forever covered by Him, forever complete in Him.
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