From Romans 5:
13for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.
I have been listening to the New Testament on CD in my car recently. I decided to listen to Romans since I have been preaching out of the Gospels, and wanted a break. This morning, I ran across the above portion of Scripture which gave me pause.
It’s a challenge to Christian thinking to say, “sin … was in the world before the law was given”. Recall that Adam was given direction not to eat from a certain tree. God gave Adam that “law” and Adam couldn’t abide by it. He failed to keep “the law”.
This fits nicely into a theology which uses law as its framework.
I can’t help but wonder if something deeper isn’t at work here, though. The talk of Adam being our “Federal Head” is intellectually satisfying, yet is that very same language shielding us from the reality of sin. If we can categorize Adam, then we have a box to put him in. We can coolly evaluate his standing since we are “outside the box”. By establishing this safe distance, we can imagine ourselves on a much-improved footing compared to our ancestor. We can escape the judgment which came down on him.
And, we can escape the consequences, too. After all, It was Adam who sinned. It’s his fault, not mine. I inherited this problem. I don’t really deserve it.
The author of Romans, Paul, doesn’t quite agree. He makes the point that sin was in the world before the law. From Adam down to Moses, there was no law. Not to say that there was lawlessness. It’s just that God hadn’t given a code of conduct for His people yet.
As a consequence of sin, Death reigned from Adam to Moses. Why would death reign if there was no law? Because, ultimately, it is not about breaking the law at all. It’s about the relationship God had with Adam. He expected him to stay away from that tree for his own good. Adam failed to listen to God’s wisdom. He rejected it, and with it, rejected God.
In a nutshell, Adam lost faith in God and His word.
So, His descendants try to put the broken pieces back together. Like the Fairy Tale, Humpty Dumpty, we need to rescue the entire system from it’s fatal consequences.
Have you ever considered that the imposition of a Law framework is actually the sinful self’s efforts to restore ourselves? You and I prefer an infrastructure which supports our efforts to become better.
We can shield ourselves from Adam and his foolishness. Although the law looks like a life-ring which will keep us from drowning, it is actually a lead weight that drags us into the murky depths.
And once you turn relationship into a set of rules to follow, you no longer have a relationship, you have a contract with contractual obligations. Law-keeping to restore oneself is fundamentally a lack of faith.
So, Christ came. He came under the Law to fulfill the Law for us, thus setting us free from the Law. It is not that the Law is not to be used; it’s that the law is to be used lawfully. That is, it is to be used to reveal God’s Holiness and our sinfulness, and to drive us to the one who came in love to restore us, Jesus.
Whether you are a law-breaker or a law-keeper (law-breaker under self-deception), Christ is your only hope of escape from both sin and death. He restores faith and relationship. Thank God for that! Without Jesus, we would become slaves of law, sentenced to death. Now, we have been set free in Christ, given his righteousness and sentenced us … to Life!