Wednesday, 12 June 2013

The Gift of Life after Life

"But the gift is not like the trespass" (Romans 15:5)

The view from my window is a gift. Snow-flanked mountains lie distant and still, their brilliance set off by the deep evergreens below. The skies are drawn out as an endless dome over it all, cloudless and wintry pale. A hush has settled all around me, and as many times before, I close my eyes to drink in the moment. It is so still, I can hear the scurrying of the small field mouse that lives in the kitchen garden, the flutter of a humming bird in the pine-apple-sage bush.

At times it is sad to think that this is all temporary. When pain and hardship seem so distant and the moment so precious, that I want to hold on to this life with all my might, not wanting the sand of time to slip through my fingers.

This morning I came to a halt at this single sentence in Romans: "The gift is not like the trespass". Reading Romans is always a challenge to me. I am drawn to prose and promises in Scripture and in this letter, there seems to be so much doctrine, reasoning and analysis that I sometimes miss the beauty and truth of the message. 

First of all, I had to go back to see why the apostle started the sentence with "But"; this surely meant there had to be another reasoning that came before this little gem. I kept on going further back, for each time a section started with "therefore" and so there had to be a "before" the conclusion; so I ended up reading scripture backwards before I could go forward...

This is what I discovered:

Starting from the back of the sentence: The trespass. Other translations say "offence, sin, fall, failure, transgression". 

This implies the first sin of the man Adam; when he disobeyed and offended God. As a result he fell from the perfect love relationship with God in which he was created, and all his descendants with him.

The gift is the righteousness of Christ, justification for that first sin and all other offences to follow.

I don't find the concept of righteousness an easy one to understand. But it is something that God wants to give us by faith - followed by repentance. Not only of all the "bad deeds", but also the "good deeds" that we think can make us righteous!

David Pawson says: "We must never forget that the cross was a double substitution. Jesus not only took our sins, but also imparts (gives) His righteousness to us. The cross was not merely a transaction whereby we escape hell".

I wondered why a likeness is drawn between Adam and Christ in this section...

(v. 15b: "For if many died by the trespass of the one man (Adam), how much more did God's grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!")

Both are men, the first Adam is called "the one man", and so is the second Adam: Jesus Christ - to express the truth of His human nature; and because the Redeemer ought to be a man, though not a mere man. A man without flaw.

Both are sole authors of what they leave to their "children", Adam of sin, Christ of righteousness. Both convey single things. Adam that one first sin, through which he broke the covenant made by God with him and his descendants.

Christ leaves to us the inheritance of his righteousness, without any additional works of righteousness (good deeds) of ours to complete it.  
Both convey what they do, "to all" their offspring: but here is a difference between them: The offence or sin of Adam is conveyed in a natural way, to all who descend from him. 

The righteousness of Christ is conveyed in a way of grace, to his spiritual offspring. That is why it is not only called the "free gift", but "the grace of God". 

"The gift by grace", which is "by one man, Jesus Christ"; came to us because of the grace of the Father.

This grace fixed and settled the need for justification. In this lies the wonder: Because of the grace of the Son in becoming man, in being made (under the law), sin and a curse, we are made "right" before God.

The grace of the Spirit reveals this to us, and works faith to receive it. Just as the righteousness itself is a free grace gift, given to unworthy people, so is the faith through which we embrace this.

Through the offence of one man Adam, death came.

Through the death of another man, Christ Jesus, came the free gift of life.

Life to His children, not barely such a life as Adam had in innocence, the life he lost by the "trespass", but a spiritual and an eternal life.

The abundance of this grace, secures for us a far better life than what was lost by the fall.

Life in paradise, before the fall, in all its perfection, when man walked with God in the garden of Eden, cannot begin to compare with the life that we are to inherit through Jesus. 

In my very limited understanding I cannot begin to fathom the fullness of this gift.

In moments when the promised land seems elusive and far, I like to remind myself that God never exaggerates. 

In fact, His promise is always greater than our expectation, His answer always more generous than our prayers and the riches of eternal life in His presence, far greater than our wildest expectations.

What a day that will be, when my Jesus I shall see
And I look upon His face
The One who saved me by His grace;
When He takes me by the hand
and leads me to the promised land
What a day, glorious day that will be! (Jim Hill)

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