Paying the Penalty

Romans 5:  15 But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, 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.

 I recall watching a clip from an NFL American football game from a number of years ago.  It was the Detroit Lions versus the Green Bay Packers, a key interdivision rivalry.  As I recall it was nearing the end of the game and Detroit had a very good chance to score a touchdown to make up ground on the Packers who were leading.  On one play, the Lions’ offensive linesman seemed to lose his mind, jam the opposing players head in the ground three times and stomped on him with his foot.  The team was penalized on the play, he was ejected from the game, and he was suspended a further two games.  This momentary error in judgement, this one act of misconduct, likely cost the team the victory.

For any one game, an NFL football team may dress 46 players with another 7 on the roster.  The majority will play, either on offense, defense or on special teams.  In addition, the team has a head coach and an average of 15 assistant coaches, not to mention a whole slew of invested staff, not the least of which are the owners.  And don’t forget the fans, often millions, who pay significant money to support their team and often emotionally live and die by the outcome of a game. Think of it, because of the lack of control of one player, countless people had to suffer.  That hardly seems fair.  But those are the rules; those are the laws of the game.

This reminds me of the scripture we read today, but it obviously addresses something far more serious than the outcome of a football game.  It addresses the outcome of life, the outcome of eternity. The Apostle Paul tells us in the letter to Romans (chapter 5) that sin came into the world through one man.  ”19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners…” (Romans 5:19)  Pastor John Piper describes it this way:

The problem with the human race is not most deeply that everybody does various kinds of sins—those sins are real, they are huge and they are enough to condemn us. Paul is very concerned about them. But the deepest problem is that behind all our depravity and all our guilt and all our sinning, there is a deep mysterious connection with Adam whose sin became our sin and whose judgment became our judgment. (John Piper, “Adam, Christ, and Justification: Part 1”)

If this was the end of the story, it would truly be a depressing reality.  It would mean that I was born into a world with no hope, and no life giving future because of the sin of one man.  But this is not the end of the story.  It continues on with a vitally important conjunction, the word “But”.   But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8).  Hallelujah!  16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16).

We can focus on the sin that came through one man or we can do as the Apostle Paul does and marvel at the miracle of the redemption that came through one man.  15 But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, 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 (Romans 5:15).

While no one player could undo the transgression of another player who had committed a foul; in the great game of life, the magnificent creator of this world came himself through the person of Jesus Christ to present us with a free gift, one that paid the price for the original sin and paid the price for the sins we commit each day.  “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15)

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