Bible Book: Romans / Romeine
Verse (to): 21
Paul speaks of two men (humans) in Romans 5:12-21. First he presents the man, Adam, as head of our human community. Paul pictures him as representing all humanity in his act of disobedience. Through him “sin entered the world” (verse 12a) with the following consequences: “judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation” (verse 16); “death reigned through that one man” (verse 17); “the result of one trespass was condemnation for all” (verse 18) and “many were made sinners” (verse 19 – all quoted from NIV).
Then there is another man, Christ. Through his obedience there is the free gift of grace (cf verse 15b) and the consequences are: justification (cf verse 16c), righteousness (cf verse 17b), acquittal, life (cf verse 18b and 19c) and abundant grace (cf verse 20).
Paul presents Adam and Christ to his readers as two representative figures. Through the principle of corporate solidarity their acts affected the lives of all whom they represent.
This argument of Paul makes me wonder: What would Paul have thought of the “us-them” paradigm that is sometimes expressed amongst Christians? In the context of the Aids pandemic I have often heard thoughts along the following lines: “We are the saved, they are the sinners. We are righteous; they have fallen under God’s judgment.”
My guess is that Paul will say that this way of thinking is a misunderstanding of Romans 5. What Paul does in this passage is to compare “us” with “us”. The first “us” is our lives according to Adam. What we received from Adam is the gift of sin and death. Fortunately there is another “us”. This “us” is our new lives according to Christ. What we received from Christ is the gift of grace which is righteousness through the obedience of Christ.
This chapter is not meant to let us “look down” on “other” people in any way. The idea is that we must look up to the marvelous grace of God! Then we will sing with Paul, “… now God’s wonderful grace rules .., giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (verse 21 NLT)!
To think about (or discuss): How can we guard against thoughts that express an attitude of “looking down on others”?
Author: N du Toit (Ds)