“We won! We won!” shouted August as he dashed into the house. “Our team won the archery competition at school today, and look what I got!” He held out a blue first-prize ribbon.
“That’s great!” said Mom. “And you’re always saying you’re no good at archery. How many points did you make?”
“Only two, but it didn’t matter, because I was on the best team–Jonathan’s team. He’s the best archer in the whole school.” August grinned. “I could never win an archery competition on my own–most of the others on my team couldn’t either–but Jonathan won it for us. He made so many points we wouldn’t have had to make any. But the whole team got first-prize ribbons.”
Mom smiled. “Well, I’m glad you had a good time today.”
A couple days later, August and his parents attended a service at their church. On the way home, Mom commented on the message. “August, I thought of your friend Jonathan when Pastor Curtis talked about Christians being righteous in God’s sight.”
“You did?” August asked curiously. “Why would that make you think of him?”
“You told me you’d never be able to win first place in archery on your own, but the points Jonathan made in the competition counted for everyone on his team, right?” Mom asked.
“That’s right,” said August.
“Well, no person can ever be good enough to win eternal life with God on their own either,” Mom said. “We’re all sinners who have done wrong and fallen short in God’s eyes. But because of what Jesus did on the cross, everyone has the opportunity to go to heaven. Jesus won eternal life for us when He died on the cross for our sins and rose again, and all who trust in Him are on His team. Just like all the kids on your archery team shared in Jonathan’s victory in the competition, all Christians share in Jesus’s victory over sin and death.”
“Wow! Then we’re members of the very best team of all, aren’t we?”
Dad nodded. “As Pastor Curtis pointed out, when we trust in Jesus, God sees His righteousness in us instead of our sin. Then we all share in His victory and receive the prize of eternal life with Him. We’re members of his eternal team.”
In Romans 5:12-19 Paul talks about the struggle all Christians have with the four monarchs of sin, death, grace, and life. Satan was the original violator of the righteousness of God, but sin entered the world through Adam and death entered the world through sin. Paradise was polluted by sin. The fact that sin entered the world is not always treated with the solemnity that it deserves.
Part of the problem is that in our preoccupation with sin and our struggle against sin, we ignore the fact that Adam’s sin was a calculated decision to disobey God and accept the consequences of his actions. When man introduces something new into human experience, the human race will always be left to live with the consequences. When sin entered the life of a man, it also entered the experience of a race as yet unborn. Even though there was no law, death was universal because people were still sinful. They died because they inherited the nature of death from Adam, not because of their sinful acts.
Because humanity was exposed to sin, it was also exposed to the horror of death. As sin entered, abounded, and reigned, so also did death. When God spoke to Adam about obedience He made it clear that disobedience would lead to death. God was not referring to physical death because Adam and Eve survived the Fall for many years. God was referring to spiritual death, or alienation from the life of God. Adam experienced that alienation, and the human race is still largely alienated from God today.
Christ in His obedience corrected the wrong Adam did in his disobedience. Christ is not Adam’s successor but his Saviour. They are alike only in the sense that both had universal significance: Adam for death, Christ for Life. The key is the phrase “much more.” Whatever humankind has inherited from Adam, they have much more in Christ. By using the words “abound” and “reign” to describe the action of sin, death, and grace in human experience, Paul used the reality of sin and death as an illustration of the reality of grace, which is not always easy to understand.
Christ’s one act of salvation was far superior to Adam’s one act of rebellion. One Bible commentator said,” that the one single misdeed should be answered by judgment, this is perfectly understandable: that the accumulated sins and guilt of all the ages should be answered by God’s free gift, this is the miracle of miracles.” Christ’s reign in life is greater than Adam’s “reign” in death.
The Law of Moses applied to the people of Israel. They were under the reign of sin, but when the Law was applied to their lives, their hidden sin came out into the open. The most appalling example of this was their rejection of Jesus as Messiah when they shouted, “Crucify him, crucify him!” When Pilate washed his hands of the controversy, the Jewish leaders said, “Let his blood be on us and on our children.” At that moment sin was abundant, but grace was even more abundant. When the soldiers hammered in the nails, sin was abundant, but when Jesus said “Father, forgive them,” grace was more abundant. When He was insulted by one of the thieves and the other one asked for forgiveness, grace was very abundant when Jesus said, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”
Christ’s obedience is greater than Adam’s disobedience. Adam was in an environment conducive to obedience (the Garden); still, he disobeyed and brought death. The second Adam (Jesus) was in an environment that hindered obedience (the fallen world), yet He obeyed and brought life.
The reign of Christ’s grace is as far-reaching as the reign of sin. Through Adam the entire human race was reached by sin, but it was also touched by Christ’s grace. Through birth all are related to Adam; through faith “the many” are related to Christ. Adam’s people suffer death, but Christ’s people enjoy the all-pervading reign of grace, eternal life, and righteousness.
In verse 17 Paul writes that “those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.” The other three reigns speak of powers or principles under which human beings live, but the reign of grace speaks of the quality of life which redeemed individuals are to demonstrate.
One of the hardest things to do is to be saved by grace. There’s something in us that reacts to God’s free gift. We have a tendency to create laws, systems, and regulations that will make us “worthy” of our gift. Why do we do that? It is probably because of pride. To accept grace means to accept its necessity, and most people don’t like to do that. Accepting grace also means that one realizes his or her despair, and most people aren’t too keen on doing that either.
Those who receive Christ are born to the heavenly palace and have the royal blood in their veins exclusively through Him. It is what He has done and who He is in their lives that alone makes reigning in life a possibility. With Him all things are possible; without Him we will fail. With Him we can stand in the presence of God without a sense of fear, guilt, or inferiority, and with no consciousness of sin.
If we are tempted to think that our sins are too great for God to forgive, we must remember that the power of God is infinitely greater than our sin. When God looks at us He doesn’t see us in weak, defeated, or leftover positions. He sees us as rulers and royalty. We have His royal blood flowing through our veins. God uses our sin to motivate us toward greater spiritual achievement, to quicken our compassion toward sinners and to show God’s tender heart for the fallen.
If we are tempted to think that Satan is too powerful to resist, we must remember that the power that raised Christ from the grave lives in us. If we are tempted to doubt our salvation, we must remember that it is well with our souls because Jesus has perfectly paid the price for our sins. Our justification happened at the cross. It means God has acquitted us of our sins, vindicated and pronounced us righteous in His eyes. We are as much justified the hour we first came to Christ by faith as we will be for all eternity.
If we have received Jesus as our Lord and Saviour, then through the application of the principles in God’s Word we can see every situation in life turn out positively and for our good. This does not mean that we will never suffer hardship. Being able to live supernaturally above the circumstances of life is conditional; it is based on us receiving God’s overflowing grace and the free gift of righteousness. These gifts can’t be earned. They were paid for by Christ’s blood. They are precious gifts from God that we can only receive in the same way we receive anything else from God: by faith. When we realize that we are the righteousness of God in Christ, that we are in right standing with God, the works of Satan in our lives are forever destroyed. Grace restores our relationship with God and frees us to live the life Jesus offers. His grace allows us to face our past, to confess our sins, and to repent and lead in a new way today. It frees us to apologize to those we have hurt and guides us as we make amends.
Are you on God’s team? There’s no way you can have victory over sin and death and win a place in heaven on your own. But Jesus has already won the victory, and He invites you to share in it. Will you trust Him as your Savior today? Then when God looks at you, He’ll see Jesus’s goodness–His righteousness–and you’ll be on His team forever!
- Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible: New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013; p. 1550)
- Briscoe, D.S., & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 29: Romans (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1982; pp. 117-126)
- MacArthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)
- Jerry Savelle, “A Revelation of Righteousness.” Retrieved from email@example.com
- Jerry Savelle, “Reign of a King.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Jerry Savelle, “Revelation of Righteousness.” Retrieved from email@example.com
- Michael Youssef, Ph.D., “Christ Arose and We Won.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Max Lucado, “An Undeserved Gift.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
- Joel Osteen, “Reign in Life.” Retrieved from email@example.com
- Selwyn Hughes, “Grace-Greater Than All Our Sin.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
- Joni Eareckson Tada, “Justification.” Retrieved from www.joniandfriends.org
- Hazel Marett, “The Best Team.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org