Weekly Meditation: 5th March 2017

First Sunday in Lent

Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7

Psalm 32

Romans 5:12-19

Matthew 4:1-11

As Lent starts, we have a reminder of the cause of our sickness and of its remedy. The human sickness is sin – we all suffer from it. Jesus is the cure.

Genesis 3 tells us that the first man - Adam -  started it all. Tempted by Satan and persuaded by his wife, Adam ate the forbidden fruit. Whether one takes this story literally or metaphorically, the message is real and stark. Sin is the falling from the perfect standard that God has set; it separates humans from God and leads to death.

In Eden, Adam was tempted by and succumbed to the serpent, whom we assume is Satan the Devil (see Revelation 12:9). In the wilderness, Jesus was tempted by Satan and triumphed.  Adam was tempted when he was in the midst of plenty, and suffering no privation, yet he failed. Jesus was tempted in the comfortless desert after fasting for forty days, and prevailed (Matthew 4:2).

In his letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul draws these accounts together. The purpose of his entire letter is to demonstrate the universal nature of human sin (see Romans 3:23) and to show that salvation is by faith in the sacrifice of Christ (see Romans 3:24; 6:23).  

In chapter 5, Paul compares Adam and Christ. Sin and its consequence -  death - entered the human race 'through one man', Adam (5:12); through one man - Christ - sin is counteracted.  'Through the disobedience of one man' all became sinners, but 'through the obedience of one man many will be declared righteous' (5:19).

It is simplistic, though, to consider that in sending Jesus to die for sinners, God is just righting a wrong, paying a human debt with Christ’s blood, correcting an overdrawn account. Elsewhere in Paul’s writing, Jesus is called 'the last Adam' (1 Corinthians 15:45), but this is not to say that he is merely a replacement for the original, a second attempt after the first failed. Jesus, as the everlasting Son of God who had shared God’s glory in heaven and who came to earth willingly to save his people, was far more than Adam had ever been.

'The gift of God is not like the result of the one man’s sin'. God’s grace is not carefully measured and dispensed; it is poured out, lavished, it 'overflow[s] to the many' (5:15).   God’s judgment in Eden after just one sin 'brought condemnation', but the gift of Christ “followed many trespasses and brought justification” (5:16). Similarly, as 'death reigned' - the result of Adam’s sin-  through Christ many will “receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness” so that they 'reign in life' (5:17).

Throughout this chapter, Paul repeatedly uses the words 'how much more...'.  'By how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath' (5:9); 'how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life' (5:10); 'how much more did God’s grace ... overflow' (5:15); 'how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace ... reign in life' (5:17).  As so often in the Psalms, in Romans 5 there is the image of lavish abundance, unlimited, generously poured out as at a feast.

God’s plan of salvation for humankind was painstaking, meticulously fashioned and gracious. From the moment humans first fell into sin he had it in mind, and he brought it to fulfilment in the death of his precious Son. Because of Jesus, 'transgressions are forgiven...sins are covered' as the Psalmist long ago anticipated (Psalm 32:1).

Susan Thorne