“For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:17).
Don’t let that complicated verse trip you up. Just focus on two words: Death and Life. Death reigned. That’s our heritage from Adam. Death reigns on the earth because of Adam’s sin. That’s why the newspapers never have to reprint an obituary column.
Every day someone else dies.
What keeps the mortuaries in business? What keeps the undertakers going? Why do cemeteries stay in business? Why is it that they never run out of customers? The answer is simple: Death reigns. That’s our heritage from our spiritual father Adam. He sinned and as a result death now reigns on the earth.
Years ago I took Pastor Sergei Nikolaev from St. Petersburg, Russia to the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College. As we were driving away from Wheaton and toward O’Hare Airport, we stopped at a red light. While we were there, a funeral procession came down the street—bright lights flashing, followed by the hearse, followed by a long line of cars. Pastor Nikolaev said, “What is it?” When I told him it was a funeral procession, he said, “Must have been someone important.”
It doesn’t matter whether you are important or not. Someday you will die. Someday your family and friends will follow the hearse that will lead to your grave. It happens to all of us sooner or later. It doesn’t matter whether you are rich or not. Someday you will die. It doesn’t matter whether you are a peasant or a potentate. Someday you will die. In this world, as a direct result of Adam’s sin, death reigns. Someday we’ll have your funeral to prove the point.
The next time you see a hearse, remember “Death reigns.”
The next time you drive past a mortuary, remember “Death reigns.”
The next time you pass a cemetery, remember “Death reigns.”
But that’s only one part of the story. There is a way out. There is a way to reverse what Adam did. There is a way to overcome the reign of death. It comes, Paul says, to those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and the “gift of righteousness.” That, by the way, is the whole doctrine of justification in three words. Justification means that when we receive Christ by faith, we also receive the “gift of righteousness.” It’s not earned in any way. It’s a free gift.
But notice the result of receiving the gift of righteousness. Those who receive this free gift now “reign in life.” On one hand, death reigns; on the other hand, those who know Jesus Christ as Savior reign as kings right now,in this life and in the life to come. We live in a dying world, but in this realm of death, we may through Jesus Christ reign as kings. And in the life to come, we shall reign forever, rising from the dead, clothed with immortality.
What Jesus did is far greater than what Adam did.
Greater in its nature.
Greater in its power.
Greater in its effect.
Only God could take a slave and transform him into a king. But that is what God has done through Jesus Christ.