The power of THE ONE- Tuesday, 29th week in ordinary time- Romans 5:12, 15b, 17-19, 20b-21

The power of THE ONE- Tuesday, 29th week in ordinary time- Romans 5:12, 15b, 17-19, 20b-21

This letter is significantly different from the other epistles. It was not a community Paul had established. Nevertheless, he wrote with the goal of creating unity out of the conflict between the various already established communities. Whether or not he achieved his goal we do not know, but we do know that this letter has had a profound effect on church leaders throughout the centuries from Augustine to Luther.

Having established the justification of human beings through faith in Christ Jesus, Paul begins to discuss the Christian experience in itself and explains how salvation is assured for the upright. Paul explains that once justified, the Christian is reconciled to God and experiences a peace that distressing troubles cannot upset, a hope that knows no disappointments and a confidence of salvation.

In today’s reading, Paul begins his description of the condition of the justified and reconciled Christian by comparing it with the status of humanity before Christ’s coming. It involves a comparison of Adam, the first parent, with Christ, the head of the new humanity. Paul also wants to clarify the dissimilarity and the superabundance of Christ’s grace that now reigns instead of sin and death, which had been in control since Adam.

Just as sin came into the world through Adam, and with it death, which affects all human beings; so through Christ, came uprightness and with it life eternal. Paul emphasizes that it was Adam’s sin that has affected all human beings. Adam made a paraptōma, a false step, a blunder. He fell away from the life that God had given to him. Paul compares and contrasts the death wrought by Adam with the life brought by Christ. While Adam was maleficent to the human race, Christ was beneficent.

It was Adam’s disobedient transgression that unleashed upon human history an active force; namely sin, which now entered the world. Paul now uses two personifications; Hamartia or sin and thanatos or death. Hamartia is best translated as ‘missing the mark’. Paul personifies sin as a malevolent power hostile to God and alienating human beings from Him. It strode upon the stage of human history with the transgression of Adam.

Another personification he uses is thanatos or death. Here he looks at death like an actor on the same stage with sin, playing the role of a tyrant (see verse 14 and 17) and dominating all human beings descended from Adam. Death for Paul, is not merely physical, bodily death (separation of body and soul) but includes spiritual death; the separation of human beings from God, the unique source of life. Through the devil’s envy, death came into the world.

But for Paul, sin and death are not the last word. He stresses the surpassing quality of Christ’s influence on humanity, over that of the evil that Adam’s sin wrought. It is not simply that Christ cancelled out Adam’s mistake. It is that Christ more than made up for Adam’s trespass; Christ outdid himself. While Adam’s disobedience placed the mass of humanity in a condition of estrangement from God, that same mass will be made upright by Christ’s obedience.

God has in Christ, identified Himself with sinners and taken upon Himself the burden of their sin, they now receive as a free gift from Him that status of righteousness which Christ’s perfect obedience alone has deserved.

Where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more,
so that, as sin reigned in death,
grace also might reign through justification
for eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

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