Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
The sculptor had finished creating a fine statue. It was placed with pride in the town square. The statue was of a local hero. At great risk to his own life, he had single-handedly rescued a boatload of people caught off the rocks in a winter storm. The town was grateful, and commissioned a statue of him from the sculptor.
But it wasn’t long before trouble arrived. The next summer, a gang moved into the town. They rampaged up the little main street; they broke a couple of windows, and they burned down a shop. When they got to the statue, they defaced it with spray-paint. Then they pushed the statue off its base and crashed into the pavement, smashing into bits. It was ruined! The town council didn’t know what to do! They could not afford a new statue. But the sculptor had an idea. At once, he set to work. He remade it, at his own expense. When the town council asked him why he did it, the sculptor said it was simply because he loved this town.
This little story highlights the main point the Apostle Paul is trying to get across in our epistle reading. Paul talks about how far Sin has gone in ruining the human race, and how God’s grace in Christ is stronger than sin and death, and promises us restoration.
All Ruined By Sin
Humanity is like that statue: we were originally the crowning masterpiece of God’s creation. Made in the very image of God, humanity was endowed with the noble task of being stewards of this precious planet. But like that statue, humanity now is defaced and ruined. God had created man for life. But, quite irrationally, Adam chose death. Adam knew God’s command. Adam flagrantly, and deliberately chose to disobey, and this opened a floodgate of sin which immediately inundated the world
Just as death came to Adam because he sinned, so death comes to all because all sin. We sin because we inherited Adam’s sinful nature. We don’t just follow Adam’s bad example. Like your parents passed on their traits to you, so Adam has passed on his corrupted nature to all of his children. We are actually ‘made sinners’ by the nature we inherit from him. Our humanity is ruined because we lack the fear, love, and trust in God above all things. It has been replaced with a constant inclination and appetite for sin and destruction. We like to sin and we want to sin more. Adam sinned; Adam died. All the rest of us sinned; all the rest of us came under the power of death.
We are ruined by sin, and we ruin everything else. Don’t you feel the misery of living in a world under sin and death? There’s a paradox at work here. We live in a world with such wonder and beauty and yet so savagely marred by sin and overshadowed by death and suffering. And it’s our fault. We broke it. Politics have become a show of self-seeking pomp. We’re appalled every time we hear about more unjust killings. Hatred, discrimination, and inequality are under every nook and cranny! The flames of lust are fanned into blazing fires. The economy is fuelled by greed. There are riots and wars, famines and diseases, and these are all the results of our sin. We brought sin into the world and with it we have left a bloody trail of death and destruction.
God holds us responsible. That’s why no amount of rule keeping is going to fix things. God did not give you his Law as a “self-help”, “fix-it-yourself” guide. God’s Law only makes things worse, because it shines the light of truth on what we might otherwise have persuaded ourselves were morally justifiable actions. We are not only guilty sinners, but become guilty trespassers. When we come face to face with the command of God, we immediately start breaking it. The law exposes sin, it shows us just how far the decay and blindness goes, but by itself is powerless to do anything about stopping it.
The Grace of Christ Overcomes our Sin
In our dire situation, where it seemed like sin, death, and ruin would always get the last word, God took the initiative. He came down to the very place where mankind was in ruins so that he could restore his human creatures into what they had been. If you are overwhelmed by the roughest and most dreadful adversities, if you’re struggling with mistrust and desperation, with the weight of your own sin, or with your impending mortality, then you need to remember that you have a promise from God. Through the Word of God, through what has been revealed in the Gospel, God promises that the disaster of sin is reversed in two ways.
First, God’s grace pardons our guilt. Paul wants us to know that Sin is forgiven by grace. Grace is God’s free and gratuitous mercy. You are not acquitted of your sins through many individual acts of righteousness. Do not rest your confidence in yourselves, but entirely upon the obedience and merit of Jesus. It was precisely for the ungodly, the weak, the enemies of God that Christ died. Although you are unworthy and impure, God is merciful towards you because the Son of God, merited reconciliation for you by dying on your behalf. It is through Jesus’ one act of righteousness that you are acquitted, forgiven. A person is forgiven or acquitted because they have confidence and trust that God is no longer angry with us, but actually pleased with us, all because of what Jesus has done for us. God accounts those who grab hold of grace to be righteous, even though sin remains in us.
Second, God’s grace overcomes sin. Paul wants us to know that Sin is taken away by grace. Of course, sin is never completely gone in this life.. Even though we remain weak, we have been given a gift. The gift, given through grace, is the Holy Spirit, who begins the new and eternal life, and creates new desires. We are given the first taste of eternal life right here and now. There is a real change in us. We accept and trust the promises of the Gospel. We begin to resist sin. We begin to fear love and trust in God. We start to love our neighbours as ourselves. We begin to serve and obey God. We call upon him in every trouble, pray, praise, and give thanks. This is the gift of God’s grace; an effect and result of trusting in his promises in Christ.
Even though we have been given new life and have new desires, we still don’t look to ourselves. We still don’t rely on our own strength or obedience. Sin does not go away in this life. It always remains a threat. So, we always look outside ourselves to Christ and trust in God’s promise that we are accepted freely and only because of Christ. We trust that his gift of the Holy Spirit will continue to work in us to produce good fruit.
We should pause and reflect on the astonishing generosity of God’s grace. We were born already ruined. Our sin has left a trail of ruin and misery throughout this world. But. what we wouldn’t even consider doing, God did without hesitation because he loved us. Just as Adam’s disobedience led to universal disaster, so the righteousness of Jesus Christ has the gracious power to undo all that disaster. He sent his Son to die a cursed death upon the cross for us, and rise again on the third day. Because of what Jesus did, God is merciful towards you. Because of that one righteous act, all the ruin of sin has been undone. Because of what Jesus did, we are forgiven and now enjoy the free gift of the Holy Spirit. So, the question is, have you really grasped the lavish scale of God’s generosity for you?
May the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.