“Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” Romans 5:12
We know the story of how sin entered our world. Adam and Eve originally enjoyed unmarred happiness in the perfect world God had created. They partook of life, full and enduring–no aches, no pains, no aging, no suffering, no heartbreak, no tragedy, no inequality, no oppression. There was no death for them to experience because God had not planned death as a part of His world. But He allowed them to be tempted, and He allowed them to make the choice between life and death.
How long they enjoyed this perfect paradise we do not know, but at some point they used the will God had given them and made the fateful choice–they chose sin. At some point, they chose death.
What happened then has touched the life of every mortal born since that time, and touched it in a most intimate way. Sin entered the world–sin, the great poison, the great divider, the great killer. Death entered the world as the natural outcome of sin, because sin and death invariably go together. The wages of sin is death, both physical and spiritual. After Adam sinned, Adam died.
But not only Adam died–his descendants died. Romans 5:14 tells us death reigned from Adam to Moses, even before the law came to expose sin and to condemn wrongdoers. Death reigned–held sway, dominated. There was a dominion, a rule, a kingdom, a set-up. Death was on the throne. Death dominated the minds and hearts and bodies and souls of the people. They were born and, without ever having transgressed a law, they found themselves subject to a reign of death.
Why? Adam had introduced it.
We have an influence within our world, but our world isn’t quite the same as Adam’s world. We sin, and we affect everybody, but we don’t affect everybody from the same position that Adam did. Adam was head of the human race. When the king is captured, the kingdom is captured. When the head is taken down, everyone connected goes down. And so, through Adam, the reign of sin began. Through centuries, sin’s darkness prevailed, casting death’s dismal pall over generations of benighted victims. Just one bright ray penetrated the thick darkness–the prophecy which pointed to a coming brighter day. Men came into the world subject to sin’s dominion, but they knew that a king would someday come to restore the reign of righteousness (Jeremiah 23:5-6). There would be another king, another seed, another dominion.
They attached themselves in faith to the coming of that reign, and their faith was counted to them for righteousness.
No wonder the angels sang of peace on earth when the Christ-child was born. No wonder the rulers of the darkness of this world sought opportunity to kill Him. Another Adam–another head for the human family–had been born. Another kingdom had arrived. “Art thou a king then?” Pilate quizzed Jesus. “Thou sayest that I am a king,” was Christ’s reply. “To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth.” John 18:37.
And although Pilate could not see His throne, all the dark corners of death’s dominion felt the shock and Judaism’s musty veil was rent from top to bottom when the King of Life faced Death in hand-to-hand combat and emerged forever the Victor. Death’s dominion had been broken–both physically and spiritually – and would never be the same.
Christ’s victory was not a victory for Himself alone, but a victory for the whole human family. Those who had died in Adam could now be resurrected to new life in Christ (1 Corinthians 15:21-22).
Humanity could not give itself life by its own strength any more than it had given itself death. Because Adam, as head of the human family, had sinned, the entire human race had been made subject to death. Now, to all who accepted Him by faith and were born again into His family, Christ replaced Adam as head of the human race.
Where death had followed from being attached to the fallen Adam, life now came by being attached to the new Adam – Christ. The reign of grace and righteousness was come. “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous…That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 5:19, 21.
Paul describes this reign of righteousness to us in the second chapter of Ephesians: “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. But God, who is rich in mercy…even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2:1-6.
Because of whose children we were and to whom we were attached, we found ourselves in the course of sin and under its death-working dominion. In this state, we followed the dictates of lust and wrath. But Christ raised us up from that condition of spiritual death and put us into another course. Colossians 1:13 tells how we were translated from the dominion of darkness into the kingdom of His dear Son!
The sorrow and destruction we see in our world have come as a result of sin’s reign over mankind. People see the fruit of sin’s workings widespread in society’s violence, substance abuse, exploitation, and racism; and correctly they attach blame to an unjust, oppressive system.
But while they cry out against the horrors of the system, few awaken to the realization that they themselves are under the same dominion. Sin has deceitfully woven itself into the fabric of society. Men live and die in bondage to its dictates, slaves to the same lusts that are driving the pedophile rings and the racist elitist networks. The motions of sin are working in their members. By reason of restraints imposed on them, the fruit has not come to full maturity in them, but they respond to the same master.
Romans 6:12-14 warns us, “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.”
By yielding to the working of the motions of sin in your life, you allow the reign of death to express itself through you. By yielding, on the other hand, to the working of grace, having been born again anew into the family of God, you allow your life to express the reign of righteousness.
You are serving one master or the other. You are letting one or the other dominion express itself through you! Sin is the great divider, the great bondage-maker. Sin is at the root of society’s ills. Christ overcame the system of sin and death, and through His deliverance, you too can be truly free from the system.