In my radio broadcast, I have been discussing the wrath of God revealed from heaven against the unrighteousness of men. Romans 1 and 2 discuss specific deeds of sin, and reflect the reality that all men and women are without excuse. But behind those truths stand the larger truths of inherited sin, or that we are sinners in Adam. Romans 5:12 states that sin came into the world through one man. Sin, therefore, is not inherent to the human race, but is introduced to the human race by one man. But, according to the Bible, our guilt is counted against us in three ways.
1) Firstly, we are counted guilty because of Adam’s sin
In Romans 5, Paul compares two men, Adam and Christ. He wants to say there is a similarity between the two men. We are counted guilty in Adam, and we are counted righteous in Christ. Romans 5:19 says, “For by one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.” The older English word used to describe this relationship is the word “imputed.” It is an accounting word. Christ’s work has been reckoned, or counted, or imputed to those who are in Christ. In the same way, Adam’s work of sin has been counted or reckoned or imputed to all of his descendants. Romans 5:18 adds, “One trespass led to the condemnation of all men.” This often sounds strange to people. How can I be counted guilty in Adam? The implication is that before I had done anything good or bad, Adam’s sin was reckoned to my debit sheet. It sounds unfair.
Imagine the following scenario. You are playing football for a team, playing in the Grey Cup. There are three seconds left on the clock, and you are down by five points. But the good news is that you are on the 1-yard line, staring at your opponent’s goal. If you score the touchdown, you win the Cup; if you fail, you lose the Cup. Your quarterback receives the ball, and you are the running back. He hands it to you, and you punch the ball into the end zone! You have won. But just when you are about to engage in a victory dance, your heart sinks. A yellow flag is lying on the field. One of your linemen jumped off side. This will cost you five yards and likely the Cup.
And so you complain to the referee. Why should the entire team be punished by the sins of one man? Let him take the five yard penalty, and let the rest of us get the Cup! But the referee explains that all of you wear the same uniform, and what your lineman did, he did as a representative of everyone on the team. In essence, that is what Adam did. As the representative head of the human race, he acted on our behalf, and we are counted sinners in him. Lest we become too upset with this scenario, we should remember that what Christ did, as the representative head of a new humanity, was also done on our behalf. Therefore, we are counted righteous in Him.
2) Second, we have inherited a sinful nature because of Adam
In addition to the legal guilt Adam’s sin brings to us, we have also inherited a corrupt nature. In Psalm 51:5, David confesses, “Behold I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” Since Adam, a propensity toward sin or disposition to sin has been inherited by the human race. In Romans 3:10, Paul says, “None is righteous, no, not one.” Paul will speak personally when he states in Romans 7:18, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is in my flesh.” And if that does not sound desperate enough, Ephesians 2:1 tells us we were dead in trespasses and sins. Behind this idea is the simple thought, that in some fashion, we have inherited a sin nature from Adam. Every area of our humanity, including our intellect, emotions, will, sexuality, our relational capacity, and our sense of right and wrong has been twisted and fractured by sin. This has come to us right from birth.
3) We willingly choose to sin
Lest what has been said makes us sound like helpless victims, unable to make our own choices, the Bible also describes us as willfully and joyfully choosing sin. Psalm 14:3 declares that none does good, not even one. The implication is that we have freely chosen that which is abhorrent to God.
These three points lead us to an overwhelming conclusion: We need Christ.
While the picture that is painted of humanity in Romans 1 and 2 isn’t pretty, it is a necessary one to grapple with. The purpose of the first two and a half chapters of Romans intends to lead us to a mindset where we do not trust ourselves – after all, nothing good lies within. Instead, we are left with only one hope, and that is found in Christ. Christianity only makes sense when the issue of sin looks so formidable, and the cross looks so magnificent. Only a glorious cross intervening in the midst of a universal, human crisis will save us.