“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 of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.” Romans 5:17
The death toll climbs daily. Covid-19, cancer, homicide, suicide, mass shootings, accidental deaths. Death’s certainty is a reality we will do almost anything to deny, avoid, and attempt to minimize. The good news of Christmas is that while death took the world captive in the garden of Eden, its curse has been broken forever! While we think of resurrection as the Easter story, it is a Christmas story as well.
Paul explains it this way in Romans 5: Due to Adam’s rebellion against God (when he didn’t trust God enough to obey His word and ate the one forbidden fruit in Genesis 3), death reigned on the earth. We see this almost immediately in Genesis in Adam and Eve being banned from the garden and the tree of life, in Cain killing Abel and in the genealogy of Genesis 5 repeating the phrase: “and he died.” Death was introduced at the fall of man and literally took the world captive. All living things were cursed to die because of sin. The only hope was the promise of God that one born of woman, a son of Abraham, a lion from the tribe of Judah, a son of David would come and redeem a world held captive by sin and death.
And then, it happened! The perfect incarnate life came! The second Adam. The fully God, fully man Son of God was born! Born to die in the place of sinners, to have his body raised from the dead and to ascend to the Father God’s heavenly throne room to await His return to consummate His victory over sin and death forever. Paul makes this point all through chapter 5, but verse 17 seems to me to be a summary statement – a stand back and be amazed statement. It’s not death that reigns now, it is life! And don't miss this, sinners who propagated the curse are now redeemed by Jesus Christ to reign through Him in imperishable, eternal life!
In this verse, Paul calls Jesus God’s abundant provision – His abundant provision of grace & the gift of righteousness! Grace is God’s undeserved favor! But what about the gift of righteousness? What does that mean? Paul is referring here to the grand exchange whereby Jesus takes on our sin and offers us His righteousness. His righteousness is imputed to us when we trust in his finished work for salvation and then, step by step, day by day, obedience by obedience that righteousness that is imputed to us becomes our reality as we are slowly transformed by the Holy Spirit to be, from the inside out, what he has already imputed to us. And that righteousness? It makes relationship with our Father God possible and so much more as Paul continues to explain in Romans 6 and following.
So what does reigning in life mean when death looms as large as it does in our world right now? I think one thing it means is celebrating Christmas. Celebrating Christmas is to dare to express real hope in the midst of a world that is perishing. Celebrating Christmas means to proclaim the truth that death’s days are numbered and with every mustard seed of faith in the finished work of Christ, yet another eternal soul is freed from death’s tyranny and gifted the very righteousness of Jesus Christ. Celebrating Christmas is to offer our friends and neighbors God’s abundant provision for their lives through our testimony.
What will it mean for you to reign in life through God’s abundant provision of Jesus Christ this Christmas?
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Offices by Biblica, Inc.™