Death Came to All Men

For each of the past 95 years, Time Magazine has selected a person of the year, someone who has had a profound influence on events. Last year it was Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the year before, Elyon Musk. Ask yourself, who are the two persons, not of the year, but of human history. In Romans 5 Paul tells you that two men stand in a unique position as our representatives: Adam, and Jesus Christ. He discusses Adam’s fall in the context of the justifying work of Jesus Christ and compares those representatives.

Adam acted as your representative. Mankind was created perfect. The “one man” of Romans 5:12 is Adam, see verse 14. In his representative capacity, he prefigured Christ. (This chapter is a strong theological argument for the historicity of Adam—something that has come under increasing attack.) Paul’s focus on “entered” in out text takes you back to Adam, created sinless in the Garden of Eden. Mankind was created perfect. He was characterized by true righteousness and holiness. And he (his whole person, including the righteousness and holiness) is image of God. Both Genesis 3 and Romans 5 refute any notion that God is responsible for sin. Guard against the blame game. Keep in mind the context of Genesis 3. In Genesis 1 mankind, male and female, is made in the image of God. That gives you value and worth. Adam acted for you. God ordained him as your representative. He was more than simply the ancestor of the human race. Adam’s actions involve you. Regardless of your political persuasion, your President and the members of Congress have taken certain actions which involve you. Adam’s testing took place under the ideal conditions of the Garden of Eden. You know the result of that test.

“Adam and Christ are clearly in view as individual persons. But as individuals they no less clearly have a significance that is more than individual. They are contrasted as each represents others, as each is a head in a way that is decisive for those ‘in him.’ This union-based contrast exhibits the representative or federal principle that is at the root of the covenant theology taught in the Bible. This principle may be sufficiently summarized for our purposes as follows: as Adam by his disobedience has bought sin with all its consequences into the originally good creation for himself and those ‘in him,’ so Christ by his obedience has brought salvation from sin and all its consequences for those ‘in him.’… The uniquely pivotal place of each in the unfolding of redemptive history is, respectively, at its beginning and its end. Further, their roles are such that no one else ‘counts’; no others come into consideration. Only Adam, in his representative role in union or solidarity with ‘all,’ is the ‘type of the one to come’ (Rom. 5:14). As Christ is the omega point of redemptive history, Adam is its alpha point.”

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And They Will Listen!

The end of a chapter in a book may leave you in suspense as the author tries to draw you into what lies ahead. Some have looked at the end of Acts and wondered if the author of the Gospel of Luke, followed by Part 2, the Book of Acts, had a Part 3 in mind. Actually, the end of the last chapter rounds out the book and appropriately concludes it. Acts 28:28 assures you that, although you may live in a world that seems as pagan as the empire in Paul’s day, the kingdom of Jesus Christ prevails.

The gospel results in both rejection and faith. Many of the Jews rejected the gospel Paul preached. Paul had finally arrived at Rome, the capital of the world empire. But he entered the city as a prisoner. While awaiting trial he presented his case to the local Jewish community and proclaimed the gospel of Jesus Christ. As had been true on his missionary travels, some responded in faith, others rejected the good news. Paul himself is an example of the remnant of Israel who believed. Particularly the early chapters of Acts describe large numbers coming to faith in Christ (2:41: 3,000; 4:4: to grew to 5,000 men; 5:41: more and more; 6:7: the number increased rapidly and a great number of priests believed). But many rejected the Messiah, and that pattern characterized the response to much of Paul’s evangelistic preaching (13:45 Antioch, 14:2 Iconium, 17:5 Thessalonica, 17:13 Berea, 18:6 Corinth, 19:8–10 Ephesus).

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The Power of God’s Word

How do you pick out the really important people in a group—the movers and shakers, those whose influence may be felt throughout the world? The man who, during a storm, struggled ashore onto a beach on Malta, likely suffering from hypothermia, along with other castaways from the ship that was breaking up, probably would not have been someone you picked (see Acts. 28:1–10). Yet, he is the messenger, commissioned by God to preach the Word at Rome.

Recognize the Word made visible. God vindicates his Word as Paul suffers no harm from the snakebite. God had graciously given Paul the lives of his shipmates. Now God’s care for his messenger is tied to the Word he represents. In some ways Elijah had held a similar role in the Old Testament. Malta had been named by ancient Phoenician sailors as a place of refuge. Paul and his party find it aptly named. The local inhabitants (barbarians to the Greeks and Romans) provided warm hospitality with a fire for the shivering castaways. Paul once again is helpful, this time in gathering wood to feed the fire. When a viper, accidentally gathered with the wood, fastened itself to Paul’s hand, the local inhabitants assumed that the goddess, Justice, having failed to punish him in the storm, was now claiming him. But when Paul remains unharmed after shaking the reptile into the fire, they conclude, as Luke reports humorously, that Paul must be a god! (Contrast this with Paul’s reception at Lystra, Acts 14.)

“It was obvious to the is­landers that divine vengeance was pur­suing Paul: although he had es­caped from the shipwreck, he was now going to die from the bite of a poi­sonous viper. They expect­ed his hand to swell and waited for Paul to drop. And, in­deed, Paul’s life was very much in danger. How­ever, he was the bearer of Word of the Lord and his mission was still to pro­claim that Word in Rome. Therefore he was safe un­der the pro­tection of the Word of the Lord. His life was spared by yet an­other miracle of God.”

S. G. DeGraaf, Promise and De­liverance, Vol. 4, p. 241

Paul is not divine, but he is under special protection as God’s messenger. God had promised that Paul would preach the Word at Rome, and nothing could stop that. As in Isaiah 55, God’s Word cannot return to him empty or void.

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