In case you haven't noticed, Phil's been preaching through the Creed this summer. Trinity, creation, the image of God, the fall and, in this sermon, original sin. Next week, we'll turn from the first article of the creed to the second: "I believe in Jesus Christ."
Texts: Gen 6.5-6, Ps 51.5, 130.3-4, 143.2, Prov 20.9, Eccl 7.20, Isa 64.5b-7, Jer 17.5, 9, 31.31-34 (= OT lesson), Ps 51, Rom 7.7-8.1, Matt 5.1-20.
(a) My intimate experience with the subject of this sermon
(b) A paradox: the one doctrine that’s empirically verifiable is the doctrine our hearts – and often our churches – refuse to accept.
1. The Wound
(a) A few verses about original sin:
i. Rom 5.12: “Sin came into the world through one Man, and Death through Sin.” v. 19: “By the one Man’s disobedience, the many were made sinners.” 1 Cor 15.22: “In Adam, all die.” John 3.6: “Whatever is born of the flesh, is flesh.”
(b) What does this mean? Just this: we don’t become sinners if and when we sin. Rather, we sin because we are born sinners.
i. We are born bent, broken, sick, twisted, wounded, corrupt. Humans are made of two parts: souls and bodies. Sin brought “death” to both. Our bodies, of course, are subject to decay and finally to death. But so are our souls. Sin darkens our minds, so that by nature we do not know God. Sin hardens our wills, so that by nature we do not submit to God. Sin warps our affections, so that by nature we do not love God. Head to toe, body and soul, we’re sin-sick “flesh” of Adam’s sin-sick flesh. And the bentness of our race ruins everything we touch.
ii. We are born guilty. Rom 5.18: “The trespass of one Man led to condemnation for all men.” Eph 2.3: “We were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”
(c) How could this be? Like Trinity, this too is a mystery.
i. Adam was the head of our race in two ways: one, organically; two, as our legal representative in the covenant of works (Gen 2.16-7, Hos 6.7). As the act of a king affects all his people, Adam’s deed affects us all. But more than this: somehow, we were “in” Adam; his deed isn’t only his own, but ours.
ii. Examples: a diseased root & a barren tree. A poisoned spring & a deadly stream. Generational sin.
2. The remedy
(a) Grace has taken us out of the first Adam and grafted us into the Second. Jesus Christ is the head of the new human race that is his Body, the Church.
i. Christ is our head legally in the new covenant grace he sealed with his blood. As Adam’s sin made us sinners, so Christ’s righteousness makes us righteous. Rom 8.1: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Mark each word: Therefore, given the sober reality of Rom 7. Now, in the midst of sin. None at all, because the perfect righteousness of Christ’s is ours.
ii. Christ is our head organically, because his Spirit has grafted us into him. We are members of his body. We are branches in this Vine. Through the Spirit, his life flows into us and makes us whole, i.e., holy. Rom 8.2: “The law of the Spirit of life has set us free from the law of sin and death.” 2 Cor 5.17: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, the new has come.”
(b) Holiness is a battle line. Rom 7.22-23: “I delight in the law of God in my inner man, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and taking me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.”
i. Real saints remain real sinners in this life. 1 John 1.8: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” But the saints grieve over their sins, faults, weaknesses, vices. They pray for the Spirit to heal their souls more and more and more. They trust, not in their own righteousness, but in Christ’s.
ii. If you aren’t aware of the sin that clings so closely to you, be careful. If you think you’ve arrived, you haven’t. If you think you’re holy, you aren’t. If you think you know it all, you don’t. If you think of yourself as a spiritually strong person, you’re actually weak. If rich, then you’re really poor.
iii. But blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of the heavens. Blessed are those who mourn their sinful flesh, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be full (Matt 5.3-6). Blessed are the poor saints who know they’re sinners, for in God’s sight they are truly righteous in Jesus Christ. And blessed are the limping and gasping who know they are wounded & sick, for God the Holy Spirit is making them whole.
(c) Church is a field hospital. “Gospel. Community. Mission.” What’s that mean, really? It means being a church of sinners saved by grace alone. A people who love and forgive one and uphold another from the heart, because God in Christ loves and forgives and upholds us. A people so grafted into Christ, the Tree of Life, that they bear fruit that nourishes and revives the broken people who take a bite from it. The father has run to meet his wayward son. The fattened-calf, that is the Lamb of God, has been slaughtered for us. The wine is flowing freely. The new song of the gospel is playing. The dance has begun. Oh please, please, do not be an older brother on the outside looking in. Leave your old self behind out there, and come join the party of grace and love that is the Church of Jesus Christ. I hope you’ve got your dancing shoes. And I hope you’re hungry. Because you’re not going to want to miss out on this party.