The Sermon for Sunday, June 25th, 2023, the Third Sunday after Trinity

The Lessons: Psalm 69:1-15; Jeremiah 20:7-13; Romans 5:15b-19

The Text: Romans 5:15b-19


In Oregon’s Malheur National Forest, a fungus has spread through tree roots across twenty-two hundred acres, making it the largest living organism ever found. The honey mushroom started from a single microscopic spore. Yet it has been weaving its black shoestring filaments through the forest for an estimated twenty-four hundred years, killing trees as it grows….

In the roots of an affected tree, researchers find something that looks like white latex paint. These are mats of mycelium, which draw water and carbohydrates from the tree to feed the fungus and interfere with the tree’s absorption of nutrients. The shoestring filaments, called rhizomorphs, stretch as much as ten feet into the soil, invading tree roots through a combination of pressure and enzyme action.

Like the honey mushroom, sin began with a single act of disobedience but has spread across the entire human race.

– Gary Stewart, “How Sin Has Spread,”[1]


Though sin has spread through the human race, the gift of grace given to humanity by the Lord Jesus Christ’s obedience in dying on the cross for mankind’s redemption, far outweighs the effect of Adam and Eve’s disobedience to God. St. Paul draws this contrast to give his readers an idea of the far-reaching and wonderful effects of the salvation purchased for us by Christ’s death.

The first half of Romans 5:15 states that the gift of grace is different from the trespass. He proceeds to point out that many died by the trespass or act of disobedience, but on the other hand, the grace of God and the free gift by grace through the one man, Jesus Christ, have abounded for many (Romans 5:15b). What is meant by this? “The many” refers to all mankind. By means of Adam’s trespass, or act of disobedience to God, all the human race died spiritually, being separated from God because of sin. God had passed judgement on this sin of disobedience by warning Adam not to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This was his warning:

But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

(Genesis 2:17, KJV)

When Adam and Eve did eat of this fruit, the sentence of death affected them and the whole human race subsequent to them. But now, by contrast, the grace of God and the free gift that came by Christ have overflowed to all mankind! St. Paul proceeds to show that the gift of God contrasts greatly to the effect of one man’s sin. For the judgement following Adam’s sin led to condemnation, whereas Christ’s free gift following many transgressions brought justification. This justification is not the infusion of Christ’s righteousness into believers, but God’s viewing them and counting them as righteous, because, through their faith and their Baptism, they are united with the Lord Jesus Christ who is righteous.

There is a further aspect to this great contrast. Death reigned through Adam’s transgression and pervaded the whole of humanity, but the wonderful effect of receiving the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness on the faithful is that they will reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ (Romans 5:17). This means that not only will God count them righteous, but he will conform them to the righteous character of Christ, give them victory over sin in their lives, and cause them to have spiritual authority not only in this life, but in the life of the age to come. St. Paul sums up this contrast in the final two verses of this passage. Firstly, just as the result of one act of disobedience was condemnation for all men, so also, the result of Christ’s one act of obedience (his death on the cross) was justification that brings life for all men. This justification is restoring people to a right relationship with God when they put their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins (Romans 5:18). As believers in Christ, they are no longer spiritually dead because of their sin and separation from God, but in and through Christ they can now reign in life, that is exercise the spiritual authority they have in Christ to overcome sin in their lives and produce the virtues that are the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Secondly, just as through the disobedience of the one man (that is, Adam), all were made sinners, so through the obedience of the one man (that is, the Lord Jesus Christ), all will be made righteous.


As Christians, then, we live in a new order of life, the order created by God through Christ. We live now in a relationship with God the Father through the Lord Jesus Christ. Our minds must no longer be conditioned by the failures of the past and by a sense of condemnation on account of our sin, but in the freedom of forgiveness and the righteousness that is the Lord Jesus’ gift to us, a righteousness not our own but God’s free gift to us. This transforms our attitude to ourselves and to others. We must no longer live in self-condemnation and guilt, nor must we be so critical of others that we bring them into condemnation. Instead, we must live in the love that Christ has given us, exercising spiritual authority to overcome evil in our own lives and in the world around us.

[1] p.127, Craig Brian Larson & Phyllis Ten Elshof (General Editors): 1001 Illustrations that Connect. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, Christianity Today International, 2008.

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