Paul Zahl in his book Who Will Deliver Us?: The Present Power of the Death of Christ tells the story of Frank. Frank was baptized as an infant and confirmed at the age of fourteen within the Episcopal Church. During his first year in college, he left the church and became agnostic. At a point of crisis in his sophomore year, Frank had a religious experience through an evangelical campus ministry; to mark this experience he was re-baptized in a river. His senior year, Frank was influenced by a friend in the charismatic renewal movement; he was baptized in the Holy Spirit and received the gift of tongues. After college Frank started a job and began a slow process of disillusionment.
The more experience he had of life, the more suspect he grew of his experiences in college; he eventually dropped out of all Christian fellowship. In his late twenty’s, Frank began an intellectual quest… he started reading writers who were traditionalist Roman Catholics. At the age of thirty, Frank was convinced he had found the true church, and became a Roman Catholic.
Did Frank’s restless search finally end? At age thirty-five his marriage ended in divorce. Four years later he wished to remarry but was rebuffed by the Catholic Church. Ironically, in the end Frank returned to where he started, the Episcopal Church.
This is Frank’s story. What is your story? Romans 5.12-21 is here to help you understand your story so you will find yourself in the story of Another.
“Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” – (Rom 5.12). Adam helps us understand why we and everyone else around us are so messed-up. Adam helps us understand why we do not work right no matter how hard we try, or like Frank, no matter the new knowledge and new experiences we attain. Adam’s one sinful act released into the world a new sinister power called sin. Those of you who are married… you are the problem too. Children, your parents are not the only ones crazy. Hard-working, responsible, conservative Texans…take note that the liberals are not the only ones with “issues.”
“But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many…Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men” (Rom 5.15, 18). “Abounded” means to be more than enough, so much so that there are left overs. The Second Adam’s “one act of righteousness” (meaning his completed comprehensive work of doing, dying, and rising) has released into this dark world a stronger power than sin…the power of grace – the super-abounding grace of God. Grace overwhelms the sinister power of sin, guilt, death, and shame; so much so that there is only grace left-over.
When we read the Gospels, we see Jesus engaged in continual loving obedience for us. We are reading a matter of life and death for us because Jesus’ obedience is our obedience. This is our story. Find your story in the story of the righteous Second Adam.