The Pipe. The Symptoms. The Significance.

Warren’s persona lingers on in the stereotype of the men of his age. The generation that lived amidst the Great War – the Second World War – was a group of people who worked hard and were tough to the core. Warren wasn’t any different. He was a man’s man. He drank beer, worked hard, and loved to smoke his pipe. He would even watch John Wayne. After a long day on the job, Warren would come home, sit in his recliner, and light his pipe. He was the image and prototype of the American Dream.

Shortly after the War, it was finally proven the health risks of tobacco smoke. But that didn’t stop Warren from enjoying his daily fix. The days melted together over the fabric of the next decade, as Warren would go to work, come home to his family, and have a smoke. Though the lung cancer was inevitable, it still caught Warren by surprise. The following weeks would be tough for him. How would he tell his family? What would he do for treatment? What changes would he have to make in his life? He felt as though his life was already over.

In the simplest terms, what is Warren’s story about? It isn’t about how smoking is bad. Though it can be easily surmised from the story, the story is about something else. It is about the affects of Warren’s smoking. It is about his cancer.

In the beginning of existence there was nothing. This is the start of God’s story. God brought material where there was an abyss. He brought order where there was chaos as he shaped the planets and stars amidst the mass of dark matter. Before there was even a sun the light of the Lord’s presence illuminated in the darkness of space. From the inorganic material throughout the universe he created, God molded together organic material, and there was life. And like a master painter finishing his most-anticipated work, God takes a step back and with delight He looks at the universe, the world, and His creation, and he sees that it is good. The whole story of creation crescendos into the apex of when God creates a man named Adam.

Adam and Eve were the focus of God’s creation. They were made in His image. They were carriers of God’s glory. They held the presence of God and the glory of God, but they were physical beings. Because of this, they were special and made stewards over the rest of the created order.

But Adam and Eve didn’t obey the one command that God gave them. Through temptation and their own desires, they chose to eat from the tree that held the knowledge of good and evil. They lost God’s glory that was given to them in their creation. In Romans 3, it says that we all sin and fall short of God’s glory. What Paul is saying is that we are all sinners, and, like Adam, we have lost God’s glory. Through Adam’s disobedience, death was brought into the world.

This is how Adam’s act of disobedience affects us. Think of it this way. Right now America is at a pivotal place. The President is urging us to go to war against Syria. People are getting persecuted in the Middle East, and there is great dispute as to whether we should get involved or not. If the government decides to go to war, all of the American people are “in war” with Syria, whether they agree with the decision or not. In the same way, we might not like the choice that Adam made. We might wish that it all went down a different way. But we are all fallen because of the action of Adam.

Paul spends a great deal of time talking about Adam and the outcome of his action. In Romans 5:12-21, Paul compares and contrasts Adam with Christ. In verse 14, Paul says specifically that Adam is the prototype, or model, or pattern that points to Christ. Adam is a prototype in that he is a figure from the beginning of time pointing to a figure at the end of time. Christ isn’t just an afterthought of God’s plan. Jesus wasn’t a plan B, but his coming into the world has been planned since the earth’s conception. And here, Paul spends considerable time looking at Adam and Christ.

Both Adam and Jesus were men who, in themselves, changed the course of the world with a single action. Adam had one act of disobedience. He ate the apple, and through his action the whole world now experiences sin and death. Christ had one act of obedience. He died the sinner’s death of crucifixion, and through his death and resurrection the whole world can now experience grace and eternal life. Adam might be the prototype of mankind, but Christ is the perfection of it.

Just how the focus of Warren’s story isn’t that smoking is bad, the story of Adam isn’t focused on his sin. The story of Adam is focused on the affect of his sin – death. Death was Adam’s cancer, and the world is dying to the cancer the same way Warren’s diagnosis is killing him.

Warren would be crazy to think that him quitting his pipe would cure his disease. If he just tried to stop the coughing or the wheezing, he wouldn’t be curing the disease, he would be only pointing out his symptoms. In the same way, the Law in the Old Testament is like trying to cure lung cancer by not smoking anymore. The Law is merely pointing out the symptoms of someone who deserves spiritual and physical death.

But what if there was a cure that was offered for that cancer? What if someone created a cure for lung cancer and offered it to everyone? What would that mean for Warren? If Warren’s lungs get cured, he wouldn’t have the symptoms of cancer anymore. He wouldn’t have spots on his lungs, and he wouldn’t cough the same way he did when the cancer was present. And he would be crazy to start smoking again.

Christ is the response to the cancer we know as death. Where the Law points out the symptoms of a sinful life that leads to this death, Christ offers the solution and the cure, which is the defeat of death. In Romans 5, death is personified. It is a villain. And Christ defeats death with his resurrection.

Here is the big point. Adam’s one act of disobedience led to many people experiencing death. But, despite the fact that ALL of mankind was disobedient, Christ chose to die for them. The whole world was at fault, but God chose to be graceful. This is why Christ’s action is so significant. This is why he is the perfection of the prototype.

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Make it Reign!!!

Has someone ever invited you to go out to dinner with them? I don’t mean on a date. I mean that someone asks to take you out as an act of kindness, offering you community and potentially a free meal. Now, wouldn’t it be pretty shocking of them if the waiter asked if your meal is all on one check, and they turn around and said that you are paying for your own meal? Didn’t their inclusive invitation also include the meal?

Getting asked to go to lunch after church is like the only positive side of being a poor college kid. I think people can see a college kid’s skin become jaundice from the malnutrition brought by cafeteria food and ramen noodles. It would be a travesty if these people took advantage of the power that they knew they possessed. A college kid knows they don’t deserve a free meal, but it would be a let down and a tease to take them out with the expectation that their meal would be paid for and to not pay for it.

In the second half of the fifth chapter of Romans, Paul starts talking about Adam and the Fall. Many people like to think that Paul’s main focus here is on original sin, but really he is talking more of the result of Adam’s sin – death (Romans 5:12-21). Death is something that all people face. Blue Oyster Cult was right that we shouldn’t fear the Reaper – Death will come for us one way or another. And we just thought that they gave us the yearning for “more cowbell.”

I think a problem many people have is that they are afraid of death. That is pretty rational. But I think that the problem is even more escalated in the American Christian community. We want to escape death. The problem with this is that death can’t be escaped. Even before God gave Moses the Law, people felt the affect of Adam’s sin (Rom 5:14). And Death has been personified here as real as the Grim Reaper has in our culture. It is reigning as though it is king (Rom 5:14). And all people must serve him.

At the first part of Romans, Paul also explains this problem with mankind. There has been a deviation since creation (1:18-32). And from 1:18-3:20 Paul only makes one mention of Jesus Christ (2:16 in passing). Paul has been presenting the dark backdrop of the predicament that humanity is in. In Romans 5:12-21, Paul is now driving home the solution to the problem of what was first addressed in Romans 1:18-32. God has offered us the gift of grace through a faithful, righteous, and obedient act – Jesus’ death on the cross (Rom 3:22, 5:19, 21).

These are the high notes that illuminate this dark backdrop of death. It’s as though Paul is painting a masterpiece of cosmic proportions! Death is the dark backdrop of the past, and grace is the light in the foreground! We have a free gift offered to us that is way better in every way than the consequence of Adam’s sin (5:15). One person’s actions brought about death for all people. But everyone’s actions of sin caused God to do an action that would allow them forgiveness and reconciliation (5:15-17)!

We have the opportunity to be put in a right relationship (3:22) – in reconciliation with the Creator, with whom we have numerously offended (5:11). This logic makes no sense! Why would someone offer people who continually wrong Him forgiveness? One man sinned and brought death to many, but, even though many sinned, one man died so that they all could be seen as “innocent” in the eternal court of law!

So, in the end, Death is the kind of friend that invites you out to lunch and does not pay for your meal. Grace is the kind of friend that will go out of their way to bring the meal to you.

Where Death reigns as a king, demanding everything from those all around him, Grace, through Christ, reigns in a way that leads to life. This isn’t a spiritual life. This is the defeat of Death! This is the resurrection of the dead that happens at the end times (1Cor 15). Christ not only died an obedient death that he didn’t deserve, but he defeated death by rising from the dead! This is why death has no sting!

Do you want justification or condemnation? Do you want to live with grace or in sin? Do you choose to be with Christ or with Adam? What do you choose – life or death?

[References: World Biblical Commentary (Dunn), Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Witherington), Paul for Everyone (Wright)]