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“Not Guilty?  Not Guilty!”
Romans 5:18-19


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost—September 11, 2011

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Our text is today’s Epistle Reading from the fifth chapter of Romans, especially these verses: “Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men.  For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.”

Who are the two most important people in the history of the world?  Today’s Epistle Reading could be called “A Tale of Two Men,” for in this section of Romans the Apostle Paul compares at length the two most significant men in history: the first man, Adam, and the God-man, Jesus Christ.

Lord willing, next week Holy Cross members will be returning to worship in our sanctuary at Dakota Dunes, and we are all very thankful to the members of Concordia for hosting us here in your sanctuary over the summer .  If I was already back today preaching in my pulpit at Dakota Dunes, I would point out two stained-glass windows behind me that illustrate this “Tale of Two Men” in today’s Epistle Reading, Adam and Christ.

On one side is our newest window, which some Holy Cross members may never really have seen because it was just installed the week before we evacuated on account of the flood.  This window tells the story of creation from the first chapters of Genesis, and includes Adam and Eve reaching out to take the forbidden fruit, humanity rebelling against God, disobeying his clear command.  In today’s reading, Paul describes the consequences of this sinful rebellion for all of us: “Sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned . . .  judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation . . .  by the trespass of the one man, death reigned.”

Paul explains in our text that on account of Adam’s fall into sin we all are worthy of eternal death and damnation.  Because, like a hereditary disease, we all inherited a sinful nature passed down to us from our first parents, we are all infected with original sin.  And as a result of the original sin we are born with we also commit actual sins in our lives. “Consequently,” Paul says, “the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men.”

But, Paul does not stop with this bad news of our condemnation on account of Adam’s sin.  He immediately proclaims the glorious Good News of our salvation on account of Christ’s sacrifice for us.  “Just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men.  For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.”

If I was already back today preaching in my pulpit at Dakota Dunes, I would now point to the center stained-glass window, above the altar.  That window beautifully depicts Christ’s “one act of righteousness,” his life, death, and resurrection, which brings “justification [and] life for all men.”  The bad news is that the original sin of the first man, Adam, makes us all guilty sinners.  But, the Good News of the Christian Gospel is that the sacrifice of the God-man, Jesus Christ, takes away all our sin, and makes us not guilty in the sight of God.  “Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men.  For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.”  “Not Guilty?  Not Guilty!”

Not Guilty!  Because for us men and for our salvation the only-begotten Son of God came down from heaven and was made man.

Not Guilty!  Because the God’s Son vicariously lived for you here on earth a perfect, holy life, which God the Father credits to you.

Not Guilty!  Because he bore your sins in his body on the cross, suffering all the punishment for you, in your place.

Not Guilty!  Because his suffering and death on the cross is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only ours, but for the sins of the whole world.

Not Guilty!  Because the blood of Jesus, God’s Son, cleanses you from every sin.

Not Guilty!  Because for the sake of the holy, innocent, bitter sufferings and death of his beloved Son Jesus Christ, God the Father daily and richly forgives all sins to you and all believers.

Not Guilty!  Because everyone who believes in Jesus receives forgiveness of sins through his name.  Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved!

Not Guilty!  Because, “Just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men.  For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.”  “Not Guilty?  Not Guilty!”

Martin Luther was vexed with a troublesome feeling we all face at times, a deep sense of guilt, continual despair and anxiety over his sin.  As Psalm 51 says, “My sin is always before me.”  Luther wondered, “How could God forgive a sinner as great as me?”  After many months of agony, Luther’s fellow monks lifted him out of despair by reminding him of the words he himself had confessed so often in the Apostles’ Creed: “I believe in the forgiveness of sins.”  They told Luther those words don’t just mean there is forgiveness of sins for others, it means forgiveness of sins also for you.  As Paul himself says, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the worst.”  “Chief of sinners though I be, Jesus shed his blood for me.”

“I believe in the forgiveness of sins.”  As you confess those words in the Creed you are making a wonderful witness to the world: I am redeemed, I am restored, I am forgiven, through Jesus’ precious blood.”  “Not Guilty?  Not Guilty!”

“Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men.”  To “justify” means to “make right.”  You are justified, made right before God, not on account of your own works, but because of Christ’s “one act of righteousness,” his life, death, and resurrection, which brings justification and life for all men.

Our fall into sin, inflicted by the first man, Adam, could only be erased by the sacrifice of the God-man, Jesus Christ.  “There was no other good enough to pay the price of sin; he only could unlock the gate of heaven and let us in.”  Paul puts it this way in 1st Timothy, “There is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men.”  You are made right with God, justified by the ransom of your Mediator, the God-man Jesus Christ.  “So also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men.”

The fall into sin of the first man, Adam, expelled humans from the earthly paradise.  But, the sacrifice for sin of the God-man, Jesus Christ, earned us everlasting life in the heavenly paradise.  “I believe in the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.”  That means forgiveness of sins for you, the resurrection of the body for you, life everlasting for you.

“Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men.  For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.”

“Not Guilty?  Not Guilty!”  Amen.

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