If, because of the one man’s trespass, death exercised dominion through that one, much more surely will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ. Therefore just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all.
(From the Daily Office Lectionary – Romans 5:17-18 – June 29, 2012)
Paul’s logic is sometimes hard to follow and his rhetoric is often overblown, and he certainly had a tendency to go on and on about some things, but this point he makes clearly and simply, and concludes: “By one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.” (v. 19) ~ This gets back to something I addressed in an earlier meditation: theories of the atonement and how it works for us. How is that we are saved? Is it by our faith in Jesus or through Jesus faith in God the Father and through his act of faithfulness to his message and mission? In this passage from Romans, Paul makes it clear that it is Christ’s obedience, his faith, his righteousness, not our own, that wins our salvation and accomplishes atonement. ~ There are many theories of how the atonement works. Theologically, I don’t think any of them really work. The best thing I’ve ever heard about how it works is from a Baptist preacher from Texas named Gerald Mann: “I have never understood all of those theories about how Christ atoned for our sin, but I do know that somehow in the cross event, God took upon Himself the blame for having created a world where things can go wrong. The resurrection is God’s declaration that eventually things will go right.” ~ And I am reminded of a line from the recent movie Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Sonny, the youthful innkeeper (played by Dev Patel), says to one of the elderly English guests (I can’t remember which one), “We have a saying in India, ‘Everything will be alright in the end… if it’s not alright, then it’s not the end’.” Through one man’s act of righteousness everything will be alright in the end.