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We all love a free gift and in Romans 5 v 12 to 21 Paul tells us not only what the free gift is, but how to get it. Having spoken about peace with God that is unlike anything in this world at the start of the chapter, he moves on to the next logical step. This peace can only come through Jesus Christ, whom he describes as not only a free gift, but the greatest gift we can ever receive!

In these 10 verses Paul speaks of the coming of three things to help us understand why we need to receive the free gift of Jesus and his salvation. The coming of sin in the first instance means we need a saviour because if we don’t trust in Jesus then we will face the punishment for our sin. He then speaks of the coming of forgiveness through Christ’s death on the cross and resurrection. Because of this we can know that our sin is dealt with.

The final coming he speaks of is of eternal life. This is the natural conclusion of the gospel. Faith in Christ brings us into the eternal presence of God. And this is the value of the gift. We are reminded that eternal life can only come through the grave, or when Christ returns. But eternity will come—it is a certainty. Is it yours?

Romans – The heart of the Gospel is a teaching series from Annalong Presbyterian Church. Find out more at www.annalongpc.org/sermons.

Transcript
David McCullagh:

I will admit I'm constantly surprised and I'm sometimes impressed at how marketeers persuade us to buy things that we didn't even realize we needed. A few decades ago, we would be convinced by good prices that would be displayed on eye catching posters or engaging television adverts. And you'll all recall some of your favorite ones from the 1980s and 90s. They just seem to be more simpler and straightforward. And that would be enough to convince us that yes, indeed, it was truly quality street for Christmas. More recently, we've been sold on the added value of our purchases. When you buy the item you want, you will now receive money off your next purchase, or vouchers towards whatever you'll buy next. Or indeed, you'll be offered a free gift. But of course, that free gift is unknown to you. And this is a technique that lends itself to human nature. Because the marketeers know us better. Then we know our own habits and our own cravings. We are easily intrigued by what we don't know, but have the opportunity of knowing. And this will come at a hefty price tag for an item that we think we want, but we'll go for it because we'll actually get something else and believe that we're getting something free when, of course, As they say, there's nothing truly free in the world of commerce. But who doesn't enjoy a free gift? If I was to all to give, if I was to give you all a free gift this evening, oh, you'd have a smile on your face and you would think it was great, even if it was a packet of my burnt shortbread. We all love a free gift no matter what it is. And maybe you have ordered something from a catalogue or online and it's come with something that enticed you. You have no idea what you're going to do with it, but there it sits. And you are the proud owner of a free gift of whatever it is. But we love getting a free gift, particularly when we don't expect to receive it. Because a true free gift is given without any form of expectation or obligation. It is given simply as an expression of love or kindness. And it is said that there is nothing in life that's really free. And that's why I added on, in commerce, or in the world of commerce, because I would disagree and say that the free gifts that we will receive over the Christmas period will be demonstrations of love and appreciation, given and not expecting anything in return. Now let's get into Paul this evening. He's already spoken in chapter 5 about peace, that peace that we thought about last week that surpasses our understanding. We don't know how it works, but yet it does. And so as we move from the first half of chapter 5 into the second, Paul is now telling us how this peace is possible. How does it even exist? And once again, Paul points us, as any good signpost does, points us directly to Jesus. And this is a great section in helping us to understand Christ's atonement and its direct application to us. What it means for Christ to die, what he achieved on Calvary's cross. And we're going to look at this passage in three parts. And it's all to do with coming. Trying to play a little bit on the Advent theme here, but this passage tells us of the coming of sin. It then tells us of the coming of forgiveness, and then finally it tells us of the coming of eternal life. So let's begin with the coming of sin in verses 12 to 14, and in these opening three verses, Paul brings us back to the purpose for which Christ came, to be the Savior of the world. But he begins, as he has done before, by taking us right back to our own history. And he brings us back to Genesis 3. Let's remind ourselves of why this is significant for Paul to write, uh, write about and bring up again, and why it is significant for human history. Because there in verses 6 to 7 we read, So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. And she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew they were naked, and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. Now this is not going to be a discussion on who did what and who is to blame in this act. But what this one act did was separate humankind from God. That relationship was gone. It was a close one and in an instant it disappeared. And so in many of our hymns and songs this evening, the consequence of sin It's shadow falls long on us today. What Genesis 3 means is that we have become alienated and strangers from God. But God remained faithful because he continued to show his love. And this is what Paul wants to tell us. And he begins with the universal truth. And we have it here in verse 1 of chapter 2. Um, sorry, um, on verse 1 of chapter 5, Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sin. Sorry, that's verse 12 of chapter 5. And you know, this is actually quite refreshing to have, because this is the human condition in black and white. This isn't something Paul invented, or something that Paul thought up. This is the position of scripture. This is the state of the human heart. It's what the psalmist writes in Psalm 51, in verses 3 to 5, and, um, somehow I've mixed things up, but anyway, we'll go to Psalm 51 here in verses 3 to 5 that say, For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me, against you, and you only have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight. So that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. It's not just Paul who's saying that we have a problem. The psalmist of old wrote it, and God declared it, as Adam and Eve were removed from the garden. The universal truth, we're all sinners. Whether you like to hear it or not, it is the truth. That scripture is clear on. And so we genuinely have a problem. And what do you do when you have a problem? Well, if it's a medical problem, you take yourself off to the doctor. If it's a car problem, well, if it's my car problem, I go off to the mechanic. You might be able to fix it yourself. If it's an electrical problem, you go to the electrician. If it's a computer problem, you go to David Gordon. Oh, sorry, someone who shouldn't be. There's other computer people available. But I know for the vast majority of you, that's your person of choice. When you've a problem, you go somewhere. Where do you go with your problem of sin? See, Paul doesn't jump straight into the good news that he introduced in chapter 3. He wants to clarify the problem. And he wants to tell us why there is a problem, what this universal truth means. And we have to remember, as we go through Romans, Paul has been talking a lot about the law, how the Jewish people lived, and how the law doesn't justify us, nor does it save us. But there was a period before the law, between Abraham and Moses. And so what happened then? How were people to be judged by a law that they did not know? That's a fantastic question and a right question to ask. And it's in verses 13 to 14 that we're told. For sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet, death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of of the one who was to come. Paul has already spoken to us about the law and that it is the standard to which we are held when it comes to living God's way. But just because there was a period without the law doesn't mean that people were not held accountable for their sin. Yes, there may not have been specifics that they would be held accountable for. That the law would have told them but they were still held accountable for their sin We saw this at the time of Noah Noah was the only righteous man in the world at that time all the rest were sinful by what they did They didn't know there was a law to be written that said it was wrong But it went against what was the natural design of God and how humans would relate one to the other There's something natural within us, and Paul's already told us this. There is a natural understanding of right and wrong, and we read this in chapter 1 of Romans and verses 19 and 20. For what can be known about God is plain to them. Speaking of those who, who say, uh, um, believe that there is no God, or they've no God to follow, or those who aren't under the law, It's plain to them because God has shown it to them, for his invisible attributes, namely his eternal power and his divine nature, have been clearly perceived ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. And here is the killer line. So they are without excuse. There was no law between Adam and Moses, so the people couldn't be held accountable to the law. But they still were without excuse. Because they would still be judged on the sin of their lives. So the coming of sin into the world has consequences. It had consequences for the people before Moses, the people after Moses, and continues to have consequences for us today. Our sin, past, present, and future, needs to be dealt with. Sin that isn't dealt with will hang around us. If we are in Christ, it won't condemn us. But it will bear consequence on us. All sin for the believer and unbeliever alike needs to have a solution that frees us from its guilt and punishment. And the good news for us is that there is an answer, and it is in the coming of forgiveness. So as much as sin came into the world, so forgiveness came into the world. Secondly, in verses 15 to 17, and Paul refers to this as the free gift and it throws everything on its head. Paul is, is taking the old understanding and the old ways of things and quite literally flipping it upside down. And verse 15 is good in explaining it to us. Because in Romans 5 and verse 15 we're told, But the free gift is not like the trespass. There's something different here. There's something that's not of the world. There's something that is not tainted or influenced by sin. 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. So where one man was responsible for sin infecting the world, so it will be through one man that forgiveness is given and sin finally and eternally. And that one person, the gift, the free gift, is Jesus Christ. And this is the point where I would hope you might shout out Hallelujah! But maybe we're too Presbyterian for that. But let that news ring because it is the greatest news you've ever heard. If you knew nothing of the Gospel, And if you knew nothing of the life of Christ, and you were reading Romans from chapter 1 right through to where we are now for the first time, this verse is liberating. It changes everything. As Paul has been taking us through the consequence of sin, we now see that someone has done what is needed to deal with sin. And this is the coming of forgiveness. Because the free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ is true, and it's pure, and it brings us justification. Justification simply means just as if I'd never sinned, if you want an easy way to remember it. But what justification means is that we are made right before God, a bit like righteous, but even deeper. That we have been justified before God. We stand in the dock and we are justified. Not for doing wrong and getting away with it, but because Jesus has taken the punishment that our sins deserve, and so he is the one who stands in our place. Our justification is nothing of ourselves. And it is everything of Christ. And there's further explanation and insight into this free gift that brings justification. Because verse 17 tells us, For if, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man's trespass. Jesus Christ. Look at the generosity of God in this verse. Look, look how he is pouring out his love towards us. Not some superficial love, but a deep love that wants to buy us back, to ransom our souls from the pit of hell, so that we can be in relationship, restored relationship with him once again. God's grace is abundant. Grace is getting what we do not deserve. And God doesn't give it in some small measure. He abundantly or lavishly gives it to us because it cost him his very sum. So what can we do with this free gift? Well if you're here tonight and you're aged anywhere between 8 and 40, what are you going to do on Christmas morning? You're going to get into that present and rip off the paper so you can see what's in it because that free gift is what you want to receive. If you're over 40, or let's go over 45 because I'm still under 45, you might be more reserved. Yes, I am the one who pulls the paper and can't wait. Is that what the gospel is to you? Is that what this free gift is to you? That you can't wait to know it? That you can't wait to live it? That you want to get the wrapping paper, no matter how nicely wrapped it is, and you tear it to shreds so that you can get into the free gift and know it? Receive the gift. That's what we do when gifts are offered to us. We receive it. We receive the generous and abundant gift God gives us. Not because we are worthy or deserving of it, but because of His love and His continued covenant promises that He has made throughout history to His people. This free gift is not like one the world offers. That you're secretly paying for it in another way. It's not an added extra to the main product. This is the greatest and only gift that deals with the universal problem of humanity. Sin. I've preached about the gospel before tonight. But I need to make sure you understand this. I need to know that you know this is truth. I'm asking you for a cry of Amen in this. I want you in your heart to resound this truth. I want you to agree with it, but I also need you to be honest with yourself. Do you know this free gift that liberates us, that redeems us from sin and redeems us from a lost eternity? Tonight, are you sure your sins are forgiven because of Jesus Christ? They need to be because of where Paul takes us next in understanding that this world isn't all there is. And so we turn our attention to the coming of eternal life. And you see how this has progressed? The coming of sin, it needed a solution. The coming of forgiveness in Jesus Christ. And what will ultimately follow Christ? Well, the coming of eternal life in verses 18 to 21. And so Paul again wants to drill it down to us. He wants to drill it home, just how amazing this news is for us. And he reiterates in verse 18, Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. This one act of righteousness makes sure that we are ready for the coming of eternal life. There is a day coming, and this first Sunday in Advent reminds us of this. When Jesus will come again for his second advent. That's where we began with our service this evening in Luke chapter 4, verses 18 to 19. Jesus here isn't necessarily directing us to the meaning of these words as we would understand them today, but to seeing humanity as poor in spirit and under the captivity of sin, because that's what he's speaking about, that indeed it is the Spirit of the Lord who is upon him. He has a role. He has been anointed to proclaim good news to the poor in spirit, for Jesus has been sent to proclaim liberty to the captives, so that we might be free from sin, recovering the sight of the blind, so that we will not be in spiritual darkness, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, as we are by the sin of this world and its consequences, and to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor. In other words, to proclaim that the Lord is coming. And he is coming as judge. See, the good news of the gospel is that if we trust in Jesus, if we believe that he is the only way of salvation, then we can be free from the burden, free from the punishment, and the consequences of sin, and all we have to do is receive the free gift. And that's how Paul finishes this chapter in verses 20 and 21. Now the law came, now the law came in to increase the trespass. But where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness, leading to eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Now just look at that verse for a moment, because on first reading it, it's not fully understandable. What does it mean? Now the law came in to increase the trespass. Did the law come in to, to make more sin? But no, what it means is the law came in to help us understand how much sin we were doing. That actually the way we were living was not to God's standard. So that's what it means to increase the trespass. The understanding of what sin was. But where sin increased, where there was a recognition that we are truly depraved people in our sinning. Well, grace abounded all the more because God is good towards us. Now, this doesn't mean that we continue to sin so that we can let God do his job of more grace to us. No, that's playing God for the fool. And Paul is very clear in 1 Thessalonians about what it means that we cannot deceive God. We cannot play God for the fool. God doesn't want us to sin more so that he can demonstrate his grace more. No, God abhors sin. He hates it. He wants us to live for him. And so what these verses are saying is that we will all face the consequence of sin that is common to all humanity and that is a physical death. We can't escape it, and it is indeed that consequence of Genesis 3. But we do not fear the grave when we are in Christ. And that's what Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 4, verses 13 to 14. But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. Eternal life can only come through the grave, or when Christ returns, if that will happen in our lifetime. But eternity will come. It is a certainty. I wonder if eternity in heaven is your certainty. There's a lot to come in these weeks. I hope that you will have some wonderful free gifts this Christmas time. But the only reason we celebrate Christmas is because of the coming of sin, which needed to be dealt with. This led to the coming of forgiveness through Jesus Christ. And our coming into eternal life is only through Him, our Savior. This is the best and greatest gift of all, and it's free. Will you receive it? Will you live it? And will you tell it? I hope you will, because as Paul will go on to say in Romans 6 verse 23, there is a consequence for rejecting it. Because the wages of sin is death. For anyone who does not receive the free gift, it will be an eternal death. But the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus, our Lord. May he be your free gift this evening that you will love, that you will cherish, and that you will truly proclaim. Let us pray. Our Father God, we thank you for this, the heart of the gospel. Page by page, chapter by chapter, verse by verse, Paul is warming our hearts so that we can understand fully the true blessing of the gospel. Thank you for your grace that is so good in which you're so generous in giving to us. Help us to know it and receive it and live better for you. Lord, as we've been thinking about the coming of sin, the coming of forgiveness, and the coming of eternal life, may we know that we truly are sinners, that we need a Savior in Jesus Christ so that we will be ready. For the coming of the eternal kingdom. We don't know when it will come, but we have been promised it will. So may we be ever attentive to your word in this Advent season as we get ready for that day. And we ask it in Jesus name. Amen.

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