By one man
According to a recent article, scientists believe that one person infected by HIV moved from Africa to Haiti around 1966. Some time later, in the early 1970s, another single infected person moved from Haiti to the USA. Yet over the ensuing three decades this one strain of the HIV virus ledto an AIDS epidemic in America of staggering proportions.
What struck me about this article (whether true or not) was the impact that one person’s action can make upon the many. Someone, somewhere (no doubt, no longer alive to tell the tale) probably engaged in a risky sexual liaison – and down the line that one act (followed through by many similar acts) had fatal consequences for a multitude. The virus spread, and with it the consequences. Countless lives were irrevocably changed.
One act of disobedience
Of course there is a moral dimension to this story, but I want to focus on just one detail – the actions of one affected many.
The ‘enlightened’ minds of our day scoff at the Bible’s account of man’s creation and fall. It is treated as mythology at best and brainwashing at worst. Yet the very things we see played out in our modern world find an authentic parallel back there in biblical Eden.
The Bible says that God made man perfect and upright, but through one act of disobedience many were made sinners. We might look back at that account and laugh it off, but it is God’s explanation of why the world is the way it is – now blighted by death, disease and decay.
It was not always so. The world was created a perfect place, but then sin entered – by one man committing one offence. One person rebelled against God’s will. So sin entered and death entered with it, as its punishment and consequence.
Just as AIDS spread from one man and one act, so by one man’s action at the dawn of history, death spread to all men, for all sinned (Romans 5:12). Here is the crack in the dam which released a torrent that swamped humanity. Here is the spark that was fanned to a flame and now scorches every one of us.
Why is the world the way it is? Because one man sinned and we, being the descendants of that one man, bear the consequences. He was our ‘head’ and in a way we were all ‘in’ him when he rebelled and died. When that happened we died with him – both spiritually and in the sense of becoming mortal.
More than that, each one of us has committed sins of our own and amplified the consequences of that original sin – to our own destruction: ‘See how great a forest a little fire kindles!’ (James 3:5).
Is it fair?
But why should we be held guilty for something done by our first parent and in which we played no part? Well, those who caught HIV unwittingly by their own action also had nothing to do with the man in Haiti. We might argue that it is unfair of God to condemn us all, but the truth is that our own sinful actions are so very similar to Adam’s rebellion against God that we remain without excuse.
But here is the good news – in the wisdom of God there is an escape route from the judgement we deserve.
You see, in bringing the consequences of one man’s sin upon so many – a consequence that we might argue is unjust – God had a plan of putting things right by one further act of divine justice.
And if we dare argue that we should not be held guilty because of Adam’s sin, then we also deny ourselves the possibility of being made righteous by Jesus’ one act of righteousness. In both cases, the same law of imputation (accounting or reckoning) is at work.
The glory of imputation
One man sinned and the consequences were grave for us all. His sin is imputed to us. But that ‘injustice’ (if we see it that way) is put right by God in Christ. For Christ, by one act of righteousness – namely his atoning death on the cross (which was an injustice to him) – enables God to justly reckon or impute Christ’s righteousness to us. We are all declared guilty that all who believe might find forgiveness (or justification) in Christ (Romans 5:12-21).
Now, suddenly, the argument against man’s fall is no longer about injustice or unfairness. No! The argument has been transformed into a demonstration of God’s great love, mercy and grace (Romans 5:8).
In his wisdom, through one act of righteousness on the cross, God saw fit to administer his justice in such a way that he could be both ‘just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus’ (Romans 3:26).
God’s justice demands that we should all be held accountable in Adam. But God’s love, mercy and grace demands even more. How can souls, condemned in their sin and guilt, be set free? Answer: by God himself making atonement for their sin and accounting to them the righteousness they need – the perfect righteousness of the man Christ Jesus.
How did God provide for that? By the ‘injustice of the cross’, where Christ unjustly died for the sin of many, that his righteousness might be imputed to them (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Next time you hear of one person’s actions affecting many others, realise that God may be reminding you of Christ – and thank him that he sent his only Son to be the Saviour of the world. Murray Gifkins