It’s Just the Tip of the Iceberg

Title: It’s Just the Tip of the Iceberg

Text: Romans 5:12-21

Time: September 10, 2006

“It’s just the tip of the iceberg” is an old saying that means that there is more to it than meets the eye, or we only see just a little part of a bigger picture. The reason an iceberg is used to illustrate this is because when we see an iceberg we are seeing only a fraction of the ice; below the surface of the water is 90% of the iceberg, only 10% is visible. That’s why we say, “It’s only the tip of the iceberg” to refer to something that’s bigger than it looks. Well that’s the way it is with spiritual reality. We humans only know or experience or understand the tip of the iceberg in respect to spiritual reality; 90% of real truth is below the surface, hidden, invisible to the eye. When we read the Bible we are only really learning the tip of the iceberg about the spiritual world, God, life beyond, etc. That can be frustrating because we desire to know the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Yet the truth is, we couldn’t handle the truth, we couldn’t even comprehend the whole truth, because it would go beyond our ability to process it. When we begin to study the Book of Romans we begin to get the sense that we are looking at the tip of the iceberg in respect to spiritual reality, and yet it is the best we can handle. In the fifth chapter of Romans, Paul begins to describe some truths that are a little hard to grasp which deal with how we got into our sinful condition and how Jesus Christ rescues us from our condition, and much of it is beyond our total understanding. The main point however is that because of Jesus Christ and our faith in him, we are saved from our fatal condition and rescued from all harm, whether we can understand how this works or not. But Paul tries to explain it the best he can. In Romans 5:12-21 (read) Paul tells how our original parent Adam fell into sin and with him we all spiritually fell into sin as well. From this one original sin, Adam and everyone were sentenced to death and damnation as a result. But then Paul also explains how Jesus came, lived, died on the cross, and rose again to free us from Adam’s curse of sin and death, and give us eternal life. Paul wants us to understand that the solution that Jesus came to give us is greater than the problem our original parent Adam gave to us. Now there are many Christians who go through life and never get past superficial faith in God, they never look below the surface of the Christian faith. They learn a little about Jesus, hear a little about the gospel, and accept what they hear, but they never appreciate the depths of the problem of sin and death, nor do they fully grasp the greatness of Christ’s solution of salvation. But if they did, they would rejoice and be inspired to serve God whole-heartedly as a result. So let us examine some of the deeper truths of salvation and hopefully gain a new appreciation for it, and a new motivation for serving Christ.

First, When Adam sinned, we all sinned. Romans 5:12-14, “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned – for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come.” There’s an old saying, “Life’s not fair,’ and here’s a perfect example of it. Adam and Even fell into sin by disobeying God’s command to not eat from the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The warning by God was that if they disobeyed Him they would die. Well, they did disobey him, and they did eventually die. But that’s not the whole story, just like the tip of an iceberg isn’t the whole story of that either. It wasn’t just Adam and Eve that were punished; it was all of us, their biological children in the human race. When Adam sinned, he represented mankind, being the first man, and so he acted on behalf of all of mankind in his sin. As a result, all of mankind after him inherited sin and also death too. That’s what Paul is saying. “But that’s not fair,” someone could say. No, it doesn’t seem to be fair, but it is the truth, it is the reality of the situation whether we like it or not. For better or for worse, Adam, as our original parent and father, represented all of us and fell into sin for all of us, bringing upon us death as well. How do we know that people die because of Adam’s sin and not for their own sins alone? Because as Paul explains, there had been only one law given between the time of Adam and Moses. Adam was given the original law to not eat the fruit of the tree, which he broke, but then after that there was no express law command from God until the time of Moses with the Ten Commandments. Yet people between Adam and Moses still died, how can that be explained? If death is the punishment for sin, and sin is the breaking of God’s laws, if there is no law then there can be no sin. But there was sin and there was death between Adam and Moses, how can that be? Because as Paul explains, through Adam’s sin that everyone inherits, and through Adam’s guilt which everyone inherits, everyone receives the penalty for sin, death. According to Paul, between Adam and Moses, people really did sin and really did die, but it was because of the sin of Adam, not because of their own individual sins. Why not because of their own sins? Because the law of God hadn’t been given yet, and without law sin isn’t counted as sin. Of course, people were sinning between the time of Adam and Moses, because we know that God’s law is written in everyone’s heart what is basically right and wrong, but evidentially without God’s express law, this kind of sin isn’t counted against people. So what kind of sin was counted against them that brought death? Adam’s original sin, the kind we all inherit. According to the Bible, we die because of sin, not just our own individual sins, but also because of the original sin of Adam. Again, that may not seem fair, but that’s life. That’s why a little baby doesn’t have to be taught how to be bad, but has to been trained carefully how to be good. It’s that original inherited Adam’s sin that is in everyone, even little babies. That’s why David says in Psalm 51:5, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” That’s what Paul is talking about when he says when Adam sinned we all sinned, and the penalty of death Adam received, we all receive. But thank God that’s not the end of the story.

Second, As Christ lives, we all live. Romans 5:15-19, “But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! Again, the gift of God is not like the result of the one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ. 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.” Now Paul gives us the solution from Jesus Christ to our problem of sin and death. Adam brought upon us sin and death; Jesus brings to us righteousness and life. Just as original sin was passed on to all people through the sin of just one man, Adam, so too earned righteousness is passed on to many (not all) people through the life of Jesus Christ. Just as death (physical and spiritual) was brought upon all people for the punishment of Adam’s sin, so life (spiritual) was brought to many (not all) as a result of Christ’s death and resurrection to life on our behalf. Now how can this be? How can one man’s sin bring guilt and death upon all people, and how can one man’s obedience bring holiness and life to people as well? That is something Paul doesn’t explain, maybe because he can’t explain it. That is something hidden from us in the invisible, spiritual world. How things like sin, guilt, punishment, death can be transferred from one person to another, how things like righteousness and life can be transferred from one to another, again, is a mystery. But this is exactly what we see happening in the case of Adam, Christ, and all of us. What this means is that there is more to the picture than meets the eye, or to put it again as before, this is just the tip of the iceberg. There is a lot of things happening in the hidden, invisible, spiritual world that we aren’t aware of, nor could we understand it if we were made aware of it. It’s kind of like Einstein’s Theory of Relativity to most people. We read the formula: E=MC2, but we don’t understand what it means. It’s just the tip of the iceberg for a scientific reality. The creators of the nuclear bombs during World War II used that formula to produce the two bombs dropped on Japan. It works, but hardly anybody knows why. That’s the same with original sin and Christ’s righteousness. How we are given Adam’s sin and death is unknown. How Christ takes our sin upon the cross is also unknown. How Christ gives us His own righteousness is unknown as well. But, like the formula E=MC2, as long as it works, that’s all that matters. And thank God it works for us. We are forgiven of our sins, the penalty of spiritual death is removed, and we are given Christ’s righteousness and eternal life.

Third, The difference is we have to choose Christ. Romans 5:20-21, “The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” The difference between us getting sin and death from Adam, and us getting righteousness and life from Christ is that we must choose Christ; with Adam we were just stuck with it. It’s the difference between being born and being born again. In Adam, we are born of sin to death; in Christ we are born again of the Spirit to eternal life. That’s why Jesus says in the Book of John that we all must be born again. John 3:3, “In reply Jesus declared, ‘I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” By default, we are all children of Adam, but it takes a conscious choice to become a child of God, it takes faith in Christ. Now since it takes faith on the part of each one of us to be born again of the Spirit, to be forgiven of our sins and receive the righteousness of Christ, the sooner we do so the better. That’s why the law was given, so that we see our problem and can quickly receive the solution. Paul says, “The law was added so that trespasses might increase,” or in other words, so that we might more easily and quickly see our need for a Savior. The law is like a net intended to catch us in our sins; the quicker we are caught the better for us. I think of the pictures I’ve seen of scientists trying to save dolphins that’ve gotten into the wrong waters and are in danger of getting trapped and dying there. The scientists try to catch the dolphins in nets, the quicker the better, to save their lives. If the nets are too big, the dolphins slip through, so the nets must be fine enough to catch them. Once they are caught, they can be saved and can live in better waters. It’s the same with us in sin and death. We are going to die where we are in the condition we inherited from Adam. God introduces the law in order to show us our condition of sin in order to humble us to cry out for help. The law is a type of net that is supposed to catch us, tie us up in sin, frustrate us, and humiliate us so that we cry out in despair to God to save us by some other means. The finer the net, the quicker we are caught. “The law was added so that the trespass might increase.” Without the law we might stumble through life and never catch ourselves as moral failures before God. Without the law we might fool ourselves into thinking that we really are righteous before God. But as God increased his laws to man, there was more exposure to the details of holy obedience, thus a better chance of each person finding themselves trapped by the law in an impossible situation: the inability to fulfill the requirements of the law. Jesus brought the finest detail to the law when He taught that it wasn’t the outer aspects of the law that counted only, but also the hidden, invisible, heart obedience that counted. Thus making full obedience impossible; thus trapping everyone in the fine net of the law. He did this in order to bring them to an awareness of their need for salvation, so that He might save them by faith.

Have you gotten yourself caught by the net of the law of God? If you don’t get yourself caught you will die in your sins and experience everlasting death. In this case, it’s better to be caught, the sooner the better. Do you realize that you inherited Adam’s sin and the penalty of death? That doesn’t seem fair, but there’s something that you can do about it — you can put your faith in the Savior Jesus to save you out of your condition. You didn’t choose to receive Adam’s spiritual curse of sin and death, it was given to you whether you wanted it or not. But you can choose to do something about it. You can choose to receive the forgiveness and righteousness of Christ as Savior to rescue you from your condition. The law of God is supposed to help you see the need for assistance. The more law you know, the more you’ll see how far you fail it. That’s good, because if you waste your whole life thinking that you are righteous before God when really you aren’t, you’ll perish in your sins, be judged, condemned, and suffer for all eternity. So the sooner you are caught by the law, the better for you, because then you can call upon Christ as Savior to save you. If you get to know the law of God for any length of time you will find that you fail at keeping it. You may be able to keep it in a superficial way, in a visible way. You may be able to be “blameless” before other people, or “good” in the outward, visible way. But inwardly, in the invisible and inner state of your heart, you will find that you fail to keep the law there. Obedience isn’t just conforming to the outward requirements of the law. True obedience is obeying the whole law whole-heartedly. That means not only not committing murder, but also not hating in your heart. If you refrain from outright murder, but hate in your heart, you have still broken the law, you’ve failed to fulfill the whole law whole-heartedly. Martin Luther carried Paul’s teaching even further by bringing out the truth that even if you were to refrain from murder, and even refrain from hatred in your heart, unless you did so from a willing, enthusiastic, joyful heart, you had still not fulfilled the requirements of the law. In other words, if there is any reluctance on your part in doing your duty towards the law, you really aren’t obeying it from the heart. Yes, you may be able to stop your body from sinning, and even your mind from sinning, but if you acted reluctantly in doing so, that shows you really didn’t have your whole heart into the act of obedience, thus, you failed to obey from the heart. That pretty much makes it nearly impossible to fully obey God’s law. It shows our need for salvation, to make us righteous apart from the law, through faith in Christ.

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2 Responses to “It’s Just the Tip of the Iceberg”

  1. chris Says:

    Good Post!
    I just recently published a book about the prayers of the Apostle Paul, and thought you may be interested in checking it out. You can preview and even order the book at http://www.Amazon.com. Just type in Praying The Prayers of the Apostle Paul.

    Thanks and God Bless,
    casparkman@gmail.com

  2. learning1 Says:

    learning1…

    […]It’s Just the Tip of the Iceberg « Jeff Short's Weblog[…]…

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