In His Letter to the Romans (continued)
(a) In the Matter of Heredity
Firstly, it is exposed in regard to the race - the whole matter of heredity. If we look at chapter five, with which we are so familiar, we see that there the whole race is traced back to Adam - "as through one man ..." (verse 12). The whole race of mankind is traced right back to its origin and fountain-head in the first Adam. What is made clear in this chapter is this. There was a disobedient act through unbelief, resulting in the disruption of man's relationship with God. "Through the one man's disobedience" (verse 19), Paul puts it - not only here, but in his letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 15:21, 22). And hence all men issuing from that man, Adam, became involved in that one act of disobedience and in its consequences - mainly the disruption of the relationship between man and God.
But that is not all. What immediately followed, as the effect of that act, was that man became in is nature disobedient and unbelieving. It was not just one isolated act which he committed, not just one thing into which he fell for a moment. Something went out of him, and something else entered into him, and man became by nature a disobedient and unbelieving creature. Not only did he act in that way, but he became that; and from that moment the very nature of man is unbelieving, the nature of man is disobedience. It is in his constitution, and all men have inherited that.
This is something that cannot be adjusted, you see. When you have become a certain kind of being, lacking a certain factor, you cannot adjust. You cannot adjust to what is not there. No man can believe unless it is given him of God to believe. Faith is "not of ourselves, it is the gift of God" (Eph. 2:8). No man can be obedient to God apart from a mighty act of God in him causing him to be of an obedient nature or disposition. You cannot adjust to something that is not there. So the situation is pretty hopeless, is it not? Something has gone, and something else which is the opposite of that has come in and taken its place. That is the condition of the race here. What a picture of hopeless despair for the whole race! That is our heredity. We are in the grip of that.
You will, of course, agree that in other realms, in other departments of life, heredity is a pretty hopeless thing. We often use the very hopelessness of it as a line of argument by which to excuse ourselves. We say, "it is how I am made: it is no use you trying to get me to do this - I am not made that way." You are only arguing that you have in your constitution something that makes the situation quite impossible. And let me take this opportunity of emphasizing that it is quite hopeless for us to try to find in ourselves that which God requires. We shall wear ourselves out, and in the end come to this very position which God has laid down, stated and established - it is hopeless! If you are struggling to be a different kind of person from what you are by nature, trying to get over what you have inherited - well, you are doomed to despair: and yet how many Christians have never learned that fundamental lesson! For the whole race, heredity spells hopelessness. If this needs focusing at all, we have only to consider the conflict and battle that there is over believing God, having faith in God. You know that it is a deep work of the Spirit of God in you that brings you, either initially or progressively, to believe. It is the "so-easily-besetting sin" - unbelief - followed, of course, by inability to obey. We are crippled at birth; we are born doomed in this matter by our heredity.
(continued with # 5 - (b. In the Matter of Religious Tradition)