The fifth chapter of Romans is one passage which I have wrestled with time and time again for the past two months. In this chapter, Paul begins a discussion on justification, which is not the troubling aspect for me. It’s when the discussion turns towards drawing comparisons between Adam and Christ, with Adam bringing sin and death into the word (and would spread through all humanity) and Jesus bringing grace and new life through justification for all people. Listen to some of the words of the apostle Paul:
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. For just as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. But law came in, with the result that the trespass multiplied; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, just as sin exercised dominion in death, so grace might also exercise dominion through justification leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
To me at least, Paul seems to be straddling the line of an all-inclusive gospel. Just as people cannot choose whether they are affected by total depravity or original sin, people cannot choose whether or not this new grace has been extended to them or not. Verses 17-18 scream that the gospel and good news of Jesus brings all into this justification. No profession of faith. No church membership. No Four Spiritual Laws. No ties to Focus on the Family. No baptism. Nothing. Original sin had tainted all but now the life of Jesus replaces it. The new humanity has arrived.
This passage is troubling because I have been raised in an evangelical background where one makes a personal commitment to follow Christ. But what if we are already in this story of Christ? Maybe we haven’t located ourselves in it, but maybe we are a part of it whether we like it or not. Paul claims this justification is for all just as sin was. Does that include Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and terrorists? I know claims of an all-inclusive gospel are heresy in Christian circles, but these thoughts inundate my mind when reading this passage.