The Long Reach of Obedience
Rom. 5:18 ¶ 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.
Rom. 5:19 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.
Rom. 5:20 But law came in, with the result that the trespass multiplied; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,
Rom. 5:21 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.
Here Paul is helping us to understand the work that has been done in Christ as compared to Adam. The sin of Adam led to the bent toward sinning found in all of humanity but just as the act of disobedience left its imprint upon all, so Jesus’ act of obedience leads to justification for all. Jesus’ obedience to the Father changed the face of everything that had been encountered because of disobedience. As humanity was confronted with the law of God, the bent toward sinning simply revealed the fact that the human trajectory was leading further and further from God. However, the more distant humanity became from God, the more his grace abounded, reaching across the chasm created by sin and providing the pathway home to eternal life. Jesus is the one who stepped into this world in human flesh living out a life of obedience to the Father, setting things right for all of God’s creation.
These past few days we have been enjoying the sights related to the life of John Wesley. While touring the home of the Wesleys in the city of Epworth we learned about the influence of Susanna Wesley on her children. She realized that radical obedience on her part was necessary to make a difference for her children. Her husband was out of town at a meeting and had left another person in charge of the preaching on Sundays. Susanna did not feel that the morning preaching was sufficient for her family so she began to have evening devotions in her home. Little by little other people asked if they could attend and eventually she reported that up to 200 were coming, more than those going to Sunday morning services. The gentleman left to preach wrote to Samuel Wesley, her husband, complaining about Susanna’s gathering. The following is a quote from her letter to her husband, explaining why she felt she could not stop her Sunday evening meetings.
To your second, I reply that as I am a woman, so I am also a mistress of a large family. And though the superior charge of the souls contained in it lies upon you, as head of the family, and as their minister, yet in your absence I cannot but look upon every soul you leave under my care as a talent committed to me, under a trust, by the great Lord of all the families of heaven and earth. And if I am unfaithful to Him, or to you, in neglecting to improve these talents, how shall I answer unto Him when He shall command me to render an account of my stewardship ? —Clarke, Eliza. Susanna Wesley (Kindle Locations 1382-1386). London : W.H. Allen.
Susanna felt that her calling in life included the stewardship of the talents she had been given from God — her children. Her radical obedience to God meant that she may not always conform to what society thought was “proper” and yet, her sons John and Charles went on to touch England and the world for Christ. The long reach of Susanna’s obedience has touched even my own life.
Jesus’ obedience made the restoration of all of creation possible and we are invited into his kingdom where we may experience his transforming grace. Just as we are blessed by his obedience we must also recognize the potential reach of our obedience. Whose lives will we touch; for whom must we be stewards? Every believer who is justified is called to a life of obedience in Christ, the one who has demonstrated for us the long reach of obedience.
Lord, thank you for your obedience and may I serve you today in faithfulness in all things! Amen.