The Power of One Act for Good or for Evil

A neighborhood child, I’ll call Abby, who was also in my daughter’s first grade class, showed the effect of one person’s sin. Abby’s father left her mother—and her—for another woman. Abby’s anger and hurt spilled out on the neighborhood children and her classmates.

Who did this man’s adultery hurt? His wife and child obviously grieved. But my children also suffered. The sin committed by a man we’d never met disrupted our neighborhood and his daughter’s classroom.

Believing we can corral the consequences of our private sins is like throwing a flaming, gasoline-soaked rag into an apartment and being astonished when the whole building burns down.

Romans 5:19 contrasts the effect of Adam’s one act of disobedience with the impact of Jesus’ one act of obedience. Take heart, as we look at what those actions mean for us today.

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” (Romans 5:19 NIV).

Adam’s One Act of Disobedience

Adam and Eve began life in the Garden of Eden, a place of bounty and liberty. Beautiful trees laden with delicious varieties of ripe fruit surrounded the first couple. They could choose as much as they wanted from any tree—except one.

But the Lord God warned him, ‘You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden—except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die’” (Gen. 2:15-17 NLT).

Satan overheard the command. Posing as a serpent he deceived Eve. After tasting the fruit and suffering no apparent harm, she offered some forbidden fruit to Adam.

The Bible says Adam was not tricked. He saw through the serpent’s lies. Yet he joined his wife in rebellion against God.

When Adam and Eve stood in the garden considering the fruit, they were the only two people on earth. What would it hurt to disregard God’s one limit? No one would know.

When Adam and Eve stood in the garden considering the fruit, they were the only two people on earth. What would it hurt to disregard God’s one limit? #temptation Share on X

Sometimes, like them, we rationalize our disobedience. We tell ourselves, “Who will know? No one will get hurt.” We can’t fathom the effect our sin will have on ourselves and on people we have never met.

Adam didn’t have to worry about the animals squealing on them. His own guilt changed his very nature and broadcast his fall to God and creation.

Every human since Adam has suffered the incalculable suffering of sin and death. Not only do we physically die, we are born spiritually dead, separated from the life of God. Because of our darkened minds, apart from the grace of God, we don’t even know we’re dead. Rebellion against God is the human mode of operation.

Christ’s One Act of Obedience

Thankfully, the story doesn’t end there.

When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners” (Romans 5:6 NLT).

“Through the obedience of the one man [Jesus] the many will be made righteous” (Romans 5:19 NIV).

Two commands:

  • “Adam, don’t eat that particular fruit.”
  • “Jesus, drink the cup of wrath.”

Who had the harder assignment?

The Cost

On the night of His betrayal, Jesus counted the cost of obedience and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42 NIV).

Jesus was about to become sin and suffer the just punishment every sin since the beginning of time to the end of time has earned. Think how disgusting and painful it is to just hear of some crimes. Imagine blameless Jesus becoming those sins.

But there was no other way to satisfy God’s justice and love. So, Jesus willingly drank the cup of God’s wrath to the last drop. Then He cried out, “It is finished!” Jesus drank every drop of condemnation our sins deserved.

Jesus’ one act of obedience overturned the condemnation that followed Adam’s sin. He became sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. The old nature can’t cancel out the new nature, but the new nature can cancel out the old.

Jesus’s obedience accomplished “much more” than Adam’s disobedience. Because of Jesus we can live in victory through faith in God’s gift of grace and righteousness in Christ.

Jesus’ one act of obedience overturned the condemnation that followed Adam’s sin. He became sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. #Savior, #Redeemer Share on X

When Jesus counted the cost He saw the joy beyond the suffering. Joy always rewards obedience.

For the joy set before him he endured the cross” (Heb. 12:2 NIV).

How Do We Apply This?

Living in condemnation and regret does not honor Jesus. But appreciating His gift of righteousness does. When condemning thoughts threaten us, we remember Jesus’ obedience covered that sin too!

The next time you’re tempted to think a small act of obedience or disobedience won’t matter, remember Abby and Adam. Remember what it cost Jesus to overturn sin. Who knows the ripple effect your obedience or disobedience will have (Romans 6:21-22)?

Comment: Share your thoughts here.



Temptation: Fun or Run

Photo by Nathan Lemon on Unsplash

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  1. Emily | To Unearth

    I remember when I was little, my mom sat us down and told us our punishment as the result of a few of us disobeying. Our disobedience affected each sibling, and I’ll never forget what I felt then. It’s always served as a reminder that my sin does not just affect me. Thanks for this reminder, though, that Jesus’ act of obedience is also something that affects us all! Enjoyed being your neighbor on #TeaAndWord today. 🙂

    • Debbie Wilson

      Emily, that is a powerful lesson on how the choice of one impacts everyone. Our society has somehow forgotten that. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Melissa Henderson

    A very powerful message. One act of obedience or disobedience can change a person forever. Also, those acts can affect others.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Melissa, it is a sobering truth. Healthy communities help each other live well because the actions of one affects everyone. And we forget our actions change us.

  3. Ann Musico

    That is powerful, Debbie. We need to remember this. Thank you for the reminder.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Thank you, Ann!

  4. Jim

    One of my favorite sayings to myself is “Consider the Source” Ms. Debbie. When I begin to sense frustration or condemnation for something I’ve said or done, I remind myself that these thoughts are from “the accuser.” When I recognize I’ve done wrong, and feel compassion and a desire to right the wrong, I remind myself these thoughts are from “the counselor.” Thank you for this great reminder that making the more difficult choice almost always assures us we’re on the right path. God’s blessings ma’am.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Jim, I love your filter: Consider the source. Great wisdom and thoughts on how to discern the source!

  5. Lee Holder

    Thank you Debbie . I love your way of expressing God’s truth. I found my lack of skill in apologetics challenged yesterday . I was speaking into a Jewish friend’s observation that the God of wrath in the Old Testament could not possibly be the same as the forgiving God of the New Testament . I know the answer of course is the blood of Jesus and all that His sacrifice represents and accomplishes. But thanks to this message , I will have a much better way to explain this next time.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Lee, I think God uses those times to open our hearts to thirst more deeply. I love how He answers the longing in our hearts to understand and communicate better. May God open the eyes of your friend to see Jesus.

  6. Pam Ecrement

    Good stuff here, Debbie. I think selfishness is so often the motive or core of whatever the sin that we don’t even think about how the choice we make can affect others OR we decide (still selfishness) that what we need or want is so important that it’s okay to ignore whatever glimpse of its impact we actually do see.

    Good topic to expose and remind us about, my friend.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Thank you, Pam. I always appreciate your thoughts.

  7. Tammy L Kennington

    Hi Debbie. This is a convicting and soul-soothing post! Love that you ended with Christ’s one act of redemption.

    Your neighbor at Encouragement for the Heart,

    • Debbie Wilson

      Thank you, Tammy. I’m thankful God highlighted the contrast for us! What a Savior!

  8. Crystal Twaddell

    I’ve watched this in my extended family, and the ripples of pain are still so evident. We all need this reminder of how even one poor choice can and does affect more than just us. I’m grateful always for God’s redemptive grace but as a professor of mine once said, “God’s grace frees us from the condemnation of our sin but it doesn’t free us from the consequences of our sin. All too often our family also bears the burden of those consequences.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Crystal, so many biblical stories reveal that truth. God forgave, but sin set in motion a ripple of pain that lasted generations. How wonderful to know He uses that pain to press us closer to Him. But what a warning to pause before we act.

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