For Whom the Bell Tolls

James Cook

READ : Romans 5:12–21

Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. (v. 18)

“No man is an island entire of itself,” wrote John Donne.

“Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” This is language Paul would have understood, for he too was a firm believer in the solidarity of mankind. Adam was the primary piece of the human continent. For that reason his acts had universal consequences. Sin and death entered the world through him, and spread to all humans. We need not ask for whom the heavy bell of sin and death tolls. It tolls for us.

But there is another side to this solidarity, a side as bright as the other is dark. Through the incarnation Jesus Christ also has become a part of this human continent. His acts also transmit consequences. For “If, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righ-teousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men” (vv. 17–18). Therefore, it is never necessary to ask for whom the bells of joy and victory ring. They too ring for us. (originally published October 10, 1961)

PRAYER

Thank you, God, for the church through which flow the means of grace. Amen.