Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For 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. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Romans 5:18-21 (ESV)
We began this series focusing on the phrase in Hebrews 13:9, “It is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace.” What proper diet and exercise is to the strengthening of the body, grace is to the strengthening of the soul (or heart). God’s grace truly is amazing! We have already seen so many facets of grace that give us strength for our daily lives. In Part 1, we learned that we have no life apart from His electing grace. In Part 2, we saw that the grace of God appeared in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ. In Part 3, we saw that His throne is a throne of grace. There we find mercy and grace to help in time of need, and we need Him always. In Part 4, we saw that God gives grace to the humble. We demonstrate humility when we cast our cares upon Him. Last week in Part 5, we saw that his grace is sufficient to carry us through every moment of our lives. His strength is made perfect in our weaknesses.
Today, I want us to find strength in the abounding grace of God that is greater than all our sin. This grace that “abounds” (literally “super-abounds”) is a grace that reigns in righteousness leading to eternal life. To introduce these few verses above, let me say that I am so thankful for gifted medical professionals and the advancement of medical science. I’m amazed at all we have learned regarding the human body. Now, when I go to the doctor for a diagnosis of a problem, I want the doctor to tell me the truth. Don’t “beat around the bush”, just tell me what the issue is and what needs to be done about it. I will never really understand and appreciate what true health is unless I know how bad my condition really is.
You will never know and appreciate grace until you realize how desperate your condition was before you were healed by the grace of God through Jesus Christ. In Romans 5, Paul makes very clear that through the transgression of one man, Adam, all men are sinners and are under the just condemnation of God. Let me mention something here to illustrate just how bad our condition is apart from Christ. My good friend and mentor Tom Schreiner sheds light on the subject in his commentary on Romans. He says, “The Jews believed the law restrained people from sin and was instrumental in inclining people to righteous living. Paul, who once held this very view as a zealous Pharisee now proposes a shockingly different alternative. Instead of curbing sin, the law was given by God in order to increase transgression” (italics mine). That’s right, the law magnifies my sin! Even though the law was not given until Moses, the fact that death reigned over everyone is evidence that all were sinners. So, for Paul, and for you and me, the law reveals how sinful the heart really is. I am m in bondage to sin. I am helplessly lost and undone. I am dead in my trespasses and sins (Eph. 2). My condition is worse than I could ever imagine. Unless I understand this, God’s grace is meaningless! Take a moment and think of your past life of sin. The apostle Paul did. In 1 Timothy 1:13, Paul recalls his old life. He was a blasphemer, persecutor and an insolent opponent of Christ. He acted ignorantly in unbelief. Then, “the grace of our Lord overflowed for me” (v. 14)! Grace is God’s unmerited favor. It is receiving that which I do not deserve. His electing grace truly is marvelous!
Think of the condition of your heart at the present time. Do you have a greater sense of the depravity of your heart each day? The law drives us to Christ, because the law cannot save, only Christ can, and the law keeps us in Christ, for it continues to remind us that we cannot live up to it. Jesus lived the perfect life for each of us, so we must look to him continually. Now grace is reigning through righteousness. His righteousness is imputed to us and is a gift of his grace. “Grace manifests its rule by conquering sin so that people are no longer condemned before God but stand in the right before him.” Grace that reigns and provides righteousness inevitably produces a changed life with a sure hope of life eternal. There is no cheap grace here! Read Romans 6:1-2. Being saved by grace is not a license to continue in sin.
God saved us by grace and he sustains us, even this moment, by grace. It truly is “marvelous grace of our loving Lord.” With that in mind, I will leave you with a familiar hymn by Julia Johnston (at least familiar to most). If you know the tune to the hymn, I would encourage you to sing along as you read the words. It will bless you as it did me. A word of warning though: this hymn will stick in your head and potentially may cause you to sing aloud in the car or in the shower or as you walk through the house. Don’t worry what your family says to you, just sing it and glory in the grace of God!
Marvelous grace of our loving Lord,
Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt.
Yonder on Calvary’s mount outpoured,
There where the blood of the lamb was spilt.
Chorus: Grace, grace God’s grace, grace that will pardon and cleanse within.
Grace, grace, God’s grace, grace that is greater than all our sin.
Sin and despair like the sea waves cold,
Threaten the soul with infinite loss.
Grace that is greater, yes grace untold,
Points to the refuge the mighty cross.
Dark is the stain that we cannot hide,
What can avail to wash it away?
Look! There is flowing a crimson tide,
Whiter than snow you may be today.