It's Reigning Grace

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Wednesday, April 15, 2015 0 comments
by Logan Ames

About a month ago, I was driving a friend back to his house after we hung out, and I was not paying attention to my speedometer as we traveled and engaged in discussion. It was about midnight and there were very few other cars around, but suddenly I saw the mixture of red and blue flashing lights in my rearview mirror. I was surprised as I certainly wasn’t speeding intentionally and had absolutely no clue how fast I was going. As it turned out, the officer clocked me at 43 mph in a 35 zone. Depending on what state you live in, your reaction to that sentence is quite different. When I was driving in Texas a few years ago, I was doing 10 mph over the speed limit and everyone was zipping by me. In Pennsylvania, we generally knew that you had to be at least 10 over the limit before the troopers would pull you over. But in this town in Ohio, 8 over the limit on a 4-lane road with almost no traffic was considered “speeding” by that particular officer. While he likely just used my speeding as a reason to pull me over to see if we were doing any other illegal activities that late at night, he gave me a mere verbal warning and I remember commenting to my friend that the decision to pull me over was a bit ridiculous.

Did you notice my justifications in that first paragraph? Maybe you agree, maybe you don’t. But either way, I would’ve had no argument had the officer chosen to fine me. I can compare my actions to the standard of Pennsylvania, the standard of Texas, or even my own standard of logic regarding the lack of traffic and the open space on that particular road at that particular time of night. However, the only standard that ultimately would matter is the standard of the law in that town on that road. The officer had a measure of discretion in executing the duties of his position, but nothing he would or would not do could change the fact that I did technically break the law.

In Romans 5:12-21, the Apostle Paul talks about how sin came into the world through Adam and brought death to all, but that Christ’s act of obedience on the cross resulted in life and justification for all people. However, it seems important to Paul that his readers understand a little bit more about the relationship between the law and sin so that they can further understand God’s grace through Jesus. He explains that because of sin and its consequences, death reigned even before the law was given through Moses (v. 14), even though “sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law” (v. 13).

After talking about the gift given to all mankind through the obedience of Jesus Christ, Paul concludes this important section by using the law to show the magnitude of his grace. He writes, “The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (vv. 20-21). Other translations say that the law was brought in “so that sin may abound." What could this possibly mean? Is Paul saying the unthinkable, that God actually gave Moses the law because he wanted us to sin more? This may be what some of you think, but I assure you that isn’t the case.

Paul is saying that sin entered the world through Adam and was in the world for all of those years between Adam and the time of the law. But, like me in the story I told above, they weren’t using the appropriate standard to judge their actions. The sin of Adam and Eve was eating a piece of fruit for crying out loud! There was no rule, law, or decree that said, “Thou shalt not eat fruit." So obviously, it was something more. God had directly told Adam what fruit he was allowed to eat and what fruit he wasn’t, but he and his wife chose to directly disobey a command from God (Genesis 2-3). Other than that, they would’ve had no reason to think that what they were doing was sinful. This is why the law was necessary. Once God’s standard of perfect holiness was completely spelled out through Moses to the Israelite people and the foreigners with them, all of a sudden their failures were more evident. It’s not that they were sinning more, they just had more of a realization. Think of it the way you would a rare gem, whose imperfections can be more easily seen when compared to one that is perfect. The law was introduced to man so that they would be aware of their desperate need for a savior to reconcile them to God, because we can’t accept a savior that we don’t believe we need!

There is one other way that the law “increases” sin. Those of you who have young children, or even older children, know that all you have to do is give them a line that they cannot cross and they automatically want to cross it. The law gives us boundaries and our flesh automatically wants to see how far we can push them without crossing them. The problem with that way of thinking is that our flesh gains control; the more we push the boundary, the less we care if we cross it. We even convince ourselves that things that are clearly forbidden in Scripture are actually acceptable to God in order to make ourselves feel better in our sins. We come up with justifications and compare ourselves to other people rather than the right standard.

The sacrifice of Jesus Christ put an end to the “increasing” of sin. Since God is holy, it would make sense that judgment and condemnation would increase as sin increases. But that’s not who God is. Out of his love for us, he came in the person of Jesus and took on our penalty so that grace would actually be what increases. The more we recognize our sinfulness, the more we can surrender at the foot of the cross and find his grace and mercy. No matter how bad you think you are or were, you can’t out-sin God’s grace. And when grace reigns in your life, you have more of a desire for righteousness. You also have more of a reason to “increase” the grace you show toward others when they sin.

Are you aware of the areas of your life where you may be crossing the boundaries that God has set? Do you know that you need a savior and that Jesus is the One who came and died for you? If not, I urge you to reflect on this wonderful passage written by Paul. Don’t let sin and death reign in your life any longer. You are giving it power that it doesn’t have. If you surrender to the Lord, grace and righteousness will reign. No one can choose for you. You must decide what will reign in your life.

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