Traditionally, in a violent town on the western frontier the arrival of the law, often in the person of a federal marshal, reduced lawlessness. After a confrontation or two the town became peaceful. Paul, however, tells you in Romans 5:20-21, that the arrival of the law (and here he is thinking of the coming of the Law of God as given through Moses at Mt. Sinai) caused an increase in lawlessness!
The law came in to show you what your sin really is. The law, like a projector changing a small image into a large one on a screen, shows you the details of your own sin, as well as the sin of Adam which is counted to you. (Remember that this is not the only function of the law, but it is an important one.) The law came in, sin increased, and death reigned. Like a tyrannical ruler oppressing his country, death holds you in it’s grip.
In order to better focus your attention on the majestic work of Christ, Paul draws out his parallel, comparing the first Adam with the Second (Jesus Christ). The two are parallel, but in a contrasting way. In the first Adam you have sin, condemnation, and death, but in the Second, obedience, justification, and life.
You need to know your sin in order to appreciate the richness of God’s grace. Sin increased, but Paul tells you that grace increased even more. Are you discouraged by how hard it is to struggle against sin in your life? Do you find yourself looking over your shoulder at God’s judgment? Take heart! God’s grace is super-abounding, as Paul puts it. It is even more powerful than sin, condemnation, and death. It gives you peace and joy.
Grace is not just an abstract concept. It comes to you in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. By faith you are connected with him in his death and resurrection. Your Christian life is not just following some mechanical rules. It is a relationship with the Savior.
This abounding grace leads you to life eternal. Paul is not thinking of an ethereal existence in the clouds. Although he affirms that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord, his eyes focus beyond the intermediate time, as Romans 8 makes clear, on the restoration of all things in Christ Jesus. You look forward to a glorious existence in the new heavens and earth, to a time when you no longer struggle with sin, for it and all of its effects will have been fully defeated. Yet the life you live this week in Jesus Christ belongs to that life of the eternal ages. That’s how super-abounding his grace is!
Reflections, thoughts in process for the message on August 15, 2010