Monday, March 20, 2023

2023.03.20 Hopewell @Home ▫ Romans 5:20–21

Read Romans 5:20–21

Questions from the Scripture text: What entered (Romans 5:20)? For what purpose? And for what purpose, and with what result, did sin abound? What had reigned (Romans 5:21)? In what? What now (much more, cf. Romans 5:20) reigned? Through what? Unto what? Through Whom?

How is the vast superiority of Christ over Adam displayed? Romans 5:20–21 looks forward to the sermon in this week’s midweek meeting. In these two verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that by the addition of the Mosaic law to what we had already sinned against, God prepared the way for displaying how much more grace reigns in Christ than even death reigned in Adam.

God’s convicting and just purpose for the law: that the trespass might abound, Romans 5:20a. God doesn’t tempt men to sin, but His good law makes the trespass to abound in two ways. The first is that it adds to guilt. The second is that our sinful nature takes advantage of it in order to increase, and is seen to be all the more sinful.

The entrance of the law increased our guilt. Some sins are more heinous against others. One way that guiltiness is increased is when we sin against more knowledge. The law increased the knowledge of God and His attributes, and this increased the offense, the trespass, of our sins. Another way that guiltiness increased is when we sin against grace. The law was a good and gracious gift from God, so the entrance of the law made our sin more guilty in that way. Finally, the Mosaic law entered as part of a gracious covenant with Israel, so that sin was now not only against the evident and glorious character of God but also against the explicit and gracious covenant of God.

The entrance of the law also provoked sin because our sinfulness took advantage of it. In Romans 7:7–13, the apostle will explain how the law is good, but sin took advantage of the commandment to produce all sinful desire (cf. Romans 7:8). Sin takes advantage of the commandment to deceive and kill sinners who come into contact with the law (cf. Romans 7:11). Why would God permit this? Romans 7:13 answers that it was to show the exceeding sinfulness of sin. So the law increased the offense not by tempting us but by showing how evil is the sinner’s sinfulness that it would even take God’s good law as an occasion for more sin!

This is what sin deserves: to have its guiltiness more fully condemned and to have its sinfulness more fully exposed.

God’s gracious and ultimate purpose for the law: that grace might super-aboundRomans 5:20b.Although God would have been just to introduce the law to convict all men, there were some for whom He had another purpose. For, the Lord had foreknown some, whom He chose in Christ before the world began, that they would be conformed to the Son’s image (cf. Romans 8:29) and become like the Son in holiness (cf. Ephesians 1:4).

Grace, then, actually precedes our sin. It comes from a determination that God would finally have a multitude of children whom He adopted in Jesus and glorified in Jesus. Wherever one of these whom He would end up saving sinned, grace is determined to abound. Into this situation, when the law is introduced and causes sin to abound, then for those who are being saved from both the standing of being condemned and the state of being a sinner, grace super-abounds.

Christ’s “crowning” achievement: righteous people, living righteously, because they are going to live foreverRomans 5:21. Where sin abounded, grace super-abounded. And now in verse 21, where death abounded, grace super-abounded.

Sin had reigned in death. Romans 5:14 told us that death reigned from Adam to Moses. We remember the dreadful refrain of Genesis 5: “and he died… and he died… and he died…” Even among the believing family of Seth, there was the refrain of the reign of death. But it wasn’t just death that was reigning at the end of men’s lives, it was sin that was reigning in that death. Men were not only born to die one day; they were born already “dead in trespasses and sins” (cf. Ephesians 2:1, Ephesians 2:5).

For every child of Adam, until he comes to faith in Christ, every sin he commits is a testimony: “sin reigns over me, and the final proof of it is coming when I die.” But for those who do come to faith in Christ, it is no longer sin that reigns over them but grace that reigns over them (cf. Romans 6:14). How marvelous! There are children of Adam who are able to love God, who are able to love His law, who are able to benefit from that law. By sending His own Son, God has done what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh (cf. Romans 8:3). He condemned sin in the flesh by Christ, and now the believer’s new nature from Christ hates that sin that is in him, that sin for which Christ died.

This introduces a wonderful new dynamic in the believer’s life: every motion of the heart toward God announces, sin does not reign over me, grace reigns!” Every agreement of the heart with His law announces, sin does not reign over me, grace reigns!” Every desire to obey the good law announces, sin does not reign over me, grace reigns!” Every motion in acting upon that desire announces, “sin does not reign over me, grace reigns!”

The man who has been counted righteous has only been counted righteous through union with Jesus Christ. And the man who has been counted righteous through union with Jesus Christ has been given a new nature through union with Jesus Christ. Now, Jesus Christ is already his Lord. And, upon death, they will be both perfected in Christ and ushered into the full experience and enjoyment of His eternal life.

Grace reigns through righteousness! But this is another way of identifying our new master. We have a new Lord. The man who is his own lord is really under the reign of sin. But the man who is under the reign of grace has a new Lord: “Jesus Christ our Lord.”

So, the question for every reader is: am I spiritually dead and under the dominion of sin (which will be sealed forever when I physically die), or am I spiritually alive and under the dominion of grace (which will be sealed forever when I enter into eternal life)? And, if I am delivered and alive and growing in holiness, the further question is this: am I living as one who treasures every righteous movement of my heart as a display that “king” grace has a name: “Jesus Christ our Lord”?

What effect does the law have upon your heart? Is it, by spiritual death, increasing your guilt and your sinning? Or is it, by the Spirit’s giving you Christ’s life, showing that you are forgiven and alive? Which better describes you: someone who wishes that he could get rid of sin, or someone who wishes that he could get away with sin? Do your sins define what reigns in your life, or do your righteous desires/actions define Who reigns in your life? What will come of you, when you leave this world?

Sample prayer: Lord, thank You for giving us Your law to make sin appear in its full guiltiness and sinfulness. And thank You, even more, for giving us Your grace in Your Son. Forgive us for whenever we sin as if we were servants of it. Grant that we would more and more offer our members as slaves to You for righteousness, so that it may be seen in our life that grace reigns and that Jesus Christ is Lord, through Whom we ask it, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP32AB“What Blessedness” or TPH433“Amazing Grace”

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