Grace Abounding In Christ
Sin Magnifies Grace
In a Brief Survey of the Epistle of Paul to the Romans
Based on sermons preached in PCC Worship Services, July 2003 to Sep 2005
Part 24b of 83

“Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 5:20-21).

[The theme of the epistle of Paul to the Romans is justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. As Paul seeks to show that this is not a novel doctrine, he demonstrates that Adam was a type of Christ; and that the Law also magnifies Christ by accentuating His greatness.

He shows this in three steps in our text: (1) The Law magnified Sin; (2) Sin magnifies Grace; and (3) Grace reigns in Christ.

We have already seen in the first instalment of this study that the Law was appointed to magnify sin, that is, the Law reveals sin for what it really is. We continue with the second proposition, namely that sin magnifies grace. —JJL]

2. Sin Magnifies Grace

Paul says:

But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound (v. 2b).

What does Paul mean? Does he mean that sin produces grace? Surely not! Just as the written Law does not literally produce sin, so sin does not literally produce grace.

What is grace? Grace is the goodness of God which He shows towards His children. Grace is God’s blessing and salvation. It is the antidote for sin. Was there no grace between Adam and Moses? Surely there was.  We are told explicitly that “Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD” (Gen 6:8). And not only Noah, but Abel, Enoch, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, etc. Did not all these find grace?

What then does it mean that “where sin abounded, grace did much more abound”?

Surely it means, in the first place, that grace is magnified by sin. As the Law shows sin to be more sinful, so abounding sin shows grace to be more gracious.

Before the Law entered, sin was taken lightly. And because sin was taken lightly, grace was small in the eyes of man. But when the Law entered, sin abounded. Sin begins to drag man into death vehemently. Man was crushed under its weight and was helpless to do anything. Grace then comes to the rescue. Suddenly, grace was seen for what it is. Grace became great in the eyes of man.

It is like: Most of us take for granted that water will always flow from our taps. So we think nothing about turning on the tap and letting it run while we soap our hands. And we think nothing of flushing the toilet even when it is clean. But what happens if God were to send a drought. Suddenly water becomes precious isn’t it? I remember when I was in California several years ago, when there was a drought. At that time in Singapore, there was a campaign to urge people to flush their toilets on the pains of a fine. What was happening in California? There was a campaign on at the same time to urge people not to flush the toilets unless absolutely necessary!

Water had become precious! Because of the drought, water became precious. So too when sin began to abound, then man began to cry out to God under the burden of sin. And grace began to abound. It became precious in the eyes of man.

And not only so, but it began to be sought after and it began to do its work in a more widespread manner. Grace, in other words, began to abound exceedingly. It is interesting to note that the words “did much more abound” is only one word in the Greek. It may be rendered “super-abound.” Where sin abounded, grace super-abounded.

As Calvin puts it:

“While sin is overflowing, [grace] pours itself forth so exuberantly, that it not only overcomes the flood of sin, but wholly absorbs it.”

Grace did more than overcome sin, for by grace sinners are not only delivered from their sin, but made fit for heaven.

This happened at the time when the written Law was given. Sin abounded when the written Law was introduced, and when sin abounded, grace did much more abound. But again was this merely a historical fact? No, no; what was true then, is surely true today. Is it not true in our experience as Christians?

Is it not true that it is when we know we are sinners that we acknowledge our need of grace? Before we knew about the Law of God, most of us would not even think of ourselves as sinners. Yes, some of us might admit that we are sinners. But we admit it in a very cavalier way with only a very vague notion of what sin is. At that stage, the Gospel is really quite meaningless to us.

I speak from experience. When I was an unbeliever, my conscience told me that I was not always right, and so I was ready to admit that I was a sinner. But I had only a very vague notion of what is sin; and so the Gospel was quite meaningless to me.

But when I heard the Law, the Spirit of God illumined my heart with the Law. Suddenly I saw myself as a sinner. Suddenly, the Gospel became precious. Suddenly the meaning of grace became clear.

I do not deserve any favour from God. I deserve only His wrath and curse. I needed God’s grace or I would perish. Suddenly I was ready to cry out to the Lord for His grace. Sin led me to grace. Sin brought the entrance of grace and grace abounded in my heart. Thus “where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” says Paul.

Unless we know we are sinners, grace is meaningless. This is why the Lord says:

“They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Mk 2:17).

Now, this is a very striking statement isn’t it? The Lord did not come to call everyone. When the call of the Gospel is given, those who are self-righteous will not hear it. It is like: you are in a shopping centre. An announcement is made: “Attention shoppers: A four year old boy has lost his mummy. If you are the mother of the missing boy, please come to collect him at the information counter.”

When you hear the announcement, you look around. Does everyone stop doing what they are doing and head for the information counter? No. You see a few anxious mothers turning around to make sure that their little boys are still in tow. But everyone else simply moved on, as if nothing was said. The call is not for them. The call is for a mother with a missing child.

So too is the call of Christ. The call is for sinners. All men are sinners. But not every man will admit that he is a sinner. The call of Christ is for them who know and acknowledge that they are sinners. This is how sin magnified grace.

But how can we know we are sinners, except we first know the Law? This is why we need to preach not only the Gospel, but the Law. The Law does not only teach us how we are to live before the face of God, the Law shuts us up to Christ for grace may be found only in Christ. Sin must be shown as sin so that grace may be magnified, and the sinner shut up to Christ.

This is essentially the conclusion of Paul, namely that Grace Reigns in Christ.

.…to be Continued Next Issue

—JJ Lim