The Superiority of Grace
Ro 5:15 But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man's offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many.
16 And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned. For the judgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation, but the free gift which came from many offenses resulted in justification. 17 For if by the one man's offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.) 18 Therefore, as through one man's offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man's righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. 19 For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man's obedience many will be made righteous. 20 Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more,
21 so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
And the anacolutha continues. Remember the word “anacolutha” It means incoherence within a sentence, and many commentators regard this section of Romans as an anacolutha. Well anacolutha or not, here we come as we seek by the aid of the Holy Spirit to make this section coherent to you today.
We can make this very easy on ourselves if we would just say that in this section Paul points out the superiority of Christ over Adam and the superiority of grace over law.
But Paul makes some great points along the way and it would be well for us to look at them.
Let me begin by saying that this chapter in Romans clearly states the Lutheran position on the matter of justification. This chapter answers the theological question, “When does God declare a sinner to be justified?”
In his excellent book, “Christ-Esteem” Don Matzat states that the “Roman Catholic Church teaches that God declares a person to be righteous when in fact his life and behavior is righteous as a result of the infused graces of Christ. Such development of righteousness requires the purification of purgatory.
Many Protestant churches believe that God declares a sinner to be righteous when the sinner comes to faith”
I might add here that while that position is very close to the truth, it is not quite the teaching of Scripture and it leads to the erroneous doctrines of decision theology, believers baptism, and prosperity gospel. It puts to much emphasis on what we do rather than what God does as it relates to our salvation.
Matzat continues: “The Lutheran teaching is that God declared the entire world of sinners to be righteous in the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus. If we are designated sinners when Adam sinned, must it not follow that we are designated righteous in the redeeming work of Christ? This is the argument of the Apostle Paul in Romans 5. This teaching is called “objective justification.” It correctly defines faith as being receptive of the divine proclamation rather than causing it to happen.”
I would sum up Matzat’s statement by saying that saving faith is a matter of simply and personally believing the divine proclamation of the universal forgiveness of sins. This faith comes to us through God’s means of grace, namely the Word and the Sacraments.
Some might say that the Lutheran view is too easy, but in reality, it is the most difficult, because we have to constantly battle the idea that salvation is something that we can accomplish with our hands or our mind. The reality is salvation has already been accomplished, we only need to receive it. We need to stop resisting the gift!
With that in mind, let’s look at these concluding verses in chapter 5.
Ro 5:15 But the free gift (justification and eternal life by grace through faith in Jesus Christ) is not like the offense. (Damnation and guilt inherited by every descendant of Adam) For if by the one man's offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many.
One man (Adam) eats and all men die, one God-man (Jesus) dies and all may eat of the tree of life and live. God’s grace is far superior because it takes us back to the Garden of Eden and allows all to partake of the tree of life. Never again to be threatened by the tree of death.
This was God’s intent for Adam, for us, all along, but instead of eating from the tree of life, he chose to sin and eat forbidden fruit, but God’s superior and shocking grace calls us all back to the garden and the prospect of eternal life! Talk about a God of second chances!
When you think of original sin, you have to admit it’s a bummer. What did you do when you were conceived that warranted the death penalty? It seems so unfair, yet it is the truth. Original sin is just the opposite of grace. In that grace is God’s “unmerited favor.” You and I can do nothing to earn it.
While original sin could be called God’s “unmerited disfavor!” We did nothing to earn it either, nonetheless, that’s what we inherited. The Bible says we are children of wrath, and to prove it, it’s not long into our earthly life before we break out in sin, with absolutely no conscious knowledge of the law. And the prospect of death, (the wage of sin) hovers over us from conception on.
Yes we have an original sin problem thanks to Adam, but we have an even greater solution and deliverance offered to us all thanks to Jesus Christ!
16 And the gift (God’s grace or free forgiveness) is not like that which came through the one who sinned. (That not so wonderful gift of inherited unmerited disfavor) For the judgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation, but the free gift which came from many offenses resulted in justification.
Again we see the superiority of God’s forgiveness and grace in that it covers not just the singular original sin of Adam (the one offense) but every single sin which flowed from that putrid well. Picture if you will an ivy plant as God’s grace. We’ll call original sin the stake on which the ivy will be trained.
But what happens? The ivy covers the stake and then seeks to cover everything else connected to that stake. That’s how thoroughly and completely God’s grace covers your sins! God’s grace is superior to your sin and the sin of the world!
You don’t have to look like a century fence in the middle of winter. Cold, and barren with all sorts of trash blown up against it. You can look like Wrigley Field in the middle of summer with God’s grace lushiously entwined around you.
Martin Luther once wrote that all our sins and wretchedness and our unworthiness when contrasted with the righteousness given us through Jesus Christ are only as sparks contrasted to the vast oceans. Oh how vast and wide and deep are the riches of God’s grace and forgiveness!
17 For if by the one man's offense death reigned through the one, (Adam’s sin introduced death into this world and it will reign until our Lord returns.....sort of. We all still pay the physical penalty of Adam’s sin, we die. However it is vital to note that with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, death has lost it’s what?
It’s sting. For the Christian, death no longer need be feared. It has lost its punch! The consummation of the victory of life over death will take place on the last day.
1Co 15:54 So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: "Death is swallowed up in victory." 55 "O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?" (NKJV)
Back to Romans.
“much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.
Again we see the superiority of grace! The reign of death will only last until our Lord returns, but the reign of the life that He has won for us will last for eternity. Again, the illustration of the paper roll. The largest roll we can find at the paper mill. Roll it out in both directions as far as the eye can see. Draw a little dash on that roll and you have a picture of the length of death’s reign as it relates to eternity. Now you get a visual picture of the superiority of God’s grace.
Now don’t miss a very important part of that last verse. “those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness” The grace is out there! It is abundant, it is superior, but it must be received.
The ivy of grace and it’s tendrils will only latch on to what is in it’s vicinity, what is receptive to it. So you need to “draw near unto the Lord” as James wrote.
Jas 4:8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. (NKJV)
But how do you do that? Well we need to go back a couple of verses because in James 4:6 we read,
Jas 4:6 "God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble." (NKJV)
We draw near to God when we are humbled. This too is a work of God and the Holy Spirit. It is nothing that we do. When we realize that we are sinners in need of a Savior. When we realize we cannot save ourselves. When our will is completely broken and we are ready to seek and desire His will. Then we are in position to receive.
There is only one way to do this, only one way to be draw near to God and that way is Jesus. Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through Me.”
So how do we get there? We get there through the cross. This is where the ivy is trained. This is the point from which the tendrils reach out! Again, Jesus said, in John 12:32,
Joh 12:32 "And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself."
It is the cross that must be displayed. It is the cross that must be preached. It is the cross that must be lived. This is how people are drawn to Christ and it is only through Christ that we can draw near to God.
You must see the cross for what it is. It is the penalty for your inherited and committed sins. The cross was the price that God was willing to pay for you. It is the pain and blood of Jesus that will take you back to the Garden for the taste of the tree of life.
A couple of weeks ago we read the Passion of Christ and hear the words of Pilate again as he displays the scourged Jesus to the crowd:
Joh 19:5 Then Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. And Pilate said to them, "Behold the Man!" (NKJV)
Behold the man! Take it all in and tell me where your pride comes into the picture. What have you done or could you possibly do to give you the audacity to stand before God on Judgement Day and demand entrance into heaven apart from receiving Christ..
You see when Christ is lifted up and you truly behold Him and the price He paid for your sins, your pride must give way to humility and your only claim to heaven rests in the words, “Have mercy on me...a sinner.”
Don’t miss it folks! This abundant grace must be received, and you receive it by merely ceasing to resist it, and you cease to resist it as you draw near to Him and observe Christ on the tree, and humbly receive Him as your Savior and Lord.
18 Therefore, as through one man's offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, (Adam’s one unrighteous act resulted in condemnation of all men) even so through one Man's righteous act (a righteous act is any act of obedience and Christ was obedient all the way to the cross) the free gift came to all men, (to who? All men! Just as original sin came to all men so original righteousness comes to all men) resulting in justification of life. (And once again we see the superiority of grace,)
19 For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man's obedience many will be made righteous. ( Here we see the superiority of Christ over Adam. Adam made us all sinners, but Christ has made us all righteous before God. But again we must be drawn near to receive it.
As the serpent presented the forbidden fruit on the tree to Eve, so God presents Christ to the world on the tree and invites us to receive Him, to taste of Him and see that He is good!
If you still cannot see the all encompassing superiority of grace, Paul brings in one more argument.
20 Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, 21 so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
First of all we see that “Law entered.” Think about that. A lot took place in the Bible before the introduction of the Law. There was only one Law given until the time of the ten Commandments and that was “Do not eat from the tree of knowledge of Good and Evil.” When the Garden closed that Law became a blue Law.
There was no Law, yet men sinned, and men died. Cain killed Abel, and the world became so wicked that God destroyed it with a flood, the patriarchs were far from perfect and all their sins are preserved for us to see. The wickedness of Joseph’s brothers, why even Moses was a murderer.
Yet grace abounded as God raised up Seth to replace Abel, He spared Noah, He spared Joseph and brought Him to a great position of power and He used Moses to deliver His people. God’s grace was very active even before the Law.
Grace was not some last minute addition to God’s plan it was there from the day that He promised a Messiah to Adam and Eve and covered them with animal skins, and it continues today.
When the Law was finally given to Moses, it wasn’t to save man, but rather to show man his need for salvation and grace.
When the Law came through Moses, it caused a great statistical rise to sin. Not that sin increased, but rather now there was an accounting procedure if you will. There was a way to keep track of it. A ledger could be kept.
Before the Law, they were all lumped under “original sin.” and that is enough to condemn all. But now it was all there in black and white and sins could be broken down apart from original sin. What a grace in and of itself! Man no longer had to guess where he was going wrong.
Yes the law entered and a lot more offenses were showing up in traffic court. And that gave grace even more opportunity to abound. More tickets to dismiss, more opportunity for us to see the superiority of grace and nowhere is that superiority seen more than the cross.
It was on the cross that God trumped sin with His grace card, and because sin was trumped, because the effect of grace is superior to the effect of sin, death is conquered by eternal life for all those who receive it!
God is a God of His Word. He said, “eat this fruit and you shall die.”
He said , “This is sin.....” and He gave us the Law.
He said, “This is grace......” and He gave us Jesus.
Not many have a problem admitting that Christ is superior to Adam, but more than we would like to admit have a problem that grace is superior to Law. Dr George Stoeckhardt said it well in his commentary on Romans.
“That we must die and be damned because of foreign guilt and receive life and salvation because of foreign righteousness, is an offensive article for human reason and for the pride of natural man.”
Yet we must receive this truth or Jesus will have no part in us. God’s grace is greater than all our sin. One day the whole world will realize this fact as they see the saints who are trusting in God’s grace ushered into heaven, while the rest, who refused to receive it are left out in the dark gnashing their teeth. Kicking themselves because they made something so difficult out of something that God made so simple.
Your sins have been forgiven. You have been justified as a result of what Jesus did on Calvary....now humbly receive the gift.