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Sermon #62[i] — Romans Series
Title: Grace Abounding
Text: Romans 5:20-21
Subject: Grace Abounding Over Sin
Many years ago John Bunyan published a book titled “Grace Abounding,” in which he described his own experience of God’s saving grace in Christ Jesus, telling how the God of all grace brought him from a life of profane cursing and blasphemy into a life of faith and righteousness in Christ Jesus, making him a new creation in Christ. I take Bunyan’s title for his excellent book as the title of my message this hour — Grace Abounding. You will find my text at the end of Romans chapter five. — Romans 5:20-21. — Grace Abounding — (Romans 5:20-21).
(Romans 5:20-21) Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: (21) That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.
“The law” mentioned in verse 20 refers specifically to the moral law, the ten commandments, which God gave to Israel upon Mount Sinai. That law intervened between Adam’s sin and Christ’s sacrifice. And the law of God enters into the conscience of a sinner under Holy Spirit conviction, exposing our sins to us. This is what Paul means when he says, “I was alive without the law once; but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died” (Romans 7:9). By the entrance of the law into a person’s conscience, the offence, sin abounds. The law of God discovers and exposes my sin to me, takes away all excuses for sin, and leaves me speechless (Romans 3:19). And, at the same time, it stirs up and aggravates sin in the rebel’s heart.
Paul asserts, over and over and over again, the utter impossibility of justification by the law. The law of God can do nothing but expose sin, identify sin, and work condemnation in us because of sin.
“But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” — The law exposes sin. Grace removes sin. The law condemns. Grace removes condemnation. The law renders us guilty. Grace removes our guilt.
“Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” — As sin abounded in human nature, grace has much more abounded in that same nature, when the Son of God assumed human flesh and appeared in our nature “full of grace and truth.” Sin abounded in Adam. Grace much more abounded in Christ, the last Adam. Sin has abounded in all the powers and faculties of the human soul, so that man’s understanding, his will, and his affections are under the dominion of sin. But in regeneration the grace of God much more abounds, enlightening the mind, subduing the will, and turning our hearts to God in faith and love. Sin abounded in the world. But now the Gospel of the grace of God, being preached in all the world, grace much more abounds in turning men and women from their idols and their sins to serve the true and living God. And where sin has abounded in particular people, grace has much more abounded.
· Mary Magdalene
· The Philippian Jailor
· Saul of Tarsus
· John Bunyan
In verse 21 Paul shows us the reason for God’s superabundance of grace over sin. — “That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Sin is a monarch, with absolute power and dominion, reigning over all men and women by nature. Its dominion is universal and complete. All Adam’s race is under the dominion of sin. And sin’s dominion over man is so thorough that it reigns even over man’s will, making all men its voluntary servants. But the reign of sin is unto death. — “Sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death,” spiritual death, physical death, and eternal death. Death is the fruit and result of sin. — “The wages of sin is death.”
“Even so” in just the same manner God has determined that “grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.” Grace too is a monarch, reigning with super abundant power and dominion. Grace, as it is in the heart of God toward his elect, reigns in the salvation of his people and reigns over all the world to accomplish our salvation. The throne from which God rules the universe is “the throne of grace” (Hebrews 4:16).
Grace reigns through righteousness. God will not exercise grace at the expense of his righteousness. The grace of God reigns in perfect harmony with righteousness, justice, and truth “unto eternal life.” Eternal life is what grace has promised to and prepared for God’s elect. Grace makes us worthy of eternal life and freely bestows eternal life upon us in a perfectly righteous way “by Jesus Christ our Lord,” by the merits of Christ’s righteousness and blood atonement as our Substitute.
Now I have given you the meaning of our text. But I want to elaborate a little more upon this statement in verse 20. — “WHERE SIN ABOUNDED, GRACE DID MUCH MORE ABOUND.”
Proposition: The superabundance of God’s grace over man’s sin is another revelation of “the manifold wisdom of God” as it is set forth in the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Divisions: Our great God, by infinite wisdom and superabundant grace…
1. Found a way to make guilty sinners completely innocent.
2. Found a way to make sinful men and women perfectly righteous.
3. Determined to procure our salvation by the most unlikely means.
4. Determined to make our sin and misery the occasion of our greatest possible blessedness.
First, our great God, by infinite wisdom and superabundant grace, found a way to make guilty sinners completely innocent. In infinite wisdom, goodness, and grace our great God contrived a way to make sinful men and women not guilty in his sight. To men, this seems to be an impossible contradiction. How can anyone who is guilty become not guilty? How can sinners become totally innocent? No man could ever have devised a means to accomplish this. All men and angels combined could never accomplish such a great thing. But “the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (2 Corinthians 1:25).
There is only one way for guilty sinners to be made completely innocent; and God found it. — Substitution! (John 11:47-52; Job 33:14, 22-30).
(John 11:47) Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles. (48) If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation. (49) And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all, (50) Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not. (51) And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation; (52) And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad.
(Job 33:14) For God speaketh once, yea twice, yet man perceiveth it not.
(Job 33:22) Yea, his soul draweth near unto the grave, and his life to the destroyers. (23) If there be a messenger with him, an interpreter, one among a thousand, to shew unto man his uprightness: (24) Then he is gracious unto him, and saith, Deliver him from going down to the pit: I have found a ransom. (25) His flesh shall be fresher than a child's: he shall return to the days of his youth: (26) He shall pray unto God, and he will be favourable unto him: and he shall see his face with joy: for he will render unto man his righteousness. (27) He looketh upon men, and if any say, I have sinned, and perverted that which was right, and it profited me not; (28) He will deliver his soul from going into the pit, and his life shall see the light. (29) Lo, all these things worketh God oftentimes with man, (30) To bring back his soul from the pit, to be enlightened with the light of the living.
God has accomplished this. He sent his Son to die, the Just for the unjust, that he might redeem us and purify us. Jonathan Edwards wrote…
“He hath accomplished that men, though sinners, should be without guilt, in that he hath found out a way that the threatenings of the law should be truly and properly fulfilled, and punishment be executed upon sin, and yet not on the sinner. The sufferings of Christ answer the demands of the law, with respect to the sins of those who believe in him; and justice is truly satisfied thereby.”
Those men and women who are redeemed by the precious blood of Christ, those sinners who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ are pure, without spot, or blemish, or any such thing in the sight of God himself. Our Lord himself says, — “Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair!” — “Thou art all fair, my love; there is no spot in thee” (Song of Solomon 1:15; 4:7).
Would you be completely innocent of all sin before God? Then believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. It is written, “The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound!”
Not only has God found a way to make guilty sinners innocent before his law, he has, in the second place, found a way to make sinful men and women perfectly righteous in his sight. It is not enough that we be free from guilt. If we would be accepted with God, we must be perfectly righteous. You and I must be perfectly, completely, absolutely holy in the eyes of God himself (Hebrews 12:14; Matthew 5:20).
(Hebrews 12:14) Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.
(Genesis 17:1” “And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect.”
(Leviticus 20:7) “Sanctify yourselves therefore, and be ye holy: for I am the LORD your God.”
(Leviticus 22:21) “And whosoever offereth a sacrifice of peace offerings unto the LORD to accomplish his vow, or a freewill offering in beeves or sheep, it shall be perfect to be accepted; there shall be no blemish therein.”
(Psalms 24:3-4” “Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? or who shall stand in his holy place? 4 He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.”
(Matthew 5:20) “For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.”
(1 Peter 1:15-16) “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; 16 Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.”
(Revelation 21:27) “And there shall in no wise enter into it anything that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”
It is utterly impossible for a sinful man to make himself holy. An unrighteous man cannot make himself righteous. But God can bring a clean thing out of an unclean. God found a way to make you and me perfectly righteous in his sight. How can such a thing be accomplished? Only by a Divine work, only by a work of indescribably strict justice and infinitely wise grace (Romans 5:19; 2 Corinthians 5:21).
(Romans 5:19) For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.
(2 Corinthians 5:17) Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (18) And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; (19) To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. (20) Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God. (21) For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
As Christ was made sin for us by the hand, the work, the operation of God, so we have been made the righteousness of God in him by that same hand, and work, and operation of God. As Christ was rewarded for our sins when they were made his with death, we are rewarded for his righteousness which is made ours with eternal life.
· The righteousness of Christ is imputed to us in justification.
· The righteousness of Christ is imparted to us in regeneration. — “Partakers of the Divine nature!”
· The righteousness of Christ shall be perfected in us in glorification, when our bodies are raised and made like unto his glorious body. — Oh, blessed hope!
Would you be perfectly righteous in the sight of God? Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and perfect righteousness shall be yours by God’s free, abounding grace (Romans 4:3-9, 22-25).
(Romans 4:3) For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. (4) Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. (5) But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. (6) Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, (7) Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. (8) Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin. (9) Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness.
(Romans 4:22) And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness. (23) Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; (24) But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; (25) Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.
“With His spotless garments on,
Holy as the Holy One!”
Because Christ was made sin for us, because he bore our sins in his own body on the tree and bore them away, the Lord God almighty declares that all who trust him have no sin (Psalms 103:12, Micah 7:18-19; Jeremiah 50:20; 1 John 3:5). Because “He hath made him sin for us” all who believe on the Son of God are made “the righteousness of God in him” (2 Corinthians 5:17-21).
The word “made” in 2nd Corinthians 5:21 is a present tense, passive verb, implying total passiveness on our part. It means “continually cause to become.” Paul tells us that those for whom Christ was made sin God continually causes to become the righteousness of God in him without us doing a thing. As Tobias Crisp wrote four hundred years ago…
“Christ himself is not so completely righteous, but we are as righteous as he was. Nor are we so completely sinful, but he became (being made sin) as completely sinful as we. Nay more, the righteousness that Christ hath with the Father, we are the same, for we are ‘made the righteousness of God.’ And that very sinfulness that we were, Christ is made before God. So that here is a direct change, Christ takes our persons and condition, and stands in our stead. We take his person and condition, and stand in his stead. What the Lord beheld Christ to be, that he beholds his members to be. What he beholds them to be in themselves, that he beheld Christ himself to be.”
“Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound!”
Thirdly, God, by great wisdom and grace, determined to procure this salvation for us by the most unlikely means imaginable, by the humiliation and death of his own dear Son. When Christ came to accomplish his great work of redemption, he did not appear in greatness, power, and glory. He emptied himself, made himself of no reputation, and appeared in weakness, poverty, and shame (2 Corinthians 8:9; Galatians 4:4-6; Philippians 2:6-8).
(2 Corinthians 8:9) For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.
(Galatians 4:4) But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, (5) To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. (6) And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.
(Philippians 2:1-8) If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, (2) Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. (3) Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. (4) Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. (5) Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: (6) Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: (7) But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: (8) And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
God’s strength is made perfect in weakness. And God determined that Christ’s weakness and humiliation be the means by which he would overthrow his enemies and redeem his people. Our Lord Jesus Christ…
· Overcame the Tempter’s power in the wilderness after he had fasted forty days and forty nights.
· Resisted Satan’s assaults in the Garden, when his own heart was overwhelmed with sorrow.
· Crushed the serpent’s head in death.
· And snatched us from the pit of destruction by going down to the pit of death for us!
God has brought strength out of weakness, greatness out of reproach, and glory out of ignominy. Christ’s shame, reproach, and ignominious death as the sinner’s Substitute is the only means by which sinners can be raised from the depths of sin and death to the heights of righteousness and eternal life!
The wisdom of God made Christ’s humiliation the means of our exaltation.
· Divine wisdom made Christ’s descent from heaven the means of our ascending to heaven.
· The wisdom of God made life the fruit of death.
· The death of Christ was the only means by which we could have eternal life.
· The death of One who is God is the only means by which we could have life in God.
· Our acceptance into God’s favor arises out of Christ’s dying under God’s wrath.
· Our blessing arises out of Christ’s being made a curse for us.
· Our innocence arises from Christ’s being made guiltiness.
· Our righteousness arises from Christ’s being made sin!
· As sin reigned unto death over God’s own dear Son, grace reigns unto eternal life to us by the death of God’s Son.
“Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound!”
Misery and Blessedness
Fourthly, I want you to see that the holy Lord God, by infinite wisdom and grace, has made our sin and misery the occasion of our greatest possible blessedness. Let no one misunderstand my words. I offer no excuse for any man’s sin. And I certainly do not excuse my own. We do not attempt, by any means, to escape our own responsibility for sin, or to charge God with sin. — “God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man” (James 1:13). But our great God is so infinitely wise and gracious that he turns our greatest misery into our greatest good and sovereignly overrules our sin to make it an occasion for our eternal blessedness (Romans 8:28).
Yes, to quote Jonathan Edwards again…
“Divine wisdom has found out a way whereby the sinner might not only escape being miserable, but that he should be happier than before he sinned; yea, than he would have been if he had never sinned.”
By the redemptive work of Christ, the sins of God’s elect are turned into a means of accomplishing greater happiness, joy, and everlasting glory than we could ever have known if we had never sinned. — “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” And I am saying that God in infinite wisdom ordained our fall in our father, Adam, and overrules our abounding sin that his own elect might forever enjoy the superabundance of his matchless free grace in Christ.
Sinful man is brought into a nearer union with God in the Person of Christ our Substitute than we could ever have enjoyed had we not known sin. Had we never sinned, Christ would not be our Surety and Substitute. But now…
· God has assumed our nature in the Person of his Son.
· We are members of his body (Ephesians 5:30).
· Christ is our Brother and our Husband.
· And we are the Sons of God (1 John 3:1).
Our temporary separation from God, by sin, has been made the means of our eternal union with God in Christ by redemption (John 17:20-23).
(John 17:20) Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; (21) That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. (22) And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: (23) I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.
Man, by reason of his sin, has greater and fuller knowledge of God, his glory, his grace, his justice, his holiness, and his love than he could ever have known had he never sinned. We see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ our dying Substitute (2 Corinthians 4:6). And in his death we have the love of God commended to us (Romans 5:8). This will be the theme of our heavenly praise forever and ever (Revelation 1:5-6).
(Revelation 1:5) And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, (6) And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
Our redemption from sin and death by Christ causes us to have a love for God that we could not otherwise have. One day this love will be brought to perfection. But even now, the love of Christ that constrains us is something Adam in innocence and the angels in heaven could never know.
· Great forgiveness produces great love (Luke 7:47).
· Great forgiveness is the greatest possible motivation for love, adoration, and praise (1 Corinthians 1:26-31; 6:20).
Fallen man, saved by grace, has a greater, more sensible dependence upon God than he could otherwise have. And God is glorified by his creatures’ dependence upon him. Fallen man, saved by grace, knows by painful and abundant experience that he has no hope but the free grace of God in Christ, who is our all in all. Fallen, helpless man cries, “The Lord is my Portion, saith my soul, therefore will I hope in him.”
Did you ever notice (Genesis 2:17) that the forbidden tree was called “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil”? God is the One who planted that tree in the midst of the garden. And he ordained that our father Adam eat the fruit of that forbidden tree, to taste the evil of sin, because he had wisely and graciously determined that his elect might know the great and glorious good of redemption and grace in Christ. — God the Holy Ghost tells us that this Grace Abounding to us in and through Christ Jesus is truly a great reason for thanksgiving and praise to our great God, who is the God of all grace (Romans 6:17-23).
(Romans 6:17-23) “But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. 18 Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness. 19 I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness. 20 For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. 21 What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death. 22 But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. 23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
“Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound!”
Our great God…
“Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound!”
[i] Danville — Sunday Morning — August 9, 2015
Kingsport Sovereign Grace Church, Kingsport, TN — (08/09/15)
Covenant of Grace Baptist Church, N Wilkesboro, NC — (08/10/15)
Reading: Jeremiah 31 and 32