by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 5 Paragraph # 2 Study # 11 July 11, 2006 Lincolnton, NC
20 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.
1901 ASV Translation:
20 And the law came in besides, that the trespass might abound; but where sin abounded, grace did abound more exceedingly:
21 that, as sin reigned in death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
I. The Abounding of Grace.
A. The issues involved...
1. Sin "abounded" by reason of man's bondage to it.
a. The word used here for "abound" is a word which means "to grow" (numerically).
b. Everything he does is "sin" because he is a "sinner", and the Law pulled the mask off so that all could be identified as sin. This introduces the idea of "growth", not in reality, but in perception of reality (i.e., the "reality" grows in the mind of man).
c. However, the "pulling off of the mask", as an action itself, created even more "sin" because "sinners" react to being unmasked with unmitigated hatred, which sponsors even more "sin" than is the typical norm. This introduces the idea of "growth" in actual fact as the evil motivations move from the "lesser" evil of simply being self-focused to the "greater" evil of being hatefully antagonistic toward another.
2. So, "grace" abounded by reason of the nature of God's active provision.
a. There is a switch of terms: "abounded" in this phrase comes from a word which, when intransitive, means "to be present overabundantly" (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Vol. VI, p. 58), and when transitive means "to provide in superabundance" (Ibid., p. 59). In neither case does the word imply "growth".
b. God's provision for "Sin" involves two issues...
1) The issue of "forgiveness" based upon justice being legitimately addressed.
2) The issue of "love" based upon the mitigation of the antagonism of hatred because of the willingness of God to forgive (Luke 7:47).
c. The provision of God for sin, at the "forgiveness" level, was the infinite sacrifice of the Son of God so that Justice was met.
1) This provision doesn't "grow" ("abound") in the sense that it "increases" as sins increase because it is already "unbounded" (infinite).
2) Thus, the only way Paul can say that "grace abounded" in regard to this provision of God is by using this word: either in the intransitive sense that "grace was overabundantly present", or in the sense that "grace provided in superabundance".
d. However, there is such a thing as the "growth" of the "love factor" on man's part.
1) Man's "love for God" (mitigating the impact of hatred and, thus, addressing the abounding of sin by decrease) is a "grace-production" that must grow if there is to be a mitigation of sin's death-impact.
2) At this level, "grace" does "grow" in the sense that it increasingly addresses men in their sin-production by re-affirming the "forgiveness" factor and, thus, increasing the "love" factor...the more times men are freely forgiven, the greater becomes their love for the One forgiving.
e. Paul's point in Romans 5:20 is focused upon Christ's active provision of righteousness as the foundation for the promise of eternal life: i.e., "justification" by means of a complete identification of the "sinner" with the "Saint" after the "Saint" has been completely identified with the "sinner" at the Cross.
B. Paul's Point: man's sins/sinfulness have been addressed by God's infinite grace.
II. The Triumph of Grace.
A. Sin had reigned "in Death".
1. Sin's "reign" was its ability to dominate man's attitude and, thus, his behavior. Having made man completely "self-focused", there was no way man could do anything that did not have his own interests at the forefront.
2. Sin's "reign" consisted, in "mechanics", of its ability to convince man that God was not committed to his interests.
3. The arena of "Death" is that arena wherein man is "subject" to God while hating Him. It is "death" to be "in service to" someone who is absolutely despised and feared.
B. Grace is able to reign "unto Eternal Life".
1. Grace has the ability to "reign" by reason of its ability to alter man's attitude at multiple levels.
a. First, grace addresses man's fear that God does not have his interests in mind.
b. Second, grace addresses the root of man's fear -- his own self-interest (who cares if God is not committed to "my" interests if "I" am not committed to them?). The issue here is this: man cannot complain about God not being "committed to my interests" unless man is willing to reciprocate the principle and be "committed to His interests". It is the ultimate hypocrisy to "apply to God" a principle that man will not "apply to himself". This is completely resolved in God because He is committed to the best interests of others without regard for His "own" interests. Is this not what "dying on a cross for sinners" means?
2. Grace moves man from the arena wherein a man is "subject to God while hating Him" to the arena wherein a man is "subject to God while loving Him".