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TEXT: Romans 5:12-21
SUBJECT: Romans #10: Grace Abounding
The subject of Romans 5 is the immensity of God's love. Theologians tell us-
God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable.
What they sometimes don't ell us is 'all of His attributes share in these qualities'. In other words, not only is God this way, but so is His grace. God favor to us is without boundaries in time and space, and such is the stability of His character, He will never take it away from us, no matter what we do, or fail to do; or what others do to us. As the Psalm says-twenty six times!-
His mercy endures forever.
For Paul, this was not a new idea. Born into a devout Jewish home, he knew the character of God and thanked Him every day for His daily goodness. Paul knew the immensity of God's grace.
Or thought he did. It wasn't until he met the Risen Jesus on the Road to Damascus that he began to feel how deep and wide and thick the mercy of God truly is. Insofar as words can communicate that grace, Paul does that in our chapter.
In vv.1-5, he tells us the benefits of God's grace. The mercy of God in Christ, justifies us-he says-and this includes the forgiveness of sin and being declared righteous. It also gives us peace with God, an objective thing that is really there whether we feel it or not.
Access to God's grace is included, and unlike the priests of Israel, we can stand in His Presence, and not step in once a year and hurry out. Then there's the hope of glory-not wishful thinking that we'll make it to heaven-but a well-founded expectation. All this enables us glory in all the problems of life because they're fitting us for Life to Come.
These are the blessings of God's grace to us, some of what we get out His saving love for us in Christ. If God's grace supplies all these things, it must be immense. That's what Paul is arguing for in the first five verses.
In vv.6-11, he tells us something about the character of God's grace. It is not something we earned by being good (or trying to be); it was given to us when we were at our worst-without strength, and when we were yet sinners. God's grace is not won, it is given; His favor is entirely undeserved. If we need His grace more than anything in the world, and if He gives it to us when we don't have it coming it, it must be immense.
Now, in vv.12ff., Paul tells us how big God's grace is by comparing (1) what Adam did to the world, and (2) what Jesus did for the world.
Before we get to Adam and Jesus, however, see how Paul has changed his lens. Up to now, he has been tightly focused on Israel-Abraham, Moses, and the Law. But now, wanting a wider angle, he goes back to the father of the whole human race, Gentiles, no less than Jews.
Why does he do this? Because the Gospel is-
The power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
In the Gospel, the God of Israel is laying claim to the whole world! He's done with men taking Him for a tribal deity, He is Lord of all! Abraham Kuyper, the Dutch scholar and statesman, said of God-
There is not one square inch in the universe that He does not say, 'It is mine'.
We've got to remember this: compared to other churches, our church is small; compared to other religions, our religion is small. But our God is not small! Solomon built God a big Temple, but he knew it was not big enough-
Behold the heaven-and the heaven of heavens-cannot contain you. How much less this house that I have built?
Let's be honest: some of what Paul says in Romans has the quality of an in-house discussion-one Jew talking to another Jew Jews on things that mostly matter to the Jews. This is not one of those parts! Here, Paul is describing what Adam and Christ mean to all of us.
He starts with Adam. Adam was the first man, made in the likeness and image of God, and along with his wife, placed in the Garden of Eden to be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth, and exercise dominion over the whole world in God's name.
Of course, he didn't. Instead of obeying God, Adam sided with his wife and obeyed the serpent. With disastrous consequences.
God warned him that the day he ate the forbidden fruit, he would die. And that's what happened. Oh, he lived physically another 930 years, but he fell away from God and himself, and his mortality 'kicked in'.
Adam's sin was personal, but the results were public. Paul says he brought sin and death into the world. This-I believe-has a double reference. In the first place, his sin corrupted the whole human race (other than Jesus). The Bible nowhere tells us exactly how this works, but one thing is sure: it was more than a bad example. We don't become sinners because we sin; we sin because we are sinners.
In the second place, Adam's sin brought decay and dysfunction into the whole world. Later Paul says not only do we groan under the curse, but everything else does too. Though it refers to politics and culture, Yeats' poem applies to everything-
Things fall apart,
The center will not hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed
On the world.
If the human race is implicated in Adam's sin, it suffers the penalty of his sin, which is death-
In the day you eat thereof, you shall surely die.
The wages of sin is death.
To many people, this raises a moral objection: how can an innocent person be punished for the sin of a distant ancestor? Paul doesn't answer the question, but I think he would reply along these lines: What do you mean, 'innocent person? You're guilty, not innocent-we all are'. If I say more here, we'll never get back on topic. So I won't say more here!
Back to sin. The world was full of sin before the Law was given at Mount Sinai, and the Jews thought this Law would make the world better, would make men less sinful and less guilty than they were. It didn't. In fact, the Law stirred up sin-Paul says in v.20-and here, he adds, it made us more guilty than we were before because it made our sins a kind of knowing and willful rebellion.
Here's what I mean: Everyone knows stealing is wrong. But if a boy is brought up by parents who are drunk half the time, and never teach him right or wrong, he is less responsible for his shoplifting than I would have been, growing up in a sober, Christian home with parents who taught me to not steal.
God's Law taught Israel not to steal, but they kept on stealing, and therefore, loyalty to the Law cannot save them; only faith in Christ can do that.
Adam brought sin and death into the world; and they ruled without challenge for a very long time.
But their time is up!
Paul says, another Man has come into the world with authority to undo what Adam did-and more than that. The Man is our Lord Jesus Christ.
Will He restore us and the world to our former purity and beauty? No, He won't do that: He'll do far more than that!-
The free gift is not like the offense!
In other words, our Lord's obedience is not the same size as Adam's disobedience. It is far, far bigger. Or, to put it in medical terms, the cure is bigger than the disease!
Most of you know my dad broke his back three months ago, and has been in declining health since. Now, suppose a doctor came to the house today with a magic pill to restore him to what he was four months ago-an old man in good health. This would be a real boon to him and his family, and all of us.
But what if the doctor had a stronger pill? It would restore him to what he was sixty years ago! He would then be a young man in good health. This pill would be a lot better than the other one.
Now, what if he had a third pill, one that would do more than restore his health and youth? It would confer powers he never had before? He would go from old sick Dad to old healthy dad to young healthy dad to Spiderman! That's the pill he would take!
This is what Jesus has done for us. He's not going to make us like Adam was before the Fall; He's going to make us like He is after the Resurrection! And the world we'll live in won't be Eden, it will be Heaven!
The size and duration of God's grace cannot be exaggerated; it is as big and lasting as He is.
This means the Christian's sin is forgiven-all of it is, no matter how bad it is or how often it was committed. It is forgiven-put behind God's back, buried under the sea.
Should you confess your sins and forsake them? Yes, you should do that, but you don't have to wallow in them; you don't have to live full of regret and fear-
There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.
None! Because God's grace is bigger than your sin. Satan wants you to think otherwise, and to think you're humble when you do. Never mistake unbelief for humility! Humility believes God and God has said-
Where sin abounded,
Grace did much more abound.
The immensity of God's grace gives hope to unbelievers too. It tells them His grace is sufficient for them; it tells them they too can be forgiven, and that if they're ashamed of what they've done in the past, they won't be ashamed of putting their faith in Christ. God will not let you down; on the Day of Judgment, you won't need more than Jesus.
SUMMARY AND CLOSE
What is Romans 5 about? It's about what the Bible is about: the immensity of God's love for us in Christ. The love was set on us before there was an 'us' to be set on. In time, the love called us to itself, and it will never let us go. Not in this life or in the life to come.
Your assignment is to memorize and mediate on Romans 8:38-39-
For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angel, nor principality, nor power; nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
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