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Archive for the ‘Romans 5’ Category

“For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement [substitution]” Romans 5:10-11

 

 

PEACE with God. Peace. This is the wonderful place into which is brought every fallen, ungodly sinner, who is justified by Christ. Having set before us God’s justification of sinners in the previous two chapters, Paul opens chapter 5 by declaring some of the tremendous fruits of that justification. Peace with God, access by faith, the hope of glory: “Therefore being justified by faith we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God”, Romans 5:1-2.

     Through such a work of God for, and in, them God’s people are enabled to glory in tribulations, which produce patience, and which in turn produces experience and hope, “and hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us”. Here for the first time in Romans we read of that love, that priceless love, that precious, eternal, overwhelming, love of God, by which He is pleased to save sinners. “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us”, Romans 5:6-8.

     Yes, that’s when Christ died for His people. When they were yet sinners, without strength, ungodly. When they were enemies of God, at enmity with God, gone out of the way, with mouths full of cursing and bitterness, feet swift to shed blood, with destruction and misery in their ways, having no fear of God before their eyes (Romans 3:10-18). That’s when – when they were sinners.

     “And the way of peace have they not known…” Romans 3:17

     But Christ died for them. God justified them. And being justified they now, by faith, have peace with God. And, “much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement [substitution]”, Romans 5:9-11.

     When God justified His people by the blood of Christ He brought them to peace with Him. The wrath of God against their sin being quenched, justice was satisfied, the enmity was taken out of the way, and peace reigned. Christ, the great High Priest of God’s people, offered up His own body as a sacrifice for sin, and having died, He rose again, ascended into glory, and entered into the holy place, sprinkling His own blood upon the mercy seat – the propitiatory – by which all was answered, all the wrath of God against His people’s sins was quenched, all was at peace, eternal redemption was obtained – and all in Christ were reconciled to God (Leviticus 16:15, Hebrews 4:14, 6:20, 7:27, 9:12, 9:24, 10:12). Here in chapter 5 of Romans Paul opens up the very ground of this reconciliation: the atonement – or substitution.


The great exchange

Here is one of the greatest truths at the heart of the gospel – substitution. Here is that subtitutionary work of Jesus Christ, in which He stood in the place of His people and suffered under the judgment of God against their sin, in order that they would become the righteousness of God in Him. This substitutionary work is what Paul is considering in Romans 5 verses 10-21, the truth of which is summarised succinctly elsewhere in 2 Corinthians 5:21 with these words:

“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.”

     This is a truly glorious truth – that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the perfect, impeccable, spotless Lamb of God, the One who knew no sin, went willingly to the cross where God the Father laid upon the Sin-bearer the sins of all His people, and made Him to be sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. How? By His suffering under the outpouring of God’s wrath against that sin, until all that sin was completely blotted out and taken out of the way – leaving nothing but the righteousness of God in Christ, which His people are made to be in Him.

     This substitutionary work is what Martin Luther described as the ‘Great Exchange’, in which Christ took the place of sinners, that they might take His, and be reconciled to God. In fact the word translated as reconciled in Romans 5:10, or as atonement in 5:11 has as its root the Greek word katallage which essentially means a thorough exchange, or substitution. Reconciliation is the effect of such an exchange but the main emphasis of the word katallage in the Greek is upon the cause which produces that effect. Sinners are reconciled to God by the thorough exchange of Christ with them in which He was made to be sin, that they should become the righteousness of God in Him.

     United with His people in death, all the changes were in the Saviour: He took on His people’s state, that they might be made into His state – righteousness. He who knew no sin, was made to be sin. God judged that sin in His own Son by the outpouring of His wrath, that His people should be “saved from wrath through him” (Romans 5:9). Having “condemned sin in the flesh” (Romans 8:3), sin was no more to be seen, and death could not hold the Saviour, who rose again from the grave in perfect righteousness, and His people in Him. He was the One who suffered, He was the One who died, yet, as a result, His people are delivered from darkness into light, from death into life, from the bondage of sin, into the liberty of eternal life and everlasting righteousness in Christ. Yes, He died, that they should live. What a deliverance!

     The life brought in as a result of Christ’s death is seen in the latter part of verse 10, “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.Having been reconciled to God by the death of his Son, being justified by his blood, God’s people are raised again from the dead in resurrection life in Christ, death having no more hold over them, their sins having been blotted out. Their being “saved by his life” – as seen in verse 10 – amplifies the truth of Romans 5:9 which declares that being “justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him”, for having taken sin away and having conquered death, Christ, now being risen from the dead, “ever liveth to make intercession” for His people (Hebrews 7:25). He points to His own blood by which He justified them – the very blood He sprinkled upon the mercy seat of God to propitiate God’s wrath against their sins. Oh, what an Advocate they have in the presence of God the Father (1 John 2:1) – what a Saviour, in whom is eternal life!

“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 6:23


Sin and sins

But notice for a moment the twofold work of Christ in substitution. Not only did He bear the sins of His people (1 Peter 2:24), those sinful deeds which they have done, which spring forth from the fallen nature of their sinful hearts, but He was also made to be sin itself. This is not what they have done, but what they are, for they were crucified in Him (Galatians 2:20), and what they are by nature is sin. Sin is that which entered into man when Adam fell in the garden, by which death entered the world as a result (Romans 5:12). It is that pollution, which since the fall of Adam has corrupted man’s very nature, that spirit of wanton abandonment and total lawlessness1, that depravity to which man is in bondage. It is this which Christ took away in His substitutionary work as set forth in Romans 5 where Christ’s obedience, in dying in the place of His people that they might be made righteous, is contrasted with Adam’s disobedience, in which sin entered the world and many were made sinners (Romans 5:12,19). Yes, not only did Christ suffer for the sins of His people but He was also made to be sin, that God in judgment might destroy the very cause of those sins, sin itself, in His people’s Substitute upon the tree. Hence we see, in Christ’s body broken, the condemnation of sin upon the cross, and in His blood shed the washing away of those sins which came forth from that sin which dwells in the depravity of man’s fallen heart (Mark 7:21,22). But thank God that He judged not only the effects, the sins, but the cause – sin itself.

“Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.” Romans 6:6

“For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh…” Romans 8:3

     Oh! What depths, what lengths to which the Saviour went to save His people from their sins and deliver them from the bondage of sin itself. What He suffered for those so undeserving, that they might know so great a salvation!

     Yet, despite the tremendous glory in this truth, despite the fact that the preaching of this message, the preaching of the cross, is the power of God to them that believe (1 Corinthians 1:18), it is nevertheless to them that perish, “foolishness”. To many it is a stumbling block, and an offence. But that which is offensive to the natural man, is the power of God to those who believe.

     Whilst Christ suffered under the judgment of God as He bore His people’s sins in His own body on the tree, as He was made to be sin, it must be stressed that He never once sinned Himself, He never once thought an evil thought, He never once did anything for which He would Himself have to pay the price. All was done in the place of His people as their Substitute, all the sins He bore were their sins, yet whilst bearing those sins, whilst being made sin, He nevertheless never sinned Himself, as it is written “He did no sin” (1 Peter 2:22). Yet, despite this, the scriptures are also plain to state that Christ was nevertheless “made [to be] sin”. Not that He sinned, notice, but that He was made sin. It is a question of what was done to Christ, not by Him. God made Him to be sin, yet Christ never sinned.

     Some theologians have sought to explain this mystery, that Christ, who knew no sin, could be made sin, and yet never Himself sin, by stating that the sins of God’s people could only have been imputed to Christ. That they were only reckoned to Him, legally put to His account and laid to His charge. But the scriptures never once use the word imputation with regard to this matter. They are very clear – Christ bore the sins of His people in “His own body on the tree” (1 Peter 2:24), and in their place, in a thorough exchange, He was “made … to be sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21). The scriptures are presented to us, not to be explained away logically, with the natural intellect, but to be believed spiritually, with God-given faith, as bowing to the revelation of God in the scriptures.

     No, the scriptures never use the term imputation with regard to Christ’s sin-bearing. He bore sins and He was made sin. How then did He commit no sin? Well, though a mystery that we may never fully comprehend, we can nevertheless state that though Christ was very man by nature, He was also very God, both in nature and in personality, and as God, as a Divine Person, He could not sin. A mystery to the natural mind, perhaps, but true nonetheless. Offensive to carnal wisdom, perhaps, but a matter for rejoicing to those whom Christ has delivered from sin, those who are brought by God to submit to the revelation of His gospel in the scriptures.

     Christ never once sinned – that could not be. Yet, though that must be stressed, at the same time we must not take away from the magnitude of what Christ really suffered for His people at the cross in order to save them. Whilst it may be true that the sins of God’s people were imputed to Christ, in that they were laid to His charge as a consequence of His bearing them, nevertheless imputation is not taught in the scriptures as the means by which He bore sins or was made sin. Sins were imputed to Christ simply because He really bore them in His own body on the tree and because He really was ‘made sin’. Just as Christ really died upon the cross, despite being the eternal God in whom is eternal life (1 John 1:2), likewise He was also really made to be sin in His manhood, as the very cause for which He died, whilst at the same time remaining to be the God who “is light, in whom is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). For in order that His people should truly become what Christ is, by means of His substitution, He had to truly become what they are, by a thorough exchange, in order to truly condemn their sin in His flesh, that they might be made “the righteousness of God in Him”.

     This is a glorious, a deep, an unfathomable truth, but one to which we can only bow in awe and wonder that Christ, the Saviour of sinners, should willingly stoop to such suffering, to such a death, out of love for His own. Yet despite the length and depth to which He went to save His people, in taking their sins as His own, and suffering as a man in the place of men, as the just for the unjust, under the outpouring of God’s wrath against them, nevertheless the glorious Saviour never once sinned Himself, never once ceased to love His Father, never once ceased to trust Him, and never once turned from the task for which He came – to save His people from their sins! Indeed it is from the depths of His sufferings that we see Christ’s faith in God the Father so wonderfully expressed in the precious words He uttered at the cross. As Luke 23:46 testifies, “And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost”.

The two Adams

Romans 5 sets forth this substitutionary work in which Christ, the Last Adam, took the place of His people who sprang from the first Adam, by contrasting the two Adams and their work. By one man (Adam) sin entered into the world, and death by sin. But the Last Adam, by the righteous act of laying down His life in the place of His people (the ‘one righteousness’ of Romans 5:18) saved them from wrath, justified them by His blood (5:9), and delivered them from death unto life (5:18) – making those who were sinners righteous (5:19), that they should be reconciled to God by Christ’s death (5:10). Oh how the love of God is seen in such a glorious work! “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

     Throughout this passage it is important to see how Paul contrasts the two Adams and their posterity in them. He speaks of Adam and of Christ as the heads of two groups of people. What is true of all those men who are in the first Adam, is contrasted with what is true of all those men who are in the last Adam. All in Adam are contrasted with all in Christ (“For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive”, 1 Corinthians 15:22). Yet whilst all mankind is the posterity of the first Adam, not all mankind is the posterity of Christ, as made clear in many passages of scripture (for example Romans 9:6-13). This is important to notice, and explains why Paul refers to many being made righteous in verse 19 – for not all are made righteous, though all in Christ, all His posterity, are.

     But what is true of all mankind, without exception, is that all are in Adam, all have sinned and, as a result, death has passed upon all men (Romans 5:12). Having presented this stark and solemn fact, Paul then passes on to a parenthesis from verse 13 to 17, the purpose of which is to illustrate how both Adam and Christ stood as representatives of their people, their posterity. Whilst not all have done what Adam did, in the same manner, nevertheless as their representative his act of disobedience affected them all. Likewise, whilst Christ’s posterity have not done what He did, as their representative His act of obedience in laying down His life for the sheep, affected them all. Paul shows in verses 13 and 14 that it is not the presence of the law which determines whether one sins, for even when there was no law (from Adam to Moses) death still reigned, and it reigned because sin was still in mankind and governed his actions. Unlike Adam, who disobeyed a command given to him by God, and unlike those under the law who transgressed against its commands, those from Adam to Moses sinned not against an outward command (and hence not “after the similitude of Adam’s transgression”), nevertheless they still sinned. Sin was still in them, death still reigned over them, they sought not God, they turned from Him and lived according to their own fallen lusts and pleasures, denying that revelation of God’s truth which God has declared in the creation and in their own conscience  (Romans 1:19-22, 2:10-16, 3:9-18). So whether under law, or not under law, sin still reigned, and death by sin. The law did nothing to prevent it. Indeed when the law was given, it is said to have “entered, that the offence might abound”, Romans 5:20.

     Yet Adam was but a figure of Christ, of “him that was to come” (Romans 5:14). What is portrayed by Adam’s disobedience and the consequences for all his posterity, is a figure, a picture, of what would be brought in by Christ’s obedience for all His posterity. “For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification. For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ”, Romans 5:15-17.

     Oh! What a tremendous contrast between the work of Adam and the work of Christ. By one act of disobedience Adam plunged himself and all his posterity into condemnation, into death and destruction. But through the gift of grace, by Jesus Christ, all His posterity, though they have committed many offences, are nevertheless justified, receiving an abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness, and reign in life in Jesus Christ!

     Having closed the parenthesis Paul shows the contrast between Adam and Christ in verses 18 and 19 by setting before us the one offence of Adam by which he disobeyed – he refused to hearken to – God’s command in the garden and plunged himself and his offspring into condemnation, and the one act of righteousness by which Christ hearkened submissively in the obedience of faith to the will of His Father, by laying down his life for His own that they should know “justification of life” (Romans 5:18) by the shedding of His blood (5:9). Hence “by one man’s disobedience” (in the garden) “many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one” (upon the cross, 5:10) “shall many be made righteous”, for the fruit of the tree of Adam’s disobedience, of which he ate, brought in death, but the fruit of the tree of Christ’s obedience, when He drank the cup of God’s wrath to conquer death, was everlasting life.

     This is how God justified the ungodly, and this is the whole context of chapter 5 – the death of Christ. Christ’s offspring are “justified by his blood” (Romans 5:9). He justified them by His obedience “unto death” (Philippians 2:8), in laying down His life as a substitute in their place, suffering the death they deserved, that they might be made “the righteousness of God in Him”. And where did the law come in? Was righteousness wrought by the law? No, for “if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain” (Galatians 2:21). No, Christ’s death justified His people, through the sacrifice of their substitute in their place, through this obedience2. For:

“Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” Galatians 3:13-14

“Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator. Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one. Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. But the Scripture have concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.” Galatians 3:19-22

     Hence we see that righteousness came not by the law, but by the death of Christ, that obedience by which He delivered His people from the law and its condemnation, for the law was added, it “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.”

     Praise God for that substitute of sinners, for that offering for sin, that ransom for many, for the One who paid the redemption price, even our Lord Jesus Christ. And praise God that where sin abounded, grace did much more abound!

     But, my reader, what do you know about this grace? Has the Spirit of God made its abounding known to you in your heart? Are you in Christ, or in Adam? Are you justified or condemned? Is Christ your substitute, have you been reconciled unto God by the death of His Son?

“For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.

…Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: … Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.” Romans 5:6-12, 18-19

 

 

 

 

 

[1 1 John 3:4, “Sin is the transgression of the law” is oft-quoted as a definition of sin. However this passage is not well translated in the King James Version of the Bible, and as it stands gives too limited a scope to what sin really is. The passage, literally translated from the Greek, would better read, “sin is lawlessness”. Whilst this may appear similar at first, it is in fact much more wide-ranging. Sin, taken to its full meaning, is complete lawlessness. Not just a transgression of the law given at Sinai, but wilful disregard of any and every law or commandment, an entire unwillingness to be bound by any rule or any authority. Sin, in essence, is simply sheer rebellion against one’s Maker – enmity towards God and His sovereign rule over us.

2 There is a commonly-held understanding, popularised by certain of the Puritans, particularly John Owen, that the righteousness by which a sinner is justified before God – that righteousness which is imputed to him – was wrought by Christ’s obedience to the law throughout His life upon the earth, in addition to His death. This is referred to as His ‘active obedience’ whilst His death upon the cross is termed His ‘passive obedience’. Such a scheme however, is both erroneous and without scriptural support, and whilst it is recognised that many good men, both past and present, have been persuaded of this view, nevertheless popularity cannot be the test of orthodoxy – we must weigh everything in the light of God’s word. The truth is, the scriptures always place justifying righteousness as being wrought out upon the cross, not by the works of the law. The justification of sinners is plainly taught in Romans 3. If the concept of justification by vicarious law-keeping were taught in any passage of scripture, it is this passage, above all, where one would expect to find it. Yet there is not a word of it in the chapter. On the contrary, we are told that the “righteousness of God without the law is manifested” and that “by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified”.

      Unable to find support in Romans chapter 3 the proponents of this scheme turn to chapter 5. The “obedience” of Romans 5:19 is often cited in support of this teaching, with the claim that this refers to Christ’s obedience to the precepts of the law. But this is to wrest the verse out of its context. The context of Romans 5 is the death of Christ (see Romans 5:8), and the obedience referred to is the obedience of faith. In fact the Greek (hupakoe) translated as obedience here has the root meaning of hearing aright, of hearkening submissively. Faith hears, faith believes and faith acts in submission to the will of God – and the obedience of faith referred to in Romans 5:19 is that one act of righteousness (or one accomplished righteousness, dikaiomatos, Romans 5:18) by which Christ justified His people through laying down His life for them. Hence they are said to be “justified by his blood” (Romans 5:9), and are “reconciled to God by the death of his Son” (Romans 5:10).

      Neither can the phrase “we shall be saved by his life” found in the latter part of Romans 5:10 be used in support of vicarious law-keeping, as this refers not to Christ’s deeds as a man under the law, but to His resurrection life, following His death, by which His people are raised from the dead, and in which He, as their great High Priest and Advocate, intercedes on their behalf before God the Father, they being “justified by his blood” and thence “saved from wrath through him”, Romans 5:9.

      Righteousness was not wrought by Christ’s obedience to the law. Rather, His obedience showed forth that He was righteous. Out of His righteousness sprang forth obedience. The law measured Him and found no fault in Him. Jeremiah 33:16 tells us that the LORD is our righteousness. Hence righteousness should not be thought of as what Christ has done, but what He is as God. We are made to be the righteousness of God in Him. For if the LORD – Jehovah – is our righteousness then this righteousness is divine, and hence not the righteousness of Christ under the law as a man, but the righteousness of God in Christ (see, for example, 2 Peter 1:1). However this righteousness, as imputed to the believer, is not abstract, it is not God’s attribute or quality of righteousness considered in isolation, as it is in God Himself, but it is as it is personally made to be ours in Christ – we being in Christ, having our sins judged according to that righteousness, that perfection, in Him. Justifying righteousness is personal. We are made to be it in Christ. It is as personally ours as Christ is ours. Simply put, justifying righteousness is the righteousness of God made to be ours personally, by imputation, through the death of Christ by whom our sins are remitted. For as Calvin taught, justification is the remission of sins.

      So righteousness was not wrought by Christ’s obedience to the law, for He was already righteous, but the righteousness of God was made to be His people’s through Christ’s obedience to God in giving His life for them – for when Christ laid down His life vicariously for His people, bearing their sins and being made sin for them, righteousness was wrought, in the sense that those who were not righteous were made to be righteous, for their sin being judged, the righteousness of God in Christ was then put to their account. Christ suffered for that people who had their sins blotted out in Him, sins which were judged by the very righteousness of God, and being judged according to that righteousness, God was just to declare that people not guilty, to declare them as righteous, justified, in Christ. Hence the righteousness of God was manifested by the death of Christ for His people, through which, being united to Christ, they are made to be the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21).

      This must be so, for if justifying righteousness were wrought by the works of the law then Romans 3:20 & 3:28, and Galatians 2:16 & 3:21-22, would all be overturned, which declare plainly that no flesh shall be justified by the deeds of the law. Likewise if Christ kept the law vicariously for His people through His lifetime (if that were even legally possible, which it is not) then there would be no need of His death, they already being accounted as righteous in Him by this scheme before He died. “For if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” Galatians 2:21.]

 

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“THAT GRACE MIGHT REIGN THROUGH RIGHTEOUSNESS” Romans 5:21

That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 5:21

Grace Reigns…

This verse sets before us, in stark contrast, two reigns – two rules, two dominions, two powers – and the effects of their reign: the one unto death and the other unto eternal life.

The contrast could not be more vivid. The consequences could not be more opposed. Their importance cannot be overstated.

Yes, one reign is unto death, but the other is unto life – eternal life.

The first is the reign of sin. What a reign this has over men, and how devastating the consequence – death! How far reaching are the effects of sin, how vast is the kingdom over which sin has reigned, how many are its citizens! As we read in Romans 5:12:

“Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned”

Yes, all have sinned. There is not one of us who has escaped the reign and the dominion of sin. It entered the world by one man, Adam, when he turned from God his Maker in disobedience and rebellion, and has been passed down to all his posterity ever since. We are all born with the same sinful, rebellious, selfish, wilful and disobedient nature into which Adam fell and by which the dreadful consequence of sin entered the world – death: “and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned”. We can no more escape the consequence of sin – death – than we can escape or ignore the cause – our sin – and its permeating effects upon all we do and say.

Sin reigns, and mankind finds himself captive to this reign. Not only do we find ourselves captive to a decaying and death-filled world, not only do we see the effects of death in our bodies as we age, and suffer illness, weariness, pain, tiredness, sorrow and misery as the days of our lives pass by towards their inevitable conclusion, but we also find ourselves captive to a spiritual death. We find ourselves unable and unwilling to approach God. We have no desire for Him. Sin leads us in another direction. The true communion which man, in Adam, had with his Maker was shattered when he turned his back upon God. The LORD God once walked with Adam in the garden, but when sin entered the world God cast Adam out from His presence and a great gulf was fixed between man and God. That gulf was caused by sin and by its result – death.

When Adam chose to turn his back upon the Tree of Life which was in the midst of the garden and eat instead from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil – by the eating of which he desired to become as a god (Genesis 3:5) – he chose a terrible pathway unto death. By choosing to put himself under another reign from God’s, by choosing to place himself under another dominion mankind became a captive to it. Man in his lust for power desired to reign himself, but in his folly, his own sin took reign over him and he fell captive to it. Sin’s lusts, desires, motives, intentions and resolves all drive man in a certain direction – away from God; away from the only One in whom is life; away from Jesus Christ, who to know is life eternal; away from God and into death, for “sin hath reigned unto death”.

What a reign sin has over us. How captive we are under it. But how captivated we are by it! Not only has sin reigned over us but we have lovingly embraced its reign! Not only are we unable to turn from sin to God, but we are also unwilling. We choose to go this way. “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.” Romans 3:10-11. Not one of us can claim innocence for like our father Adam we have willingly embraced the fall, we have said of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, “We will not have this man to reign over us”, and in our pride and lust for power we have sought to place ourselves upon the throne. We will reign, won’t we? Don’t our natural hearts speak that way? But in such foolish desire our sin takes hold of us and keeps us captive. Sin reigns… unto death.

But praise God that Romans 5:21 doesn’t end with just this one reign! Praise God that there is another reign whose power is so much greater and whose results are so gloriously different! Praise God that this verse has an “even so” in the middle!

“…even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 5:21

Even so. Even so despite the reign of sin. Despite its power and its awful consequences. Even so, though mankind has willingly embraced sin. Even so, though mankind willingly sinned and brought death upon himself. Even so, though mankind has chosen this reign of sin and deserves nothing better.

“Even so”. Even so, might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.

Yes, though God would be just to leave man to himself; though God could justly destroy His creation and the rebellious creatures who turned against Him, nevertheless, even so, God has chosen to be gracious. He is a God who delights in showing mercy. A God who is longsuffering. A God who is love. A God who saves. A God who graciously sent His Son to save His people from their sins.

For there is a reign greater than that of sin: the reign of grace. What a contrast we see in Romans 5:21. Sin reigned unto death, but grace reigns unto eternal life.

The reign of sin was a reign of man’s rebellion and disobedience towards his God, which brought in death. But the reign of grace is that of God showing His unmerited favour towards man, in spite of his rebellion, in order to freely give him eternal life in Jesus Christ. The one is of man and the other is of God. The one brings death but the other brings life. The former was earned, merited by man’s actions, but the latter is unearned, unmerited, it is a free gift from God to man for no other reason than God’s mercy and loving-kindness to those whom He chose to have mercy upon. The one is chosen by man through his free will but the other is granted freely by God through His Sovereignty. The one abounds under the law which demands of man and condemns his offences, but the other abounds much more being freely given to repentant sinners and forgiving their offences. Oh, what a contrast we see in these two reigns!

We see here that however great the reign of sin might be, the reign of grace is greater! However powerful a force sin might be, it is nothing compared to grace. However strong a grip sin might have upon man, it can not stand before the invincible power of God’s grace in saving sinners. For we read that “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” (Romans 5:20) and that although through the offence of one (Adam) many are dead, “much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many”(Romans 5:15) and “…if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ” Romans 5:17.

The reign, the power, of sin, however great is nothing compared to the power of God’s grace. When God sets his grace upon a sinner nothing stands in its way. When grace reigns all other dominion is cast aside. “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.” Romans 6:14.

In fact the only way that man can be delivered from the reign of sin over him is by God’s grace. There is no other way. Sin is within man, it rules him, it motivates him, it reigns over him. Only by an act of God’s grace in delivering man from his sin, in taking that sin away, in blotting it out so that sin is no more, can man be free of its dominion.

No reformation of character or manners can achieve such a deliverance. No works or effort that man can make to live more uprightly can deliver him from the absolute tyranny of sin under which he finds himself. The very best deeds of mankind, the most noble exploits, the most charitable actions he can bring himself to do are still tainted by that sin which he finds within himself. He is ruled by it. “For even our righteousnesses are as filthy rags”. That’s right, even our righteousnesses. Our best deeds are marred by sin.

Some would turn to the law of God in an attempt to subdue sin and live a life pleasing to God. They think that if they can attain to its requirements they will find favour with God. But they couldn’t be more wrong because when sinful man puts himself under that law, far from subduing sin the law inflames it! Far from it leading man to life it simply shows man the vileness of his own heart, it stirs up sin within and so it condemns him. As we read “Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound.” Romans 5:20. Not subdue, notice, but abound. That is why God gave the law, to show man his sin. That the offence might abound, that man might be condemned and that he might be led to flee unto that one Deliverer from sin and death, even Jesus Christ and Him Crucified. The law might set forth a standard of righteousness which God expects of man and demands of man, but experimentally when man puts himself under that law, the knowledge he acquires, in experience, is not one of righteousness but of sin. “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” Romans 3:20. This experience of sin actually abounding under the law is what Paul knew and wrote about in Romans 7: “For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.”  

There is nothing wrong with God’s law. The problem lies with the sin within us and the effect of that law upon sin. The law “is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.” Romans 7:12-13. Yes, as Romans 5:20 shows, when the law entered the offence abounded. The law provided no deliverance from sin – it made it worse, in order to show us our sin.

“…But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” Romans 5:20

But praise God that there is a deliverance from sin. There is another reign, a greater reign: the reign of grace! And how wonderful that where sin abounds – in those shown their sinfulness by God through the application of His law demonstrating to them their sin and inability to deliver themselves from it and its reign – that grace much more abounds! There is no sin too great, no sinner too sinful, for grace to overcome – for where sin abounded, grace did much more abound!

Yes, grace reigns – and what a reign! What a power grace is. How great is its kingdom, even the kingdom of heaven. How many are its citizens! But grace and its reign can no more be considered apart from the One who grants them any more than sin and its reign can be considered apart from the one by whom they entered the world. Sin entered by one man – Adam, but the grace of God comes by one Man – even Jesus Christ the Lord. It is this fact that makes grace so glorious and its reign so triumphant. The first man is earthy and brought in sin and death, but the Second Man, the Last Adam, is heavenly – a quickening spirit – and He brought in righteousness and everlasting life. Christ, the Son of God, is both man and God, both human and divine. As God He is sovereign over all, He is the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords. Hence His grace reigns for it is the grace of a King, the grace of a sovereign. It is Sovereign Grace and as a King Christ gives it to whom He will. “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” Romans 9:15. Oh! To be a recipient of such grace. Oh! To be under its reign!

Yes, grace reigns, but it does so…

…Through Righteousness

Grace reigns through righteousness. Grace does not reign in isolation. God’s mercy towards man is not at the expense of His justice. No, grace reigns through righteousness and God’s grace is seen in His righteousness, in His justice. Without righteousness, without justice, there could be no reign of grace for the reign of sin must be overcome. Sin must be dealt with in order for God to be just and the justifier of the ungodly. Grace reigns, yes, but it reigns through righteousness.

Righteousness and the revelation of God’s righteousness are at the very heart of the Gospel. They are what give the Gospel its power. Hence Paul writes “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation…” Romans 1:16. Why? “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith Yes, it is the revelation of God’s righteousness in the Gospel which gives it its power. Righteousness is that through which God judges the sin of His people in Christ their Saviour and delivers them from its reign and its power. It is through righteousness, by the revelation of God’s justice (righteousness) in Christ’s redemption that God justifies His people freely by grace.

Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.” Romans 3:24-26

In the Gospel God has revealed His righteousness by judging and destroying sin and its reign over God’s people in their Substitute, Jesus Christ, as He suffered and died in their place in order to deliver them from sin, death and condemnation and make them righteous before God in Him. Hence, God justified His people ”freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus”.

God did this in His Son, Christ Jesus. Only one Man could die in the place of fallen sinners to redeem them from the reign of sin, and that man was Jesus Christ. Only He could deliver His people from sin because only He was without sin. Christ was perfect, righteous and holy. As God who took upon Himself human nature in perfect union with His divine person, as One who was made in all points like unto us, yet without sin, as the Incarnate God, Jesus Christ was the perfect sacrifice acceptable unto God in the place of sinners. God declared His righteousness by judging sin in His own Son upon the cross, in the One who was “made to be sin for us, who knew no sin: that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” 2 Corinthians 5:21.

Christ knew no sin. For more than thirty years He lived and walked in this world as a man born under the law and He lived in perfection. He never sinned, He never disobeyed God the Father, He never disbelieved the Father, He never ceased to trust the Father, He never ceased to worship God with all His heart, mind and soul, He never sinned – He knew no sin. Christ was made under the law in order to redeem those who were under the law. The law tested Him in all points, the full rigour of God’s law and justice tested Him to the limit and found nothing in Him to condemn. He was perfect. Having magnified that law and made it honourable Christ then willingly submitted Himself to death upon the cross in the place of His people. Though perfect, though innocent, though without a single fault or cause of condemnation, Christ submitted Himself to the will of His Father and gave Himself up to be taken by the hands of wicked men and nailed to a cross to suffer and die in the place of transgressors.

But what happened when Jesus Christ was nailed to that cross and lifted up to die, what happened when the light of the sun was darkened at the ninth hour was a mystery which was hid from the natural eye. What happened during those hours of darkness as Christ suffered in the place of His people was a tremendous transaction between God the Father and His Son which no natural man could comprehend. This was no ordinary death. No ordinary suffering. When Christ suffered upon the tree it wasn’t the natural pain and suffering which slew Him, but the supernatural outpouring of the wrath of God upon Him and what He had become vicariously in the place of His people. At the cross Christ and His people were united together in death. As Eve was taken out of Adam’s side while he slept, so in Christ’s death, His bride – His Church – were united to Him and brought forth from His side washed in the precious blood of Christ which justified them and cleansed them from their sins.

At the cross Christ became one with His bride, united to her, being made what she was – sin. Her sin became His. Her transgressions became His as He bore them in His own body on the tree. And in response the wrath of God the Father poured down from the vaults of heaven upon Christ the sacrifice to judge sin in Him, to consume it, to destroy it, to blot it out. As Christ endured the cross, for the joy that was set before Him – as He looked by faith to His Father in hope of the glorious resurrection in righteousness with His people – He endured the full penalty of God’s righteousness, God’s unflinching justice, against all the sin and transgressions of His people. He endured it. He endured the hours of torment, the hours of unspeakable suffering. Why? “For the joy that was set before Him” Hebrews 12:2. At the last, Christ would see of the travail of His soul and be satisfied. Isaiah 53:11.

Through death Christ justified His people, freely by grace. For grace is not cheap. It comes at a price. Grace reigns, God justifies His people freely to them  by grace, but it comes at a cost to Him. It comes through righteousness. Christ gave His life for His own. That was the cost. But why did He do this? Because He loved them. As we read:-

“But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.” Romans 5:8-9

Yes, Christ “loved the church, and gave himself for it” Ephesians 5:25. When Christ died for those He loves He placed Himself under the full justice of God. In so doing the righteousness of God was revealed in the Gospel and God judged the sin of His people according to His own righteousness. Not just according to the righteousness of the law, but according to the very righteousness of God Himself, to justify to life not just for this world, but for the next, for all eternity; to reconcile a people to God, to bring them unto Himself. “But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference” Romans 3:21-22. It was this way, and this way only that God could justify His people in blotting out their sins and delivering them from the reign of sin. It was this way that the reign of sin was conquered and the reign of grace could triumph. Grace reigns, yes. But it is through righteousness.

At the cross God justified His people, freely by grace. His love was set upon a people who didn’t deserve it, a rebellious people, sold under sin, a people under the reign of sin and death. Yet at the cross God manifested His righteousness through the faith of Jesus Christ in order to destroy sin and its reign and deliver that people. God showed grace to a people who sought Him not, and that grace came at such a price – it cost the Saviour. He gave Himself for His own (Galatians 2:20). Grace is God’s free gift to His people, but it came at a great price to Him. It came through righteousness exacted upon the Saviour as He stood in the place of His people, united to them in order to bring them through judgement unto everlasting life, carried through by His faith in the Father’s promise . At the cross God’s mercy and truth met together. At the cross righteousness and peace kissed each other. What a meeting place! What a transaction. What a reconciliation between God and man was made when Christ laid down His life that His people might live, when Christ was made sin that His people might be made the righteousness of God in Him, that they might have peace with God!

“Mercy and truth are met together, righteousness and peace have kissed each other.” Psalm 85:10.

Through the obedience of Christ, the obedience of faith, in giving Himself for His people, they are justified in Him, delivered from all condemnation, washed from every sin by Christ’s blood, justified freely by His grace. God in righteousness judged the sins of all His people in the Saviour, blotting them out through the shed blood, and, not only that, but He judged sin itself, that sinful nature His people inherited from Adam, by destroying it in Christ’s body on the tree, totally consuming it under His fiery wrath and indignation and taking it out of sight, so making that people perfect in Christ. In this way God could be just and the justifier of all those who believe in Jesus. In this way He could show His people mercy and grant forgiveness. In this way He could save His people from their sins by His grace. In this way He could deliver them from sin itself, Romans 6:6. In this way grace reigns – through righteousness. It is a victorious reign, a triumphant reign, a reign which overcomes all others, even that of sin and death which Christ conquered through His death as he took sin away and, having done so, rose again on the third day with everlasting life, victorious over all His foes. Nothing, not even death, could stand in the way of grace and its reign by Jesus Christ

Yes, grace reigns, and it reigns through righteousness…

…unto Eternal Life by Jesus Christ our Lord

Grace has an end in view, a triumphant end – even eternal life. Whilst sin brought in misery and death, grace brings eternal life in Jesus Christ. What a glorious thing this is, what a hope is set before the believer, what an end is in view – eternal life. Everlasting life. Life without end. Life free from death, free from misery, free from sorrow, free from suffering, and free from the reign of sin. Yes, eternal life.

And how is this life brought in? By Jesus Christ our Lord. Grace reigns unto eternal life by Jesus Christ, because He is eternal life! As John testifies of Christ, the Word of God, the Word of life in 1 John 1:2: “For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us”. To know Christ, is to know life, to have Christ is to have life, for Christ is eternal life. This is what grace brings – everlasting life in Christ Jesus.

“And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.” 1 John 5:12-13.

To have eternal life is to have Christ. To have Christ is to be in Christ. If we are in Christ we are made the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21) for we are justified by grace in Him, and if justified then justified unto life (Romans 5:18). And if all this be true of us then we are under a new reign, the reign of grace, having been delivered from the reign of sin and death. Oh what a deliverance! What amazing grace that brings it. But at what a price! Grace reigns through righteousness. To save His people Christ died in their place, He endured the cross, despising the shame (Hebrews 12:2). Why?  “For the joy set before him”. What joy is this? To be glorified in the salvation of sinners. To be one with His people, His bride, united together in righteousness, in everlasting life, in eternal life around the throne of God. What joy! For grace reigns “through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord”!

Who are those who have eternal life? John tells us: ”He that hath the Son hath life”. And who has the Son? Those “that believe on the name of the Son of God1 John 5:13.  Such are those who are “justified freely by his grace” Romans 3:24, those which “believeth in Jesus” Romans 3:26.

And just who are those who believe in Jesus? All those whom God chose in Christ before the foundation of the world to be saved by Him (Ephesians 1:3-12). All those upon whom God set His electing love, all the “election of grace” Romans 11:5.

Adam through his disobedience brought sin, death and condemnation to all his posterity, but Christ, the Last Adam, through His obedience brought righteousness and justification of life to all His posterity, the election of grace, Romans 5:18! For 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 5:21

Now, let us ask ourselves the question: which reign are we under? The reign of sin, or the reign of grace? Which do we love – sin or grace? What motivates us? What rules our life? What governs our thoughts and actions? Where are we heading?

Do we know grace and its reign over us? Has it been bestowed upon us? Are we recipients of it? Not claimants of mercy but recipients? Have we cried out to God for mercy, for grace, having been shown by God the Holy Spirit our desperate need of it, being full of sin and death, being held captive by nature under another reign? Do we know the reign of grace in our hearts? Does it reign over all our life, from start to finish? Do we know the SOVEREIGN KING who grants it? Are we citizens of His kingdom? Do we know Jesus Christ as Lord?

Can we say from our hearts with Paul “even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord”…?

Oh, to be able to join with Paul in saying“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” Galatians 2:20.

May God bless His word to His glory,

Amen.

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