Grace – Rules don’t work

20Now the law came in to (ina) increase the trespass,

But where sin increased,

Grace abounded all the more,

21So that (ina) as sin reigned in death,

Grace also might reign through righteousness

Leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

                    Romans 5:20-21

We all want to “reign in life” (Romans 5:17,21).

But, the minute we here the Bible speaking about us reigning in life many us feel like even bigger failures. We can’t even reign at Tetris on our cell phone let alone reign in life! Perhaps at the beginning of a new year we feel like this year will be different. As Terry Virgo illustrates; it’s as if we have two doors to choose from. Law and grace. Rules regulations and plans to pray more, go to gym, eat healthy and then… the door of grace. Most of us have been down the way of law and we know it ends in failure and disappointment.

Why is law ineffective?

In Romans 5 Paul clearly states that all people are sinful. We were all in Adam and through his transgression, sin leading to death, entered our world.

  1. “…through one man sin entered into the world…” Rom 5:12
  2. “…by the transgression of the one, the many died…” Rom 5:15
  3. “…the judgment arose from one transgression, resulting in condemnation…” Rom 5:17
  4. “…by the transgression of the one, death reigns through the one…” Rom 5:17
  5. “…through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men…” Rom 5:18
  6. “…through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners…” Rom 5:19

This story begins in Genesis with Adam and Eve and their fall. Before Genesis 3 there is peace and harmony, after there is dysfunction, murder, and inappropriate sexual behavior. In a word sin has arrived. Paul begins his letter to the Romans by stating that “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men” (Rom 1:18). He starts with all the obvious explicit sin in chapter 1. Then in chapter 2 he says that even religion is a form of slavery to sin. It’s another way of ignoring God and living life our own way. By chapter 3 he concludes “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.” (Rom 3:10-11). Why are rules and regulations ineffective? They just aren’t strong enough to deal with our sin. They are manmade forms of religion devoid of any authentic spiritual life (Col 2:22).What we need is “the power of God for salvation” Rom 1:16.

Secondly, law makes you want to sin. Have you ever told a baby ‘don’t touch the TV’? Try it and watch them slowly drift towards the TV. ‘Don’t walk on the grass’, ‘no cell phones allowed’ all these rules actually cause people to want to do the forbidden action. In Rom 5:20 the Greek preposition ina is used. It indicates purpose. The purpose of the law was never to actually bring about spiritual transformation; it was too “increase the trespass”!

The law came to rub it in, grace came to rub it out – Terry Virgo

In Romans 7 Paul describes the law as this perfect husband who is good. But all he does is make you feel guilty for being so imperfect. Terry Virgo again illustrates that being under law is like being married to a husband who constantly holds us accountable (Rom 3:19). And he is right about his judgments. Slowly it sinks in, just how sinful, bad and enslaved to sin you are. To make matters worse the law is a really healthy husband who will live forever (Matthew 5:18). Is there’s no way out!?

By accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior we die. We have died with Christ so that we could be united to him (Romans 7:4). We are freed from our marital obligations to the law through our death. Now through our resurrection we legally belong to another; Jesus! Christians are therefore not under law because “Christ is the end of the law” (Rom 10:4). If you are in Christ you have his righteousness accredit to your account. Through Christ’s decisive work on the cross, even if you don’t feel like it, particularly if you don’t feel like it, you are the righteousness of God!

  1. “…so through one act of righteousness the result is justification of life to all” Rom 5:18
  2. “…so through the obedience of the one the many will be made righteous” Rom 5:19

When you feel condemned because of your moral failure you must remember that your slate is cleaned permanently! All your mistakes and failings have been taken care of; past, present and future. Its counter intuitive but the more of a reality this becomes to you, the more freedom from sin you will experience. Paul uses the preposition ina again in verse 21.

“Grace abounded all the more, 21So that (ina) …grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life…”

Revel in grace and you will reign in life! Striving to be good leads to condemnation, while rejoicing in the grace of God leads to worship and holiness. “Thanks be to God” is always Paul’s response after speaking about grace (Rom 6:17; 7:25; 1 Cor 15:57; 2 Cor 2:14). As counter intuitive as this is, it’s the gospel truth. It doesn’t matter how many times you have blown it, God your Father loves you with an incomprehensible covenant love. Believe it! Rejoice in it! Worship God because of it!


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