Rom_5:20-21. 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.
FROM eternity God determined to glorify his grace: for this end he permitted sin to enter into the world. The publication of his law also promoted the same end: it served to shew how awfully sin had abounded, and consequently to magnify that grace which destroyed sin. To this effect the Apostle speaks in the text and the words preceding it.
We shall endeavour to shew,
How sin has abounded—
The transgression of Adam was of a very malignant nature.
[In the whole preceding context that sin in particular is referred to, and it may well be considered as of a crimson dye. It argued a contempt of God’s goodness, which had bestowed so much upon him [Note: Gen_2:8-9.]: it argued a doubt of his veracity, which was engaged to inflict the penalty [Note: Gen_3:4.]: it argued a rejection of his authority, which forbad the eating of that fruit [Note: Gen_2:17.]: It argued an attempt to invade the peculiar prerogatives of God [Note: Gen_3:5.]. Surely in this single transgression sin greatly abounded.]
But sin spread also over the whole world—
[Adam begat sons “in his own fallen likeness.” All his descendents inherited his corruption [Note: Job_14:4.], and cast off the yoke which their Maker had imposed upon them: there was not so much as one single exception to be found [Note: Psa_14:2-3.]. On this very account God once destroyed all but one family.]
It had moreover prevailed in every heart to an awful degree—
[Every faculty of men’s souls was debased by it. The understanding was blinded, the will made obstinate, the conscience seared: all the “members of their bodies also were made instruments of unrighteousness.” There was not an imagination of their thoughts that was not evil [Note: Gen_6:5.].]
It even took occasion from the holy law of God to rage the more.
[God gave his law to discover and repress sin: but sin would not endure any restraint: it rose like water against the dam that obstructs its progress [Note: Rom_7:8.], and inflamed men both against the law, and against him who gave it. Thus, in using so good a law to so vile a purpose, it displayed its own exceeding sinfulness [Note: Rom_7:13.].]
But God did not altogether abandon our wretched world—
How grace has much more abounded—
God determined that his grace should be victorious and that it should establish its throne on the ruins of the empire which sin had erected. For this purpose he gave us his Son to be a second Adam [Note: Rom_5:14. 1Co_15:22; 1Co_15:45.]. He laid on him the curse due to our iniquities: he enabled him to “bring in an everlasting righteousness:” he accepted us in him as our new Covenant-Head: he restores us through him to eternal life. Thus the superabundance of his grace is manifest,
In the object attained—
[The destruction of man for sin was certainly tremendous: yet was it no more than what was to be expected. The fallen angels had already been banished from heaven. No wonder then if man was made a partaker of their misery. But how beyond all expectation was the recovery of man! How wonderful that he should be restored, whilst a superior order of beings were left to perish; and be exalted to a throne of glory from whence they had been cast down! This was indeed a manifestation of most abundant grace.]
In the method of attaining it—
[Sin had reigned unto death by means of Adam, and certainly the destruction of the whole world for one sin argued a dreadful malignity in sin. Yet was there nothing in this unjust or unreasonable [Note: If, instead of being represented by Adam, we had all undergone the same probation for ourselves, we have no reason to think that we should not have fallen, like him: if we had possessed exactly the same grace as he, and been subjected to the same temptation, we should have acted as he did. The constituting of him our representative was a great advantage to us, because he had much stronger inducements to fidelity than we could have: we should have been concerned only about ourselves; whereas he had the interests of all his posterity depending on him. Besides, he met his temptation when all his powers were in a state of maturity, and when there was no evil example before him; whereas we should be tempted from our earliest infancy, and with the additional influence of bad examples.]. But who could have thought that God should send us his own Son? That he should constitute him our new Covenant-Head and representative? That he should remove the curse of sin by His death? That he should accept sinners through his righteousness? That he should remedy by a second Adam what had been brought upon us by the first? This was a discovery of grace that infinitely transcends the comprehension of men or angels.]
In the peculiar advantage with which it was attained—
[If Adam had retained his innocence, we also should have stood in him as our representative. We should however have possessed only a creature’s righteousness; but in Christ we possess the righteousness of God himself [Note: 2Co_5:21.]. Our reward therefore may well be augmented in proportion to the excellence of that, for which we are accepted: besides, the glory of God is infinitely more displayed in Christ, than ever it would have been if Adam had not fallen. Our happiness therefore, in beholding it, must be greatly increased. Thus our restoration through Christ will bring us to the enjoyment of far greater happiness than ever we lost in Adam [Note: Rom_5:15. This point is insisted on from ver. 15 to 19.]. What can more fully manifest the superabounding grace of God?]
[This doctrine seems liable to the imputation of licentiousness. St. Paul foresaw the objection, and answered it [Note: Rom_6:1-2.]: his answer should satisfy every objector: but the reign of grace consists in destroying every effect of sin; therefore to indulge sin would be to counteract, and not to promote, the grace of God. Let the professors of religion however be careful to give no room for this objection: let them “put to silence the ignorance of foolish men by well-doing.”]
[How strange is it that any should despair of mercy! The infinite grace of God has been exhibited in many striking instances [Note: Luk_7:47. 1Ti_1:14; 1Ti_1:16.]. Let us seek to become monuments of this mercy: let us not indeed “sin, that grace may abound;” but let us freely acknowledge how much sin has abounded in us, and yet expect through Christ “abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness.”]