We began our study of Romans 5:12-21 last week. In these verses we are witnessing the depth of humanity’s sinful identity in Adam and the glorious transformation of our identity in the new humanity, through Jesus, for those who will believe. Last week we spent much of our time taking a look at the phrase “…death came to all men, because all sinned…” If you will remember our study last week then you will remember that we learned that it is Adam’s sin that brought death into the human experience. All of us sin, there is no questioning that, but it was the sin of Adam imputed to each of us, or placed upon each of us who are his descendants, that is the reason for the certainty of our separation from God and our future physical death.
Enough of death, let’s move on to the next section of our Scripture. Let’s go back and read Romans 5:12-21 once again so that we can set the context for our study of Romans 5:15-21.
12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned– 13 for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law. 14 Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come. 15 But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! 16 Again, the gift of God is not like the result of the one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. 17 For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ. 18 Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. 19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous. 20 The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, 21 so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:12-21 NIV)
We will begin our study today in verse 15. Paul says, “But the gift is not like the trespass.” How so? How is the gift not like the trespass? That’s a great question. There are at least two reasons why the gift is far different than the trespass.
First of all, Paul says that the one trespass of the one man brought death to all people. The word “trespass” is a very descriptive word that we need to understand. The word in Greek is “paraptoma” and it is translated “trespass, offence, sin, fall, or fault” in the New Testament. The word really means, “to deviate from a path” or “to over-step the norm.” Let me show you a couple of places where the word appears in the New Testament. In Galatians 6:1, Paul writes,
1 Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. (Galatians 6:1 NIV)
The word translated, “sin,” is the same word that we’ve been looking at. Paul says that if someone is caught “off track” then we are to restore them, gently guide them back on track. In Ephesians 2:1-5, Paul writes,
1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions– it is by grace you have been saved. (Ephesians 2:1-5 NIV)
Paul goes much further in this passage by saying that we were off track and completely unable to get back on track, we were off track and completely dead, lifeless, and unable to do anything about it. In verse 5, Paul says that “because of His great love for us,” God came to us while we were in the ditch and He breathed new life into us. Wow!! What an amazing God we serve!
If you will remember back to last week when we were looking at Adam’s sin, then you will remember that God placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. He told them that they could eat from every tree in the Garden except for one. They had the mother of all buffets to enjoy, but God told them that their meal ticket didn’t include the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. What did they do? They deviated from the line leading to the good food that God had prepared for them, they over-stepped their freedom, and ended up trespassing on the tree that was off-limits. That’s what this word means. We trespass, or we transgress, when we venture off the path that God has laid out for us.
Paul says that the gift is not like the trespass. Stop and think about this for a minute. God’s judgment followed one sin, the sin of Adam, and brought condemnation for all people. The gift Paul is writing about in verse 15 followed many trespasses, the trespasses or sin of all people throughout the ages, and it brought justification for those who will believe. That just doesn’t make any sense does it? If one sin brought death and condemnation for all people, then doesn’t it seem logical that many sins, billions upon billions of sins, accumulated throughout the ages by billions and billions of people who have gotten off track should warrant something even greater than death and condemnation? Seems logical to me.
If Jesus had died for the one sin of Adam that would be an amazing, astonishing thing. To think that one innocent man, a man who had never sinned, would be willing to give His life for someone who knowingly sinned is beyond our comprehension. Never mind that Jesus was not merely a man, He was God in the flesh who died for the sins of others.
The truth is that things went from bad to worse. We, who tend to categorize sin like “lies” and “little white lies,” look at Adam’s sin, simply eating fruit from a tree that God said he couldn’t eat from, as a “minor” violation. Throughout the ages we have perfected the willful violation of God’s commands. Compare the sin of Adam to what Paul writes about Adam’s descendants in Romans 1:29-32.
29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. (Romans 1:29-32 NIV)
Now, can you see what I mean when I say that we have perfected sin, we have perfected violating God’s good plan for His creation? Paul writes, in Romans 5:16,
16…The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. (Romans 5:16b NIV)
There is another great contrast in the difference between the gift and the trespass. The consequence of sin is death. Paul put it another way in Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death…” Sin has its consequences. We learned last week that death entered the human experience through sin. Some may say, “Well, death is a natural part of life. We are born, we live, and then we die.” I wouldn’t disagree with that statement, but why is death a natural part of the human experience? God’s Word says that is because of sin.
There are times when sin has a more immediate affect on our lives than death. Let’s say you decide that your marriage isn’t what you want it to be so you begin to look outside of your marriage for fulfillment and happiness. You find someone at work that is fun, attractive, and makes you feel good when you are around them. One thing leads to another and you have an affair. There is a very good possibility that you are going to suffer the consequences of your decision to go against what God has commanded concerning marriage. You may lose your marriage, the opportunity to see your kids every day, a good portion of your income, and your good name.
Let me give you another example. The laws of our land say that you can’t drink alcohol and drive. If you decide that you are going to go ahead and drive even though you’ve been drinking then there is a good possibility that you are going to get caught and suffer the consequences of your decision to break the law, to sin. You may lose some of your money because of your need to find a good lawyer and pay your fine. You may lose your freedom if they choose to put you in jail. You may even lose your job.
In these scenarios that I’ve shared with you it is easy to see that if you or I make these decisions then we are getting what we have earned. You and I know that we are supposed to be faithful to our spouse. We know that we are not to drink and drive. So, if we choose to do these things then we have to know that there will probably be consequences attached to our decisions. This is no different that what Adam was told in Genesis 2:16-17.
16 And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” (Genesis 2:16-17 NIV)
Adam was told that there would be consequences if he made the decision to break God’s command. The consequences of Adam’s choice was not a “gift”—it was what he earned as a result of his decision.
We have said that the sin of Adam has been imputed to us and that is true. Adam’s sin has affected the entire human race as he was the appointed representative of humanity. Yet, we don’t need to spend too much time talking about the fairness of suffering for the sin of someone else because each of us have sinned as well. We get what we deserve; we get what we have earned by breaking God’s commands.
How is the gift different than the trespass? Well, Paul says that those who are in Adam and those who have sinned themselves, who will be “grafted in” to the new humanity in Jesus, don’t get what they deserve, they receive the gift of God. In Romans 6:20-23, Paul wrote,
20 When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. 21 What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:20-23 NIV)
The gift is not earned or it would not be a gift. Gifts are freely given and God’s gift comes to those who do not deserve it, but who freely and willingly accept it. In verses 15-17 we see that death, judgment, and condemnation follow sin, but what many people miss is that the word, “grace” and “gift” appear over and over again in these three verses. As a matter of fact, the word, “grace” and the related word, “gift,” appear seven times in these three verses. In place of condemnation Jesus brings justification to those who will trust in Him.
There is another interesting thing about Romans 5:15-17 that we need to recognize. The word grace and gift are highlighted with a key word used by Paul in these verses. In verse 15, Paul writes,
15 But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! (Romans 5:15 NIV)
The word that I want us to see is the word, “overflow.” It is a beautiful word in the Greek language. It is the word, “eperisseusen.” The word means, “abundance, overflow,” or “to make abound.” The word used in this passage is a verb, it is an action word. God has caused His grace to overflow into the lives of those who do not deserve His grace through His Son Jesus. Let me show you a couple of places where the verb appears in the New Testament. In 2 Corinthians 8:1-2, Paul is talking about the amazing joy of the Macedonian believers when he writes,
1 And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. 2 Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. (2 Corinthians 8:1-2 NIV)
Did you recognize why the Macedonians generosity was so amazing? Their severe trial did not diminish their joy—their joy was overflowing. Their overflowing joy led to their rich generosity even though they were extremely impoverished.
In Ephesians 1:7-8, we see another example of the use of the word as Paul writes,
7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. (Ephesians 1:7-8 NIV)
“Lavish!” Isn’t that a beautiful word? Just say the word and you can feel the abundance of God’s grace spilling over into the laps of those who don’t deserve it! Now I want you to look at Romans 5:17 with me.
17 For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:17 NIV)
Did you recognize the word? It’s not “overflow” in this verse, but it is “abundant.” The word is a noun—it is a “person, place, or thing” right? In this case God’s abundant provision is His grace and the gift of righteousness. God has showered us with His grace and He has placed us in the abundant place of His grace and righteousness. Wow!
Now, before we run out of time I want us to turn our attention to Romans 5:20. Read along with me.
20 The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more… (Romans 5:20 NIV)
The Greek word that is used here translates the phrase, “increased all the more…” The Greek word is, “huperperisseuo.” It is the same word as the verb we looked at earlier, except that it is preceded by the word, “u`per” (huper) or “hyper.” This word takes the abundance of God’s grace and super sizes it. Paul writes to the folks in Corinth and he tells them,
4 I have great confidence in you; I take great pride in you. I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds. (2 Corinthians 7:4 NIV)
In the midst of trouble, the joy that Paul was experiencing had no bounds, it was deeper, wider, and longer than anyone could ever measure!
How is the gift different than the trespass? Paul says that sin increased when the law was added, but where sin increased, grace increased a million fold. I’ve heard many folks talk about how bad our day is compared to times gone by. You know what I’m talking about? You remember the days when Ward and June Cleaver were raising Wally and the Beav? Oh, those were the days! There was no sin in those days right? People were not filled with bitterness, resentment, hatred, and malice. People didn’t abuse drugs and alcohol in those days, right? There were no children who were beaten and abused in those days were there? I was too young to remember what life was like back then, but from what I’ve been able to gather I doubt if there was even a need for Police back then. Yeah right!
According to the folks who think this way our day is worse than any other age in the history of the planet. We’ve got problems galore and the problems are getting worse and worse. Now, let me tell you that I don’t believe that. People have always been people and wherever you have people you have sin of every stripe. But let me tell you this, even if those people are right and sin has never had a hold on folks like it has today, God’s grace is greater still! God’s grace is greater still! Where sin increased, grace increased all the more!
John R.W. Stott has written in his commentary on Paul’s letter to the Romans about the glorious reign of grace that has come about because of what God has done through Jesus. Listen to these words.
Nothing could sum up better the blessings of being in Christ than the expression ‘the reign of grace.’ For grace forgives sins through the cross, and bestows on the sinner both righteousness and eternal life. Grace satisfies the thirsty soul and fills the hungry with good things. Grace sanctifies sinners, shaping them into the image of Christ. Grace perseveres even with the recalcitrant, determining to complete what it has begun. And one day grace will destroy death and consummate the kingdom. So when we are convinced that ‘grace reigns,’ we will remember that God’s throne is a ‘throne of grace,’ and will come to it boldly to receive mercy and to find grace for every need. (John R.W. Stott, The Message of Romans, Downers Grove, Ill: Intervarsity Press. 1994. pp. 157-158)
People do not understand the abundance that awaits those who will receive God’s gift of grace and righteousness. I believe that one of the problems that prevents us from being overwhelmed by the super abundance of the mighty river of grace is that we don’t really understand sin. Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote,
One of the greatest troubles in the church today, as well as in the world, is that men do not have a knowledge of sin as they should have. Sin is regarded very lightly and loosely…Men are prepared to admit that they need a little help, and that they are weak in this or that respect; but the Scripture teaches the dept of the foulness, and the exceeding sinfulness of sin. Our fathers, our grandfathers, and especially those who preceded them, knew all about this, and it was in such times that great spiritual revivals occurred. It is when men and women realize the depths of iniquity and sin that is in them that they begin to cry out to God. But if men have no real knowledge of sin, if they are lacking in the knowledge of sin which is given only by the law, then they will be content with a superficial evangelism. This is surely one of our main troubles today. (D.M. Lloyd-Jones, Romans: An Exposition of Chapter 5, Assurance. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1972. p. 289)
The darker the night, the brighter the light! The more we understand our absolute absence of goodness and godliness the more God’s glorious grace appears in all of its brilliance to us.
Many people today balk at the kind of lesson that Paul has taken us through the past two weeks as we have studied Romans 5. We love the grace part of Paul’s message, but we draw back and turn a deaf ear to the message of the sinfulness of all of humanity. God’s grace was the sweetest phrase in Paul’s vocabulary, but this was so because nobody understood their sinfulness better than Paul. Towards the end of Paul’s life he wrote these words.
15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners– of whom I am the worst. (1 Timothy 1:15 NIV)
Paul never lost sight of the fact that he was utterly dependent upon the grace of God. He never bought into the idea that the longer he walked with the Lord the more capable of being good he would become. We would do ourselves a great service to follow in his steps.
I want to urge you this morning to drink deeply of this powerful message of Paul. Allow the Lord to open your eyes to your sin. Allow the Lord to move you from your sin into His abundant overflow of grace through His Son Jesus.
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
October 15, 2013