“But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” (Rom. 5:20).
It is amazing that God should still send forth a message of grace in a world where His Word and will are increasingly despised. The increasing sinfulness of this age, of course, only emphasizes the true character of grace, for grace is “the kindness and love of God our Savior toward man,” wholly regardless of either “good” or evil works.
It is interesting to note that while the Gospels and the Acts take up twice as much space in our Bible as the epistles of St. Paul, yet the word “grace” in the original appears only 27 times in the Gospels and the Acts while it is used 107 times in the Pauline epistles. Furthermore, only a few times in the Gospels and the Acts is the doctrine of grace referred to, while in the epistles of Paul almost every reference to grace has to do with the doctrine of God’s favor to undeserving sinners.
“Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ,” but it was not fully manifested until God cast aside all distinctions between Jew and Gentile and sent the Apostle Paul with the glorious message of the unsearchable riches of Christ.
“Salvation is of the Jews,” said our Lord to the woman at the well (John 4:22). At Pentecost Peter reaffirmed this when he said to “the house of Israel,” “For the promise is unto you and to your children, and to all [“of your children” according to Dan. 9:7] that are afar off.”
But Ephesians 2:14-16 tells us that God has now “broken down the middle wall of partition between us…that He might reconcile BOTH unto God in one Body by the Cross.” During this age of grace there is no distinction between Jew and Gentile. “God hath concluded them all in unbelief that He might have mercy upon all” (Rom. 11:32). At one time the worship and Word of God were committed to Israel, but today Israel is as far from God as the Gentiles. BOTH need to be reconciled. “There is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon Him” (Rom. 10:12). “God hath concluded them all in unbelief that He might have mercy upon all.” This is boundless, impartial grace! When God set aside Israel as a nation He ushered in the dispensation of Grace. We must always be careful to distinguish between grace in a dispensation, and the dispensation of Grace.
“The dispensation of the grace of God,” did not begin when Christ was on earth, nor yet at Pentecost. The first chapters of Acts will be searched in vain for a reference to it. It was to Paul that this glorious message was committed (Eph. 3:2).
The careful student of the Word will be thrilled to note how often the references to “grace” in the Pauline epistles are coupled with words such as “free,” “abundant,” “exceeding,” “rich,” “sufficient.” It is thus that God would emphasize the fulness of His loving provision for sinner and saint. Let us examine some of these Scriptures.
GRACE ABOUNDING TO THE LOST
See Romans 5:15, “Not as the offence, so also is the free gift. 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.” “Not as…so.” Sin spread like a germ from one to all, but not so grace. Here we find the abundance at the beginning. He is “full of grace,” and at the Cross He made “all grace” available to “all men.”
“But,” says some conscience-stricken sinner, “You do not know how far I have lived from God.” Very well, God knows. In fact He gave the Law to show you “the exceeding sinfulness of sin.” “Moreover the law entered that the offence might abound.” But don’t stop reading there, for the verse goes on to say, “But where sin abounded grace did much more abound” (Rom. 5:20). Listen to Paul’s own testimony here:
“According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust….Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.”
“This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on Him to life everlasting” (I Tim. 1:11,13-16).
You may feel that you are the chief of sinners, but this is not so. Not only did Paul say that he was the chief of sinners, but the Holy Spirit says so. And the Holy Spirit tells just why He saved Saul of Tarsus. Read Verse 16 over again thoughtfully and prayerfully. Any sinner who wonders whether God is either able or willing to save him should read Ephesians 1:7,8: “In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace; wherein He hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence.”
GRACE ABOUNDING TO THE SAVED
The boundless grace which can save the vilest sinner is also extended to us who are saved for our blessing and encouragement.
Do we need power to overcome sin? Grace, and grace alone can help us. “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for ye are not under law but under grace” (Rom. 6:14).
Do we want to be used of God? “God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work” (II Cor. 9:8).
Are we weak in body? Paul had a “thorn in the flesh” which he thrice besought the Lord to remove, but the answer came back, “My grace is sufficient for thee;” and Paul learned what thousands upon thousands of believers have learned from that day to this: that it is often more blessed to experience God’s grace in suffering than to be delivered by the Lord from suffering.
GRACE IN THE AGES TO COME
Some day, “in the ages to come,” God is going to display “the exceeding riches of His grace.” How? “In His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:7).
Friend, have you accepted the grace of God in Christ Jesus? Do you believe that He loves you and gave His beloved Son to bear all the blame and shame and punishment that was your due, so that He might justify you “freely by His grace” (Rom. 3:24). If you will take Him at His word He will use you, “in the ages to come,” to display to the universe “the exceeding riches of His grace.” We close with one of the most wonderful messages of grace to be found in all the Word of God:
“For all things are for your sakes. That the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God” (II Cor. 4:15).