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Much More than Much More

29 July 2011 by David

Q. 30. Does God leave all mankind to perish in the estate of sin and misery?

A. God does not leave all men to perish in the estate of sin and misery, into which they fell by the breach of the first covenant, commonly called the covenant of works; but of his mere love and mercy delivers his elect out of it, and brings them into an estate of salvation by the second covenant, commonly called the covenant of grace.

But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many. The gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification. For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.


So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous. The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
—Romans 5:15–21

In the previous verses (Romans 5:12–14), Question 22 was answered in the affirmative: all mankind fell with Adam in the first transgression. We were left hopelessly fallen, waiting for Question 30 to pick us up out of our “estate of sin and misery.” Verses 12–14 connected us to Adam. Verses 15–21 connect us to Christ, exploring the one man/one act analogy of Adam and Christ.

But the free gift is not like the transgression. … The free gift — “having now been justified by His blood” — is like the transgression — through which “death spread to all men” — in only one way: it came through one man. In effect, it is the polar opposite. Through Adam’s sin, “the many died”; through the free gift, grace was poured out to many, and not in equal proportions to the transgression, but abounding “much more.” Calvin wrote,
It may indeed be justly inferred, that since the fall of Adam had such an effect as to produce the ruin of many, much more efficacious is the grace of God to the benefit of many; inasmuch as it is admitted, that Christ is much more powerful to save, than Adam was to destroy. —John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries Volume XIX, Commentaries on the Epistle of Paul to the Romans (Baker Books, 2009), 206.
The gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned … The condemnation of Adam's sin is unlike grace in that it rose from one transgression, whereas, for those who believe, grace rises from every transgression, resulting in justification. We see two great truths in these verses: first, that God hates sin so much that one was enough to damn all of humanity; second, God loves mankind so much that he offers forgiveness to all men for all sins.

For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one … Now we have another of these “as that, so this, only moreso” statements. As the one sin of one man brought the reign of death over all men, “much more” will the elect (“those who receive the abundance of grace”) reign in life through Christ. Why “much more”? I believe Calvin’s comments (above) apply, but I also tend to think in terms of intent and efficacy. If the unthinking act of a finite man produced these unintended consequences, how much more efficacious is the intentional corrective act of an infinite God? If Adam stumbled into disaster, God’s calculated response — planned well in advance — is much more certain. In fact, “much more” is an understatement.

So then as through one transgression … through one act of righteousness … through the one man’s disobedience … through the obedience of the One … Verses 18–19 set Adam and Christ in opposite categories: obedient, and disobedient. The essence of Adam’s sin is that he was disobedient. The necessary antidote was an act of supreme obedience. We, as Adam’s heirs, are unrighteous, disobedient. Those who are in Christ are, by virtue of his obedience, declared righteous and justified before God. His obedience is our obedience.

… where sin increased, grace abounded all the more … Those whom God has delivered out of their “estate of sin and misery … into an estate of salvation” are not merely sinners, but great sinners. We have known the Law, and through it have known God, and have yet fallen short of his holiness. Our sin, in the light of the Law, has increased. But, praise God, as sin increased, grace abounded. Just as sin reigns in death — those who are spiritually dead are slaves to sin — grace reigns “through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” And we cannot overemphasize the point that the righteousness through which grace reigns is not our own, but Christ’s.

If you are in Christ, you are no longer in “an estate of sin and misery.” Sin does not reign in you. Therefore, you can take your rest in Christ, through whose righteousness you have received abundant grace. Grace rules.