These two verses show two things: The weakness of the law, and the power of grace. It says in verse 20,
The law was added so that the trespass might increase.
That sounds a little weird. God gave us the law so that people might sin more? But if we look back at verse 13, we see what Paul means.
For before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law.
So even before the law, people were doing sinful acts. But people cannot be held accountable for what they don’t know is wrong. What they were held responsible for was for rejecting God and for breaking their own consciences and laws whenever they matched with God’s standards. (Romans 2:14-15)
But those consciences and standards were imperfect. They were dirty mirrors so to speak. So God gave the law so that people might see the true standard of right and wrong. And as people became aware of it, sin increased because now they were deliberately crossing the lines God had set. That’s the weakness of the law. It can’t make us good. Rather, it simply makes us more responsible for the sin we commit. More, our sinful nature sees those laws and because it’s in rebellion against God, it leads us to cross those lines even more.
The result? Death.
The good news?
But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (20b-21)
One might think God was cruel in giving us the law. That he purposely did so in order to pour out his wrath upon us even more. But Paul shows us that this isn’t the case at all. Because no matter how much sin might increase, grace increases all the more to those who will receive it. No one can ever sin so much that God’s grace cannot cover it.
More, no one can be so bad, that his grace cannot change them. Paul tells us here that his grace will reign through righteousness. This doesn’t merely mean that we are made righteous in legal terms before God, that is, we are declared “not guilty” before him. But as we mentioned last time, through God’s grace we receive a new nature, and through that new nature, we start to do the things that are right. We actually become righteous in the things that we think, say, and do. And the end result of the work that God does in us through his grace is eternal life.
That’s what’s so amazing about grace. No matter how bad you are or have been, his grace has the power to change you. All you have to do is receive it.
How about you? Do you know the grace of God in your life?