There are five words that you never want to hear from your mechanic, your plumber or your doctor: “It’s worse than I thought…”We used to own a GMC Jimmy and it was in pristine condition. It was well-maintained, it was fully loaded, it had low miles and we didn’t drive it very hard. It had a fairly easy life. One day I was driving down the street and the gauges started doing something funny and the engine started making a strange noise. The car was so well maintained that I figured it could be anything too serious. I got the car home and called my dad. He’s a mechanic. I described what the car was doing and he said, “Mark, that’s bad…. That’s really bad.” I remember him calling it something like the “death knock.” Turns out that the engine had spun a bearing. Although the engine was still running, he said that the engine would completely fail at any moment. But then the diagnoses got even worse…The engine could not be repaired without removing it from the car and completely taking the engine apart· AND… even worse… the engine could not be taken out of that car without completely disassembling the hood, the grill and the fenders. The entire front of the car would need to be taken apart. The repair would cost thousands. I hung up the phone and said to Lara, “Well, it’s worse than I thought…” I didn’t think it was very serious at first because it did not sound very serious, but when my car was diagnosed and the truth of my situation was revealed, the problem turned out to be worse than I thought. I didn’t need a minor repair. My engine was ruined. My car was worthless. I needed a whole new car.
Romans 5 ends with a diagnoses of our sin. We may have thought something was a little out of sync with our relationship with God, but verse 20 reveals the actual diagnoses of our sinful condition. God’s law is a diagnostic tool. Paul explains that the law does not make anybody righteous. This teaching was radical in Paul’s time. The typical religious Jew in Paul’s day could not comprehend pleasing God apart from a strict adherence to the law. They thought that obeying the law is what made you righteous.Paul explains that the main purpose of the law was not to create a checklist for righteous living. The main purpose of the law is to diagnose and to reveal the extent of our sinful condition without Jesus. When my righteousness without Christ was diagnosed and the truth of my situation was revealed, the problem of my sin turned out to be worse than I thought. God’s law reveals the depth of our unrighteousness – Romans 5:20a20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, The language in this passage may seem a bit odd. Why would God give us a law to increase the trespass? It would make more sense to me that God would give us the law in order to decrease the amount of sin in the world, (so that if we obeyed the law, global sin would decrease). Paul explains that the purpose of the law is not to decrease sin. Sin exists because we are sinful and the law does not fix that problem. When the law was introduced to mankind, it revealed our sinful condition. The purpose of the law is to reveal the reality of our sin. I like the way this passage is so plainly translated in the New Living Bible. That translation says, “20 God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were.” Romans 3:20b says, “through the law comes knowledge of sin.” · Where there is no law, sin is not clearly diagnosed. (Though it still exists)· Where there is no law, sin might not be taken as seriously as it should be.When the law is introduced, it reveals the extent of our sin and it even makes us want to sin more. Our flesh is so desperately wicked that the very presence of a law stirs up a rebellious streak within our flesh. Some people tend to be rule followers, but for some people, the very presence of a sign gives them ideas to do things they would otherwise never consider doing. For example: down at Jerona’s they just put up a bunch of signs that say, “Please stay off the landscape.” I had never noticed anybody in their landscape before the signs went up, but as soon as those signs went up, I noticed some kids from the neighborhood playing in the rocks in front of the cafe. Sometimes, the presence of a rule (or a law) will cause trespassing to increase. As we increase the number of laws, we also tend to increase the number of violation of those laws. I read a story about a preacher (R C Sproul) who spent an entire sermon presenting nothing but a list of sins to his congregation. In the course of the message, he gave 65 specific things that Christians should avoid doing because the Bible regards them as sinful. Later that week he received a letter that said, “Thank you, pastor, for teaching us about all those sins. There were several I did not know about and have not tried yet.”Not only does the law reveal our sin, but presence of the law even causes sin to increase. Mankind may have thought they were a little out of fellowship with the Lord before the introduction of the Law, but the law revealed the true extent of our sin. · We weren’t just a little off. We didn’t need to simply add a few more good works to our spiritual checklist.· We weren’t good people who just messed up a little bit· Without Jesus, we are utterly sinful and completely unable to correct our situation.Sin was a really big deal. Before I met Jesus, I didn’t need just a minor spiritual repair. Sin had totally ruined my life. It was beyond repair. It was far worse than I thought. I needed a whole new life! When I compared my life to the demands of God’s law, it revealed that I was standing before the Lord in need of an amount of grace that I could in no way earn for myself. If I gave everything that I had and I never sinned again in my life, I still could not have purchased this new life that I needed. It was an utterly desperate situation. God needed us to see the reality of our situation so that the abundance and the extravagance of His grace would be revealed. Our situation is deathly serious, but God’s grace is extravagant.
God’s grace is extravagant – Romans 5:20
The first part of verse 20 is not the whole story. Let’s look at all of Romans 5:2020 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,This isn’t just a simple exchange. Paul is not saying that we committed 5 pounds of sin so God is offering 5 pounds of grace to counteract that sin. Paul is saying that those who are in Christ receive an amount of grace from the Lord that abounds far beyond what is required to cover our sins. There is really no comparison. The amount of grace we receive from God’s hand far exceeds what the law demands to cover our sins. The scales are not equal. Ralf Speth is the CEO of Range Rover. Range Rover currently makes the most expensive production SUV that I’m aware of. To illustrate God’s extravagance: It would be like if Ralf Speth heard that my old GMC was broken and arranged for some new transportation for my family. But he didn’t just provide basic transportation but instead he arranged to have a brand new, fully loaded, top-of-the-line Range Rover delivered to my door to replace my worn out Jimmy. This model in the photo is currently going for just under $200,000· And then (as a bonus) made me the vice president of the company· And gave me a mansion on a hill· And gave me 100 million dollars. I could only see the Jimmy problem, but it would like Ralf not only fixed my Jimmy issue, but every financial issue I’d ever face for the rest of my life. That would be a gift of extravagance far greater than what I needed or deserved. It would be a gift that I could never pay back… I probably won’t ever receive a gift like that from Ralf Speth BUT that is exactly the kind of extravagant gift of grace that Jesus gives to all of His disciples.My eyes may have only seen my sin issue. Jesus fixes our sin issue and then arranges for all of our other spiritual issues to be taken care of as well. What we have in Christ is far greater than any gift we could ever receive here on earth – no matter how extravagant it might be! He give us spiritual blessings that we would have never thought to ask for and the riches we have in Jesus Christ last throughout the rest of eternity! God’s gift of grace is extravagant! It is so extravagant that all comparisons (all illustrations) fall short. Those who are in Christ, have a super-abundance of grace that is far greater than the depth of our sin. He doesn’t just give us a few scraps from his table, but He promises us an eternity, ruling and reigning with him. He doesn’t just let us into heaven, but makes us a coheir of the riches of his kingdom. (Seriously, who in this room could stand up and say they deserve a gift like that?!) 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. While we were still in our sin, Christ took upon Himself the curse of our sin. He paid off the debt of our sin and purchased us with His own life. The term “Christian” is only used a couple of times in God’s Word. Followers of Jesus are more often called disciples or they are referred to those who are “in Christ.” The essence of the gospel is that those who are in Christ are set free from sin. Consider these verses about those who are in Christ: Romans 8:1 – There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus: 1 Corinthians 15:22 – For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive: 2 Corinthians 5:17 – Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come: Ephesians 2:4-7 – God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For those of us who are in Christ, Sin does not reign in us any longer. The consequences of sin no longer applies to us. But Jesus did not set us free from sin so that we could run back to it. He set us free from sin so that we could know Him and so that we could know“the immeasurable riches of his grace.” Right from the beginning, people had some pretty carnal ideas about God’s grace. Some people thought that if God was glorified by the display of His abounding grace for an ordinary sinner that he would be even more glorified by the display of His abounding grace for an extraordinary sinner. Some leaders where even encouraging Christians to sin with a reckless abandon so they could experience even more of God’s grace.What a wicked distortion of truth! The church has always been in danger of contamination by false teachers who would use our freedom in Christ as a justification for sin. Paul confronts this ancient heresy dead-on in the first two verses of Chapter 6, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?
God’s Grace is Liberating – Romans 6:1-2
The gift of God’s grace is not a license to sin. It is liberty from sin. The moment that Jesus comes into a person’s life, changes begins to happen. The Holy Spirit begins to change the character of their soul. The very essence of that change is the beginning of a complete transformation to the likeness of Jesus Christ. When Jesus comes in He reigns. He won’t be the vice president while allowing sin to rule as the president. When Jesus comes in, he takes over and begins to weed out all the areas of resistance in our hearts. It’s like when a new regime takes over a country. When the Coalition Forces took over control of Iraq, there remained a lot of pockets of resistance. Not every person in Iraq recognizes that we are in control of their country. Although the Coalition Forces are in power there and they are in the process of setting up a new government for the Iraqis, a lot of resistance remains. There are still many people who do not recognize the new Iraqi government as the reigning power and it may take decades before the Iraqi people recognize the authority of the new government there. Likewise, Jesus has taken over the hostile territory of my heart. Sin (the old government) is no longer in control. Sin no longer rules, but there are still pockets of resistance. Sin has some strongholds in a few remaining areas of my life. But, Jesus will not be satisfied until those pockets of sin are defeated. He is actively rooting out the resistance in my heart and conforming me to His image.We can’t receive freedom from sin and remain in bondage to it. Jesus will save us from the bondage and death of sin only if we bend our knee to His lordship. This does not mean that we are perfect, but it does mean that we are changed. It means that our lives have turned around and through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, a process of sanctification is beginning to take place.
God’s Grace Leads to a Newness of Life – Romans 6:3-4
Look at Romans 6:3-43 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.This last section in our study of the book of Romans will be focused on the life-transforming power of the gospel and the nature of our new life in Christ.When we came to Christ, the old sin nature was put to death. It has no power over us any more. Satan, sin and our flesh might make a fuss and try to gain control of our lives again, but their reign has ended. They have no jurisdiction over our lives anymore. In Christ, they are a defeated enemy. You and I both know that just because sin is a defeated foe, that does not mean that sin has lost its appeal. Many people over the years have taught that overcoming sin or dying to sin means that sin is no longer tempting to us. That’s not my experience. (Sin is still plenty tempting to me). And that was not Jesus’ experience either. In Matthew 4, we read that Jesus was tempted by Satan in the wilderness for 40 days. The writer of Hebrews says that “…we do not have a high priest (that’s Jesus) who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15)
We might find ourselves face-to-face with temptation. I face temptation every day and you probably do to. I don’t think that in this life I will ever go a day without sin looking very appealing to me. But, because of Jesus, it does not own me anymore. “Christ in me” can overcome sin, if I let Him. Sin is no longer my master. My new Lord and Savior, he won’t tolerate it and he is constantly pulling me away from its influence.The person who has truly died to sin cannot still live in it any longer. It is impossible for a person who is in Christ to continue to live in a constant state of sinfulness. The phrase“died to sin” in verse 2 expresses a critical foundational truth for this entire chapter. It is impossible to be alive to Christ and also to be a slave to sin. Either we are not really alive to Christ or we are no longer a slave to sin. But… either way we have to embrace one of those two realities. (There is no middle ground.) The gospel that saves you also changes you. The gospel is not just a transaction, but it is also a transformation. This side of heaven, you and I might not ever achieve perfection, but the person who is in Christ, is spiritually alive and holiness is at work in him. Christ gave His life and was raised from the grave to glorify the Father and to give us “newness of life.”Yet at the same time, every time I stumble and fall into sin, I have this promise: His grace super-abounds to cover my sin again. God’s grace super-abounds to cover our sin. Lamentations 3:22-23 says, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
God’s law reveals the depth of our unrighteousness – Romans 5:20a, Romans 3:20
God’s Grace is Extravagant – Romans 5:20-21
Romans 8:1 – There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
1 Corinthians 15:22 – For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.
2 Corinthians 5:17 – Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
Ephesians 2:4-7 – God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
God’s grace is liberating – Romans 6:1-2
God’s grace leads to a newness of life – Romans 6:3-4, Hebrews 4:15
It is impossible to be alive to Christ and also to be a slave to sin.
The gospel that saves you also changes you
God’s grace super-abounds to cover our sin.
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23