_ “But where sin increased, grace increased all the more,”
Romans 5 v 20
Firstly, this is not a divine license to sin, Paul says in the next chapter: “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” (Romans 6v1-2). So if it is not an encouragement to sin what is it and why is it important?
This verse is important because we all sin, we can fight against it all we like and we may even conquer some sins but there will always remain other ones we commit. This verse should not be read: I’ll sin so that grace might increase instead it should be read: I sin, thank God that even in my sin grace increases all the more. But what grace is to be found in the darkness of sin?
The Grace of Humility
Sin is a hard lesson in our own weakness for it shows us for who we truly are: sinners rather than what we like to think we are: good people. We are helpless, broken, wretched, poor and miserable and all too often we forget this. We become puffed up and proud, confident in our own strength, certain of our good works and all too often this leads to the denial of sin as we desperately try and pretend we’re anything other than the sinner we are.
The more we puff ourselves up, the more we deny and excuse our sin the more likely we are to begin to slide down the slippery slope and after a time we will find we’ve done something we never thought we would. Such is the way of sin, it is never satisfied, it always wants more, it drags down and then down again.
God’s grace to us is that he opens our eyes and we see our sin and it humbles us. We look at our life and see naught but our own helplessness, brokenness and sinfulness and we realize again that we can’t do it on our own. Sin reminds us we’re sinners and that in turn reminds us of our Saviour. Jesus came into the world not for the righteous but the unrighteous and precious indeed is the cross of Christ to a Christian who realizes the extent of his sinfulness.
“To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Luke 18 v 9 – 14
God is not the author of sin but such is his grace that he can use even our sin for our good and humbles us by it. And as the above parable tells us humility is a vital component of a Christian’s character.
The Grace of Forgiveness
“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Romans 5 v 6 – 8
The next grace to be found when we sin is the sure and certain fact that Jesus Christ died for all our sins. At our worst we are never beyond the reach of God’s grace, no sin is to sinful, no evil too evil that cannot be forgiven by the sacrifice of God’s son. When we’re lost in sin, when we’ve fallen for the umpteenth time, when our sin seems to reach to the heavens then nothing is dearer to us than the forgiveness won for us by Christ.
In the words of a classic hymn:
“When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin.
Because the sinless Saviour died
My sinful soul is counted free.
For God the just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me.”
The Grace of Abundant Life
“But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Romans 6 v 22 – 23
More than the grace of forgiveness is the grace of a new and abundant life. To put it another way, a grace to be found in sin is not that just that God forgives us but he changes us. God’s plan for our lives is to make us like Christ and he can use even our sin for this purpose. When we sin it can often spur us out of complacency and stir us up to seek God out with more dedication and in response to our sin then by the grace of God we can end up spending more time making use of the means of grace (reading the Bible, prayer, fellowship, reading good Christian books, etc).
In fact, it is often the case that we see Satan shoot himself in the foot. He tempts us to ever increasing sin but rather than this leading to us falling away it can by God’s grace lead to us coming back to God. Feeling the clutches of sin at out heart we don’t turn towards it but turn away from it and cry out to God for help and strength for the Holy Spirit directs us back to God.
The Grace of evil working out for good
“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
Genesis 50 v 20
The final grace I’ll touch on is the grace of the sovereignty of God over our sin and how he can use evil to work good. The above verse is Joseph’s words to his brothers, they sold him as a slave because they were jealous of him, they meant for him to die, God meant for it to lead to Joseph saving Egypt and his family from a famine. Great is our God for by his grace he uses even our mistakes and our sin for our own good.
So abounding is the grace of God that it is to be found even in the darkness of sin. Take comfort from the grace and power of God, take courage from his overflowing mercy and take heart for through Christ we have forgiveness for each and every sin.
A psalm. For giving grateful praise.
Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.
Worship the LORD with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the LORD is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.