“But where sin abounded, Grace did much more abound.”
THERE has been a long battle in this world between man’s sin and God’s Grace. If it had been a fight between man’s sin and God’s Justice, it would soon have come to an end. Picture to yourself the flames of Hell and see there what God’s Justice can do when it comes into conflict with human guilt. When God goes forth to war against the ungodly, His might is indeed terrible. Divine Justice makes short work of sin–it treads it under foot and stamps it out–even as men do with sparks of fire, for God hates sin with a perfect hatred. And when His anger is aroused against it, He tears it in pieces as the lion tears his prey in his fury. But, happily for us, the conflict with which we are just now concerned is not that between Justice and sin but that between Grace and sin! God’s milder attribute of Mercy has entered the field and in our text Paul tells us the result of the battle. It looked for a time as if sin would gain the victory, for it abounded more and more, but at the last the banner of Grace waved triumphantly over the battlefield, for “where sin abounded, Grace did much more abound.”
- Without any further preface I am going to give you several illustrations of the Truth of our text, beginning with those we find in the Chapter itself. Paul has been writing concerning the principle of representation–THE FEDERAL HEADSHIP, FIRST OF ADAM AND THEN OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST. He has been telling us about our fall in the first man and our salvation in the second Man, the Lord from Heaven. He has been describing our ruin under our first federal head and our Redemption by our second Covenant Head, the Lord Jesus Christ–and in both cases, our text is clearly illustrated. It does seem at first sight as if the setting up of Adam as the representative man had been the means of making sin to abound because as soon as sin overcame Adam, it overcame the whole race of mankind! It appears as if it would have been better to have put every man on probation on his own account and to have let him stand or fall according to his own good or ill behavior. It seems as if it must have been a comparatively easy victory for sin to overthrow the whole race by a single blow. Certainly, sin did gain a great victory in the Garden of Eden and therein it abounded. But Paul shows that it was by this very principle of representation that “Grace did much more abound,” for it is through the death of One, even Jesus Christ, our Lord, that all Believers live! It is the righteousness of this One that a multitude whom no man can number shall attain unto everlasting life!
Now it appears to me that if the other system had been adopted, the plan of each one standing or falling by himself, there would have been no hope of salvation for any one of the whole race of mankind! We believe that the angels did so stand or fall, each on his own account. Satan was not the federal head of all the angels and consequently, when he fell, they did not all fall, but a considerable number of them did–and no hope of their restoration to the favor of God is given, but we are told that, “the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the Great Day.” I think it is more than probable that, had you and I been left to stand or fall on our own account, we would all have fallen–and then we would have fallen to rise no more. But now, as we fell in the person of one representative, it has become possible for us to rise through another Representative–and as many of us as have believed in Jesus, have risen from the fall of Adam–and are delivered from the union with our risen Lord! By the federal headship of Adam, sin did indeed abound–the floodgates were pulled up and torrents of iniquity inundated the whole human race! But by the federal headship of Christ, Divine Grace does much more abound, so that all who believe in Him shall be eternally saved! I think this was the meaning of the Apostle when he wrote the words of our text. And this is one illustration of the general Truth of God that “where sin abounded, Grace did much more abound.”
II. A second illustration of this Truth of God can be found in the first part of the verse from which our text is taken. “The Law entered, that the offense might abound.” Through no fault in itself, but through our depravity, THE LAW INCREASES THE GRAVITY OF OUR OFFENSES.
You know that if you give your child no commands, he cannot disobey you. But the moment you give a command, the natural inclination of the child to disobedience turns the command into an occasion for sin. The more commands God gives, the more possible it is for man to sin. When water is cast upon lime there follows great heat and smoke. Yet the water was not hot. Put your lips to it and you will find that it is a sweet and cooling draught, but it produced heat when mixed with the lime because of the inherent heat in the lime. So, when God’s commandment is cast upon a man and he kicks against it, the fault is not in the commandmentwhich rebels against it. Paul says, “Ihad not known sin, but by the Law.” He would have been just as truly a sinner in himself, but the sinfulness would not have come out if it had not been for the Law’s prohibitions and restrictions against which he rebelled. The Law of God is something like the medicine which a doctor gives to a patient who has some internal disease, but the medicine throws it out upon the skin–yet it is far better that it should be thus thrown out than that it should lie hidden in the system and lead to the patient’s death. The Law acts like this, especially upon those who are under conviction–it throws out the sin that is within them and lets them see it in its true character. The Law comes like a policeman with a search warrant, and says, “There is a criminal concealed here, and I have come to discover him.” Perhaps you say, “There is no criminal here, I never harbor thieves or other bad characters.” But the officer produces his warrant and searches you through and through and at last you have to admit that he is right even though you did not suspect the true state of affairs.
It seems a very dreadful thing that the effect of the Law should be to make the sinner worse than he was before–“the Law entered that the offense might abound.” But that is just where our text comes in–“where sin abounded, Grace did much more abound.” The more necessary the Law’s exposure of sin is, the more glorious is the Grace that cleanses from the sin! The Law, like a candle, shows me my blackness, but that same Revelation, of which the Law is only a part, also shows me the precious blood of Jesus which takes all my blackness away and makes me whiter than snow! As I hear the thunders of Sinai and am full of terror as the lightning sets the sky ablaze, I turn to the dear, patient Lamb of God, and as I see Him suffering for me, I say to Him, “Oh, what wondrous Grace it must have been by which You did deliver me from all this terrible wrath! Blessed Lamb of God, how much I owe to You, for You have hushed the Law’s loud thunder and given my soul a quiet and safe hiding place!” The work of the Law upon the enlightened conscience is a very healthy operation–it is like a sharp needle that goes through the soul, but it draws the golden thread of Mercy after it–or like the sharp plow which breaks up the ground and prepares it for the seed which in due time shall bring forth the harvest to God’s praise and Glory! Whenever the entrance of the Law makes the offense to abound, may God grant us Grace to receive the Gospel so that Grace shall much more abound!
III. Now follow me in thought while I conduct you to a spot where we shall find a third illustration of the Truth of our text, that is, THIS PLACE CALLED CALVARY. Surely that is the spot where sin did most abound, yet where Grace abounded even more!
Look in at the council chamber of the Sanhedrim and hear them charge the Son at God with blasphemy, and say if sin did not abound there! See Him hurried away to Pilate’s Hall and to Herod’s judgment seat, “despised and rejected of men.” Behold how they set Him at nothing and mocked Him–how they plucked out His hair, defiled His blessed visage with their accursed spit, crowned Him with thorns and assailed Him with insult upon insult and cruelty upon cruelty–and then say if sin did not, indeed, abound there! See Him toiling painfully through the crowded streets, scoffed at by the ribald multitude, but mourned by the daughters of Jerusalem. Watch Him as at last He ascends the hill of doom. See Him hanging on the Cross in indescribable agony while the heartless spectators jeer and scoff and make a jest even of His dying cries, and then say if sin did not abound there! What foaming billows of iniquity rolled up around that accursed tree, swelling and rising until they completely immersed the Lord of Life and Glory in their horrible depths! Yes, verily sin abounded there–surely it was the darkest day in human history! Wicked men had killed kings before, but that day they killed the King of kings! They had been regicides before, but now they became Deicides! They killed the Son of God and cast Him out of the vineyard, saying, “This is the Heir, and now that we have killed Him, the inheritance shall be ours.” Sin abounded so much that it put out the light of the sun! So heavy was it that it cracked the solid earth and tore the rocks asunder and caused graves to open, while the great veil of the Temple was torn in two from the top to the bottom!
Yet “where sin abounded, Grace did much more abound.” Oh, for an angel’s tongue to tell out the wondrous mystery! My poor lips are quite unequal to this tremendous task–it is vain for me to attempt to describe the Grace that so gloriously abounded in our Lord upon the Cross–the Grace that flashed benignantly from those languid eyes! The Grace that fell in cleansing drops from those opened veins! The Grace that poured in torrents from that pierced side! The Grace that heaved, tossed and struggled convulsively in those tortured limbs! The Grace that fought and wrestled and, at last, conquered in that anguished spirit–the Grace that even then began interceding for the transgressors as Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”–the Grace that cried with a mighty voice, “It is finished,” before the Savior bowed His head and gave up the ghost. The Grace that ascended up on high, leading captivity captive and giving gifts unto men. Of this Grace I will not dare to speak further than to say–may it be your happy lot to sail upon that sea of Grace, for fathom it you never can! May you drink from that fountain of Divine Grace, for you shall never be able to drink it dry! May God give you the bliss of knowing in your own experience how much Grace abounds through the atoning Sacrifice of Christ upon the Cross!
Oh, that I had the tears of Baxter and that my soul were all aglow as the soul of Whitefield used to be, while I plead my Master’s cause! O my Hearers, nothing so clearly shows the terrible depravity of human nature as this–that man has become so utterly wicked and debased as to believe that Christ is not still “mighty to save”! What a vile wretch man must be and what a base thing human nature must be when any can deliberately doubt the power of Christ to save the lost! The Inspired declaration is that “He is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him seeing He ever lives to make intercession for them.” Yet this wicked heart of ours finds it impossible to believe this until the Holy Spirit comes and with supernatural energy enlightens the understanding, sways the will, controls the judgment and brings the soul to rest in Jesus Christ! Oh, how guilty we must be that we will not believe that what God says it true, that we will not believe though millions of witnesses before the Throne of God attest the Truth of God that “where sin abounded, Grace did much more abound.”
IV. Thus we have had three illustrations of the Truth of our text. And we may find a fourth IN MAN’S NATURE, for there, also, “where sin abounded, Grace did much more abound.”
Look at Adam in the Garden of Eden, a noble being, supreme among all the creatures around him. The lion crouches at his feet, the leopard sports about him, the dove nestles in his bosom and all birds and beasts come at his call and yield obedience to his command. But do you see that serpent coiled around a tree? That is the brute embodiment of sin and it has come there to do incalculable mischief! Wait a little while and you may see Adam and Eve driven out of the Garden where they were once so happy–for the sin to which they so readily yielded has brought a heavy curse upon them and upon all their descendants. As you read the stern sentences pronounced upon each of them by the lips of Jehovah, Himself, you realize that in their case sin has indeed abounded! Then remembering what I have already said to you about the principle of representation, you will realize that Adam’s fall involved the fall of everyone of us! What Mark Anthony is supposed to have said concerning the death of Julius Caesar might well be said with regard to the effect of Adam’s fall upon us–
“Oh, what a fall was there, my countrymen
Then I, and you, and all of us fell down.”
If you want to see how sin has abounded, go down the street and look upon some of those who have been drinking what has been truly called “liquid damnation.” I need not describe the sight, for all of us are, alas, more or less familiar with it. Nor need I picture other fallen creatures in whom sin is to be seen in some of its most repulsive aspects. We will not think of them in the self-righteous spirit of the Pharisee who thanked God that he was not as other men, but we will sorrowfully confess that what they now are, any of us might have been had Providence and Grace not prevented it!
If you want to see further what ruin sin has worked, I would take you to the graveyard. We will not ask the sexton to open the graves–the sight and smell would be more than we could endure–but he could tell us some strange tales of the remains of the noble being whom God made to have dominion over all the works of His hands. This is what he has come to now–an empty skull and a few dry bones! This is what sin has brought him down to–to be food for worms!
But I will not linger over that dark part of the subject. Think how Grace has much more abounded even where sin did most abound. Grace comes in and finds man under sentence of death–hopeless and polluted and full of everything that is obnoxious in God’s sight! What does Grace do in such a case at that? I answer by pointing you to that wondrous vision that John had in Patmos when he saw, “One like unto the Son of Man…His head and His hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and His eyes were as a flame of fire; and His feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and His voice as the sound of many waters. And He had in His right hand seven stars: and out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword: and His Countenance was as the sun shines in his strength.” Who is this for whom all Heaven rings with hallelujahs, while Hell trembles at His word, and millions upon earth own allegiance to Him? Who is this? Why, ‘tis the Man, Christ Jesus, who once slept as a helpless Babe in His mother’s arms, who afterwards toiled at the carpenter’s bench at Nazareth and who breathed out His earthly life amid the untold agonies of Calvary–but who is now exalted at His Father’s right hand, “far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come.” “Ah,” you say, “that is all true concerning Him,but we are not up there with Him.” But faith says that we are if we are truly trusting in Jesus, for “God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, has quickened us together with Christ, (by Grace you are saved) and has raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His Grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.” Now you see how gloriously true our text is! Sin did us untold damage, but Grace has given us more than sin ever took away! Sin robbed us of silver, but Grace has given us gold! Sin slew this body of flesh, but Grace has given us a spiritual body which shall live forever! Sin threw us down among the masses of this fallen race, but Grace has lifted us up and set us among the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus! Yes, Beloved, “now are we the sons of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that when He shall appear, we shall be like He, for we shall see Him as He is.” Verily, “where sin abounded, Grace did much more abound.”
- There is a further illustration of the Truth of our text in some WHO ARE NOW PRESENT WITH US.
There are some now in this house in whom sin abounded in certain special ways at which I shall only just hint. They were drunks, swearers, unchaste. They dishonored their father and mother, they sinned against light and knowledge, they disregarded God’s Word, they stifled the rebukes of conscience. In brief, “sin abounded” in them. But now, through Grace, a great change has come over them and they have been made new creatures in Christ Jesus! And among us all there are none who love Christ more than they do–and none who serve Him more zealously than they do! You know that it is very often the case that those who have been the greatest sinners became the greatest saints. Those who were the devil’s corporals and sergeants, no–his captains and generals–when they are truly converted, become the boldest and bravest soldiers of the Cross! It is hardly necessary to remind you of John Bunyan, once a very notable sinner, who became a very prince in our Israel and who felt that, in his case, Grace had indeed abounded to the chief of sinners! Many of us ought, indeed, to love much, as I trust we do, because we have been forgiven much. Divine Mercy has covered and blotted out a vast mass of sin that we had committed and now, remembering with humility and shame all our past offenses, we pray that we may prove in all our future lives what holy and useful men and women God’s Grace can make of us. Surely, dear Friends, you will not serve God worse than you served the devil! When you had a bad master, you were a good servant to him–but now that you have a good Master, the best Master you can ever have–do not be a bad servant to Him! May the Lord grant that great Grace may abound in all who have been great sinners!
But as there are exceptional cases, I will come to something that will include us all. Kindly turn to the little book that records your life history written out upon the pages of memory. As you look over those pages, you who have known the Lord for some years, what do you think of yourselves? The men who think much of themselves must surely be those who do not think at all! But those who really do think must see very much in their past lives which causes them to blush. Looking back upon the years since we first came to Christ, what a multitude of sins we have committed! If our own children had treated us as badly as we have treated our heavenly Father, what would we have done with them? What a marvel of patience our heavenly Father has been in His dealings with us! I look at my pulpit work and I have to confess that sin has abounded there. I look at my private life and I have to acknowledge that sin has abounded there. As you look at your Sunday school class, my Brothers and Sisters, I think that you, too, must admit that sin has abounded there. As a husband, as a wife, as a child, as a master, as a servant, as a tradesman, as a statesman–whatever may be your position in society, do you not have to say with sorrow that sin has abounded there? But, dear Friends, has not Grace also abounded? Yes, that it has, for “where sin abounded, Grace did much more abound.” Do not ever got into such a state of heart as to groan over yourselves so that you cannot praise the Lord for His abounding Grace! Oh, do praise Him, do bless Him, for He well deserves to be praised! Sin abounds, so be humble. But Grace much more abounds, therefore be thankful! Sin abounds, so be watchful. But Grace does much more abound, therefore be confident that God will give you the victory through Him who has loved you!
VI. Now lastly, IN THIS WORLD SIN ABOUNDS ON A VERY LARGE SCALE.
Stand on your watchtower, Christian, and look over the world as far as you can. A great proportion of it is still shrouded in the dense darkness of heathenism and uncounted millions are bowing down before blocks of wood and stone. Think, too, of the vast multitudes who put their trust in the false Prophet, Mohammed, and are quite content with the parody of Christianity that they find in the Koran. Then remember with sorrow how large a proportion of those who are called Christians are simply worshippers of Mary instead of Believers in Jesus, or who bow down before images, icons, relics, crosses, and I know not what! If we turn to Protestant Christianity, what a vast mass of hypocrisy, formality, inconsistency and everything else that is evil is mixed with that which is genuine and true! All over the world sin abounds. See how many lands are still cursed by war. What infamies are perpetuated in all our great cities! Yes, and in many of our little country villages, too! God must have been amazingly patient to have borne so long with our wicked race. As the flood in Noah’s day was universal, so does sin cover the earth today–it prevails over the tops of the mountains, it abounds in all the valleys and plains.
This prospect is very alarming and for missionaries it would be very depressing if they did not believe that where sin abounds, Grace shall much more abound. But the day is coming oh, hasten, you wheels of time, and bring the happy hour!–when suddenly the pedestal upon which any false god is seated shall shake and totter to its fall! When the crescent of Mohammed shall wane forever! When the harlot of the seven hills shall cease to corrupt the earth with her fornication and when the beast, and the false prophet, and the devil and all his hosts shall be cast into the Lake of Fire and Brimstone to be tormented day and night forever and ever. Yes, the day is coming–God speed it!–when the people on every island and of every continent shall hear the joyful sound of the Gospel of God’s Grace! The day is coming when Ethiopia shall stretch out her hands unto God, when India’s many millions and the far-off Chinamen and Japanese and other children of the East shall no longer sound the praises of any false god, but shall delight in confessing that Jesus Christ, the Son of David, is also the Son of God, King of kings, and Lord of lords, and their own and only Savior! The little spring that burst up like a rippling rivulet from the foot of Calvary’s Cross has swollen into a mighty river even now–its tides are increasing, its floods are swelling, its depth is growing and the day is coming when, like a mighty ocean, it shall cover the whole earth as the waters cover the deep! And floating across that Sea of Glory shall be heard the millennial anthem, “The kingdoms of this world have become the Kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever. Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!”
Then, at the last, so many of us as have believed in Jesus shall be gathered with Him in that great city, the New Jerusalem, whose twelve gates are twelve pearls, whose walls are jasper, and whose street is of “pure gold, as it were transparent glass”–that city of which John says, “I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the Glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.” Well may we sing–
“Jerusalem! My happy home!
Name ever dear to me–
When shall my labors have an end,
In joy, and peace, and thee?
Oh when, you city of my God,
Shall I your courts ascend,
Where congregations ne'er break up,
And Sabbaths have no end?‘’
Ah, well, in due time we shall get there and then, when looking down from our serene abode, we shall be able to read the whole drama of human history, from the Creation to the Fall of Adam, from the Fall to the Cross of Christ, and then to the final consummation of all things–this will be the summary of it all, at least as far as we are concerned–“Where sin abounded, Grace did much more abound!” If it should be my happy privilege up there, upon some sunny mount, to descant upon this theme in more flaming words than I can use tonight, and of you who are of a kindred spirit with me will help to tell the story to the principalities and power in heavenly places, and the harpers standing on the sea of glass will strike their harps afresh and sing again the Song of Moses the servant of God, and the Song of the Lamb–their songs will be in harmony with our theme tonight–“Where sin abounded, Grace did much more abound.” So let us go forth to our various occupations on the morrow believing that, though sin abounds, Grace shall yet more abound! Let us live so that all may see how Grace abounds in us and let us help to spread the wondrous story of what this Grace has done for us, that others may seek that Grace for themselves–that Grace which abounds to the chief of sinners, that Grace which is the portion of all who believe in Jesus, that Grace which shall in God’s good time be crowned with Glory, that “Grace wherein He has made us accepted in the Beloved!” Oh, that all here might share in that Grace! God grant it for Jesus' sake! Amen.