But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man's trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one man's sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. If, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.
Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? (ESV)
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Thursday after Ash Wednesday
6 March 2014
When she was sick, my daughter was given a dose of the anti-viral influenza medication called Tamiflu. We were glad that the medication was available. Her busy life made it difficult for her to recover from the flu she had picked up. The doctor thought that Tamiflu would give her a better chance to get over it quickly and get her feet back under her again. The anti-viral medicine went to work against its enemy, influenza, and brought healing into my daughter's life. We were grateful for the availability of this medicine.
The ability of Tamiflu to fight off an influenza virus is not an endorsement of influenza. The virulence of the influenza, even swine flu, is an endorsement of the anti-viral medication. So it is for the grace of God. Paul the Apostle speaks of God's grace against the backdrop of the disease of sin to highlight for his readers the fantastic freedom gained by the grace God so generously and abundantly grants to sinners for Christ's sake. Look at how horrible the disease of sin is! How great the grace of God is in contrast! No one honors or extols the disease for the sake of the cure. The severity of the disease highlights the enormity of the cure.
If we fall back into a life of sin, so as to extol the grace of God, by making it all the more abundant through a life of intentional sin, then we will be honoring the cure by praising the disease. Who, when cured of cancer through chemo-therapy, would conclude that cancer is a wonderful disease and desire its return. Well, you get the picture. The abundance of God's grace makes all the clearer the severity of the problem. We then have no desire to fall back into the cesspool of sin, so as to make grace abound. Instead, grace abounds because the cesspool is so deep.
"Proposing a question for himself to answer, the Apostle Paul asks, 'What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?'(Rm 6:1-2). He saw, indeed, that a perverse use might be made by perverse men of what he had said: 'The law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more' (Rm 5:20), as if he had said that sin had been beneficial because of the abundance of grace. Rejecting this, he answers his question with a 'By no means!' and at once he adds: 'How can we who died to sin still live in it?' (Rm 6:2). This is as much as to say, when grace has brought it to pass that we should die to sin, what else will we be doing, if we continue to live in it, than showing ourselves ungrateful to grace?
"The man who extols the virtue of a medicine does not contend that the diseases and wounds of which the medicine cures him are beneficial to him. On the contrary, in proportion to the praise lavished on the remedy are the blame and horror which are felt because of the diseases and wounds healed by the much-extolled medicine. In like manner, the commendation and praise of grace are denunciation and condemnation of offences. For there was need to prove to man how corruptly weak he was, so that over against his iniquity, the holy law brought him no help towards good, but increased rather than diminished his iniquity. Seeing that the law entered, that the offence might abound; that being thus convicted and confounded, he might see not only that he needed a physician, but also God as his helper so to direct his steps that sin should not rule over him, and he might be healed by betaking himself to the help of the divine mercy-where sin abounded grace might much more abound-not through the merit of the sinner, but by the intervention of his Helper."
Augustine, On the Spirit and the Letter
Lord Christ, save me from falling back into sin. Keep me in Your grace, so that when I sin I know the amazing abundance and perfect profligacy of Your grace. Amen.
For the presidential electors at Concordia University Chicago and Concordia University Texas, that the Lord would grant them wisdom and discernment
For those who deny that God is gracious, that they would be surprised by joy in the divine speech
For all the members of Memorial Lutheran Church, that they would surprise those whom they love with the joy of God's grace
Art: GRÜNEWALD, Matthias Isenheim Altarpiece (1515)
© Scott R. Murray, 2014