December 13, 2008, Ratingen, Germany
The law was added so that the trespass might increase. 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.
“Life without rules is impossible,” we may think, but originally life began with the emphases on relationships, beauty, and duty – the relationship with God and others, living in the beauty of creation, and humanity’s duty to take care of creation.
Humanity’s moral failure was based on the disobedience of only one rule, but even then millennia passed before God gave the moral code of the Mosaic Law. Conscience guided humanity those days and today conscience still fills in the gaps of what may be missing in the written code. The beauty of the Mosaic Law is seen in the picture it provides of the righteous character of God and his desire that justice be established on earth. But the reality was that the number of trespasses increased, not decreased, revealing the deeper problem of the human race.
Grace was not bestowed so that we might find a way back into living by the Law, rather the law was given that we might see our need of grace, and through grace return to the priorities of relationship, beauty, and duty.
Here is a common error in our thinking, that salvation means we are forgiven but still returned to the treadmill of the moral law. Salvation received through grace means that grace reigns to bring us eternal life. The words in the original Greek are strong and emphatic: he xaris basileusei, “that grace might rule through righteousness unto eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
The moral laws of the Old Testament reveal the character of God, help us to avoid moral pitfalls and hurting others, and they are precious to us, but we live by the principle of life received through the grace of God, which includes: being reconciled with God, renewing relationship with others, life lifted to the realm of beauty and truth, and now given a role to play in God’s plan of redemption. The character of grace permeates the Christian reality and mission from the moment of salvation on through eternity. We repentants can rest in the super-abundant grace of God in Christ Jesus.
Lord, we praise you for your grace and mercy. Let us rejoice and be glad that though we have been under the reign of sin, your grace is greater still and more than covers our guilt. And through your grace we are returned to you in intimacy and truth. Amen.