It’s astounding how much enlightenment can be packed into a single sentence:
“Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” (Romans 5:20, KJV).
Paul wants us to understand that sin is a serious force to be reckoned with, but that it is no match for God’s grace. The idea here is of two opposing powers measuring strength against one another and the one surpassing the other.
The word “abound” means to proliferate, to increase, to become more. In each of our lives, as well as in the world as a whole, there is a lot of sin, doing its dirty business in countless ways, and it tends to reproduce in its own ugly image. If you commit one sin, it’s slightly easier to commit another, and yet another, easier and easier each time. We are sinners inclined to sin. One old hymn says, “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it” (Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing). If left to ourselves, we’re doomed to sin our way to eternal destruction. But we aren’t left to ourselves. God has intervened on our behalf. How? With grace.
Grace saves us by continuing to love us no matter what we do.
Allow the concept to expand in your mind as you read the following translations:
“Though sin is shown to be wide and deep, thank God His grace is wider and deeper still!” (Phillips).
“But where sin was thus multiplied, grace immeasurably exceeded it” (NEB).
“Where sin increased, grace increased all the more” (NIV).
“Sin increased, but grace surpassed it by far” (Moffatt).
“Where sins were multiplied, the loving-kindness of God was lavished all the more” (The Twentieth Century Version).
Grace saves us by continuing to love us no matter what we do. Grace always supersedes guilt. As the law of speed transcends the law of gravity, so the principle of grace transcends the principle of sin. Guilt says, “You are a worthless, rebellious, degraded wretch, undeserving of even one more breath of life.” Grace says, “True, so very true, but God loves you still and sees so much value in you that He literally laid down His own life so you may live.”
Grace never excuses sin. Rather, it exerts a deep power over the sinner to cleanse the conscience from the burden of shame and thereby strengthens the will of the sinner to run from sin to the One who loves so much as to give His life for us.