What does Romans 5:20 mean?
ESV: Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,
NIV: The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more,
NASB: The Law came in so that the offense would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,
CSB: The law came along to multiply the trespass. But where sin multiplied, grace multiplied even more
NLT: God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant.
KJV: Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound:
In describing the impact of Adam's disobedience in the previous verse, Paul wrote that "many were made sinners." By that, he means that all who were born after Adam were born into sin. By nature, they sinned. However, Paul has also revealed that those living between Adam and Moses were not under the law. In that way, their sin was not counted against them. They still sinned, and they still died as a result of sin, but their sin was, in a sense, not measured (Romans 5:13–14).
So what happened when God gave the law to Moses? How did that change this relationship between human sin and God? It made everything much, much worse, exactly as God intended. Once God gave actual commands about what to do and what not to do in this life, human beings moved from simply being sinners by nature to becoming actual lawbreakers. The existence of God's commands criminalized their sin—our sin—at a new level. Now we were all living in blatant, open rebellion.
In that sense, sin increased. It's not necessarily that people started sinning in greater volume, it's that our sin began to be counted against us as individual acts of rebellion against the will of God. It became an even more overt disobedience to Him. In fact, as Paul reveals in a startling statement, that's one reason God gave the law to the Israelites. He wanted to increase the trespass, the lawbreaking! He wanted it to be deadly clear just how sinful human beings were.
Paul follows that with another extraordinary statement, however. As human sin increased, grace "super-increased." God's grace abounded even more. This makes logical sense and yet it is still astounding to us. God's grace—giving good to us when we have earned bad—cannot be overwhelmed by our own sinfulness. The more we sin, the more grace God gives. In the following chapter, Paul will deal with a common abuse of that idea: the claim that sin is actually good, since it provides God more opportunity to show grace.
Romans 5:12–21 compares the work of Adam with the work of Christ to show how sin and death came into the world, and how God made a way to escape them. Adam, specially created by God, became the first lawbreaker when he ate from the restricted tree. He brought sin and death to all who came after him. Jesus, hung on a tree—a phrase implying crucifixion—paid for our sin, making it possible for all who believe to reign with Him in eternal life.
Romans 5 begins by describing some of the benefits that come with being declared righteous by God because of our faith in Christ. We have peace with God, and we stand in His grace. We rejoice both in the hope of God's glory and in our temporary suffering. We have hope that will not disappoint, because God has already proved His love for us. Paul then compares the work of Adam in bringing sin and death into the world with the work of Christ in dying for sin in order to offer God's free gift of grace to all who believe.
After proving that all men are guilty of sin and incapable of earning salvation, Paul explained how faith—not works—is the means by which God declares us righteous. Romans 5 begins with a powerful, joyful revelation of all that comes with being justified in God's eyes by our faith in Christ. We have peace with God. We stand in God's grace. We have hope for eternal glory and meaning in our current suffering. God has proven His love for us in the death of Christ for our sin while we were still sinners. Adam introduced sin and death to the world, and they continue. Christ, though, by dying for our sin brought God's grace to all who believe. The next chapter begins by refuting a common misconception about salvation by grace through faith.
The book of Romans is the New Testament's longest, most structured, and most detailed description of Christian theology. Paul lays out the core of the gospel message: salvation by grace alone through faith alone. His intent is to explain the good news of Jesus Christ in accurate and clear terms. As part of this effort, Paul addresses the conflicts between law and grace, between Jews and Gentiles, and between sin and righteousness. As is common in his writing, Paul closes out his letter with a series of practical applications.
Accessed 11/30/2023 6:20:22 AM
© Copyright 2002-2023 Got Questions Ministries. All rights reserved.
Text from ESV, NIV, NASB, CSB, NLT, KJV © Copyright respective owners, used by permission.