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Bible and crossThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Romans 5:20-21

20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

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Last week’s post discussed circumcision in Romans 4; Paul points out that it was not salvific in and of itself, although it served as a seal of the covenant that God made with the Jews.

In Romans 5, Paul tells us that faith through divine grace brings us peace with God, made possible by Christ’s one sufficient sacrifice for our sins.

He then goes on to say that, although through Adam’s Original Sin, we lived in perpetual darkness, but, that, with Christ, eternal life is open to us. Taking the chapter up at verse 15, we read (emphases mine):

15 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. 16 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. 17 For 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.

18 Therefore, as one trespass[f] led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness[g] leads to justification and life for all men. 19 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.

Why the Lectionary editors left today’s verses — the conclusion of Romans 5 — out of their readings for public worship mystifies me. They are beautiful.

In verse 20, Paul asks what the purpose of God’s law is. He answers by saying that it is to make us more aware of how disgusting and displeasing to God our sins are. That is what ‘the law came in to increase the trespass’ means. It does not mean that the law causes us to sin more but, thanks to God’s law, we recognise that we have done wrong in His eyes. Believers want to please God, even though we know we need His grace to do that. God provides us with infinite grace to enable us to do the right thing.

This means that, as powerful as sin is in leading us down the path of spiritual death, God’s grace is infinitely stronger, leading to the promise of eternal life thanks to our Lord Jesus Christ (verse 21).

Matthew Henry explains:

The greater the strength of the enemy, the greater the honour of the conqueror. This abounding of grace he illustrates, Romans 5:21. As the reign of a tyrant and oppressor is a foil to set off the succeeding reign of a just and gentle prince and to make it the more illustrious, so doth the reign of sin set off the reign of grace. Sin reigned unto death; it was a cruel bloody reign. But grace reigns to life, eternal life, and this through righteousness, righteousness imputed to us for justification, implanted in us for sanctification; and both by Jesus Christ our Lord, through the power and efficacy of Christ, the great prophet, priest, and king, of his church.

John MacArthur says:

And would you notice how the chapter ends? “By Jesus Christ our Lord.” Beloved, it’s all there, isn’t it, in Him. Would you note that that’s really the theme that’s woven through this whole chapter. Look at verse 1, and let me give you a quick 15-second tour. Verse 1, “Through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Verse 9, “Saved from wrath through Him.” Verse 10, “Reconciled to God by the death of His Son. Being reconciled be saved by His life.” Verse 11, “We have joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Verse 15, “By one man Jesus Christ.” Verse 17, “Shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.” Verse 21, “By Jesus Christ our Lord.” Now do you understand why the apostle said, “Neither is there salvation in any other name, for there’s none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.”

What’s the practical use of this? I’ll tell you what it is. I’m going to close with this. Listen, don’t turn off your mind now. Listen to this. Every one of us should bow before God in humiliating consciousness that we are vile sinners worthy of death. Every one of us should realize that apart from the work of Jesus Christ we would be doomed to eternity forever without God because God hates sin. But O my, where there was the reign of death, God came with His grace and overpowered that and death is overruled by life for all who believe in Jesus Christ.

May God continue to bless us with His grace.

May we never diminish what Christ did for us on the Cross.

May we always wish to live with Him forever.

Next time — Romans 7:1-3

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