WHERE ARE YOU STANDING? (2)

In the previous meditation on Romans 5:12-21 we began to look at Paul’s teaching about what it means to be ‘in Adam’ and what it means to be ‘in Christ’. Our focus was on what Paul says is true of those who stand in the presence of God ‘in Adam’. Now we begin to look at what he says is true of those who stand before God ‘in Christ’.

Paul teaches that through the one man, Jesus Christ, everything that is true about standing in God’s presence ‘in Adam’ is reversed for those united to him by faith. Paul says that for those who are ‘in Christ’:

God's grace, and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflows - 5:15.
There is justification, instead of condemnation - 5:16.
God's provision of grace is abundant - 5:17.
Righteousness is a gift - 5:15, 17.
Instead of death reigning over us, we reign in life - 5:17.
Justification brings life - 5:18.
Many are made righteous - 5:19.
Instead of sin reigning over us, grace reigns through righteousness - 5:21.
Instead of death, there is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord - 5:21.

A recurring concept in Paul's description of what happens as a result of Christ's action is the 'gift' and 'grace' nature of it. Paul mentions this gift/grace seven times in these verses.

What happened to Adam, and to us in Adam, was the direct and unavoidable consequence of his action. At the same time it was the just penalty for that action.

Conversely, what happens to us because of Christ's action, is sheer, unearned, undeserved, unmerited gift. Its origin is not something good or meritorious in us. No act of ours caused God to do what he did through Jesus Christ; there is no meriting or deserving on our part here. It is absolute gift. Absolute grace. And because it has no dependency or contingency or conditionality, because we and our efforts do not enter the picture, it is sure and certain.

Not only is this so, but, Paul teaches, grace 'overflows' (5:15) and it is an 'abundant provision' (5:17). There is no shortfall. There is no lack that we have to make up to pay for some of our sins, to merit some aspect of life with God: what God accomplished in and through his Son covers everything from the most horrendous sin we have committed to the least significant omission, including those sins which we commit without even realizing they are sins. In Christ God has 'lavished' his grace and his love on us. He is a God of strict justice, as we saw in earlier meditations, but when he forgives, when he acts in grace and mercy, he does so with limitless generosity.

Consider these verses that describe this grace of God:

‘The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love’ (Exodus 34:6).

‘As high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him’ (Psalm 103:11).

‘The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love’ (Psalm 145:8).

‘... the Father of compassion ...’ (2Corinthians 1:3).

‘... the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us ...’ (Ephesians 1:7,8).

‘... because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive in Christ’ (Ephesians 2:4,5).

‘... the incomparable riches of his grace ...’ (Ephesians 2:7).

‘The Lord is full of compassion and mercy’ (James 5:11).

‘In his great mercy he has given us new birth ...’ (1Peter 1:3).

‘How great is the love the Father has lavished on us ... (1John 3:1).

When God gives he gives abundantly, lavishly, far more than we could ask or think, so freely that we find it almost impossible to believe.

As Paul states in Romans 5:21, grace reigns. For those who are ‘in Christ’:

Our relationship with God is not determined by our sin.
Our relationship with God is not determined by our merit.
Our relationship with God is not determined by the judgement we deserve.

Rather, grace, God’s amazing grace, is the operating principle that forever determines our relationship with God.

In Christ, grace reigns.

© Rosemary Bardsley 2020