Does grace overlook it when we sin? No, it doesn’t. The Scripture says;
“…Whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.” Matthew 5:22 NKJV
And again, in James it says;
“Whoever keeps the whole Law but stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it”. James 2:10 Berean Study Bible (More on these verses in my next post, because I know how these verses are easily labeled ‘Old Testament in nature’).
With that said, we need to understand the position of grace in relation to sin, so, let’s look at a profound verse in Romans:
“And the gift [i.e., grace] is not like that which came through the one who sinned [i.e., Adam]. For the judgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation, but the free gift which came from many offenses resulted in justification.” Romans 5:16 NKJV
What does this verse really mean by “Grace is not like that which came through Adam”? We need to know what came through Adam if we are going to understand the distinction Paul is trying to make between grace and sin. If we rely on verse 16 alone, it would seem like judgment/condemnation is what came through Adam, but that would be taking that verse out of its context. To read this verse within its context we need to go back at least four verses earlier to see what it says. It says;
“… just as THROUGH ONE MAN SIN ENTERED THE WORLD, and death through sin…” Romans 5:12
You see, when read within context we realize that it was sin that came through Adam not judgement. Judgement came through sin not through Adam. So, the subject of Paul’s contrast is grace and sin. But how? If Paul is saying that grace is not like sin, then it means that there is something about grace that distinguishes it from sin. The question here is, what is that thing that distinguishes grace from sin? Paul answers this by saying,
In other words, all it takes to plunge you into hell is one single sin, but Grace on the other hand doesn’t have a PRICE tag attached to its ability to redeem and justify. It doesn’t matter whether you are sin-less or sin-full, grace will come through for you, unlike SIN that requires you to stumble at least once before it can bring judgement.
“For the judgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation,
but the free gift which came from many offenses resulted in justification.”
That is the difference between SIN and GRACE. Sin takes advantage of a single sin and brings judgement, but grace doesn’t wait for you to be able to achieve one single act of righteousness before it saves and justifies man.
That means, sin is an opportunist and an exploiter, it takes advantage of your shortcomings to bring condemnation. Grace, on the other hand, is extravagant, it doesn’t capitalize on our good works to save or justify. If grace needed or waited for our human efforts to produce a single act of righteousness before it can save us, we would all be doomed, and that would make grace an opportunist instead of an extravagant benevolence. But because grace is extravagant, it reaches out even when we are at our lowest, darkest and vilest point. This is the distinction Paul wanted us to see between Sin and Grace. (IMPORTANT NOTE: While grace reaches DOWN to us by the gospel, we reach UP to it by faith accompanied with works of faith not works of the law).
To better appreciate what Paul is saying here, consider the white shirt analogy.
THE WHITE SHIRT ANALOGY.
A white shirt can be ruined by simply having a single drop of red oil on it. But if that same white shirt was dipped in a cauldron of crude oil, it cannot be considered fit for use simply because one inch of the shirt remained spotless white. No one will rationalize that since just a drop of oil ruined a white shirt, then a spot of whiteness on a shirt dipped in crude oil should be enough to make it fit for use again. Nothing less than a sparkling white shirt will be sufficient.
Grace doesn’t just give you a foothold of purity on your ruined white shirt and declare you clean and fit for the master’s use, far from it! What grace does is to take the entire shebang and wipe it clean as white as snow, then, and only then, will it declare you clean and fit for the master’s use.
So, what was Paul’s point all along? He wanted us to see two things; the extravagance of God’s grace and secondly, how destructive sin is. He wanted us to see that sin is a cheap opportunist that will exploit every foothold of sin in our lives and render us useless… But for the grace of God.
Very often people hear this message and say it magnifies sin above grace but nothing could be further from the truth. This message doesn’t present sin as powerful but as destructive. There is a huge difference. Allow me to explain.
Have you ever heard of the scripture that says, “the little foxes spoil the vine”? Most likely you have, but do you know why it says it’s the little foxes spoil that spoil the vine and not the big foxes? Or do you suppose that the little foxes are more powerful than the big foxes? I doubt that, and I’m sure you doubt that too.
So why the little foxes?
Here’s why! When the big foxes want to eat from the vine, they can easily reach for the fruits and eat whatever they want and move on, leaving the rest of the vine for its owner. The little foxes on the other hand are too short to reach for the fruits so they simply start chopping away at the base of the vine to pull it down so that they can access the fruits to eat. You see, the little foxes were not more POWERFUL than the big foxes, neither did they have larger eating capacities than the big ones, and yet they often left nothing for the farmer/vine dresser when they were through eating. They weren’t more powerful, they were simply more DESTRUCTIVE. That’s what sin is. And that’s what Paul was warning us about in Romans 5:16. That sin is so destructive that the minutest sin can cost us everything, and with that warning he was pointing us to our dire need for the extravagant benevolence of grace.
And that my friend is the authentic message of grace. That there is no sin so grievous that it cannot be forgiven, that there are no sins so numerous that they cannot be carried away, and that there is no sin so addictive and strong that it cannot be broken and overcome by grace. All it took God to create the universe was one act of grace, imagine what we can accomplish with the abundance of grace we have been given in Christ Jesus.
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches…