Abounding Grace - Part 4
Theme: Grace Triumphant
This week’s lessons show how the abounding grace of God triumphs over the sin of anyone who comes to Jesus Christ for salvation.
Scripture: Romans 5:20, 21
The third point Romans 5:20, 21 makes about grace is that grace is powerful and triumphant. Sin triumphed for a time, but although “sin reigned in death,” grace is destined to “reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
The illustration Paul uses is of two rival kingdoms, and the way he gets into his illustration is by personifying the power of sin, on the one hand, and the power of grace, on the other. He compares them to two kings. One king is a tyrant. He has invaded our world and has enforced a ruthless control over men and women. The end of this king's rule is death, for us and for all persons. This king's name is Sin. The other king is a gracious ruler. He has come to save us from sin and bring us into a realm of eternal happiness. The end of this king's rule is eternal life, and his name is Grace.
The illustration tells us that grace is a power. We tend to think of grace as an attitude; and, of course, it is that. I have even defined it that way. I have called it “God’s favor toward the undeserving,” in fact, toward those who deserve the precise opposite. But grace is more than an attitude. It is also a power that reaches out to save those who, apart from the power of grace, would perish.
This means that grace is more than an offer of help. It is even more than help itself. To use the illustration of the two rival kingdoms, it would be possible to say that grace is an invasion by a good and legitimate king of territory that has been usurped by another. The battle is not always visible, because this is a matter of spiritual and not physical warfare. But the attack is every bit as massive and decisive as the invasion of the beaches of Normandy by the Allied forces at the turning point of the Second World War. The Allies threw their maximum combined weight into that great military encounter and won the day. Similarly, God has thrown his weight into grace, and grace will triumph.
All earthly kingdoms have a beginning; a military victory that brings a new monarch to the throne; a peaceful succession in which a new and able ruler takes over the helm of government and begins a new era of influence and prosperity; or an election of an outstanding ruler in a democratic land. So also with the kingdom of grace.
When was the kingdom of grace inaugurated? The answer is “before the creation of the world” (1 Pet. 1:20). In that verse Peter is referring to the decision made in the eternal counsels of the Godhead in eternity past to send God's Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to be our Redeemer. Theologians call this the Covenant of Redemption. It took place before the world was created.
In that eternal covenant between the persons of the Godhead, God the Father said, “I want to demonstrate the nature and power of my grace before the hosts of heaven. To do that I am going to create a world of creatures to be known as men and women. I am going to allow them to fall into sin. I am going to allow sin to reign over them, enslaving them by its power and leading them at last to physical and spiritual death. But when sin has done its worst and the condition of the race seems most hopeless, I will send a heavenly being of infinite grace and power to rescue them and effect a new kingdom of love. Who will go for us? Who will accomplish the salvation of this race that is yet to be created?”
The Lord Jesus Christ responded, “Here am I; send me. I will do what needs to be done. I will take the form of one of these creatures, thereby becoming man as well as God. I will die for them. I will bear the punishment of their transgressions. Then, when I have paid the penalty for their sin so that they will never have to suffer for it, I will rise from the dead and be for them an ever-reigning and ever-gracious Lord.”
Earthly kingdoms have a period of growth in which territory is conquered and those who are to be part of the new kingdom are drawn into it. The kingdom of grace is the same. It also has grown and is growing. The stages have been something like this.
The announcement of the kingdom. On the same day that Adam and Eve sinned, thus welcoming the contrary reign of sin and death into the world, God appeared in the Garden of Eden to foretell the coming of his Son. The words were spoken to Satan, who had caused Adam and Eve's fall: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” (Gen. 3:15). This was a prophecy of the incarnation of Jesus Christ and the atonement, and although Adam and Eve did not understand it fully, they understood enough of it to believe God and to look for the coming of the Redeemer. As a result, they became the first citizens of the kingdom.
Preparation for the kingdom. The Old Testament records a period of preparation for the new king's coming. God established a godly line in the midst of the world's ungodliness, a line in which his name was remembered and faith in the coming Redeemer was kept alive. Seth, the third son of Adam and Eve who replaced godly Abel after Cain had killed him, was the first of this new line. From Seth came the line of the godly antediluvians, including such persons as Enoch, who “walked with God,” and Noah, who received grace at the time of the great Flood. Later Abraham was chosen, and from Abraham came Isaac, Jacob, and Jacob's sons, the twelve patriarchs of Israel. There were priests like Aaron, prophets like Isaiah and Jeremiah, and godly kings like David. On the eve of the birth of Jesus, there were people like Zechariah and Elizabeth, Joseph and Mary, Simeon and Anna, and others, all of whom looked forward to Christ's coming.
“These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised” (Heb. 11:39). They were saved by grace. They were part of the preparation for God's kingdom. But “the true light that gives light to every man was [only then] coming into the world” (John 1:9).
- What are the two rival kingdoms, and how are they each characterized?
- How is grace a power instead of an attitude?
- How are the first two stages of the kingdom of grace described?
Reflection: What was your life like when you lived in your former kingdom? What is it like now as a member of the kingdom of grace? Is there anything in your life that fits more with the kingdom from which you have been delivered? What steps do you need to take to remove it through God’s power?