GOD’S ANSWER TO OUR GUILT (Part 1 of 2)
God’s Invitation to Grace ❧ Part 28
Romans 5:15-21 ❧ Pastor, Dr. John Denney
This past week many of us enjoyed the privilege of hearing Dr. Karl Payne share about the reality of spiritual warfare. He reminded us that we’re in a very real and very great cosmic battle that rages around us and in us. To help us recognize this, he pointed to Galatians 5 where Paul says: The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other (Galatians 5:17, NLT). But he didn’t leave us there. We’re neither helpless or powerless pawns caught up in an uncertain game of chess between good and evil, between God and Satan. Dr. Payne powerfully reminded us we can have overwhelming victory in Christ (Romans 8:37) and that confident victory is certain because nothing can separate us from the love of God revealed in Christ (Romans 8:39).
This morning I want to talk to you about a huge part of that battle that all of us deal with on a regular basis. It is the battle between grace and guilt. In Christ we can have complete and eternal forgiveness of our guilt – that’s grace. You may say, “I’m forgiven in Christ.” Yet even though you want to believe this to be true, you still struggle with accusing feelings of guilt called shame.
When we do something wrong, we feel guilty. Guilt sets in motion a wave effect of condemning feelings of shame – sorrow, remorse, embarrassment, failure. The problem is those hammering waves never seem to stop. They just keep pounding us wave after wave. Some of us try to escape our feelings of shame by countering the wrong we’ve done by doing good. Many wrongly believe now that God has forgiven them, they have need to maintain God’s forgiveness by being good enough. One way of describing this effort is called religion. A lot of our Christian service is done out of guilt. We’re serving God with the wrong motive. Religion is our attempt to gain God’s forgiveness through our behavior. Others try another route. They try to escape their feelings of shame through drugs, alcohol, work, entertainment, fantasy – you name it. What many don’t realize is guilt is the gift that loves to keep on giving. Would you say that with me? Guilt is the gift that loves to keep on giving. As long as we try to battle guilt on our own terms, it never goes away. The Bible tells us there is only one way of escape, only One Person who can completely cleanse our burdened conscience of guilt (Heb. 9:14). That person is the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no other way.
I think many of you hearing this know this already. But you’re still caught in a tug-of-war battle between grace and guilt. Your struggle is not a surprise to God. He knew it in advance. That’s why He gave us the book of Romans. Through Romans God wants to deepen our understanding and experience of our salvation in Christ. That’s really what Romans is about – a deep examination of the salvation God has accomplished for us through His Son. It is God’s great answer to our great need.
Turn with me to Romans 5:12-21. I mentioned a couple of weeks ago this is probably the most difficult passage in the entire book of Romans. Paul tells us how One Person, the Lord Jesus Christ, is The Remedy of the sin of all the world. When He died on the cross, He died in the place of every man, woman, and child of every tribe, and tongue, and people and nation who would place their faith in Him as their Savior (Rev. 5:9). In other words, God’s one act of grace on the cross is infinitely greater than all the sins of billions and trillions of people who’ve ever lived. I have to tell you, that is beyond my comprehension. It is beyond my human grasp to fully understand. But that shouldn’t surprise us with God. There are a lot of things He tells us in His Word that exceed our finite ability to comprehend. The Bible tells us Jesus is both completely God and Man. We know it is true, and even though the evidence is overwhelming, we still can’t wrap our minds around it. The Bible tells us Jesus rose from the grave on the third day. We know it is true. The evidence is overwhelming, but we still can’t wrap our minds around it. God tells us in Isaiah: My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9). (Read: 5:15-21) Paul is comparing Adam with Christ. He is saying just as the one act of Adam’s rebellion brought sin to all mankind, so Jesus one act of sacrifice made salvation available to all. HOW IS GOD’S GRACE GREATER THAN OUR GUILT? Paul tells us the free gift is not like transgression. He says it is much more (V.15). He tells us how in the following verses. We’re going to look at three of them this morning. God grace is greater than our guilt in 1) assurance, 2) significance, 3) abundance.
- Greater In Assurance. But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression
of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many (Romans 5:15). Paul is saying God’s free through Christ is not all like the Adam’s transgression. In other words, he is saying Jesus’ death on the cross didn’t just provide a way for us to be forgiven and restore us to a place of innocence like Adam had before the fall. He did much more! Were God to have simply restored us from the curse of sin and death, that would have been a great gift of grace in itself. But God did something immeasurably more! He gave us His own Son’s righteousness. He did this through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. In 2 Corinthians 5 Paul tells us, He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21). This is the gift of righteousness Paul mentions in verse seventeen. To take this a step further it means God has placed His Spirit in our hearts. The love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us (Romans 5:5). Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father! (Galatians 4:6).
So what does it mean that through our faith in Christ we now have Christ’s righteousness and life in us? It means this, the power of sin and death can be broken, and thank God they can be through Christ. But the power of our salvation in Christ cannot. Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him…(Hebrews 7:25). Through Christ we have an unbreakable assurance of God’s love, forgiveness, and acceptance. Why? Because the gift of God’s grace is not like the transgression. It is much more.
How do you get it? Paul says it is a free gift of grace. It is unearned, unconditional. You cannot do anything to qualify for it. You just accept it. When you do, God gives you His assurance of His unbreakable love and unconditional acceptance. God’s grace is greater in assurance.
- Greater In Significance. The gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned;
for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification(Romans 5:16). When Paul says, The gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned. He is saying much the same thing he said in verse fifteen, the gift is not like the trespass. The difference is in verse 15 he focused on the sin. But now he’s focusing on the sinner.
Paul is saying it took only one transgression, one misstep of Adam, one moral failure to bring condemnation to the entire human race. When you think about it, all Adam did was eat some fruit from the tree God said not to. What’s the big deal? It’s not like Adam killed someone or some horrible sin like that. No, he didn’t. But that’s not the point. The point is God hates sin so much it only took one sin to condemn the whole world.
But here is the greater point Paul is making: God’s love for us is greater than His hatred for our sin. How do we know this is true? Paul tells us God’s gift of grace didn’t just redeem one man from one sin, but all men for all sin. the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification. In other words, God’s gift of grace through Christ is greater than your sins no matter how many or how great. God’s grace is greater in significance.
- Greater In Abundance. For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one,
much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ(Romans 5:17). Paul is saying the gift of God’s grace gives us abundantly far more than we ever lost or had in Adam! In Adam we lost our place of dominion in the world – to reign as earthly kings. But in Christ, our spiritual reign far exceeds that. Paul tells us in Ephesians 1 God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ (Ephesians 1:3). Jesus said He came to give us life abundantly, life that abounds (John 10:10). Paul calls this abundance of grace. He also says we’ve been given the gift of righteousness, God’s own eternal unbreakable Life in us through His Spirit. Adam never had that! Putting these two together, Paul says our abundant Spirit-filled life will reign in lifethrough Christ.
What does it mean we will reign in life through Christ? It means we now have power over sin. We no long need to be enslaved to it (Rom. 6:18). Jesus Christ has freed us from both the power and the penalty of sin and one day will deliver us from the presence of sin.
Paul is not saying we’re immune to sin or we’ll never struggle with sin. We still struggle, but we have a new power to resist and conquer sin – Christ in you the hope of glory. You may be struggling with some sin that bombards you with guilt and shame. But God wants you to know His grace is greater than your guilt. You don’t have to stay locked in a concentration camp of sin and guilt. God’s grace is greater in assurance, in significance, and abundance. Dr. Payne reminded us a number of times this past week because of Christ we are not long victims but victors. Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord(1 Corinthians 15:57-58).