The Abounding Grace of God

Did you ever study the latter half of Romans 5? If so I am sure you found it to be one of those parts of Paul's writings that Peter said were hard to understand. That certainly was my experience until I discovered three priceless gems in it, and the discovery was to me like that of a man who suddenly comes upon diamonds in a rocky field. Verse 15 speaks of the grace of God, verse 17 the abundance of grace, verse 20 the much more abounding of grace. I called these three gems the positive, comparative and superlative of the grace of God, and what had been to me a barren part of the Word became beautiful in the light of them. I don't know exactly why, but Noah of the ancient ark, came at once to my mind, and I was delighted to find that he fitted into the picture most naturally. The first time the word grace occurs in the Bible it is bound up with Noah — "But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord" (Gen. 6). He was a man who believed God when all the world was infidel, and that meant that he was righteous in the midst of disobedient men; they were a condemned race, he alone was justified.

Is the gift of Romans 5:15 righteousness or life? Some may think it the one and some the other. One thing is certain, they go together; just as sin and death go together so righteousness and life are inseparable. So that while all the world of Noah's day lay under the sentence of death, he was placed by the grace of God in the sphere of life; the gift of righteousness meant life to him. But how? God shut him in the ark. There was death for every creature, both man and beast, outside the ark; there was life for all within its closed door.

Now there was one very interesting feature in that ark, it was "pitched within and without with pitch, " and that was not only to make it watertight, it would do that of course, but to teach us a great truth, even if Noah did not understand. The word "pitch" in our translation is the same word that is translated "atonement" seventy times in the Old Testament, only in this one instance is it translated "pitch." It means, a covering, a God-ordained and provided covering for the man who had found grace in His eyes. Wherever Noah looked inside the ark he saw this covering, wherever God looked outside the ark He saw the covering, atonement within, atonement without.

Now the ark was a type of Christ, undoubtedly it was that, and Noah shut in that ark tells us in typical language of the safety of all those who are in Christ. The grace of God shut the man who believed His word in the ark, the grace of God has set all who believe today in Christ. It was Adam's disobedience that brought his whole race under condemnation and death; it is Christ's one great obedience to the will of God even to death, that has opened the door of righteousness and life, and provided a perfect atonement for all men, and those that believe enter in and are safe for ever; they are in Christ and no longer in Adam. That is the grace of God to them — the positive of the grace of God.

But Paul gloried in this grace and goes on to tell of the abundance of it; he speaks of "they which receive abundance of grace, " and without a doubt it is life that he has in mind, a life that death cannot touch, for he says, "they shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ." The life we received from Adam we must lose, it was forfeited at the very beginning of it, but this new life we can never lose; that life must be submerged by death, this, our life in Christ, rises superior to death's highest waves. We see it pictured in Noah, the higher the waters of judgment rose, the higher rose the ark, and in the life of the ark, Noah was superior to those waters of death. In figure he had a life that was supreme over death. We who are in Christ have the reality; death cannot touch the life we have in Him; it is His risen life. As the risen and glorified Head of a new race He has communicated to every member of His race, a life that cannot be marred or besmirched by sin; it is "justification of life." Every believer has this life, a life as pure as the Source from whence it flows. I do not say a believer cannot sin, I know only too well that he can, but if he sins it is the old flesh within him showing itself and not the new life that he has received as being in Christ. To reign in life means life triumphant. It may not yet appear that we are thus reigning; when He shall appear then it will be manifested to the whole universe but even now when "we are more than conquerors through Him that loves us, " though for His sake killed all the day long, we are reigning in life by One, Jesus Christ; and when we can thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord, in the presence of death, we are reigning in life by One, Jesus Christ.

And if the knowledge of God and communion with Him be the chief features and joy of this life we have these most truly. The multitudes that perished outside the ark were made to learn what the judgment or God was — His justice and wrath against their unrighteousness; but Noah inside knew His grace and His care; and as He looked up through the one window in the roof of the ark, he looked up to the God who had justified him, and blessed him and given him life instead of death. We look up to God, who has shown His beneficence towards us in Christ Jesus, we know Him as revealed in Christ. We know that we were subject to His judgment, but He commended His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us; and we joy in Him now, we make our boast in Him, it is the nature of our new life in Christ to do this; and as we thus live to God, we are living the life that death cannot touch, we reign in life by One, Jesus Christ. And that I have called the comparative of the grace of God.

But there is more even that this, Paul carries this grace to the highest point; he can be satisfied with nothing short of the superlative, for God will be satisfied with nothing short of that. "Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: that as sin has reigned to death, even so might grace reign through righteousness to eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord." We understand the reign of sin, its kingdom is a kingdom of bondage with death for all within it. All the activities of men within that kingdom lead to death, for God is not the end and aim of them. But grace reigns, and that means that God reigns according to His own heart's desire and in complete and eternal consistence with His righteous character and the end of that is eternal life and the glory that belongs to it by Jesus Christ our Lord. God is greater than the devil, and grace is greater than sin.

The day came when the flood subsided and Noah came forth from the ark and offered a burnt offering to the Lord, while His bow spanned the heavens. The sweet savour of the burnt offering went up to God, figuring the acceptance in which Noah stood and the basis of it, and the bow shone brightly above him, pledge to him that the judgment was passed and that he stood in God's favour. And that I believe looks on to the day of glory when the earth purged by judgment, men repentant and saved by the grace of God shall appear before Him on the ground of the great sacrifice that Jesus made at Calvary, and shall rejoice in Him as the glorified and exalted One. He is not only the burnt offering but the bow in the clouds. That millennial age for which we wait and for which all creation groans shall be "life for evermore."

But it means much to us who are in Christ now. The burnt offering has been offered for us. We read, "Christ also has loved us, and has given Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour" (Eph. 5:2). And we are before God in all the value and fragrance of that sacrifice. We stand by faith beside the altar, and we look up and see Jesus crowned with glory and honour — the bow in the clouds, and the consequence is we reckon ourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God through Jesus Christ our Lord. That we should live to God is the great end of the reign of grace, it is eternal life. Only grace much more abounding towards us can bring it to pass. No matter how we fail now to respond to this grace, it shall all be perfected in the glory, where for ever and ever and ever we shall live to God. In those coming ages He will display the surpassing riches of His grace in His kindness towards us in Christ Jesus, for as sin has reigned to death, so shall grace reign to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord — and that will be the superlative of God's grace.