The good news of the gospel is that, in the cross of Calvary, God extended grace toward humanity. Words cannot express the wonders of His grace so graphically illustrated in that bloody cross. Grace can be defined as “unmerited favor to the infinitely ill-deserving,” or, in other words, “God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.”
The question that should be on the heart of every Christian is how we may best show God’s amazing grace to this lost world. We tell sinners God loved them so much that He gave His only Son to die in their place, and yet it seems to have less relevance than the day’s weather forecast. To them, the forecast is at least applicable to them here and now.
The solution to this dilemma can be found in Romans 5:20. Here we are informed why God gave His Law to us: “Moreover the law entered, that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.”
When sin abounds, grace “much more” abounds, and according to Scripture, the thing that makes sin abound is the Law.
We can see the work of God’s Law illustrated in civil law. For example, when there is no visible sign of the law on a freeway, motorists often transgress the speed limit. Apparently each speedster says to himself that the law has forgotten to patrol his part of the freeway. He is transgressing the law by only 15 mph, and besides, he isn’t the only one doing it.
Notice what happens when the law enters the fast lane, with red lights flashing. The speedster’s heart misses a beat. He is no longer secure in the fact that other motorists are also speeding. He knows that he is personally as guilty as the next guy, and he could be the one the law pulls over. The fact that there are other people doing it is irrelevant. Suddenly, his “mere” 15 mph transgression doesn’t seem such a small thing after all; it seems to abound.
Look at the freeway of sin. The whole world naturally goes with the flow. Who hasn’t had an “affair” (or desired to) at one time or another? Who in today’s society doesn’t tell the occasional “white” lie? Who doesn’t take something that belongs to someone else, even if it’s just a little “white-collar” crime? Sinners know they are doing wrong, but their security is in the fact that so many others are just as guilty, if not more so. It seems God has forgotten all about sin and the Ten Commandments; the sinner says in his heart, “God has forgotten; He hides His face; He will never see it” (Psalm 10:11).
Now watch the Law enter with red lights flashing. The sinner’s heart skips a beat. He lays his hand upon his mouth. He examines the speedometer of his conscience. Suddenly, it shows him the measure of his guilt in a new light—the light of the Law. His sense of security in the fact that there are multitudes doing the same thing becomes irrelevant, because every man will give an account of himself to God. Sin not only becomes personal, it seems to “abound.” His mere lust becomes adultery of the heart (Matthew 5:27,28); his white lie, false witness (Revelation 21:8); his own way becomes rebellion; his hatred, murder (1 John 3:15); his “sticky” fingers make him a thief—“Moreover the law entered, that the offense might abound.” Without the Law entering, sin is neither personal, nor is it evident: “For without the Law, sin is dead [the sense of it is inactive…]” (Romans 7:8, Amplified).
It was the “Commandment” that showed Paul sin in its true light— that it is “exceedingly sinful” (Romans 7:13). Paul spoke from his own experience because he had sat at the feet of Gamaliel, the great “teacher of the law,” and therefore saw sin in its vivid colors.
According to the Scriptures, “[the real function of] the law is to make men recognize and be conscious of sin [not mere perception, but an acquaintance with sin which works toward repentance…]” (Romans 3:20, Amplified).
Charles Spurgeon said that “the Law serves a most necessary purpose.” How true are his words regarding sinners: “They will never accept grace, until they tremble before a just and holy Law.” Those who see the role of the Law will be Sons of Thunder before they are the Sons of Consolation. They know that the shoes of human pride must be removed before sinners can approach the burning bush of the gospel.
It is important to realize that we can evoke a tearful response from sinners by saying that God loves them. The message is more appealing to both the Christian and the sinner. It certainly is easier to speak of love than of sin. Many years ago, before I understood the function of God’s Law, I told a prostitute of God’s love and was delighted that she immediately began weeping. Unbeknown to me, her tears were not tears of godly sorrow for sin, but merely an emotional response to the need of a father’s love. In my ignorance, I joyfully led her in a sinner’s prayer. However, I was disappointed sometime later when she fell away, and her tender heart became very callous toward the things of God.
Paradoxically, the Law makes grace abound, in the same way that darkness makes light shine. It was John Newton, the writer of “Amazing Grace,” who said that a wrong understanding of the harmony between Law and grace would produce “error on the left and the right hand.” I don’t know if any of us could claim to have a better understanding of grace than the one who penned such a hymn.
To help sinners understand that grace is truly amazing, use the Moral Law of God. As John Wesley advised a young evangelist, for effective evangelism, preach 90 percent Law and 10 percent grace.