Trespasses Brought the Law, the Law Brought Death—Romans 5:20-21
"The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 5:20-21)
It surprises many well meaning Christians to find out that the Law brings death. We learn the Ten Commandments as children and society as a whole believes in the golden rule, 'do unto others as you would have them do unto you'. Both Christians and society understand the need for law and order in order to function. However what religion has done is take the very thing that was given to destroy us and has made it into a vehicle whereby to obtain salvation. This is misleading and destructive in every way. What religion fails to tell you is that this is impossible to obtain the righteousness required by the law through works the law. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 3:6, 'that the letter kills, but the spirit gives life.' In other words, the law brings about death and the only way to live is by the Spirit.
Paul supports this revelation in today's passage giving us clarity to why the law was given. The law was given so that trespasses might increase. Remember up until the time the law was given, sin was not taken into account nor held against man. (Romans 5:13). But humankind mistook God's forbearance with sin as His acceptance of it, so the law was given to show mankind the contrast between their sin and God's holy standards. In the same way, the sole purpose of the law was not to fulfil it in order to get to God, but instead it pointed towards faith in Christ as our Savior. He was only one who could fulfill the letter of the law breaking the curse of death, providing the means to be reconciled to God. Galatians 3:19 makes this very clear, "What, then, was the purpose of the law? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed [Jesus] to whom the promise referred had come..." (Galatians 3:19) The laws sole purpose was to point us to Christ. The law requirements in stark comparison to our sin and good deeds shows us how utterly unobtainable fulfilling it is. That is why we must have faith. Faith in Jesus who provided that precious payment for our sins. Through him we are made perfect thus fulfilling the law. Romans 3:28 summarizes this most profoundly, "For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law." (Romans 3:28) Which means the only way to be justified is by faith in a Savior and that savior is Jesus.
So trespasses increased under the law. The law brought death. 'But where sin increased, grace increased all the more..." (Romans 5:21) So through Jesus we received abundant grace and abundant life. And if we are alive in Christ, then death at the result of sin has no hold on us. And if we have been forgiven and cleansed of all sin, then we no longer are in need of the law, which brings death. Colossians 2 is a powerful passage of scripture, it says, "When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ." (Colossians 2:13-17) So knowing that we have died to the old man, or sinful nature we are free to live in Christ, reigning in righteousness. Christ has cancelled the written code that stood opposed to us calling for death and has made us alive in him through faith.
Today, remember that you are freed from the law in order to live to the Lord. His spirit gives us freedom to celebrate eternal life. Today I celebrate his grace and thank him for freedom in his beautiful name!
Original article published October 12, 2009.