Dr. W. A. Criswell
9-19-54 10:50 a.m.
You are listening to the services of the First Baptist Church in downtown Dallas, Texas, and this is the pastor bringing the morning message entitled Grace Abounding. In our preaching through the Word, we have come to the last part of the fifth chapter of the Book of Romans. This is, I suppose, the fourth sermon; the other three have been in the previous verses. This sermon is in the last two verses of the fifth chapter of the Book of Romans. We begin reading at the eighteenth verse:
Therefore as by the offense of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of One the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.
For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of One shall many be made righteous.
Moreover the law entered, that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound:
That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.
And the text: “But where sin abounded, grace—God’s grace—grace did much more abound” [Romans 5:20]; the “grace that is greater than all our sin.
“But where sin abounded”—as men multiplied in the earth, sin and violence and wickedness multiplied in the earth. As men grew in numbers, so did sin grow in violence and in exceeding sinfulness. Iniquity and wickedness covered the earth. Sin abounded in the days of Cain and of Abel [Genesis 4:8-9]. And sin abounded in the days of the tower of Babel [Genesis 11:1-9]. And sin abounded in the days of the Flood [Genesis 6:5-7]. And sin abounded in the days of Sodom and Gomorrah [Genesis 18:20-32, 19:4-5]. Sin abounded in the days of the captivity. Sin abounded in the days of the cross, and sin abounded in the days of the martyrs; and sin has abounded in our present evil and sorrowful day [Romans 5:20]. The ruthless, merciless, cruelty of modern totalitarian states enslaving whole nations, driving men by the millions into utmost and utter despair. Sin abounded in the earth, as men multiplied in the world.
And the inevitable concomitant followed thereafter: as sin abounded, misery and woe and death were multiplied. Physical death, spiritual death, eternal death, and there followed after that first offense [Romans 5:12], mountains and mountains and immeasurable mountains of grief. The story of humanity since the day of the Fall [Genesis 3:1-6], is a story of age, of iniquity, of sin, of disaster, and finally of death. To write the story of humanity, one must dip his pen in tears, in heartache, in grief, and in blood; the abounding of sin [Romans 5:20].
From the ramparts of glory, our heavenly Father looked down upon this scene, and His heart was filled with pity for the man that He made, and for the children of Adam [John 3:16]. Woe and tears, sorrow and distress, and inevitable age and death; the lot, the universal lot for all mankind. And the Lord, as He looked upon the race of the millions of men, the Lord was moved to pity as He looked upon our despairing and sorrowful lot [John 3:16].
A father in Virginia, with two boys: one a four-letter man in college; the other, thirteen years of age, with every promise to be like his big brother. Somehow the thirteen-year-old boy, not being careful as his father had admonished, on his bicycle got tangled up with a truck. In the hospital, the lad fought for his life. The doctor made the announcement to the father: “By the amputation of his right arm at the shoulder, and his left leg at the hip, I think we can save his life.” When that sorrowful announcement was made to the father, the father said, “I looked down into the face of my thirteen-year-old boy, and as I looked into his face, for the first time I came to know what God’s Word meant: “As a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him. For He knoweth our frame; He remembereth that we are dust” [Psalm 103:13-14]. So the Lord in glory looked down in pity upon the children of men. And where sin abounded, grace, and pity, and mercy, and salvation, and forgiveness did much more abound [Romans 5:20].
And out of the pitying heart of God, there came the great story of the everlasting goodness and grace and mercy of God our Father in Christ our Savior [Romans 5:21]. And the story of that grace abounding [Romans 5:20]—could I say it first in parabolic, in allegoric form? Picture if we could, if we will, a vast cemetery, an illimitable graveyard, and around that graveyard is a high and a lofty wall; and it has only one entrance therein. And that entrance is barred and locked by a massive iron gate. On the inside of that barred and massive gate, on the inside of that tall and lofty wall, are all of the millions of the human race; and they bow and they bend to the grave. The grave yawns, and reaches up its arms to engulf all of mankind. On the inside of that vast cemetery, that illimitable graveyard, on the inside are the tears, and the age, and the sorrow, and the woe, and the heartache, and the cry, and the agony of all mankind. “The wages of sin is death” [Romans 6:23]. Death everywhere, for the young, for the old, for the aged, for the wise, for the unwise, for the yesterday, for the today, for the tomorrow, death, death reigning triumphant: death, death everywhere.
On the outside of that wall, looking upon the agonizing despair of those who are imprisoned therein, there stands Mercy weeping. She looks through the iron grate of the bars of the massive gate; and as she weeps, she cries, “Oh, that I might enter in. I would bring solace for their sorrow. I would bring relief to their distress. I would bring life for their death. Oh, that I might enter in!” And as Mercy weeps outside the iron gate, and as all humanity cries in agony and in death on the inside, behold, there passeth by an embassy of the heavenly hosts, on some celestial mission from the courts of glory to some other far distant world. And as they pass by, the angelic host stops, and looks upon Mercy as she weeps at the iron gate. And one of the angels says to Mercy, “Mercy, can you not look upon that scene without pity? Can you pity and not help?” And Mercy replies in her tears, “I can see, and I can pity, but I cannot enter. I cannot relieve. I cannot help.” And the angel replies, “Mercy, why canst thou not enter to relieve and to help?” And Mercy replies, “Because Justice has barred the way, and I, I cannot undo the lock.”
Just then, as if to guard the gate, Justice appears. And the angelic host says to Justice, “Justice, why wilt thou not open the gate and allow Mercy to enter in?” And Justice sternly replies, “Because they have broken my law, and I must administer the penalty of the law: either they die or Justice must.” As the angelic host looked upon a dying humanity, and as Mercy cried at the gate, and as Justice stood there to bar the way, behold, there set forth from the heavenly host One whose form was like unto the Son of God. And He came to Justice, and He said, “Justice, what are thy terms that Mercy might enter in and save the lost and the dying?” And Justice replied, “My terms are exact, my terms are rigid, my terms are exacting: I must have death for their life. Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin” [Hebrews 9:22]. And the Son of God replies, “Justice, I accept thy terms. Upon Me be their guilt and their sin. Upon Me be their death, that the gate might be opened, and that Mercy might enter in.” And Justice replied, “What bond, what covenant, what contract, what testament dost Thou make, that Thou wilt keep my conditions?” And the Son of God replied, “My word and My oath.” And Justice answered, “And when wilt Thou fulfill Thy bond and Thy covenant?” And the Son of Man replied, “In the fullness of time, on a hill called Calvary [Luke 23:33], outside of the walls of the city of Jerusalem” [Galatians 4:4; Hebrews 13:12-13]. Justice was satisfied. The bond was made. The gate was opened wide. And Mercy entered in, and preached the gospel of everlasting hope and salvation to the lost and the dying of all humanity, in the promise of a Lamb of God, who should come and take away the sin of the world [John 1:29].
The bond was sealed and made in the presence of the angelic host. The bond was committed first to patriarchs and to prophets [Hebrews 1:1]. And they instituted the long series of rites and ceremonies and rituals, lest men and heaven forget the execution of that sacred and solemn vow [Deuteronomy 8:11]. And in the fullness of time, at the conclusion of Daniel’s sixty-ninth week [Daniel 9:26], according to the prophecy of the man of God, there appeared on a little hill called Golgotha, outside of the north gate of the city of Jerusalem, there appeared Justice and Mercy. And Justice said to Mercy, “And now where is the Son of God for the execution and the cancellation of this bond?” And Mercy said, “Behold, there He comes, at the foot of the hill.” And Justice looked down, and there at the foot of the hill came the Son of God, bearing His own cross [John 19:17], and behind Him following, His weeping church. Mercy fled, and turned away. And the Son of God staggered to the hill of the cross, and met Justice face to face. Justice sternly looked into the eyes and countenance of the Son of God, and had in his hand the ordinance, and the bond, and the covenant of death, writ large against us! And Justice said, “The day has come for this bond to be redeemed and to be cancelled.” And the Son of God received it, took it out of the hand of Justice. Tear it up, throw it to the wind? No. He seized it, and took it, and nailed it to the cross [Colossians 2:14], crying, “It is finished. It is finished!” [John 19:30]. And as He was nailed to the cross, Justice called for Death to consume the sacrifice. And Death came, and quickly consumed His humanity. But when he touched His deity, Death received a mortal wound [Isaiah 25:8]. And the sun went out, and the earth was dark [Matthew 27:45]. And the earthquake shook the mountain [Matthew 27:51]. But out of that death, out of that covenant, out of that suffering and sacrifice [Matthew 28:5-7], out of that burial [Matthew 27:57-60], and out of that tomb [Matthew 27:59-60] there arose the light of the knowledge of the glory and grace of God in the face of Jesus Christ [2 Corinthians 4:6]. And through the earth, through the breadth of the land, through every language and people and nation did the everlasting evangelists fly, preaching the gospel of hope and the gospel of grace in Jesus Christ our Lord. “Where sin abounded, grace,” God’s grace, “did much more abound” [Romans 5:20]. For by grace are you saved through faith, and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” [Ephesians 2:8].
Not as the offense, so is the free gift. For if through the offense of one many be dead—we all were dead—much more the grace of God, and the gift of grace, which is by one Man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.
Where sin did abound, where death did abound, where the curse did abound, where judgment did abound, where sin did abound, grace, God’s grace, did much more abound [Romans 5:20].
As men multiplied, the sin multiplied [Romans 5:12]. “Where sin did abound,” the whole earth covered by the violence, and the wickedness, and the villainy, and the evil, and the greed, and the hurt, and the death of man [Genesis 6:5]. “Where sin did abound,” the whole earth filled with the violence of unrighteousness. Every heart, every life, every home, every deed, every man, every soul, as we multiplied in the earth, so sin was multiplied: “Where sin did abound” [Romans 5:20]. And the waters of the Deluge covered the earth [Genesis 6:9-9:17], could not suffice to wash its stains away. And the fire fell from heaven, but could not burn up the accursed plague [Genesis 19:24]. And the earth opened her mouth, but could not swallow the monstrous sin. And the law thundered from the thick darkness of Sinai [Exodus 20:18-21], but could not restrain the children of disobedience. And like a scourge, like a conquering foe, sin abounded in the earth [Romans 5:20]. Sin waxed bold; it pitched its camp on the hill of Calvary. Sin abounded, and it seized the Son of God and nailed Him to the cross! [Luke 23:33]. But in that stroke, sin met his Master, and death met its Victor: the victim is the Victor! In the death of Jesus Christ, in His death He slew sin, and He slew death [1 Corinthians 15:54-57], and He opened the gates of the prison house, and called to resurrection and to immortality those who had been slain therein [Ephesians 4:8]. “Where sin abounded, grace—God’s grace—did much more abound” [Romans 5:20].
Where sin abounded to condemn, grace did much more abound to justify. Where sin abounded to corrupt, grace did much more abound to purify. Where sin abounded to harden, grace did much more abound to soften and to subdue and to yield. Where sin abounded to imprison and enslave, grace did much more abound to preach the gospel of liberty to the captives [Luke 4:18]. Where sin abounded to break the law, grace did much more abound to heal the breach and to efface the stain. Where sin abounded to consume as with an unquenchable fire, grace—God’s grace—did much more abound to extinguish the flame, and to heal the wound and the hurt. Where sin did abound to slay and to kill and to destroy, grace, God’s grace, did much more abound to give life, everlasting and eternal life [John 10:27-30; Ephesians 2:8-9]. Where sin abounded to lay in the grave, grace did much more abound to call to resurrection and to immortality [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17]. “The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God, the grace of God, is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” [Romans 6:23]. “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound; That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Savior” [Romans 5:20-21]; even so does grace reign, God’s grace.
Grace hath placed on her head the crown of glory, of righteousness, of immortality, the diadem of heaven. She has received the eternal scepter to reign forever. And the gates of the charnel prison house, the dim, dark, dismal dungeon of death, the gates are thrown wide open: there’s a stirring, there’s a pulse beat of a new life in the cemetery. Immortality is walking among the tombs. The Son of God hath come forth victorious and triumphant [1 Corinthians 15:20-21], and He speaks peace and forgiveness and life everlasting to those who look in faith and in trust to Him [Romans 3:22].
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that is greater than all our sin.
Marvelous grace of the loving Lord,
Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt!
Yonder on Calvary’s mount outpoured,
There where the blood of the Lamb was spilled.
Sin and despair, like the sea waves cold,
Threaten the soul with infinite loss;
Grace that is greater, grace untold,
Points to the refuge, the saving cross.
Dark is the stain that we cannot hide.
What can avail to wash it away?
Look! There is flowing a crimson tide,
Brighter than snow my soul is today.
Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace,
Freely bestowed on all who believe!
You that are longing to see His face,
Will you this moment His grace receive?
And the chorus of that old song:
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that is greater than all our sin.
[“Grace Greater than Our Sin,” Julia H. Johnston]
“Where sin did abound, grace, God’s grace, did super abound more excitingly, abundantly abound: That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign unto eternal life, unto resurrection, immortality, and ultimate victory through Jesus Christ our Lord” [Romans 5:20-21], the gospel of the grace of the Son of God.
If you listen on television, if you listen on radio; where you are today, would you open your heart to receive the goodness and the forgiveness and the mercy, the peace and the pardon of the Son of God? Would you? Would you today? Kneeling there by your radio, your television, in the bedroom, in the living room, where you are, anywhere you are; driving along in a car, would you stop the car, bow your head over the wheel, “Lord God, today I open my heart to the fullness of the pardon, the forgiveness, the salvation, the overflowing grace of God, my Savior, in Jesus Christ our Redeemer” [Romans 10:9-13]. And would you do it now? Would you make it today?
And in this vast throng who crowd this house of God, in the vast balcony around, to the farthest row in that topmost balcony, and from side to side, somebody you, somebody you, a family you, all, somebody you, would you come? Into this aisle, down here by my side, “Pastor, today, today we make it all for God, looking to Jesus, trusting in Him” [Hebrews 12:2]. Somebody you, into the fellowship of the church, by baptism [Matthew 28:19], or letter, or promise of letter, or statement; however God shall say the word and lead the way, while we make appeal today, would you come? Would you come? Into the aisle, in that balcony, down that stairwell, down to the front and by my side, while we sing this song prayerfully, earnestly, today would you come? Would you make it now? Give me your hand, and your heart to God [Romans 10:9-13; Ephesians 2:8]. While we stand and while we sing.
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Romans 5:20I. Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound
A. Sin multiplied as men multiplied
B. As sin abounded, misery, woe and death were multiplied
C. The Father was filled with pity for the man He made
1. Father in Virginia had a son in bicycle accident and had to have limbs amputated – looking in pity upon his little boy (Psalm 103:13-14)II. The story of the grace that is greater than all our sin
A. A vast graveyard, surrounded by a lofty wall
1. Only one entrance, barred by a massive iron gate
2. Within are the millions of the human race, bowing and bending to the grave that reaches up to engulf all mankind(Romans 6:23)
B. Mercy stands weeping at the gate
C. Embassy of heavenly host passes by, asks Mercy why she cannot help – Justice has barred the way
D. Justice appears to guard the gate – the law is broken, they must die or Justice must
E. One appeared like unto the Son of God and asked Justice the terms that Mercy might enter in and save the lost and dying
1. Death for their life (Hebrews 9:22)
2. Son of God accepts the terms, and takes upon Him their guilt, sin and death – the pledge He makes by His word and oath
3. Justice asks when it will be fulfilled – in the fullness of time on Calvary
4. The bond was made, the gate opened wide, and Mercy entered in
F. In the fullness of time, at the conclusion of Daniel’s sixty-ninth week, Justice and Mercy appeared on a hill called Golgotha
1. Seeing the Son of God coming, bearing His own cross, Mercy fled
2. Son of God met Justice face to face – the day had come for the bond to be redeemed
3. Son of God received it and nailed it to the cross (Colossians 2:14, John 19:30)
5. Out of that death arose the light of the knowledge of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6, Ephesians 2:8, Romans 5:15)III. In the death of Christ, He slew death
A. Where sin abounded to condemn, grace did much more abound to justify (Romans 5:21, 6:23)
B. Grace hath placed on her head the crown of glory, received eternal scepter to reign forever
C. The Son of God victorious and triumphant speaks life everlasting to those who look in faith to Him
D. Hymn, “Grace Greater than Our Sin”