September 29th, 1963 @ 7:30 PM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Romans 5: 15-21
9-29-63 7:30 p.m.
You are sharing on the radio the services of The First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the evening message entitled Abounding Grace. It is an exposition, it is a textual message on Romans chapter 5, verse 20, the second part of that verse. The context begins at verse 15, and if we turn in our Bibles to the Book of Romans chapter 5, we can read together and out loud this marvelous passage, God’s revelation to us of His abounding grace unto eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord. These are words you find in this text. Let’s everyone read it out loud together.
If your neighbor has not brought his Bible, share yours with him, and all of us read it out loud. And wherever you are on the radio, if you have access to a Bible, turn in it to the Book of Romans chapter 5, and reading in verse 15 to the end of the chapter, we share it together. Now everyone:
But not as the offense, so also is the free gift. For if through the
offense of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the
gift by grace, which is by one Man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded
And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment
was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offenses
For if by one man’s offense death reigned by one; much more they
which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness
shall reign in life by One, Jesus Christ.
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.
This is a passage that has such infinite meaning for us. Our souls, our eternal destiny, our hope for heaven, and may God bless the pastor as he speaks of this abounding grace, spoken of in this incomparable text. For “where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” [Romans 5:20].
Now we look at the words first. For “where sin abounded,” pleonazō, increased, was augmented, where sin multiplied, grace did much more. Now I would have expected Paul to use the word huperpleonazō. You would expect it, having used pleonazō here, for where sin pleonazō, increased, abounded, filled up; grace did, and I would have thought he would have said huperpleonazō, grace abounded more. That’s what I would have thought, but he uses an altogether different word and a different construction.
Wherefore, for where sin pleonazō, increased, there grace did huperperisseuō. How in the world would you translate a word like that? Let me give you an instance of how impossible it is to translate words like that.
You’ll find that word used in the last verse, in an adverbial form, in the last verse of the seventh chapter of the Book of Mark. Mark has described the indescribable. He has written of the unwritable. He has presented the best that human language could, the marvelous ministry of Christ Jesus.
Raising the dead [John 11:43-44], opening the eyes of the blind [Matthew 9:27-30], unstuffing deaf ears [Mark 7:31-35], making cripples to walk [Mark 2:9-12], bringing the gospel of hope and salvation to the poor [Matthew 11:5]; and at the end of the chapter number 7, the thirty-seventh verse, when Mark tries to describe the reaction and the response of the people to that incomparable ministry of our Lord, he uses that word huperperisseuō. He says that the people were beyond measure astonished [Mark 7:37], that’s the way it’s translated there. Well, how, just exactly how would you attempt to describe the response of people whose eyes have looked upon the marvelous incomparable ministry of the Lord Jesus?
Suppose you’d had a son that was dead and you were the widow of Nain, and the Lord raised the lad back to life and put him in your arms again [Luke 7:11-15], what would you think? How would you feel? Those things are indescribable. Well, that’s what Mark is trying to say in that thirty-seventh verse of his seventh chapter. The reaction of the people to the ministry of Christ was huperperisseuō [Mark 7:37].
Now as you would try to define the word, you’d kind of say it like this; “Where sin pleonazō, where sin increased, grace, grace overflowed, and augmented, and filled up, and covered over beyond all imagination!” It’s just one of those untranslatable words in this Testament. “Where sin abounded,” here in the King James Version, “grace did much more abound” [Romans 5:20].
You have two other words here that I want you to look at. The word for grace is, I suppose, the most meaningful of all of the words in the Greek language. We name, sometimes, our children Charis. C-h-a-r-i-s in Greece, in Greek, charis, charis, charis. That’s the Greek word for grace.
The Greeks, of all peoples who ever lived, the Greeks love beauty and proportion in architecture, in statuary, in poetry, in drama, in painting, in all art. And the word that they used to describe the response, the admiration of the heart toward beauty and proportion and things glorious and wonderful was this word charis.
And when the word was applied to human personality and to character, it referred to a charm, and charm and grace. Charm, and kindness, and attractiveness, and loveableness, and altruism, and philanthropy, and sympathy—everything that was admirable and beautiful the Greeks tried to pour into that word, charis, translated in our Bible, “grace.”
Now the New Testament writers took that Greek word that the nation had already filled with all of the beautiful meaning that language could pour into it—the New Testament authors, the apostles, took that word grace, charis, and they sealed it with the infinite love and mercy of God. They took that word and applied it to the response of God to human sin and to human wrong and to lost lives. And they made it say this great and loving Lord, looking down upon a lost humanity, forsook His throne in heaven, and took upon Him the form of a man; and as a man, He suffered the guilt and the consequence of all of our sins [Philippians 2:5-8]. And He lifted us up out of the miry clay. He set our feet on a rock [Psalm 40:2]. He took us out of the prison walls of eternal damnation and gave us liberty and life; the glorious liberty of the life of the sons of God [Romans 8:21]. That’s what that word grace means. “Where sin did abound, grace,” charis, “did much more abound” [Romans 5:20].
And there’s one other little Greek word there. The Greek word translated where, hou, hou. Where, where, where would you expect the presence of God? Well, I would look for Him in the glory of the firmament, surely, that is God’s hand, and there the Lord reigns and exalts in the beauty of His work. I’d expect to find Him there.
And then I’d expect to find God in all of the wonderful, glorious scenes that sometimes pass like iridescent panoramas before our eyes; the God of the iris rainbow, and the God of the beautiful sunsets, and the Lord of the fresh, fertile showers, and the beautiful meadows, and the purple mountains, and the extended plains, and the blue of the ocean. Oh, you can just think of a lot of places where you would say, “Surely, God is there, and God is there!”
But my text says, “Where sin abounded, there the grace of God did abound” [Romans 5:20]. Would you expect to find God at the very threshold of hell? Would you expect to find God in the slum? Would you expect God among the jetsam and the flotsam of humanity? Would you expect God where life is seamy, and dark, and void, and empty, and sterile, and vile, and wicked? Would you expect to find God there? But that’s the text, hou, where; “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” [Romans 5:20].
And what an opposite thing, what an opposite thing you would expect. Wouldn’t you expect that the wrath of God would face sin? Yes, it does. Wouldn’t you expect that the judgment and the damnation of God would reach where there was sin? Wouldn’t you expect that?
And yet, and yet, with all of the moral government of this universe, and the judgment of God upon sin, yet there do you find, not wrath, and not judgment, and not perdition, but in so far as the vileness and the iniquity of a man’s life will allow, there will you find grace, and goodness, and mercy, and forgiveness, and sympathy, and understanding, and all things godly and heavenly.
For example, in the sin of our first parents, and the Lord comes walking in the garden in the cool of the day [Genesis 3:1-8], He made the man to be a friend, to think God’s thoughts after Him and to love the Lord.
Haven’t you heard me say an ocean, however marvelous and big it might be, an ocean couldn’t think God’s thoughts? An ocean couldn’t love God. And then the starry spheres, however marvelous they may be in the firmament, they can’t think God’s thoughts. And they couldn’t love God. And those purple mountain majesties, and these vast continents of beauty and glory; they can’t think God’s thoughts. And they can’t love God in response.
And the Lord made the man in His own image [Genesis 1:27], that he might fellowship with God and that God might visit with him, and break bread with him, and talk with him, that they might be together in a beautiful, precious comradeship.
Well, as you know, the Lord came down to visit the man and the woman that He had made, to talk to them, to have conversation with them, that they might think together, and that they might express love to one another, that they might be in all things happy together. The Lord came down, and He couldn’t find the man. He couldn’t find him. The Lord looked, and the Lord looked, and the Lord looked, and He couldn’t find him. And the Lord raised His voice, and said, “Adam? Adam? Adam? Adam? Where art thou, Adam?” And Adam replied, he said, “Lord, I am hid. I am afraid. Terror has seized my soul. I am ashamed! I am naked!”
“Why, Adam, who told you you were naked?” [Genesis 3:8-11].
“I don’t know, Lord. I don’t know. I just looked at myself, and I’m lost, and I’m uncovered, and I’m naked!”
“Adam—transgression, the tree—have you violated the commandment of God? Have you disobeyed My interdiction? Adam, I said, in the day that you transgressed, you would die, Adam [Genesis 2:17]. Have you transgressed?”
“Yes, Lord, yes. Yes, I have taken of the forbidden fruit, and I am lost, and I am hidden, and I am ashamed!”
What would you think God would have done? Wouldn’t you have thought that the wrath of God would have burned like the mount of Sinai, swathed with the presence of the judgment of God when He gave the law? [Exodus 19:16-18]. Wouldn’t you have thought that? Wouldn’t you have thought that? It didn’t fall, didn’t at all.
The Lord called the man and the woman out of their hiding place, looked at them, “That will not do, that will not do. Sin has to be covered over.” Isn’t it a strange thing; that’s the word atonement, whether it’s in Greek, whether it’s in Hebrew, the word of atonement is a simple word meaning cover over, cover over. “That will not do, sin must be covered over.” Or you’d say, “Sin must be atoned for.”
And the Lord gave a prediction. There’s coming a time when the great Savior will atone for our sins [Genesis 3:15], and a type of it, and a picture of it, and then God did an unusual thing. He took an innocent animal, and I’ve often thought it must have been a lamb. He took an innocent animal, and the first time Adam ever knew what that word death meant, was when he saw God slay that animal. And Adam saw the blood of an innocent victim poured out into the ground, and the earth drank it up; sin. And God took the skin of the animal, and He clothed the nakedness of the man and his wife [Genesis 3:21].
Grace. Grace. Grace. For “where sin did abound, grace did much more abound” [Romans 5:20]. Instead of damnation and judgment, which inevitably followed, and did follow, yet there was grace, abounding grace, covering over their sin. That is the Word of God, as I turn these pages, “where sin did abound, grace did much more abound” [Romans 5:20]. In the days of the Flood, sin, sin, violence, blood cried unto God from the ground, and the Lord looked down and men were vile and violent. They were iniquitous and wicked [Genesis 6:5]. The imagination of their hearts were blasphemous; they renounced God. They worshiped everything but God. They gave themselves to indescribable villainy, and viciousness, and violence, and sin. And the inevitable concomitant: and the Flood raged, and the heavens poured down, and the deep was broken up [Genesis 7:17-20], and there was death everywhere! [Genesis 7:21-23]. But do you remember the passage of Scripture I’ve marked in here to read tonight. “But Noah found grace” [Genesis 6:8].
What was my text over here? “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” [Romans 5:20]. Isn’t that what we’re preaching about? But, “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord” [Genesis 6:8], and in the midst of that raging fury, and the storm of wrath and judgment upon a blaspheming world, Noah, riding safely on the bosom of the deep, called into the ark of hope and of God [Genesis 7:1] by the love and mercy of the blessed Lord Jesus, Jehovah Jesus. But Noah found grace in His sight [Genesis 6:8]. For “where sin did abound, grace did much more abound” [Romans 5:20].
Why, we could just stay here all night long and preach on that. In the days of Lot, Sodom and Gomorrah, vile, indescribably wicked; but on the inside of that city was a righteous man who vexed his soul with the filthy living and conversation of those Sodomites [2 Peter 2:7]. And the Lord looked down and saw him, and He sent down angels, and the angels were instructed, “Do not touch that city until first Lot be taken out.” And when Lot demurred and hesitated, the angel said, “I can do nothing, I can do nothing until thou be come hence. I can do nothing” [Genesis 19:15-22]. And in the great day of the final judgment of this world, God says His wrath and His judgment cannot fall and will not as long as there is one believing Christian in this earth [2 Thessalonians 2:7]. The grace of God; first, God’s own must be protected and saved and taken out [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17]. “Where sin did abound, grace did much more abound” [Romans 5:20].
Same story in the days of the dark captivity in Egypt, the slavery of His people, and the age of Passover; and you would’ve thought there had been a wail and a cry in every family in that dark, dark, slavery, captivity land of Egypt. But all those, over those homes where the blood was, the angel passed over, passed over, passed over [Exodus 12:7, 12-13, 22-23, 29]. “Where sin abounded,” where death abounded [Romans 5:20], “grace did much more abound,” the love of God reaching down to His children, taking care of His own.
I haven’t time to describe the days of Elijah, the days of Elijah; Jezebel on the throne; Ahab on the throne; the entire nation given to apostasy and to blasphemy and rejection! And there’s God’s lone servant, crying to the Lord, “O Lord, hear me this one time. Hear me this one time. And let all Israel know that Thou art the God that lives. And Lord, answer by fire” [1 Kings 18:24, 36-37]. And the fire came down and consumed the sacrifice, and consumed the stones, and consumed the wood, and consumed the water, and licked up the very dust of the ground [1 Kings 18:38]. “Where sin did abound, grace did much more abound” [Romans 5:20].
I haven’t time to speak of Daniel. In the days when Darius the king said, “All that shall call upon the name of any God but my name shall be cast in the den of lions” [Daniel 6:7-9], wouldn’t you have thought he’d have lost his life in the den of lions? [Daniel 6:16]. Wouldn’t you have thought the three Hebrew children would have been burned to death in a fiery furnace? [Daniel 3:20-21]. “Where sin did abound, grace did much more abound” [Romans 5:20].
Looking in that fiery furnace, “Did not I put three?” said the king, “Did not I put three, but I see four, and the fourth one looks like the Son of God” [Daniel 3:24-25]. And Daniel says, “O King Darius, the Lord has sent His angel, and stopped the mouths of the lions, stopped the mouths of the lions” [Daniel 6:21-22], the grace of God taking care of His own [Romans 5:20].
And what could I say of the blessedness of the Lord Jesus in the day that Satan killed Him [Matthew 27:26-50]. And it looked as though sin had triumphed. I can see every devil in hell. I can see every demon out of captivity. I can see his satanic majesty himself. I can see all of the powers of darkness and of evil shouting in triumph when Jesus died, “Look, look, the Son of God nailed to the cross! Look, Israel’s crucified her own Son. Look, the whole nation lies in rejection. Look, sin and death shall reign forever! Look, look, look, look, look!” And yet, and yet, “where sin did abound, grace did much more abound” [Romans 5:20]. Out of that cross, and out of those wounds, and out of that riven side [John 19:34], streams of mercy flow, even to us today.
There since by faith I saw the stream
Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming grace has been my theme
And shall be till I die.
[from “There Is a Fountain Filled With Blood,” William Cowper]
“Where sin did abound, grace did much more abound” [Romans 5:20]. I haven’t time to speak of Stephen, speak of Stephen, stoned to death by the bitter persecution of the authorities in Jerusalem. And Stephen knelt down and prayed. He saw Jesus standing to receive his spirit at the right hand of God [Acts 7:55-56, 59-60]. And the saying so true, “Had Stephen never prayed, Saul had never preached.” What a loss of life, this deacon, Stephen, stoned to death! [Acts 7:59-60]. But the young fellow that stood there supervising the execution never saw a man die like that [Acts 7:58]. When the Lord met him on the road to Damascus, He said to him, “Saul, Saul, it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks” [Acts 9:1-5]. “It is hard for thee to thrust yourself against the goad.” What is He talking about? By day and by night, Saul never got out of his mind the scene of Stephen down on his knees, calling on the name of the Lord, asking forgiveness for those who were stoning him to death [Acts 7:59-60]. “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” [Romans 5:20]. And Saul took up the name and the message of the sainted Stephen and preached it over the Roman Empire! [Acts 13:1-28:31]. “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.”
Nor have I time to speak of the apostle Paul before the Roman Caesars, “At my first hearing no man stood by me. . .nevertheless, the Lord stood with me” [2 Timothy 4:16-17]. Ah, timid one, fearful one, discouraged, depressed one, you’re not by yourself. Like Elisha said, “Lord, open the eyes of the young man.” And the Lord opened his eyes, and he saw the mountains filled with chariots of fire round about Elisha [2 Kings 6:17], God taking care of His own.
Oh, where does time go? Out of so much to be said, may I take a leaf out of my own life? Abounding grace, abounding grace: I had an encouraging thing happen to me just a few weeks ago. I was speaking at a pastor’s meeting, speaking at a state conference of preachers. And there came a young fellow up to me, one of the finest looking boys I ever saw, and he is a student in one of our seminaries, and he is a young minister of the gospel, and he said to me, he said, “You’ve never heard of me. You don’t know my name. You don’t know anything about me, but,” he said, “the reason my family is a Christian is on account of you.” And he said, “The reason I’ve given my heart to Jesus is on account of you.” And he said, “The reason I’m a preacher today is on account of you.”
And then, telling me about an experience in Tulsa, Oklahoma; I was holding a revival meeting, and in the community, I was in a community church, and in the community where I was holding the revival meeting, there was a very wicked and blasphemous family. There was an old man there, the father eighty-five years of age, and there was his daughter with whom he lived, and her husband. And the children were grown and gone. Those three lived there, and they were known in the community as being hard, and Christ rejecters, and given their life to worldliness, and to blasphemy, and to sin. I was walking down the street with the preacher, and a woman stopped us, a member of the church, and said, “You see that home there? Oh, those people are so hard, and they’re so wicked.” She didn’t know that’s where we were going.
We went up to the door and knocked, and we entered in, and I got me a little stool, and I sat down before that eighty-five year old father, tottering in his age, and bless God, I won that man to the Lord Jesus. And he came down the aisle that night and gave his heart to the Lord, on the arm of his daughter. I could see she was under conviction. I couldn’t win her. Sometimes Jesus just has to be prayed to, “Lord, Lord, we leave her in Your hands.” But the next night, down the aisle came the daughter, confessing Jesus as her Savior. And the next night was Saturday night, and we extended that invitation long in prayer and intercession, and finally down the aisle came the father. And all three of them, saved, joined the church by baptism. I had to leave after the Sunday morning service the next day, and the three came up to me, that tottering old father and his daughter and the son-in-law. They said, “Oh, can’t you stay here and see us baptized?”
“No,” I said, “no, I must go back to my church. We’ve got a great service tonight.”
“Oh,” they said, “we wish you could see us baptized. This is going to be the happiest day of our lives, all three of us to be baptized.”
Well, anyway, that was the story, and the boy said to me, he said, “That was my [grandmother], my [grandmother] that you won to Jesus back there.” And the boy said, “When my [grandmother] was won to the Lord, she wrote to my mother, and when my mother visited in the home, the mother that you won, my grandmother,” the boy said, “that grandmother won my mother to Jesus. And my mother came back home and won my father to the Lord.” And he said, “In that godly and Christian home I grew up, and I’ve accepted Jesus as my Savior, and I’ve been called to the ministry, and I’m preparing now to be an ambassador and a representative of the Son of God.” And he said, “You never knew I existed, and you never knew I lived, but,” he said, “I just wanted someday to meet you and to tell you what you had done for me.” Oh, “where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” [Romans 5:20].
You just don’t realize, you could never know, the Spirit and working of God sometimes in the humblest things that you do: in the invitation, in the knocking at the door, in the taking time, God bless us.
That’s the reason I was late coming to the pulpit tonight. I had several appointments scheduled as I always do, but there was a young fellow, this young fellow didn’t have an appointment, and he wanted somebody to talk to him about Jesus. Oh, the Lord bless the young man, so lost in this labyrinth of this world. May the Lord bless the message tonight, and may the Lord add to it His benedictions. And may the Lord approve of it, in giving us souls tonight.
You, you, to confess your faith in the Lord Jesus [Romans 10:9-10], “Lord, I ask Thee to forgive my sins [1 John 1:9]. I ask Thee to save my soul [Romans 10:13]. Lord, I ask Thee for the peace that passeth understanding in my heart and life [Philippians 4:7]. Lord, here I am, and here I come.” Would you do it now? Would you make it tonight? In this lower floor, into the aisle and down to the front, in the great throng in this balcony round, in the moment that I’m making this invitation, make the decision, and come. There’s a stairway at the back on either side. There’s a stairway at the front on either side, and there is time and to spare, as our people prayerfully wait for you to come. Do you want to put your life with us in the church? A family or just one somebody you, while we sing our song of appeal, while we make this invitation, God leading the way, the Holy Spirit opening the door, coming after, “I make it now, pastor, and here I stand.” Do it, do it, do it, while we sing, while we stand and sing our song.
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Romans 5:20I. The words
A. Pleonazo, translated “abounded” – increased, filled up
1. Would expect Paul to say grace did huperperisseuo, “abounded more”
2. Impossible to translate
a. Adverbial form describes reaction of the people to the incomparable ministry of Jesus, “beyond measure astonished”(Mark 7:37)
b. Difficult to describe the indescribable (Luke 7:11-15)
B. Charis, “grace” – most meaningful of all words in Greek language
1. The word they used to describe the response of the heart toward beauty, proportion, and thing glorious and wonderful
2. Applied to human personality, character it referred to charm and grace
3. New Testament writers applied it to response of God to human sin (Philippians 2:5-8, Romans 8:21)
C. Hou, “where” sin abounds
1. Opposite of what we would expect – grace instead of wrath and judgment
2. In the sin of our first parents, God called them out of their hiding place and said sin has to be covered over (Genesis 1:27, 2:17, 3:1-11)
a. “Atonement” – cover over
b. Type of the Savior to come – God slew the animal in the garden to make skins to cover man’s nakedness (Genesis 3:15, 21)
A. In the days of the flood Noah found grace(Genesis 6:5, 8, 7:1, 21-23)
B. In the days of Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot was found righteous (Genesis 19:15-22)
C. In the days of captivity in Egypt, the angel passed over those under the blood (Exodus 12:12-13, 22-23, 29)
D. In the days of Jezebel and Ahab, Elijah let all Israel know God lives (1 Kings 18:36-38)
E. In the days of Daniel – the lions’ den, the three Hebrew children in the fiery furnace (Daniel 3:20-25, 6:7-9, 16)
F. The day of the cross – out of the cross flowed streams of mercy
1. Hymn, “There is a Fountain Filled with Blood”
G. Persecution and stoning of Stephen – the conversion of Saul (Acts 7:55-56, 59-60, 9:5)
H. Paul before Caesar (2 Timothy 4:16-17)
1. Chariots of fire round about Elisha(2 Kings 6:17)
I. State conference of preachers – young man told me his family saved and he was a preacher because of me
1. Revival in Tulsa, Oklahoma