DOES GRACE REIGN?
T. PIERCE BROWN
Romans 5:20-21 reads, “Moreover the law entered, that the offence 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.” There is enough material in these two verses to write several articles, but the thought now relates to what is involved in grace reigning through righteousness. Of the more than 20 commentators we have checked on these verses, we find none that more than barely touch the point we have in mind, if they even touch it at all.
Paul mentions several things that have reigned or could reign in our lives. Death reigned (Romans5:14). Righteousness shall reign (5:14). Sin reigned (5:21). Grace might reign (5:21). Of course Christ is said to reign (1 Corinthians15:25). What does it mean for something to reign in a person’s life? The basic meaning is that it has dominion over you. It rules your life. It is what causes you to think and act in certain ways. When death reigned, we were in bondage to it, but we can overcome death as Jesus said in John 8:51, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death.” Christ has “abolished death” (2 Timothy2:10), but it will not ultimately be completely destroyed until he comes again (1 Corinthians15:26). When sin reigned, we were servants of sin (Romans6:17,20).
But our thought at this time has to do with the idea of grace reigning in your life or causing you to think and act in certain ways. Do most of us do what we do most of the time because we want the reward that is offered us, because we fear punishment if we fail to do it, or do we do it because grace is in the forefront and center of our consciousness? We know that Paul said in Ephesians 2:8-9 that we are saved by grace through faith and not of works. But verse 10 suggests what should be the result of that awareness. We were “created in Christ Jesus unto good works.” Most of the preaching we have done and heard over the past 60 years has been concerned with what is involved in being saved by grace through faith. That still needs to be preached, for there seems to be an increasing number connected with the Lord’s church who are now teaching the false doctrine of salvation by grace only, or by faith only, or by both. Most of them do not seem to understand that if a person is saved by grace only, he cannot be saved by faith only¸ but contradictions like that do not seem to bother these false teachers.
It is my opinion that if we could preach, teach and live in such a fashion that it could be seen that we do what we do because we appreciate the grace, mercy and love of Christ rather than primarily in order to get whatever blessings we can get out of it, more changes would be wrought in the Lord’s church than all the so-called “change agents” are trying to accomplish. And instead of the changes being away from the pattern and teaching of the New Testament, they would be back to where they should have been all along.
You may have a vivid imagination, but we think it would be hard for you to imagine a person who really focuses and meditates on all of the things we have by the grace, mercy and love of Christ who would be satisfied to spend more on a Sunday dinner for himself and his family than he does on trying to accomplish the things for which Christ died. Can you imagine a person who is letting grace reign in his life spending more time and money going to a football game than he does on Christ? Can you imagine a person who is letting grace reign in his life being satisfied to come to the church building on Sunday morning, go through some rituals he calls worship and go home without ever coming to Bible study or coming back Sunday night or Wednesday night? We have little doubt that some go through what is called “a worship service” in which there is very little worship, and less service. One may think he is “communing” when he may be merely eating a cracker and drinking grape juice. One may mouth the words of a song—even “How Great Thou Art”—and not be worshipping God at all.
We have heard from some of the more modern young preachers that the older generation never understood salvation by grace. We have been preaching salvation by grace for almost 60 years, and still do not teach salvation by grace alone. The plan is totally by God’s grace, and the offer is totally by God’s grace, but we must still accept it. However, we confess that we probably have not properly emphasized letting grace reign. What few times we may have made that point, we have not dwelt on what is meant by letting grace reign through righteousness as Paul mentions in Romans 5:21.
Probably most persons who read it assume that Paul had reference to the righteous acts that we may do as a result of being saved by grace through faith as he mentions in Ephesians 2:8-10. We think that he is talking about something more basic and profound than that. We think he is talking about the same subject he has in mind in Romans 10:3-6 when he speaks of God’s righteousness. He is not there talking about the fact that God is righteous. He is talking about the righteousness provided through God’s grace by the gospel, in contradistinction to the righteousness the Jews thought they had through their partial obedience to the law. It is probable that most scholars who have commented on it agree with this. It has been our sad observation that many connected with the Lord’s church think that they are righteous because they have kept some part of the law of Christ. But the point that Paul is making here is that if grace is truly reigning in our hearts, we realize that the truth is what Paul said in Titus 3:5, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” We glory in the Lord (1 Corinthians1:31, 2 Corinthians10:17). We realize that not only do we have salvation by the grace of the Lord, but also every other blessing, both material and spiritual is by his grace. The air we breathe and the water we drink and everything we think we own is provided us by God’s grace. It is probable that almost all of are aware of that, but my question today goes beyond being aware of it. My question is, “Does the grace of God that provided for you a righteous standing before God reign in your heart so that it is the controlling factor in how you think and act?” Does it rule in your life? It is almost the same in effect as the question, “Is all you do in word or deed done with the desire in your mind to thus glorify God?” (1 Corinthians 10:31). It is mind-boggling to contemplate what would happen if even a majority of those who claim membership in the Lord’s church would do that, and let grace reign in our lives, aware that our righteous standing before God is a result of that grace.
We have little doubt that there are some connected with the Lord’s church who think that the act of allowing someone to baptize them earned them the right to claim salvation. How any thoughtful student of God’s word could come to that conclusion is a mystery. We doubt that such a person is a thoughtful student. Surely anyone not blinded by arrogance or some false teacher can understand that baptism is not a meritorious act that earned salvation, but, properly done, is an act of faith by which one gladly accepts the grace of a loving Lord. We might even say, every aspect of our salvation is by grace. A thoughtful appreciation of that fact, and of all the other things we receive only by the grace of God would do more to change our lives than all the sermons on “Hell And Who is Going There” could ever do. However, we need to know that, too, for Paul said, “Knowing the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.” However, if a person obeys the Lord primarily through fear, when the fear dies, much of the “Christianity” he had dies with it. But when a person obeys the Lord primarily because grace reigns in his life, and continues in that attitude, he will probably endure to the end.
T. Pierce Brown
1068 Mitchell Ave.