Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
’What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?
At McGary Middle School in the 80s, some genius bought us a stoplight. The stoplight allegedly had a decibel meter in it, and it was set at a certain level to monitor how loud we were. If we got too loud, the light would flip to yellow to warn us. At that point, some kid would notice and shout “the light is yellow!” So loud that it would cross the threshold into red, and recess was canceled.
Our 15 minutes of running around to get out our energy was turned into 15 minutes of silence and heads-down on the cafeteria tables.
The rest of the afternoon was spent trying to single out who shouted “the light is yellow!” and ruined our lives.
Before that light was in place, we were loud. Loud enough to buy the light, I guess. But once that light was installed in our cafeteria, we had a definite measure of just how loud we were. The light didn’t make us do evil, but we certainly got in trouble more because of it.
The Law was a little different. I didn’t like that stoplight because it kept me from recess. The Law was loved (and still is today) because it was a set of laws commanded by God for His people. Psalm 19 says “In keeping them there is a great reward,” so people loved the Law because it was a clear measure of what they had to do to express their faith in God.
People did bad things before the Law was given, but the Law gave some authority and vocabulary to what they were doing wrong. Rebellion against God takes many forms, and the Law listed a lot of those clearly (sometimes too clearly!)
The other thing that happened with that stoplight? We learned how many times our teachers let us get really really loud and didn’t make us stay in for recess. There were times that they knew the light went red because one kid yelled. There were times that they knew we needed to get outside.
So as we saw explicitly that we were breaking the Law, we saw explicitly when the teachers would give up some of their own power and freedom and let us continue out to recess. We didn’t deserve it, but upon receiving it, we loved our teachers a little bit more. As the law was making transgressions present, it was also putting grace on display.
Grace will always increase over our sin. Jesus died and died for every single one of them. Our reaction, as we love Him, is not to get louder and break more laws, though, but to get on board with whatever He wants.