Law Developing Sin
Romans 5:20-21
Moreover the law entered, that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound:…

1. The apostle begins the present argument in ver. 12, breaking off for the time; and instead of completing the comparison, turning aside to show the universal and lamentable effects of sin. St. Paul was sufficiently acquainted with the continent of Divine truth to be able to wander without losing sight of the cardinal points. To put a man unacquainted with a country half a mile from the main road would make his safe return somewhat doubtful. Many are in this state in respect of gospel truths. But Paul could venture to take a by-road to reach a by-purpose, and then return safely to the place whence he started.

2. At the close of ver. 14 he comes again in contact with his main purpose, that the reader might not lose sight of it, and to show that he knew exactly his whereabouts — "who is the figure of Him that was to come." But instead of going on to prove their resemblance, he again digresses to show first their unlikeness.

3. In ver. 18 he again returns to his chief purpose, namely, to show that the first Adam and the second were in one respect similar. The "offence" stands alone. There was but "one" offence from Adam to Moses, for there was no law to be transgressed, i.e., no covenant. God made a covenant with Adam as the representative of mankind; but that covenant was broken. Man, therefore, had no covenant to break in the period indicated. God gave His law to the sea, to the birds, etc., without saying a word to them: they were too small for Him to enter into covenant with them. But man was created on so large a scale that God could not legislate for him without covenanting with him. The "offence," in the apostle's sense here, was not possible to man in the absence of a covenant. Mankind from Adam to Moses were daily adding to the mass of their corruption, but the offence continued to remain "one" and the same all through. However, in the time of Moses we find mankind again brought under a covenant — "the law entered that the offence might abound."


1. Sin always revives in the presence of law (Romans 7:9). The pure and fiery light of the commandment awakes it, excites it, and draws out its energies.

(1) Sin in Israel had been sleeping during the Egyptian bondage and deliverance; and the trials encountered during the journey to Sinai only made sin dream fitfully and say an occasional angry word between wakefulness and sleep, just enough to show that it only wanted opportunity to rouse itself. But when the nation arrived at Sinai they received the most marvellous exhibition of the Divine glory. It might have been thought that sin had received such a deep wound that it would never again be able to raise its head. But no; "they made a calf in those days." Wonderful! But it was only the necessary consequence of the giving of the law.

(2) Sin is still the same. Man is not conscious of his enmity to God when the commandment does not shine upon his conscience. His enmity is like the match in his waistcoat pocket. There is fire in it, but it is asleep. It only needs to be brought into contact with something harder than itself to become a flame. So the young man's guilty heart is full of the fire of enmity, but it is asleep. When he comes to rub against God's law, sin "takes occasion by the commandment" to develop itself.

2. The entrance of the law occasioned the development of sin, because man cannot be developed without developing his sin. This principle manifests itself everywhere. When tares have been sown mixed with wheat, all the influences which promote the increase of the wheat promote the growth of the tares. Look at the young babe. Well, if the little one is to be developed, his sin must be developed with him. As true as he will be a three-feet man, he will be a three-feet sinner at the same time. The internal enemies of many a country would not be nearly as formidable were it not for the educational advantages they have enjoyed. The danger and the horribleness of their deeds increase in the same proportion as their knowledge. In the face of that, were it not better to keep all knowledge from them? No! that is not the method of the Divine government. The voices of nature, providence, and inspiration teach the contrary. Humanity must be developed, though that be impossible without developing its sin. And inasmuch as the law entered to develop man, it of necessity therefore occasioned the development of his sin likewise.


1. To develop sin in its heinousness and frightfulness, so that the evil of its nature as it strikes against God and militates against man might be made patent to all. There is deceitfulness in sin. It wears a garment so attractive that no creature is free from the danger of being bewitched by it. It deceived even the angels. It captivated our first parents. Sin was having fair weather before the law entered. The earth was sitting quietly under its heavy and torpid authority. But at last there dawned the day of its visitation. In the presence of God's holy law the splendour of its raiment begins to fade; its horrible look makes many refuse it their loyalty any longer. The entrance of sin supposes the entrance of all the dispensation of the Old Testament, which terminated in the advent and death of Christ. And there, on the Cross, was finished the work of stripping sin of all its robes. Thenceforth it stood in all the nakedness of its shame before an astonished universe.

2. To develop its strength, and accomplish its destruction. God is not afraid of sin. By the time of the Incarnation sin had been completely developed. Corrupt religion could not before, and can never again, produce such a court as that of the high priest in Jerusalem. There is no hope that paganism will ever again produce such a faithful representative of itself as Pontius Pilate. Hell will never again see the day when it can steel and whet a tool so dangerous as Iscariot. All the hosts of sin are on the field in the memorable struggle with the Prince of Life, so that the foe can never complain that all his forces were not on the spot (Colossians 2:14, 15). Sin still continues the war, but it only shoots like a coward; shoots and runs at the same time. Let us therefore take heart; let us arm ourselves with all the armour of God that we may pursue and help to drive it out of the world; There is a complete victory over sin to everyone that believeth in Christ.

(Evan Phillips.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound:

WEB: The law came in besides, that the trespass might abound; but where sin abounded, grace abounded more exceedingly;

Law and Grace
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