February 19, 2015

Much More

When I read Romans 5, the words that have always stood out most to me are "much more", like in 5:17: "For if because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ." I underline "much more" and "how much more" anywhere I see it, which is mostly in Romans and Hebrews, but especially Romans 5.
In verses 8 and 9, Paul says that when we were unrighteous, God loved us by sending Christ to die. When we receive that gift by faith, Christ’s action on our behalf justifies us before God. Being justified simply means that we are in right standing before God. We are free from guilt and the penalty due for sin.

After this declaration by Paul, we get our first “much more”: “Much more then shall we be saved from wrath through Him.” The wrath spoken of is God’s present wrath. The tense seems vitally important. Paul is saying that if Jesus is able and willing to make us just before God at a point in our past when we believed, is He not able and willing to save us presently from God’s wrath toward sin? Paul is addressing life after salvation. He is grabbing my face and your face and trying to make us see: Everyday of your life, Jesus stands between you and God so that when God sees you, He sees you through the blood of Christ. Instead of wrath, you are approved and beloved just as Christ is to His Father. There is no more room or need for condemnation for you.

We see another “much more” in verse 10: “We were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” This mirrors 5:17: “Much more those who receive abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness will reign in life through Jesus”. Whereas before, Paul draws our attention to the death of Christ for us, these verses draw our attention to the resurrection of Jesus for us: His reign over sin and death, His power, and His authority.

Why this distinction? The aim of Christ’s sacrifice was our justification and our reconciliation to God at a point when we believed, but the aim of His resurrection goes way beyond just our salvation. This is His grace toward us. Grace is not just the removal of sin. It is the adding on, the giving of gifts we don’t deserve, the power and motivation for living. As believers, we receive Christ’s resurrected life in us, which means we receive His Spirit to empower us to live the Christian life. The Bible says that this is the same power that raised Christ from the dead.

Receive is the operative word. It’s a word we need to understand as Christians. We tend to understand that we receive our salvation, but we struggle to understand that we are also intended to receive by faith what comes after salvation. We know salvation by faith, but we believe sanctification comes through our own efforts. This is why Paul continually uses the words “much more”. He is reminding us that, yes, Christ has justified and reconciled us, but He does so "much more" for us. He gives us everything we need for life and godliness! That's, well, everything, and it's why he says that we who receive abundant grace and the gift of righteousness are able to reign in life. Because of Christ in us.

Our spiritual growth, our sanctification, is not self-directed, it is Holy Spirit-directed. We receive His leadership in our lives through Scripture, and our job is to respond. We receive. Then we respond. He reigns over sin, for example. So as we surrender to the Holy Spirit’s leadership, as we receive His leadership, He will lead us to righteousness, to what pleases God, because, as Galatians 5:16 says, “I say then, "Walk in the Spirit and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.”

I think this is why I love each and every "much more" in Scripture. Christ didn’t just die. He was resurrected so that we would have the “much more” of the Holy Spirit. We follow a God who offers us abundant gifts of grace for our everyday Christian lives.