Romans 5: 15-21
For just as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous. But law came in, with the result that the trespass multiplied; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.
Paul is saying that God’s grace is ALWAYS stronger than sin. No matter how much we sin, God’s grace is always greater. Even though we sin, God will always forgive us. Not because we deserve forgiveness, but because God won’t allow sin to win out in our lives in the world.
To me, this section reads almost like a battle story, where sin tries to have dominion over our lives and world, but God is always defeating the powers of sin and death.
In the apostles’ creed, we confess that Jesus “descended into Hell.” What did he do there? Luther said that it was in hell that Jesus defeated the power of “sin, death, and the devil.” In fact, it was this part of Jesus’ story, I’m told, that helped folks in Norway come to faith in Jesus. Jesus’ death on the cross was OFFENSIVE to viking culture because it portrayed Jesus, not as saviour, but as weakling.
BUT, they COULD worship a God who would go into enemy territory and emerge victorious. The fancy term for this is the “Christus Victor” theory of atonement. It says that Jesus’ victory wasn’t just on the cross, but also in Hell, when he defeated God’s enemies so that God’s people could could be free from Hell’s tyranny.
That’s what I see happening in this passage: a battle between sin/death and grace. And because grace is ALWAYS stronger, sin and death are defeated. God has claimed a victory on our behalf.
This means that we have no control over our destiny. But that Jesus has defeated all the powers that keep us from God. And now we are free to live as beloved children of the one who created us, called us by name, and gave us new and everlasting life.