Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series I/Volume V/On the Spirit and the Letter/Chapter 9
Chapter 9 [VI].—Through the Law Sin Has Abounded.
The apostle, then, wishing to commend the grace which has come to all nations through Jesus Christ, lest the Jews should extol themselves at the expense of the other peoples on account of their having received the law, first says that sin and death came on the human race through one man, and that righteousness and eternal life came also through one, expressly mentioning Adam as the former, and Christ as the latter; and then says that “the law, however, 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.” Then, proposing a question for himself to answer, he adds, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid.” He saw, indeed, that a perverse use might be made by perverse men of what he had said: “The law entered, that the offence might abound: but where sin abounded, grace did much more abound,”—as if he had said that sin had been of advantage by reason of the abundance of grace. Rejecting this, he answers his question with a “God forbid!” and at once adds: “How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” as much as to say, When grace has brought it to pass that we should die unto sin, what else shall we be doing, if we continue to live in it, than showing ourselves ungrateful to grace? The man who extols the virtue of a medicine does not contend that the diseases and wounds of which the medicine cures him are of advantage to him; on the contrary, in proportion to the praise lavished on the remedy are the blame and horror which are felt of the diseases and wounds healed by the much-extolled medicine. In like manner, the commendation and praise of grace are vituperation and condemnation of offences. For there was need to prove to man how corruptly weak he was, so that against his iniquity, the holy law brought him no help towards good, but rather increased than diminished his iniquity; seeing that the law entered, that the offence might abound; that being thus convicted and confounded, he might see not only that he needed a physician, but also God as his helper so to direct his steps that sin should not rule over him, and he might be healed by betaking himself to the help of the divine mercy; and in this way, where sin abounded grace might much more abound,—not through the merit of the sinner, but by the intervention of his Helper.
- Rom. v. 20, 21.
- Rom. vi. 1. 2.
- Rom. vi. 2.