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Twilight Musing “The God of More”

 

By Elton Higgs

We live in a society geared to “more.”  We are urged by advertising to acquire more possessions, more pleasures, more comforts, or more power and success, abetting our own desires for increased possessions or.  But of course what humanity in general wants more of doesn’t fit very well with what God’s “more” is.  Recently I noticed some of His “mores,” voiced through Paul, in my reading of Romans 5, and I’d like to share those with you now.

Romans 5  begins with a summing up of God’s marvelous provision of unmerited salvation through His Son’s death and resurrection and the generosity of His grace, concluding that through His  generosity, we also ”rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (vv.1-2), the same glory that God is going to bestow on the Son (Rom. 8:17). And then he goes on to say (italics my emphasis),

3 More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering  produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and  hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love  has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us (Rom. 5:3-5, ESV).

“More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings.”  Whoops!  Wasn’t that a slip of the tongue, Paul?  Didn’t you mean, “We exult in our being the elect of God”?  No, indeed, for this is one of God’s “mores” that contrasts with human expectations.   Although God is constantly and faithfully generous in pouring His love into our hearts by the power of the Holy Spirit (v. 5), we do not embrace the hope of glory without struggle or pain, any more than our Lord Jesus did.  He “learned obedience through what He suffered” (Heb. 5:8) and “for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross” (Heb. 12:2).  Paul goes on in Romans 5 to expound on the progression by which “suffering  produces endurance,  and endurance produces character, and character produces hope”—that is, the seasoned hope that rests in a faith that has been put through the fire to be proven as pure and precious as refined gold (see I Pet. 1:3-8).

We are now better prepared to understand the “mores” of verses 9-11.

9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Verse 9 picks up from the fact that Jesus died for people because they were in desperate need and in spite of their being thoroughly undeserving of His sacrificial death.  If, Paul argues, we were “justified by His blood” when our value was severely tarnished by sin, “much more shall we be saved by Him from the wrath of God” now that we are in covenant relationship with Him.   Similarly, if Jesus’ death reconciled us to God while we were still enemies, “much more . . . shall we be saved by His life” (v. 10), the resurrection life that prefigures our own participation in His glory.  The final “more” of this little paragraph brings us back to the rejoicing Paul referred to in v. 2, which has gained depth by being subjected to the suffering that brings maturity to our hope.

There is yet one other, culminating “more” at the end of this chapter that will serve to sum up the theme of God’s abundance overcoming all obstacles:

18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness  leads to justification and life for  all men. 19 For 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. 20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The analogy drawn in vv. 18-19 seems to be an equivalency: one trespass resulting in condemnation for all = one act of obedience resulting in justification for all.  But the problem of sin brought to light by God’s Law, which “came in to increase the trespass,” was cumulative.  Humans did not cease to sin when Christ died, and therefore the grace of God had to cover not only the sins committed up to the point of Jesus’ death and resurrection, but for all of the time from the Fall until God chooses to wrap things up in the final judgment and the restoration of creation.  God’s grace had, so to speak, not only to keep up with but to outstrip the pace of sin revealed by the Law.  Thus, “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.” And so, as Paul sums up at the end of Romans 8, “we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (v.37).  Our God is not merely adequate, He is abundantly sufficient.

 

 

 

 

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