“Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned....how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!” —Romans 5:12,17
In Paul’s systematic and comprehensive letter to the Romans explaining the gospel, he talks about four different reigns that take place throughout human history. Two of them are oppressive and two are liberating, and altogether these four reigns are competing to rule in the lives of all people.
Paul writes, “Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses…” (Romans 5:14). The first reign is death and has its beginnings in the Garden of Eden as Paul notes, “…just as sin reigned in death…” (Romans 5:21). The second reign is sin and was made known when God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses. The third reign is life, which is found in Jesus Christ. Paul tells us, “…those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!” (Romans 5:17). The fourth reign is grace, which is also found in Jesus Christ and is an unmerited gift of God. Paul expounds, “also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 5:21).
It is the reign of death that produces the reign of sin and the reign of life that produces the reign of grace. These are, of course, in conflict with each other; death versus life and sin versus grace. Each are vitally important doctrinally and experientially. We may not want to hear all about doctrine, but the quality of fruit depends very much on the health and depth of the root. A farmer makes sure the root is strong because the fruit will look after itself. If we want to live well, we need to understand Christian doctrine right from its roots. We need to know our condition, why we need saving and how to be equipped for the life God intended us to have.
Paul digs deeply into a very important aspect of Christian truth and doctrine in talking about these four reigns. The reign of death and sin, brought on by the one man, Adam, is the natural condition we are born into—separation from God. But the gospel is about introducing two new reigns. The reign of the life indwelling us by the Holy Spirit, and the reign of grace, God giving us what we need in every situation. The gospel confronts us with the most important choice of our lives and one we all need to make: choosing death and sin or life and grace through Jesus Christ. There is no middle ground and no other alternative.
Dear Lord Jesus Christ, I choose life and grace that is only found in You. Yet I know there are some who are blind to this obvious choice. I ask for Your Spirit to open their eyes and hearts to this truth. Thank You, Lord.