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21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness [justice] leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord

Now we come to the final “so” of the “as/so” construct in Romans 5:12-21. This completes the sequence begun in verse 18.

21 so that,

The “so that” here refers to God’s purpose in giving the law; the law increases the transgression and therefore magnifies the power of grace. Grace overcomes the reign of sin and death. Here is the thrust: “Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

as sin reigned [aorist, point in the past when Adam sinned] in death,

Our sin capacity rules as a sovereign king over us. Sin is a despot over men. This brings alienation and separation from God. We can sum up sin’s power in the epoch of Adam as death, physical and spiritual death. This is the result of God’s wrath on man. Death secured its grip on us by sin. That is past for the believer; the reign of death is over for him.

grace also might reign through righteousness [justification]

Here Paul contrasted sin’s reign with grace’s reign. Grace characterizes the epoch of Christ. Grace overrules the sin capacity by Christ’s provision. Our position in grace overrules our sin capacity. Grace already reigns for the believer regarding eternal life.

leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Grace reigns unto eternal life. It is not anemic in bringing eternal life for people. Christ as our Mediator is the decisive factor that changes our status from one epoch to the other, from the epoch of Adam to the epoch of Christ. Jesus is the full and complete Mediator of grace on our behalf.

“Christ our Lord” is the center and circumference of our salvation. If we desire eternal life, we find it in Him and Him alone by His grace. Salvation is all of grace because it is all through Him.

Christ gives us “eternal life,” not temporal life, when we become Christians. He never withdraws that gift. This life does not consist of two years until we commit a significant sin. God cannot withdraw a promise or gift.

Ro 11:29, For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.


The rule of sin is answered by the rule of grace.


Grace gives but sin takes away. Justification sets our standing before God as our right forever. It is a one-time event.

The application of that standing to our experience is also ongoing. It requires many applications of truth to experience. Parlaying many principles to experience brings maturity to the Christian life. Sin lulls us into numbness toward God. We can blot Him out of our consciousness and from our lives. The purpose of the Christian life is to bring our present state or condition in line with our standing or position before God. Maturity is a process. Time multiplied by the number of applications of principle to experience brings maturity. God’s purpose is to make us like our Lord Jesus in time.

Grace has a kingdom where death had its kingdom. All of God’s claims were met at the cross.