“Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Romans 5:20-21

In the last part of our study we saw that

  • Adam’s disobedience made “many sinners” and that resulted in condemnation
  • by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners


  • through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life
  • by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous

We now move to the next part of Paul’s letter to the Romans where we will learn more about how Law and Grace work in our lives.

Verse 20

Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more

νομος δε παρεισηλθεν ινα πλεοναση το παραπτωμα ου δε επλεονασεν η αμαρτια υπερεπερισσευσεν η χαρις

νομος δε παρεισηλθεν ινα πλεοναση το παραπτωμα (nomos de pareisēlthen hina pleonasē to paraptōma) “the law now entered so that might abound the trespass” .. pareisēlthen means “to come in beside” .. pleonasē means “to superabound, have more than enough” .. paraptōma means “false step, falling away from being close beside”

The Apostle Paul mentioned the “law” more than 50 times in his letter to the Romans. The first use of the word “law” is in chapter 2 –

“For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law.”

Romans 2:12

Paul was addressing Gentiles and Jews in that one statement. Now he moves to the entrance of the Mosaic Law. Keep in mind that in the sentence before this one Paul pointed to the fact that the first man’s (Adam’s) disobedience made “many sinners” which resulted in condemnation. So, what did the entrance of the Law do?

that the offense might abound”

Fascinating! So many people for thousands of years have thought that God’s Law was given as a way to ‘earn’ salvation. Obey the Law and be good and you’ll earn your way into God’s favor. Not so, Paul wrote. The entrance of the Mosaic Law caused Adam’s sin to “superabound.”

[You may find it helpful to take a few minutes and read Galatians 3 as another perspective about the impact of the Mosaic Law on sinners.]

Why would God want “the offense” to abound?

ου δε επλεονασεν η αμαρτια υπερεπερισσευσεν η χαρις (hou de epleonasen hē hamartia hupereperisseusen hē charis) “where however abounded sin overabounded grace” .. hupereperisseusen means “to abound more exceedingly, beyond what already exceeds” .. charis means “favor, kindness, grace”

Even as the Mosaic Law impacted Adam’s sin (the offense) by making it superabound, God’s grace abounds beyond the exceeding abundance of sin!

Now we see how the Law and Grace work together. God added the Law to cause Adam’s sin to “superabound” and where sin abounded, “grace abounded much more!”

God’s Grace is truly greater than all our sin –

“Marvelous grace of our loving Lord,
Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt!
Yonder on Calvary’s mount outpoured,
There where the blood of the Lamb was spilled.

Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that is greater than all our sin!”


Verse 21

so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

ινα ωσπερ εβασιλευσεν η αμαρτια εν τω θανατω ουτως και η χαρις βασιλευση δια δικαιοσυνης εις ζωην αιωνιον δια ιησου χριστου του κυριου ημων

ινα ωσπερ εβασιλευσεν η αμαρτια εν τω θανατω (hina hōsper ebasileusen hē hamartia en tō thanatō) “so that just as reigned the sin in death” .. ebasileusen means “to rule over” .. thanatō means “physical or spiritual death”

ουτως και η χαρις βασιλευση δια δικαιοσυνης (houtōs kai hē charis basileusē dia dikaiosunēs) “so also grace might reign through righteousness” .. dikaiosunēs means “justice, righteousness”

εις ζωην αιωνιον δια ιησου χριστου του κυριου ημων (eis zōēn aiōnion dia Iēsou Christou tou kuriou hēmōn) “unto life eternal through Jesus Christ the Lord of us”

Even as sin reigns in death, grace reigns through righteousness to eternal life and that through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Other Commentaries

“Here he shows the reason why the law was given; although (as it is in Romans 5:13) before that time sin was in the world, it was that the offence might abound; either strictly, the offence of that one man, or rather largely, the offence of every man. The particle ina (rendered that), is to be taken either causally, and so it is interpreted by Galatians 3:19, where it is said, the law was added because of transgressions, that thereby the guilt and punishment of sin being more fully discovered, the riches of God’s free grace and mercy might be the more admired; or else eventually, it so falls out by accident, or by reason of man’s corruption, that sin is thereby increased or augmented.” Matthew Poole’s Commentary

“The Apostle had already (Romans 5:13-14) alluded to the intervention of the Law. Now he returns to the topic, and in order to complete his historical view of the origin of sin through Adam, and its atonement through Christ, he considers what was its effect upon the former, and how that effect was met and neutralised by the latter. Mankind had already been led into sin by Adam. The Law came in to make matters still worse. It substituted conscious sin for unconscious, and so heightened its guilt. But all this is more than retrieved by grace.” Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers

“By ‘the law’ is meant, not the law of nature, much less the law of sin; rather the ceremonial law, which came in over and above the moral law; it entered but for a time; by which sin abounded, and appeared very sinful; and through it the grace of God much more abounded, in the sacrifice of Christ prefigured by it: but the moral law, as it came by Moses, is here intended; which entered with great pomp and solemnity on Mount Sinai; and intervened, or came between Adam’s sin and Christ’s sacrifice; and also came in besides, or over and above the promise of life by Christ; and may moreover be said to enter into the conscience of a sinner, with the power and energy of the Spirit of God: and the end of its entrance is, that the offence might abound; meaning either the sin of Adam, he had been speaking of under that name, that that itself, and the imputation of it to his posterity, and also the pollution of human nature by it, together with all the aggravating circumstances of it, might appear more manifest; or sin in general, any and all actual transgressions, which abound through the law’s discovering the evil nature of them, and so taking away all excuse, or pretext of ignorance: by prohibiting them, whereby the corrupt nature of man becomes more eager after them; and by accusing, threatening, terrifying, and condemning, on account of them: one view of the apostle in this, doubtless, is to show, that there can be no justification by the law: but where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: sin has abounded in human nature, in all the individuals of it; and grace has superabounded in the same nature, being assumed by the Son of God, and united to him, who has appeared in it “full of grace and truth”, John 1:14, sin has abounded in all the powers and faculties of the soul, in the understanding, will, and affections, of an unregenerate man; but in regeneration, the grace of God much more abounds in the same powers and faculties, enlightening the understanding, subduing the will, and influencing the affections with love to divine things: sin abounded in the Gentile world, before the preaching of the Gospel in it; but afterwards grace did superabound in the conversion of multitudes in it from idols, to serve the living God; and where sin has abounded in particular persons to a very great height, grace has exceeded it, as in Manasseh, Mary Magdalene, Saul, and others.” Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible

“By Christ and his righteousness, we have more and greater privileges than we lost by the offence of Adam. The moral law showed that many thoughts, tempers, words, and actions, were sinful, thus transgressions were multiplied. Not making sin to abound the more, but discovering the sinfulness of it, even as the letting in a clearer light into a room, discovers the dust and filth which were there before, but were not seen. The sin of Adam, and the effect of corruption in us, are the abounding of that offence which appeared on the entrance of the law. And the terrors of the law make gospel comforts the more sweet. Thus God the Holy Spirit has, by the blessed apostle, delivered to us a most important truth, full of consolation, suited to our need as sinners. Whatever one may have above another, every man is a sinner against God, stands condemned by the law, and needs pardon. A righteousness that is to justify cannot be made up of a mixture of sin and holiness. There can be no title to an eternal reward without a pure and spotless righteousness: let us look for it, even to the righteousness of Christ.” Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary

Romans Resources

If you have not read previous studies from Chapter 5, we invite you to read those first for a proper context for our text today.

Romans 5:1-5

Romans 5:6-8

Romans 5:9

Romans 5:10-11

Romans 5:12-14

Romans 5:15-17

Romans 5:18-19

Previous Romans Study eBooks

Next Time

We will look at Romans 6:1-4 as we continue our study of the Gospel of God.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.