Our Anchorage - The Love of God in Christ Jesus (continued)
I say he was working toward that. It is a painful process. The first stage of the letter, as you know, is occupied with that painful necessity, that so unpleasant necessity - the exposing of sin. He does it very thoroughly; he goes through the whole Gentile world, and give, not an exaggerated picture, but a very terrible picture of sin. There is no place in the whole Bible where sin in its awfulness is more exposed than in the early part of this letter. It is a terrible picture of human sin in its natural state. And he proceeds from the Gentile world to the Jewish world, the world of Israel. Although elect, chosen, called, separated, and given so much of Divine deposit and trust and revelation, Israel had to have the Law. You do not need a police force in a perfect State; you do not need law if there is no lawlessness. The very giving of the Law, Paul says, is only another proof that in this matter of sin Jews are no better than other people. "By the law sin is manifested." I have spoken of the Police Force: the very presence of a policeman says that there is wrong in the world; the very presence of the law means that there must be lawlessness. And so Israel is no better than the rest. Sin is universal; sin is in every creature; sin is the state of the whole creation. It is a terrible exposure, uncovering, but very necessary. I am quite sure that, when Paul got to the end of it, he sighed a sigh of relief, he was glad to get on to something better than that - really what he was after.
You see the point: this is what he is after! He must do that - and God must make us know sin, the reality of sin, he awfulness of sin; sin must become a terrible thing with us, before ever we can appreciate the grace of God. No one ever appreciates Divine grace who has seen little or nothing of the sinfulness of sin in their own heart. Great pains, then, are taken in this letter to expose the reality and the nature of sin, and its effects; not in order to bring condemnation, not to make people miserable, but just to lead to the grace of God - to enhance Divine grace. So, the apostle says, "where sin abounded" - bounded over Gentile and Jew, over the race, over the whole world; a great wave has passed over and inundated the whole creation - where sin, like a great ocean, spread itself, abounded, grace did super-abound! Grace was greater than the greatness of sin!
So it comes to this at last: "What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?" It is a marvelous thing: and, as you can well see, the apostle is speaking much out of his own experience and history here, when he catalogs these things which are a real threat to hope and to life and prospect. Very real and terrible things they are to prospect. Very real and terrible things they are that he catalogs here. "Shall tribulation? ..." Paul knew something about tribulation; tribulation in his experience was a very real thing indeed. "Or anguish? ..." - yes, we find Paul more than once in anguish; anguish over the spiritual state of his beloved converts, and the churches. To the Thessalonians he speaks twice of his "travail" for them - his anguish. "Or persecution?.." - he tells us he was in hunger; "nakedness ..." - yes, in nakedness; "or peril, or sword ..." And if that is not enough, "death ... life ... angels ... principalities ... things present ... things to come ... powers ... height ... depth, ..." "and", he says, "I cannot go on enumerating and analyzing any more" ... "... or any other creation" - that covers everything! "I am persuaded that there is nothing in creation - all these things and anything else that you would like to gather into that - I am persuaded that none of these things shall separate us from the love of Go which is in Christ Jesus." That is grace!
(continued with # 18)