The DEEP

Why Have Laws?

To set up grace.

Romans 5:18–6:1 (NASB)

So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous. The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?

Once again, Paul asks a question that the reader could be thinking. What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? Yes, what Paul said just before is that shocking.

Paul is pounding home one of the most difficult and advanced concepts in all of Christianity. Law came in so that the transgression would increase.

Wait. God wants the transgression to increase? That’s why He gave the law?

Yes, and verse 5:20 makes this absolutely clear. Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness.

Two words are key here – “so that.” They translate the Greek word ίνα (“hinna”) which indicates a purpose construct. A more literal (but clumsy) translation would say, “…where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, for the purpose that as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign …” This verse actually tells us the reason God did something. That’s thrilling.

God’s motives are generally so far above our pay grade that we shouldn’t expect to know anything about them. But there are a few places in scripture where we’re directly told what He’s up to. It’s the most valuable information ever written. If any words are worth memorizing, they’re it.

There’s no getting around it. You can’t have transgression if there’s no law to transgress. Paul is saying that more transgression led to more grace and the purpose of it all was so that grace would reign. If you feel like sarcastically offering to help out by sinning a lot, then you get what Paul is saying.

Of course, Paul rejects the offer for more sin, but that’s another lesson.


This is difficult because it means that man’s fall into sin wasn’t a setback; it was all just part of the plan. That makes it sound like the plan was, in a sense, evil. That can’t be true if God is good.

This is beyond complicated, and worthy of much study, meditation and prayer. But it’s not the only example of an apparent evil that’s actually providentially glorious.

You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good.” – Genesis 50:20a (NKJV)


All the weekly study guides, which include all five devotionals plus related questions for discussion or meditation, are available for download here:

https://www.ailbe.org/resources/itemlist/category/91-deep-studies

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.