Tuesday, May 1, 2007

... Grace did much more abound.

Romans 5:20 could have an interesting spin on it: "Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound." Basically, this is saying that no matter what and how strong sin 'abounds,' grace is there and stronger.

For the concept of hell, that's where all the unrepentant sinners would go (by conservative Christian views). Therefore, hell would also be thriving with sin. But the verse above seems to say that no matter where sin is, grace is also there. Nothing can separate people from the grace of God, so shouldn't God's grace also be located in hell, since there'd be a lot of obvious sin there?

Now Paul also does go on to say that simply because grace is more 'abound' does not mean that people go on gleefully sinning to make grace more prevalent, and that those who are dead to sin should not go on sinning.

However, I see no reason why that doesn't mean that God's grace "stops" at the gates of hell, or isn't in hell. It's never unavailable. Sin can't stop it, no matter what. Grace is stronger, in all locations.

21 comments:

SocietyVs said...

Interesting view Heather, and some interesting thoughts. I like Paul's idea about Grace being greater then Sin - that it 'abounds more than'. Perhaps grace is more available than we think.

For me the issue of forgiveness/grace comes down to us (on a very human level). I feel that if I can forgive someone their wrong-doing towards me - how much greater must God be able to. That idea has permeated in me for sometime now. I think if we consider the power of our forgiveness/grace towards others we will begin to understand how gracious our God is. I have not yet totally fathomed the idea but I am very aware how strong of a love for others God has allowed me to have - I can't imagine how much more God loves people. This is one of the reasons I think God is love and I am not sure how full 'hell' will be.

Guy Sonntag said...

Nothing can separate people from the grace of God, so shouldn't God's grace also be located in hell

You know, I think you're onto something here.

Heather said...

Society,

** I have not yet totally fathomed the idea but I am very aware how strong of a love for others God has allowed me to have - I can't imagine how much more God loves people.**

I read in a book about a man whose eight year old daughter was being tested for cancer. He was in the waiting room, terrified and praying/pleading with God to make sure his daughter would be okay. He then realized that God loved his daughter more than the man ever would, and the man immediatly felt at peace. I think of that story a lot, in terms of of how God's love would work throughout the world. A love of that intensity and power would simply not leave any of His creation in a place of torment, or eternally lost, or any of that. Love is incapable of doing such an action.

Guy,

I think I'm onto something, too. In the non-egotistical sense. So long as sin exists in a 'strong' sense, grace will be there that much stronger.

jennypo said...

Heather,
I have to agree that grace reaches even to hell, with this difference - that grace has been rejected, which is why it is even possible for souls for whom Jesus has died to go to hell. It is not grace that is insufficient. It is not that sin was too strong.
The fact that there are people in hell can only mean one thing - they refused the grace that abounded. Their sin has been paid for by Jesus' blood. His grace shines on them still, but they have rejected that grace, and that is what allows them to suffer in a way that God states clearly he not willing for.
His grace is absolutely enough. That's why it can't be toyed with.

Heather said...

Jenny,

**His grace shines on them still, but they have rejected that grace, and that is what allows them to suffer in a way that God states clearly he not willing for. ** I don't think grace can permanently be rejected, though, especially in light of Psalms 139. Grace is supposed to support, and it's the divine influence of God upon lives -- and God would never influence anyone to go to hell. If it extends everywhere, then that means, to me, that it's always available. There's never a point, in this life or hereafter, where one can't "use" it.

So I don't think it's a matter of 'refusing' grace, because in a way, that's impossible. If it abounds more than sin, then grace is already there. It's a matter of not being able to see how the grace is there, but eventually, that will happen.

JumpingFromConclusions said...

Heather,

Great thoughts here. As you know, I'm with you as far as eternal grace just making sense. If God is eternal, and God is merciful, and God never changes, then isn't God eternally merciful?

**Nothing can separate people from the grace of God, so shouldn't God's grace also be located in hell, since there'd be a lot of obvious sin there?**

It sure seems that way to me.

Heather said...

JfC,

I'm very much with you on God being eternally merciful. I don't think grace has a time-limit, because then that means death has more power than God does. It also leaves sin as a victor.

Mystical Seeker said...

I think the idea that people go to hell because they have refused grace makes no sense for at least a couple of reasons. The first one is what you have already pointed out--that it is simply impossible to do so. But I also think that you can't refuse that which you don't even think is being offered to you. The traditional Christian notion of hell, for example, has atheists and pagans and such going there--but I don't know of a single atheist of pagan who would say, "God is offering me grace but I refuse to accept it!" An atheist, for example, doesn't even believe that God exists, so they couldn't possibly believe that God is offering them a grace that they are then rejecting.

The world is full of theological uncertainty and diverse opinions about God. As long as the nature of these questions remain up in the air, to judge people for making the "wrong" theological question is absurd to an extreme degree, and it makes God out to be a total jerk.

Heather said...

Mystical,

I agree with you. Mostly because I see love and grace defined as this all-powerful, overwhelming force, that can never be 'shut off.' And I also see it that people can be blinded to grace/love because they're so consumed with hatred or lust or anything else.

SocietyVs said...

Heather, I think you are cool.

Anonymous said...

God loves people so much that there is really no 'hell' not the kind with never ending eternal torment anyway. The 'hell' that most religious leaders teach about is not Biblical and probably rooted in Zorasterism. Hell with its flames and torture is something vindictive human beings would dream up but not something that would issue forth from a God Who not only loves all of us but Who truly is Love. This God is patient and desires that none should perish but that all should come to repentance. I am sure that He is capable of fulfilling His own desire. You are right, there is no place where we can hide from the grace of God. David said, "If I should go down to Sheol (the common grave) You are there."

Heather said...

Anon @ 4:20,

I agree with you, about the eternal torment. I don't believe such a place exists, for the same reasons you do. And especially due to the Psalms you quoted, because the point of it was for David to realize that no matter where he goes, God is available for comfort and help, even in Sheol.

jennypo said...

Heather,
I think you are cool too.
:^)

Heather said...

Society and Jenny,

Thank you. :)

Brian said...

Hi Heather, I just noticed your blog. Thanks for including me on your blogroll (Primordial Blog). It's interesting to see the whole discussion going on here about things I was thinking about and questioning ten years ago. My journey ended up taking me completely away from the church, but that doesn't mean everyone has to come to the same conclusion. Above all I respect people who are willing to question their beliefs and think deeply about things.

That story in the above comments about the man with the daughter dying of cancer? That brought to my mind the old saying, "Yes God sees every sparrow that falls to the ground, but the point is that the sparrow still falls". In other words God may love us, but he doesn't seem to do much about it. His grace may reach us wherever we are, but what does that accomplish in actual results?

I basically came to the realization that we are on our own in this world and the realization was scary, yet liberating and exciting at the same time. Instead of collapsing and crying out to God ("Jesus Take the Wheel"), I get up and make things happen for myself and I have been the better off for it.

Jennifer said...

A most profound question! I will have to do some head stratching on that one. Thanks for your feedback on my post today!

laurie said...

Hi Heather, Nice blog! I'm enjoying your posts on Christianity; found you through Brendan's blog Off the Beaten Path. Hope it's OK, I've added you to my blogroll. Laurie

MOI said...

Heather,
I've been wanting to comment on this for some time now. I like your view of grace. It makes much more sense that a merciful God would be able to even permeate the gates of hell with grace abounding. It's spurred some interesting thoughts for me.

Anonymous said...

This comment is for Brian: It is very sad and unfortunate that you went away from "the church". I can relate myself because I felt the same way. What's also wierd is that it was around 10+ years ago. The church is supposed to be God's support system for believers as well as the example of His Love toward the "world" or non-believers. The "Body of Christ" is doing God a terrible injustice with the way we're living, disobeying, and getting caught up in the cares of this world. We're supposed to be ambassadors, soldiers, and examples of Christ and we're failing tremendously. I can see why so many keep their distance from the things of God. Those who don't believe probably don't believe because they see the horrible examples so-called Christians are leading. I am not in anyway saying that all Christians are poor examples, but a good number are poor examples. What I learned in my experience through the years is that God is always there waiting for us to ask Him for help, have a daily relationship with Him, and above all give Him the chance to prove He is trustworthy and that He will never leave us nor forsake us. When you sincerely seek God and want that relationship, the experience is like no other. The more you ask Him, the more He will show you. He doesn't have to show us anything but in His own way with us in our personal and intimate relationship with Him, He shows us things and in that way He gains our trust. Note: I have found out that even after God proves to you that He is real, we will still have un-belief somewhere in our heart. I always pray that God forgives thy un-belief. To wrap things up- forget about how "the church" is conducting itself and focus on your position with God and turn I know He will show you His divine power and Goodness. Also remember that a righteous man FALLS, but isn't it great that we have a redeemer in Jesus Christ who rescues us when we fall to our own desires and sins. God's grace and mercy allows us to be successful, have the desires of our heart, (even when it does not line up with His plan for our lives), and even ignore His voice at times we hear Him speak to our heart. LOVE is His greatest gift to us all, no matter what we might think or feel about ourselves. The fact that we sin without end, also paints a vivid picture of what kind of Love God has for us ALL. We hurt Him over and over and over and over but still He Loves us. Just LOVE eachother as He loved us first.

Andrew Lum said...

In the Greek, the word sin can either be harmatano (our sin action) or harmatia (our sentence of sin).

Harmatano is a verb. Harmatia is a noun.

We can also think of harmatia as condemnation, guilt and judgment.. leading to death. We can also think of harmatia as sickness, poverty, and all the curses.. the consequences of harmatano.

Harmatia is also falling short of the glory of God - falling short of God's best for us. Example, sickness is falling short of God's divine health for us. Lack is falling short of God's divine abundance for us.

Harmatano leads to harmatia. This is quite clear in Rom 3:23 - for all have harmatano, and "fall short of God's glory" (harmatia).

Having established this, Paul is mainly addressing harmatia in the book of Romans, not harmatano.

I think harmatia is used about 48 times in Romans where harmatano is used only about 6 times.

The blood of Jesus removed our harmatia, not harmatano. That's why today, we still see sin action in our lives, but He wants us to believe that He has taken care of its sentence (harmatia).

Notice that verse 5:20 does not start with "where sin abounded, grace abounded much more". It is starts with "but". Even more, this is the 2nd half of a verse!

The entire verse is (paraphrase) - Moreover, the aw entered that the offense (sin action) might abound. But where sin (sin sentence) abounded, grace abounded much more.

Notice Paul uses 2 diffrent words here? Offense for the action, and sin for the sentence?

How does a sentence get lifted from a guilty one? By acquittal.

That is why Paul goes on to say in the next verse "grace reigns through righteousness". Righteousness can also be defined as the clearance of guilt or acquittal.

Jesus took our harmatia sentence so that God can righteously acquit us.

When Paul says "shall we continue in sin (harmatia) that grace may abound?", we can also say "shall we continue in lack that provision may abound?".

And Paul's answer is - Certainly not! How shall we who died to lack live any longer in it?

Notice Paul's focus (and therefore God's focus) is not our harmatano, but our harmatia.

God gave man a free will. And because of that, there will always be harmatano - whether we harmatano more or harmatano less, we will still suffer harmatia.

God's love sent His Son Jesus to send away our harmatia. The word forgive in Greek means to send away. Our sins forgiven means our harmatia sentence sent away. See.. the focus is not on our harmatano.

His blood took our harmatia away - not harmatano. For if His blood took our harmatano away, and we still manifest sin action today, then His blood did a bad job in removing our harmatano. NO WAY!

God really loves and cares for us. He does not want us to suffer harmatia. His big-heartedness is beyond comprehension!

ALIHAYMEG said...

That's a lot of mental gymnastic Andrew. I'm assuming that you are trying to support the doctrine of eternal torment with those carefully orchestrated yet flawed conclusions. Your opinion is based on several faulty assumptions, not the least of which is that Hell is real in the traditional sense and a literal place. Even if you are correct in your previous assessment of the meanings of the 2 words, that does not preclude that the sentence handed down was or is eternal torment. (Separation from God etc.) Too many other inconsistencies exist in the English translations of scripture that have masked the full weight of the love and grace of God. For the first 400 years after Christ, the prevailing doctrine was "Apokostasis" or the restoration of all things in Christ. Not until the flawed KJV became the standard text (1611 years after the fact) did the doctrine of eternal torment become the accepted norm. It shouldn't have, and it won't be for much longer.