In Romans 5, Paul shows how in one man, Adam, all were condemned, while in One Man, Christ, all are justified. In the concluding verse of this chapter we read, “as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” I have found this distinction between a reign of sin and a reign of grace more and more intriguing as I have been studying the the fact that the gospel is by grace alone this last week. It seems that all men fall into one of two camps they are either being ruled by sin or they are being ruled by grace (Rom. 3:9ff, Rom 5:12-14). In this thread, I want to take a moment and highlight some of the main characteristics of the reign of sin that came to my mind.

  1. Sin sets self as sovereign. Having rejected the rule of God, men seek to establish themselves as sovereign. “In those days there was no king in
    Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes.” (Judg 17:6, cf. Deut. 18:8, Prov. 21:2)
  2. Sin loves foolishness. Having rejected the knowledge of God, men seek to establish guidance for their lives based on their own speculations about what could be or should be (Rom. 1:21, Rom. 3:10, Prov. 1:7). A quick read the book of Proverbs shows over and over again that fools love folly, and they despise wisdom.
  3. Sin pursues unrighteousness (self-righteousness). Without God or His wisdom to guide them, men are left to pursue a “righteousness” which is defined on their own terms, which is really not righteousness at all. “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (Isa. 5:20).
  4. Sin follows paths of destruction and misery. Without God as the greatest enjoyment, they are always exploring looking for new things to satisfy them. In their pursuit of “happiness”, they are willing to use what ever means necessary, including deception and violence. (
    Rom. 3:13-16,
    Jam. 4:1-4)
  5. Sin never brings peace. Because they are always looking to expand their own rule and authority, they are always at war. They cannot have peace until all who stand in their way have succumbed to their own rule. (Rom. 3:17)
  6. Sin brings death. Since all the works of men are tainted by sin, they only serve to earn them death (Rom. 6:23). Therefore, to assert that a person must do works in order to obtain salvation is impossible because no one is capable of doing any good works unless they first are justified by faith (Rom. 5:1), “whatever is not from faith is sin.”

These things should all serve as a good heart check for all of us. Are we always looking for something more or something new? Do we find ourselves always restless? How do we approach life? How do we decide which path to take? How do we respond when we don’t get our way? If our approach to answering this questions, begins with ourself or worldly wisdom and proceeds to answer them or achieve some ends no matter the cost, then it is likely that our lives are being ruled by our own sinful hearts rather than by the grace of God.