Romans 5:20 New International Version (NIV)

20 The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more,

Paul had already alluded to sin being in the world (Romans 5:13) so how does the introduction of the Law increase trespass

How can we understand the above text?

  • In your previous question, this issue was addressed in some of the answers. My answer in particular. Sin had existed before the law came. But the law on stones came to bear witness to the law already written in the flesh of our hearts. So that by the witness of the two laws, one natural and the other brought in to confirm it, no one would be without excuse.
    – user20490
    Nov 29, 2017 at 10:52
  • @user20490,which answer addresses my question,why the downvote Nov 29, 2017 at 11:09
  • Don't assume that I down voted your question. Why would I. It's on point.
    – user20490
    Nov 29, 2017 at 11:10
  • All that I wrote in my first post are culled from my answer to your previous question. The first answer to be precise.
    – user20490
    Nov 29, 2017 at 11:11
  • @user20490,my question is exactly how was trespass increased by the giving of law,which i believe the intention was to curtail it instead Nov 29, 2017 at 11:21

4 Answers 4


The Law was not brought in (παρεισηλθεν - pareisēlthen) with the express purpose of increasing trespasses; but rather, it had that effect, since the law made clear which things were transgressions and which were not (see, e.g., the discussion you started on Romans 5:13).

Transgressions perhaps made in ignorance before the Law became more severe, since, having the Law as a guide, the transgressor should have had no doubt that they were offenses.

The verse may not seem perfectly clear because the phrase "so that" in English can indicate either a cause or a consequence. In this case, it indicates a consequence, not a cause. The same ambiguity exists in the original Greek in the word ἵνα (hina). The Byzantine Greek commentator John Chrysostom (349-407) explained:

The word “that” (ἵνα) is not every where indicative of cause, but frequently also of the event of things. Thus Christ Himself uses it, when He saith, For judgement I am come into this world; that they which see not may see, and that they which see may be made blind.1 So likewise Paul in another place, when discoursing of the law, he writes, And the Law came in beside, that the trespass might abound. But neither was the law given to this end that the trespasses of the Jews might be increased: (though this did ensue:) nor did Christ come for this end that they which see might be made blind, but for the contrary; but the result was such.2

I think the NIV would have been clearer with the simple addition of a comma (as appears in the KJV):

The law was brought in, so that the trespass might increase

The Orthodox New Testament translates the verse:

Now the Law came in beside, so that the offense abounded

1. John 9:39
2. Homily XXVII on First Corinthians

  • You quote from 'The Orthodox New Testament'. What is that, may I ask ?
    – Nigel J
    Nov 29, 2017 at 14:43
  • @NigelJ, it's a very literal translation in two volumes by a group of schismatic Greek Orthodox nuns (Holy Apostles Convent) with explanations of the Greek and patristic commentary. It is very expensive on Amazon, but you can read the reviews there. It's cheaper to order from the publisher. Not to be confused with the Orthodox Study Bible, which has the NKJV for the NT.
    – user33515
    Nov 29, 2017 at 15:06

The way in which the Law 'entered' indicates the reason that the παραπτομα, paraptoma multiplied. (πλεοναζο, pleonatso, is not to merely 'increase'; it is to abound.)

παρεισερχομαι, pareiserchomai, is not just 'entered'. The prefix παρεισ, pareis, is a matter of 'being led in by one's side' (Liddel & Scott); 'to be at hand' 'to be present' (Thayer).

Examining the way in scripture that the four other verbs with the same prefix (namely παρεισαγο, παρεισακτος, παρεισδυνο and παρεισφερο) are used, it becomes clear that the idea is of an uninvited guest. The proof of this is too lengthy to report here, but it is clear from the four texts involved.

This witness was not invited in. It accompanied someone else, but it, itself, had no invitation. Israel followed Moses out of Egypt and through the Red Sea, but afterwards another witness joined Moses (as it were) at Sinai. Uninvited.

Once the Law witnessed to what men were doing, it became clear that the world was full of abundant paraptoma.

Ptoma is a corpse. Para is a matter of alignment.

It became clear that the state of humanity was as close to a corpse as it is possible to be without actually being in the grave.

It became clear, due to the uninvited witness of Law, that humanity was (in the words expressed by Paul in Ephesians 2:1) 'dead in trespasses and sins'.

It became clear, in fact that humanity did nothing but offend, for the Law, now in the world as an uninvited guest, witnessed to every deed, every word and (to those who were honest enough to admit it - see Romans 7) every desire, for the Law said, Thou shalt not covet.

Thus the Law witnessed to outward actions and it came right inside (if one was awakened to its true activity) and spoke to the inner man of the interactions within the spirit of humanity.

Thus did the Law 'enter' and thus did trespasses multiply.


Romans 5:20 New International Version (NIV) The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more,

Adam disobeyed God's command to not eat, which was therefore not only a sin but also a trespass.

All of the people from Adam to Moses sinned but did not trespass because there was no applicable law.

Once the law was given to the Jews all of their sins became transgressions of the law of Moses.

The law was given to turn sins into transgressions:

NIV Galatians 3:19 Why, then, was the law given at all? It was added because of [to accumulate] transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was given through angels and entrusted to a mediator.


As the apostle concluded his comparison of Adam and Christ, he says that the Law (that he introduced in v.13), came in alongside of the Sin (personified as a master or tyrant), Death and condemnation. Another way to say this would be, because of men’s transgressions [Gal.3:19,23 & Heb.9:15], the law came in so that in effect [Barnes]; or, with the purpose [Denney]; or, with the result that [Chrysostom] that the trespass of Adam's [Rom.5:15,17-18]) might increase by giving Sin its power [I Cor.15:56], showing its true nature, and being more evident and manifest [Rom.7:7,13]). Yet, thankfully, where the power of Sin that resulted from Adam's trespass had increased (in the history of Israel), the Grace of God [Rom.5:15,17] had increased much more, overflowing beyond all measure to the whole human race [Rom.5:15])!

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