One of the biggest criticisms of the gospel of grace comes from those who say teaching people extreme grace gives people a license to sin. I would agree with that, but then I’d be wrong too 🙂 Just kidding.
I understand that perspective because I used to have it, too. I used to think if we tell people they are forgiven simply by believing in Jesus independent of their good works, why should they live holy? I thought the greasy, hyper-grace message empowered sin! I thought that because I didn’t get it. Grace doesn’t empower sin, it empowers us to know we are forgiven no matter what we’ve done. It also invites us into an encounter with the Lord in the midst of our failure so God can transform us and we can live out holy lives.
In Romans 5, Paul gives us his greatest treatise in scripture on our new identity that that the grace of God provides. Look at Romans 5:18-19:
18 Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. 19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.
Through one man’s offense we were all made sinners. We were born guilty because of Adam’s sin. His sin brought corruption to himself that was passed down through his offspring including you and me. Through Jesus’s righteous act, however, the free gift of grace came to all men who believe. Just like Adam’s disobedience made everyone sinners, all who believe are made righteous through Jesus’s obedience.
This is the message the Apostle Paul took to his generation. He told people “It’s not about you and what you do. It’s all about Jesus. Believe in Jesus and be saved.” This was offensive then and it is offensive now because the human conscience causes us to feel like we have to do things to earn or maintain God’s free gift.
As I’m writing this, I can hear someone saying, “I see that salvation is a free gift that it is based on what Jesus did and not what I do….so why should I even try to live holy?” That’s an important question to ask. I’d go so far as to say if a person is reading this article and not asking that question, they don’t understand how free they are yet. Look at Romans 6:15-16:
15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! 16 Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?
In this passage, Paul is answering the question, “Can we just live in sin because we are under grace?” What’s his response? Certainly not! He goes on to say, we become the slave of the one we obey. Satan wants to get us to live in sin so he can bring destruction to our lives.
For example, if go out and have an affair just because I am free and totally forgiven, bad things will happen. I could get the girl pregnant, get an STD, and if my wife finds out I’d probably end up divorced. Grace doesn’t remove the natural consequences of being stupid 🙂 When we sow to the flesh, we will reap corruption, so living in sin isn’t smart.
But does an affair cost me my salvation if I’m continuing to put my faith in Jesus? No. Jesus’s righteous act made the disobedient who believe in Him righteous so I’m still in right standing. To say my sin undoes His free gift means my sin is stronger than His blood. It doesn’t work that way.
If I maintain my faith in Jesus, I’m still saved even after I sin. There are consequences to sin, however, which is why Paul wrote wrote Romans 6:15-16. Paul wrote this to clarify the points he was making in Romans 5 about Jesus’s free gift because he knew someone would try to misapply what He was saying. Grace isn’t a license to live in sin. Grace is a license to live righteously.
The Bible says, where sin abounds, grace much more abounds. Grace is attracted to sin because grace is the only thing that can help us overcome sin! Grace invite us into an encounter with Jesus when we have royally messed up so He can cleanse us, remind us who we are, and show us how He will get us out of the mess we made. I pray you get a fresh revelation of God’s grace today, so you can superabound in the life He has called you to live!
If you’d like to learn about how Jesus restores us when we really mess up, check out this message I taught at Grace Life Church.