Is preaching grace a license to sin? Often the charge levelled at those who preach grace and unconditional forgiveness, is that we are encouraging believers to sin and live licentiousness lives. However, as far as I know, unlike learning to drive or owning a dog, you don’t need a license to sin and most sinners don’t feel the need to apply anyway!
The Apostle Paul in Romans, sensed this accusation from the legalists when he writes in Romans 6:1:
“What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?”
It’s a good question. I mean, if we have been forgiven of all sin past present and future; there is no condemnation (future punishment for sin) and God isn’t reckoning our sins – then what’s to stop us just doing what we like and sinning with impunity knowing we’ve already been forgiven?
Paul answers his own question in the next verse with a pretty vehement ‘no way’!
Romans 6:2 “God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?”
Basically, Paul is saying you don’t even understand grace if you are even thinking that question. Salvation is not just the forgiveness of sins, it’s the solution to the sin problem which stems from our nature of sin: the old man or SIN (noun). God’s solution to SIN is that we get to die with Christ and receive a brand new life through his resurrection. A true believer therefore, has Christ living in them; they have a change of nature so why would they want to abuse God’s grace? If they are born again they are dead to SIN( the sinful nature).
Is your good news that good?
In fact, I believe that if your Gospel cannot be abused then it is not the true Gospel and it is not grace. What do I mean by that?
For example, some christians of the holiness persuasion, believe that only past sins have been forgiven. This means that future sins have to individually confessed and repented of as they occur in order to ensure continued relationship with God and forgiveness. Consequently, If these individual sins are not repented of, then the penalty of losing their salvation is incurred; grace has evidently run out, hit a ceiling, and even though for the sinner – where sin abounds grace even more abounds – for the backslider this verse is no longer true!
Grace our teacher
So, do we continue to live in sin then because we have unlimited favour with God? No, because an internal transformation has taken place and we have a new identity. That is why the New Testament is full of exhortations to live in a new way:
Ephesians 4:24 “And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. Wherefore ( for this reason) putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.”
The Gospel of grace teaches us therefore to live holy lives (to be separate to God). This happens through the mirror of the word which shows us our true identity and the behaviour compatible with that identity! In other words – you are the son of a king so live like it! We live holy lives externally because we are holy internally!
Titus 2:11 “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;”
Legalistic teachers and preachers on the other hand, try to change and motivate their listeners by preaching law – this is what you are NOT so try and meet this standard by changing your behaviour.
Often the new believer hearing this sort of message, who in fact already has God’s law written on the heart and desires to be holy instinctively because of the new nature through new birth, goes away deceived and tries to generate this behaviour all by himself – and of course fails spectacularly!
Romans 7:19 “For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.”
Romans 7:8 But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin [was] dead.
The Apostle Paul’s conclusion to all this therefore, is that law, rules and self-discipline cannot produce holiness – as he concludes in the last verse of Romans 7:
“O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”
Trying to fight sin with the law is like pouring water on a chip-pan fire!
The good news for the believer however, is the amazing statement of Romans 8:1:
“There is] therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus”
Note: (who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit) was added by the King James Version translators because they couldn’t believe the truth of grace that this verse expresses!
Therefore, it’s not what you do or don’t do that counts any more – it’s where you are located (in christ.) The truth of grace though, is that there is NOW (today; this moment; this very second), NO (zero) condemnation ( future penalty to pay!)
This is the too good to be true news of grace; God has removed the link between your performance and your relationship with him.
Of course, for the holiness preacher this cannot be true because according to them, the minute you sin you are condemned and continued relationship with God is dependent on your response i.e – repentance and confession.
For those standing in the grace of God however, if we are conscious of sin in our lives, we can come boldly to the throne of grace to receive help in time of need because we know that we are not condemned – ever. Repentance and confession of sin therefore become a response to God’s amazing grace!
Rooted and grounded
Consequently, It is only when you are rooted in this foundation of grace and the fact that Jesus has set you free by his death, that you will have any victory over sin!
“For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.”
So in conclusion, grace is clearly not a license to sin, in fact it’s a license for holiness! You are now fully qualified to live holy because of the work of Jesus Christ for you and in you!
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