Grace: Is it a license to sin?
What is a good definition for grace as it is used in the Bible? I’ve heard it defined several ways. Some think of it as simply unmerited favor. I’ve also heard it said that it is all that God is free to do for us because of the work of Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. God’s grace is Him giving what is not deserved. Some contrast it to mercy which is God not giving us something we do deserve. In other words, grace and mercy are said to be like two sides of the same coin. Any way you look at all this, God’s grace is a wonderful thing.
The Bible tells us we are all beneficiaries of God’s grace one way or another. The most important area of life it relates to is that which is spoken of as salvation. And probably the most well-known passage in the Bible on this is this one.
8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
9 Not of works, lest any man should boast. [Emphasis added]
Despite our sin and our complete unworthiness, salvation is said to be provided for us freely.
23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: [Emphasis added]
It was Christ who paid the redemption fee for our salvation. We don’t contribute to it at all.
What we are saved or delivered from is the eternal condemnation and punishment of God. Scripture is quite clear on where people end up apart from the salvation God offers freely through His Son, Jesus Christ.
15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire. [Emphasis added]
We are told that when we are saved through Jesus Christ, we are no longer under God’s condemnation.
1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, [Emphasis added]
This change in our relationship with Him occurs the moment we put our faith in Jesus Christ and what He accomplished through His death, burial, and resurrection.
I Corinthians 15:1-4
1 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel [the good news] which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;
2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.
3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: [Emphasis added]
However, some say “just believing” is too easy. They’ll even call it “easy believism.” They claim there’s more to salvation than just believing something. Then, if they know anything about the Bible, they’ll refer you to some Scripture they think of as “proof” for their belief. But what they’ll always do is refer you to some portion of the Bible that is not directed to us in our time. This next verse is typically their favorite.
20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? [Emphasis added]
These people either don’t know or they refuse to accept the fact that although the whole Bible is FOR us, it is not all TO us or ABOUT us. They’re unwilling to acknowledge that there are many things taught or commanded in the Bible that are not addressed to us in this present time that is referred to in the Bible as the Dispensation of the Grace of God. This book of James is but one of many examples of that. Even though there are some things in that book are for people of any time, there are other things that are not because they conflict with the teachings of the apostle Paul. And anything that conflicts with his teaching is not directed to us now.
1 For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles,
2 If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: [Emphasis added]
An important part of this grace we have today is the security we gained the moment we first believed the gospel. We are told that our salvation status was sealed permanently by God the Holy Spirit. It is because of this status we now hold that we are encouraged to live in accordance with all the teaching that’s given to us. We are said to have grieved the Holy Spirit any time we do otherwise.
30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. [Emphasis added]
In this case, this day of redemption is to do with when we as believers step into Heaven either by physical death or by what is called the Rapture. The point being made here is that the salvation we now have is perfectly secure regardless of our sinfulness.
A problem with the second claim of these people who say faith in Christ for salvation is not enough is that such thinking leads to more sinfulness on the part of the one believing it. Can that happen? I’ll be among the first to acknowledge that it surely can. You’ll always find people who will abuse their privileges. But by doing such, they cut themselves off from fabulous reward in Heaven that they could have if they’d functioned otherwise. Furthermore, their own sinfulness creates temporal suffering for them and typically for those around them. Therefore, there’s good reason for God’s people to avoid such a life.
As you study the apostle Paul’s epistles, you’ll find that, for the most part, they are letters of correction. Even though Paul seeks to get them to live within the framework of God’s will for them, he assures them that grace covers their sinfulness.
20b But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: [Emphasis added]
Not one believer, even the worst of them, has ever lost their salvation. You can hardly name a sin that believers in Paul’s ministry had not committed. What we must always realize is that no matter how much or how vile the sins may be that are committed by any one of God’s people, His grace covers it because Christ has already paid the penalty for those sins. There’s not even one sin that’ll ever be committed for which Christ did not pay the penalty for in His death. That’s exactly what this passage is telling us. But notice what else Paul says about this.
1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?
2 God forbid [Emphatically not]. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? [Emphasis added]
This is telling us that although we can sin and still be saved, as every believer surely will, we should work at restraining ourselves from such.
12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.
13 Neither yield ye your members [the various parts of your body] as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.
This is telling us that as God’s people, we ought to think and act like it.
14 For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law [the Mosaic Law teachings], but under grace [those principles for this present Dispensation of Grace].
15 What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.
This verse tells us as clearly as any passage that believers today are not to be living under the Mosaic Law. That system of life belonged to Israel alone, not us. We are here said to be “under grace” which is telling us we are now under a different program, that is, the teachings associated with this present Dispensation of the Grace of God. It is in the writings of the apostle Paul that we find that. He then reminds us of the consequences of submitting to sin.
16 Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? [Emphasis added]
We are to always realize that every sin has its consequences, even death. We are to restrain ourselves, knowing that it is a life of obedience to our Lord that creates the best life here and even reward in eternity. Because of their extreme importance, let me remind you again of these two verses we just looked at.
12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.
13 Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. [Emphasis added]
It will always be true that once you’ve accepted God’s provision for your salvation it is completely secure. There’s no sin you could ever commit that would ever change that. But don’t be foolish in your decision-making. And never flaunt this liberty you have in Christ. Such activity won’t be good for you or anyone around you. Only bad can come from it, even if somehow things appear otherwise.
One of the benefits of reading the many case history stories in the Bible is to see how sin in the lives of God’s people always created needless suffering. This is a part of why Paul tells us the whole Bible is given for our learning.
4 For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. [Emphasis added]
This is why every story of someone’s spiritual failure in the Bible is useful. At least it serves as a good example to warn us.
I Corinthians 10:11
11 Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. [Emphasis added]
Just because you are free to do as you please, be sure to work at doing those things which you and others will ultimately be pleased with. Every Christian stumbles in sin, but work at avoiding doing all those things you learn about that are inconsistent with the manner of life God would have you live.
Again, every Christian stumbles in sin. There are no exceptions! Never let anyone cause you to think otherwise. The sins some people commit may be more hidden and unknown to others. They’re clearly not as publicly known, but they still take place. Just know that the Lord wants very much for you to have a wonderful life through your obedience to the wisdom of His Word. But you must know His Word to apply it. That means we must take the time to seek out and become familiar with His Word to resist sin. God’s norms and standards must become ours. That is typically called spiritual growth. This next passage speaks of all this.
10 With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments.
11 Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.
12 Blessed art thou, O Lord: teach me thy statutes. [Emphasis added]
How much time are you investing in the study of God’s Word each day? Apart from the power of His Word you will be weak and vulnerable to every kind of sin. You will find yourself powerless to resist certain temptations. But all of this will be determined by your own willingness or unwillingness to submit yourself to consistent Bible teaching. It is God’s Word and His Word alone that will give you the wisdom and the power to resist the temptations.
12 For the word of God is quick [alive], and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. [Emphasis added]
Therefore, you can either be a slave to sin or free to serve. God has given all His people that choice. Instead of being a license to sin, grace is the best of all reasons to celebrate your relationship with God by a life of obedience to Him. You didn’t earn or deserve that life, but it is yours forever. It came to you strictly by grace through faith in the work of Christ. This celebration of grace will be expressed with joy when you consider its value every day of your life. Your gratitude will be expressed by a continual life of obedience, always being grateful because of the eternal salvation He’s freely given you. You will fail from time to time along the way, but you should always know that your salvation will always be completely secure and that it will always be your most precious possession. Therefore, never use God’s grace as an excuse to sin, but as only the best of all reasons to serve Him continually.