Arminian Today

A Jesus-Centered Arminian Blog

The Balance of True Grace

When it  comes to grace, it seems we can swing to either sides of extreme views regarding grace.  On the one hand are those who would, in my estimation and I believe in light of the Bible, abuse God’s grace for their sins.  Many of these folks are well-meaning people who want to protect salvation by God’s grace and not distort salvation with works so they avoid works altogether to the point of denying that good works flow from a saved life as part of sanctification.  They run to passages such as John 6:29 or Acts 15:11 or Acts 16:30-31  but they avoid passages that speak of obedience to Christ as Lord such as Jesus’ commands in the Gospels (see Matthew 7:21-23 or Luke 6:46-49 as examples) or passages such as Acts 5:32 or Romans 1:5 or 1 John 2:3-6 that speak of obedience as necessary for salvation.

Antinomians hold that the moral law has no bearings on the New Testament disciple.  They hold that grace is so wonderful, so powerful that a person need only to believe in Jesus once and they are bound for eternity.  They hold that obedience to Christ, holiness, bearing fruit, walking in the Spirit, loving God, etc. are all optional and while they are all good, they are not necessary for salvation since we are saved by grace through faith in the Jesus Christ.  This salvation is all of grace and none of works and the promises of God are that He will keep us forever (Romans 8:38-39) no matter what.  All our sins are forgiven in Christ the moment that we believe the gospel since Jesus died once for all (Hebrews 8:13; 10:10, 14).

There is a certain appeal to antinomian teaching of course.  We can still claim to be a Christian while living in outright sin.  Many antinomians would decry such a position and would not claim that they hold to that view.  Yet this is where their teaching lives.  I once had an e-mail discussion with such a teacher.  He held to the radical, non-Lordship view that one needed only to believe the gospel once and they were bound for eternity (once saved, always saved).  He held that sin, after their initial confession of Christ, has no bearings on that person anymore and they are now free in Christ (Galatians 5:1).  He held then that any sin is permissible but not beneficial (1 Corinthians 6:12).  I asked him point-blank if any sin was allowed in the life of a disciple and he wrote me back “YES!” and he added, “What joy there is in knowing this!”  A couple of books that endorse this view are Charles Ryrie, Balancing the Christian Lifeand Bob George, Classic Christianity.  

Yet true grace in the New Testament teaches us to say no to sin.  Titus 2:11-12 (NIV) says:

11 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.

True grace does not give us a “sin no matter what” attitude but true grace points us to salvation in Christ Jesus and teaches us to say no to sin.  True grace wants to please our Lord and not ourselves or our flesh.  Paul asked the question in Romans 6:1-4:

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

Because we have been buried and raised with Christ Jesus in His death and in His resurrection, this should cause us to walk in the newness of life.  This life is not a life of slavery to sin.  Romans 6:6 adds, “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.”  The disciple of Jesus is a slave to righteousness and not sin (Romans 6:18).

True grace understands that we are not perfect (James 3:2) but true grace understands that our source of salvation, our hope for eternal life, our righteousness before God, our security, our redemption, our holiness, our life is found only in Christ Jesus our Lord (John 14:6; 1 Corinthians 1:30-31).  True grace runs from sin, not to it (Jude 4).  Matthew 1:21 says that Jesus came to save His people from their sins.  Many want to be His people but few want to be saved from their sins.  Jesus came to set us free from sin.

Think about it.  If Jesus came to earth, suffered on the cross for our sins, how can sin no longer be the issue?  Sin is what got us here in the first place (Romans 5:12).  Sin is what separates us from God (Isaiah 59:2).  Sin is what brings death (Romans 6:23).  God said in Ezekiel 18:4 that the soul that sins shall die.  This still holds true today as it held in the time of Ezekiel or the time of David or the time of Adam and Eve.  Our only hope to crush sin in our lives in the grace of God given to us in Christ Jesus.  His Spirit enables us to crush sin in our lives (Galatians 5:16-17).  This is not some sort of self-will power to overcome sin.  This is not “pick yourself up by your bootstraps and dust yourself off” but this teaching in the New Testament on grace empowers us to follow Christ, to love Christ, to worship and adore Him in holiness.  True grace helps the disciple love God, love His Word, fear Him, hunger for Him, long for His presence, long to honor and please Him in all things (Colossians 1:9-12) and why, because of the gospel of His grace (Colossians 1:13-14).  The gospel motivates us to obedience.  This obedience is not fleshly or self-labor.  This obedience flows from our love for God in light of the gospel.  1 John 3:23-24 says:

23 And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. 24 Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.

We obey Christ in light of the gospel.  We do not obey Christ to earn His righteousness or to have favor with Him.  We obey Him because of what He has done in saving us (1 John 4:9-10).  We obey Him out of love and out of worship and not out of fleshly obedience.  We recognize that salvation is accomplished only through Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:8-9) yet we know that God prepares us to obey and serve Him (Ephesians 2:10; Titus 2:14).  Good works flow naturally from our true source for life, the Lord Jesus Christ.

I pray that today we would honor the Lord Jesus Christ through our lives (1 Peter 1:15-16).  I recommend Dr. Michael Brown’s book, Go and Sin No More: A Call to Holiness.

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Written by The Seeking Disciple

04/03/2013 at 9:21 AM

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