Grace… you may hear a lot about it, and many people think that they know what it means, but the truth is that there are still many misconceptions about it. There are some who believe that grace gives them a license to live in sin or however they want to. There are others who think that grace allows them to live selfish lives chasing after their own pleasures. Then there are others still who honestly think that grace is a false doctrine.
Well, God does not want us to be in confusion, and so today we are going to address all of these various ideas about grace, and as we see the truth regarding this topic in the scriptures, we will not be in confusion any longer, but we will be secure on the solid foundation of Jesus Christ.
So the first thing we must address when performing a study of this kind is the question of whether grace is some kind of a false doctrine. Is grace a man-made idea, or is it what is actually taught in the Holy Scriptures? To properly answer this, we must turn to the scriptures themselves and see what they say.
Let’s begin by reading John 1:14-17:
“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelled among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
John bore witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spoke, He that comes after me is preferred before me: for he was before me.
And of his fullness have all we received, and grace for grace.
For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.”
In verse 14 we can see that Jesus Christ Himself is full of grace and truth. The Holy Spirit could have easily described Jesus as being full of truth and power, or simply full of divine truth, all of which would have been true, but it is specifically spelled-out for us here that Jesus is filled with grace and truth, and if Jesus is filled with grace, then it can not be a defiled man-made thing.
John recognizes Jesus by His combination of grace and truth in verse 15. Then in verse 16 we see that this grace is made available for us to receive, grace for grace. This means one wave of grace after another, or grace upon grace. So this grace is something that Jesus came to give us and He wants us to receive. Verse 17 solidifies this fact for us, and it also contrasts that the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ, so there can be absolutely no doubt.
Now the law was given, because prideful humanity asked for it and boasted of their ability to keep it. But grace and truth came, because God in His mercy knew that we needed it. The errors that were mentioned in the opening of this study are there because there are those who try to separate the grace from the truth, and also those that try to separate the truth from the grace.
Let’s take this one step further with Romans 5:17:
“For if by one man’s offense death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.”
Abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness come by the one, Jesus Christ, and by no other thing or person can these provisions come. This verse goes on to say that by Jesus Christ those who receive His provision shall reign in life. Think of it: When you reign in life, sickness doesn’t. When you reign in life, disease doesn’t. When you reign in life, infirmities do not. When you reign in life, your unclean habits don’t. When you reign in life, Satan doesn’t.
This is a very important point, because one of the main objections to grace is that it leads to a licentious lifestyle; that grace gives people a license to sin. However this is not what we have just read in the scriptures. Let’s be perfectly clear on this point so that there is zero misunderstanding… God has not gone soft on sin. He is still one-hundred percent against sin and so am I. If you know someone who says they are a Christian, but are still living a self-centered, selfish and sinful lifestyle after some-time, then the simple truth is that they aren’t saved – because no-one remains the same after a genuine encounter with Jesus.
Everything in the life of a believer is done out of the overflow of the love, grace and truth of Jesus Christ. A believer’s life is no longer ruled by their own self-desires, but by the Lord Jesus Christ (1st Corinthians 6:19), and it is a selfless life (Philippians 2:3). This is the life of a true follower of Christ.
On the other side of that, we have the message of the world, one of entitlement, arrogance and pride. People of the world will believe that they are owed things… that they have earned their own blessing and righteousness through personal suffering or some other thing in their past. They will often try to justify their behavior with sentiments such as “I have had a terrible life, so I deserve this now.” or “I don’t see anything wrong with having some fun, considering all I have to live with.”
From a worldly point of view it seems to make sense and is designed to play on sympathies in order to justify behavior that runs counter to what God’s Word says. Yet there is a very dangerous idea behind it… the idea of self-righteousness.
What we have been reading so far in the scriptures makes it very clear that Grace is a gift, and that it does not come from ourselves. We did not earn it, nor could we ever earn it. In all reality, what we truly “deserve” is eternal hell-fire (Romans 6:23), and the only reason that we do not get what we deserve, is because Jesus Christ paid in our place and we accept His free gift of salvation.
It is Satan who is selfish and self-centered, believing he is higher and more deserving than he is. Take a look at Isaiah 14:12-14:
“How are you fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how are you cut down to the ground, which did weaken the nations!
For you have said in your heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also on the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High.”
Now there are many names of God, but Satan chooses to say that he will be like the “Most High”. Satan does not say that he will be like the “Good Shepherd” who leads his sheep to safety. Satan does not say that he will be like the “Good Father” who protects and provides for his children. Nor does Satan say that he will be like the “Great Healer” who removes sickness and disease from his people. No… Satan is only interested in power and authority, and what he can get for himself.
Also Ezekiel 28:17 says this:
“Your heart was proud because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor. I cast you to the ground; I exposed you before kings, to feast their eyes on you.”
When the spirit of pride and selfishness comes in, wisdom is corrupted. We begin making wrong decisions because we are focused on ourselves, our splendor and what we can get or what we think we deserve. If you see someone like that, stay away, because they will eventually meet the same fate as Lucifer, to be cast down.
So a life of grace does not lead someone into selfishness or lasciviousness. It is actually the enemy that does such, and as Jesus said in Matthew chapter 7, you will be able to recognize what spirit a person is of, by their fruits (behavior and conduct) – whether it is Christ or Satan.
In closing I want to show you how the Grace of God can truly change lives. Starting with my own and then we will read scripture with it.
I have had many addictions in my life and many wrong beliefs which came about because not only was I taught wrong in my earlier years, but I was self-centered and only interested in satisfying myself. However when I came into contact with Jesus and realized that He was the only true source of life and everything that I needed, I became occupied with Him and my self was dethroned. All of my selfish desires and addictions died along with my self, and it was an effortless change because it was not me doing it, but the power of God within me.
Those who think that the Grace of God leads to sin, have respectfully never encountered the grace of God. It is the grace and truth of Jesus that changes lives. I want us to read two more scriptures as we conclude our study today, the first is Revelation 14:12:
“Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.”
True faith in Jesus will lead to a life that honors Him as Lord, not out of necessity or earning favor, but because we know Him, we trust Him and we value His Word.
Now look at 1st John 5:3:
“For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.”
There are those in the world who do their best to keep God’s commandments, but His commandments are grievous to them. It is nothing but struggle and frustration because they are doing it out of self instead of out of the overflow which we have been studying. Those people have no real love for God because they do not know Him really, they are trying to curry favor with Him for self-centered reasons – I know, I used to be one of those people.
However for a true believer who has been touched by the genuine grace of Christ Jesus, it is an effortless and selfless life. We see from 1st John 5:3 that it is the love of God that enables us to keep His commandments without them being grievous. They will no longer be a chore. His advice and leading will no longer be a bitter pill to swallow or like eating vegetables to a child. Instead as we receive His love, our sin nature and self will die as we embrace the LORD and His love changes our very nature, to where our old habits fall away like dead leaves from a tree. And it’s all because of Grace. This is the scriptural truth of Grace, not about trying, not about sinning and not about self at all. Someone who claims to be a Christian but living for self, is an impostor and no Christian at all. But someone who has truly been touched by the Grace of God and had a genuine encounter with Jesus will never remain in their sin. It is Grace that does it, Grace that came in the person of Jesus Christ.