I have encountered many anti-Grace beliefs and positions over the years. One of the most common push-backs against the Gospel of Grace in Christ, is that “Grace gives people a license to sin”. This is the one that I have encountered more than any other. It is a sentiment that is expressed in a variety of different ways, such as “So you’re saying people can live however they want?”, to the more subtle “well, there needs to a balance to prevent hyper-grace”.
Regardless of what form this sentiment takes, it is all rooted in the same thing: a fear of Grace. Many people have been trained to be fearful of the very Grace that can save… the very Grace that Jesus came to bring; and the sad reality is that this fear (which is based on man-made doctrines) actually prevents people from receiving the Grace that can save them.
So today in this study, we will be examining the most common anti-Grace beliefs, and see how they hold up to the truth of scripture.
As we begin today, let’s take a look at the ideas themselves, and the most common ways in which they are presented, and right away we will see that they are based on a faulty premise (actually several of them).
First we have the classic Grace gives people a license to sin. Which is interesting right from the start because it makes the assumption that having a sin-license (if there was such a thing) or not would even make any kind of difference. Simply examine any part of the scriptures and you will see that people have been sinning from the very beginning, even without this mythical license.
Another common phrase that is often said in opposition to Grace is that Grace makes it to that you can live however you want. And much like the previous statement, this again assumes that people need permission to live however they want. Again, people have been doing that from the beginning, first-of-all.
Additionally however, there are some more erroneous assumptions being made here that must be addressed:
1. That those who receive Grace will still want what their old identity wanted
2. And much more seriously, that behavior modification actually solves the root eternal problem.
Neither of these are true, because scripture says in Romans 5:17, that by abundance of Grace and the free gift of righteousness shall we reign in life by the One Jesus Christ.
Those who typically are resistant to the Gospel of Grace, have some trouble believing this simple truth from the book of Romans, that abundance of Grace is actually a good thing. Instead, they are most typically fearful of what they call “hyper-grace”. This usually isn’t even really their fault; it’s what they have been taught by trusted pastors, close friends and respected leaders in Christian circles. And this is where the third phrase is most often heard, that There needs to be a balance.
And in every instance, when I have asked these people what they have meant by that, they have said to me that more Law preaching is what’s needed to curb sin – and again this is contrary to scripture…
1st Corinthians 15:56, says that the strength of sin is the Law. It is in-fact the Law that gives sin its strength and power to bind, condemn and kill.
You see, my friend, the truth of scripture is that the Law of Moses, with it’s strict regulations, rules, traditions and do’s and don’ts was never given to curb or stop sin – that was not its purpose – but in-fact its purpose was to actually manifest sin fully! The Law was given that the offense would abound (Romans 5:20), and be shown as exceedingly sinful.
Now connect this with what we learned last week, and you will begin to see the error and deception that is happening in the minds and hearts of so many precious people… when they want so desperately to stop sinful actions, that in desperation they cling to the Law of Moses to try and find some behavioral help, and in-effect actually strengthen sin more.
And pastors, attempt to motivate their congregations in their behaviors by preaching Law-centric sermons – not realizing that they are actually binding the souls of the people more, and causing sin to further manifest.
It is the Grace, the mercy of God that leads people to repentance (Romans 2:4), and as we have already read, the abundance of Grace and the gift of righteousness (not the earned-merit of righteousness), but the gift of righteousness, is what causes us to reign in life, by Jesus Christ.
That is the pure, unadulterated message of the Gospel. That is what is contrary to our human reasoning, and that is what causes our flesh-nature to react and want to push against it.
So then we end-up hearing argumentative statements such as, so you’re saving people can just keep on sinning and live however they want!
All because people do not understand the real power and value of the Grace which Christ has freely given.
We as humans, actually think that the Law of Moses is greater, more-effective and more powerful than what Christ has done. The natural human mind thinks that the Law of Moses is actually a guard and safety net against the Grace of Christ… but that also is not scriptural. The biblical truth is that they are in-essence two completely different covenants; two completely different covenants that should not and cannot be intermingled or mixed-together.
In Hebrews 8:8-9, God plainly declares that the New Covenant brought in by Jesus Christ is not according to the Old Covenant, it doesn’t follow the same model, the same traditions, or the same Laws.
And in Hebrews 12:18, again it plainly states that we have not come to Mount Sinai, we have not come to the mountain of the Law of Moses; the mountain of the Old Covenant. But we have instead come to Mount Zion, the mountain of the New Covenant, of the living God.
Many people do not understand the full meaning of the change in covenants from the Old to the New, and the ramifications that result from it; or when trying to mix the two, which again, cannot be done.
Galatians 3:10, says in no uncertain terms that as many as are of the works of the Law, are under the curse. And take notice of this specific phrasing being used here…
It says as many as are of the works of the Law. This isn’t only talking about using the Law for justification here, but all who are trying to keep the Law, regardless of how benign their personal reasons may be.
Why is this so? Because again, the Law of Moses is a completely different covenant from the one that Jesus Christ ushered us into.
To cling to the Law now, and try to keep it, is to ignore the effective reality of the New Covenant that Jesus has brought. And as we see here, those who do that are under the curse. No way around that fact!
Now some people would say, but we need the Law to keep people in-line!
Which is basically another way of saying the exact argument from earlier, and it stems from this belief that somehow the Law empowers people to stop sinning, when in-fact we have been reading the exact opposite of that from the scriptures.
In-fact again, it is Grace, not the Law, that empowers people against sin, and it does so, by dealing with the root of the issue.
So let’s examine this further now, and see how this actually happens. Because this exact same conversation was one that Paul himself dealt with from the critics in his day. This same sentiment existed even in biblical times… Paul had to answer it, and he did in a surprising and an unexpected way for many people, which we will look at now, in Romans 6:1-3:
“What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?
God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?
Know you not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?”
This is the foundation, and it is a very interesting one indeed.
First in verse 1, we have the argument: What then? Shall we continue in sin that Grace would abound? And that’s the same kind of argument that the Gospel of Grace receives today.
But do you see the word “sin” in verse 1? It is the Greek word ἁμαρτία, which is not the verb for sin! It is the noun!
This is not talking about sinful deeds or actions here, but it is actually talking about the old person of sin… your old identity, who you used to be, and the place of unrighteousness that you were in before Christ.
What Paul is saying here is the foundation for everything… he’s saying shall we continue to live as the old creation so that Grace would be increased more?
The answer in verse 2: God forbid! But why? It’s a very interesting response, all based on the reality of the finished work of Christ and our new identity in Him.
How shall we that are dead to sin (the noun, the old identity, the place we were in) live there any longer?
Don’t you know that we that were baptized (or immersed) into Christ, were immersed into His death.
We have been placed inside of, immersed into Christ, and into His death – meaning that His death has been charged to our account, His sacrifice is our payment; and now as verses 4 through 7 continue:
“Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:
Knowing this, that our old self is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that from now on we should not serve sin.
For he that is dead is freed from sin”
Keep in-mind that in each of these verses as well, the word for “sin” is still the noun, not the verb. And by now the true meaning of this should start to become clear.
We are buried with Christ through immersion – again what He has accomplished is credited to us, with the result being that as He was raised-up (in Glory), so are we also. We have a new life, one not based on our old identity, but on Jesus’ new life.
Look at verse 6, it starts by saying Knowing this. Yet there are many people who still do not know this essential truth about their new identity in Christ Jesus. Churches are so busy preaching condemning messages about behaviors, that they skip right over this, but look what it says:
Our old self is crucified with Christ, that the body of sin (noun, the person you used to be) might be destroyed (it’s gone), that from now on, you should not serve sin
Verse 7, for he that is dead is freed from sin.
So what is this saying? Your old person, your old identity is completely gone in Christ. And you are no longer in subjection to that old identity, in-fact you are completely freed from it… because that old self is not even who you are anymore!
That is the power of Jesus, and the Grace which He has given to you! This does not come from will-power, self-effort or force of man’s strength. This doesn’t come from fasting, performing rituals, or trying your best…
No my friend, this comes only from the abundance of Grace, and the free gift of His righteousness, which causes you to reign in life, by Jesus Christ. This is where you will find power…and peace and freedom, because all are from Jesus Christ.