I have repeated the statement several times: sin will not keep you from grace, but grace will keep you from sin. Once you have received God’s forgiveness through the grace that is in Christ, you will never again come under the condemnation of God. Jesus took all your sins on the cross – past, present and future. You will now never be condemned for your sins. The case against you has collapsed and all charges have been dropped. Sin will never again separate you from the love of God.
Legalistic Christians oppose this message and say it is nothing more than a licence to sin. So, they believe we gain our salvation by faith, but we have to keep it through works. That we are saved by grace, but we must be sanctified (made holy) through the law. In this way, they dilute the message of grace and rob us of the experience of its power to bring holiness into our lives. But, grace brings freedom from sin and not a licence to sin. The truth is, we are saved by grace and we are sanctified by grace.
The case against you has collapsed and all charges have been dropped. Sin will never again separate you from the love of God.
The law has only one power in your life, and that is to bring you under the control of sin, guilt and condemnation. That is why, in order to save and sanctify you, Jesus had to destroy the power of the law over your life. Not only has he removed the penalty of the law, he has also delivered you from its power through his death and resurrection.
Read carefully the following statements of scripture: Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. Romans 3:20
For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. Romans 6:14 Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another – to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God. For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death. But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter. Romans 7:4-6
The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. 1 Corinthians 15:56
When we put all this teaching about the law together, we discover a crucial life-changing truth. We must be delivered from the power of the law in order to be free from sin. Legalistic preaching and teaching is more than useless, it is totally counter-productive.
The law brings the knowledge of sin. When Adam and Eve ate of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil it brought the knowledge of sin in their life. In the same way, the law also brings fruit into our lives – sin, condemnation and death. It is not that the law is evil. It is good and glorious, but we are weak and sinful in ourselves. So, in order to overcome sin, we must be freed from our bondage to the law.
The good news is that we are in Christ and therefore not under the law. Christ’s death became our death and his resurrection, our resurrection to newness of life. We have died to the law in order to be joined to Christ so that we can serve him in the power of the Spirit. The law can only bring to light our sin and failures; it can never help us live for God. But Christ, who lives in us through the Holy Spirit, enables us to do the things that please God. We are led by the Spirit, not by the law. The power of the law is broken and that means the power of sin is also broken over our lives.
Legalism dilutes the message of grace and robs us of the experience of its power to bring holiness into our lives. We need to re-discover the power of grace to shape our lives. It is grace that changes us, grace that brings us close to the Lord and grace that teaches us not to sin. In Titus chapter 2, Paul explains this carefully, For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age Titus 2:11-12
The grace of God appeared in Christ – he is the grace of God. His death on the cross made it possible for us to be reconciled with God, and this grace instructs us in the ways of holiness. The word used for “teaching” in Titus 2:12, is the word paideuo, which means “to instruct and to train”. All good teaching is like this. It not only instructs us in the right way of living, it also trains us in that way. In other words, grace leads us and forms us in a lifestyle of grace.
In Galatians 3:24, it says that the law was our “tutor” to bring us to Christ. In other words, the law acted like a schoolmaster, instructing us and keeping us under his control. But, when grace comes into our lives through faith, we have no further need for a schoolmaster. Grace sets us free from this bondage to rules and regulations and teaches us a new way of living, the way of faith. Now, we discover what it means to live by the grace of God.
Grace brings freedom from sin and not a licence to sin. We are saved by grace and we are sanctified by grace.
We are familiar with the famous hymn by John Newton, Amazing Grace. And, grace is truly amazing! Grace enables us, motivates us, encourages us and persuades us to live lives totally dedicated to God – grace, not legalistic religious systems, not guilt-provoking preaching and certainly not manufactured self-effort.
Grace means, “unmerited favour”. It also means “enabling”. Paul said, “I am what I am by the grace of God”, but he also went to say, in effect, “I can do what I do by the grace of God”. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. 1 Corinthians 15:10
Here we see the enabling effects of grace. Grace does not create lazy Christians! It produces joyful, liberated, hard-working and committed Christians. If you are struggling with any of these things, then learn more about grace. Discover what God has done for you by grace and you will find a new joy in serving Jesus, your Master, your Lover and your Saviour. Grace works within you and changes you from the inside out.
The grace of God is a powerful motivating influence in your life. It is the attitude of gratitude that comes from knowing your sins are forgiven, that you can never be lost and that you owe all of this to Christ’s magnificent and breathtaking love. However, this is not to be confused with the legalistic response in which you feel you have to pay God back for what he has done for us. That is impossible and it makes nonsense of the Father’s free gift of salvation. How long would the Prodigal Son have had to have worked as his father’s hired servant to pay back the family fortune he squandered? It is totally unthinkable, and yet, that is how some “holiness” preachers would have us respond. The true motivation for living a holy life is simply the joy of being forgiven. Jesus said, “the one who has been forgiven much, loves much” (Luke 7:47). We see an example of this kind of loving devotion in the (previously sinful, but now forgiven) woman who lavished her affection on Jesus. Simon, the legalistic Pharisee barely welcomed Jesus because he had no concept or experience of grace. We are saved by faith, and by faith alone, but faith works through love. I emphasise: love, not law. Having begun in the Spirit, we cannot be perfected by the flesh. The Galatian believers Paul addresses in his letter had to discover that for themselves. We are guided by love and not by the law. Love is the Golden Rule, above all law. God is looking for true lovers and not mere law-keepers. You can live a virtually blameless life and miss the grace of God. This was the problem the elder brother had in the parable of the Prodigal Son. He represented the legalistic Scribes and Pharisees who resented Jesus’ acceptance of sinners. In other words, they had no loving, intimate relationship with God, and knew nothing of his grace.
Grace is also the best encourager there is. Grace teaches you that there is no such thing as failure in the kingdom of God, because there is always hope. You cannot fail beyond recovery, and you cannot lose – the blood of Jesus cleanses you from all sin. That’s a winning attitude! Grace leads you away from looking at yourself to see Christ, who is your life, your justification and your holiness.
Paul speaks of the transforming power of spiritual encouragement which has its source in grace, in 2 Corinthians 3:18. Here, he compares and contrasts the fading glory of the old covenant governed by the law, with the surpassing and permanent glory of the new covenant governed by the Spirit. The Spirit is the Spirit of grace, and he constantly reminds us, not of our failings, but of our position in Christ. Because we are in Christ, we no longer see ourselves, but we see Christ, who has become everything for us. The encouragement of seeing and sharing in the glory of the Lord is what transforms us to become like him. This is all by grace and has nothing to do with law. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. 2 Corinthians 3:18
Grace is also the most persuading influence in the world. God’s goodness convinces us that his way is best. The apostle John says, “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” There is no “dark side” to him; he is all love and he is all grace. We can go to him at any time totally persuaded that he is ready to bless us. He is a rewarder and not a withholder.
The assurance of the grace that comes by faith is that God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him (Hebrew 11:6). From the very beginning, Satan has always tried to portray God as a withholder. That what his tactic with Eve. She was deceived into believing that God did not want her to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil because he was withholding something good from her. She gave into the temptation to eat that fruit and immediately discovered that God had been protecting her all along. She realised that God’s way had been best all along.
In the same way, we can come to know God’s goodness through grace. We discover that our life of sin only leads to disillusionment and shame, and we are able to prove for ourselves that God’s will is good, acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:2). It blesses, it rewards and it satisfies. Once we see that, we can be transformed by the renewing of our mind. In other words, we are no longer sinners subject to the knowledge of our sin but, persuaded by grace, we desire the things that only God can give and gladly pursue him and his flawless ways in our life.