God’s grace sets us free from sin, not free to sin.
The grace of God is not a blank check to live in constant open and willful rebellion. Contrary to legalists, libertines fail to understand that Jesus’ death for sin and God’s saving grace enable our death to sin. They are prone to simply see God’s grace as having no effect until after we have sinned. To them, grace merely forgives the evil we do without transforming us.
Anticipating just such an abuse of grace, Paul argues, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?”60 In context, Paul is not declaring that anyone will achieve sinless perfection in this life. Rather, he is declaring that anyone who has experienced the saving grace of God knows that Jesus can and will forgive sin, and in addition He transforms us with new hearts empowered by the Holy Spirit to pursue new desires for holiness and service for the glory of God and the good of others by the grace of God. Subsequently, those who want to keep sinning and simply expect Jesus to forgive them without experiencing any real repentance or life change may have no true saving relationship with God and are abusing the grace of God.
Perhaps the most confused man I have ever argued with about this point was an adulterer. He had been divorced a few times, on each occasion for committing adultery on his Christian wife while claiming to be a Christian and then running off with the other women. When I confronted him on his repeated violation of the seventh commandment, he espoused the most confused view of grace I have ever heard. He said that as far as he was concerned, God’s grace meant that he could do whatever he wanted and that Jesus was obligated to forgive him and give him grace. In his mind, he was an elephant and Jesus was the poor guy with the shovel who follows the elephant around the circus that was his life.
I told him that, by definition, God is not obligated to give him grace, because grace is a gift to the ill-deserving, and that God’s grace not only forgives our sin but also transforms our lives so that we put sin to death because Jesus died for sin. He disagreed and said that he could not lose his salvation so he was not worried. I replied that Christians cannot lose their salvation, but by all I could surmise, he was perhaps not a Christian; indeed, he would not lose his salvation because he never possessed saving faith. Grace get us away from sin and not into sin.
Is there currently any area of your life where you are abusing the grace of God and living in ongoing sin?
60 Rom. 6:1–2.