This article first appeared in The Outspoken TULIP on September 5, 2016. I sure needed to read it today. Maybe you do too.
The doctrine of grace indeed teaches that Christians neither earn nor maintain salvation by our own efforts. Hebrews 12:2 identifies Jesus as “the founder and perfecter” of our faith, Who promised that those to whom He has given eternal life cannot be snatched from His hand (John 10:28). Therefore, a believer who lapses into sin, even for extended periods, has not lost his salvation because salvation depends solely on Jesus’ work on the cross. Our works of obedience contribute absolutely nothing to the transaction!
Some people, however, misunderstand the doctrine of grace to mean that we can give in to various temptations because God forgives us. That misunderstanding needs to be addressed. Not only does it deceive false converts into supposing that God tolerates their sin, but it ignores His holy nature.
In the past few years, the wonderful resurgence of Calvinist teaching has regretfully spawned counterfeit teachers who distort Scripture. Grace, in their eyes, becomes a permission slip to sin, particularly in regard to sexual behavior (though it’s also used to excuse other forms of sin). And such theological laxity leads to an acceptance of professing Christians allowing for premarital sex, cohabitation and “committed” homosexual relationships.
Scripture never presents such a view of God’s grace! As a matter of fact, the very apostle Paul who taught that grace emancipates us from the demands of the Law (Galatians 3:1-14) also insisted that grace leads us to live in holiness.
11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. ~~Titus 2:11-14 (ESV)
As this passage demonstrates, the Lord doesn’t save us merely because of His mercy and compassion (although He certainly is merciful and compassionate). He wants His people to reflect His holiness, and consequently He gives us the grace that teaches us to reject our old patterns of sin (sexual and otherwise) in favor of living in holiness.
Grace changes us, so that obedience to the Lord becomes our objective. Not that obedience secures our salvation, but rather that it gives evidence that the Holy Spirit, Who lives in us, transforms our hearts so that we desire His holiness. We don’t dress sin up as something acceptable, expecting the Lord to smile indulgently down on our blatant rebellion against Him. Much to the contrary, we understand the magnitude of His grace, and therefore realize our indebtedness to Him. And, although we can never hope to repay our debt, gratitude swells in our hearts, filling us with a desire to honor Him.
The Lord paid completely for our salvation, and nothing on our part either brings it about or causes its revocation. But a cavalier attitude towards His grace betrays a lack of understanding that He is holy and has redeemed very unholy people. Therefore it undermines His very purpose in redeeming us! Praise Jesus that grace takes us out of sin and enables us to share in His holiness!