Most of us who have grown up in evangelical churches have heard the definition of “grace” given as follows: “it is the unmerited favor of God”. For many it is the thing which means we can keep on sinning wilfully and expect to enter heaven – because we are under grace, see. Not that all who believe this WANT to keep sinning deliberately, its just that this idea of grace makes them feel safe if they do choose to live this way.
It is this view of grace which has allowed a number of recent American presidents for example to be perceived by the church there as “Christian”. It would not matter if they didn’t go to church at all, or were members of secret occult societies – because if they say they were “born again Christians” then even if they were liars, murderers or occultists “the grace of God” would surely cover all that because they were “born again”. In the same way, multitudes of unrepentant greedy liars and adulterers who live for their own glory and pleasure believe that “the grace of God” covers them as “born again Christians”. They believe that they can do as they please because Jesus died to give them a free pass to heaven whether they sincerely turn from sin or not.
Does the Bible actually teach this concept of grace?
If it does, then why does the Bible say:
Heb 10:26 For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,
Heb 10:27 but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.
Heb 10:28 Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.
Heb 10:29 Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?
Does this passage make it sound like God has throug grace given us a free pass to sin without the risk of any serious eternal consequences?
The Bible is full of warnings against sin. According to the Bible, the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Not physical death, but eternal death – HELL.
Rev 21:8 But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”
It is important to realise that there is a difference between “mercy” and “grace”. Mercy means not getting what you deserve. But grace means the power of God to be transformed, live a holy life, and get help from God when you are tempted so that you DO NOT sin.
Heb 4:15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.
Heb 4:16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Grace will keep us from falling into temptation if we ask God for it with earnest desire when we feel tempted.
Grace is also the means by which we fulfil the ministry God has for us. Grace makes us what we are in God.There is such a thing for example, as “grace to be an apostle of Jesus Christ”.
1Corinthians 15:10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.
So grace is something different than what many have taught.Grace is not a free pass to sin without eternal consequences. Grace is the power to be more like Jesus. It is a mark of a false teacher to teach that grace enables us to indulge in sexual sin, for example, and for God to “be cool with that”, because of “grace”.
Jud 1:4 For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.
The God who utterly condemns sin did not design a system in which we could deliberately go on sinning with impunity. No, everything God did for us was designed to get us conformed to His image and away from the image of the Evil One.
The Bible DOES teach that God can and does show MERCY to sinners. The Bible says that “he that covereth his sin shall not prosper, but he that confesses and forsakes his sin shall have mercy” (Proverbs 28:13). Mercy is given to those who forsaking trust in themselves, confess their sins, forsake them and trust in Jesus. You don’t get punished with the punishment you deserve – eternal condemnation – if you find mercy with God. It was available to people under the Old Covenant, but it is different in meaning to “grace”. “Grace” is actually more a New Testament concept.
John 1:17 “For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” Before Jesus came people generally did not have the same possibility to live the “God kind of life” that IS possible today, though most of the church neglects it. The reason we have a better covenant with better promises is precisely because of the coming of “grace” and all it can do in our lives.
I believe we would all do well to consider what the grace (Greek: charis) of God can actually do in our lives, and ask God for a fuller manifestation of it. One thing that grace teaches us is to deny sinful desires and to live righteously.
Titus 2:11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men,
Titus 2:12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age,
Titus 2:13 looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,
Titus 2:14 who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.
It could be argued that the law also teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts and to live righteously. However, grace does more than just inform us of God’s standards – it actually EMPOWERS us to live according to them, by imparting the life and nature of God into our beings. This is what makes grace so special in the New Covenant.
How to Receive Grace
The Bible says that “God resists the proud, but GIVES GRACE to the humble” (James 4:6).
If you and I want the grace to live as Jesus did, we need to humble ourselves. Part of humbling ourselves is admitting that some of our views until now have been wrong, and we need to change our thinking and our behavior. Yet at the same time, we must acknowledge that we cannot change ourselves by ourselves, we are actually in desparate need of the GRACE God offers. Let us threrefore hunger and thirst for God’s righteousness, that we may be filled, and express this in earnest heartfelt prayer towards God until our needy souls are filled with something from God that makes a radical difference.