Oftentimes, I have conversed with fellow believers who claim that they believe the message of grace but refuse to be vocal about it.
They believe that the emphasis on grace is the reason for the often failings of believers. They would rather preach the hot displeasure of God on believers to curtail them, using that as a form of crowd control. Yet, they claim to believe that we are saved by grace through faith.
In this article, I would attempt to address the presupposition that the emphasis on grace leads to more slackness in Christian living.
Did the apostles and Jesus himself have this outlook? Did they stop preaching the message of justification to guard the sanity in the church? And, how true is the claim that the message of justification leads to a decreased sense of obligation to live right among believers?
To start with, biblical evidence seems to suggest otherwise. One should think that the men under the old covenant, bound by the fear of the wrath of God would do better. Strangely, that’s not what biblical data suggests. We see the Israelites whoring after other gods over and over. Many of these men had either seen the execution of God’s judgement, heard them told by their fathers or read of it in the Torah.
For example, take the Israelites who had just been rescued from the Egyptians, and had seen how they’d drown in the red sea – a display of God’s justice. One would think they’d be so compliant. It only took them a few days of Moses’ absence to carve out a golden image to worship. Strange right? The scriptures are full of the disobedience of the people of God even though they lived in a dispensation ridden with much fear of the wrath of God.
To avoid ambiguity, let me redefine what the message of Grace is. As summarized by the apostle Paul in Eph 2:8-9, it simply means that we are saved apart from our works. This means that the believer is justified (discharged and acquitted of all charges) just by believing the gospel. Rom 5:1.Grace means we are saved apart from our works. Our righteousness before the father is entirely divorced from what we do and solely dependent on Christ's finished works. Click To Tweet
Furthermore, the believer is now righteous apart from his works. His righteousness before the father is entirely divorced from what he does and solely dependent on the finished works of Christ. What is more? This work is a perpetual one.
Christian ethics is built upon this very truth. This means that acceptance comes before performance, and performance must be built upon proper appropriation of this acceptance. Grace then becomes the incentive for right living.In the Christian faith, acceptance comes before performance, and performance must be built upon proper appropriation of this acceptance. Christian ethics is built upon this truth. Grace then becomes an incentive for right living. Click To Tweet
The understanding of the pardon the believer has received then becomes his motivation for pleasing God. If this order is reversed, the gospel is rendered futile. God has seen our inability to perform unto acceptance and therefore settled the acceptance.
However, the bible also shows how the apostles frowned and condemned misconduct in the church. See 1Cor 5. While the believer’s acceptance before the father is divorced from his performance. Right performance and conduct are essential to manifesting his identity, which is also a mandate. So, we see them speak with such a grave tone that may be misinterpreted as condemning the offending believer/church to damnation.Salvation by grace through faith is not mutually exclusive to awe and reverence for God. We must hold in right tension God's love, holiness and justice. This causes us to live in his awe while revelling in his love. Click To Tweet
However, it is crystal clear from the scriptures that our salvation is entirely dependent on the finished works of Christ as I have explained.
Many times, when the apostles address misconduct in the Church, the believers’ realities are appealed to. Also, their reverence for God is appealed to. Salvation by grace through faith is not mutually exclusive to awe and reverence for God. For we must hold in the right tension, God’s love, His holiness and justice. The latter must cause us to live in awe before him while revelling in his love.
As against what many think, God’s grace incentivizes us to do more. Having understood the depth of God’s love and grace, our hearts reach out to him in gratitude. We want to live right and serve his purpose for we know that we’ll never be able to repay him for the gift of himself and eternal pardon.
The grace of God creates the perfect framework for man to thrive as God purposed. For while it cheers him on to live right, should he falter, it also safeguards him from damnation.
Grace is the wisdom of God, what could not be done under the law, is fully accomplished in this dispensation. Like Jesus said: “he that is forgiven more, loves more”. This is the relationship God always desired with humanity since the beginning of times; one built on love and freely responding to the father’s will which is now realized in this dispensation of grace. For he that is forgiven more, truly loves more.