The Biblical truth of grace — God’s divine, unmerited favor and enabling us to do His will — is a wonderful concept. “Wonderful” seems too slight an adjective. We’re saved by grace through faith, most of Paul’s epistles begin and end with grace, God’s grace gifts us for ministry, is sufficient for all things, is made perfect in our weakness, provides for everlasting consolation and good hope and help for every need.
But there are some misconceptions about grace today.
Grace does not mean:
That God ignores our sin or doesn’t corrects us.
Hebrews 12:5-8 say, “And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him:For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.
The penalty for our sins was been taken care of by Jesus when He died on cross, and we received forgiveness and pardon when we believed on Him. But that doesn’t mean we have a “blank check” or, as someone once put it to me, a “get out of jail free card.” God is Holy, and His purpose for us is that we become transformed and conformed to the image of His Son. His grace means He deals with us as a loving father, not as a judge or policeman watching for us to mess up again so He can haul us in. In fact, the passage in Hebrews says that His disciplining of us is a proof of our sonship.
That we don’t have to be careful.
Some seem to think that since our sins are forgiven and our relationship with God is established, we can sit back and relax and enjoy the ride from here to heaven. There is a sense in which that is true. We have all of God’s favor that He can give and we can’t earn more by our acts after salvation any more than we could before salvation. But in hundreds of choices we make each day, our attitude shouldn’t be, “It doesn’t matter because God loves me anyway.” It should be, “What would most please my Father and reflect well on Him? What is most in line with the instructions He left for me in His Word?” Ephesians 5:15 tells us to walk circumspectly (carefully in the ESV). Jesus told us to watch and pray lest we enter into temptation.
That there is no effort involved in the Christian life.
Romans 8:13 shows how our efforts work together with God’s enabling: “For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” He doesn’t mortify it for us: there is a response expected from us. But we can’t do it on our own: we can only do it through the Spirit.
That there are no rules to follow.
It’s a common sentiment these days that we’re not saved or kept saved by keeping rules, and that’s true. But that doesn’t mean all rules are tossed out the window. As we grow in holiness and become more like God’s Son, we will find that there are things we should and should not do as a result of that relationship, not to maintain that relationship. We do have to be careful that we’re not teaching man-made rules that reach beyond Scripture as God’s commandments. But Jesus said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). I John 5:3 says, “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.” I wrote more on this here.
That doctrine is not important.
Sometimes people think of doctrine as stiff, stuffy, nitpicky. But doctrine is vitally important. Jesus spoke against the “doctrine of the Pharisees.” Romans 6:17 says, “But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.” Romans 16:17-18 say, “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.” Paul told Timothy, “If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine” (I Timothy 4:6), “Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine” (verse 13), “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them” (verse 16), and to Titus, “But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1), and much, much more. He told Timothy later, “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” Many of the New Testament epistles were written partially to expose and correct false doctrine. We’re not to give our blessing to those who teach false doctrine.
That Christians should not correct each other.
In these days of blogs, tweets, message boards, and Facebook, we’ve all seen Christians get into nasty altercations over some issue or another in ways that are an embarrassment to the cause of Christ. And truly, some people are harsh and adamant over areas where good people can differ.
But there are ways in which God does want us to confront and correct each other. Galatians 6:1 says, “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” Jesus instructed about the right way to confront someone who has sinned against us. Paul found it necessary to name names publicly sometimes (Euodias and Syntyche, Demas, Alexander the coppersmith, to name a few). Paul told the Corinthian church who had a member carrying on in known sin that no one had corrected “ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you” and “Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?” Paul told Titus of some folks to “rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith.” That they may be sound in the faith, not for personal pleasure, not for a smack-down of conflicting opinions, not out of self-righteousness. II Thessalonians 3:14-15 say, “And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.” James 5:19-20 says, “Brethren [note he is speaking to brethren, a term denoting other Christians], if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him;Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.”
It only makes sense that God’s grace and all its ramifications and effects would be in keeping with the rest of His Word. The same gracious God Who extends His grace to us gave us His Word for our instruction as to Who He is and what He is like and for our growth. But because we’re at different stages of growth, have different frames of reference through which we interpret teaching, we’re at different places in how we perceive God’s grace. Because we have a sin nature that likes to twist things around to our own line of thinking, and we have an enemy of our souls who wants to distort God’s truth and grace, we need to be constantly in God’s Word, learning more of Him and aligning our thinking with His.
And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified. Acts 20:32
But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen. II Peter 3:18