Grace is a constant theme in the Bible, and it culminates in the New Testament with the coming of Jesus (John 1:17). By His mercy, God accepted Christ's sufferings and death as the punishment for sin that we all deserved. By His grace (unmerited favor), God extended to those who put their trust in Christ Jesus the blessings of imputed righteousness, the indwelling Holy Spirit, adoption into God's family, membership in Christ's Church, citizenship in His eternal kingdom and the blessed hope of being resurrected to life everlasting. No wonder why we refer to the present period in spiritual history as the “Age of Grace”.
However, over the last century, there has arisen a perverted view of God's grace. One of the most commonly taught doctrines in modern evangelical churches is the idea that one does not need to change one's lifestyle upon becoming a Christian. A Christian can live as they please because God's grace covers them and frees them from any condemnation. The fruit of this false doctrine is an overwhelming number of professing Christians living carnal and worldly lifestyles. There is a very large number of professing Christians whose lives appear to be no different than unregenerated sinners, except that they might attend worship services at their churches.
This perverted view of God's grace is not anything new as we find that Jude saw this falsehood invading the early churches. Jude 4, “For some men, who were designated for this judgment long ago, have come in by stealth; they are ungodly, turning the grace of our God into promiscuity and denying Jesus Christ, our only Master and Lord.”
Jude states an important point that those who believe that grace permits a lifestyle of promiscuity and worldly behavior are denying Jesus Christ as being their “only Master and Lord.” They cling to Christ Jesus as their Savior and relish in the benefits of His sacrifice but are unwilling to face the cost of discipleship or submitting to the will of the Lord. But, one cannot have Jesus as their Savior without also acknowledging Him as their Lord.
It is interesting that the term “Lord” is used in reference to God or Christ Jesus 28 times more often than the term “Savior” is used in reference to God and Christ Jesus. It seems evident that the emphasis in the New Testament is on Jesus Christ being Lord Perhaps this is the case because it was recognized that too many “saved” Christians would be prone to cheapen Divine grace and use it to live lives contrary to the will of Christ.
Christians have received from Christ the “law of liberty” (James 1:25; 2:12). Those who twist the doctrine of Grace interpret that the “law of liberty” means liberty from law. The reality is that the law of liberty consists of rules of conduct that bring freedom from the bondage of sin and its subsequent condemnation. As Jesus declares, in John 8:34, 36, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin...If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.”
Grace frees us from sin that it might not have the mastery over us so that we might live righteously as God's chosen people. So, in fact, those who embrace “cheap grace” are not living lives of freedom, as they think they are, but are still living lives under the bondage of sin.
There is a Scripture passage that speaks of the role of grace that is commonly disregarded. Titus 2:11-15, “For the grace of God that brings salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority.”
God's grace does not teach us to live as our flesh desires; rather, Titus says that Grace teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, so that we may concentrate on living soberly and righteously and godly. 1 Peter 1:14-15, “As children of obedience, not fashioning yourselves according to your former lusts in the time of your ignorance: but like as He Who called you is holy, be ye yourselves also holy in all manner of living.”
The Bible nowhere supports the idea that a true Christian can remain carnal for an entire lifetime. A person who has truly believed in Jesus as the Savior and who has truly acknowledged Him as their Lord will have a progressively changed life. If there is no evidence of spiritual growth (obediently conforming to the example of Christ) and good works, we have reason to doubt that salvation ever truly took place.
1 John 3:6, “Those who live in Christ don't go on sinning. Those who go on sinning haven't seen or known Christ.” 1 John 2:3-4, “We are sure that we know Christ if we obey his commandments. The person who says, “I know him,” but doesn't obey his commandments is a liar. The truth isn't in that person.”
Before one obeys the Gospel, Jesus bids the individual to first '”count the cost” of becoming a genuine disciple. Luke 14:27-33, “So those who do not carry their crosses and follow Me cannot be My disciples. Suppose you want to build a tower. You would first sit down and figure out what it costs. Then you would see if you have enough money to finish it. Otherwise, if you lay a foundation and can't finish the building, everyone who watches will make fun of you. They'll say, ‘This person started to build but couldn't finish the job.' Or suppose a king is going to war against another king. He would first sit down and think things through. Can he and his 10,000 soldiers fight against a king with 20,000 soldiers? If he can't, he'll send ambassadors to ask for terms of peace while the other king is still far away. In the same way, none of you can be my disciples unless you give up everything.”
By God's grace, the person who obeys the Gospel becomes a “new creation” - 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Whoever is a believer in Christ is a new creation. The old way of living has disappeared. A new way of living has come into existence.”
I close our thoughts by repeating a challenge posed by the Apostle Paul, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are still in the Christian faith” (2 Corinthians 13:5).