Summary: If grace is unconditional and unlimitd, then why be good? Why not just sin up a storm?
This morning, we conclude our series of messages on the topic of "grace". And just to be clear what it is we’re discussing: When we refer to "grace", it doesn’t have the same meaning as when we speak of another person as being "gracious." It doesn’t signify being courteous, or having good manners. We’re not just talking about being friendly, or generous. No, we’re talking about the grace of God, and that has a very specific meaning. Grace is "God’s free and unmerited favor, shown to guilty sinners who deserve only judgment."
Let’s review what we’ve learned so far. In the past two weeks, we’ve demonstrated that God’s grace – his love, and acceptance, and forgiveness – is completely unconditional. It is given without regard to merit, or worth, or achievement. We can’t earn it or deserve it. We can only receive it in one way: as a gift through faith in Jesus Christ. He purchased our forgiveness by giving his life for us, he suffered the penalty of sin in our place by his death on the cross. And so Paul tells us that,
"Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known . . . This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus." – Romans 3:20-24 (NIV)
God will never declare any one righteous because of their good works, or their upright behavior, or their high moral standards. Why? Because we all fall short of God’s standard, which is flawless obedience. We are all guilty sinners, deserving only His judgment. It’s only through faith that we can claim the perfect righteousness of Christ as our own, and be welcomed into fellowship with God.
Not only have we seen that God’s grace is unconditional – undeserved, unearned, unmerited – we’ve also seen that God’s grace is unlimited. It is sufficient to cover every one of our sins, regardless of how serious, or how often repeated. The blood of Christ is worthy enough, and God’s love is powerful enough, to cleanse us from the guilt of all our sins. There’s nothing we need to add, and nothing we can add, to what Christ has done for us. As a result, God now judges us to be completely holy. In his view, we possess the righteousness of Jesus Christ. And that is the way he will always see us, for ever and ever.
"But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you
holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation." – Colossians 1:22 (NIV)
"Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." – Romans 8:1 (NIV)
Jesus’ final words on the cross were, "It is finished." Everything that needs to be done in order for us to be forgiven has already been done by Christ. Nothing remains for us to do except receive that forgiveness in faith. And in fact, anything we try to do in order to earn God’s favor is an indication that we have not yet fully understood the finality and complete sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice. There’s nothing left for us to do. He did it all. As a result, we stand before God without blemish. In God’s eyes, we are free from every accusation, we are subject to no condemnation whatsoever. God has not only granted us a full and free pardon, but He has also pronounced us not guilty. Our guilt has been transferred to Christ, and his righteousness, his perfect obedience, has been transferred to us. It is done. It is over. It is finished.
"We have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." – Hebrews 10:10 (NIV)
Now, when the unconditional and unlimited nature of God’s grace is proclaimed, there is a very predictable reaction. In fact, it’s so predictable that it’s almost a barometer of whether you are really preaching the grace of God faithfully and clearly. Because invariably, someone will say something like this, "Do you mean to tell me that it makes no difference what I do; that I can sin all I want, and as long as I trust in Christ, God will forgive me and let me into heaven?" And when you say, "yes, that’s right", then they say, "So why should I be good? Why not sin up a storm, and do whatever I like, if God’s going to forgive me anyway?" That’s a valid question. The apostle Paul faced the very same question in response to his teaching.