The hymn writer has rightly said that “Grace is greater than all our sin.” When we look at the fact that God’s grace is more abundantly powerful than our capacity to turn away from Him, we sometimes conclude–wrongly–that we are therefore free to live in any way we want.
Let no one deceive you into thinking that the Christian faith has nothing to do with morality. The Christian faith has everything to do with obedience to the will of God.
We can’t earn our salvation, but sometimes we emphasize that fact in such a way that we make the same mistake some of the Apostle Paul’s opponents made.
He addressed this problem in Romans 6:
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? (Romans 6:1)
We no longer live according to this present evil age.
If God’s grace is more powerful than the powers of evil, if Christ is stronger than Satan, if the mercy of God can overcome our sin, does it therefore follow that we are free to live any way we choose?
No. The testimony of Scripture is clear. To paraphrase Paul’s words,
May it never be! How shall we who died to sin–to the dominion and tyranny of these powers of evil–how shall we who have committed ourselves to the Lordship of Jesus Christ still dare to think that we can choose to live under the powers of darkness? (Romans 6:2, paraphrase)
The more closely you look at Scripture the more obvious it becomes that the God of the Bible is a moral God who turns away from sin and punishes disobedience. The God of the Bible is the God who has sent His Son to deliver us from the powers of sin and evil so that we might become a people who are obedient to His will.
God’s kindness and mercy are intended to lead us to repentance, not to license:
For by grace are you saved through faith; and that now of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Now that we’ve been redeemed, we must live out our calling.
We have been delivered so that we might live as the people of God. We have been redeemed through our “historical theology“– that is, the death and resurrection of Jesus. We have been redeemed into a resurrection life as a people who can “go tell it on the mountain that Christ Jesus is Lord.” We have been redeemed as a people who can walk in newness of life because we have found the mercies of God through Jesus Christ.
You and I must not be deceived into thinking that somehow because we are in Christ Jesus, we are insulated from evil or temptation. Of course we still face temptation. There is nothing sinful about being tempted; even our Lord faced temptation. Temptation is a harsh reality of life in this present evil age–but we must take care not to be deluded into thinking that we are somehow above sin. We are called to live a different kind of life, but we can and will still sin.
We continue to need forgiveness.
The Scriptures would not exhort us to be obedient if we did not need that exhortation. The Scriptures plead with us to live godly and obedient lives in fulfillment of the commandments of God precisely because we are a people who are in need of forgiveness. We are a people who can be tempted and persuaded to sin.
The letter to the church at Pergamum in the book of Revelation addresses the false idea that our beliefs need not inform our morality. I’ll take a close look at that passage and at the Old Testament story on which it is modeled in my next post.
The preceding was adapted by Rachel Motte from a sermon Dr. Sloan delivered at Tallowood Baptist Church on July 15, 1990.