“Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace?” – Romans 6:15
(This was an article I was invited to write for Common Call volume 5, number 3, Summer 2017. It is printed here with a few slight changes)
Many people have attempted to live in sin presuming grace will cover them. Dietrich Bonhoeffer referred to this as cheap grace – grace without repentance, confession, discipline, or obedience. He called cheap grace the deadly enemy of the church. I’m inclined to agree. In response to the question posed in Romans 6:15, the Apostle Paul makes it clear that serving sin leads to death but serving the Lord in obedience leads to life. There is no middle ground. You are either a slave to sin or a slave to holiness. Paul’s no fan of cheap grace either.
Many of us know the concept of grace but could use a deeper reflection upon it. John Newton taught us about the biblical notion of grace in the beloved hymn Amazing Grace. The first stanza is known by churchgoers and non–churchgoers alike:
Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind but now I see
I love the word “wretch” used to describe despicable and vile people. We’re a bunch of wretches saved by grace. Yet, we must not continue to live in a state of wretchedness. Rather, we must pursue Christlikeness. Imagine if Newton penned a second verse to Amazing Grace that spoke of his desire to sin because he was no longer under the law but grace. I asked my good friend, Sam Johnson, to write such a verse:
Once chained and burdened by the law
I now live free in grace.
I now may sin, no more condemned
To fully feel God’s grace
While Sam did a wonderful job penning the lyrics, the theology contained in the prose is foreign to the New Testament (For the record, Sam is not a heretic. I merely asked him to play the role for the sake of conversation)! One does not find home and choose to wander back to being lost. One does not receive eyesight and choose to return to blindness. Likewise, one does not receive the gift of grace and choose to live in sin. As the writer of Hebrews puts it, “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith (see Hebrews 12:1–2).”
Grace deserves the appropriate response. It should not be ignored nor should it be abused. From a heart of gratitude, grace should result in praise and obedience. God can do great things with wretches. What will he do with you?