“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”—–Ephesians 2:8-10
“If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.”—–1 John 1:6-7
Grace itself is critical to our faith as Christians. Our faith wholly depends upon God’s grace in order to save us from our sins. We have done nothing to ever deserve God’s grace, but out of His great love, He has offered His grace to those that recognize they are sinners in need of a Savior in Jesus. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
So it is with great importance to start this post by stating clearly what is true. Salvation is through Jesus alone, through faith alone, and by God’s grace alone. Not by works or by anything we could ever do to actually earn salvation. Salvation is only through believing in Jesus, through His death and resurrection, by Him paying the penalty of eternal separation from God in Hell that we each deserve for our sins.
That being said, there are those that are abusing God’s grace by purposely shying away from talking about a type of “faith” without true repentance and obedience to the Lord. Because of the misconception that they feel they may be falling into a works-based salvation, there are those that have now swung the pendulum so far to the opposite extreme of focusing so much upon a false “grace”. This false “grace” is without the further implications of bearing fruit in keeping with repentance in ones life as evidence of one truly believing the Gospel. (Luke 3:8) It is commonly said that any change in a person’s life is ultimately brought about if we simply “let go and let God” to bring us to become more Christlike.
The problem with this type of theology and thinking is that in itself it denies any personal responsibility for how we are to live. At the core it gives a person a license to live however they desire, even if it is a lifestyle of sin and contrary to God. A person is seen merely as a “work in progress”, but because of “grace” they are made fully right before God despite what their actions may or may not show. Just as long as they believe in “Jesus” they are good to go.
But time and time again and throughout all of Scripture we are told that even though God’s grace covers our sins, we must not continue to live a life of sin. In Romans 6:1-2 it tells us that we cannot continue to sin that grace might increase. Later in Romans 8:12-13 it says, “So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh – for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” In other words, we cannot abuse the grace that God has given to us and continue to live lives of sin when we have the clear responsibility to repent of sin and actually do what God has told us in the Bible.
Some today give false assurance to people by saying things like “stop trying so hard” or “there is nothing more or less you can do to please God”. People looking to justify their own sin and lifestyles find great comfort in these words because there is no demand to repent and live according to God’s Word. They end up blindly believing that it is only God’s responsibility to bring them to be more Christlike while neglecting God’s clear commands that are right before them in the Bible. So instead of calling people to “repent and believe the Gospel” like it says in Mark 1:15, people are often left encouraged and not challenged to live in greater holiness; thus taking advantage of God’s grace and offer of forgiveness of sin. At the very best, people are left as immature believers and at the worst they have believed a false “gospel”.
Without a balance of grace that leads to living in obedience to God, it is nothing more than a “gospel” devoid of the core truths. If our faith in Jesus doesn’t lead us to greater obedience, then we have to ask the question, “Why, then, did Jesus die on the cross??” If Jesus died only to atone for our sins so that we could live however we wish, then what difference does it make to live any different than the rest of the world or simply in the way I want to live. It is when we recognize our need for a Savior because of our sins and seek to live in obedience to God that we are truly walking according to Biblical faith.
Does this mean that we are perfect in living in complete obedience and holiness?? No. But there is no excuse for us to continue to walk in sin. By pursuing and embracing anything contrary to what God has said in Scripture is to flat out deny true faith in Jesus. It is because of what Jesus did through His death and resurrection that we seek to live in complete obedience to Him and that must accompany true faith. Without seeking true obedience to God, one cannot have true faith.
In James 2 it makes it clear that it is not by our “works” that we are saved, but that our “works” do point to our faith. Some misinterpret “works” as only the external things we “do” for others, but it seems true “works” throughout Scripture encompass more of a complete change from walking in sin to living in obedience; not just seeking to improve the lives of others. In other words, our growing in obedience to the Lord and turning away from all sin is evidence of true faith.
It is critical that we understand the Gospel according the Bible. With so many inside and outside the Church all seeking our attention, it is easy to end up believing a false gospel because it may affirm or empathize with what we want to believe and how we choose to live rather than believing in the Truth itself. People are yearning for assurance of eternal life, but to abuse God’s grace by not boldly proclaiming the implications of the Gospel lived out is unacceptable. To also be fearful of talking about obedience to God because people may misunderstand that they can have salvation by being a “good” person is not an excuse either. We must proclaim the full and complete Gospel that each of us is a sinner in need of God’s grace and that through Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins and His resurrection we then in turn live out our faith in Him through our repentance and obedience to Him and His Word.