“Those who argue that grace allows a buffer for sin, that their sin will ultimately glorify God anyway, are revealing they are not under grace! They are not Christians, no matter how much they argue otherwise.” – R. Kent Hughes –
If the quote above stings a bit, perhaps it should. As believers in Jesus Christ, sin will be an ever present enemy. We will battle it as long as we live. If that wasn’t the case, Paul would not have implored the Christians to whom he was writing in Rome to, “let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions” (Romans 6:12). God’s Word teaches that as believers, sin dwells within us. But equally so, it teaches that grace properly understood doesn’t need sin in order for God to be glorified. So what do I mean? Many in Paul’s day mistook his message to mean that sin brought glory to God because it allowed His grace to be magnified. They took it as if the ethical requirements of God’s law were unimportant. This is referred to as antinomianism; a term used to deny that what God’s law teaches in Scripture should control the life of the believer. The truth is they just wanted to sin. Paul taught that the law was holy, righteous and good, but impossible to keep. Its purpose was to reveal sin and ultimately point people to Jesus Christ, who fulfilled the law on our behalf. Furthermore, Paul taught that to continue a sinful pattern of life was contrary to a believer’s new identity in Christ, “How can we who died to sin still live in it”? (Romans 6:2).
Grace properly understood hates sin, and as children of God we hate sin because we realize it’s that pattern in which we lived that God loved us enough to save us out of, “while we were still sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Though we were undeserving, God gave His Son for our sin in order to reconcile us to Himself. Are we to show our appreciation for Christ’s work by thinking God expects no change? Certainly not! But more than that, true change; change which comes from the heart, can’t help but live differently because we are different. We are a new creation, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 2:17).
To be Christian is more than just being a moral person, though morality is characteristic of Christians. To be Christian comes only through faith in Jesus Christ alone. It results in a change that is based on and motivated by your love for Christ. Though it’s His righteousness you wear, you strive to live rightly out of a desire to please Him. We live in a world way too tolerant of sin. Yes, we understand its reality. We understand that Christians sin greatly, but the pattern of sin that once was so gripping has been broken. God will not let Christians sin as they once did. Because of their union with Christ and the Holy Spirit’s work bringing them under conviction of sin, they can’t. But you ask, “What if they can”? Though perhaps unpopular and both hard to say and hear, no matter their profession, if they can, they’re not saved.
Paul’s teaching was never meant for us to constantly doubt our salvation. It was quite the opposite. But he didn’t want us to have a false assurance of salvation either, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? Unless you fail to meet the test” (2 Corinthians 13:5). Paul was very direct in his teaching. So direct was he that it ultimately cost him his life. Today, many fear the consequences of calling sin what it is because of what it may cost them. When the pattern of a person’s life is contrary to God’s will, our first thought might be, “Who am I to judge”? If Matthew 7:1 comes to mind, “Judge not, that you be not judged”, I would ask you to consider it in context. It’s about undue harshness and a judgmental attitude toward a person. It’s not our role to pronounce another guilty before God, but that doesn’t mean we forgo appropriate discernment of sin. We’re sometimes so busy not “judging” that we fail to the properly teach the true meaning of grace. Yes, we know that grace abounds more than sin, in fact grace overwhelms it. But grace and those who’ve received it live with a desire to please our Savior. Do you? It makes all the difference.