I’ve noticed that, even though the church has come to embrace a doctrine of grace, at least in word, there are few things that make Christians mad quite like preaching that we are no longer under the law.
Why is that?
It has to be either:
- that we don’t truly believe the price Christ paid for our redemption was enough
- or that we don’t understand grace.
There are no other options. There isn’t room for any gray area.
If we are truly saved by grace through faith in the redeeming work of Jesus Christ accomplished 2000 years ago then there is no amount of sin that could make void so great a salvation.
The debt is either paid or it is not.
So much of what is being taught is that we are saved by grace but our actions are the proof and in fact, determine the depth of our relationship with God and that we must take the grace and be continually examining ourselves, to make sure we are saved, and working hard to be good Christians.
But true grace means that our debt is paid off. It doesn’t exist. Completely. Forever. Forgiven. God ONLY sees us as perfectly righteous. Those who are saved by grace are not under the law. Not whatsoever and not even a little bit.
In fact, focusing on the law and trying harder to be holy and get closer to God will have the opposite effect. It can void grace. Because when we attempt to justify ourselves by the law there is no longer any sacrifice for sin for we have become severed from Christ. (see Galatians 5:4)
Martin Luther wrote that,
” If faith is not without all, even the smallest works, it does not justify; indeed it is not faith.”
Faith itself does not justify but simply becomes aware of the Grace that already exists in Christ. Faith receives this free gift from God and this is not a self-generated activity but solely a work of the Holy Spirit.
By the way, I borrowed the title of this article from Martin Luther who said,
“If you are a preacher of grace, then preach a true and not a fictitious grace; if grace is true, you must bear a true and not a fictitious sin. God does not save people who are only fictitious sinners. Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly . . . as long as we are here [in this world] we have to sin. . . . No sin will separate us from the Lamb, even though we commit fornication and murder a thousand times a day.”(Letter to Melanchthon, August 1, 1521, American Edition, Luther’s Works, vol. 48, pp. 281-82)
Martin Luther isn’t saying that we should gleefully go out and sin. No, he is saying that despite our sin we can rejoice that it is not held against us. We don’t have to worry about our sin. We are free to keep our eyes on Christ. When other people or the devil tries to make us feel guilt or small, and says we cannot walk in God’s presence we can stand boldly and proclaim that we stand clothed in His righteousness and noting we do or don’t do can ever change that.
We are declared righteous because of Christ alone and nothing that we do of our own. Scripture plainly teaches that baptism connects us to the resurrection of Christ (see 1 Peter 3:21). Paul writes that we are united to Christ in baptism. (see Romans 6:3-5)
What does it mean when we say that Christ has set us free from the chains of sin and death?
We don’t have to worry about it. We don’t have to focus on do and don’ts. We don’t have to try harder to stop sinning. (That doesn’t work. It only causes more sin.) No, we are free to look to Christ and remember that God sees us as righteous and holy and when we do that our conduct will fix itself.
Remember the words of those two Moravian missionaries when they said, “Shall not the lamb receive the full reward of his suffering.”
Christ suffered and died to pay your debt. Don’t dishonor His sacrifice trying to pay a debt that has been paid off.
Because when we attempt to justify ourselves by the law there is no longer any sacrifice for sin for we have become severed from Christ. (see Galatians 5:4)
And so, stop trying so hard. Stop worrying about it. Gaze upon the Lamb. Remember what He has done. Luther encouraged the Christian to remember their baptism as an outward sign and historical event. Reflect on the cross,
And whenever you feel the weight of sin and the battle raging inside, when the devil throws your sins in your face, don’t look to yourself but stand boldly and tell it like it is,
“My sins are forgiven. I am a holy and righteous child of the living God, bought and paid for with the blood of Jesus and there is nothing that the devil himself or even I can do about it. Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”