Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Cheap Grace

One concern in the Evangelical church today is the issue of cheap grace. If we teach salvation is free, will people just go out and sin? What is required for salvation?

Scripture makes it clear that we are saved by faith (or believing), apart from works (Romans 4:4, 5; Ephesians 2:8, 9; Philippians 3:9; 1 John 5:11-13). If someone promises something based on meeting a certain condition and then adds others later, we consider them underhanded. God is not underhanded. What is this faith? Faith is relying on the promises of God even when they seem impossible (Romans 4:17-22). It is not just a casual, intellectual assent; even the demons have that (James 2:19). God makes it clear that He knows our hearts (1 Samuel 16:7; Jeremiah 17:10; Luke 16:15; Romans 2:16). He knows if we mean it.

What is this faith in? It is in Christ, His death to pay the price for our sins and His resurrection (John 3:14-18; Romans 3:21-28; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11; Galatians 3:13, 14). It is not in turning over a new leaf or having a mystical experience, but relying on the work He has done for us. If anything can be done to earn grace, it is no longer grace (Romans 11:6; Titus 3:4-7).

What, then, about repentance (Mark 1:15; Acts 2:38)? If repentance is something added to our faith, salvation is not truly through faith. But repentance is recognizing we are sinners who need to be saved by faith (Romans 3:23; Ephesians 2:1-3). It results not in trying to do better (the resolutions of an unsaved person are worthless: see John 15:5; Romans 8:8; Isaiah 64:6), but in realizing we must rely on Christ (Romans 5:6-8).

Must we make Christ Lord of our lives to be saved (Romans 10:9)? Christ is Lord of all the universe, and both saved and unsaved will someday acknowledge that (Philippians 2:9-11). But this Lordship is not fully realized in us until we are totally obedient, something we will not reach in this life (1 John 1:8-10; Philippians 3:12-15). But to recognize that I am a sinner, I must realize that there is a God to whom I am responsible (Psalms 51:4; Matthew 7:21; John 3:19-21), and since Jesus is God (Hebrews 1:8; John 1:1-18), He is Lord. However, we grow in understanding of this as we grow in Christ.

Now Scripture teaches the result of genuine faith is a changed life (Ephesians 2:10; James 2:20; Titus 2:11,12). This is not the cause of salvation but the result of it. It is motivated in response to God's love for us (1 John 4:19; Luke 7:36-50) and is the result of God's power working in us (2 Corinthians 3:18; Philippians 2:13; Colossians 1:29). Now if someone accepts salvation with the deliberate intention of continuing in sin, this is not sincere faith. To hold God went to the trouble of saving us from the penalty of our sin so we can still live in it is preposterous. But we should be careful of judging others (Matthew 7:1-5; Romans 2:1-3; 14:10-12), rather correcting them with gentleness (Galatians 6:1; 2 Timothy 2:24-26).

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