Wednesday, 2nd May 2012
Biblical perspectives for living
Free to sin?
Regular readers of this column will recognise that we take seriously the emphasis found in scripture on God's grace. We see in scripture that God offers people his forgiveness and salvation as a free gift. Those who trust in Christ “are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24).
Someone may well ask: does it matter then what we do or how we live? If God is so generous and offers forgiveness so freely can we not do whatever we like? Surely he will forgive us all in the end anyway as this appears to be his nature. The French sceptic Voltaire put it this way: “God will forgive; that is his business”. The poet W.H. Auden wrote similarly: “I like committing crimes. God likes forgiving them. The world is admirably arranged.”
Such misconceptions about Christianity are not new but surfaced when the gospel began to be preached by the apostles. During that era many religious people thought that a message which emphasised grace rather than law would encourage moral anarchy. Others appear to have genuinely misunderstood the gospel as actually accommodating sinful behaviour (Jude 1:4).
Paul combated such misconceptions in no uncertain terms: “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Romans 6:1,2). Paul wrote that those who trust in Christ are set free from the guilt and controlling power of sin because of Christ's death and resurrection. Consequently it would be unthinkable to continue serving sin. “So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus”
God's grace is entirely free. But those who have genuinely experienced this grace must not abuse it or be presumptuous regarding it. Far from being a “legal fiction” as some have suggested, salvation by grace through faith in Christ does result in right living. Conversion to Christ entails renouncing whatever sins we know to be in our lives (and those we subsequently discover) and dedicating of our lives to serving God on his terms, in accordance with his word.
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