Is God’s Grace a License to Sin?
“For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”
Let’s establish a fact before we begin. The Jews, according to Scripture, were the world’s best-behaved people group. In the Old Testament they were seen as elite in regard to how they performed with their daily choices. For the ones who obeyed, these Hebrew men, women, and children were guided by 613 commandments given by Moses after he freed them from slavery in Egypt.
Grace was not their teacher, the Law was. The word grace is only mentioned about ten times in the Old Testament, compared to the New Testament, we see it approximately 110 times. Something drastic changed at the Cross in regard to this five-letter word.
Now, let’s fast-forward to the New Testament. Paul, a formerly devout Jew turned Christian, tells one of his most trusted colleagues turned pastor, Titus, this truth:
For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age (Titus 2:11,12)
Do you see what Paul describes as our teacher? Grace. Do you see what instructs us to say no to ungodliness and worldly passions? Grace. Do you see what leads us to have self-controlled, upright, godly lives? Grace.
Don’t you think if Paul was trying to not give people a license to sin, while explaining grace, he would’ve added onto this passage something like this?
“But be careful with that grace! Never preach too much of it because people will go crazy with sinning! They will wake up each day and think of all the new ways they can sin! Never give them a license to sin by giving them grace! Don’t go hyper with grace or they’ll set new world records of sinning! Balance your grace teaching with Law or you’ll have chaos!”
This ridiculous statement is not in the Bible for a reason. Paul–mind you, someone who had every right to brag on his Law observance before salvation–he knew that grace teaches people who they really are. Not Law. For the non-believer, grace teaches them they need Jesus, as does the Law in its purest form. For the believer, it teaches them they have Jesus. As a result it teaches them their holiness (see Hebrews 10:10, 1 Corinthians 6:11, Ephesians 2:8,9).
Paul was well aware that Titus’ church was sinning just fine without a license, as was every body of believers. He also knew those who thought they weren’t sinning because they were “following” the Law, they too were sinning just as badly apart from grace, if not more. From its inception the Law never made anyone holy or righteous (see Galatians 3:11, Romans 1:17). But further back, from the time of Adam and Eve, with God, He’s always been concerned with one main thing, “Do you believe me?”
Such is grace.
The Law revealed this to Paul, so Paul stayed focused on grace. In fact, the author of Hebrews–more than likely Paul, but not confirmed–stated that it is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace (see Hebrews 13:9). Not weakened, but strengthened. What the modern legalistic church is teaching, “God’s grace is not a license to sin!” is foolish because God’s grace is the power against sin. Grace is our strength, not a weakness.
The first questions I had, personally, when I came to understand this truth were:
- If grace empowers me to not sin, what should I do when I sin?
- Will God’s grace ever run out because of my sins?
Paul addressed these exact hypotheticals in his letter written to the Roman believers. First, he wants to be clear about the heart of God, so he builds his case, “It is the kindness of God that will lead you to repentance” (see Romans 2:4). Not Law, not God’s wrath, but His kindness. Other versions of the Bible say, “It is the goodness of God that leads us to change.”
After explaining God’s grace, kindness, and goodness, Paul pits grace against Law in chapter 5 of Romans. In regard to what self-centered people will say about grace, he beats them to their question before they can ask, in the next chapter:
“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)
Notice he never said grace would run out because of sin but grace would actually abound? Abound means increase! The person who struggles with legalistic tendencies will spout Romans 6:1 and 2 out with spittle. That, or they’ll be passive aggressive while quoting it because “they” are “more holy” than you.
Why is this? Because they find their identity in what they do and don’t do rather than in what Christ has done. Such religious aggression is actually making Paul’s point. Let’s back up to chapter 5 for a minute and you’ll see. Right before this passage in Romans 6 he just said that grace will increase when we sin–not decrease (see Romans 5:20).
So not only will God’s grace not run out when we sin, it will overflow all over the place. More sin. More grace. That’s the gospel.
This upset the sanctimonious and excited the licentious so much, Paul quickly pointed out the elephant in the room in Romans 6, “Why not just go ahead and sin then?”
His answer was clear.
Believers have died to sin so how can we express sin naturally–as in, “How can we live in it?” We can’t. If we choose to sin it must be forced or we are confused. Look at it this way. If an eagle chooses to peck on the ground with chickens it would have to be forced or confused. It’s not a yardbird. It’s regal. We are not sinners. We are saints.
So if we choose to use our bodies and minds as instruments for sinning, we’ll soon get a kick-back in our spirit. “Whoa! I wasn’t made for this! This doesn’t seem right!”
We know. Even if we’re in denial.
Again, for me, I still didn’t understand this because I still sinned. But then I learned something from the Spirit within which changed everything. Something I was never taught in church.
I’ve literally died to sin. My spirit has been taken out of sin and placed into Christ. My spirit is sinless. Not my actions and attitudes, but my identity.
Romans 8:9 tells me this, but it was most of Romans 6 which laid it out intuitively. My problem was I didn’t realize Romans 6 had already happened for me, from the moment I believed as a boy. Paul writes Romans 6 in a way which keeps the door open for future believers. He knew that not everyone reading or hearing this would be a Christian. However, when you know you’ve been saved, this is a past tense section of Scripture. I’ll underline what I mean shortly, but first, to set it up.
From the instant I believed Jesus forgave me my spirit was crucified on the Cross with Jesus, it was buried in the tomb with Jesus, and resurrected as a new, sinless creature with Jesus. WITH. With matters. Now, even after this event I could still choose to sin because I’m a human, just like Jesus could still choose to sin because He was a human. But did He sin? No. Why not? Because He knew He was sinless. Sinning made no sense to Him.
As a result, now that I know I’m sinless in spirit, sinning makes no sense to me either. Nor does it to any believer because we all house the Spirit of Christ. We are with Him (see 1 Corinthians 6:19).
Do you see it, friend? The world is talking about a license to sin and I’m talking about freedom to be yourself. Every Christian is sinning just fine without a license so why not tell them the truth of who they are and then let them work through their issues with Christ’s guidance? After all, what happens when we sin as children of God? Hell? Less blessings? The silent treatment from our Dad? No. Grace would happen. Grace, upon grace, upon grace, upon grace, upon grace…
Grace abounds when we sin. It never runs out. If you have a problem with this don’t blame me blame Jesus. There’s not a single passage in the New Testament that says His grace will run out for Christians. The only time hell is threatened over sin is when the passage is directed at non-believers.
We are secure! The Cross was a huge success!
What could possibly stop such grace? Only Jesus dying again. That will never happen. No sacrifice for our sins is left to be made, only more grace to be had (see Hebrews 1:3, 6:16-19, 7:25, 10:10).
Here’s what we have to deal with when we sin–not if, but when: constant conviction of our righteousness and security in Christ. Not loss of heavenly rewards or salvation, but God counseling us away from sinful choices and mindsets toward the truth of who we are as holy ones.
Back to Romans 6. Paul made the point of our spirit’s death, burial, and resurrection, right after explaining the never-ending grace of God. This passage was the final blow for me in regard to getting knocked down by the truth of my Christian identity:
“Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness.” (Romans 6:3-13)
First of all, this has nothing to do with water baptism but spiritual baptism which is salvation. Paul doesn’t mention water once up until this point nor after. The word baptism simply means to place inside of and that’s what’s happened to us, spiritually, from the instant of our one-time faith in Christ. We’ve been placed inside of Jesus’ Spirit–baptized into Christ. We are not following Him we are in Him. We’ve got something so much better than the disciples had before Pentecost. Christ in us and us in Him which is our only hope of glory (see Colossians 1:27, John 17:23).
According to Romans 6–and other New Testament passages–our old sinful spirit was killed and buried, it was then resurrected as brand new, and then we were inserted into the Son of God’s actual supernatural being. The Colossians, Galatians, and Corinthians are told the same:
“For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:3)
“I have been crucified with Christ…” (See Galatians 2:20)
“But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit.” (1 Corinthians 6:17)
This is not figuratively speaking or later on in the sweet by-and-by. THIS IS NOW. In essence, Paul is notifying them:
“Don’t you know what’s happened to you? You’ve been remade as a being who’s ready for heaven. There is no sin in heaven. There is no sin in you. Therefore, use your body in a holy manner because you are holy. Begin to see yourself how you actually are and then live authentically. Don’t fake it.”
So to answer my question from earlier, what should I do when I sin? Stop. Turn from it every time. I’ve been remade to not sin in my core. We all have, as Christians.
But do we turn from sin every time to be forgiven every time? No. Our forgiveness only happened once because we were remade and placed inside of Jesus only once. He won’t do that again because of His grace. Grace is your security. It abounds. His grace is much more powerful than anything we can possibly do or refuse to do.
Because of this grace guarantee, our blessed assurance, rather than constantly focus on how big our sins are, we can constantly focus on how big our God’s love is. We begin to mature–not change, but grow. We shift our fixation off ourselves and onto Jesus. Our minds adapt to God’s grace. We go from having a sin-consciousness to enjoying a righteousness-consciousness.
Therefore, as the body of Christ, the church, we must stop focusing on a license to sin and instead focus on our license to be righteous! God’s grace is the certificate of authenticity proving you are His child!
“Nope! I don’t agree with this Matt! We need the Law and not just grace! We need a balance!”
Friend, Paul would adamantly disagree with you. But I’ll give you this, for a time I would’ve said the same. Mainly because I couldn’t see how I would know how to behave without the Law. However, based on the context of the Covenants, the Spirit of Christ has taught me a dab of Law is a dab of poison. We can’t follow any of the Law if we are under grace, if we do, sin will master our lives.
Please, don’t ignore this warning:
“For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the Law, but under grace.” (Romans 6:14)
What most Law-pushers won’t tell you is Paul said the Law was brought in so sin would increase not decrease. It serves no purpose in making people “become” better or even sinless. It only condemns those who follow it (see Romans 2:17-27, 3:19,20, 1 Timothy 1:8-11, James 2:10, Galatians 3:10, Matthew 5:48). From the time it was given the Law’s only use was to show a person their need for grace:
“The Law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more” (Romans 5:20)
Do you want sin to increase in your actions and attitudes? Try obeying the Law. Just try. Or do you want to enjoy being yourself and express Christ? Then consider yourself dead to the Law and alive in Christ.
“For through the Law I died to the Law so that I might live for God.” (Galatians 2:19)
Do you see its application? What the Law was meant for? To kill, spiritually. Only then could we be buried and raised with Christ. Just look at this:
“So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the Law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God.” (Romans 7:4)
How can you die to the Law’s authority to convict you of 613 unique trespasses? Only through the body of Christ, by grace through faith (see Ephesians 2:8,9). What’s more is, the only way to bear fruit for God is to never “try” to follow the Law because the fruit of the Spirit can never be legislated (see Galatians 5:22,23).
The Law includes the Ten Commandments, tithing, and 600+ other commandments from the Old Testament. Like a criminal who dies while on trial in a courtroom, you’ve died to the Law of Moses through the body of Christ. Even if you weren’t given the Law, because you’re not Jewish, as a Christian it has no power or influence on you.
“No freaking way, Matt! No Law at all?! How dare you?! How will people know how to behave without the commandments given by Moses?!”
…Friend, refocus. Relax. Those commandments are burdensome. Christ’s are not. Jesus only has two commandments, believe and love. Both are written on our hearts as New Covenant believers, so both will happen organically. There’s rest for you in Christ’s ability to keep the Law, not your ability to keep a small percentage of it. Give it up, all of it. Jesus is how you will know how to behave. Not by looking back to how He acted in the Bible, but to how He’s leading you today, from within (see 1 John 3:23, 5:3, Romans 6:17, Hebrews 10:16, Galatians 3:24, John 14:26, 1 Corinthians 2:16).
Are you only going to trust Jesus for His saving blood but not for His Spirit to lead you? If the Law was given through Moses, wouldn’t you rather have grace through Jesus? Don’t you think His Spirit will prompt you moment by moment much better than remembering words on a page? Would you consider that His grace will teach you how to live properly, not tablets of stone or hundreds of thou shalts? (See 2 Corinthians 3:7-18).
Don’t you believe He will never lead you to sin? And don’t you believe He’ll always counsel you away from unnatural choices and thoughts even when you ignore Him sometimes? I sure do. For me, I’m going to trust Him instead of the Law. I’m going to count myself dead to the Law and alive in Christ so that I can bear good fruit. Fruit which will last and comes only from His Spirit within me.
So today, my friends, know this: Is God’s grace a license to sin? Absolutely not. It’s a license to be ourselves as saints. I’ve never met a person who finally understood this truth not live completely different. It’s those who struggle with legalism and Law following I’ve witnessed fall off the deep end into licentious living, anger, and hiding. Grace is everything for us. Grace lets us stand in the light because it teaches us we are light. Parasites of sin are easily pointed out and picked off when we know we’re holy. So, enjoy grace, believer. Bask in it and be yourself. Use your license of righteousness all day long.
A prayer for you: Dad, today I’m grateful for grace. What an amazing concept! The grace you’ve given me has changed my life because it has EMPOWERED my life. It IS my life. Grace is Jesus in me and I’m thankful! Right now, I lift up all who are reading this, directly to you. Many of these dear readers have been taught that grace is cheap or greasy. But the truth is grace was the most expensive thing ever–for Jesus, not us. For us it’s free. Grace isn’t greasy either. The Law is. It has 613 different slippery slopes, not just ten, or nine plus tithing. Please teach them the truth. Grace is our solid foundation. Take these wonderful people into the deepest oceans of your grace and pull them under. At first, as they struggle and breath in, it will be scary. But after a few moments they’ll realize grace is the life of Christ they’re breathing. They can swim in your grace, forever, free. Amen.
This devotional is from my upcoming book, The Christian Identity, Volume 2. Check out my other bestselling books here!