I recently preached a sermon on the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard, which provides a wonderful picture of God’s amazing, unconditional grace. After the sermon, someone asked, “Is it possible to take this grace message a bit too far?” This was not an accusation coming from a cold legalist; it was a sincere question from a concerned, mature Christian.
I understand this well meaning-man’s concern. The Apostle Paul was anticipating that very objection when he wrote, “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means!” (Romans 6:1-2 NIV). To be sure, there are those in the church today who abuse grace in order to excuse their sin and cold refusal to submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. But just because grace is abused doesn’t mean we should shroud it with half-truths in order to coerce others into obedience and holiness through guilt and fear. This is not the Gospel.
Grace is not opposed to obedience. Grace produces obedience! Grace is the fountain from which obedience flows. Grace is the fuel that ignites the fire of our obedience and keeps it burning brightly, albeit imperfectly. Preaching the grace of God and His unconditional love in spite of our sin might lead some to think lightly of sin and to misuse and even abuse grace. But that is only because their understanding of the Gospel is immature and incomplete. And that is why we must clearly, concisely, and continually preach the Gospel in all of its glory.
God does not make our obedience a condition for His acceptance. His amazing grace frees us from trying to obey our way into God’s acceptance. But grace does NOT free us from the demands of obedience.
Do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.
(Romans 6:12-14 NIV)
God wants us to be holy because He is holy, and if we desire to accurately reflect Him to a watching world, we must strive to reflect His holiness. And that desire is driven by the grace of the Gospel. Our obedience, therefore, is a result of our relationship with Jesus, not a requirement for our relationship with Jesus.
So is it possible to take this grace message a bit too far? No, no, a thousand times no! We cannot take it far enough!
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!