To be saved by God’s grace we must completely trust in this promise. This is difficult for many of us, especially those of us who have been involved in religion most of our lives. Religion normally operates on a system of law, works and moral performance. The gospel, however, works on a foundation of grace through faith.
Most religious thinking resists the nature of the gospel. It is similar to a drowning person. It is difficult for a drowning person to relax and let the lifeguard pull him to shore. Instinctively, we grab on thrashing and kicking and straining. We fight against the very one who is trying to save us. If you want to be saved, you must relax and trust the expertise and ability of the lifeguard. But to be saved, we must let go of our works (and trusting in them) and rest in the certainty of God’s promises (Rom. 5:5). But this is hard for many of us to do; we have all kinds of objections to the “danger” of the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith. The Apostle Paul anticipates and destroys all the objections to grace in Romans 6-7.
The first objection frequently raised to grace is “embracing grace will give people a license to sin” (Romans 6:1-14). Paul devastates this objection by showing that when we are baptized into Christ we are baptized into his death and we enter a living union with him (vs. 3). We also are baptized into our own death (vs. 4) and die to the lifestyle of sin (vs. 2). This is why grace does not imply a “license to sin.” We are resurrected with Christ from baptism into new spiritual life. You are not ruled by obligation to law, you are ruled by gratitude to grace (vs. 14). Grace doesn’t make you work less, it makes you worker harder and from a better motivation (see 1 Corinthians 15:10).
A second objection to grace is that “grace means rules don’t matter” (Romans 6:15-7:6). Paul demolishes this objection by showing that everyone is a “slave” to something. Everyone wants to believe that they are truly “free.” But complete freedom (i.e. “I’m not accountable to anyone and follow no rules”) means you must adopt a philosophy of “meaninglessness.” Yet, we long for meaning in life. This is real “freedom” and is found by discovering the purpose of your existence instilled within by the Creator. Becoming a “slave of God” is not oppression, but is true freedom when you come to understand the full meaning of life (Rom. 6:22). Rather than serving in the “old way” of written codes and rules, we are now free to serve in the “new way” of the Spirit. We no longer serve because we “have to” but instead we serve because we “want to”–grace has stirred a new desire within us to serve God (and follow his rules) willingly.
A third objection to grace is some might think, “law is the problem” (Romans 7:7-13). Paul shows that God’s law has been manipulated by human sinfulness. To suggest that the law is the problem is like saying the doctor who diagnosed your cancer is the problem. The law of God itself is good because it informs us of behaviors that are morally good or morally evil. The law (doctor) is not the problem; the real problem is the spiritual disease within the human heart. Sin has a way of manipulating the law along with our sinful nature (“seizing an opportunity”-Rom. 7:11), so that law actually stirs a hunger for the “forbidden” within us. But grace does not mean that “law” from God is bad. We must understand that the purpose of the law was not to solve our problem, but rather it diagnoses our problem (“sin might be shown to be sin”-Rom. 7:13) and points to the solution. We not only need forgiveness but we need inner transformation. Grace not only has the power to forgive, it has the power to transform.
Everywhere Paul preached, he encountered opposition to the message of grace he preached. He constantly proclaimed and defended the gospel of grace against its attackers. The Gentiles (pagans) frequently embraced the message while the Jews (religious people) regularly resisted this message. Religious people who are accustomed to religious striving and moral performance have a difficult time accepting the gift of grace because it sounds “too good to be true.” So they instinctively fight against the lifeguard. When we think about the nature of God, his abounding love, and relentless pursuit of us we begin to understand that with God, grace is “so good it must be true.”
© 2013, Jonathan Jones II. All rights reserved.