Grace provides a Guarantee
If my salvation depended at all on my holiness or my righteousness or my obedience, I would have lost it long ago. Thankfully, God’s grace makes His promises certain of fulfilment, altogether apart from my good works or obedience (cf. Romans 4:16). Throughout the ages to come, God will “show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:7).
"God is not looking to us to do works either to obtain salvation or to maintain it."
Grace produces Goodness
Having said that our salvation does not depend on our good works, it is no surprise that one of the most common objections to the gospel of grace is often expressed in this way: “If a person’s sins are all forgiven, and if they are already sure that they will be in heaven for eternity, then they can, and will, sin freely”. Apparently, without the fear of eternal punishment, the Christian will live a licentious and immoral life, comforting himself in his sin by the knowledge that he will never be in hell.
If this thought has popped into your mind while reading this article I am glad. This means that you have grasped, at least to some degree, what ‘grace’ means. It has been said that “Grace must raise the temptation to think we can sin as we please; if it does not, we have not understood the true extent of grace” (Derek Thomas). Certainly, the Bible anticipates this very objection as the natural challenge which follows a proper, but limited, understanding of the Gospel. The only message which would raise such a challenge is a message which guarantees eternal security to people, altogether apart from their good works.
But what is the answer to this challenge? To put it very briefly, the grace that saves a person also changes that person. There are at least two wrong assumptions people make when they say that a person saved by grace alone will live an immoral life:
- That the only motivation to live a holy life is fear of punishment. However, while fear can be a tremendous motivating force in anyone’s life, so too can love. I have children, and it is my joy to please them – not because I fear them but because I love them. The Christian has many reasons to love his Lord, and this produces a desire to please Him by living according to His word.
- That the person who is saved by grace alone has experienced no change apart from a change of destiny. This is a very common error. I visit a lady regularly who is deeply interested in being saved but she believes that she must be able to live as a Christian before she becomes one, and she’s finding that impossible. This lady is making a mistake because she thinks that Christians live in obedience to God’s word in their own strength. The fact is that salvation is not about people turning over a new leaf and striving to live differently. Salvation is about people receiving a new life from God, and being empowered to live differently. Grace not only changes our status before the Judge, declaring us right with Him; it also grants to us new birth into God’s family and new life. Salvation brings release, not only from the damnation our sins deserve, but also from the dominion our sins have exercised over us.
So, the Christian has received (as a free gift) settlement for the past, strength for the present, and security for the future and all of this glorious freedom is “according to the riches of [God’s] grace” (Ephesians 1:7).
Grace makes Glad
Christianity is something to sing about, and the theme of grace has been the subject of many of the most famous and well-loved hymns. In fact, God’s great program of salvation will ultimately prove to be for the “praise of His glorious grace” (Ephesians 1:6 ESV). John Newton, once a debauched slave trader, yet wonderfully saved and subsequently instrumental in the abolition of the slave trade, penned the most well-known ode to grace:
"Amazing Grace! How sweet the sound That saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found; Was blind, but now I see."John Newton
Truly God’s grace is amazing; it is beyond our ability to communicate fully. Because God is gracious, we can tell you, whoever you may be, that there is hope for you. No good works you have performed remove the necessity of God’s grace; no sins you have committed remove the possibility of God’s grace. Jesus Christ can save you, change you, and secure you eternally. Why not acknowledge that you have nothing to offer, and bow at His feet just now and receive by faith the salvation He freely offers to you, for “the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).