Have We Misunderstood Grace?

Neal Pollard

Perhaps the subject of grace has been neglected in some pulpits and congregations.  Undoubtedly, it has been misunderstood and improperly taught since the first century (cf. Rom. 6:1; Gal. 5:4).  It is vital to properly emphasize and explain such a huge concept within the gospel message.  Why? Because of what it is—the completely free and undeserved expression of God’s lovingkindness and favor toward mankind, because of what it does—brings salvation (Ti. 2:11; Eph. 2:5) and comfort and hope (2 Th. 2:16), and because of what it cost to make available (2 Co. 8:9; Heb. 2:9).  Perhaps some try to restrict God’s grace, making the requirements of Christ more stringent than Scripture teaches.  If we forbid what God permits, we are distorting grace.

However, our age tends toward the other extreme.  Far more try to make God’s grace extend further than Scripture teaches.  This is not novel to our times.  From the time of the early church, some apparently wanted to make God’s grace embrace things it simply does not cover.  Jude contended against some who attempted to have grace cover excessive indulgence in sensual pleasure (Jude 4). By leaving Christ’s grace for another gospel, teachers contradicting the gospel message distort not just the gospel but also grace (Gal. 1:6-9).  Paul also contradicts the idea that continuing in sin, without repentance, is abiding in God’s grace (Rom. 6:1).  Passages like these serve as a warning not to make God’s grace cover what it simply will not.

Grace will not cover willful disobedience, a refusal to repent, a lifestyle or habit, or relationship that violates the expressed will of God.  Some in adulterous marriages defend the relationship, trying to hide behind grace. Some feed addictions, sure that God’s grace will sweep away the guilt of it.  Some refuse to follow God’s plain plan of salvation, claiming that they will ultimately be saved by grace on the day of judgment.  Such ideas and claims are tragic misunderstandings and ignorance of revealed truth.  The source of grace is Divine.  So are the explanation and terms of it.  Paul’s teaching is definitive when he says, “How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” (Rom. 6:2).  The life in Christ is a new life (Rom. 6:4), a life characterized by turning away from sin, lust, and unrighteousness (Rom. 6:12-13).

Let us never restrict God’s grace.  By the same token, let us never redefine it—especially to excuse or validate a lifestyle of sin.  How that disgraces and cheapens the act that brought grace, Jesus’ painful sacrifice.  May each of us grow in knowledge and appreciation of this great Bible doctrine!

6 thoughts on “Have We Misunderstood Grace?

  1. kenandjean92

    So thankful for the saving grace that God has offered us through Christ but I also know that I have to do my part by living a repentant life, following His commands and going out and trying to bring the lost to Him. Thanks, Neil for another thought provoking article. Ken Bagwell

  2. I am interested in your thoughts on something. Does a person fall from grace when they sin, or does grace cover one until it is rejected? Must one repent after each sin in order for grace to apply? Is repentance an act done after sinning or is it a daily decision to turn away from that which leads us away from God?

    1. Hey brother, my understanding is that neither a lifestyle in the light or in sin is so easily attained. One is not in darkness who sins, but Romans 6 deals with being a slave to sin. An active, ongoing participation in sin could certainly result in “falling from grace.” The blood of Christ covers those who lifestyle is, generally speaking, lived in the light. A long-deceased preacher put it, “One sin does not result in walking in darkness any more than one righteous act result in walking in the light.”

  3. Charlton Rhinehart

    I would add, that there are some sins that can cause us to fall right away, such as Judas betraying Christ not followed by repentance, wouldn’t you agree Neal? I also think of “a sin that leads to death” (1 Jhn 5:16), which I beleive is unrepentant sin. I agree one sin is not ussually going to cause us to fall away, but also falling away is made up of one sin at a time, which is how Satan devices us into it.

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