What a person believes about grace influences everything. Some believe that grace gives the recipient the power to not sin. Others believe that grace is forgiveness for sins. What a person believes about grace may be the most crucial operating system in the life of a Christian because it affects the levels of love, fear, and pride. Love evicts fear and is the key to getting it right, and pride is the pretentious bride of sin.
It may help you to understand where I’m coming from if I tell you that I equate grace with the finished work of Jesus. The finished work of Jesus is the foundation of the Christian faith. Therefore, it influences everything.
However, grace is an issue that divides intelligent people. With so much at stake, the believer has to examine their faith to see if it is actually Jesus that they believe in, and not some form of religious superstition.
The best way to examine what you really believe is to explore the implications.
If grace gives you the power to not sin, then what does that imply? Off the top of my head…
- There are people who do not sin.
- There is a point, given enough grace, when you will not sin.
- Anyone who sins is not under grace.
- People possess the power.
These implications give the individuals, who hold this belief, the power to condemn those who sin because they are not under grace. It also spurs them to teach that grace must be earned by not sinning. This perpetuates the appearance-based religion that buries the person who must hide their shortcomings in order to remain in the Christian community.
Those who know that they cannot measure up to the impossible standards of never failing end up rejecting a system that makes them feel inadequate. Their refusal to lie about the deepest parts of their flawed condition will cause them to turn away from Jesus because, in reality, what they are being taught about Him has turned out to be a lie. It is a lie because they have not received, though they have tried to muster up the faith and do everything they can to avoid sin, the ability to not sin. They live buried in defeat and hopelessness. They feel abandoned by God and doubt the power of the finished work of Jesus.
If grace is forgiveness of sins, what does that imply? For starters….
- People will still sin.
- There is never a point when you will not sin.
- The more sin, the more grace.
- Jesus possesses the power.
These implications give the individuals, who hold this belief, the power to forgive and show mercy to those who sin. It also spurs them to teach that grace cannot be earned. This perpetuates the power of the finished work of Jesus Who has the ability to remove the sting of death that sin delivers. This teaching sets sin’s captives free to get up with they fall and do their best, even while knowing their best is not good enough. They teach that Jesus does not just make up for their lack, but that His power is made perfect in their weakness.
Those who know that they cannot do it on their own end up being conduits of grace in the lives of others. Inadequacy is crucial to understanding need and need is the reason Jesus rescued them. The deepest parts of their flawed condition no longer have the power to keep them separated from God. They no longer have to hide in shame. It keeps them at the feet of Jesus. What they have been taught about Him is the truth that keeps them connected to Him. They are no longer buried and condemned by their sin because they live in the hope of salvation. They do not want to sin, they try to keep that sin nature in check. The evidence that grace does not give people the power to not sin is found in the fact that they still sin. However, they are no longer buried in defeat or feel abandoned by God. Their hope is that Jesus is Who He says He is and grace wins over what sin attacks.
So, which is it?
I looked for any sentence with any combination of the words, “power”, “sin”, and “grace,” in ESV, NIV, AMP, KJV and The Message Bible translations and there were none. I could find no scriptural support for the belief that grace gives the person the power to not sin.
I also did a word search for every place in the New Testament where the Greek word “charis” (grace, translated to English words) occurs and found it in at least 163 scriptures. This helped me find the use of the word in context.
The scriptures where the power of grace is discussed refers to the ability of a person to boldly share the Gospel of Jesus because of their understanding of grace.
And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. -Acts 4:33 ESV
But on some points I have written to you very boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God. -Romans 15:15 ESV
In at least nine times in the book of Romans, grace is referenced in direct contrast to sin. It talked about the power of grace over sin, but it is not referenced as the power to not sin. It says that grace wins in spite of sin.
Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more. -Romans 5:20 ESV
For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. – Romans 6:14 ESV
The message of the free gift is so profound that there are several places where the writers of the New Testament feel the need to make sure the readers understand that grace is not an excuse to sin. If the message were that grace gave you the power to not sin, then that reminder would not be necessary.
Grace cannot be earned in any way. It is a free gift, so if you were able to earn it, it would not be free. The message that teaches that grace must be earned, or that a sinless life is the only way to be under grace, is false. It undermines the power of Jesus, giving the person the power, thereby making the person equal to Jesus and causing Him to be useless. This is a very blatant anti-Christ theology designed to either make you feel, at best, hopeless or, if you are deceived enough, make you feel self-righteous.
For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. – Romans 4:2 ESV
Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. – Romans 4:4 ESV
I hope this helped you understand what grace is and what it isn’t, what it does and what is doesn’t. It is important to understand because it changes everything. We do not have the power, Jesus does. It is only because of faith that you can live in the open spaces of a free life, flaws and all, and still have hope. Do not ever let someone tell you that you are beyond grace. The only thing that can take grace away from you is you, and you do that by not believing.
The man who is fully aware of his inability to measure up to the impossible standards of righteousness has this message:
But [God] said…, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. – 2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV
Belief about grace will still divide intelligent people, but you have to stick to the finished work of Jesus. Let that message do the dividing. Remember, they are not rejecting you. They’re rejecting Him. Be patient, full of love, and drenched in grace. Those qualities are what God uses to call His children to Him.
…When we preach the gospel to every creature, the gospel makes its own division, and Christ’s sheep hear his voice, and follow him. – Charles Spurgeon