After salvation, how then, shall we live?
Is Grace the best path, or is Law the best path?
Many come to sites like JGIG that address issues of Law and Grace thinking that those in the Grace camp preach either easy believism, antinomianism, that Grace is a license to sin, or that we believe/teach all three.
Let Me Address the ‘Easy-Believism’ Misperception First
Some will make a charge of ‘easy believism’ against those who preach the Gospel of Grace, using this single verse from Scripture:
You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that — and shudder.
They then try to equate that belief of demons with faith in Christ. Demons do understand – they know Who Jesus is – they believe that fact – but they don’t put their faith in His Work. It is not the same thing at all. The unspoken accusation here, whether intended or not, is that belief by humans, without the added performance of Law, is no better than the belief of demons. What a motivator, eh?!
Broken people who have been saved by Grace through Faith, in the midst of healing and restoring by the Spirit of God, don’t believe like the demons believe. They are placing their faith and trust in the God Who came in the flesh to die a horrible death to satisfy the wrath that should have come on them and are instead receiving complete forgiveness that He freely gives, enabling Him to impute to them the Righteousness of Christ, resulting in New Life – the indwelling of the Holy Spirit – making them a New Creation in Christ (Romans 5 and 2 Corinthians 5:16-21)!
No, the belief that demons exercise is something quite different indeed.
Now that THAT’S out of the way, let’s move on to the antinomian and license to sin charges.
The Misperceptions that Grace Teaches Antinomianism and/or a License to Sin
This is what the Scriptures say about what Grace teaches:
11 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It [grace] teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.
You’d think that would be the end of it, but no . . .
Setting aside, for the moment, the fact that a gospel gained by Grace through Faith but not maintained by Grace through Faith from first to last (Romans 1:16-17) is really no gospel at all (Galatians 1:6-9), another huge issue in the Grace/Law debate, for the purposes here, I’ll limit this post to the following:
Team Law relies on outward works of the Law as fruit of salvation – performance based evidence.
For Torah folk, whom JGIG tends to address primarily, that means the keeping of Old Covenant Laws: Feasts, days, dietary laws, wearing tzit tzit, etc. For other team Law folks it may be baptism by sprinkling vs. immersion as proof of salvation or the speaking of tongues as the ‘proof’ or ‘fruit’ that one is truly saved, etc., what to wear, whether or not to go to movies, haircuts, head-coverings, etc., depending on the stream of thought in which one swims. There are bunches more examples, but you get the idea.
Team Grace sees Grace and the Holy Spirit as that which/Who empowers us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives. Evidence of salvation lies in the production of the Spirit’s Fruit. When one is truly saved, Fruit happens.
We don’t produce fruit; we bear fruit.
Fruit is the inevitable outflow of the work of God’s Spirit and Grace in and through us, those being the Fruits of the Spirit as stated in Galatians 5:22-26. Those Fruits often manifest in the flesh as works of love and service to others, opening up avenues for the sharing of the Gospel with the Lost. One can absolutely be demonstrating the Fruits of the Spirit while not Feast or day keeping, observing dietary laws, wearing tzit tzit, etc.
It’s interesting to note that Spirit-led Fruit tends to look outward with concern for others, having a heart for the Lost, while performance-led fruit tends to turn one’s focus inward, always self-examining to make sure they are in line with whatever system of law they’ve put themselves under. If they have time, they busy themselves examining other Christians, exhorting them to also put themselves under law in order to achieve holiness before God so that they, too, can avoid God’s wrath. Little time (if any) is left over for the Lost.
Regarding the keeping of Law, let’s take a look at what we see in Galatians:
16 I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
The first Fruit of the Spirit is love. The rest of the Fruits, in my opinion, are all elements, or subsets, if you will, of love. If one is loving (verb), they are, most likely, exhibiting joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There are no laws against such things. This echoes Galatians 5:18, “If we are led by the Spirit we are not under law”, after which the Fruits of being led by the Spirit are listed.
A commenter at JGIG’s Facebook page asked this excellent question out of frustration:
“But I can’t love because it is a command – Because I am under grace [and not under law]. Do see how you guys make absolutely NO SENSE?!”
Andrea was referring to the quoting of this passage:
1 John 3:21-24
21 Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God 22 and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. 24 Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.
It’s a great question! If we’re not under Law, but after the Cross God commands us to love – sometimes referred to as the Law of Christ – what’s up with that?!
Here’s the really cool thing:
Love is a Fruit of the Spirit as well as a command. (Galatians 5:22-23)
Though love is a command, it’s also a fruit.
Do fruit-producing plants strive to produce fruit? No . . . the branches bear fruit because they are attached to the vine/tree/plant which nourishes them. Fruit is the by-product of LIFE, and it takes time for fruit to be produced. If you are in Christ and are led by His Spirit, love will be a fruit produced in you. If you are alive in Christ, abiding in Him, allowing His Holy Spirit to live through you, love is an unavoidable by-product of that relationship, fulfilling God’s command to love!
Commanding the one in Christ to love is like commanding a person who has life in them to breathe because it’s a law. If a person has life in them, they automatically breathe – it’s something that we just DO.
If we are in Christ, loving others is something that we just DO.
To command those in Christ to love is a ridiculously-unfair-in-our-favor-win-win-deal!
Here’s the other really cool thing:
We love because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19)
By resting in the love of Christ and letting Him live His Life through us, bearing His Fruits, God’s command to love is obeyed (John 15:12, 1 John 3:23) and the Law is fulfilled (Romans 13:8-10, Galatians 5:14).
That is Grace.
And because of Grace and being led by the Spirit, when we love, we are not murdering, stealing, committing adultery, worshipping other gods, bearing false witness . . . do you see where this is going?
Can you begin to see how Jesus is our Sabbath Rest?
Note that fruit does not come out fully formed and completely ripe.
Good fruit takes time.
Don’t judge the blossom because it’s not yet a strawberry.
Let me take the example of a morbidly obese person, say, around 300 lbs. or so. You may look at the person in question and make observations, thinking unkind thoughts about their size, their ‘obvious’ eating habits, their ‘obvious’ undisciplined lifestyle, their ‘obvious’ sin of gluttony, etc. Please do not misunderstand; I’m not saying at all that obesity is a sin. This is an illustration.
Now let’s take a look at what you don’t see, because you CANNOT see what GOD sees, and you may be greatly misinterpreting what’s going on in someone’s life or how you perceive leadership to be handling a situation. Be careful how you interpret what you think you see:
Perhaps that 300 lb. person used to be 500 lbs., and with God’s help, they have dropped 200 lbs. They have good days and bad days, calorically speaking, but they are a work in progress, keeping their eye on the goal, persevering, and relying on God’s Mercy and Grace to see them to the finish line. Some in that position will reach their goal in a relatively short period of time; for others, it will take a lifetime. For some, it may be a simple case of an over-active love for food. For others, maybe they have an underlying medical condition. For still others, it may be a comfort thing, where they are replacing the lack of care and love in their lives with food. Whatever the issues, God is faithful to progressively address and minister to those issues over time.
Now let’s apply that same concept of what you can and cannot see to all different kinds of situations and sin scenarios. I won’t detail any here; we all have people and situations familiar to us that we’re thinking of right now.
Here’s the thing: While some are radically delivered from their addictions and/or lifestyles, for many, though positionally they have been forgiven of all their sins, it can be a life-long process for them to have victory over sinning.
For most, behavior is a manifestation of heart issues, and those things are not dealt with by employing behavior modification techniques. Those are things that take time to heal – not that God can’t deliver immediately and completely – that can and does happen – but for many, like skittish animals that have been abused, it takes time (for some, a lifetime) for the deeply wounded to learn to trust Who God is, how completely He loves and accepts them, and who they are in Him.
That said, God does save completely:
18 The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless 19 (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God.
20 And it was not without an oath! Others became priests without any oath, 21 but he became a priest with an oath when God said to him:
“The Lord has sworn
and will not change his mind:
‘You are a priest forever.’”
22 Because of this oath, Jesus has become the guarantor of a better covenant.
23 Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; 24 but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. 25 Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.
As a result, we have unlimited and uninterrupted access to the Grace of God:
14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
However the woundedness manifests in sinful behavior, it is God’s desire to see the positional New Creation in Christ in the spirit become the New Creation in this life:
2 Corinthians 5:16-21
16So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
18All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:
19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.
20We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.
21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
What struck me as I re-read the above portion of Scripture is that God is committing to us, the Body, this message – that in and through the Work of Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting people’s sins against them. I don’t often look to commentaries, but my sense in reading, “that this is the message of the Gospel that God is committing to us“ means that it is something that God is entrusting believers with, that we would communicate this Gospel of Grace, this Good News, to others, indicated by the ‘ambassadors’ language following. I found this, from Barnes’ Notes:
Tyndale renders this: “and hath committed unto us the preaching of the atonement.” The meaning is, that the office of making known the nature of this plan, and the conditions on which God was willing to be reconciled to man, had been committed to the ministers of the gospel.
The Scripture goes on to say that “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us.” What kind of ambassadors of the message of reconciliation are we being?
How can we be proper ambassadors to the world if we, as the Body of Christ, are holding sins against people that God no longer holds against them?
I’m not speaking of Universalism, here, at all. What I am saying is that all sin was dealt with at the Cross; the sins of the entire world were propitiated for by the Work of Christ:
1 John 2:2
2He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.
That being the case, all do need to respond by faith to believe in the Work of Christ and receive that forgiveness and the free gift of righteousness (Romans 3:21-26, Romans 5:12-21, Romans 10:9-15).
By grace, through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9), we are then positionally declared justified and righteous not because of anything we have done or ever will do beyond receiving God’s free gift of righteousness, but because of Who Jesus is, His actions as the Last Adam – His Perfect Righteousness – which is imputed to us.
Note that imputed righteousness is preceded by imputed sin. It doesn’t seem fair: ” . . . as by one man sin entered the world, and death by sin . . . therefore as by the offense of one, judgement came upon all . . .” Neither is imputed righteousness ‘fair’: “ . . . For the judgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation, but the free gift which came from many offenses resulted in justification. 17 For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.” (From Romans 5)
We are condemned by the sin of the First Adam (though the Scriptures cover the sin issue from two angles: sin was imputed to you, but by the Law we were all found guilty; no one is righteous). We who receive the gift of righteousness are declared righteous by the actions of the Last Adam (Christ Jesus). Not only that, but the result is this:
20 The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, 21 so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
It’s very convenient for a religious spirit to ‘deal with’ believers sinning by applying the nice, neat, template of Law (an improper use of the Law, as the Law was made for the unrighteous, not believers, who in Christ, are declared righteous). One can just throw the Law out there and hope that the ‘target’ will ‘get it’ and turn from their evil ways (reduction in sinning) under the threat of ‘or else’.
Note that people sin under Law; people sin under Grace.
Yet according to the Scriptures, Team Law’s approach has the exact opposite of the desired effect (a reduction in sinning):
Law was given to increase sinning:
20 The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase.
Law stirs up sinning:
7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, “You shall not covet.” 8 But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead.
Law produces death:
9 I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. 10 And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death. 11 For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it [the commandment] killed me.
Law produces fruit unto death:
5 For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death.
Law is the power of sin:
1 Corinthians 15:56
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.
What do Grace and the Spirit produce (Team Grace)?
Grace teaches us godliness:
11For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. 12It [grace] teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.
The Spirit produces life:
5 Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; (see also Romans 12:1-2, 2 Corinthians 10:4-6, and Ephesians 6:14-17)
The Spirit produces the Fruits of the Spirit:
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.
How there is even a debate . . . I get it, but I don’t get it.
For those of us who aren’t dealing with the big, obvious sins (other than spiritual pride, arrogance, and judgementalism, that is), we need to be actively aware of the struggling believer’s secure position in Christ in the midst of their condition in the flesh. That active awareness should translate into gently lifting up those who struggle with their condition in the flesh, establishing them in the reality of their position in Christ, reminding them of the Throne of Grace that they/we can approach in Christ in their/our time of need. That’s talking about help when it comes to sinning, folks, and the Throne spoken of is not a throne of judgement (from the Law), but the Throne of Grace!
Apparently, the Thessalonians were really good at this:
1 Thessalonians 5:11-24
11Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
12Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. 13Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. 14And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.
16Be joyful always; 17pray continually; 18give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
19Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; 20 do not treat prophecies with contempt. 21 Test everything. Hold on to the good. 22Avoid every kind of evil.
23 May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.
It is important to understand that the Gospel does not place any condition on the wounded and broken except to believe on the One God sent. The command to love one another is ultimately fulfilled through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit as He produces His Fruit through us – we bear that Fruit; it is a by-product of life in Him. Our sins – past, present, and future, along with the sins of the whole world, were paid for at the Cross, Christ Jesus having taken the wrath of God upon Himself to spare us that wrath. If we receive that forgiveness, we receive the Life of Christ, sealed with His Holy Spirit, adopted as sons through Christ Jesus and co-heirs with Him, Who then begins His work of healing and restoration in us.
Dear Believer, read through the letters to the early Body of Christ.
Read them out loud.
Discover who God says you are in Christ.
Lift up those areas of weakness and sinning in your life – “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:14-16)
Grace recognizes that for a lot of people, it’s not so neat and tidy; it can take longer for some than for others, for all – a lifetime, and it can be messy. But where sin increased, grace super abounded, and God is faithful:
May God Himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through.
May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The one who calls you is faithful and He will do it!
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