Some people claim they love grace, but …
- “Grace is great, but don’t go overboard.”
- “God’s grace has to be balanced with God’s law.”
- “People can rely too much on God’s grace.”
- “If you aren’t careful with your ideas about grace, you’ll end up committing the same old sins.”
First, God doesn’t need me to go overboard with his grace. He does that himself already:
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions — it is by grace you have been saved. … For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.(Ephesians 2:4-5, 8-9.)
God goes so far overboard with his grace that he makes us alive and saves us in his grace even when we were dead in our transgressions – the kind of dead that comes because of our sins. His grace is richer than we can imagine.
Second, grace can’t be balanced with the law because the law does nothing for Christians. Nothing at all.
The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing! (Galatians 2:20-21.)
There is no righteousness to be found in following the law.* Righteous living comes solely from faith in Jesus.
Third, while no one can rely too much on God’s grace it is quite possible to rely on it too little.
Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? (Galatians 3:2-3.)
God does not give us life so that we can then follow the law. No, we start and finish our lives in him through faith by his grace. Simply put, it is faith that allows us to do what is right.
Which leads to the fourth point: going overboard with grace doesn’t lead to sin but rather it leads to obedience.
Jesus Christ our Lord: Through him we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith for his name’s sake. (Romans 1:4-5.)
Obedience comes from faith. And faith, as we saw above, is not a product of our efforts but is a gift given by God from the riches of his grace.
A Life of Obedience
Obedience is not produced by our efforts but through our faith. Allow me to repeat that.
Obedience does not come from your efforts.
You can’t try hard enough, or resolve often enough, or practice long enough to create one ounce of obedience to God. It comes from faith, which is Christ in you.
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed — not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence — continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. (Philippians 2:12-13.)
Don’t stop with the first part of that passage. The work of obedience isn’t our work; it’s God’s work in us.
Still, people like to have some way of measuring whether they are obeying God or not, even if they understand it is obedience produced by faith and not by our own work or will. The Bible gives us the way to measure our walk with God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23.)
The Holy Spirit carries out his work in us, and we know that we are being worked on and through when we see the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. Even when we fall short, the mere fact that we recognize that and desire to obey in faith is a sign that the Spirit continues to work in us.
That’s where obedience comes from, the Holy Spirit. It is a product of our life of faith given us through God’s extravagant, going-overboard, unbalanced grace.
*The law – including the 10 Commandments – not only cannot produce obedience but actually brings death according to 2 Corinthians 3:7 and Galatians 3:10.