In John's Third Epistle, the disciple whom Jesus loved talked about confronting an arrogant Pharisee in the local church, who not only refused to receive him, but was casting out other people. This Pharisee, Diotrephes, loved to be first. When we do not see Jesus as first, foremost, and only in our lives, inevitably we will try to fill that emptiness, and the fears which come with it, by trying to make ourselves God and control other people.
The grace of God shows us not only the favor of our Loving Father, but that He is taking care of all things for us, too!
|Jude, the Brother of James|
Now, in the last Epistle, Jude, we find a stern tone of earnest concern from the writer:
3Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. 4For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ." (Jude 3-4)
Instead of men and women seeking to pride themselves on their law-keeping, Jude is exhorting fellow believers to watch out for men and women who claim that the grace of God gives us license to sin.
Paul had slammed these perverse distortions early on.
For the record, the Gospel is very clear about what we receive in Christ Jesus:
"38Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: 39And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses." (Acts 13: 38-39)
Now, not once did Paul ever suggest that this redemption would invite license to sin. However, the missing component for many Christians today is that we are not just sinners, but we are dead in trespasses, and we need life (John 10: 10):
"He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life." (1 John 15: 12)
Grace is not a license to sin, but rather produces empowerment to reign in life: His life:
"15But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. 16And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification. 17For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ." (Romans 5: 15-17)
Regarding whether grace becomes a license to sin, check out what Paul wrote in the next chapter:
"1What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? 2God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? 3Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? 4Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life." (Romans 6: 1-4)
We need Jesus, we need Himself. There is no grace apart from Christ, for He is our life (Colossians 3: 1-4)
Furthermore, grace is more than merely not getting what we do not deserve. Grace is all about God giving us everything, because He paid for it through His Son's death at the Cross, and not through anything that we did or did not do:
"31What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? 32He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? 33Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. 34Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us." (Romans 8: 31-33)
Notice that we receive all things with Jesus! If we are busy receiving, then we have no reason to try and achieving anything in our own efforts, including the sins and perversions which people resort to.
His grace defines us:
"20I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. 21I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain." (Galatians 2: 20-21)
His grace drives us:
"But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me." (1 Corinthians 15: 10)
His grace also defends us:
"7And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. 8For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. 9And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong." (2 Corinthians 12: 7-10)
Grace is not license to sin, for we are dead to sin, and under His grace:
"11Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. 12Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. 13Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. 14For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace." (Romans 6: 11-14)
Yet in Jude's time, he went out of his way to warn, earnestly, that the grace of God was becoming a distorted justification for sin, rather than justification to break free from sin!
"5I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not." (Jude 5)
Five is the number of grace, and yet in that verse Jude describes the ancient Israelites who did not receive, did not rest in this grace. Because they did not believe in the Lord, did not draw all their strength from Him, but sought to rely on themselves, they perished in the wilderness.
There is no life, there is no hope, without the grace of God:
"16For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. 18He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." (John 3: 16-18)
If we do not believe on Him, we are condemned already, and there is no way out!
Yet with the gift of righteousness comes life, His life, and thus we are led by His Spirit, not by our flesh:
"But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter." (Romans 7: 6)
When the grace of God is preached, we must contend for the truth, that grace is no a license to sin, but the freedom which gives us power over sin. Anyone who says or does otherwise is an anti-Christ. Of course, Paul could not have put it better:
"And not rather, (as we be slanderously reported, and as some affirm that we say,) Let us do evil, that good may come? whose damnation is just." (Romans 3: 8)
Like Jude, we must make it clear that the grace of God is all about Jesus, and it is the grace of God which teaches us to say "No!" to sin, but "Yes!" to godliness (Titus 2: 11-14)