Uncomfortable yet?

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If grace is preached rightly, it should make some people uncomfortable. We are not used to being unconditionally and completely forgiven – especially for the things we haven’t even done yet. The reaction is often that grace makes people “too free,” and that we should at least have a little bit of law, or people will throw off all restraint and just do what they like!

There are several answers to this objection:

(1) This is the gospel. God “justifies the wicked” (Romans 4:5), makes us perfect in his sight forever (Hebrews 10:10,14) and gives us righteousness as a gift (Romans 5:17) without requiring us to try and pay for it (because it is a gift and we have no kind of currency to pay for it anyway). If this is the gospel, then we don’t have a right to mess with it.

(2) Paul seems to have been criticised in the same way by people saying, “Shall we sin then?” (the objection he responded to in Romans 6:1,15). So if this is the reaction we get when we preach about grace then we must be on the right track.

(3) The law never worked anyway. Adding “a little bit of law” to keep people from sinning is doomed to failure, because the law provokes sin and makes it your master (Romans 7:7-9,6:14).

(4) Law and grace are completely incompatible. Romans 6:14 says, “You are not under law, but under grace.” We are “dead to the law” (Romans 7:4), we have been “released from the law” (Romans 7:6) and we are “no longer under the supervision of the law” (Galatians 3:25). To ignore these verses and say that we are saved by grace and not law, but we are still required to obey the law in some way, completely undermines grace.

(5) The way we are freed to live now is by the Spirit, not by the written code (Romans 7:6). We have a seed of new life in us that draws us towards God and away from sin (1 John 3:9). Take away the restraints of the law, and this new life will begin to burst forth.

Life is always messy. Encouraging people to enjoy and live out their freedom might result in a few messes, but that is the way “life” is. As someone has said, “Their is plenty of ‘order’ in a graveyard.”

For reflection:

People feeling free to “do what they like” is not a bad thing anyway – God wants voluntary lovers who do what they do out of freedom, not out of compulsion (for an example, see 2 Corinthians 9:7). And if you take away the restraints and people sin, then that can ultimately be good too – at least it is out in the light now so that it can be dealt with, rather than being suppressed and ignored like it used to be. It is better to have things as they really are and to have an opportunity to deal with them than for everything to be “nice” and nobody to be helped with their real issues.

God wants our motive for what we do for him to be voluntary love, not a sense that we “have to”:

“Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care ... not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be” (1 Peter 5:2)

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