“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” (Romans 6:1, ESV)

Talking to a friend recently, he told me about a church doing a series on grace where week 1 was about grace, and week 2 was about adhering to the law. The teacher felt obligated to balance the message, unwittingly undoing the gospel of grace in the process.

Romans 6:1, the verse at the beginning of this blog, is an interesting one. Why would Paul even ask the question?

Because his hearers were asking it.

Why were his hearers asking it?

Because he taught grace in such a reckless way that he literally brought his hearers to the doorstep of heresy (false teaching). He didn’t try to over-balance his points, fearing his hearers would slip off into using grace as a license to sin, or keep his hearers tethered with “a little bit of law.” He was almost a heretic.

Hopefully, I’m almost a heretic.

Anyone who preaches the gospel correctly is almost a heretic.

Grace is scandalous.

Homiletics (the art of preaching) guru Haddon Robinson is known for saying something to this effect, “Powerful preaching is always at the doorstep of heresy.” We cannot teach grace properly if we try to balance it with law. Does this mean that grace is a free-for-all? That the message of grace is permission to sin? Not at all! What this means is that the message of grace balances itself. Titus 2:11 says, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age.” God’s grace trains us to “renounce ungodliness.” Therefore, grace itself becomes an instructor. Grace balances itself! It produces good works apart from being under law (Galatians 5:22-23), and does not require a pointing finger to produce a healthy Christian life.

“Isn’t this just semantics?” one might ask. “The result is the same: works.”

Not at all, my friend. It’s about whether or not we believe the power source for our salvation and sanctification is within us or is in Christ. Romans 6:14 says, “For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.” This verse tells us a lot. First of all, sin doesn’t have to be our master. Second, the only way for sin not to be my master is to live “under grace.” Better learn how to live under grace then! But if someone is to live “under grace” it must be entirely grace and not mixed with law. The Scriptures do not teach a middle ground. You are either under law or under grace. Yet many teachers today feel compelled to balance grace and law, suggesting that emphasizing one over the other will result in the perils of legalism (too much law) or license (too much grace). So they shoot straight down “the middle.” I am suggesting that the middle is the mistake. “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough” (Galatians 5:9).

I’ll say it again: Grace balances itself.

There is no freedom and no power in any other gospel.

Preacher, I would go as far as to say that if you are not making the devout a little uneasy, you are not teaching grace properly. Further, if your message could be preached in a Jewish synagogue or Islamic temple, you did not preach the gospel. You preached moralism, legalism, or subjectivism. A bit on each:

Moralism: Christianity is reduced to morality. Behave and pray. Be a good person.

Legalism: Certainly similar to moralism, though even darker, where salvation, sanctification and acceptance before God are based entirely upon your performance and not the cross.

Subjectivism: The Christian life is based entirely on feelings and not Truth. The poor soul is never quite sure where they stand with God, but the climate of the soul is determined by the subjective whims of the heart. Up and down, in and out they go, hoping today’s works were enough, or striving for another experience that will make them feel better about their relationship with God.

Grace saves us from these tragedies. But in order to free ourselves or our hearers of being under law, we must believe scandalously. When we preach, we must make a clear sound on the trumpet. We must risk being misunderstood. We must be willing to endure the ire of moralists and legalists. We must be willing to make good Christians uncomfortable. We must be willing to trust that the Holy Spirit is big enough in us and others that He will “guide us into all truth” (John 16:13) and “lead us not into temptation” (Matthew 6:13).

Will our teaching be abused? Of course it will. Christ had his Judas and so will anyone who preaches the gospel. But in order to make disciples, we must preach it in a way that our hearers ask, “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?”

We must be willing to have people say, “He’s almost a heretic.”

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