A simple reference to “God’s grace” has been used since the first century to justify false teachers neglectful of God’s Word and willfully ignorant believers. As some say in similar words, “If someone receives a teaching contrary to Christ’s teaching on divorce and remarriage or if someone neglects that the Lord’s Supper is for the Lord’s Day Assembly, then God’s grace will cover him.” Even more precisely, they admit, “If I am able to know Christ’s words and yet believe something contrary, then grace will cover that.” Will His grace cover “that” willful ignorance and unrepented sins? This is a question worth considering. In light of the words of Christ, these beliefs are foreign to Jesus’ teachings as this article will show.
This twisted form of “grace” is used to refer to a forgiveness from God for those who have “good hearts” and “sinful flesh” and yet continue doing sin. This idea presents a comforting thought that those believers while striving to do good and yet practicing a sin are forgiven by God’s grace. See, a good heart and continuance in sin are not reconcilable in the Scriptures. Someone cannot have a good heart and knowingly continue to do wrong. One cannot have a “good heart” and still be willing ignorant of Christ’s words.
“Grace” is another one of those words from the Bible that so many have abused. Appearing 156 times in its noun form, grace is used in the Bible to refer to other things other than just God’s favor unto the forgiveness of sins. “Grace” being favor is found referring to benevolence, thanksgiving, and joy. God’s grace includes His providence for Paul to preach to the nations (1 Cor. 3:10, 15:10). Grace doesn’t have to only come from God. Grace can come from us. When the 1st century churches gave to the Church in Judea, they gave “grace” to them (2 Cor. 8, 1 Cor. 16:3). The verb form of grace means to give. When Christians speak to one another, they are to impart “grace” (Eph 4:29, Col 4:6). Grace is even directed toward God from man. How can Paul say, “Grace be to God” (2 Cor 2:14)? The meaning of charis, “grace”, is favor and goodwill. Christians are to have goodwill and favor toward God. Singing is to be with grace in hearts toward God (Col 3:16). Do you know where “Saying Grace” comes from? This phrase came from the Bible (2 Tim 1:3). Christians say grace to God by prayer and are thus thanking Him. God’s grace, His favor was on Jesus as He grew from His youth (Luke 2:40, 52). Let these verses shape our concept of Biblical grace, because Christians should be giving grace too. Still, most of the references in Scripture to “grace” refer to God’s favor unto the forgiveness of sins and the rest of this article will continue to address this grace of God, God’s forgiveness.
Grace is truly God’s “unmerited favor”, but this does not imply as some believe that grace is “unconditional forgiveness”. Lets see Jesus’ definition of grace, since it is used and defined Christ’s Word revealed through His Apostles and prophets in the Scriptures. Many assert that, “Jesus forgives us since we can’t be perfect.” This statement is not completely true. It is true that we have all sinned (Rom. 5:12), and this kind of perfection in unattainable. Therefore, we have Christ’s perfection and we are complete in Him (Col. 1:28, 2:10). All Christians sin, but this does not allow for someone to continue to live in sin. Yet, people say, “Well, I’m not perfect. God will forgive me.“ Will He? This goes right back to this twisted grace. When a Christian’s life changes into a life of sin, then God’s grace for forgiveness does not go with that person. God’s favor is conditional. Galatians 5:19-21 gives a list of sins and says, “those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God“. See, you can be perfect in Christ by living a life without practicing a sin. The willfully ignorant elders, teachers, preachers, and all church leaders, who alter the meaning of fornication, the Lord’s Supper, baptism, or the benevolent life, are practicing sin. Are these in God’s favor? Christ’s Spirit says in 1 John 2:4, “He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” What is God’s judgment? These false teachers are those who seek to change God’s grace and try to justify their practice of sin and justify those around them. Jude describes them saying,
“For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ” (v4).
These erring leaders deny God and Christ when they twist God’s grace into something sin.
Then some ask, “If the church leaders cannot be saved while continuing in sin, can anyone be saved who is ignorant and taught by them?” Can Christians be ignorant and be saved? Yes. Matthew 28:20 implies this very truth showing that after baptism, the Apostles were to teach “them to observe all things that I have commanded you“. Yet, these disciples were not willfully ignorant. These disciples were neither permitted to alter Jesus’ commands nor to find other teachers who taught things contrary to Christ. The point is clear. Whether the teacher or the disciple, both were to observe all things. Jesus’ words in Matthew 28:20 teach us clearly that we can observe all things that Jesus commanded, and that teachers should be able to teach all things or at least have such a sufficient guide of the words of Christ (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Christians can be perfect by way of observing all of Christ’s commands and yet be imperfect in that they may stumble.
Now, what if we strive to observe everything Jesus instructed and yet sin? In referring to God’s grace, 1 John 1 shows the extent of God’s grace. The expanse of God’s forgiveness is shown in 1 John 1:7, “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another [with God], and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” When do Christians have the forgiveness of sins? When Christians walk in the light, “walk” means live and “in the light” is to live in God as seen in 1 John 1:5. Notice the word “if” in 1 John 1:7, which shows that God’s grace for forgiveness is conditional. This is the extent of God’s grace in which we are thankful and rejoice. “How can we be happy if each time we sin then we are lost?” We are not lost each time that we sin. First John was written to Christians telling them to walk in the light while John also wrote in verse 8, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” and in verse 10, “If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.” His Word, the Truth, is in those who can sin, and yet they walk in the light and do not practice sin. Every time that we sin while walking in the light, we have forgiveness from God. Also note that we must also confess our sins to our heavenly Father (1 John 1:9). Continuing in sin is walking in darkness as verse 6 says, “If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” Therefore, we can walk in the light having forgiveness or walk in darkness, not practicing the Truth, and remain apart from God’s grace.