Why Christians Must Be Careful Not to Misapply God’s Grace

Jesus declared in Luke 6:32–34,

But if you love those who love you, what grace is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what grace is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what grace is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back. (Author’s translation)

One of the most misapplied concepts and abused term in the Bible is grace. Most people have their own definition of God’s grace. God defines His grace and He can communicate His grace so that even imperfect people can understand it. When people have their own definition of God’s grace, they have made a standard for making a legalistic stand for excessive forgiveness without repentance and justice. This is legalistic to redefine God’s grace contrary to His words and apply one’s own law. Thereby, many reject God’s grace thinking that they already have it.

What is Biblical Grace?

Grace in its noun form is mentioned 156 times in the New Testament. God’s grace includes His forgiveness of sins. “In Him, we have the redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of trespasses, according to the wealth of His grace” (Eph 1:7; cf. Rom 3:22–24). However, God’s grace is not only forgiveness. God’s grace was on Christ (Luke 2:40, 52), so this is not just forgiveness, but God’s favor. God’s grace was for Paul to work in building the church (1 Cor 3:10; 15:10), so that grace is not just forgiveness, but all blessings. His favor is benevolent, thankful, and even joyous.

Can Christians Give Grace?

Paul expressed, “Grace be to God” or “Thanks be to God” (2 Cor 2:14). The word for “thanks” is the Greek word for “grace,” charis. How can this be? By thanksgiving, Christians give grace to God. Such thanksgiving is a part of Christian worship. Believers are to sing with grace in their hearts to God, which is done by singing with thanksgiving (Col 3:16). Are people then “saying grace” when they pray with thanks? Christians can “say grace” (2 Tim 1:3).

Believers are to give grace to other. Giving money to someone is giving “grace” (1 Cor 16:3; 2 Cor 8). When speaking, Christians are to speak grace, favor, goodwill as stated (Eph 4:29; Col 4:6). Christians are to give grace to God and to all men in all that they do. They are to be gracious in thanksgiving.

Where Do Believer’s Find God’s Forgiving Grace?

God’s grace is in Jesus Christ. The Spirit of Jesus Christ spoke,

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. […] And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (John 1:14, 16–17)

Christ’s Spirit speaks to Christians, “Do not be carried about with various and strange doctrines. For it is good that the heart be established by grace, not with foods which have not profited those who have been occupied with them” (Heb. 13:9). God’s favor, His grace of His forgiveness comes through the New Covenant of Jesus Christ. That is why God’s Word is “the grace of God” (2 Cor 1:12), “the word of His grace” (Acts 14:3), and “the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24). Paul exhorted in Acts 20:32, “So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (cf. 1 Cor 1:4–8; 2 Cor 1:12; Eph 3:1–7).

God’s forgiving grace is through His Word of grace. Therefore, disciples of Christ must not alter His Word, because they receive forgiving grace through His Word. That is why the Holy Spirit reveals,

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, justly, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. (Titus 2:11–14)

When Do Believers Receive God’s Forgiving Grace?

God’s grace of forgiveness is not from out of anyone’s works except for Christ. The apostle Paul reflected,

For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not out of works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:3–7)

By grace and mercy, God saves believers through the washing of regeneration, the rebirth. Jesus revealed, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). This washing of justification and sanctification is done in the name of Christ (1 Cor 6:11; cf. 1 Cor 1:11–13; 12:13). This is the baptism that Jesus commanded believers to be immersed in water in Jesus’ name (Matt 28:19; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 10:47–48). Therefore, God saves believers through baptism, and baptism is not a work that a believer does. Believers do not immerse themselves in water. Jesus is the One who has, “sanctified and cleansed her by the washing of the water in word” (Eph 5:26).

However, many believers reject baptism because of a false idea of grace. The apostle Paul declared, “For by grace you have been saved through the faith, and that not out of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not out of works, in order that anyone may boast” (Eph 2:8–9). However, baptism is of the faith (Gal 3:26–27). Baptism is the immediate response of hearing preaching of Jesus, His kingdom, and His name (Acts 8:12, 35–38). Ephesians 2 presents God’s forgiving grace in the believer’s conforming to Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. Ephesians 2:4–6 expresses,

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.

God’s grace is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ by which believers are saved (1 Cor 15:1–4). Believers conform to the grace of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ by dying to one’s sins, being buried in baptism, and being resurrected to newness of life in Christ Jesus (Rom 6:2–7; Col 2:12–13).

What is the Extent of God’s Forgiving Grace?

Though baptized believers are not perfect, Christians must walk in God and in His light then they are in fellowship with Him and “the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). This is the extent of God’s grace for those believers who have been baptized in Jesus’s name. What if we sin? Christians can know “But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1b). Furthermore, if “we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). However, “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). This is the grace that Christians have in Jesus Christ in which believers have hope. When anyone hears from someone that, “God’s grace is unconditional forgiveness” for those who do not follow God, Christians know that they are hearing a lie (cf. 1 John 2:4). Christ’s Spirit spoke through the prophet Jude that ungodly men will creep in unnoticed who “pervert the grace of our God” (Jude 4).

Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Pet 1:13–16)

Is God’s Forgiving Grace for the Willful Sinner?

There is remains no more forgiveness of sins if one willfully continues to sin (Heb 10:26). Though one will be initially ignorant not knowing every command before being baptized, all believers baptized into discipleship are learning to observe all that Christ as commanded (Matt 28:20). From Jesus’s words in Matthew 28:19–20, the teachers of the disciples are responsible for teaching the observance of every command.

Does God forgive because of the imperfection of living in sin? No, God forgives us because Christ died for all who justly deserve death (Rom 5:6–11). “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him” (Rom 5:9; cf. Eph 1:7–9). While Christians are imperfect, they can observe all of God’s commands and they can become perfect in not practicing sin since “those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal 5:19–21). “Therefore, what will we say? May we continue in sin in order that this grace may increase?” (Rom 6:1). Jesus expressed, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of Heaven, but he that does the will of My Father, who is in Heaven” (Matt 7:21).

About Scott J. Shifferd

Minister, church of Christ in Jacksonville, FL. Husband and father of four. Email: ScottJon82[at]yahoo.com
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65 Responses to Why Christians Must Be Careful Not to Misapply God’s Grace

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