Saving Grace – Does God’s saving grace require a change in lifestyle?
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds. Titus 2:11-14
There are some people who advocate a form of grace that is called “cheap grace” that is different from saving grace. Cheap grace argues that grace alone is responsible for everything and so the person doesn’t have to change. They can continue to live in sin and there are no consequences to that. To proponents of cheap grace, the sins are justified but the person is not and so continues to live in sin. They view God’s love and forgiveness of sins as a general truths and not as life transforming agents. Saving grace (which is biblical) proponents agree that Grace alone, Christ alone, and faith alone are sufficient
“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
At this point, you need to note that God has only one grace, and that is his saving grace and it does everything that God’s grace does. There are not multiple types of grace. You can’t have God’s saving grace and then not have his enabling grace or his grace to submit to Christ’s lordship. When distinctions are made, they are made usually to help understanding of the incomprehensibly great grace of God. If you have God’s grace, you have it all. God’s grace works through the Holy Spirit who lives in true believers. The Holy Spirit is a person. You cannot have part of him. Many people who try to argue that someone can be born again and then continue to live in sin (just like they were before with no effort to change) like to say that saving grace only refers to the grace to bring someone to salvation. As such the enabling grace could be lacking, the grace to submit could be lacking when the saving grace has been given and received. That king of partition is artificial is seems to be made to support a stance rather than follow biblical facts.
The apostle Paul addressed this same issue. In Romans 6:1 he asks “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?” He answers his rhetorical question in verse two by saying “By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?”. He continues from verse 3 by saying “Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
Notice here that the Holy Spirit, speaking through the apostle Paul clearly emphatically says we cannot continue to live in sin as we did before if we have received Christ’s grace. The saving grace also enables us to overcome sin. This is in line with what the apostle John says in 1 John 2:4-6 that
“If someone claims, “I know God,” but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and is not living in the truth.But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love him. That is how we know we are living in him. Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did.” John is saying anybody can claim to know Jesus (that is that he is saved and going to heaven). But the true person who knows Jesus is transformed by him and start obeying Jesus. As Jesus said, my sheep hear my voice and follow me. (John 10:27). Also, as the apostle James wrote, faith without works is dead (James 2:17). You can’t just say you are saved or have God’s grace and not show the fruits. Again, Jesus also said by their fruits you shall know them. (Matthew 7:16) So people who have repented and accepted Jesus must bear fruit in accordance with repentance (Matthew 3:8) and not simply say that they have Jesus who has born their sins. Yes, Jesus has born the sins of the whole world. But if they truly belong to Jesus, they would be transformed and start obeying Jesus.
Let’s continue to look at Romans 6:5-7
“For if we have been united with Christ in his death, we will certainly also be united with him resurrection. “…our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with,that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.” Clearly, Paul is saying that the Christian, who is living under God’s grace (that’s the only place a true Christian should live) has been set free from sin.
Does that mean that Christians can’t sin? Absolutely not. Christians can sin,but they don’t continue to live in sin. 1 John 2:1-2 says “if anyone sins, we have an an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.”
Paul continues to write in verse 11 that “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness.For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.” There is something notable about what Paul writes in this passage. First we need to see ourselves as dead to sin. That means, we need to know that sin has no power to control us. But he then follows to say “do not let sin reign in your mortal bodies so that you obey its evil desires.” The thing to note is that Paul realizes that we must use our own will to choose to stay away from sin. Christians are not immune to sin. Accepting Christ and receiving his grace is not a vaccine to sin that you take and then you can no longer catch the disease of sin. No, you must choose to and make sacrifices. What is guaranteed is the “enabling grace”, the grace to be able to submit.
You see, many Christians are not truly submitted to God. They say they love God but they are not submitted. God is the last person they consider. They don’t practice what they read in the Bible wholeheartedly. If God were to tell them to quit their job and go be a missionary somewhere, they will refuse and say it’s not God or find some sly way to avoid it. Without first being submitted to God, you cannot resist sin. That is why James 4:7 says “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” That verse appears in that order for a reason. You cannot resist the devil (his temptation to sin) until you have first submitted to God. Your ability to resist the devil will be proportional to your the degree that you submit to God. The cure to sin is submission to God because God through Christ has already overcome sin. The Holy Spirit cannot lead a person fully unless the person is fully submitted to God.
Paul continues in verse 15 by saying “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.” Note here that Paul is not proclaiming cheap grace on Christians. He is not buttering them up. True Christians truly have come to obey God from the heart. Notice that Paul’s question here in verse 15 that “shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace?” is a paraphrase of the question he asked earlier in verses 5-7. This repetition is not for nothing. In Hebrew, repetition is used for emphasis. That shows how important God considers that point. His answer is also resounding as the first one. He says “By no means!”. So a believer that continues to live in sin is probably (very high chance) a false believer.
Let’s read the remainder of Romans 6:
“Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness. When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.”
A few final things to not here. Paul is saying that if you were really bad and living a bad life that glorified Satan, you need to equally turn away and start working to glorify God just as hard. Notice that Paul calls their former lives “things you are now ashamed of” True believers are ashamed of sin. They don’t just go on sinning. They hate sin. When they do sin, they are not happy they did. They don’t need to beat themselves or feel guilty, but they don’t want to do it and work to stay away from it. God’s grace is saving grace, that not only saves you from hell but also saves you from slavery to sin.