By Johnny Tatum


The purpose of this review of the Radical Grace Bible Study Series is to see why we do not balance grace with obedience and discipline, and to see how it is that grace produces a life that is free from the slavery to sin.






In this Radical Grace series, we are emphasizing grace and we are affirming that, for the believer, it is not biblical to balance grace with anything.


There are many Christians who believe that grace is good and who, unfortunately, also say that we must balance grace with something.  And what they mean by balance is that we weaken (soften) the concept of grace by adding our obedience plus God’s discipline to balance GRACE.


Actually, there is a biblical concept of balance; however, it is not the case that we have one extreme over here, another extreme over there, and then we look for some middle ground and call that balance.  In the Bible, balance is holding both extremes simultaneously.



As we have been seeing in this series, the Bible emphasizes grace — in the New Testament, the word grace is used 128 times. In fact, there is just one word that occurs more often—the word love.  Interestingly enough, there is a very reasonable connection between the two words grace and love, because it was the Father’s love that caused Him to offer us His grace.  Furthermore, Paul begins and closes each of his epistles with a reference to grace.


The main reason we emphasize grace is that through the New Testament, we find many wonderful spiritual qualities that are supposed to be part of the Christian life; and as we look at them, we see that all of them are produced [only] by grace.



Let us begin by reviewing the highlights of our study Grace #3: Ten Attributes That Are Produced Only By Grace.  In our lives, Grace:

q       Produces comfort and hope.

q       Stimulates spiritual gifts.

q       Produces spiritual fruit.

q       Produces good works.

q       Produces signs and wonders.

q       Produces actual holiness.

q       Produces labor for Messiah.

q       Produces strength.

q       Produces growth.

q       [and the important one—]  Releases us from the slavery to sin.


So you see, we emphasize grace, not to make light of sin, but because, in our lives, we want comfort and hope–spiritual fruit–good works–signs and wonders–actual holiness–labor for Messiah–strength–and growth produced, spiritual gifts stimulated, and to be released from the slavery to sin. It is amazing that all of these attributes come through grace! 


However, it is not just the case that if we have grace we will have good works–comfort and hope–spiritual gifts–spiritual fruit–growth, etc.  It is more than that. It is the case that there is no alternate way to receive these wonderful attributes; it is not as if grace is one way to get those aspects—it is the only way.  But again, we have to say more than that.  Not only is grace the only way to have these things in our lives, but also, if we try to add something to grace, then the process of producing this spiritual fruit is hindered.  In fact, you can add so many things to grace that Paul says you can nullify grace working:


I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Messiah died needlessly. (Galatians 2:20)



Again, let us clarify what grace is not: Grace is not God overlooking sin and Grace is not God saying that sin is okay.  If someone emphasizes that concept of grace, then he is wrong.  And, as we saw in our Grace #3 study, if we have the wrong idea of the grace that saved us, then we will have the wrong idea of the grace that operates in our lives (sustains us).


When we were saved, it was not that God said Your sin is okay.  God’s grace was not His accepting sin; He cannot do that.  God’s grace that saved us was His taking our sin, putting it in the flesh of Messiah Jesus, and allowing Him to be crucified.  So, when Jesus died, what died with Him?  Our sin.  That means legally, judicially, if God were to look at the body of sin we had committed, He would see that it had been killed.  And that is what grace is: Grace was God judicially, legally, killing off our sin.


Now, the grace that sustains us is not God saying Since you are now a believer, your sin is okay.  The grace that sustains us is very similar to what God did when He saved us.  The grace that sustains us is grace killing off sin in our actual lives.


One way to look at it is this:


q       Saving Grace was getting our sin off the books, and

q       Sustaining Grace is getting sin out of our lives.


At the Cross the power of sin was broken, and grace working in our lives is a gradual, consistent process of the power of sin being broken in our actual lives.



A review of the three points in this study is as follows:


First: Each of these 10 attributes (comfort and hope, spiritual gifts, spiritual fruits, good works, signs and wonders, actual holiness, labor for Messiah, strength, growth, release from the slavery of sin) comes through grace.


Second: These attributes come only through grace, meaning there is not an alternate path to getting those things.


Third: If we attempt to add anything to grace, we are hindering the grace process; in fact, Paul says that we can nullify it.


Do you see why we do not try to balance grace with something?  We do not want to hinder that process of having holiness in our lives, and if we add something to grace, that is exactly what we will do.





People have said that we should add—mix in—the concept of obedience into grace.  The reason we do not add anything to grace is that if we do, we are going to subtract from it.  And, why do we not want to subtract from grace?  Because we want spiritual fruit in our lives, and if we subtract from grace, it will not happen.


Another thing we are told is that when we emphasize grace [as we do], we are making light of sin.  Actually, those who stress obedience are making light of sin.  What is making light of sin?  Saying that sin can be harnessed by discipline, that sin can be kept under control by doing our very best to obey.  That is saying that sin is not that big a problem and that sin can be harnessed by partial obedience.  That is where they do not tell the rest of the story; they do not go on to say that the obedience, which they emphasize, is something that we cannot do.


What is the best anyone can do trying his hardest to obey?  Would you say it would be partial obedience?  How about very partial?  How about very superficial?


In light our own efforts toward obedience, let us consider the Ten Commandments (see Exodus 20), as follows:


q       You Shall Not Murder – Is it possible for a human being to go his whole life and not commit an external act of murder?  Yes, I would say most can and do.  However, is it possible for someone to go his whole life and not hate anybody?


q       You Shall Not Commit Adultery – Is it possible for someone to go his whole life and not commit adultery?  Of course it is.  But is it possible for anyone to go his whole life and never have lust in his heart?


q       You Shall Not Steal – This is a tough one.  Can someone go his whole life and never steal anything?  Possibly.  [I do not know about this one, but I do know that—]


q       You Shall Not Covet – It is not possible for someone to go his whole life and never covet anything.


As you can see, the very best we can possibly do through self-effort is to obey partially, superficially.


So stressing grace is not making light of sin.  We are saying that sin is such a monster—it is so horrible—that we do not have the resources to conquer it.  We want it out of our lives because we know sin can be devastating and sin has consequences; however, we also see, from the Bible, that the only way to get sin out of our lives is by resting in grace.  So obedience comes through grace—not vice versa—and that is why we do not soften grace by adding something to it as a balance.





We have been looking at grace in its two aspects, as follows:


  1. Grace as the freedom from punishment for sins, and
  2. Grace as the freedom from the power of sin.


We have to look at grace in those two aspects, or we will not understand grace.  However, God really does not see grace as two aspects; He looks at grace as just one power, and this one power gives us freedom from punishment and freedom from the power of sin.


So God sees grace as one power accomplishing two things, which means that if we soften one aspect, we will weaken the other aspect.  That is what worries me.


The first aspect of grace is we are totally forgiven; we are not going to be punished for our sins ever.  So if a believer says If I sin, God will punish me, he does not understand grace at all.


The second aspect of grace is that grace releases us from the power of sin, which does not mean that we are going to stop sinning.  We are going to be sinners as long as we live, but what we can have is a situation where we are not slaves to sin.  So, if a believer says Since I am under grace, I can do whatever I want, I am going to go sin it up, and there will be no consequences, he does not understand grace at all either.


If we soften the first aspect of grace, which is forgiveness, the fact that we will never be punished for our sins, we are going to weaken the second aspect, which is grace freeing us from the power of sin.  But that is precisely the mistake we make.  We want to soften that first part.  And I do not know why we are always so anxious to do it, but we all are.  Whenever someone says God is not going to punish me ever for my sins.  I am totally forgiven.  The sin I am going to commit tomorrow was pre-forgiven, the inevitable yeah buts begin, those dreaded monsters, the yeah buts.  Do you know what those deadly monsters are?



Next: Radical Grace #5: The “Yeah Buts” That Hinder Grace


Back To: Radical Grace Series Page

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