GOSPEL FREEDOM

GOSPEL FREEDOM IS NOT FREEDOM TO SIN

Wherever the grace of God is truly preached the potential for a godless response to Gospel Freedom is high. Indeed, Martyn Lloyd-Jones has stated that there is one sure way to know whether or not you are preaching the biblical Gospel: only the true biblical Gospel will elicit such a lawless response:

“There is thus clearly a sense in which he message of ‘justification by faith only’ can be dangerous, and likewise with the message that salvation is entirely of grace. I say therefore that if our preaching does not expose us to that charge and to that misunderstanding, it is because we are not really preaching the gospel.’ [Romans: Exposition of Chapter Six, p9].

The Apostle Paul understood this. Having clearly stated that the Jews, who possessed the Law, were just as much in need of salvation as the Gentiles who didn’t, and that both were equally sinners in God’s sight, Paul realized that some would misrepresent him to be saying “let us do evil that good may result’. To this he vehemently replied that such people deserve condemnation [Romans 3:8].

A few chapters later he faced a similarly godless response. Having given a detailed explanation of justification by faith and the reign of grace [Romans 3.21 – 5:21] he realizes some will ask ‘Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?’ [6:1] His response is again vehement: God forbid! [KJV]. Literally: ‘May it never happen!’ He anticipates a further godless response in 6:15: ‘Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace?’ and again he responds ‘God forbid!’

The problem is not with the Gospel. The problem is not with the preacher. The problem is the twisted, sinful, human response to the grand and glorious Gospel of grace: a response that abuses the Gospel in an self-centred effort to justify continuance in sin, and willingly persuades itself that it is okay, even good, to keep on sinning, and so give God the chance to dispense more grace. Such thinking, Paul indicates, demonstrates a terrible failure to understand the Gospel. Indeed such thinking has not even begun to understand who Jesus Christ really is and what Jesus Christ really did when he died on the cross.

In summary, Paul’s response [6:2-14] to this godless question [6:1] is: Definitely not. Because, when we were united to Christ at the point of our conversion we were united to him in his death and we were united to him in his resurrection. We were removed from the realm, rule and reign of sin and death and placed under the reign of grace and righteousness. Sin is utterly incongruous in this new kingdom in which we now live, and to suggest that it is okay or desirable to persist in sin depicts a complete failure to understand both what God has done for us in uniting us to Christ and what his purpose is in doing it.

Likewise in summary, Paul’s response [6:15-23] to the second question [6:15] is: Definitely not. Because that would be offering ourselves back to the old master, sin, from which we have been liberated. That old master exacted death. Our new master, God and righteousness, freely gives us eternal life.

The death of Jesus Christ for our sin does not make sin okay. Rather, the death of Christ demonstrates, more clearly than anything else does, how terrible sin and its penalty are. Here we see placarded before us how abhorrent sin is to God and how horrific and extreme the penalty is. This is what God thinks of sin: this awful thing that we see before us in the passion of the Christ. No one really seeing what is happening here can ever again think that sin is okay; no one really understanding this cross, this death, will wave before the dying Christ some godless, self-centred excuse or validation for their sin.

And no one knowing who this is who is dying here, bearing their sins, can stand at the foot of the cross and flippantly say: ‘Thanks for the forgiveness, Jesus, I can go and sin some more now!’ This is no ordinary death. And the man who dies here is no ordinary man. This is the Son of God. This is the Lord of lords and the King of kings. This is the Almighty God, the Holy One.

Gospel freedom should result not in selfish continuance in sin, but in amazed and reverential awe:

‘If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins,
O LORD, who would stand?
But with you there is forgiveness;
therefore you are feared.’ [Psalm 130:3,4]
© Rosemary Bardsley 2013