In Romans the Apostle Paul referred to a disturbing misunderstanding of grace:
‘Let us do evil so that good may result’ [Romans 3:8]
‘Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?’ [Romans 6:1]
‘Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace?’ [Romans 6:15].
As D.Martyn Lloyd-Jones points out, accusations that the Gospel promotes sin have accompanied the proclamation of the biblical Gospel since its inception. In fact, he makes the following thought-provoking comments:
‘… if our preaching does not expose us to that charge and to that misunderstanding, it is because we are not really preaching the gospel.’
‘If your preaching of salvation has not been misunderstood in that way, then you had better examine your sermons again, and you had better make sure that you really are preaching the salvation that is offered in the New Testament to the ungodly, to the sinner, to those who are dead in trespasses and sins, to those who are enemies of God. There is this kind of dangerous element about the true presentation of the doctrine of salvation.’ [p.9-10, Romans: Exposition of Chapter 6 The New Man, The Banner of Truth Trust, 1975].
Because the true gospel of salvation by grace will always generate this sinful reaction in some people it is ‘dangerous’ in that it exposes both the preacher and God himself to misunderstanding.
And here we come face to face with a deep and powerful fact: that God is an incredible ‘risk-taker’, a God who, because of grace, embarks on the seemingly ‘dangerous’.
Consider each of these actions of God’s grace:
His creation of ‘man’ with the ability to obey or deny him was an incredible risk.
Putting his Word in writing, with the potential for us humans to distort and destroy it, was an incredible risk.
The incarnation, with all of its anonymity and incognito factor, was a huge risk.
Declaring sinners to be his children in and through Jesus Christ is an incredible risk.
Similarly, determining to save us by grace not by works is an incredible risk.
In each of these God exposes himself, makes himself vulnerable, to misunderstanding, to criticism, to loss of face, to loss of glory. And this, this apparent vulnerability of God, is yet another expression of his grace.
He chose this danger. He chose this vulnerability. He chose this appearance of weakness and failure. He chose the resulting inevitable criticism and the inevitable accusation. He chose to be misunderstood and misinterpreted.
He is not threatened by it. Rather by it he achieves his purpose. By it he accomplishes our salvation.
Thus in Hebrews we read ‘Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame …consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men …’ [12:2,3]. And in Philippians: ‘Christ Jesus … made himself nothing … humbled himself …’ [2:7,8].
No abuse, misuse, misunderstanding or misinterpretation of God or of his grace has the ability to diminish or disempower either God or his grace, except in the eyes of those who know neither God nor his grace. Nor should we, his people, think that we have to rescue God and grace from misunderstanding by watering down, withholding or altering the truth.
We, like our God, must choose to live in the context of this dangerous but essential grace.