Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Wages vs. The Gift

"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Rom 6:23)

There are those who say that we (so called) "hyper grace" people are "light on sin."  They say that by preaching so much grace, we're downplaying sin and making it out to be of little or no significance or consequence.  They say we give little or no value to the law of God, and that we're giving people permission to run amuck in licentiousness.

These types of accusations are completely absurd, of course, and I'd like to give some reasons to anyone who might be on the fence about this, as to why and how preaching the grace of God does not mean being light on law and sin, and in fact it means just the opposite!  And with that said, of course I also want to contrast all of this with the consequences of grace!

The verse at the top of this blog post is a good start.  By proclaiming grace, we fully acknowledge the severity of the consequences of sin.  The wages of sin is death!  The Apostle Paul, before launching into his extended talk about grace in his epistle to the Romans, first spoke of severity of the consequences of sin this way: "those who practice such things are deserving of death."

Light on sin?  No way!  Paul didn't say that the wages of sin is a slap on the wrist from God.  He didn't say the wages of sin is temporary loss of fellowship with God.  He said the wages of sin is deathThat is pretty severe!

But then see what Paul does next.  He contrasts all this with something.  He makes a huge distinction.  Yes, the wages of sin is absolutely dreadful!  BUT... this is contrasted with the gift of God - eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord!  It's in Christ Jesus, through the gift of God, that we've been set free from the wages of sin.  This doesn't downplay sin, or the consequences of sin, at all.  Rather, it contrasts the horrific wages of sin with the amazing and incredible gift of God.  It shows how the gift of God supersedes the wages of sin!

Are we then "light on law"?  Since we preach that in Christ we are dead to the law and not under the law, are we chucking aside the law of God and saying it was never of any value?  Absolutely not!  Please understand this.  We are actually holding the law up to its actual high and lofty position, far more, I think, than most people who say they keep the law.

"The law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good." (Rom 7:12)

Again, we fully acknowledge the utter holiness, justness and goodness of the law.  The law itself is holy, just and good.  However, just as we see the true wages of sin, we must also see the true consequences of being under the law.  Just prior to the above sentence from Paul in Rom 7:12, he talked about the consequences of being under the good, just and holy law:

"But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead. I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me. (Rom 7:8-11)

Contrary to being light on the law, this shows the full severity of being under the law!  Living under the law doesn't mean that you do your best to try to keep the law. It means you keep it perfectly, or else! Do people who say that we're to keep the law really uphold the law to this standard?

Are we for sin?  No!  Are we against the law?  No!  We're for upholding the law in its proper place.  "The law made nothing perfect." (Heb 7:19). The law could not produce life (see Gal 3:21).  The law is holy, just and good, but the only thing it can do for people is to minister bondage (Gal 4:24-25), guilt (Rom 3:19), and death and condemnation (2 Cor 3:7-9).  Again, by saying all of these things, we are not being light on the law or disregarding it.  It's exactly the opposite of that.  We are actually upholding the law to its high and lofty position and pointing out the true and utter consequences of being under the law!

We're not bashing the law and we're not glorifying sin.  Rather, we're glorifying the gift of God over the consequences of sin and being under the law.  Sin is absolutely horrible.  And "sin, through the commandment, became exceedingly sinful." (Rom 7:13).  "The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law." (1 Cor 15:56).

But through grace and the gift of God, sin was overcome! Sin was defeated!  "But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Cor 15:57).  Grace doesn't produce licentiousness.  Rather, grace produces good fruit.  Grace produces a desire to say "no" to sin.  Grace teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts.  Grace teaches righteousness and godliness as the way of life.  (Titus 2:11-14).  Grace is the very essence of life and living in Christ.