Liberalism and Grace
Read Romans 6:1-7
"Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be!"
In our struggle to live out our Christian faith, we are quickly drawn to one of two extremes. Some are drawn to legalism, which minimizes grace by emphasizing the necessity of the law. Others are drawn to liberalism which undermines grace by using grace as a license for sin. If legalism emphasizes law to the exclusion of grace, liberalism emphasizes grace to the exclusion of law.
Paul seeks to navigate between these two extremes. Having pointed out the failure of seeking to obtain righteousness by our efforts to keep the law (3:29-20), he now goes on to point us to the supremacy of grace. Our justification (i.e., to be declared righteous before God) does not come from our efforts to keep the law, for we are all sinners and fall short of God's standard (3:23). However, Christ demonstrated his love so that even when we were still sinners, Christ died for us (5:8). For Paul, this was the testimony of the abundance of God's grace. No matter the depth of our sin, God's grace exceeds our most profound guilt to bring us the hope of salvation (5:20). However, this is where grace can be distorted and misconstrued. This brings us to the heart of liberalism, which argues that because God is a God of love, and his grace is infinite, then it no longer matters how we live. To denounce sin becomes paramount to being unloving. In the end, we decide for ourselves what is right and wrong, for any verse that condemns sin is stripped away under the guise of promoting God's love.
However, Paul points out that to excuse sin and use grace as a rationalization for sin undermines the very nature of grace. When God's grace is realized in our life, the result is not freedom to sin, but just the opposite. To the recipient of God's grace is to be transformed into a whole new life (vs. 6). To continue to walk in sin is to walk in dangerous territory for indicates a failure to be genuinely identified with Christ (vs. 5). The apostle John who is commonly referred to as the disciple of love, points out that when we use the love of God as a pretext for sin, we are demonstrated that we are not genuine disciples of Christ (1 John 3:1-9). While God forgives sin, he never tolerates sin. It is true that forgiveness is unconditional and cannot be earned. But it is not universally to all. It is bestowed only to those willing to accept it by recognizing their need for forgiveness. To be forgiven, one must repent (to see sin as God sees it and turn from it) and affirm our need for and acceptance of his grace. It is a gift offered, but a gift is only beneficial when it is received (Ephesians 2:8-9).
The fallacy of liberalism is that it rejects the severity of sin and thus rejects the need for grace. Instead of grace being the motivation for a life of obedience to Christ, it becomes an excuse for us to continue to do as we please. This devalues grace. Do you justify your actions by relying on God's grace to cover them, or do you strive to live a life of righteousness because God's grace has forgiven your sin? The difference is a difference between eternal life and eternal judgment.