The radical gospel of grace as it is found throughout Scripture, has always had its critics. Jimmy Swaggart told me a few years ago that by trusting in Gods justifying and preserving grace, I would end up living a life of sin before longand thus, lose my salvation and be consigned to hell. Paul anticipated that reaction from the religious community of his own day after he said, “Where sin abounded, grace abounded much more” (Romans 5:20, NKJV). So he asked the question he expected us to ask: “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?” (6:1) Should we sin so that we can receive more grace? In other words, “If people believed what you just said in Romans 5, Paul, wouldnt they take advantage of the situation and live like the dickens, knowing they were safe and secure from all alarm?” Thats a fair question. But it reveals a basic misunderstanding of the nature of Gods saving grace. Pauls response is unmistakable: “Certainly not? How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” (Romans 6:2, NKJV).
Someone confronted Martin Luther, upon the Reformers rediscovery of the biblical doctrine of justification, with the remark, “If this is true, a person could simply live as he pleased!”
“Indeed!” answered Luther. “Now, what pleases you?”
Augustine was the great preacher of grace during the fourth and fifth centuries. Although his understanding of the doctrine of justification did not have the fine-tuned precision of the Reformers, Augustines response on this point was similar to Luthers. He said that the doctrine of justification led to the maxim, “Love God and do as you please.” Because we have misunderstood one of the gospels most basic themes, Augustines statement looks to many like a license to indulge ones sinful nature, but in reality it touches upon the motivation the Christian has for his actions. The person who has been justified by Gods grace has a new, higher, and nobler motivation for holiness than the shallow, hypocritical self-righteousness or fear that seems to motivate so may religious people today.