What About Obedience and Sin?

Antinomianism is a big theological term for those who use grace as an excuse to do whatever they like in regards to their behavior. The preaching of justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone has always brought charges as being such, and at times these charges are true and at times they are false. Christ the Redeemer is not antinomianist. Meaning, we know and proclaim that sin is destructive, and Christians should be obedient to the way of life God instructs in the Bible. While sin is an offence to God it destroys people and families and the good God wants for us.

Redeemer cares about obedience and godliness, but we don’t believe someone (neither Christian or non-Christian) becomes godly (truly, from the heart outward) by simply telling them to be obedient. Yet, we do need to be told to be godly and what godliness is, but this call cannot be the core and end of the message. The call to be godly does not bring about the power to become godly. This is the core message of the book of Galatians, Paul writing to Christians who departed from grace as to live a merit-based “Christian” life. The freedom of the gospel, and the truth of implementing faith in Christ as to be saved, is not something just for the lost person to become a Christian but also for the Christian to rest in each day.

As for obedience: God’s love, known in Jesus, changes the human heart, births new life and a desire for godliness, even while the Christian will continue to struggle against the inner condition of sin. Redeemer talks a lot about the grace of God simply because we believe it is by grace we are saved and by grace we will be transformed into a people who glorify God.

In Paul’s letters in the New Testament he inspires Christians toward godliness by teaching them the gospel over and over again, reminding them of the grace of God. Paul communicates what godliness is, calls people to be godly, and then reminds people of the gospel so that they might remember positionally (in Jesus) they are already godly even while practically they are still becoming godly. In Titus, Paul writes that grace is more than forgiveness, that it doesn’t pardon and quit, but it inspires and animates.

“For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good (Titus 2:11-14).”

The grace of God known in Jesus saves and transforms. This happens as we implement faith and rest in His sufficiency and righteousness more and more.

2 Peter 1:3-8

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

This passage appears to be a list of things we should be and could easily feel like a to-do list, or even a list condemning us as we are not always these things. But, these traits are good, and we should desire and be these things, even though none of us are these things perfectly. We need the call to be godly, not the call for just godly behavior but one of pure heart and pure deed, yet the demand to be this is not enough to create the change we need to move in that direction. This is because we are not as we should be even once we are told what we should be. The Apostle Paul wasn’t shy in speaking of the ongoing shortcomings he knew within himself. He wrote Romans toward the end of his life and ministry, after being a Christian for some time.

15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[c] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. 21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature[d] a slave to the law of sin.

This sort of honesty about our condition is the beginning of Christianity, true godliness, and love. If we go back to the list in 2 Peter 1, verses 5-7, and we are honest, we know we are not always exemplifying such motives and actions, even while as Christians we aim to be such. So, the question becomes, what is the reason a Christian is not moving in this direction? Verse 9 speaks to this, “But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.”

We lack these traits when we forget the grace of God known in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Grace-centeredness (or gospel-centeredness) isn’t about not being kind or pure or loving. It is about how we become these very things. When it comes to grace and obedience people often speak of balance. As if to say, “Don’t get to extreme talking about grace or people will go hog wild,” but this contradicts the very way grace works in a person’s heart., what it calls and compels us toward. 1 Peter 1 is a great passage rooting us into God’s grace and calling us to be holy.

13 Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. 14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”[a]

17 Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear. 18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 20 He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. 21 Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.

There is no balance between grace and obedience. There is an order, as the New Testament teaches a vine that creates fruit. V.13 and 18 and 21 clearly speak of the core (beginning and end) of the holiness the other verses call us to. It’s not that you move on from one thing to the next. You implement faith and rest in Jesus’ work and righteousness as to know you are godly even when in your heart or in deed you are ungodly. This is the gospel that creates a heart that is at rest and peace and secure, a heart that can begin to love God and love people.

By Russ Masterson / Christ the Redeemer Church of Marietta

Frequently Asked Questions

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What about Obedience and Sin?
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