Is Grace a License to Sin?

Grace-preachers attract sinners and that is a good thing. If you are a sinner – you have come to the right place! Sinners are welcome in the House of Grace. I wish our churches were magnets for sinners for that would be a sure sign we were preaching the true gospel of grace.

If this scandalizes you then you may want to avert your eyes from the One called the Friend of Sinners. Jesus didn’t wait for sinners to come to Him; He literally went into their homes and got Himself invited to their parties. That’s because grace is for sinners. It is not for those who think they are basically good and decent people. As Jesus said, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mt 9:13).

So I suppose I should be thrilled that I get a lot of correspondence from sinners – and I am. What is less thrilling is the correspondence I get from saints who think they are sinners and who want me to validate their choice to act like sinners.

Why do saints act like sinners?

Some may do it out of ignorance (“I am holy? I didn’t know!”) or out of a fatal belief that they can live by law and call it grace (“I’m just trying to live by the red letters of Jesus”). But a saint who acts like a sinner is a hypocrite – they are acting like someone they are not.

In a recent post I dealt with five questions I typically hear from hot-blooded young men. But today I want to answer the biggest question of all…

Is grace a license to sin?

No. It is true that grace brings freedom and that includes the freedom to make poor choices, but if you use your freedom to enslave yourself to sin, then you have missed the point of grace:

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (Gal 5:1)

The purpose of grace is to liberate the prisoner and give life to the dead. Grace is also good news for the poor (Lk 4:18-19). So if you use grace to enslave or impoverish yourself by making dumb decisions and indulging the flesh, then you are setting aside grace. You are not using it for its intended purpose. Grace liberates, but if you use your freedom to discard your freedom, then what was the point? You are no better off than when you started.

Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound. (Rom 5:20)

Don’t ever fall for the lie that says “I can go on sinning so that grace may abound.” True, your sinning won’t affect God’s love for you, but it will surely affect you. It will enslave you and ultimately kill you. This is not God’s will for your life.

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. (Rom 6:1)

Grace is no more a license to sin than electricity is a license to electrocute yourself. True, you can use electricity to electrocute yourself but God forbid that you would! That’s not what it’s for. God created electricity so you could enjoy light and warmth and ESPN’s SportsCenter. Grace, like electricity is meant to bring life not death and there is no life in sin.

We need to see sin for what it really is. It is not some benign activity like making coffee or hitting free-throws down the stretch. As God warned Cain, Sin is a crouching beast that desires to master you. Running after Sin is about as smart as poking a pit-bull with a stick.

They may take our lives, but they’ll never take our freedom!

The apostle of grace wrote much about how sin enslaves and he wasn’t just talking about sinners: “You are slaves to the one whom you obey” (Rom 6:16). Now please understand I am drawing a big fat line between a saint who occasionally sins and a sinner who runs after sin. There is a big difference. The former finds himself doing what he doesn’t want to do; the latter is doing exactly what he wants to do. If you are troubled when you sin, relax – your discomfort is actually a sign of the new nature and new desires within you. Your heart is to please the Lord. But if you are untroubled when you sin – perhaps because you think grace is a license to sin – then wake up and smell the coffee. Something is very wrong.

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age. (Tit 2:11-12)

I am aware that some use this scripture to promote behavior modification thus condemning those who are struggling to overcome sin. (If you are trying to overcome sin, check out the excellent links at the end of this post.) The point I want to make here is this: The grace of God that brings salvation teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness. So any grace that isn’t teaching you to say “No” is counterfeit grace. Is grace a license to sin? Only if it is fake grace.

So why do I still sin?

I suspect there are two reasons. Either you don’t know who you really are and you are still running on the operating system you had when you followed the way of the world. Or you are an unbeliever. The grace that teaches us to say no only comes through faith. If you don’t believe you can say no then, guess what, you won’t. This is why it is imperative to declare what the Bible says is true about you.

If you are a Christian you are a new creation. The new has come and the old has gone. When you came to Christ you did not sign up for a program of life-long reform and self-improvement. That way lies disaster and disappointment. Christ is your life. Learn to allow Him to express His flawless, sinless life through your earthen vessel.

When you get up in the morning, look at yourself in the mirror and declare “I am the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. I am His dearly loved child.” When you’re about to click on a link that you should not click or when reaching for some substance that is killing you, say it again: “I am the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. I am His dearly loved child.” This is not the power of positive thinking. This is a frail human being tapping into the inexhaustible riches of His transforming grace through faith.

Have faith in God – His grace is powerful! It is the only thing on this earth that can give us freedom from sin and sinning. Live under the fountain of His grace and sin shall not be your master (Rom 6:14).

___________

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45 Comments on Is Grace a License to Sin?

  1. Amen. That is an explicit reference.

  2. Very well said Paul. Thank you for sharing this. You are one of God’s treasure hunters, and you yourself are a treasure.

  3. Hi Paul. Excelent post! Very well stated. This is the often asked question when the grace of God is being taught.
    Paul Mata

  4. Paul: I always enjoy your writings and as usual, find agreement with almost all of your article. My disagreement probably comes from misunderstanding as much as anything. I have myself often wondered if I was hearing Grace ministers correctly and could understand how someone, who was so inclined, could hear the message as Grace making our continuing to be “in sin” ok. I love your wording that God’s Grace should help teach us to say No. My question for you is this. In this article you say, ” If you are a Christian you are a new creation. The new has come and the old has gone”. No room to disagree here. So back to the question, “why do we still sin?”. I believe that I was reborn not perfect, not Saintly, but with a changed heart. A heart convicted by the Holy Spirit. I pray that there is lifelong improvement and growth, because I still have a long way to go. Certainly not self-improvement, but growth through the continued counsel, guidance, and conviction of the Holy Spirit. I recognize that temptation will always be there. I know that I will fail at times, hopefully less and less, and that if I am not growing in my ability to “beat” sin, I probably should question my belief. Grace is the only way, and although he freely gives this, we should not consider it free to us. We should give up old ways, hunger and bust our tails to be more deserving of it every day, even though we can never get there. Am I way off base with my “growth” thoughts? Thanks for your time.

    • Hi Brian, you have it exactly right and slightly wrong. Yes, we have a new heart – this is what Isaiah and Jeremiah foretold; a new heart with new desires. You carry the desires and emotions of the Holy Spirit. This is what it means to be new. You are not reformed or improved but wholly new in kind. You are something you never were before – a Christian. You get to partake of his divine nature.

      So how do we work this out? How do we grow? You do not grow in response to the Holy Spirit’s conviction – that’s an extra-Biblical teaching based on a misreading of Jesus’ words in John 16. It’s as if we were dumb cattle and God was poking us towards right action with the cattle prod of conviction. What an awful picture of his love and our freedom! Defining growth in terms of beating sin is like defining a successful marriage in terms of beating adultery. There is so much more to this new life than “not sinning.” Christ is our life. Christianity is not “not sinning;” Christianity is Christ.

      You grow by acknowledging every good thing that is already in you in Christ (Phm 1:6). You grow by believing what God says is true about you even if what he says seems to be contradicted by present reality. You grow by walking by faith in what he sees rather than what you see. Call it renewing your mind. Prior to re-birth, you had a lifetime of walking after the flesh. You knew no other way to live. Now you find yourself with habits that aren’t expedient. Some of these habits habits are not going to change over night. The solution is not to belt them down with a heavy wallop of law (“You’d better obey if you call yourself a follower of Jesus!”) but by waking up to who you are in Christ. The NT is full of exhortations to “be holy.” In other words, be who you are, not who you used to be. Read Colossians 3 for more on how to put this into practice.

      • When it comes to sin and the nudgings of the Holy Spirit for a believer, I think of it as being reminded of who we are in Christ rather than conviction of sin, conviction of righteousness. It’s like the Holy Spirit is whispering lovingly, “Hey, this isn’t who you are. You are the righteousness of God in Christ, so you need to be holy.” A friend once said, if it feels like condemnation of shame, chances are that’s the devil trying to get you to focus on your inadequacy, but if feels like a gentle and loving correction, chances are it’s the Holy Spirit trying to get you to focus on Christ’s adequacy.

      • aaronfishe211@yahoo.com // November 25, 2015 at 11:39 am //

        I like your idea. Plus how in the heck do we proceed and bypass a sin if our situation due to sincerety calls for it. It’s called commit a sin than say I reverse this sin than (only if needed) resume or reproceed to this sin in order to sin to live not live to sin. Otherwise how can we live and survive and be happy if we don’t sin. Or it may as well be like saying god and Jesus doesn’t forgive. It’s the devil who takes away what our desires are. Not god and especially not Jesus christ. Besides what if you are one of those sweet kind courteous and generous people Kown as to good of a person to be a sinner unless you don’t repent. It’s called you sin in the name of for what it’s worth and based on a terms of service and sin to Live not live to sin. In the name of what’s right is right and what’s wrong is wrong.

    • Mark Reddiar // May 5, 2013 at 9:45 am // Reply

      Hi Brian, The simple answer is that you are a body, soul and spirit. 1Th 5:23. You have been completely made into a new creation in your spirit, by being sealed with the Spirit of truth – 2Co 1:22, Eph 1:13, Eph 4:30. Your body will become brand new when you recieve your new spiritual body after death, and you are in the process of renewing your mind.- Rom 12:2, Hos 4:6.

      Check out material on Spirit soul and Body. I would recommend awmi.net.

      Thanks

      Mark

  5. Thanks for your “Mindset” comments. I struggle with being one of those left brainers, which makes me think “me” and what “I” can “do” too much. Can we say “original sin”? Ouch! I know this but have to be reminded too often that it is not about what I can do but what he has done. I need only to love, trust, and seek to know Christ more each day. If I do these, I will grow. Sin, which He already took care of, will be a lesser part of my life, and there is no room for Pride in loving, trusting, and knowing Him. Thank you

  6. Strongs concordance definition of grace is “5485. charis khar’-ece from 5463; graciousness (as gratifying), of manner or act (abstract or concrete; literal, figurative or spiritual; especially the divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life; including gratitude):–acceptable, benefit, favour, gift, grace(- ious), joy, liberality, pleasure, thank(-s, -worthy).” Divine influence upon the heart! When sin is beating at your door, Gods grace, or divine influence upon your heart, whispers in your ear to go the other way! We are saved by grace, thru faith. God influences our heart, we obey that whisper, and we are protected. We are still free to ignore this influence,or grace. Where sin abounds, grace much more abounds. This means the more sin yells into our minds, the louder Gods influence gets so that we can hear him tell us to go the other way!

  7. “For certain men have slipped in stealthily, … ungodly ones, who CHANGE THE GRACE OF OUR GOD INTO LICENTIOUSNESS and who DENY our only Master and Lord JESUS Christ.” – Jude 1:4 (LEB)

    deny grace, deny Jesus.
    accuse grace a license to sin, accuse Jesus of teaching us to sin.

    grace is Jesus, Jesus is grace.

    – grace and peace

  8. william Seabrooke // September 25, 2012 at 4:18 am // Reply

    Amen Paul; u are right on!

  9. very good

  10. Why do we still sin? Answer from above post. “I suspect there are two reasons. Either you don’t know who you really are and you are still running on the operating system you had when you followed the way of the world. Or you are an unbeliever”. Questions, are you saying that if you know who you really are you wouldn’t sin? If your not saying this then your above statement…Either you don’t know who you really are…does not make any since. If you are saying by knowing who you really are you will not sin then you have a big problem with 1 John 1:8. Author said: “or you are an unbeliever”. Paul didn’t even treat the Corinthians that way. The above statement heads down a dead end street and is fauder for the accuser of the brethren. God Bless

  11. Apples and oranges. 1 John 1:8 talks about sin that all christians will fall to until we die or raptured. 1 John 3:5-9 speaks of false teachers that advocated a license to sin not of habits that christians daily struggle with. Your comments above were given under the sub title of “Why do I still sin”? There are christians that when they read your statements you use to anwser this question may be discouraged or given false expectations that they can live a sinless life. Being blessed as a follower of your blog I do not think you feel we can live a sinless life but I could be missing something. God Bless

    • I have a different view of 1 John 1:8. Sin is a characteristic of sinners – it’s part of their identity. Our identity is Christ and in him is no sin at all. Now you can look at your mistakes and imperfections and say “that’s who I am,” or you can look at Jesus. Satan would love for you to be conscious of your self and your faults; the Holy Spirit would prefer you to be conscious of Jesus and his perfection. Your choice.

      • Brother Moses // March 6, 2013 at 10:14 pm //

        Greetings brethren. Christians are a new creation. They have been restored to sinless perfection. Should a Christian sin, he or she is doing what is unnatural to them, and God provided a restorative process of repentance and forgiveness to cure this and restore. 1 John 1:8 addresses a particular situation where these particular Christians were practicing what was unnatural to them – not loving the brethren. The Apostle John was warning them against staying in that state and of denial and reminding them of the restorative process of repentance and forgiveness so that they could be restored to where God wants them to be.

      • Exactly for it is impossible for a child of God. Borne after the Spirit and not after the flesh will ever continue in sinning.

  12. Good Gospel Paul. Thanks so much. God Bless

  13. Paul Ellis I agree with you so why churches teach about sin over and over instead of who we are in Christ?

  14. Good job with this topic! A very important message to us all.

  15. Nice post Paul .
    question ..Apart from the original sin …which the lamb of God took away .
    is there any other sin?

  16. Well Said…. And now I’m busking in the unforced rythms of Grace

  17. sylvan naidoo // April 28, 2014 at 11:24 pm // Reply

    How do I…

  18. Dear Paul, no matter what, I believe Grace is the answer. I haven’t understood all of it, but I’m clinging to it. Let’s face it, it’s all I have.

    Just something in the post above, though, and it’s still an answer I’m trying to grasp properly. You say:

    “Don’t ever fall for the lie that says “I can go on sinning so that grace may abound.” True, your sinning won’t affect God’s love for you, but it will surely affect you. It will enslave you and ultimately kill you. This is not God’s will for your life.”

    This sounds exactly like what the anti-Grace preachers say. It appears to suggest that although an abundance of Grace is available, I should still use my own effort (some may say “will”) to keep myself from sinning. Obviously that is not the case, as it is only leading to frustration and repeated failure. Can you please shed some light on this…the end of the tunnel is surely approaching.

    Note: I have already shared your blog link with a good friend and workmate (who’s now leaving) and have highly recommended it to him. We frequently share new messages we hear from Joseph Prince, et al.

    Thanks and regards.

    • It is true that hyper-grace and mixed-grace preachers want the same thing. We want holiness, obedience, and righteousness. The difference is in how those outcomes are attained. A mixed-grace preacher calls for effort, which, as you’ve noted, leads to frustration and failure. A hyper-grace preacher calls you to fix your eyes on Jesus (not yourself), reckon yourself dead to sin, put off the old, be clothed with the new, and a hundred other NT exhortations. There is much more to say about this and I don’t have space here to say it. So let me point you to some good books, such as Bill Gillham’s Lifetime Guarantee and Jim Richards’ Grace: The Power to Change.

      • Mark Reddiar // June 3, 2014 at 9:01 pm //

        Hi Charles, You are absolutely correct in your assumptions, and Paul pointed out in absolute truth that there are two distinct teachings regarding sin.

        Now consider this: if you’ve ever been on a diet or if you go to the Gym, or start a healthy lifestyle, or give up any addiction, you would understand that you need to use your will power to get things that are not easily achievable and you want to strive for the goals you set. But if you speak to any person, who successfully lost weight or gave up some addiction they would tell you. They didn’t use will power like you may understand it, they had to change the way they thought completely.

        You see the issue in your question is that you assume that you must strive using willpower to be sin free, and that is not what is being said, but rather you must strive for righteousness(could not think of a better word), using correct thinking(Be ye transformed by the renewal of your mind).

        If you understood that you are free from the bondage of sin, you would realise that you are righteous, and if you accept that you are righteous, and actually believed it, you would start behaving like you were righteous. Andrew Wommack puts it best, Under grace you do more right by default, than you ever did by trying, under the law.

        You see Grace is not a licence to sin, it is freedom from sin. Accepting this will automatically make you a law abiding citizen, not by will power but by default, you will become what you believe you are(as a man thinks in his heart so is he). So think in your heart that you are free from sin and that there is no sin in you, and that you are a new creation, and that you are a child of God, etc….., and you will become that.

  19. Thank you both Paul and Mark, for your replies. I feel like the guy Creflo talks about, standing next to the well, but for some unknown reason, not drawing water and quenching my thirst. I can see the bucket there, I can see the rope is tied to the bucket, yet staring at it, believing I can use it to get water, but still standing motionless. You know what, I think something’s going to give, and pretty soon. It’ll be like a lightbulb coming on, and suddenly that well will turn into a gushing fountain. I do look forward to it.

    Blessings to all of you. I think that in these end times, the Gospel of Grace, which indeed is the Gospel, is going to flood the nations in a spectacular way.

  20. Isaac Kyei Andoh // October 20, 2014 at 11:54 pm // Reply

    Beautiful discussion… very impressed with both angles, but I want to relate that with what Jesus and the Apostles taught. Jesus taught is to ” take up our cross and follow him” most preachers teach us to admire Jesus than to take up our cross and follow him. Taking up our cross is very far from only rejoicing in the work done in us, but it also means we have to sacrifice our ego, pride and allow the Holy Spirit to lead even through the mud.

    Jesus said the path is a narrow one. one of self denial, reject, discrimination and loneliness…. Carrying my Cross and constantly seeking the narrow way in every situation. I find the teachings that say your effort matters less too broad.

  21. More grace preachers need to talk about this.
    I have seen some people taking advantage of the grace of God to commit more sins

  22. Seamegbe Ernest // December 28, 2014 at 7:07 am // Reply

    God bless you

  23. Very interesting!! How about them that preach this Grace and conclude that a believer cannot sin ..?

  24. Well balanced approach to grace compared to fake grace that is preached to fill churches and not heaven. it’s the first time i ever got such explicit definition and expounding of grace. blessings.

  25. Thomas Settle // April 14, 2016 at 2:22 am // Reply

    I personally have struggled with verses like these in the new testament that tell us to not continue in sin. I tried to redefine what sin was…I tried to rack my brain to believe anything but that this verse was true, that we ought not to continue in sin.

    I was believing that living my life how I wanted was what would bring me true joy. As long as I “believed” that God loved me, I could still live a lifestyle of saying yes to my fleshly desires.

    This made the bible hard for me to read, as I couldn’t help but get away from God’s call to confront the sin in our hearts, to truly examine ourselves. This made any exhortation to stop sinning seem like legalism to me! How messed up is that?? The dangers of legalism are real, and we need not trust in our own righteousness. But like this post is saying, I need to trust that I have really died to sin, and I have really been made alive in Christ.

    I did not believe that if I turned from sin and pursued righteousness, that God would show himself to me, and that he would work his resurrection power in me.

    My roommate challenged me to dig deeper. He called out my hate-for-legalism and love-for-God’s-love as a cover-up for the evil in my life. He kept on affirming my belief in God’s love as ever abounding, but he asked me, “Do you not know that God’s kindness is meant to lead us to repentance?”

    Now that I see all this, I can be thankful about God’s provision, I can be honest about my sin, I can believe that he will give me the power to resist temptation! (something I didn’t believe before!) Now I can wake up each day wanting to please God! and I can wake up praying for the provision of his Spirit of Love, so that I “no longer live for [myself], but for him who for [my] sake, died and was buried.”

    Continue in Love! Pray for Wisdom; believe you will receive it! Don’t consider yourself wise in your own eyes!

    Before now I thought my understanding of grace and sanctification were spot on, now I know that I am wrong, and that God is right. My view of God has been renewed. My roommate encouraged me to never have the mindset that I have arrived, the very mindset that I denied that I had had, but which deceived me more than I knew.

  26. Carolyn Caldwell // May 15, 2016 at 11:12 pm // Reply

    Good message. Most denominations teach faith only (just believe) and once saved always saved….. aka a license to sin. God’s word says even the demons believe. We cannot earn salvation through good deeds but we are given acts of obedience that demonstrate a “saving” faith. Confession, repentance, and yes even baptism., then remaining faithful. Acts 2:38 – Mark 16:15-16 – Romans 10:9-10 -Acts 20:21- Matthew 7 : 21-23, Hebrews 10 : 23-31.
    Seldom do you hear repentance taught as a condition of salvation for unbelievers or our way back to grace for those who believe. . Yet an unrepentant heart is the only unforgivable sin.

  27. Paul I don’t know where to post this. It’s about abundant grace teaching. If there is no condemnation in Christ where we sow to life and peace or sin and death, then why do so many people being told you have only one choice grace. if it’s a free choice great. and there should be no condemnation either way. God believes in us. We cannot lose sight of that. And we need not take grace as a license. But by the way. How does one get a medical license? Or an engineering license? Or an account license. I need direction! Or a police license? I don’t want a criminal license since I know that I’m dead. My death is not hidden though Satan tries to hide it. I have the past of Jesus Christ through baptism (dipping) into the river of the water and so the Holy Spirit. good news.

  28. Hello…I have a very difficult problem. First, I want to thank you, Mr. Ellis, because this site has been a real blessing. It feels like I have either finally understood the gospel, or just discovered it. I believe your interpretation of grace, even though it does feel like I am taking a risk. But there’s still one complicated issue that I have not seen you address in your site…

    You see, sadly I am 20 years old and a homosexual(or rather I should say I struggle with homosexual attractions). Long before coming to Christ, I entered a relationship with someone. It’s been a year and a half since I first believed, but ever since then, I’ve internally struggled to break up with him. I know what the Bible says. I won’t try to justify it at all. Sin is sin. But I feel like my problem is really difficult. When I was baptized last October, I broke up with him on that same day(against my heart) because I wanted to live for Christ…and what happened? I seeked him again after only 2 days and we immediately got back together. This has inwardly been tormenting me all this time because I know I am a new creation that does not need a sinful relationship, but in my heart, I still have a strong romantic love for my partner of 5 years. What can I do in this difficult situation?

    (Also please excuse me if this is the wrong place to comment, I found this website only a few days ago.)

  29. Wow. Another one of Daddy God’s children who gets grace. Even though I don’t know who you are I enjoyed this article greatly. The Holy Spirit spoke to me a number of times and places in this article. It gave me the guidance I have been seeking the Father for. Thank you for your obedience to our Daddy God. He used you to help me today my Brother.

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