By Shawn Willson
A Common Accusation
Someone recently shared with me an article by R.C. Sproul entitled, “What Is Saving Faith?” (www.ligonier.org/blog/what-savingfaith/). In Sproul’s definition, he made the following statement defining the Free Grace view of saving faith from his perspective: “for antinomians, faith minus works equals justification.”
The Free Grace community would proudly proclaim Sproul’s math equation as the Biblical message of salvation. Faith with no works added does equal justification—as long as that faith is set on the object of Jesus Christ and His promise for eternal life.
But the question for our detractors, such as the late R.C. Sproul, is this: Does this make the Free Grace community out to be antinomians, encouraging lawlessness or unrighteous living?
The entire Free Grace community would loudly answer, “No!”
Whenever we are charged with being antinomians, we answer with the Apostle Paul’s words in Romans:
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? (Rom 6:1-2).
We are horrified that anyone would see Christ’s grace as a motivation to remain in sin. Instead, we call the church to walk in the new life given to her by our Savior Jesus Christ.
Free Grace people do not tolerate sin more so than the Reformed. However, we have a different motivation to put off sin and to follow God’s commandments. While Free Grace proponents do not require any works to obtain justification in Christ, we do preach other significant drivers to motivate the Christian to do good works.
I want you to spend a few minutes with me tracking the Biblical reasons to turn from sin and turn to holiness.
Love For God
The most obvious and repeated reason to obey God is out of love.
The greatest commandment is to love the Lord with all your heart, soul, and strength (Deut 6:5).
One of the last lessons given by Jesus to His disciples was the significance of love as an inspiration of obedience (John 14:15-24). Jesus didn’t want His followers to obey Him out of fear and guilt, but out of love and gratitude. Perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18). So we should never obey out of fear over a possible removal from the family of God (which is impossible). We should serve in loving confidence of our security in God’s family.
Love For Others
The second reason is due to the second greatest commandment—we are to love others (Matt 22:36-40).
The most loving action you can do for any person is to obey the will of God. Pride, selfishness, greed, and lust all harm those who are closest to us. The adult child who is stuck in self-destructive behaviors causes as much if not more damage to his parents as to himself. We clear sin out of our lives to show love to others.
One of the most beautiful chapters in all of the Bible is 1 Corinthians 13, which proclaims the importance of our love for others.
Fellowship with the Spirit
Another reason is to grow in fellowship with the Spirit.
At the moment of belief, the redeemed are sealed by the Holy Spirit. Your body becomes the temple of the Holy Spirit. For this reason, the Christian should take great care in guarding and nurturing his relationship with the Spirit.
Paul calls on us not to grieve the Holy Spirit (Eph 4:30). One of your highest concerns should be not to insult or offend the Holy Spirit who always indwells you for both God’s glory and your good.
Paul also warns us not to quench the Spirit (1 Thess 5:19), which pictures the extinguishing or suppression of the work of the Spirit in us.
We walk in holiness because we want to grow and develop our walk with the Spirit and do not want to insult and suppress His work in and through us.
Living for eternal rewards should not be an afterthought in the life of the believer. Jesus commands us to lay up treasures in heaven (Matt 6:16-20). We are to set our minds on Christ in glory and not the things of this world.
Jesus has given us all talents and gifts, but He desires us to take those gifts and use them to multiply His work on earth as we await His return.
That focus on eternity should have a tremendous impact on how we follow God’s Word in obedience today.
Jesus was the light of the world (John 8:12). All those who follow Jesus will not walk in darkness but in light (1 John 1:7). Jesus said, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Jesus has ascended into heaven, so at this time, we are the light of the world (Matt 5:14). If we hide ourselves under the sins of the flesh and out of fear of men, how will the world be able to see our light that reflects the true light of Jesus Christ? The world must hear to believe, but how will they believe if we do not go to them with the truth of the gospel?
We obey God’s calling to bring the love of the gospel to the world.
Jesus not only desired us to preach the good news of salvation by faith alone, but His final command was to go and make disciples out of the nations (Matt 28:18-20). A disciple is simply a learner, someone who is active in learning from someone who is spiritually mature. How can we hope to make disciples of others if we are not an active disciple of the things of God in our own lives?
The disciples multiplied their faith in Christ and their faithfulness to His Word during the first generation of the church, because they spent three years at the feet of the Master. Do you want to make disciples of others? Then you must first be a disciple yourself in obedience to the truth.
I could go on with many more reasons to obey God—from your family’s health, to your own spiritual health, to the benefit for your community—but we would be wise to take a moment to list the wrong reasons to obey God.
Unbiblical Reasons to Obey
I don’t think anyone should need much of an argument as to why these are not godly reasons for obedience. Just ask yourself, “Would I want my children, spouse, or friends to follow or love me for these reasons?” If sinners like us wouldn’t use these motivations, why would God?
For example, don’t obey God to prove your place in His family. God doesn’t make obedience the standard for your place in His family in the same way you don’t do that to your kids.
Don’t obey God out of guilt over past sins. Your sins are forgiven and removed by the blood of Christ. Serve out of love and not to cover guilt that has been washed clean by Christ.
Don’t obey God to earn His love. If God’s love for you was based on your obedience, He would only be a deity trying to get something from you.
Don’t obey God to gain assurance. Your assurance should come from the promises and faithfulness of Jesus Christ and not your feeble efforts.
Finally, don’t obey God to manipulate Him to follow your desires. God is not a vending machine where we give Him $100 in the offering plate and can expect to get $200 back.
Free Grace Christians loudly proclaim countless benefits for obedience to Christ. The key to our benefits for obedience in comparison to the Reformed or Lordship community is the spiritual and mental health these benefits bring. We do not call for obedience out of fear, guilt, shame, or a need to secure our place in the family of God. We obey out of love, hope, and a position of confidence. Don’t allow someone to accuse you of lawlessness or of being a promoter of sin. Proclaim the importance of obedience out of a place of confidence and not fear.
Shawn Willson is the pastor of Grace Community Bible Church and the author of Reset Your Life. He lives in River Ridge, LA, with his lovely wife Jennifer and their four loud children. Check out his Rev Reads channel on YouTube.