Is it safe to tell a new believer about grace? The word itself appears about 120 times in the New Testament so it must have some significance for us. The Judaizers in the Apostle Paul’s day hated grace and feared what it would do if it got loose. “Paul, you can’t tell them that! These people are immature and have little religious background. They will abuse it at the first opportunity and there will be no stopping them.” Have you ever considered whether there is validity to such a concern, even for us today?
Paul understood that concern and had struggles of his own. Just like we do. Paul knew (and we need to) that we will always wrestle to some degree with our flesh, the way we ordered our lives before we surrendered to Christ. Here’s what Paul said. “I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law, but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of sin at work within my members. Wretched man that I am!” (Rom. 8:21-24)
Paul would agree that the Judaizers (and present day legalists) would have a great point were it not for two truths. First, these new believers, as do you and I, have a new nature, even though it is in its infancy and in a pretty rough form. 2 Cor. 5:17 establishes that truth. Because of this, our personal sin should be increasingly repulsive to us. We don’t continue to sin so that grace is poured out on us, we sin because we still struggle with old ways and are drawn to them despite the fact we died to sin. (Rom. 6:2) Paul asks, “how can we live in it any longer?” Because we have identified (been baptized) into Christ’s death, we also are united with Him in the resurrection, a new life.
Those who truly have Christ in them, and we shouldn’t have to guess who that is, are not who they were. They don’t want to get away with anything. They aren’t looking for loopholes. They want to enjoy God and trust in the work God has begun in them, that He will be faithful to complete what He intends. (Phil. 1:6) They have confidence in God’s acceptance. They walk the path of trusting God at His word and that He is working, despite their blindness, slowness and setbacks. They live confidently not to please God in order to win or maintain His favor, but just because they love Him back and understand He understands us and is familiar with our struggles. As we labor with concern over our mountain of sin, it is no longer part of a gulf between us and God. God has His hand on our shoulder as we look at our ugly sin and determine together how we will overcome it.
Paul would also remind those who fear new believers will be reckless with grace that the Holy Spirit now lives in these new creations and is on the job to correct, encourage, teach truth, rebuke and challenge. From this point on God will show us in a beautiful way and without condemnation (Rom. 8:1) that He alone will satisfy us and we will grow in our desire and long to obey Him. When we come to the place where our motive is to trust God and His plans for us and His work in us, we will discover there is nothing in the world that please Him more. We cease striving and find rest in Him, no longer running on the treadmill of works and acceptance which we hope will be granted based on our performance.
So, yes. Teach these new believers how amazing this grace really is. Help them to begin wrapping their mind around it and the freedom it gives us to know God and respond to Him in the intimacy He enjoys. Think About It.