When you preach grace, you’re always going to be met with this question: Is grace a license to sin? When you tell people that Jesus just gives you eternal life as a free gift totally apart from your works, totally apart from whether you’re a good person or a bad person (and really we are all bad people) but he just gives bad people eternal life, who simply believe in him for it. People are outraged at that. It seems totally unfair. They want to be able to earn their salvation or to deserve it or be able to boast before God that “Yes, I was better than the other person. That’s why I’m saved.” But when you preach God’s free grace, they think “If people hear that, what’s going to happen is they’re going to take that as an excuse to sin.” So the question is: Is grace a license to sin?
The first thing I want to mention about that is: I love hearing that question because if I hear that question, that means I have communicated the grace message clearly. If you have never heard that question, it could be because you’re preaching gospel salvation by works. It might be you are preaching a mixed message because when you preach salvation by works, no one asks you if grace is a license to sin. Because they all understand “If I sin, I’m not going to go to heaven when I die.” But when you preach grace and you say the only people who get saved are sinners, that’s when that question gets brought up. So I’m happy to hear that question. That means the outrageousness of grace has been communicated.
I’d like to point you to Roman 6:1 Paul preached grace. In the beginning of the book of Romans, he clearly shows that we’re justified by faith apart from works. And so because he preached grace, Paul heard that question and here is how he answered it. “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?” It’s a rhetorical question. The answer is: Of course we shouldn’t continue in sin. You and I are sinners and we’re going to use all kinds of excuses to sin. We don’t need a license to sin; we sin anyway. We have free will and we choose to sin for all kinds of reasons. And it’s true there are some people who are going to take grace as an excuse to sin but they’re going to take anything as an excuse to sin.
But the true effective grace is something quite the opposite. Grace does not promote sin but it promotes holiness. Titus 2:11 says “For the grace of God that brings salvation…” So grace brings salvation. The basis of your salvation is purely the grace of God, not your works. It is God’s unmerited favor shown to you through Jesus who saves you by faith apart from works. “The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men teaching us that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously and godly in the present age…” What does grace do? It teaches you to live a godly life because one of the strongest motivations for living for Christ is gratitude at his extravagant and free gift of eternal life by simply believing in him. So is grace a license to sin? Only for people who are going to sin anyway. Instead grace is motivation for Godly living.