The problem of Cheap Grace

Back to Index


Rom 3:3-8 GW  What if some of them were unfaithful? Can their unfaithfulness cancel God's faithfulness?  (4)  That would be unthinkable! God is honest, and everyone else is a liar, (you and I are not true to God’s Word as He is) as Scripture says, "So you hand down justice when you speak, and you win your case in court."  (5)  But if what we do wrong shows that God is fair, what should we say? Is God unfair when he vents his anger on us? (I'm arguing the way humans would.)  (6)  That's unthinkable! Otherwise, how would God be able to judge the world?  (7)  If my lie (not being true to God’s Word, or sin) increases the glory that God receives by showing that God is truthful, why am I still judged as a sinner?  (8)  Or can we say, "Let's do evil so that good will come from it"? Some slander us and claim that this is what we say. They are condemned, and that's what they deserve.

Sin is sin. We can call it lying, or “negative biblical evaluation” if we want, but it doesn’t alter the fact that sin is disobedience to God’s Word.  God’s Word does not change. Man and his opinion and understanding of God’s Word may change or be clouded and often it is, but that does not change the fact that God’s Word is unalterable...Jesus Christ, (The Word) is the same yesterday, today, and forever!

Heb 13:8 GW  Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.


Through the ages men have used God’s Word to justify all manner of ungodly behavior. Men have killed other men thinking they were doing God a favor. The Jews thought they were doing God a favor when they put the “blasphemer Jesus” to death. Saul thought he was doing God a favor when he put Christians to death, the Inquisition, the burnings at the stake, all in the name of God and supported by a twisted or short sighted, or clouded  view of Scripture.

Slavery, degradation of women, the extermination of the Jews are other examples of people using Scripture to justify ungodly behavior. But before we put on our “holier than thou” robes, we need to realize that  every time we sin, every time we disobey God, we are elevating our opinion, our understanding above God’s,................................ clouded view or not!.  Sin is sin!

Further we need to acknowledge  that we do not have our act completely together. There are sins in our lives that we are not even aware of. We have either justified them somehow in our mind, or we are just ignorant of the Word of God, or have misapplied His Word to our given situation and so we must ask with the Psalmist:

Psa 19:12 GW  Who can notice every mistake? Forgive my hidden faults.

Only the Holy Spirit knows our every mistake, only God knows the condition of our hearts.

Psa 33:15 GW  The one who formed their hearts understands everything they do.

David knew about such sins, he knew about hidden faults. He knew what happens when we “re-interpret” Scripture to excuse our actions. The Bible says, “Thou shalt not kill.” David knew that, but you see he didn’t actually kill Bathsheeba’s husband. That happened on the battlefield, therefore even though David arranged for her husband to be put in a very dangerous spot in the battle,  he was not the one who threw the spear.

Oh how we can justify our sin and pretend it isn’t there.

But it was there. God considered David’s actions sin whether David did or not,  and after using Nathan to confront David and his sin, David confessed, and eventually wrote the 51st Psalm, which is what Paul is quoting from here concerning the right justice of God against sin.   

David said:

Psa 51:4 GW  I have sinned against you, especially you. I have done what you consider evil. So you hand down justice when you speak, and you are blameless when you judge.

Incidentally, note the simplicity of the confession. No excuses, no self-evaluation as to what caused him to act in such a way. “Lord, I was lonely that night, the men were away at war and I needed a way to express my manhood.


How was I to know she would get pregnant? Then I tried to make it right by having her husband brought back from the battle, but that didn’t work and I guess I panicked, oh put a sock in it people!  Stop trying to explain your sin and do what David did.“I have sinned against the Lord!

Praise the Lord that Nathan brought some negative biblical evaluation to David in relation to his actions with Bathsheeba! When confronted David confessed and repented and his relationship with God was restored, and he wrote those beautiful words of Ps. 51: “Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation!”.

David’s confession proves anew that God is right and man is once again wrong. So ultimately God is glorified. His truth goes marching on! Glory, glory, halleluiah! But wait a minute! If God is ultimately glorified by proving He is right and we are wrong, then why should He punish our sins. Why should we be judged as sinners? We’re making Him look good aren’t we?

First of all, God doesn’t need our help to look good. God is not worried about looking good like so many of us are. God IS good!

God’s good grace doesn’t need our sin to show how magnificent it is. It’s true to one extent that our sin does show how amazing His grace is and how forgiving and loving He is, but should we blatantly flaunt our sin to magnify His grace? Paul speaks of this in Romans 6:1 and answers with a resounding no!

Rom 6:1-2a GW  What should we say then? Should we continue to sin so that God's kindness will increase?  (2)  That's unthinkable!

God’s grace does not need to be magnified, what needs to be magnified is our response to it!

Luk 7:36-47 GW  One of the Pharisees invited Jesus to eat with him. Jesus went to the Pharisee's house and was eating at the table.  (37)  A woman who lived a sinful life in that city found out that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's house. So she took a bottle of perfume  (38)  and knelt at his feet. She was crying and washed his feet with her tears. Then she dried his feet with her hair, kissed them over and over again, and poured the perfume on them.  (39)  The Pharisee who had invited Jesus saw this and thought, "If this man really were a prophet, he would know what sort of woman is touching him. She's a sinner."  (40)  Jesus spoke up, "Simon, I have something to say to you." Simon replied, "Teacher, you're free to speak."  (41)  So Jesus said, "Two men owed a moneylender some money. One owed him five hundred silver coins, and the other owed him fifty.  (42)  When they couldn't pay it back, he was kind enough to cancel their debts. Now, who do you think will love him the most?"  (43)  Simon answered, "I suppose the one who had the largest debt canceled." Jesus said to him, "You're right!"  (44)  Then, turning to the woman, he said to Simon, "You see this woman, don't you? I came into your house. You didn't wash my feet. But she has washed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair.  (45)  You didn't give me a kiss. But ever since I came in, she has not stopped kissing my feet.  (46)  You didn't put any olive oil on my head. But she has poured perfume on my feet.  (47)  That's why I'm telling you that her many sins have been forgiven. Her great love proves that. But whoever receives little forgiveness loves very little."
Was God’s grace magnified? No it was the same grace that He offers to you today, and it is no small thing, but our response should be the same as this woman’s response. Magnified, unbridled love and appreciation....and I might add, obedience. “Go and sin no more, go and be disobedient no more applies to this woman, to you and I, just as much as it applied to the woman caught in the act of adultery.

I was reading in Hebrews 3 this week, and I want to share something with you that really cements the link between obedience and faith.

Heb 3:12-19 GW  Be careful, brothers and sisters, that none of you ever develop a wicked, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. (You can lose your salvation!)   

(13)  Encourage each other every day while you have the opportunity. (Every opportunity we have, we need to encourage each other to continue to trust in salvation by grace AND to encourage obedience!)

If you do this, none of you will be deceived by sin and become stubborn. ( If we hold each other accountable, and if we are willing to receive our brothers or sisters correction we will not be deceived or become hard hearted)  

(14)  After all, we will remain Christ's partners only if we continue to hold on to our original confidence until the end.  (Again we need to finish the race or we lose our salvation)  
(15)  Scripture says, "If you hear God speak today, (all correction must come from the Word of God) don't be stubborn. Don't be stubborn like those who rebelled."

 (16)  Who heard God and rebelled? All those whom Moses led out of Egypt rebelled.  (17)  With whom was God angry for 40 years? He was angry with those who sinned and died in the desert. (they were denied access to the Promised Land, a foreshadowing of not finishing the race and not being granted entrance into heaven.)  

(18)  Who did God swear would never enter his place of rest? He was talking about those who didn't obey him. (You can say that you have faith in Christ, you can claim to be a believer but if you don’t show evidence of belief through obedience the bottom line is you are not a believer, and rather than magnifying God’s riches at Christ expense (grace) you cheapen it.)   

(19)  So we see that they couldn't enter his place of rest because they didn't believe. ( Was it their disobedience that disqualified them? Not directly, it was only a fruit of their disbelief)

There is a direct, unmistakable link between faith and obedience in scripture. Faith without works is dead!.

Yes, God is glorified when sin is confessed and forgiven as the psalmist said,

Psalm 21:5 “His glory is great in thy salvation”  and as Jesus said in Luke:
Luk 15:7 GW  I can guarantee that there will be more happiness in heaven over one person who turns to God and changes the way he thinks and acts than over 99 people who already have turned to God and have his approval."

The 99 have God’s approval, but they can lose it if they revert back to and continue in rebellion. The 99 must not revert back to sin, they must not live as if there are no rules, for if they do, they bring shame to the glory of God!

Psalm 4:2 - How long, O you sons of men, will you turn My glory to shame? How long will you love worthlessness and seek falsehood?” (Read that seek sin.)

We do not demonstrate our freedom in Christ by blatantly sinning. There seems to be a mindset in the church today that says, “Rules? There are no rules! Only believe in Jesus, mouth a confession, receive His forgiveness and then continue on your merry way with no thought of changing. No thought of allowing the Holy Spirit to convict us of our sin.

We seem to be content to let our sins remain a secret to us, that’s what David did and he paid a high emotional price, he lost his joy!

Instead of coming to the Holy Spirit and asking Him to show us more. Show me Lord other areas that I’m missing, show me where I am being a liar, show me where I am ignoring your negative biblical evaluations!
Folks none of us have “arrived” God has some serious work he still wants to and needs to do in each one of us.

And if I’m reading this passage in Hebrews correct, one of the ways He will do that is through mutual encouragement and accountability. The first step in that process at Living Word is to get into the Spiritual Travel Guide small group, and continuing in small group Bible Study thereafter.  

As Paul preached the Gospel message of grace, two bad things had happened. Some people claimed that he was preaching cheap grace, and Paul called such charges slander, actually in the Greek the word means blasphemy. Whoa, that in itself should tell us that it is wrong to live in such a way. It is wrong to flaunt sin in order for grace to abound.

The second bad thing is others actually “affirmed” this erroneous interpretation of his teaching and lived sinful lives to demonstrate how wonderful God’s grace is. People were actually doing evil so good would come.
Please note what Paul says about such people, “They are condemned and that’s what they deserve.”

Do you still want to continue to live in open rebellion against the Word of God? Do you still want to trumpet the wonders of God’s grace as you willfully and stubbornly resist the Holy Spirit’s attempts to change you and mold you into the image of Christ?
This is serious business and I’m afraid the church is getting mired deeper and deeper in this philosophy of cheap grace as she seeks to increase her numbers at all costs. We don’t want to preach obedience, it might scare prospective members away.  We don’t want to take a stand for righteousness, it might make people comfortable.

I tell you what, when we lose our boldness to preach the Word of God, we have lost Jesus. We have lost the shekinah glory.

Act 4:13 GW  After they found out that Peter and John had no education or special training, they were surprised to see how boldly they spoke. They realized that these men had been with Jesus.

As we spend time with Jesus in prayer and in reading His Word, as we spend time getting to know Him and His truth, as we yield our own obedience to Him, He gives us boldness.

This whole idea of cheap grace popped up elsewhere in the NT.  It was the same attitude that the church at Corinth had, remember? There was a man in that church who was blatantly committing incest. The Corinthians, rather than coming alongside this man and encouraging him to give it up, rather than placing him under church discipline, were bragging about it!

Oh yes, you know, we accept those who commit incest in our church. There are many churches today who are accepting all manner of sexual sin. They are soooo enlightened, so quick to show the world that it doesn’t matter how you live, God will accept you. But they have it wrong.
It’s true God will accept you where you are right now, He will hear your heartfelt confession of sin and your desire to repent and surrender to Him. He will forgive you and cleanse you if you just call on His name.....but He will not tolerate your continued ignoring of His rules.

As we have seen in the Hebrews passage, your continued disobedience is evidence of your unbelief. And this whole church at Corinth had to be straightened out in this matter.

I see more and more of this in the church today, someone told me recently that her church was becoming so broad minded their brains were falling out!

More and more churches are seeking to become sooo enlightened, sooo free, so embracing of all manner of sin, that they are becoming like this Corinthian church.

Listen to what Paul said to them:

1Co 5:6-8 GW  It's not good for you to brag. Don't you know that a little yeast spreads through the whole batch of dough? (That’s why this preacher is not ashamed to say, if your church refuses to deal with sin in the camp...leave it before you are infected. One of the first things you should ask before joining a body of believers is “how do you handle church discipline.”

 (7)  Remove the old yeast of sin so that you may be a new batch of dough, since you don't actually have the yeast of sin. Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.  
(8)  So we must not celebrate our festival with the old yeast of sin or with the yeast of vice and wickedness. Instead, we must celebrate it with the bread of purity and truth that has no yeast.

Not that we must be perfect when we come to communion, for no one would be able to participate,  but we must be willing to make serious efforts to remove those sins from our lives. We must not come to the table with hearts tainted by willful rebellion. The sin of willful rebellion is an attempt to cheapen grace and it slanders the message of paul and the other apostles, and it slanders Christ.

The message for us today from this text is simple. God is glorified whenever a sinner repents and turns to Him, but He is never glorified when His grace is cheapened, and His grace is cheapened when we stubbornly choose to disobey Him, when we stubbornly refuse His correction and still claim to be Christians.