Spirit of Grace Ministries
Spirit of Grace Ministries
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Must We Keep God's Commands?

By Dennis Pollock


Some would tell us that keeping God's commands is entirely irrelevant for Christians today. We are not saved by law, and therefore we are under no compulsion to keep God's laws, rules, and commands. Faith alone is how we are saved and throughout our Christian life, if we believe that Jesus died for our sins and rose again, we are in good shape, regardless of how godly or wickedly we live.


Certainly, it is true that we are saved "by grace through faith" in Jesus. There is exactly one "law" by which we are saved: we "believe on the Lord Jesus Christ." "Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." (Romans 5:1). But this by no means infers that our behavior and our lifestyle are irrelevant to God. The truth is, God has all kinds of laws or rules about how Christians are to live.


This same Paul who tells us that we are saved by faith in Jesus has all kinds of things to say about the lifestyle of the believer. And Jesus Himself was quite opinionated about the way His followers must live, and even declared: "If you love me, keep my commandments." It's not as though you can say, "I'm saved by grace, so I don't have to love my neighbor. I'm saved by grace, so I don't have to forgive people if they hurt my feelings. I'm saved by grace, so I don't have to live a sexually pure life. Praise God I am free – free to lust, free to covet, free to lie, free to shoplift, free to spend long hours indulging in pornography."


Commands or Suggestions?


The question is this: When Jesus tells us that we must love God with all our heart and love our neighbors as ourselves, are those really commands, or are they suggestions, or are they entirely irrelevant for grace Christians today? When Paul says men must love their wives, are we free to disregard this? What about the commands to bear with one another, to abhor what is evil and cling to what is good, to avoid drunkenness, to be gentle and peaceful, to be patient in tribulation, to bless those who persecute us, and to repay no one evil for evil… When we read these things in the New Testament, are we free to totally ignore them? Do they even matter for Christians saved by grace?


The truth is that the New Testament is permeated with exhortations and commands about how we are to live, from the Sermon on the Mount to the Epistles of Paul, and all the rest. The Holy Spirit has a lot to say about our lifestyle. In fact, there is far more in the New Testament about how believers are to live than there is about how to be saved. Here's a news bulletin: God cares a lot about how His children live and behave!


The Holy Spirit makes it plain that if we do not care about a godly lifestyle if we assume that because we are saved by grace, this means we can live selfish, sensual, immoral lives, it is proof positive that we have never truly tasted the grace of Christ. In the Book of Revelation, we read this:


He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death. (Revelation 21:8)


Real Faith


Many who support the "only believe and live as wickedly as you like" concept would have written this differently. They would simply have said that all unbelievers will have their part in the lake of fire – period. But the Holy Spirit goes beyond that. He lists specific sins, such as murder, sexual immorality, and lying which can send you to this terrible place of punishment. When we weigh this with all the rest of the New Testament, we must conclude that if you are a regular fornicator, liar, or murderer, you surely must not be a genuine believer, and you will find yourself in that terrible place of misery after you are judged by Christ.


In the Book of Galatians, Paul declares:


Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)


Here is a still longer list of specific sinful habits which will keep you out of heaven, given by Paul, the apostle of grace. He does not mention unbelief here. He just starts naming various sins, which, if practiced regularly, will disqualify you from an eternal home in the presence of God. People who do these things will not go to heaven, no matter how many times they have prayed the sinner's prayer, or how often they have called themselves, "sinners saved by grace." They are sinners, alright, but they have never been saved by grace. Making it a lifelong practice to hate, fornicate, rage at their spouses and children, and participate in drinking parties, they have a Biblical guarantee that they will not inherit the kingdom of God.


"Faith" Negated by Lifestyle


These kinds of warnings are so plentiful throughout the New Testament that there is no question about this. Men and women who regularly and flagrantly defy the laws of God will not go to heaven, even if their closet is filled with Christian t-shirts and their car's bumper is crowded with Christian bumper stickers. They may well think of themselves as believers; they might be able to pass a Christian theology test with flying colors, but they are not Christians, and their behavior demonstrates this clearly.


Should ministers warn sinners who are considering becoming Christians that their behavior is going to have to change? Or should they be silent about this and focus on "only believe?" The Bible reveals the answer. The apostle Paul, history's foremost preacher of grace, had this to say about his evangelistic ministry:


[I] declared first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance. (Acts 26:20)


So Paul, by his own mouth, tells us that in his soul-winning preaching, he insisted that to become a Christian it would be necessary to repent and to do works that line up with their repentance. None of this: "I'm a sinner saved by grace, so of course I will sleep around, steal from my company, lie when I find it helpful, and beat my wife when she needs a good beating." No, Paul warned his potential converts from the get-go that along with their faith in Christ, there must be an accompanying lifestyle that demonstrates true repentance. Genuine faith creates a transformed life, pseudo-faith will leave your life unchanged, and you will be just as wicked, selfish, and sexually immoral as you were before you "believed."


Willing to Forsake All


Jesus also addressed this issue, saying:


For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it–lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, "This man began to build and was not able to finish." …So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple. (Luke 14:28-33)


Jesus, like Paul, is telling us to consider, from the outset of our potential enrollment as a disciple, whether we are willing to go the distance, pay the price, and be willing to sacrifice all to follow Him. In another place He says, "If you love Me, keep my commandments." (John 14:15). Of course, some might say, "Well I don't really love Jesus. I have no desire to keep His commandments. And I certainly do not want to become His disciple. The requirements are too strict, and I have no interest in surrendering everything to Him. I just don't want to go to hell. I want to make it to heaven, without all that messy business of repenting from my sins, changing my ways, or giving up my pornography. I just want to be a 'sinner saved by grace,' not a saint."


But Jesus gives us no choice about this. He tells us that many will stand before Him on Judgment Day and boast of how much they have done in His name. And then He will tell them, "I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness." (Matthew 7:23). These people clearly thought they were believers. They had done many good deeds "in His name." They had attended church, and said things like, "Praise the Lord," and "God is good." But their pseudo-faith, unaccompanied by a godly lifestyle, was insufficient, and they found out too late that though they had pretended to know Christ, He had never known them.


Go On Sinning?


The apostle Paul, after teaching carefully and methodically about salvation by grace through faith in the early chapters of the Book of Romans, apparently realized that some would take this teaching to mean that a godly lifestyle was not required, so he wrote: "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?" (Romans 6:1-2). James was even blunter, writing: "You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe–and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?" (James 2:19-20).


What we want is living faith – living faith in the living resurrected Christ! And that kind of faith, real faith, Holy Spirit-empowered faith, will always produce a transformed life. 100 percent guaranteed!



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