I speak and write a great deal about the freedom we have in Christ. Indeed, one of the most beautiful redundancies in the entire Bible is found in Galatians 5:1, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.”
In Romans 5, the apostle Paul is expounding on the grace of God, using a repeated “much more” argument. Read Romans 5 and take note of the repeated use of that phrase. Paul’s treatment of the subject of grace culminates in this statement:
…but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. – Romans 5:20b-21, NASB
There is something in the teaching of Paul that elevates the grace of God to such a degree that his hearers conclude sin no longer matters. If grace is a wonderful thing (and it is), and grace is extended to cover my sin, then perhaps I should sin extensively and with great purpose so that I receive lots and lots of grace.
There is a certain logic to that line of reasoning – flawed logic, but still logic.
Knowing the minds of his audience, Paul poses that very question:
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? – Romans 6:1-2, NASB
When I was a seminary student, one of our instructors commented on this passage saying, “Until you preach the grace of God to the extent that people think sin no longer matters, you haven’t taught grace the way Paul taught it.”
The guardians of orthodoxy are free to label me a “hyper-grace” teacher. I will lock arms with the apostle Paul and continue teaching grace.
But sin does matter, and we must be vigilant in guarding our hearts, minds, and lives against its subtle infiltration.
Sin’s Stealth Entry
For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. – Jude 1:4, NASB
Often, our tendency is to see sin as bold and brash. It is up in our faces with various temptations. “Take me, buy me, give in to me.” And we resist and resist and resist until we cannot resist any longer.
Sometimes that is exactly how it is, but not always. Just as often, sin creeps in like a quiet mouse. It is a termite that becomes ten-thousand termites, and you don’t even know they are there until your house is eaten away.
There is a word in Jude 4 that is terrifyingly descriptive of the entry of sin. It is the word παρεισέδυσαν (pareisedusan) that is translated “came in stealthily.”
This is a compound term that describes one who slid in beside you so quietly you didn’t even know they were there. You turn to the side and are startled as you suddenly realize they are sitting right next to you.
When did they arrive? How did they get there?
You don’t know. But there they are.
That’s how sin operates. It is the hidden reef (Jude 12) that rips a hole in your hull, threatening to sink your boat. Those who embrace it transpose the grace of God into a license for uncontrolled lust. They are those who defile the flesh, reject authority, and revile glories and majesties (Jude 8).
They worm their way into the homes of weak-willed women burdened with sin and driven by impulses (2 Timothy 3:6). They are subtle and conniving, but their end is not a pretty one.
Jude describes them as being marked out for condemnation, just as the unbelieving Israelites were destroyed in the desert rather than entering the promised land. They are like the rebellious angelic host, held in bondage for the day of judgment. They are Sodom and Gomorrah, Cain, Balaam, Korah.
Grace is a beautiful gift, one poured out for our good. And yes, it is for freedom that Christ has set us free.
Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. – 1 Peter 2:16, NIV-1978