«What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not!» (Romans 6:15).
TO BELIEVE or to obey—what comes first? The answer is of utmost importance, because understanding of the harmony between believing and obeying allows us to differentiate between freedom and licentiousness.
There is no doubt that believing comes first, because sinners are dead in their sins and a dead person cannot do anything. We have already seen that we are justified by the grace of the Lord, which we receive by faith; like a completely sunken ship which has been made to float again and needs to navigate toward its destination. Some think that we are justified by faith and sanctified by works.
But obedience is also a result of faith, which leads us to a life dependent on the Lord.
We have complete freedom to do what is right. There is no freedom to do wrong. Those who do not use the freedom in a responsible manner within the scope of the law lose their freedom.
There is a true and a false freedom. Adam and Even lived a false freedom; they did not subject themselves to the will of God and stopped being free. They fell into licentiousness and became slaves to sin. Licentiousness is the abuse of freedom, to do what you want without rules, or respect for the law.
If we break the law that protects us, we lose our freedom, because the same law that protects the freedom of those who respect it places those who break it in jail. We are not free to disobey the law of God. Thinking that the Lord frees us so we can do what we want is to undermine Christ’s sacrifice as well as thinking that we can be saved by our own obedience.
Grace, like water, cleanses us of the filth of our sins. The job of the law, as a mirror, is to show that dirt and lead us to the water of Christ’s grace. Breaking the mirror because it is not useful for cleaning is distorting its purpose (see James I :22—25). Then, are we going to disobey the law because we are not under the law but under grace? Paul responded, «Certainly not!» (Rom. 7:7).
Jesus did the exact thing with the woman who was caught in adultery (see John 8:1-11): He did not cleanse her with the law, but with His grace, love, and forgiving power. He revived her life from the abyss of shame and sin, and then told her to go, and sin anymore.
Anchor your life to Christ and His Law today.
«We do not earn salvation by our obedience; for salvation is the free gift of God, to be received by faith. But obedience is the fruit of faith . . . Here is the true test. If we abide in Christ, if the love of God dwells in us, our feelings, our thoughts, our purposes, our actions, will be in harmony with the will of God as expressed in the precepts of His holy law» (Steps to Christ, p. 61).