Cheap Grace


Romans 6:1-2

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Our reading today is from Romans Chapter 6 verses one and two. St. Paul writes:

What shall we say then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin. How can we live in it any longer? (Romans 6:1-2)

Back on Valentine’s Day in 1929 on the North Side of Chicago. Two men were given orders from a gang leader to go and kill some men from another gang. As they put their machine guns in the back of the car. They drove first of all to a church and they stopped and went to the confessional booth and talk to their pastor to confess their sins and to receive God’s forgiveness. Then they got back in the car and drove to another location and in cold blood murdered seven men.

Now this is clearly what we call sometimes cheap grace. It’s when we take God’s grace and His forgiveness and treat it as if it doesn’t mean anything. St. Paul is addressing that very thing in Romans chapter 6. He’s just gone through the last three chapters describing so beautifully how we have been justified, declared right before God, because of what Jesus has done for us. And that we are freely justified. We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. And all of our sins are forgiven. He so beautifully has described how our hope of heaven is all because of what Christ has done and not because of anything in us.

But then he predicts, if you will, a problem that some people might have. Some people might think to say “well, if Jesus paid for all my sins and my life doesn’t matter I can sin all I want.” And that’s why Paul answers this way. He says, what shall we say? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? And then he uses a very strong Greek phrase: by no means! The words mean absolutely not, don’t even let the thought get started.

Let’s use an illustration. Let’s imagine that a couple is about to get married and right before the ceremony the bride turns to her husband and says to him “I love you so much and I will always forgive you no matter what.” And he says to her “I love you so much too. And in order to see if you can really love me so much, tonight I plan to go off with another woman for a while.”

Now that’s not showing love at all is it? That would be taking advantage of someone’s love. And again we refer to that often as cheap grace. Now all of us fall into sins of weakness on a daily basis and we need to go to God for forgiveness. But Paul is warning us against deliberate sins where we deliberately say I don’t care if what I’m doing is wrong. I want to keep doing it because I know God will forgive me.

Paul is saying that’s really not the way a heart of faith should approach this. Those of us who’ve been blessed to know what Christ has done for us and how that’s forgiven us all of our sins so that we have life in heaven, God wants us now with that faith to have a new desire to serve him and to live our lives in that grace to show him our love. Amen.