Years ago (even before coming here) I preached a sermon called “The Scandal of Grace” from Romans 6:1-4. This is where Paul asked, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” (ESV). He then answered with “By no means!” He went on to say, when we were baptized into Christ we were saying by that baptism that we are counting ourselves dead to all that is opposed to Christ.
One of my favorite old-time preachers and teachers of the 20th century was D. Martin Lloyd-Jones. And about this issue of people misunderstanding grace as a license for sin, he said something very profound. He said, “The true preaching of the gospel of salvation by grace alone always leads to the possibility of this charge being brought against it. There is no better test as to whether someone is really preaching the N.T. gospel of salvation than this, that some people misunderstand it…to mean that it really amounts to this, that because you are saved by grace alone it does not matter at all what you do. If my preaching and presentation of the gospel of salvation does not expose it to that misunderstanding, then it is not the gospel.”
“People listening to the preaching of grace may say, ‘Ah, there is a man who does not encourage us to live a good life…he is saying that it does not matter what you do, sin as much as you like.’ I say therefore that if our preaching does not expose us to that charge and to that misunderstanding, it is because we are not really preaching the gospel.”
I would say to all preachers: If your preaching of salvation has not been misunderstood in that way, then you had better examine your sermons again, and you had better make sure that you are preaching the salvation that is offered in the N.T. to the ungodly, to the sinner, to those who are enemies of God.
It seems to me that not only non-Christians get the wrong idea about grace, but many Christians do too! This is a huge misunderstanding of grace. But may we not be guilty of refusing to preach and teach the grace of God in all its greatness for fear that people will misunderstand. But when they do misunderstand, let’s have the courage to bring clarity with a proper blend of charity.