Grace, Law, and Speaking the Truth in Love

The question you've raised – the question of Law and Grace – goes straight to the heart of the Christian Gospel. Since your central concern has to do with the most effective way of confronting the broader culture with the implications of this issue, we'd suggest that you might want to approach it from a couple of different angles. Start by thinking it through in terms of pure biblical theology. Then, when you've nailed down your own understanding of the relevant theological principles, you can begin to wrestle with the problem of how you can best communicate them to contemporary men and women in terms they'll understand.

Biblically speaking, salvation is indeed based upon faith alone (Galatians 3:6, 7). But then faith, as it turns out, is something like a two-sided coin. The writers of the New Testament (especially Paul) tell us again and again that we do not "earn" our way into heaven by doing good deeds or by giving up sinful behaviors, but simply by placing all our confidence, faith, and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior who offered Himself up on the cross to redeem us from sin. "For by grace you have been saved through faith," writes Paul, "and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast" (Ephesians 2:8, 9; see also John 14:7; Acts 4:12; I Timothy 2:5, 6).

At the same time, all of the New Testament authors (especially James) make it absolutely clear that saving faith is not simply a matter of "intellectual assent;" after all, "Even the demons believe-and tremble!" (James 2:19). On the contrary, faith is a "holistic" phenomenon that involves the entire person, body, soul, and spirit. To believe in the biblical sense is to embrace the truth with mind, heart, and will. Accordingly, genuine faith is expressed both through beliefs and our actions (James 2:17, 18). It should be obvious, then, that no sincere disciple of Jesus Christ would ever consider himself free to engage in willful sin without giving a thought to consequences or to the deeper implications of his actions.

So much for the doctrinal side of the question. Assuming, then, that Christian behavior does matter, how do we get this message across to people without seeming to "judge" them? We can begin by remembering that the essence of the Gospel is summed up in a single word – love – and that the challenge of maintaining a faithful witness for Christ is more an art than a science. Because we live in a post-Christian culture, our friends and neighbors are far more likely to respond to winsome dialogue than dogmatic proclamation. We should strive to approach them as individuals, faithfully "speaking the truth in love" (Ephesians 4:15), and patiently demonstrating, by our own actions as well as by our words, that "to believe is to obey, and to obey is to believe" (Bonhoeffer). It goes without saying that we should also pray diligently that the Holy Spirit will apply our words to their hearts and show them in a deeply personal way what it means to walk with Christ "in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation" (Philippians 2:15).

If you would like to discuss this matter or any other faith-related concerns at greater length with a member of our team, please don't hesitate to contact us. Focus on the Family has a staff of pastoral counselors who would love to speak with you over the phone.

 

Resources
The Next Christians: Seven Ways You Can Live the Gospel and Restore the World

Your Single Treasure: Good News About Singles and Sexuality

Referrals
Boundless

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