Does "Saved by Grace" mean we are "Free to Sin?"

Opponents of the Apostle Paul accused him of preaching that since we were saved by grace it was OK to sin. (Rom. 3:8) Of course he never said that. What he said was that God’s Grace was the only hope we had in staying free from the penalty of sin. We would not be able to avoid sinning, no matter how hard we tried. So we needed to count on God’s Grace, rather than count on our ability to stay sin-free.

But, that message was interpreted to mean that Paul was soft on sin. Whenever the true message of God’s Grace–as presented in the Bible–is preached, ministers are often come under the same condemnation from their critics as Paul did from his. So common is this charge that one great modern preacher has suggested that unless a preacher is accused of being soft on sin, he probably isn’t preaching the Gospel!

My daughter, Erin, recently sent me an excerpt from Pastor Chuck Swindoll’s book Amazing Grace. Swindoll quotes the great pastor Martin Lloyd-Jones. Here is the letter"

Dad,

I thought you might like this quote I got from a book I’m reading by Chuck Swindoll called "Awakening Grace." The quote is from

Martyn-Lloyd-Jones, pastor of Westminster Chapel, a staunch Calvinist and Puritan. Twelve years before his retirement and until the day he completed his ministry, the man taught the book of Romans from the Historic Westminster Chapel pulpit. He said:

"If it is true that where sin abounded grace has much more abounded, well then, ‘shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound yet further?’

"First of all let me make a comment, to me a very important and vital comment. 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 a man is really preaching the New Testament gospel of salvation than this, that some people might misunderstand it and misinterpret 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; you can go on sinning as much as you like because it will redound all the more to the glory of grace.

"That is a very good test of gospel preaching. If my preaching and presentation of the gospel of salvation does not expose it to that misunderstanding, then it is not the gospel. Let me show you what I mean. If a man preaches justification by works, no one would ever raise this question. If a man’s preaching is, "If you want to be Christians, and if you want to go to heaven, you must stop committing sins, you must take up good works, and if you do so regularly and constantly, and do not fail to keep on at it, you will make yourselves Christians, you will reconcile yourselves to God, and you will go to heaven’. Obviously a man who preaches in that strain would never be liable to this misunderstanding. Nobody would say to such a man, "Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?", because the man’s whole emphasis is just this, that if you go on sinning, you are certain to be damned, and only if you stop sinning can you save yourselves. So that misunderstanding could never arise...

"...Nobody has ever brought this charge against the Church of Rome [The Roman Catholic Chruch], but it was brought frequently against Martin Luther; indeed that was precisely what the Church of Rome said about the preaching of Martin Luther. They said, "This man who was a priest has changed the doctrine in order to justify his own marriage and his own lust", and so on. ‘This man.’ they said, ‘Is an antinomian; and that is heresy.’ [Antinomianism is the heretical doctrine that Christians are exempt from the obligations of moral law] That is the very charge they brought against him. It was also brought against George Whitefield two hundred years ago. It is the charge that formal dead Chrsitianity–if there is such a thing–has always brought against this startling, staggering message, that God ‘justifies the ungodly’... (Rom. 4:5)

"That is my comment; and it is a very important comment for preachers. 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 really are preaching the salvation that is offered in the New Testament to the ungodly, to the sinner, to those who are dead in trespasses and sins, to those who are enemies of God. There is this kind of dangerous element about the true presentation of the doctrine of salvation.