Martin Lloyd-Jones once famously said that the loud and clear preaching of salvation by grace alone will lead to a misunderstanding. The misunderstanding is this: if we are saved by grace alone, then it doesn’t matter how we live. Jerry Bridges comments on this topic:
That charge was brought against Martin Luther and all the other great preachers of the Reformation when they preached salvation by grace alone through faith in Christ. The charge was brought against the apostle Paul himself: ‘Why not say – as we are being slanderously reported as saying and as some claim that we say – “Let us do evil that good may result”? Their condemnation is deserved’ (Romans 3:8).
The grace of salvation is the same grace by which we live the Christian life. Paul said in Romans 5:2, ‘We have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. We are not only justified by grace through faith, we stand every day in this same grace. And just as the preaching of justification by grace is open to misunderstanding, so is the teaching of living by grace.
The solution to the problem is not to add legalism to grace. Rather, the solution is to be so gripped by the magnificence and boundless generosity of God’s grace that we respond out of gratitude rather than out of a sense of duty….
We have loaded down the gospel of the grace of God in Christ with a lot of ‘oughts.’ ‘I ought to do this,’ and ‘I ought to do that.’ I ought to be more committed, more disciplined, more obedient.’ When we think or teach this way, we are substituting duty and obligation for a loving response to God’s grace.
Let me be very clear at this point. I firmly believe in and seek to practice commitment, discipline, and obedience. I am thoroughly committed to submission to the lordship of Jesus Christ in every area of my life. And I believe in and seek to practice other commitments that flow out of that basic commitment…. But I am committed in these areas out of a grateful response to God’s grace, not to try to earn God’s blessings.
Bridges makes some helpful comments in this book on what it means to live by grace. For example, in one chapter he talks about how holiness is a gift of God’s grace and in another chapter he describes the sufficiency of God’s grace for living the Christian life. He nicely steers clear of both legalism and antinomianism in these pages by explaining the fact that both justification and sanctification are by grace:
We are brought into God’s Kingdom by grace; we are sanctified by grace; we receive both temporal and spiritual blessings by grace; we are motivated to obedience by grace; we are called to serve and enabled to serve by grace; we receive strength to endure trials by grace; and finally, we are glorified by grace. The entire Christian life is lived under the reign of God’s grace.
The above quotes are found in Jerry Bridges, Transforming Grace, p. 21 & 74.
(Note: I was given this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)