Living in a State of Grace
April 11, 2019 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments
Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement
We have been talking about the power of sin at Oak Hills lately. It’s not a popular subject. Talking about sin is out of vogue for many churches, let alone talking about the power of sin. The reality is that if we do not mindfully fight sin, it will eat us away.
The writer of Hebrews calls us to “run with endurance the race that is set before us” by laying aside “sin which clings so closely” (Heb. 12:1). While the image here implies a simple process of taking off extra clothing for the race, sin is not so easy to lay aside. Sin clings in that it brings corruption to our whole nature, i.e. our minds, our hearts, and our wills. In and of ourselves, we cannot lay aside “sin which clings.”
The Westminster Confession of Faith provides a clear statement of this desperate state of people in sin:
Man, by his fall into a state of sin, has wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation: so as, a natural man, being altogether averse from that good, and dead in sin, is not able, by his own strength, to convert himself, or to prepare himself thereunto. (Chapter 9.III)
In sin, we are not able to save ourselves.
But, that’s not the whole story of the Bible. God puts forward a Redeemer, Jesus Christ, to rescue his people from the guilt and corruption of sin. Only Christ can overcome the power of sin for us. Scripture and the Confession of Faith speak about this reality as the “state of grace.”
Paul says in Romans 5:2, “Through Christ we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand.” This is the new status for Christians. We stand in grace. The Confession explains is like this:
When God converts a sinner, and translates him into the state of grace, he frees him from his natural bondage under sin; and, by his grace alone, enables him freely to will and to do that which is spiritually good; yet so, as that by reason of his remaining corruption, he does not perfectly, nor only, will that which is good, but does also will that which is evil. (Chapter 9.IV)
Notice the careful language in this statement.
- The state of grace is not the state of perfection. We still suffer from the “remaining corruption” of sin. Sinners saved by grace still struggle with sin.
- Only “by his grace” do we desire and do spiritual good. There is no place for boasting in our spiritual victories or fruit. All spiritual fruit is due to Christ’s work on our behalf.
- All of our spiritual good is still tainted with the corruption of sin. Nothing we do is ever perfect, this side of glory. That’s humbling. And it stirs in us a deeper longing for our final and complete redemption. By grace alone, God will complete what he has started (Phil. 1:6).