Living under Grace

Reading: Romans 6.12-23

There has been a tendency to play down the ethical and practical implications of the Gospel, and to quote in support the words of Paul in Romans 6.14 – “…you are not under law but under grace.” These words, we are told, imply a release from obligations. Read in context, however, they cannot support such a position.

What does it mean, then, to live “not under law but under grace”? It doesn’t mean that we serve God less, but rather that we serve with a new attitude and motive.

Grace and Gratitude

“Grace” speaks of the generous love of God in his gift of the Saviour. Those “under grace” have accepted “as a gift” the forgiveness and rescue made and offered in Christ. No longer do they seek to “earn” God’s approval by an upright life and acts of service. The life “under grace” is thus a life of gratitude and love. These become the governing principles as we “work out” the implications of what God “works in” us (Phil. 2.12,13).

Just as grace speaks to us of the generosity of God, so the response of grateful love is seen in generosity. Of course, a “gift” can be neither earned nor repaid. So, while we cannot gain God’s favour on our own merits, we can never repay his generosity either! However, this does not mean that we “take it easy”. We should no longer be seeking to match the minimum requirements of God’s Law. If we are living under grace, we will want to give our maximum for the one who has given his maximum for us! This applies to every area of our lives, as the following specific examples serve to illustrate.


It has been suggested that in the area of morality there are no absolute rules except the law of love – personally applied by the individual to each situation. Jesus is quoted as authority.

Yet in the Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 5.17-48) Jesus emphasises the need for a righteousness that “exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees” (v. 20) – a righteousness which stems from right thoughts, attitudes and motives. This is not a more rigorous legalism, as some might think – these things cannot be commanded! They are brought about by grace, not law – and grace lifts the standards higher, not lower.

Personal Relationships

Paul has been charged as having antiquated ideas on personal relationships – between husbands and wives, parents and children, slaves and masters (as in Col. 3.18-4.1).

In fact, we need to look again, for Colossians is the epistle in which Paul has written so strongly against those who would bring them into bondage to earthly rules and heavenly powers – Christ’s victory over these things is total (note Col. 2.13-15). The fact is that, living under grace, we are now servants of the Lord. We are to live with greater (not less) responsibility towards others.

Christian Giving

It is also suggested in the area of Christian giving that, since we live “not under law but under grace,” our standard of Christian giving may well fall far below what the old Law required – which began basically with the tithe (a tenth) and made further offerings over and above this.

However, the same principle applies here as in the other instances. Note especially 2 Cor. 9. Here Paul does not bind the Corinthian Christians down to the tithe – grace has set them free to greater heights of generosity! Here is not compulsion, but willing, cheerful and bountiful giving. Here is giving under grace – in the light of God’s abundant blessings (v. 8) and surpassing grace (v. 14) and, above all, his inexpressible gift of Christ himself (v. 15)!

In all our Living

And so in all other areas of our living too, those who have accepted liberation by God’s generosity will show it in an overflowing gratitude to God.

Let us, then, receive his gift and come “under grace”. Then let us live “under grace” in love and gratitude.

Robert Robinson expressed it well –

      O to grace how great a debtor


      Daily I’m constrained to be!


      Let that grace, Lord, like a fetter,


    Bind my wandering heart to Thee. (MHB 417)

© Peter J. Blackburn, 1971, 1999
Except where otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version, © Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United

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