What Grace is Not

By Chuck Bartlett

If you teach someone that 2+2=4, you should not have to also teach everything that 2+2 does not equal (2+2≠5, 2+2≠3, etc.). If someone was raised to believe that 2+2=5 though, you would have to teach both what 2+2 does equal (4) and also what it does not equal (5).

This is a common challenge when trying to teach what God’s word actually says. You might think that whenever someone teaches what the Bible says, they would not have to also teach what the Bible does not say. Sadly though, many people think the Bible teaches certain things that it does not. In this article, we will teach what grace is. But we also have to point out what grace is not. Why? Many religious teachers spread confusion by making claims about grace that are NOT Biblical.

The Biblical meaning of grace

The simple definition of grace is “a gift”. Paul stated that we are saved by grace through faith and not of works (Eph. 2:8-9). This shows that we can never earn our salvation – it is a gift from God and thus something that we do not deserve. If we did deserve it, it would not be a gift thus would not be considered grace. Specifically, God’s gift to us was the sending of Jesus Christ and providing a plan of salvation that leads to heaven (Eph. 2:1-7). 

Despite the Bible’s clear teaching, religious teachers have muddied the waters. Here are some things that grace is NOT:

Grace is not a license to sin

The brethren at Rome were told God’s grace was great due to the amount of sinfulness in the world (Rom. 5:20). Paul did not want them to get the wrong idea though, so he posed a question: “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?” (Rom. 6:1). In essence, Paul asks if the brethren should sin more to make God’s gift even more necessary. He strongly answered his own question: “Certainly not!” (verse 2). The point of Christ dying on the cross and giving His life as a gift for us was so that we would no long live under sin (Rom. 6:2). Willfully turning to sin is a rejection of this gift. Therefore, grace is not a license to sin!

Grace is not God overlooking sin

For some reason, people want to believe that “the grace of God” means He sees Christ’s blood when we sin rather than seeing us commit the actual error.  This makes no sense. Mankind was in sin, so the Father sent His Son (Rom. 5:8) to help us find forgiveness (Eph. 1:7). Does this mean God will overlook sins after someone becomes a Christian? In the Bible, Christians who sinned were told that God saw their wrongdoing (I Cor. 5:2; I Cor. 1:11; Rev. 2:4, 14; 3:1, 15-16). They were never told these sins were overlooked.

Grace is not obtained without conditions

Many religious people today are confused about grace because they believe it is unconditional. They say that if there are conditions on grace, it would no longer be a gift. What about the conditions Jesus gave: “Unless you believe I am He you will die in your sins” (John 8:24)? Also consider this condition about repentance: “Unless you repent you will all likewise perish,” (Luke 13:3). And this condition about baptism: “He who believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16). To not abide in the doctrine of Christ is to miss heaven (II John 9). Keep in mind what we read earlier – we are saved by grace through faith. This faith must be active, not dead (James 2:26). Grace is the Lord’s part, and faith is our part. Our faith comes by hearing the word of God (Rom. 10:17).


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