How Can Grace Become Sin?
For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation,
ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the
only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.
In this verse, Jude tells us four things about these “certain men who have crept in unnoticed” in the church: (1) their condemnation or judgment was determined long ago, (2) they are ungodly, (3) they turn the grace offered by our God into a license to sin, and (4) they deny the Lord Jesus Christ.1
This is the inevitable outcome of someone who only sees one side of God’s character— grace. When we only believe the nature of God is grace alone, we tend to see Him as an all-forgiving Father who puts up with the sins of His children and is either too afraid, weak or insecure to confront their behavior. He becomes nothing more than a Get Out of Jail Free card whose only purpose is to clean up our mess, pay for any damages, and continue to give us access to His unlimited American Express to fund our carefree lifestyle.
He becomes, in effect, a bad parent by showing only grace to the willing sins of His children and not demanding repentance, accountability, responsibility, and retribution.
But God is anything but a bad parent.
When Jesus confronted the woman caught in the act of adultery, He first offered her grace, then repentance.
John 8:10-11 – “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, (grace) “Neither do I condemn you; (repentance) go and sin no more.”
Grace is only one side of the character of Christ. The other side has to do with the consequences of rejecting grace.
Wrath of the Lamb
There is a chilling verse in the Revelation that should strike fear in those who take the grace of God for granted and use it as an excuse to sin. This verse shows a different side of Jesus. There’s no more “Gentle Jesus, Meek and Mild” as the children’s song goes. Jesus, referred to as the Lamb of God, now comes with something we’d never expect from a lamb— wrath.
Revelation 6:15-16 – And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, and said to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!”
Did you catch that? Those under condemnation for the sin and rejection of the truth were trying to hide from the wrath of the Lamb, the wrath of Jesus. In fact, Jesus said, “the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son” (John 5:22).
Jesus, with His judgment, also brings wrath.
And He brings His wrath explicitly on those who take His marvelous, undeserved grace and turn it into lewdness. The word for lewdness is asélgeia and means “debauchery, sexual excess, the absence of restraint, perversion, having an insatiable desire for pleasure.”2 It speaks of unrestrained vice, the very worst of sins.3
Jude was compelled to warn us to watch out for those who will embed themselves in the church, under the cloak of darkness, like a satanic sleeper cell, to turn the church away from the purity of holiness and run after lust, sexual sin, and deviance. And the bait is a perversion of the grace of God. It goes something like this:
“You can do anything you want because God loves you and must forgive you if you ask Him. You can go and sin to your heart’s desire just as long as you remember to say your prayers when you go to bed and ask God to forgive you for what you did today. As soon as you say ‘I’m sorry’ BAM!— your sins are forgiven and your slate wiped clean. Then go and sin all you want tomorrow and say ‘I’m sorry’ and you’re forgiven. You can do it again the next day. And the day after that. As long as you say, ‘I’m sorry’ you can do anything you want. It’s all grace, grace, grace from a pushover God.”
This perversion of grace now becomes our motivation to sin— which is the very thing that nailed Jesus to the cross.
Grace offers us the blessings of forgiveness. And for forgiveness to take place, there must be repentance. True repentance always, without exception, involves a change of behavior. In other words, if there’s no definite change in action and attitude, there is no true repentance. The grace we’ve been given to have our sins forgiven, when we repent, must include righteous living. Otherwise, it’s just mere words. Verbal garbage. Smoke and mirrors.
But it gets worse.
Those who turn the grace of our Lord into an excuse to sin also “deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ” (Jude 1:4). They mock His sacrifice, pain and suffering He endured to bestow grace to us. Because of Christ, we have unearned, undeserved and unmerited favor with God who gave us His only Son to die in our place. And then to twist this grace into an excuse to partake of the vilest of sexual sins is the reason Jude calls them “ungodly men” (Jude 1:4). In fact, the term denotes a moral outrage against God and not just disbelief.4 We see more of them in vs. 15 where Jude uses the word “ungodly” four times to describe their shameless deeds and again in vs. 18 where he speaks of their “ungodly lusts.”5
Please understand, if Jude was warning the church in his day of this danger, he is also warning the church today. There are these same ungodly men who have slipped in under the radar of your church and, by their actions and words, are attempting to amplify the lust in each of us to draw us away from the holiness of God and tempt us to do what we deem right in our own eyes (Jud. 17:6).
Be aware. Guard your heart (Prov. 4:23).
And as “He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy’ ” (1 Peter 1:15-16).
1. Schreiner, T. R. (2003). 1, 2 Peter, Jude (Vol. 37, p. 437). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
2. Zodhiates, S. (2000). The complete word study dictionary: New Testament (p. 270). Chattanooga, TN: AMG.
3. MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2005). 2 Peter and Jude (p. 161). Chicago: Moody Publishers.
4. Davids, P. H. (2006). The letters of 2 Peter and Jude (p. 44). Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co.
5. Green, M. (1987). 2 Peter and Jude: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 18, p. 187). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.