Q.64. But doesn’t this teaching make people indifferent and wicked?
A. No. It is impossible for those grafted into Christ by true faith not to produce fruits of gratitude.
Many are afraid that the denial of human effort in salvation will naturally lead to degenerate and sinful living. This however is exactly the opposite of what the doctrine of grace teaches. Grace teaches us that the redeemed man is united to Christ and his righteousness. In being united to Christ, the one who is saved has the life of Christ flowing in and through him or her. Thus, the life of Christ within the believer naturally compels one towards a fruitful life instead of a sinful, presumptuous one. Read Romans 8:5-14.
Consider a fruit tree. A healthy tree will produce large, appealing, delightfully savory fruit. In contrast, an unhealthy tree whose root is flawed and poor will not produce fruit. The same is true of the Christian. A believer united to Christ will produce the fruit of the spirit in their life, while a person united to the world will not produce the fruit of the spirit. On the contrary they are like a limb broken off, separated from the nourishing sap of Christ, hanging on until the gardener cuts off the branch because it has become hard and is unable to be repaired of grafted back to the trunk. As believers, we are called to be united to Christ in such a way that his life flows in us and lives through us. This means we will become fruitful people who are saved by grace. Read John 15:5.
James wrote about a faith without works. He called it dead. A faith that isn’t overflowing in gratitude and Christ-like reformation in our bodies is like a detached limb on a body. The severed piece slowly loses all life-giving blood and turns grey from its former hue, while also gaining an incredibly, nauseating smell. While this picture is grotesque and all would agree not natural for the limb, this is exactly what James wants us to see about the Christian life. Christians, who understand the doctrine of grace, must live a life congruent with the call of Christ. That call bids us to sacrificially serve others, to seek peace, to love, to cultivate humility, etc. These are all aspects of a living faith. Read James 2:12-26.
Jesus made the audacious claim of being the Light of the world. As the light, he alone can pierce the darkness, bring truth to dark situations and teach men how to walk without stumbling. Such is his ministry and it is carried out in this world by the indwelling presence of his Spirit in the life of the believer. But in addition to claiming he was the light of the world, Jesus also commanded that his followers let their lights shine. Read Matthew 5:16. In this statement, Jesus tied his light to our actions. When we live a life of goodwill and gratitude completely obedient to the Lord and fleeing sin, the rest of the world will take notice. However, when we presume upon grace and forget the great cost of salvation, we produce exactly the opposite. Our life consists in remembering exactly what our Lord has done for us, and this will change the way we live.
In his letter to the Colossians, Paul makes an astounding statement: the gospel bears fruit. A fruitful life growing in good works, the knowledge of God, thankfulness, and joy are the natural results of understanding the gospel proclamation of salvation by grace through faith. It is impossible to divorce a fruitful life from a redeemed life. To attempt to do so is to fail to understand the natural outworking of grace in one’s life. Read Colossians 1:3-13.
Read Romans 12:1-2. In these 2 verses Paul simply states the reality that redemption issues forth in the living sacrifice of our bodies for God’s consumption. Sacrifices were offered to God on the altar, and in the offering they were completely burned up and consumed. But now, Paul says, the believer offers himself to God to be used by God as they live in this world. Such an action requires that God would not misuse his sacrifice, nor lead them back into corruption and slavery. In fact, quite the opposite must be assumed and affirmed since the Word is clear that Christ leads his people in joyful procession from death to life, from enslavement to victory. Rejoice and allow the Father to produce his fruit in you, in order for his will to be done.