CHEAP GRACE is the term many use to describe the belief that salvation doesn’t require obedience. After all, salvation is a free gift, right? So salvation doesn’t require a change in, well, anything. However, once we understand what salvation actually is, the connection between salvation and the rules becomes more clear (see the post titled “How Salvation Works” below).
To put it in a sentence, salvation is the reestablishment and growth of our forever love-relationship with God. To help us understand this, God has placed many different types of relationships in our lives. There are parent-child relationships, sibling relationships, marriage relationships, even relationships with our pets. All of our relationships fit into one of four categories: our relationships with others, our relationships with ourselves, our relationship with God, and our relationships with our possessions. All our relationships have certain rules in place to protect them. For example, in our relationships with others, there are rules like treating each other with respect, being truthful, and not taking advantage of one another. When these rules are broken, the relationship is damaged. This fact gives us a clue as to the purpose of God’s rules.
When people say that salvation doesn’t require obedience, it’s like someone saying, “Now that I’m married, I no longer have to follow the rules of marriage – I can lie to my spouse, cheat on my spouse, and disrespect my spouse; after all, marriage isn’t about rules, right. Marriage has set me free!” Of course, such an idea makes no sense, yet there are many who accept that very same thinking when it comes to salvation (that is, when it comes to their love-relationship with God). They believe that obeying the rules designed to protect our relationship with God is no longer required – we are free from them.
But doesn’t salvation set me free from the law (the rules)? Let’s ask that question using different words that mean the same thing, “But doesn’t my love-relationship with God (salvation) set me free from the rules?” Yes! In the same way my love for my wife sets me free from the desire to lie to her, to cheat on her, and to disrespect her. I don’t have to deal with the rules of marriage because I don’t even think about them – I’m too busy loving her. So I’m free from them in that they have little or no impact on me. But the key to this freedom is love.
In John 14:15, Jesus says, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” In this text, Jesus puts together the two key concepts of a love-relationship (salvation) and obedience. We normally think of this text as a command, but I’ve also heard it expressed as a consequence – if you love me, the natural result is that you will keep my commandments. Being free from the law isn’t about being able to sin without consequence; it’s about developing our love-relationship with God to the extent that sin loses its ability to tempt us. This is what He means when He says He will write His law upon our hearts (Hebrews 10:16).
Doug Drake’s father was a Seventh-day Adventist pastor. Doug is a web developer in San Antonio, TX and developed the Laurel Heights Seventh-day Adventist Church website. He also co-leads a Sabbath School discussion group with Zvonka Jakopovic.