The Arrows of Grace

We easily forget that when the arrows of grace put the old man to death the marriage with our old master is annulled. We are no longer prostitutes bound to the body of sin (Rm 6:6). Our sins were always and will only ever be John’s disguised as abolitionists, a turn of phrase borrowed.

So if we are free in Christ, why do we return so easily to our sins?

Sin can seem comfortable. We know the routine. What we forget is the toll. We forget there’s a price. Sin isn’t freedom. It feels free for a time, but it always comes for its payment. The old saying goes you can count on two things death and taxes. And death is part of the price for sin.

But often times although death is the final payment, there’s also payments in the here and now, temporal consequences. For instance, someone who robs a bank runs the risk of being arrested. Someone who murderers may be put to death. Someone who lies may find themselves alone.

So if we are free in Christ, why do we return so easily to our sins?

Sin is very, very sneaky. For many years I struggled with a particular sin and was tempted in a particular way. I experienced victory for a period of time. At first, I was very vigilant in rooting out the weeds of this sin. I never let it so much as sprout a millimeter out of the ground. But as time went out, my vigilance turned to sloth.

But temptation didn’t come in the same fashion. I would’ve expected that. It came from a different angle, an altogether unexpected angle. It put me off balance. I realized in a moment I was rationalizing a sin which I knew to be wrong. A sin which the arrows of grace freed me from. Have you ever done that? If it can’t get in the front gate, it’ll take to the side door. Thankfully the Father will never forsake us, the Son has given us future grace, and the Spirit lives within us to transform us evermore.

So if we are free in Christ, why do we return so easily to our sins?

Bottom line: we do not love God as we should. We must come to grips with this. It will be a truth that causes tension through out our life on this earth. We will never while we live on this earth, as it is, love God as we should. We live simul justus et peccator--as justified sinners or sinners and saints. Thankfully the terms of the covenant, the curse from disobedience, has been fulfilled. There’s no longer an ounce of that death left for those who believe.

Can you feel that breeze? That’s free air. That’s real freedom. There’s no striving for salvation. It has been given freely. We live now as free-peoples. You do not love God enough. You do not treasure the gospel enough. You cannot do enough to save yourself. But would it be gospel if you could?

Proverbs can be confusing. In the same book, Solomon writes, “Answer a fool,” and “Don’t answer a fool.” The simplest explanation is it takes discernment to know when and when not to answer. I want to try a little Solomon-like paradoxical proverbs on you: Never strive to save yourself (Gal 2:15-21), but never stop striving to work out your own salvation (Phil 2:11-13).

As you continue your journey in faith this year, hold fast to your salvation, the once for all delivered faith. The one you did nothing to merit. The one you could never merit. The one signed, sealed, and delivered by the Triune God. You may find as you hold fast that you are not holding fasting to it as much as it is holding fast to you.

On the other hand, continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, as Paul says to the Philippians. Or as James says, “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works” (2:17-18). This isn’t a pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps kind of good works. This isn’t coerced good works (you know the kind we see all the celebrities do for the cameras). This is good works accomplished by the Spirit, the same Spirit who raised us unto new life. This is Spirit-empowered, grace-accomplished, rooted-in-union-and-communion-with-the-Trinity kind of good works. And in the end, you may find that you are not so much working out your salvation as much as God is working in you for His good pleasure (Phil 2:12-13).

I really love how the Westminster Confession of Faith (XIII.1) captures this tension.

They, who are once effectually called, and regenerated, having a new heart, and a new spirit created in them, are further sanctified, really and personally, through the virtue of Christ's death and resurrection, by His Word and Spirit dwelling in them: the dominion of the whole body of sin is destroyed, and the several lusts thereof are more and more weakened and mortified; and they more and more quickened and strengthened in all saving graces, to the practice of true holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.