The Gospel, The Freer The More Sanctifying

Many are concerned that the unlimitted teaching of grace will cause many to fall into antinomianism, and take advantage of the grace of God and find a license to sin. However Dr. Chalmers, an 18th century theologian, attempts to show us in his writing that such is not a case in the Christian experience.

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Dr. Chalmers on the gospel

Thus it is, that the freer the Gospel, the more sanctifying is the Gospel; and the more it is received as a doctrine of grace, the more will it be felt as a doctrine according to godliness.

This is one of the secrets of the Christian life, that the more a man holds of God, the greater is the payment of service that he renders back again.

On the tenure of “Do this and live,” a spirit of fearfulness is sure to enter; and the jealousies of a legal bargain chase away all confidence from the intercourse between God and man; and the creature striving to be square and even with his Creator, is, in fact, pursuing all the while his own selfishness, instead of God’s glory; and with all the conformities which he labours to accomplish, the soul of obedience is not there, the mind is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed under such an economy ever can be.

It is only when, as in the Gospel, acceptance is bestowed as a present, without money, and without price, that the security which man feels in God is placed beyond the reach of disturbance - or, that he can repose in Him, as one friend reposes in another - or, that any liberal and generous understanding can be established betwixt them - the one party rejoicing over the other to do him good - the other finding that the truest gladness of his heart lies in the impulse of a gratitude, by which it is awakened to the charms of a new moral existence.

Salvation by grace - salvation by free grace - salvation not of works, but according to the mercy of God - salvation on such a footing is not more indispensable to the deliverance of our persons from the hand of God’s justice, than it is to the deliverance of our hearts from the chill and the weight of ungodliness.

Retain a single shred or fragment of legality with the Gospel, and we raise a topic of distrust between man and God. We take away from the power of the Gospel to melt and to conciliate.

For this purpose, the freer it is, the better it is. That very peculiarity which so many dread as the germ of antinomianism, is, in fact, the germ of a new spirit, and a new inclination against it. Along with the light of a free Gospel, there enters the love of the Gospel, which, in proportion as we impair the freeness, we are sure to chase away. And never does the sinner find within himself so mighty a moral transformation, as when he is under the belief that he is saved by grace, for he feels constrained thereby to offer his heart a devoted thing, and to deny ungodliness.’

Some key thoughts as gleaned from the excerpt

The Gospel, the freer the more sanctifying

Contrary to conventional thinking which believes that the preaching of a free gospel will lead to folks finding licence to sin or excuse to abuse God’s grace, Dr Chalmers as well as I believe that a freer gospel will lead to more godliness.

Do this and live

The Old Covenant can be summarized to the concept of “Do this and live,” carefully observing all the commandments written in the book of the law, “Keep[ing] this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful (Joshua 1:8).” Ironically the Bible calls this the law of sin and death, and in the same Romans 8:2 passage Paul suggest a new law of the Spirit of life.

Under the old law, there is fear, and there is jealousy as one is never certain of God’s acceptance, and in trying to repay God for what He’s done, the person become excessively obsessed toward self instead of God’s glory, and lastly though there is an appearance of obedience, it’s not from the heart, but from fear of punishment. Such is the nature of a “legal bargain” where everything must be earned and paid for. There is always the possibility that your performance is not good enough.

The more a man holds of God, the greater the payment of service

I would probably not go as far as calling the work, that God has prepared beforehand for those who have come to Him by grace and through faith, a payment of service, but even if such a term is used, that God does indeed demand a payment, a man cannot pay more than what he received from God. “The more a man holds of God”, as Dr Chalmers puts it, means the more he understands the height, depth, and breadth of God’s forgiveness through Christ, the full righteousness that he can be certain of as he puts his trust in Him, the freedom from all condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, and the all things that God has given him along with His Son, the more he can be an instrument in the hand of God to do the work that is not based on the law, but on faith and purified by grace. In short, the more a man knows his inheritance in Christ, the more he can pay, not from the works of his flesh, but from the riches that God had already reserved for him.

Acceptance bestowed as a present

Without money, and without price. Only then can there be security and true rest just like a friend is relaxed in the presence of another, and if there is anything the one does for the other, it is from a heart filled with gratitude. This is a new moral existence that is to be desired.

Heart that knows its full acceptance

As important as the truth of salvation by grace, it is of no less importance the deliverance of the heart from the fear and burden of our not being fully accepted by God.

If there is but a single shred of legality with the gospel

The power of the gospel lies in its ability to forgive man and to reconcile them with God, therefore if any amount of legality is implied in the gospel as it is presented, it will take away that power and causes serious distrust between a man and his God.

The freer the better is the gospel

Dr Chalmers says it best: “And never does the sinner find within himself so mighty a moral transformation, as when he is under the belief that he is saved by grace, for he feels constrained thereby to offer his heart a devoted thing, and to deny ungodliness.”


This is an excerpt of a writing by Dr Thomas Chalmers (1780 – 1847), a Scottish minister, professor of theology, political economist, and a leader of the Church of Scotland and of the Free Church of Scotland. Many thanks to AFJ who upon reading Dr. Chalmers’ writing found this beautiful excerpt and forwarded it so it can be shared with our readers who are seeking rest in our Redeemer.

Nghi Nguyen

- Scripture quoted by permission. All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2006 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved.

Disclaimer: This is my own opinion on the topic, which does not necessarily reflect the church's theology, or beliefs of the individuals in it — Nghi Nguyen

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