Grace and Obedience are Friends

The relationship between grace and obedience can seem tenuous at times.

An over-emphasis on grace with no thought to obedience can lead to antinomianism, hyper grace, or as some would say “free, cheap grace.”

Focusing on rules and commands as a means to gain the favor of God can lead to rule keeping, law, and legalism. The thinking of “God has done His part, now we do ours” is equally out of balance.

But it is clear the Bible promotes a balance or blend of these two truths.

In his book, [amazon_link id=”B00J3F1Q5Q” target=”_blank” ]Charis: God’s Scandalous Grace for Us[/amazon_link], Preston Sprinkle shares a third way which comes from New Testament scholar John Barclay.

This view is called Energism. It stems from the Greek word “energeo” found Galatians 2:8.

“for he who worked through Peter for his apostolic ministry to the circumcised worked also through me for mine to the Gentiles”

It was the power of grace working through Peter and Paul which was at the source of their success, but still required real, on the ground work from these apostles.

Energism emphasizes Christ’s indwelling presence in our lives. Grace lives in us! All good is God working in and through sinners to do His Will. Yet, even with Christ in us, choices must be made.

Sprinkle says, “We cannot untangle Christ’s indwelling Spirit and our regenerated response to God.”

Both Peter and Paul’s obedience was the natural by-product of God’s grace.


Sprinkle goes on to add, “Lack of obedience reveals a lack of grace. Divine grace produces the obedience God demands.”

We don’t obey for the purposes of manipulating God or forcing His hand of blessing. We do the right thing in response to what God has done for us. Even at its most basic, unrefined level; the desire to obey ultimately comes from God.

So in short, Energism is described by Sprinkle as,  “when you do something good it is grace working in you. When you obey, it is grace doing its job. The instant that desire flares up in your soul to do a good deed, that’s grace too.”

In Charis, Preston Sprinkle shares the following, “Biblical graces gives us what we need, but keeps running the race with us. It does not merely give us what we need in terms of forgiveness and holiness.  When we stumble, grace actively picks us up.  Any success is a result of the training and assistance grace gave us.”

“Obedience isn’t grace’s enemy, but its by-product.”

Sprinkle concludes, “When we obey, it is not so much that we respond to His grace but that we are living out our new identity in Him. By His Power, His Spirit, His Grace. He is living in us and we are living in Him.”

Obedience and grace are not at odds. They are natural companions.

I like to say, Grace is not an excuse to sin or disobey, but rather our greatest reason not to.

By all means Obey.

But know even the power to do so is a gift from God. This keeps us humble and depending on God.

Photo by Vita Vilcina


3 responses to “Grace and Obedience are Friends”

  1. DarlaSue Avatar

    We are aware of God’s grace, in saving us from a death that was certainly our sentence. Energism = obedience in grace to do good & Grace to obey, cool! Thanks & it is only by God’s Grace I go.

    1. Chris Avatar

      Great to hear about your experience with God’s grace. I pray his activity in all our lives would become more obvious in even the small, everyday things.

  2. DarlaSue Avatar

    Something on God’s Grace, take time to read…..