I think it's really important that we understand that grace doesn't mean just letting people get away with sin. That's really not great at all. The Bible teaches that God doesn't let us get away with sin precisely because He loves us. Hebrews 13:6 “For the Lord disciplines, the one he loves and chastises every son whom he receives.”
God didn't let us get away with sin, but instead, he paid the debt we owe. A helpful acronym that I've heard before to define grace, if you want to know what grace is, think about it like this: G. R. A. C. E. It stands for “God's Riches At Christ's Expense. You get the blessing Jesus took what you deserve, death. You sometimes hear people say that grace is God's unmerited favor. But it's even more than that,it isn't just that we haven't earned God's favor, it is that we deserve the opposite. We deserve death, we de-merited the grace of God, and yet he's still lavished it upon us.
Where does repentance fit with this? God's will is to be gracious to every person who turns to him in faith. And that's really what repentance is, it's a turning to God, away from our sins. God is for repentant sinners. But don't assume that you can live in unrepentant rejecting the gospel and that you're going to meet a gracious Father in God.
God opposes the proud. He's opposed to our sin and when we cling to our sins, unwilling to let go of them, we're not inviting God's grace but God's discipline. You know, there's this really interesting story that I think also helps from 1 Corinthians. The Corinthians had been letting people get away with sin, In particular, there was a man in that congregation who had an immoral relationship with his mother-in-law and it seems like, based on what Paul wrote, that the Corinthians had just sort of celebrated their graciousness in allowing this individual to continue in sin. You can imagine what they might have been saying, “We're so grace-filled. Look how patient we are with sin. The long-suffering Corinthians.” Listen to what Paul said to them, “you're boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump as you really are unleavened. Don't overlook sin, Paul said. That's not grace. Purge it. Why? Because if you just let sin grow, if you let them get away with sin, it continues to be a problem. Here's what's going to happen, it's going to spread.
And in the same way that a little bit of leaven makes bread rise, a little bit of sin left unchecked will grow. We have to really define grace in such a way that we're not viewing it as people can get away with whatever they want.
The way we tend to think of grace and repentance is like a seesaw. You put repentance on the side of works and grace on the other side, when one goes up the other goes down. How do you keep the balance? No. Romans 2:4, “it is the grace and kindness of God that leads you to repentance.” In the same way, if you're not repentant, then that is evidence that God's grace isn't there. To be an unrepentant person who celebrates God's grace is an oxymoron. A person who really revels in God's grace is going to thank him for the grace of repentance, as well as the grace of faith.
Adapted from an answer given on Episode 120 of the Core Christianity Radio Show.