You have heard it said that "Dead men tell no tales." “Ah, but they do tell tales!” says I. This tale begins with a ship out on the open sea. A ship whose Captain is conversing with himself.
“Here I am, sailing on me best ship as it’s black sails flap in the ocean breeze. I heard a fellow privateer say that the King is handin’ out passes for free which allows Pirates like me to do what’er dastardly deeds he wants. He called it a “Grace Pass.” Yo ho, what a yarn! Where’s the fun in looting something for free? Hmm, now that me thinks about it, I could pillage and plunder to me heart’s content without any fear of keelhauling, thanks to this Grace Pass! As soon as I get me paws on one of them yon passes—if they bein’ real—I’ll have all the treasures I desire. I can now go out and rape, rob, pillage, plunder, or murder all I want, because of GRACE! Yo ho ho!”
Off the Pirate went in search of the “Grace Pass” that would allow him to do as he pleased. He would be known in every port soon after as the “Grace Pirate”—the Pirate who could do any evil thing his heart desired.
You may be thinking to yourself, “What is a Grace Pirate? I have never heard of such a thing.” But I am willing to bet you have heard of some fictional person that functions like him.
There is almost always one in the religious crowd that will suggest that the message of free grace will create “Grace Pirates.” They may not refer to this fictional buccaneer by that name, but they do refer to a fictional person that behaves just like him. A Grace Pirate is the fictional potential respondent to God’s grace who will now look at his new found freedom as a pass to sin at the next level. He or she is a Pirate with a “sack-o-grace” over their shoulder that will allow them to walk through forts and ports saying “Grace Pirate on deck! Now where all yar treasure be?”
I have yet to meet anyone who has ever been captured by God’s grace to then think, “Aw Yesss! It is time to SIN!”
Some will object to free grace right away, citing all kinds of verses out of context in the Bible that command us to be holy, perfect, obedient, righteous keepers of the Law. That's a problem. The Law's demands are impossible to keep, and we will never be justified by merely doing our best to keep them (Romans 3:20, Galatians 2:16, Galatians 3:11).
Then there are those who may agree and affirm the preaching and message of grace. But one glance at what really fires them up on social media will reveal a different tune. Their behavior exposes that deep down they hold to the concept that works are what is needed in order to justify and prove that you are a Christian. They are far more obsessed with the performance of the Christian than the substitution of Christ.
For those of us who have been captured by God’s grace, do we run back to the lie of self-performancism? Yes, daily. But it is God’s grace again that he shows us the full measure of God’s Law. It is his grace that shows us that we deserve wrath for our sin. It is his grace that causes us to realize that we are not able to fulfill the demands of the Law. It is his grace that Christ sufficiently consumed the cup of God’s wrath on the cross for us. All of which leads us again to the fountain of grace over and over again where we jump in without getting into our bathing suits; laughing, splashing and quite honestly having a ball doing it.
Feel free to laugh at the thought of the Grace Pirate. Why? Because there ain’t no such thing.
Anyone who claims that they have God’s grace and then uses that grace as a reason to go sin is not referring to God’s grace. As if a Pirate ever needed grace to feel okay about being a Pirate or doing piratey things.
There were instances where Kings may have given a pardon or even a commission to Pirates to do piratey things. Or to be a Pirate to the enemy in a time of war. But, once this decree was made by the King, the Pirate was no longer really a Pirate, was he? This is a good illustration of what the Christian life looks like.
Pirates (sinners) are the only kind of people there are. But when God freely gives a Pirate (sinner) grace, the Pirate is no longer counted as a Pirate (sinner). He now has received a commission from the King. True, they may still do piratey things (sin). However, they know that because they have been deemed "not a Pirate" (saint, righteous) by the King, they are no longer going to be arrested (judged, die) for piracy (sin). They are still 100% Pirate (sinner), but 100% counted "not a Pirate" (saint, righteous) by the King (God).
Sounds a lot like what Martin Luther referred to as “Simul Iustus et Peccator” (Simultaneously Just/Righteous and Sinner). Dive into the entirety of Romans 7 to see how Luther conveyed this concept of the “Simul.”
Whenever the grace of Jesus Christ sinks in, you begin to realize that your slack effort at life won’t be counted against you. Why? Because it has been counted against Jesus on the cross already. Good News: even if it never “sinks” in, the promises and gifts of Christ for those who have been given faith in him still remain. They are objectively yours.
Pirates were often branded on their hands or wrists with the letter “P.” Thus, always branding them with the scars of a Pirate for others to see, judge, and avoid. Jesus Christ too was branded. On the cross he received scars that forever identify him as a friend and Savior of sinners. No matter how many P’s, A’s, or S’s that the Law has rightly branded on you in your life, the scars of Jesus Christ trump them all. His scars are counted in place of yours.
Are you a Pirate? Christ’s scars say differently. They testify that you have been crucified with him.
A rare Native Atlantien that still lives in the Atlanta area, Zachary James Cole grew up in the Bible Belt of the American South. He became a United States Marine in January of 2004 and served on Active Duty until January of 2009. He was deployed to Iraq twice during Operation: Iraqi Freedom. While in the desert conducting convoy security and nighttime security patrols, Zack was overwhelmed with the nearness and love of Christ. He has a love of history, the outdoors as well as an unwavering love of his favorite local sports teams. He earned his M.Div in Theological Studies from Liberty Theological Seminary. Zack is a co-host of the podcast: The Liberty Tree. After coming home from the Marine Corps he found a Church home at Suwannee Station Family Life Church in Suwannee, GA where he now serves as an Associate Pastor. Zack lives in Sugar Hill, GA with his wife Bonnie and their two sons, Cade and Knox.