The topic I get the most email about these days, especially within our house church network, is about some of the extremes of the ‘grace’ teaching. The beliefs of some in hyper-grace can include:
1) The gospels aren’t for today, they are Old Testament, so have no relevance. (They are ‘the law’)
2) I John wasn’t written for us today, in particular, I John 1:9 – I don’t have to confess sin.
3) Related to #2; Sin doesn’t exist anymore due to Jesus/cross, only grace exists.
4) Therefore I don’t have to be accountable to anyone, don’t have to apologize or confess sin/wrong, for
there is no such thing as sin any longer because Jesus took it out of the way.
5) Hell either doesn’t exist, is misunderstood, or all people down through history will one day end up in heaven – because of grace.
“Everybody complains about the weather, but nobody does anything about it” – Charles Dudley Warner
The usual situation I hear about is that someone has gone around and around in a discussion with a hyper-grace believer on the subject, ending in a stalemate, hurt feelings, exasperation, and often broken relationships.
But Jesus’ pattern was not to go round and round with the Pharisees or Sadducees, rather just teach what the Word says and let them decide. So here is what the Word says about grace. You decide its validity.
Grace and truth
Paul’s writing follows the pattern we see throughout the New Testament, expounding on something the gospels state, in this case John 1:14: The Word became flesh and lived among us, full of grace and truth. Also verse 17: The law came by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ
Grace is the favor of God we’ve received and includes the work of the cross. Truth is the application of grace. Truth is the ‘vital’ or living demonstration of grace in our lives. Thus Jesus was full of grace and truth.
Think of it this way – you may have grace for someone, but unless you show them grace in action, all they will know is the idea of grace because you told them you had grace towards them. They don’t know if you are telling the truth or not.
But when you act on that grace you are revealing the truth of it. Then that person can live in that grace and truth in relationship with you for they know your heart. Thus grace and truth are the embodiment of Christ Jesus and the means by which we know Him and the Father. He carried the grace the Father has towards us in His heart and lived the truth of it before mankind all the way to the cross to prove it so.
We see this same pattern of grace (invisible in the heart of God) linked with truth (revelation and application of that grace in our lives) throughout the New Testament. Or to put it another way, truth is imbedded in and inherently part of grace, for to have the favor of God is also to have the ability to live in that favor.
If all a person sees of grace is the unmerited favor part, they’ll get off balance thinking there is no truth to be lived out, and life becomes very self-centered, very ‘me’ focused, very selfish. Grace is the legal work done on the cross, which allows the truth of the power of the resurrection to be lived out in daily life.
“For the grace of God, which can save every man, has become known, and it teaches us to have no more to do with godlessness or the desires of this world, but to live here and now responsible, honorable and God-fearing lives. And while we live this life we hope and wait for the glorious appearing of the Great God and of Jesus Christ our Savior.” (Phillips NT, Titus 2:11)
Here is grace and truth: Grace which can save every person is the favor part, teaching us is the truth part – the living and vital part in our daily lives. Grace and truth coupled once again, this time manifest in teaching us to live Godly lives. Grace teaches, which means a person in grace is teachable.
One sign of someone off balance in ‘grace’ is that they aren’t teachable, unable to entertain another’s thoughts on the subject without feeling personally threatened. Grace teaches us to live Godly lives. So if you see grace taught as a license for immoral behavior, it isn’t grace – that person is deceived.
Grace is always linked with purpose
“He has saved us and called us to a holy life – not because of anything we have done, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given to us before times eternal.” (II Timothy 1:9)
Notice grace – ‘He has saved us…’
Notice truth; ‘…and called us to a holy life’.
Here is the rest of this verse: “Not because of anything we have done, but according to His own ‘purpose and grace which was given to us before times eternal.” Purpose is the living truth, grace is within His heart.
The purpose of God is always part of the grace of God. Noah received grace, building the boat was the purpose and truth – living that grace. Moses received grace, the truth and purpose was to lead Israel.
Heart is established with grace
“Do not be carried away by diverse and strange teachings: For it is good that the heart is established by grace; not by ceremonial foods, which have no real spiritual benefit to those who eat them.” Hebrews 13:9
The born-again heart of a person, their spirit, is established by grace. The point in this verse is that the heart isn’t established by works, by ceremony, by ritual. Grace is the establishment of the heart, the truth presented is that grace is not found in ritual and ceremony.
Putting these elements together: Grace & truth, teaching, purpose, established hearts
Grace is allowing your child to pursue a driver’s license. Embodied within that grace is truth – they need to learn how to handle a car, they need to learn the purpose for driving a car, they need to become established through life experience behind the wheel of a car. All these are elements of the grace you exhibited when you gave permission for them to pursue their license.
Behind the scenes, in the heavenly realms in ‘times eternal’, the Father God and Christ had grace in their hearts for yet-to-be-created mankind. But grace had to be more than a revelation of their favor towards us, it had to be empowerment to live out the benefits of salvation that grace provided. Grace and truth.
Pull one element out and you have…
Love cannot be broken down into its many elements, for to remove even one element of love destroys the very meaning of the word. To remove long suffering, hardly noticing when wronged, faithfulness, loyalty, devotion, fidelity, honor, respect, transparency, or any other element of love is to lose the meaning and impact of full-force love.
If we pull one element out and concentrate on that separate from the rest, we get dangerously off balance and jeopardize the object of our love entirely. For instance, if ‘transparency’ is pulled out of love, that transparency meant to be between a husband and wife, and one spouse becomes transparent with another person. When they transparently share things intended for their spouse with a friend, co-worker, or member of the opposite sex, they violate the love of their marriage. Many affairs and heartache have resulted in one spouse pulling one element of love to the neglect of the rest, and sharing that element with someone.
If they pull ‘devotion’ out of love to concentrate on that, they risk becoming a slave to the object of their devotion, unable to do anything but give themselves 100% to the object of their devotion. This will eventually result in at least burn-out, if not fatigue and the destruction of their own well-being, even if that devotion is towards their spouse, and certainly if towards work or children or a hobby or personal sin.
As it relates to grace
Similarly grace cannot be broken down into its many elements without destroying the very meaning of the word. To focus on unmerited favor while neglecting the truth of being taught to live Godly lives, live with purpose and remaining free from religious ritual and ceremony, is to open oneself to the idea they have so much favor that sin doesn’t exist, they don’t have to admit sin or error, and other errors.
This series is about understanding the multi-faceted elements of grace so we may be balanced in our understanding, holy in our lives, and further down the road towards being like Him.
I close with a quote from 150 +/- years ago, that you may know there is nothing new about this ‘grace’ movement at all – it even existed in Paul’s time, but that is next week.
“Men talk about free grace without having the slightest acquaintance with it from personal experience; instead of living in the element of grace, they have nothing but a mere head knowledge, or a superficial perception of it in their hearts; a complete break with the world, the flesh, and the devil, has not yet taken place; the conscience sleeps the sleep of death, and Christ is regarded as a mere substitute, whom the sinner thinks will make up the deficiency of his own fancied merit.
Thus the abuse of this doctrine becomes very easy. When the whole head, the whole heart is filled with false premises, how can we be surprised that they should lead to the most false—no, infamous conclusions? What wonder is it that such a man, who chatters about grace without having become acquainted with it from heartfelt experience, with the tears of repentance, should appropriate the kindness of this Redeemer to himself, in such a manner as to leave his heart and life unchanged.” F. W. Krummacher (1796 – 1868)
More next week, blessings,