The subject of grace is a hot topic in some parts of the church right now. I have observed friends who have received greater revelation of the grace of God in Christ which has given them a new sense of freedom, joy, and peace. I applaud such fruit. The grace of God which is ours through His Son Jesus and His sacrificial death on the cross is meant to produce in us such results .
What can we say about grace?
It is ‘amazing‘, as the hymn goes. It is meant to make us stand in awe and wonder at the goodness and kindness of God in dealing with our sins and sin-nature, once and for all.
It is ‘extreme‘. The Father welcoming back His prodigal sons and daughters and throwing a party for them, completely covering their shame and dirt with His own robe of righteousness sounds almost too ‘extreme’ to be true! Yet that is the grace that has been imparted to us through Jesus Christ. He came to bring us to this very Father as sons and daughters.
Sheer delight ensues. Deep joy and rejoicing come. The party is a gift and not earned. Oh the deep, deep wonders… oh the deep intoxicating pleasures of amazing, and such extreme grace! May we never lose the wonder! May we ever enter into deeper bliss!
Grace plus Truth
However, I do have a few alarm bells concerning the results and direction with some of the teaching on grace that I have heard. The Apostle John tells us, in Jesus Christ God delivered to us a twin package of ‘grace and truth‘ (Jn. 1:17), which he implies supersedes, or is greater than, the law which came through Moses. It’s important, I believe, that we emphasize that Jesus didn’t just bring us grace alone, and neither did He bring us truth alone, but rather the divinely empowering combination of grace and truth together. These are like the twin tracks of a train line. They run parallel together, side by side. And just as with a train track, we travel in safety and reach our destination only when we remain astride them both. If a train sits on only one rail, it is heading for derailment. So also are we, if we focus only on grace or only on truth, and not astride both together.
ConcernsFor me. there are in particular three ‘red flags’ – concerns that I want to mention here; three areas where the Truth appears to have been, or is being, abandoned in favour of ‘hyper-grace’. I have personally heard and come across all of these.
1. There is the idea that we no longer need to pray because prayer is a ‘work’ and is therefore contrary to grace and the finished work of Christ. Such a notion is completely absurd to true Christianity. Prayer is the lifestyle of intimacy and fruitfulness. Jesus, Paul, John, James, all exhort us over and over to remain in prayer. Jesus urges us to keep ‘asking’ so that we can keep on receiving. James makes it clear that sometimes we do not receive, purely because for some reason we didn’t ask! Please don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, to depart from a practice of prayer is to depart from truth into a lie.
2. I have heard of a tendency to write off parts of scripture which don’t fit with the ‘new’ notions of grace. The moment we start to cut out the parts of the Bible we no longer ‘like’, or we categorize the words of Jesus so that they no longer apply to us, we are on a slippery slope. It’s not long before we cut out a bit more, and a bit more, until there is nothing left. It is like a pilot ripping out his instruments one at a time, and wondering why he has lost his bearings in flight. “All scripture is inspired by God and is profitable…”
3. And finally, perhaps the most dangerous, is a notion that because Christ died for the sins of the whole world, there is nothing anyone has to do personally to receive their salvation. Scripture is abundantly clear on this point. “Whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” (Jn. 3:16). To be sure, believing may well not mean reciting the traditional ‘sinner’s prayer’ in parrot fashion any more than the thief on the cross did, but it does require an active engagement of personal repentance and faith within the heart of the individual, with the work of the cross. Moses depicted this clearly with the bronze serpent in the wilderness. Those who looked at it, who turned to it by their own faith, however simply, and however far away they were, received healing from the snake-bites. Those who didn’t personally engage with it, didn’t receive healing. The danger with this deception is that a notion that all are saved regardless will result in not exhorting people to repent and believe, and will leave those people in their sin, maybe even assuring them they are eternally o.k., when Biblically they aren’t. This is not THE gospel that has been delivered to us, but has surely morphed into ‘another’ gospel.
Again, I don’t in any way want to imply that everyone who rejoices in grace in a big way believes or is teaching all, or necessarily, any of the above three points. We should ALL be rejoicing in grace in a big way! But these notions are out there, and we are wise to spot them and guard against them.
We live in spiritually blessed, but also perilous times. I believe it is imperative that we should remain balanced on the twin tracks of grace and truth. To not do so leaves us vulnerable to derailment, or as the Bible terms it ‘shipwreck’.Wes Boxall