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I’m surprised at how many people have such a strong opposition to grace. One man gave me the warning of Luke 6:26, “Woe when all men speak well of you.” He then said, “This is the evidence you are a deceiver and a false prophet.”
Based on the response to grace, I’m in safe company. I get bombarded with criticism, and an occasional word of encouragement sprinkles in from time to time. From what I can see, those who are quoting Luke 6:26 are the ones being spoken well of, for preaching righteousness by human effort is widely accepted. The Apostle Paul said it best when he explained how persecution stops when the law is preached, for “then the offense of the cross has ceased.” When you take the works of righteousness out of man’s hands and say all good is a gift of God’s grace or it is a work of the flesh, that is when religion gets offended.
There are many well-meaning Christians that are creating divisions in the church. They preach division by labeling anyone who doesn’t subscribe to the boundaries of their denominational lines as a heretic or false teacher. A few weeks ago someone sent me an article titled ‘Six People who should be removed from Evangelicalism’. Is this the message of the gospel? As of this writing, there are over 33,000 denominations and sub-denominations in the world today.
Jesus said, “By this shall all men know you are My disciples, by your love (agape) for one another.” My friend, this is the reason for the decline of the church. It isn’t ‘those heretics’, it is the fact that with the absence of love for the brethren, the world has no way of seeing Christ in the church. When we see misunderstandings of doctrine, instead of taking to heart the example of Aquila and Priscilla and nurturing people into the way of truth, we take the hammer of judgmentalism and smash them over the head.
When these two mature believers heard Apollos teaching, they recognized mistakes in his teaching, but they also recognized his love for God. Instead of publicly skewering him, the Bible says, “They took him aside and expounded the way of God more accurately.” A little is lost in translation. The word ‘took’ is the Greek word ‘proslambano’, which means to take someone as a companion. They didn’t merely rebuke him or straighten him out. They welcomed him into their fellowship and extended agape love to him, and through the relationship, they nurtured him into a deeper understanding.
Apollos is mentioned ten different times in the New Testament. He became an influential missionary who crossed paths with the Apostle Paul and worked to establish the church throughout the Roman Empire. What would have happened if they rebuked Apollos or wrote to the churches that he should be expelled from fellowship because he had a flaws in his doctrine?
Here is another thought to ponder. Think about the most influential Christians throughout history. How many people who shot down others were instrumental in establishing the church or being used mightily of God? I’ll ask another question. Which person is more usable by God – someone who is abiding in the love of God (agape) but has weak doctrine, or a learned theologian who picks off heretics? Which one demonstrates the love of Christ to the world? Which one will the world look at and say, “Now that person is a disciple of Christ?”
I also once thought defending the faith from every form of error was the most important part of teaching. I once had thousands of pages of apologetics on my website (exchangedlife.com) but a few years back I wiped it all away and started over. Apologetics is a term meant to call ourselves a defender of the faith.
I was compelled to start from scratch when I began to understand how little I knew. Each new discovery in the word did two things. It unveiled a new world of truth to explore, and it revealed how little I had previously understood. New misunderstandings are dispelled every time I discover a new depth of truth. If I now see how many things I had wrong (and only God knows how many new discoveries will make my current beliefs appear foolish) how can I stand in condemnation because my fellow believer has things wrong? Do I deserve God’s patience with my limited understanding, but now I refuse to show that same patience to others? The evidence of our faith is NOT pointing out every error in others and demanding they submit to our beliefs.
Let me digress for a moment. Nowhere does the Bible call us defenders of the faith. God needs no defenders. Once we have to defend God or make ourselves protectors of His truth, we are already outside of true faith. He is our defender, and His truth has no rivals. Each time the word ‘defense’ or ‘apologia’ is used in scripture, it is us defending the reason for our hope. It is never given as a justification for attacking fellow believers. Nine times ‘defense’ is used in the New Testament. Not one time is it associated with anything other than someone defending their own hope in faith. Never is it used to assault someone in the name of God. There is a place for apologetics, but any apologia that does not give reason for our hope is an act of the flesh.
What’s more, the way to expound the way more accurately is not to rebuke or correct. It is to build companionship based on a mutual faith, exercising agape love to each other, and through fellowship, we can freely challenge each other and be challenged in the spirit of love. If a friend comes up and says, “I’m not sure if I agree with what you said,” we can sit down at a coffee shop and explore the scriptures and each other’s perspective. However, if I go up to someone I have not bothered to establish a companionship with and say I don’t agree with them, what will happen? They will be defensive, and I’m more likely to get conflict than showing them the way more perfectly.
The real failure is not in their doctrine, but in the fact that I have not bothered to create a companionship with my fellow believer. Until agape reigns, correction will always appear to be criticism. This is what is happening with the anti-grace movement. They call themselves defenders of grace from the hyper-grace movement, but as we’ll discuss shortly, you can’t believe in God’s grace too much.
Certainly there are people with misunderstandings of grace. There are non-Christians who use grace to justify their sins, just as they used other methods of self-justification before knowing about grace. There are fleshly minded Christians who will twist grace into justification of the flesh as well. But they were already in the flesh, and it isn’t grace that led them into error. The fleshly mind always seeks to manipulate truth for self-justification. As with all doctrines, grace without faith is an act of the flesh. We shouldn’t be surprised when the fleshly mind attempts to conform biblical truth into the ways of the flesh. We know that grace is only within faith, but this doesn’t keep people outside of faith from trying to manipulate it. But does this disprove grace? Or make it hyper? What about other biblical principles. The Apostle Peter said unlearned men would twist scriptures for their own destruction – but this doesn’t discredit the scriptures.
Jesus never showed hostility toward those who were ignorant, or even to those who were in sin. The only time Jesus dismantled religion was when people erected faith in their own self-righteousness. Grace always triumphs over sin. Self-righteousness always nullifies grace – God’s promises.
Why is grace the only thing the church establishment is openly hostile toward? People misuse scriptures and abuse the Bible in many ways, but it is only of grace that it is said, “We must keep it within boundaries.” It’s just as it was said in the 1st century. The religious community that began looking to Christ had no problems with faith – until faith called them to stop trusting in their own works. Then it became a threat. That’s why the Jewish church hated Paul. The other Apostles received him and called his writings ‘scripture’, but the community that believed in Jesus plus human effort (in their case the law), called grace heresy.
The organized church has no problem believing Ephesians 2:8-9, For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.
Resistance comes when you say, “The Christian life is lived by grace through faith. Everything is a gift of God and not of works so no one can boast.” That’s when conflict arises, but the Christian life is lived the same way it is entered – by grace through faith. If you take grace away, it becomes faith in human effort. If you take faith away, grace becomes a superstition of a flesh-focused religion. The Bible rebukes the Galatian church for leaving faith and turning back to human effort by saying, “Are you so foolish, having begun by faith, do you now think you are made perfect by works of the flesh?”
Grace IS hyper, for God called it so. Romans 5:20 says, where sin abounds, grace much more abounds. ‘Sin abounds’ uses the word ‘pleonazo’, which means increase or have abundance. It’s where we get our English word ‘plenty’. The second part of this passage says ‘grace much more abounds’. That word is huperperisseuo, which means abound beyond measure, abound exceeding, or to overflow into excess. It’s where we get our word hyperactive.
The concept is that sin cannot stand in the presence of grace, for God’s grace is so excessive, it overruns and drives sin out. When a sinner hears the gospel and receives Christ, what happens? God’s grace is poured upon him / her, sin is driven out, the flesh nature is cut away and driven out, and a new nature born of God fills the heart of the person. Is this hyper grace? You bet it is! So what happens to take people out of that joyful reception of grace and into a life struggling against sin again? Grace is replaced with human effort – which often comes in the form of church law. They began by looking to Christ and found victory, but they took their eyes off of Christ and returned it back to self. The very self that could do nothing before has now become that person’s dependence again. And we wonder why the Christian life is so hard.
The only person who can find true victory is the one who realizes self can’t do anything, it’s all of Christ. The church condemns their audacity to do nothing but receive grace, but those condemning them have no victory. They hide their weakness behind a façade, but when you really get to know people, even the best among us is in the same position. We all have weaknesses and struggles. Weaknesses defeat those trusting in human effort, but weakness becomes the glory of those who understand that God’s strength is made perfect in our weaknesses.
Victory emerges as we recognize that our weakness is designed into humanity so we can learn to receive the power of God. Your weakness is God’s gift. Weakness opens our eyes to the provision of God’s grace. It is through weakness that we receive His power of grace. (See 2 Corinthians 12:9) The only way this can’t happen is if we refuse to allow grace to flow. And the promise is nullified through the law (See Galatians 5:4).
Hypergrace condemners cannot comprehend the power of God because they are making Christ of no effect. (Romans 4:14) Then those who are putting their trust fully in Christ are experiencing abounding grace, and the church is condemning them and trying to draw them back into a legal system the human mind can comprehend.
Let’s ponder a few more questions. Is it possible to trust God too much? Is grace limited? If God has said He would give us more than we can think or ask, and others are saying, “Whoa. You are carrying this grace thing too far,” whose words will we trust?
I was saved at 13. I was already in very serious sin. From 13 to 32, I tried to live by the rules. I never felt free, never escaped condemnation, and my sins never lost their grip. They ruled my life – even though I tried with all my might to put myself under the guard of what I thought was Christianity. When I began to discover grace, I stopped condemning myself. I stopped worrying about my sins. I stopped focusing on my failures. I began learning how to focus on Christ and the promises of His gifts of grace through faith. My sins could not be defeated with my best efforts, and even after committing myself to obey, sin still ruled me. Yet under grace, without trying or focusing on my failures, the sins that were once undefeatable fell from my life and became irrelevant. Without my effort, they became valueless to me and I stopped desiring the things that led me into sin.
If grace is a threat to Christianity, why are so many people obeying the Christianized law failing to see victory? Why are people like me being given victory? Because God does not want you and I to defeat sin. He wants us to experience deliverance and victory as a gift of God through the power of the Spirit so we cannot boast. At least we can’t boast in anything but the Lord. It’s all about God’s glory. Self-victory is my glory. Grace only points to the glory of God.
Just because someone does not understand grace does not mean we should doubt it. Legalists don’t understand it. Those pursuing the lusts of the flesh don’t understand it. It can only be understood through faith – for God opens our eyes as we learn to trust enough to receive. This is the victory that overcomes the world – our faith. Not our efforts. Not our resistance to sin. Not our works. It’s all about faith. You are saved by and must now live by grace through faith. It is a gift of God, not of works or human effort so no one can boast. When you trust in grace, God is glorified!
Eddie Snipes 2014
Listen to Eddie’s weekly podcast at https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/hollydale-baptist-church/id893226987
From June 2014.
Sat., June 7th 11:30-3:30
Guest Authors … Ribbon cutting