A lot of people of late have been concerned over those in the body of Christ who are preaching an “extreme grace” message. As someone who only desires to become more extreme in my understanding and representation of the grace of God, this has obviously caused me a lot of concern.
To say that we can be too extreme in grace or preach too much grace is similar to saying that you can take love to an extreme or preach about love too much, or how about truth? These are not parts of the gospel. These are who God is. He is Love, He is Truth, He is Grace.
First of all
I want to say that I understand where this camp is coming from. Their concern is that when extreme grace is preached people will use this message to either sin and say “grace covers it” or “Jesus paid for that”, or to become unteachable because of their belief that they are perfect. I have seen some examples of this myself, but the problem is not the message.
You see, they are right. What they are saying is true. Grace does cover all sin. The problem is you need to be under grace to experience that. The very fact that these people haven’t seen a turn around in their lives tells us that they are not under grace because we all know that it is not our own efforts that bring any lasting change or righteousness but rather Jesus’ effort on the cross. As John says – if you are living with sin in your life you have neither seen nor heard the Father, you are still a son of the devil (1 John 3:4-10) (See my article on 1 John)
So are these people wrong?
Yes. The problem is they are preaching (in part at least) truth, that God has taken care of sin and it’s not a problem to Him anymore. The gaping hole they leave out is the only job we as believers have. To believe. Jesus Himself said that the work of the Father was to believe. (John 6:28-29)
You see, to experience the grace of God you must have faith. Faith is what activates the grace of God in our lives (Rom 4:16, 5:2 & Eph 2:8). By putting our faith in God’s grace, we believe that we are no longer sinners (Romans 6:2,3,4,6,7,8,11,14,17,18,22 – you get the point), but rather we have been made new creations (2 Cor 5:17) and are the righteousness of Christ. This produces fruit of (shock horror) righteousness.
You see when people had the same concerns in Paul’s day about what He was teaching (He was the first “greasy grace” preacher ;) ) and asked him “What shall we do, sin more so grace can increase?” (Romans 6:1) He said “Don’t be stupid! How can you sin? Your sinful nature is dead!” (Romans 6:2)
There was one thing that Paul said again and again that would alienate you from grace and God. (Gal 5:4, Gal 2:20-22, Rom 5, Eph 2) What was it? It was to bring balance to grace, to bring back in the law to make a grace and law mixture. Grace + Law = Law. There is no mixture, any mixture becomes pure law.
Extreme love: A license to sin?
If people were going around preaching about love and how we need to love more, but were having orgies to show their love, would you try to bring balance to the message of love?
Of course not. It would be clear they aren’t talking about love at all. Maybe they are proclaiming love but they mean lust. It would be a travesty for us to try to bring balance to love in the name of it being abused.
What’s my point?
My heart is not to attack anyone who has been trying to bring balance to the grace message, or to attack the “extreme grace” camp (in fact I hope I am in it!). Rather, my heart is to encourage people to focus on what matters, the authenticity of the gospel. If someone is preaching grace but living in sin, they are in deception. However there are many people who are not only preaching grace but living it out successfully. The grace message is not the problem. Let’s not throw out the baby with the bath water.
Paul put it beautifully when addressing this same thing in the Galatian church, check out how the Mirror Translation paraphrases it – “However, if in our quest to discover righteousness by faith in what Christ did for us, we find that it is still possible to stumble, do not now label yourself a sinner yet again! The fact that you sinned does not cancel the cross of Christ and gives you no reason to abandon justification by faith as if Christ is to be blamed for your distraction! That would be absurd! Only a con artist will try to be a law-man and a grace-man at the same time!” Galatians 2:17-18
When we or others don’t reflect the message well, let’s not turn our back on the message or try and tweak the message to make ourselves feel safe or better. Lets run after the message all the more, knowing that in our believing it whole-heartedly we will experience it fully.
There is lots more to be said on this subject and I may go into it in greater depth in a future post. I guess what I’m trying to clear up here is we need to stop attacking the message of grace because we disagree with people who misrepresent it.
What are your thoughts? Does this raise more questions? I’d love to hear either :)