Balancing Law & Grace

The Danger of Balancing Grace

I frequently get accused of being one of those “hyper-grace” people.

I have to confess I do find grace rather hyper. The apostle Paul did too.

Romans 5:20 says “where sin abounds (pleonaz├Á), grace hyper-abounds (hyperperisseu├Á).”

Paul’s description of grace was hyper. In fact, he heard a lot of the same objections to grace as we see today!

I have to confess. I totally understand people’s reservations with grace. It’s a scary thing if you don’t fully understand what it is. Which it seems most people don’t.

However, trying to bring balance to grace is not a good solution. Rather, it’s about the worst thing you can do.

Changing grace to suit us is not the answer.

The answer is to educate ourselves in the truths of the gospel until we can see grace as the solution.

So today I want to briefly talk about why trying to balance grace is so dangerous.

The importance of believing in the gift of righteousness

Here is the deal. Grace is scary!

But only when coupled with one key misunderstanding of the gospel.

Romans 5-8 explains the key to walking in grace is understanding your sinful-self died and you are now righteous.

As we believe this, grace becomes a powerful force to enable us walk in the righteousness we’ve been given.

If we don’t believe this then grace loses any effectiveness it has.

We just end up letting “sinners” do what they want to do – sin.

Teaching grace and extending grace has to be complete.

We can’t release a partial grace that leaves people in their sin.

We must teach a grace that makes us righteous. Not by our efforts to change but by Jesus’ work in us to make us righteous!

In my experience every pastor who preaches against hyper-grace has a common incorrect belief. They believe on one level or another that Christians are sinners.

This makes grace as it’s preached in the Bible a risky proposition.

Imagine you are leading hundreds of people. Now imagine that the Bible presents grace as something we should teach.

This grace says that we must believe in those we lead that they will behave perfectly righteous without any of the rules or laws. But just because of who they are in Christ.

If you think they are all sinners you are going to have a heart attack at the prospect.

You need some rules to help make sure they behave. To make sure these sinners don’t sin! You can’t just trust God to keep them from sinning!

The result is we try to “balance” an extreme message. The problem is that balancing the message isn’t the answer.

Despite how much people try – balancing grace doesn’t work. In fact, it makes things worse! And here’s why…

Grace + Law = Law

Trying to balance out grace is impossible. It can’t be done!

Grace in it’s very nature is an all or nothing.

When we change the all… it becomes nothing!

Paul talks about this in most of his epistles but nowhere with as strong an emphasis as his letter to the Galatians.

In it he states (in Gal 5:4) that just by getting circumcised, nothing more, you fall from grace back under the law.

Just one rule ruined grace and made the whole system of belief the same as being under the law.

You see there are two systems you live under.

1) Grace – allowing God to work in and through you, simply following the lead of the Holy Spirit.

Or

2) Law – attempting to what’s right or wrong.

It is physically impossible for you to be living both!

To mix them puts you firmly in the law camp.

But just the bad parts of the law!

What’s funny about this is you aren’t even living fully in the law either!

The insistence on balancing grace means you don’t get to enjoy the benefits of grace or the law.

Yes, while we are not under the law (not in the slightest), those who were under the law did have benefits. If one perfectly fulfilled the law without a single error there were blessings you would come under.

But we don’t put ourselves under the blessings of the law, because we have mingled a little grace with the law.

So we fail to do the law perfectly.

Instead we put ourselves back under the curse of the law.

The law requires any man who lives with law to adhere to it perfectly or they place themselves under wrath!

So by “balancing grace” we remove ourselves from grace and place ourselves under the curse of the law!

We live in a terrible in-between place. This is why the book of Revelations tells us it’s better to be hot (grace) or cold (law) than lukewarm (a bit of grace and a bit of law).

What’s my point?

My point is this:

If you try to balance grace – you receive none of the benefits of grace and only the negative parts of the law.

You end up with no grace at all and a partial law.

Balanced grace = sloppy law!

Grace = no law at all.

For more resources on the law I’d encourage you to check out these links:

37 Scriptures That Prove Christians Are Not Under The Law

What’s the Role of the Law Under the New Covenant?

Christians Are Not Under the Law [Video]

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16 Comments

  1. I thank God for you, Phil! This is a strong confirmation of God already told me. The reason of this confirmation is to begin to firmly educate myself and others about the truh and the power of walking in grace, not to expect from others… Thank you, bro’!

  2. Phil, i love your perspective concerning the New and Everlasting Covenant of grace we are born again into. God delivered me from a 12 year addiction to crack only because of His Biblical hyper-grace, in a very miraculous way, where HE gets all the credit, praise and glory. So much of what is taught concerning the Torah v. God’s grace is like a copy of a copy of a copy completely divorced from the intent and proper context of scripture. The enemy HATES God’s grace and will utilize every available resource to work/deceive against it. The enemy LOVES when believer’s are taught a “fear of” grace rather than as you say, a firm faith in God’s grace and free gift of righteousness In Christ. As John writes “For of His FULLNESS we have all received; and grace upon grace!!! As David proclaims “taste and see that the Lord is good.” And Peter writes we are to “long for the PURE MILK OF THE WORD that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, IF you have taste the kindness of the Lord.” Romans 11:6 is very clear. Most “big name” christians unwittingly teach a refried legalism complete with fear of God’s grace because they mix the old covenant/law with the new covenant /Grace In Christ for everything! It’s like an unconscious need to control others instead of leading them to Christ Himself and trusting Him to do what only He can do in/through us. Sin shall not be master over us because we are NOT under law but under God’s grace In Christ. Keep up the great teaching and care you have for Christ’s Body Bro. I have believed for years that the great dividing line is ultimately gonna be a revelation received of the one party New Covenant of grace verses “religious tradition” because ” until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted, BECAUSE IT IS REMOVED IN CHRIST. We have a place for you to stay, (15 minute bus ride to Harvard Sq.) if you are in the Boston area. Blessings Brother!!!

    • Thanks for sharing John!

      You know I’m in NE for a series of meetings this April right?

      Would be great if you managed to make any of them – I’d love to get the chance to meet.

  3. Kindly explain Jesus words in Matthew 5:17-20
    Do not think that I have come to do away with the Law of Moses and the teachings of the prophets. I have not come to do away with them, but to make their teachings come true. Remember that as long as heaven and earth last, not the least point nor the smallest detail of the Law will be done away with. So then, whoever disobeys even the least important of the commandments and teaches others to do the same, will be the least in the Kingdom of heaven.
    That’s only until- verse 19a.

    Jesus has not come to abolish the Law or make it an issue of grace vs law, no! He came to fulfill the Law and lived in harmony with the Law under grace! Which we can all do and not be under law and under sin but in grace and obedient to the Law as a natural flow of living in grace. Why would we see the Law as a burden? Jesus didn’t, He showed us grace by dying and yet living in obedience to the Law and thus to His Father. Lets not make the Law into something that its not. Jesus said the Law and grace work hand in hand, why propose otherwise?

    • Actually it’s funny that Jesus never mentioned the word grace, nor did he ever say I love you to anyone, but we would never suggest that He didn’t love you nor have an abundance of grace towards you. After 19a of course He says that our righteousness needs to exceed the scribes and Pharisees. That means that if it has to do with your deeds or misdeeds then you need to have righteousness in excess of the calibre of say mother Teresa. My translation says that Jesus came to fulfill the law. Not one jot or tiddle would be removed until it was fulfilled. Did He do a good job of it or did He do an incomplete work?

      My problem of mixing these two covenants together is if the Christian is still under the law (and the scriptures clearly say that the Christian is not under the Law Romans 6;14 and this verse answers mans need to overcome sin) if all Jesus has done is to bring just the atonement but not changing the covenant then surely all He came to do is save sacrificial animal lives. That is a pretty sad indictment right there. Also we know that all the commands bar the keeping of the sabbath was repeated in the New Testament writings. If we are to maintain that all those commands are as they were (conditional for entry into the new covenant; note different to New Testament ) then are we suggesting that Jesus came and died on the cross so that he could change the day we take off. Also a sad indictment on a doctrine. Hebrews outlines the new covenant as that He will put His laws in our hearts (no longer an outward force but a working out of the new creation that we are in Christ) and their sins and lawless deeds He will remember no more (the reality of what Christ purchased for us on the cross) this should answer the naysayers to grace who as Paul puts it slanderously say shall we sin so grace may increase. It has never been Gods intention to see us remain in distructive lifestyles neither has it been why I have run to the gospel of grace. The law simply is totally unable to produce a right living lifestyle. It actually was given for the purpose of inflaming mans pride so he would come to an end of his own abilities and come to rely solely on Jesus provision of righteousness . The law is good only for that purpose, not as a guide for righteous living. If you see someone sinning in a grace church people blame the grace message. If you see someone sinning in a law church do you also blame the law message yet we know that the law inflames sin.

      Ian do you believe the law as Jesus says it or just as the Pharisees ? If you have looked at a woman (or bloke/animal) with lust in your eyes more than twice then do you have your eyes still in their sockets? Have you given up everything for this gospel, sold all and given to the poor. Have you spoken too quickly and therefore had to cut out your tongue? You know I have discovered Christ who became sin for me and He was cut off for me that I wouldn’t have to cut off my body parts and still enter into life with Him. All through the gospels those that had sin or failure recieved while those that had the law could not receive. If you are going to go after the law I would strongly encourage you to do it with all your heart so you can discover its insufficiency and fall into the fullness of Jesus.

      • Great points Michael – thanks so much for sharing – this is something I’m very passionate about myself. Mixing law and grace is the absolutely worst thing a Christian can do.

  4. Defining grace helps your argument. If grace is ‘His empowering presence’ (which it is – not to be confused with mercy), we can understand more readily that relationship is superior to rules. Relationship is characterised by love, warmth, intimacy, flexibility, sacrifice, etc). I define my marriage as a relationship, not a set of rules. I also define my faith in terms of my relationship as son to my Heavenly Father, not ‘keeping the rules’. The challenge to the church is to live this out corporately. When we do, His Kingdom has truly come and we have no difficulty at all attracting people to church!

    • Absolutely Andy – that’s why I spend so much time speaking and writing about grace. So that people understand that it is absolutely none of our effort or actions and entire His effort and action in and through us!

      Thanks for sharing brother!

  5. Quite right Nicolette. the law is Holy Just & Good. It is spiritual. I cannot for the life of me understand why people maqke them oppose each other? nowhwere in the bible EVER did God say we were saved by the law!!!!!!
    From Abraham it was be faith. David LOVED the law & was a man after Gods heart & was never saved by the law.
    Too many lawyer like explanations have confused folk & made them oppose the law & caused them to choose between law & grace.
    Timothy was told to study the scriptures to show him approved to every good work. That was OT scriptures he referred to.it’s NOT a choice between the two.
    These new “grace” preachers have made it thus but it is not so & never was. Also read Romans & otheer places Paul speaks about the law.
    It’s not one or the other. Were saved by grace through faith. We don’t throw out the rest of the bible now. We need to interpret it clearly. ALL the bible is relevant. god didn’t write it for fun & He hasn’t changed.
    Bible tells us to Preach Christ, him crucified.

    • I think it is worthwhile noting that Jesus preached hyper law also for those who were under the law…… But not to those who came without the law disqualifying them, just believing Jesus is for them….

    • Thanks for sharing Ian – as I said to Nicolette – I’d strongly encourage you check out the resources listed in the blog that go into the law in much greater depth.

      It’s very hard to read the NT in context and say that the law is for the righteous. In fact to give just a couple of scriptures 1 Timothy 1:8-10 says that the law is not for the righteous but for the unrighteous. Romans 6:14 says that the law is for the unbeliever, not the Christian.

  6. Dear Phil

    This is such a blessing to understand GRACE. Many times, we confront people from the body of Christ who totally misinterprets GRACE. It is so important to present the Gospel in what it actually is – total & total, complete GOOD NEWS !. But some are presenting in a manner where GOOD NEWS becomes scarry. You are such a blessing to all of us who believe. Keep writing blogs as I love reading & absorbing your blogs as much as possible.

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