Real people want real answers and real freedom from real issues – not just the tidy platitudes of half truths.
Maybe that’s what has shaped my strong reaction to hyper grace, which is really half grace: It cannot offer real freedom from real issues because it seeks the grace of God’s affirming love and presence, but not the grace of His transforming truth and rule.
Half grace is what we use to call “sloppy agape” (agape is the Greek word in the New Testament for unmerited love). By emphasizing the vibrancy of God’s internal presence (based on His unmerited love and acceptance), without the discipline of His external rule (based on the propositional truths of scripture, like His commands, revealed history, moral principles and clear Biblical precepts), it reduces Jesus to what we now call a “friend with benefits”. As such, we use Him on our terms to meet our needs when it’s convenient – but that’s about it.
The authentic Jesus of scripture, however, is not just our accepting Savor, but the One who rose victorious over all principalities and powers (including our own sensibilities, perceptions and opinions) as sovereign Creator, conquering King, absolute Lord, righteous Lawgiver and ultimate Judge.
Only the full grace that comes from loving, knowing and submitting to the authentic Christ of scripture can provide real answers and real freedom from real issues.
Half grace, because it rejects all of Christ by wanting only His internal presence and affirming love, but not His propositional truths and external rule, is reduced to hollow platitudes.
Unfortunately, however, those half-truth platitudes are enticing:
“Jesus unconditionally loves and accepts you.”
His love and acceptance are unmerited, but He also calls us to be holy as He is holy by coming to the cross and continually dying to self. (Matt. 10:38-39 & 16:24, 1 Pet. 1:14-16)
“You are fully righteous and wholly sinless through the finished work of the Cross.”
Although it is true that the guilt of our sins – and their eternal consequences – were wiped clean at the Cross, the work of the Cross in dealing with the ongoing reality of sin in our lives – and its practical consequences – is an ongoing work of grace. (Rom. 6:12-13, 1 John 1:6-10)
“You are forgiven and sinless in Christ.”
Although it is true that we need never earn God’s saving grace and justifying forgiveness (Rom. 4:7-8), we still are commanded to deal with those sins that continue to rule us. By His grace, He therefore allows us to expose them through confession, break their hold on us by turning them over to Him through practical forgiveness, and find wholeness by progressively becoming more and more like Christ through repentance (which means changing how we act by letting the Lord change how we think, feel, perceive and believe). (1 John 1:7-10, Matt. 6:12 & 14, 2 Cor. 12:20-21, James 5:16)
“You do not need to do anything to earn God’s love.”
Although it is true that God’s love for us is unmerited, our love for Him is only authentic if it compels us to obey all that He commands (1 John 5:3). Furthermore, the Lord ultimately judges whether we truly knew and loved Him by whether we obeyed and did His will. (Matt. 7:21-23)
Obeying and doing His will means submitting to all that He says and expects, as He speaks not only to our hearts but also through His external Word of scripture – with the resulting fruit of holiness, righteousness and good works. (Heb. 12:10-11, Col. 1:9-12)
“You are redeemed and already whole through faith.”
Although it is true that we are justified by faith alone, there will always be areas in our lives where God still needs to bring wholeness. As such, we must “work out your own salvation” in humility – and also not forget that “faith without works is dead”. (Phil. 2:12, James 2:17-18)
“If you just listen to the Holy Spirit in you, you will just naturally do what is right.”
Although God certainly speaks subjectively to our hearts, He also has authoritatively spoken through His objective, external Word of scripture.
Half grace wants the autonomy of limiting God to our subjective perceptions of Him by rejecting the plenary authority of His external Word – including the propositional truths of Christ’s commands, revealed history, moral principles and clear Biblical precepts. It therefore dismisses the necessity of scripture, and the need to submit our opinions and subjective perceptions of Christ – and what’s real, true and right – to the authority of scripture. (2 Tim. 3:16-17)
“Obedience, truth and works are legalism.”
Although it is true that striving to please God through our own strength is legalism, true discipleship comes from the motivation to obey all that Christ commands because of our authentic love for Him, as we then are enabled to do so by the Holy Spirit. (John 14:15-17)
However, I have found that the Holy Spirit seldom forces us to do anything. If we reject the validity of God’s external standards and commands, it is unlikely that He will prompt or empower us to obey them. We are then left in perpetual spiritual immaturity, trapped in our own subjectivity.
It is not through dry conformity that we embrace Christ’s rule, but a joyous process of us submitting to His life in us as He transforms us into all that He created us to be, which is being like Him. What it looks like to become like Him, however, is not defined merely by our own internal, subjective perception of Him, but by His authoritative self-revelation of scripture. (Psalm 119, Rom. 8:28-29, 2 Tim. 3:16-17)
Dynamic Full Grace
The half-truth platitudes of half grace are static: They stop with Christ’s initial – and truly finished – work of the Cross.
There is a measure of truth in them. At the Cross, we are fully justified through His righteousness, forgiven of our past, and now stand blameless before God without condemnation.
Full grace, however, is dynamic. Although the work of Christ was finished at the cross, the work of the cross – this side of glory – is never finished in us.
As such, my half-grace brethren have robbed themselves, and others, of the wonderful ongoing power of the cross, where we continually go to die to self – which is our old sinful nature.
That happens as the Holy Spirit calls and enables us to increasingly submit to His rule and His truth – which really means being transformed more and more into the likeness and image of His liberating nature and character.
Nor do my half-grace brethren acknowledge the dynamic reality that we are held accountable by God (Matt. 7:21-23) for what we do with the justification we received through the Cross.
Those saved by grace are repeatedly called in scripture to then become Christ’s disciples, by continually growing in maturity, submitting to Christ’s rule, doing the will of the Father, and bearing the fruit of righteousness and good works.
All of this, however, is not through our own strength or ability, but becomes possible as we respond to the Holy Spirit’s call and submit to His full grace, which enables us to obey all that Christ commands. As Jesus Himself said:
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.” (John 14:15-17)
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be stuck in the static faith of half-grace’s half-truths. I want the dynamic, wonderful, often messy but always transforming faith of full grace – which embraces all of Christ and all of His grace as we:
“Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.” (Phil. 2:12-13)
Let us then leave behind the half-truths of half-grace and join with Paul, who said, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way…” (Phil. 3:14-15)
- Hyper Grace – Part 1 (crossroadjunction.com)
- Hyper Grace – Part 3 (crossroadjunction.com)
- Hyper Grace – Part 4 (crossroadjunction.com)