New covenant grace doesn’t need to be “balanced.” There is no alternative to grace.
Have you ever noticed that for many, suffocating bondage and death producing legalism is tolerated, encouraged, and even celebrated? Yet when grace is mentioned, people go apoplectic with warnings about “going too far,” the “dangers” of the “grace message,” or the “need for balance,” and so forth. Why the dire warnings about supposed “hyper-grace” but no equal alarm about “hyper-legalism?”
Is there no “danger” in the alligator-infested swamp of performance-based religion that most people swim in? One reason there is no indignation about legalism is because it enables people to be measured, controlled, and psychologically manipulated. I can feel superior to you because: “I don’t______________, and you do. Simply put, legalism appeals to the fallen nature. We like it.
Grace frees and grace equalizes: valleys are filled, and mountains are brought low, and in so doing it is offensive to religious sensibilities. Grace frees from sin AND religion. Religion cannot withstand free people. Grace threatens human pride, our sense of fair play and justice. Yes, grace threatens “balance.” By definition, grace cannot be “balanced.”
Paul preached grace so strongly that his critics accused him of promoting sin. You will never be accused of that if you preach a “mild and balanced” grace message! No, only a radical grace message, a message that is begging to be misunderstood will get you those kinds of comments! Those who preach grace with the same urgency and extremity as Paul, will likewise be accused of being: soft on sin, unconcerned about holiness, encouraging lax living and so forth. These are red herrings; straw-men arguments from folks whose understanding of grace and holiness needs some development.
What is supposed to give grace “balance?” Anti-grace? Is it a substance from a bad science fiction movie? “Aye, Captain, we need to get to Romulak 7 and pick up some anti-grace before all this grace blows out our warp drive!”
Does “holiness” allegedly balance grace as if grace and holiness were somehow antithetical principles that keep the universe at a zero-sum equilibrium when they are present in equal quantity? Of course, this is nonsense, but thousands think this way. Thinking grace needs to be balanced with holiness indicates the one thinking such understands neither grace nor holiness very well.
Some think grace is some sort of “get out of jail free” card that means you can do anything you want, or as I once heard a preacher say: “I can commit any sin I want because God is in the forgiving business.” That is likewise, blasphemous nonsense.
In reaction to the above, some think preaching the “law,” or holiness, or hard messages about sin, is the antidote to “not going too far with grace.” That is equally nonsense.
Worse yet, some think we should provide “hard preaching of the law” to restrain believers from sin and balance grace. So-called hard preaching about the law will empower sin! Paul said it plainly: the strength of sin is the law (1 Cor. 15:56). You will never overcome sin by preaching hard about it, and by focusing on the law! By “the law” Paul means any principle-based-sense of living in moral indebtedness to God to “do better.” He is not referring to just Mosaic law, but any sort of “law-based” living–Jewish or Gentile law: “nomos (law) living”. There is only one answer for sin, one answer for victory: seeing, knowing, and experiencing the grace that is in Jesus Christ. Period.
Part of the problem is in our anemic and tepid definition of grace. Too often, it is defined in a very limited way as a “status of favor” or “unmerited favor.” That is true, but it is more than that.
Being “in grace: or “under grace” is to participate/share in the overflow of the covenantal life, love, and power of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. That obviously is a “status” of unmerited favor, but it is also a transformative and empowered state of being.
Thinking that actually being in such a state condones or endorses sin or a lack of holiness, is absurd. Now, if we open up the can of worms of false converts, spurious conversions and such, well, that’s another conversation. The reason there can be so much hand-wringing about a perceived “lack of holiness” is because we are trying to conform unconverted people to God. That makes as much sense as trying to herd cats: it’s not in their nature to be herded. The problem is in our conversion theology and experience, not our “message of maturity” or “discipleship.”
When grace is usually preached or taught, the elements of empowerment and sharing in the life of the covenantal Godhead are normally left out in preference to, and overemphasis of, the “forensic” elements: “You are acquitted of your sin–like a criminal declared to be innocent–now go your merry way.” Well, yes, I am acquitted, but I have also been put into the very life, love, and power that abides at the center of the universe and holds this universe together! Grace is a transformative power, not merely a judicial decree of innocence. You are not merely an acquitted criminal, trying to live life like a parolee. You used to be a relationally alienated rebel, and now, you have been made a dear son . . . Wake up to it! Come out of the slumber of sin! Live like who you are, a NEW (Gr. kainos: qualitatively new) CREATION. Live so radically in love with God and humanity that you would no more want to sin than you would want to poke out your own eyes.
It is in the POWER of grace, that ASSURANCE of FATHER-SON LOVE, where I live, rest, abide and find my being . . . that I am free. There is no room for nonsense in that and no room for indifferent attitudes toward sin. Rather, it is the very atmosphere and empowerment necessary to overcome sin.
No, grace does not need to be balanced. It needs to be understood . . . and experienced.
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It’s always been amazing to me how “leaders” that do not want to function properly/relationally and perform the task they’ve been assigned, which is to equip/mature believers, will ultimately revert to legalism to control people rather than release believers in His Grace that they may learn to function properly.
Good word, my brother! You’ll take some hits for this one………if there is any solace to be found…..I’m with you! Peace!
Thank you for the post, the solace,and for being with me.
Yes an amen. We do need to understand and experience grace – for it is transformative!
In 1 Cor 15:10 Paul speaks right to the transforming power of grace – he labored, but what made the difference was the grace of God in Him.
He also spoke clearly in Eph 2:8-9 that we can do nothing to earn from God, that’s not what grace is about. But then in Eph 2:10 he speaks on the power of grace that brings forth good works in us.
People also misunderstand Rom 12:2 – don’t be conformed the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. This does not come from the believer’s “perfect obedience” because we are not able to perfectly obey – but we can yield and receive all that grace provides.
Balancing grace is like saying let’s limit the flowing and working of the Holy Spirit – who was given to us, without measure, through relationship with Christ and the grace of God. We do not drink water that has any small percentage of contamination – we want only pure water. So why would we want to accept or teach about grace that has impurities, or limits, in it? That is not how grace works, or what grace is.
Paul also illustrated in 2 Cor 4:8 that we have treasure in our earthen vessels, or jars of clay – we have been richly given all things and this is to demonstrate that that this power is of God and not of us. Which we clearly see when God moves in lives – it is evident, even to unbelievers and legalists, that the miracle was from the hand of God and not from man at all.
Oh the deception and the mire we get into when we try to put definition and our “theology” on what God is doing. God and His grace are infinite and unlimited – our understanding, or theology, is finite and limited.
Let’s appreciate and embrace this amazing grace and stop trying to analyze it.
One last comment – I find that many who object to what they say is hyper-grace are in fact misunderstanding what grace is – too many speak of hyper-grace as it is universalism. But that would be another discussion.
I will go back to living a life where I want to receive and experience the fullness of grace – and not have it limited or “balanced”.
Thanks, Jay, excellent point. It’s always in the definition of these things, isn’t it? Good point about hyper-grace/universalism too, and you’re right . . . beyond the scope of this brief post.
Great stuff again! My inner nerd loves the Romulak 7 and the anti –grace! Lol. It is sad to see how Paul preached the grace of God everywhere he went, it scared the relgious folks crazy, and all these years later it seems that we have made Paul the new Moses! Took letters about the extravagant love filled grace of God and mutated it into a new set of laws!
Thanks Michael, well said about Paul as the new Moses. it’s like we have he details of how a bush burns, but neither the light nor warmth.
Loved this offering Steve – preach it man! Christ & Christ crucified is all there is for us… There are no answers just death down that other road and I could read your offerings on Grace all day long and never get tired of it! Can’t wait to see you !
Amen and thank you! The Grace message-the true message of the gospel is threatening to the pride of men-that is such a good point because it explains why there seems to be so many preachers “going to town” against it. This is a great post and I appreciate your willingness to stand for the truth!
Thank you for posting and the encouragement.
I love this article. I came away with this revelation. God administers grace as it’s needed. The reason humans have such a difficult time with grace is because we’re still measuring things like a little sin to a big sin. When we understand that our arrogance has no place in grace, we will then be able to appreciate that grace is given our need at that moment is full. It can’t be measured, regulated or legislated. Thank you Lord! Thank you for such an intriguing article.
Thanks for posting. Hope to see you in January or February 2014.
What a blessing your post have been to me. Thanks for sharing and its refreshing to read truth. To know the truth has set me free and free indeed. Dont stop the post as the Holy Spirit is teaching many which dont understand how to rightly divide the two covenants and understand the Grace that we are to be established with. Great word my brother you have encouraged me so much.
Thanks for posting, Marvin, and for the encouragements.
Very encouraging !