I’ve been thinking a lot about God’s grace lately.  For that reason, I’m going to create a tab on my website to act as a permanent home for my thoughts about grace—along with perhaps a few interviews along the way.  I’ll call it Grace Notes.

Why am I so interested in grace? Perhaps, because, like you, I’m so very much in need of it.

But there’s also another reason it’s been on my mind. Some of my friends have been exposed to what’s been called “hyper-grace” teaching.  I don’t really like that term, though God’s grace toward us is indeed, “hyper.” John Newton referred to it as “Amazing Grace,” but I suppose “hyper” works just as well when one realizes the vastness and depth of God’s grace. In the words of one of my favorite hymns:

 Marvelous grace of our loving Lord,

Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt!

Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt.  Yes, that’s my need. Yours too, right?

What bothers me about the present emphasis on grace is that in some camps it’s leading to the idea that one can, with God’s blessing, embrace one’s sinfulness, not turn from it. Rather than showing forth God’s grace as a means to breaking free from a sinful lifestyle, grace is becoming an enabling mechanism that keeps people in bondage to sin.

What does the Bible teach us about the express purpose of grace?  Titus 2:12-14 is explicit about how grace is to work in our life:

It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good (NIV).

How much clearer can the purpose of grace be explained? How then is it possible that grace has become so perversely used to justify continuing in sin? Perhaps the old adage applies here that says “If you won’t change your behavior to match your theology, you’ll change your theology to match your behavior.”

One of my favorite “hyper-grace” teachers, Steve McVey (who describes himself as “a card-carrying member of the Hyper-Grace Community”), likes to refer to such false teaching as not “grace” but “disgrace.”  Steve recently wrote:

“Grace produces a lifestyle that honors Him. Anything we can trust Jesus to do through us is a grace-filled action. Anything that He would not do through us isn’t an expression of grace of any kind. Even the word ‘hyper-grace’ doesn’t fit, as critics want to insist. The only word for behavior that dishonors Christ is ‘disgrace’ (against grace). It is not legalism to say that some things are a disgrace because they are. Grace teaches us ‘to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age’ (Titus 2:12). If Jesus can do it through you, go for it. If not, don’t call it grace because to do so is to insult the righteousness of Christ within you and to smear the meaning of authentic ‘grace.’ How we behave matters and grace doesn’t negate that fact.”

Friends, we can either run toward God or we can either run toward sin—the fulfillment of our fleshly desires—but we can’t run toward both at the same time. Grace propels us toward God, disgrace propels us toward the flesh–and destruction.

Up next: Why hyper-grace? Stay tuned.

 

11 replies
  1. BJ Hoff
    BJ Hoff says:

    That is a subject that seems mired in confusion right now. Excellent post that should help to clarify things. Looking forward to the posts to come. Thanks, Nick.

    Reply
  2. Judith Robl
    Judith Robl says:

    God’s grace is so magnificent, majestic, magnanimous, that our response to it should be to strive to be more like Him and less like the world. Thank you for a lucid explanation.

    Christ did not condemn the woman caught in adultery, but he did advise her to “Go and sin no more.” The “sin no more” part is our grateful response to God’s grace. Any thing else is, indeed, disgrace and ingratitude.

    Reply
    • Bill Giovannetti
      Bill Giovannetti says:

      I love this, Judith, and so very true. May I also suggest that we add the words of our Lord that precede “go and sin no more…” He said, “Neither do I condemn you.” This is important for its order. It seems to me that until “neither do I condemn you” is deeply embedded in the believer’s soul, “go and sin no more” remains hopelessly out of reach… or it becomes an endless striving to escape a condemnation that Christ himself has already carried.
      Blessings.
      bg

      Reply
  3. Joe Dallas
    Joe Dallas says:

    Excellent points, and an excellent post, Nick. I’m looking forward to this series. Timely and needed.

    Reply
  4. John Ward
    John Ward says:

    John Ward Jesus died for the sins (all, not some) of the world (the whole world, past, present, future, all). Nothing limited about that at all. But it is a gift needed to be received. Sad that some churches won’t accept the “all” of that. Do I believe in Hyper Grace, you bet, with all of my life. It sorta depends on it doesn’t it.

    Reply
  5. Bill Giovannetti
    Bill Giovannetti says:

    Scripture uses the preposition “hyper” when referring to grace in 1 Timothy 1:14 and reminds us that grace “abounded much more” (Romans 5:20). I would join Steve MacVey in calling myself a card carrying member of the hyper-grace party… simply because the wonders of grace can never be overstated.
    May I respectfully suggest that it is only hyper-grace that can lead to the true holiness and sanctification of life Scripture calls us to. In my experience as a pastor for many years, the primary source of ungodliness is rarely too much grace; it’s too little. It’s guilt. It’s shame. It’s immaturity. It’s a woeful ignorance of Christ in us.
    Ungodliness is a symptom of GDD (Grace Deficit Disorder) as evidenced by the very passage you quote in Titus 2:11-13, a favorite of mine since I memorized it in Awana as a boy.
    The church needs a fresh awakening to the wonderful riches of divine grace in Christ Jesus. An abundance of behavioral preaching has all but displaced the exploration of who and what Christ is for us, in us, and through us.
    If we abide in Christ, we will bear much fruit.
    How many Christians can effectively explain what it means to abide in Christ? How many know what it is to rest in his love? How many can link his supreme sacrifice to their supreme blessing?
    Almost every time I teach grace, somebody hits me with a “yes… but…” The only time people really got grace in Scripture was after some kind of traumatic breakthrough. I am smitten by grace, and love God because he first loved me.
    Sorry for the ramble, but this is my passion.
    Thanks for taking this on.
    Bill

    Reply
  6. Richard Holloman
    Richard Holloman says:

    Good article & a good reply from Bill. Grace is certainly misunderstood in many ways. It’s unfortunate that we feel we must explain what it means. But I understand that is our reality. It is clear that anyone who believes grace is a license to continue in willful unrepentant sinful behavior has never experienced authentic amazing “hyper” grace. GOD’s grace has never motivated me to want to run out and have sex with another man. GOD’s grace has always brought me to a place of repentance & brokenness. It always rekindles a sense of “the awe” of GOD. If the LORD had not extended His amazing grace to me I would be left in utter despair & hopelessness. I am deeply thankful for His on-going cover of grace in my live.
    “O that day when freed from sinning,
    I shall see Thy lovely face;
    Clothed then in blood washed linen
    How I’ll sing Thy sovereign grace;
    Come, my Lord, no longer tarry,
    Take my ransomed soul away;
    Send thine angels now to carry
    Me to realms of endless day.”

    Reply

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] This is the fourth in a series on grace, focusing on some problems in the so-called hyper-grace movement. Thank God there are some fine grace teachers spreading the word about God’s infinite grace. This is not directed at them.  You might want to check out the first three posts on this timely topic starting here. […]

  2. […] is the third in a series on grace. You read Grace Notes #1 here and Grace Notes #2 […]

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