“Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints. For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”——Jude 1:3-4
Radical. Scandalous. Messy. Outrageous. Relentless. Extravagant. Inexhaustible.
These are some of the terms that those in the Hyper Grace movement often use to describe God’s grace. Over the past few years I have noticed a great increase of those active in the Hyper Grace movement. To simply define “Hyper Grace”, it is an extreme focus on God’s grace to the detriment of many other important and foundation doctrines of Biblical faith. Those that are promoting Hyper Grace often embrace the term openly. They believe that grace can only be hyper because Hyper Grace is all that there is. But there is a big difference between truly understanding God’s abundant grace versus what the Hyper Grace proponents really mean.
I’ve been really reluctant to write this post. Not because it isn’t of great importance, but because of the difficulty in trying to keep something of this magnitude short and concise, but also informative. In no way is this blog post meant to even begin to touch on the greater depth of the subject of Hyper Grace, Antinomianism, and the Gospel, but rather some of my observations over the past few years.
If you haven’t heard of Hyper Grace, I’m sure you have most likely seen the signs of it. At the root of the Hyper Grace movement seems to be a conflict over Justification and Sanctification. Justification, for those that aren’t familiar with that term, is the point in which a person is made right before God and forgiven of their sins by their faith in Jesus through His death and resurrection. Sanctification, is the ongoing work of God in a person’s life that leads them into greater faith and obedience; resulting in becoming more like Christ. As you can see, these are two critical elements of understanding the Gospel and true salvation. How someone views both Justification and Sanctification can dramatically change the way one views faith.
In my observations, the Hyper Grace movement focuses almost exclusively on Justification. They whole heartedly believe that we are saved by grace and faith alone. At this I give total agreement. There is no way in which we can ever think we can do enough good works to earn salvation, but are saved only by our faith in Jesus’ sinless sacrifice done on our behalf. Where it seems the trouble begins for those in the Hyper Grace camp is that they seem to confuse Justification and Sanctification as essentially being one and the same. Hyper grace proponents seem to believe that because of Jesus’ “finished work” on the cross, there is no need for willful active obedience on our part. Although they won’t claim that sin is acceptable, they seem to believe that our sin no longer has any bearing on our lives; outside of the possible consequences of sin. Therefore, Justification ends up being the most critical, whereas, Sanctification is merely a passive result of God’s work in a believer’s life. No need to be concerned sin, but assured that all sins past, present, and future are paid for; no matter if there is any tangible repentance leading to obedience as a result.
Those that criticize the Hyper Grace movement tend to be labelled as “legalists”. What is meant by this is that those who exhort people to actually live out their faith in obedience are seen as more concerned about following “rules” than focusing on what Jesus has done for them. This description of calling those who stand for repentance and obedience, “legalists”, is no where near the truth of what we find in Scripture of true legalists. Legalists in Scripture were more concerned about following man-made traditions, ceremonies, and rituals than actually walking in obedience to God. Those that are earnestly calling people to faith and obedience are not “legalists”, like the Hyper Grace proponents like to accuse them, but rather are those standing for Biblical Truth.
The second part of the equation that comes into play with those in the Hyper Grace movement is, Antinomianism.
Antinomianism simply means “without law”. What Hyper Grace proponents seem to do is take their liberty in Christ as a means of living without the need to follow Biblical commands. In essence, because of Jesus’ “finished work”, we are no longer held accountable for sin and no longer need to feel the guilt or burden if we do fall into sin. Many, if not all, in the Hyper Grace movement deny any charge of Antinomianism. This is understandable because this is a serious charge.
What happens is that some in the Hyper Grace movement struggle so much with Justification that they use their beliefs as a means of assuring themselves and others of salvation without the fruit of any true repentance. They often talk a big game about being “sinners saved by grace”, but some use this as a cover of not actually repenting of personal sin. This is a serious problem of giving unrepentant sinners assurance of salvation without really having to come to grips with sin. This is where the accusation of Antinomianism actually does seem to fit in a practical sense; even among those that fervently deny Antinomianism.
Those that preach Hyper Grace also often accuse others of not properly distinguishing between Law and Gospel. They say that the Law in Scripture points to our sinfulness. The Gospel is thus God’s cure, whereby those who believe in Jesus are promised salvation. The Law is therefore powerless to overcome the penalty and bondage of sin, revealing our sinfulness. The Gospel is thus the message of salvation to all who believe in the Lord Jesus (Acts 16:31). No issue here.
But where the trouble arises in the area of distinguishing between Law and Gospel, goes back again to misunderstanding the distinction between Justification and Sanctification. When a person puts their faith in Jesus, a person must not only recognize their sinfulness, but also repent and believe the Gospel (Mark 1:14-15). Just because a person puts their faith in Jesus, may make them in right standing before the Lord, but doesn’t mean they still don’t have the need to continue to repent of remaining sin; as it seems those in the Hyper Grace movement don’t tend to deal with properly.
The Hyper Grace proponents tend to only see the Old Testament Law through the lens of revealing general sinfulness, but miss that the entire Old Testament continues to teach and instruct us in God’s Way and what obedience and righteousness looks like, with the understanding as believers, now living under the New Covenant. In other words, although we are forgiven of sin through our faith in Jesus, it implies that we continue to turn away from sin to a growing faith and obedience to God. This obedience, and ongoing Sanctification, is brought about through God’s work and conviction in the life of believers, but we still must humbly submit and continue to seek to put to death the deeds of the flesh (Romans 8).
Now don’t get me wrong, our Justification doesn’t depend on our Sanctification. In other words, our salvation doesn’t depend on what level we attain in ultimately walking in obedience and putting to death the deeds of the flesh. But there is also no excuse to continue to live in sin when paying the penalty for our sin is the exact reason for Jesus’ sacrifice. Therefore, we are Justified by our faith in Jesus and are being Sanctified as the Lord brings about conviction; leading us to greater faith and obedience. But what I observe among the Hyper Grace movement is that there is often a great lack of exhorting believers to obedience; even to the point where it is almost non-existent. That is why most of their sermons, messages, books, and so on, focus more on what Jesus has done for us rather than truly making mature, fully devoted disciples of the Lord.
I’m aware that this blog post may be far deeper theologically than many of my other posts. There may be a lot that some might not understand and may be way over the heads of others. What I hope is that through this post you may begin to understand some of the things that are being promoted and the things we must be very careful to embrace, even be on guard against. There are many popular pastors, teachers, and authors in the Hyper Grace movement that are gaining a growing following. My suggestion is to spend some time researching Hyper Grace and Antinomianism to see how dangerous these things can be to faith and salvation in Jesus. These Hyper Grace proponents can make a very convincing argument for what they believe and why others are wrong. But when you start to understand their beliefs and get to the heart of what they are actually saying, it becomes even more clear of the threat to Biblical faith. As always, you will begin to see their associations with others in the Hyper Grace movement as well as those oppose. It is important to look at these associations because they help to reveal where people stand on these and other issues, as well as other serious errors that follow. In other words, the people they surround themselves with and what crowds they run in uncover their true beliefs.
The true Gospel is at stake and there are many pitfalls that follow the Hyper Grace movement that should cause us all to pause and consider the consequences that are giving people a false assurance of salvation when people don’t really understand the true cost of repentance and discipleship. God’s grace is truly amazing. But we can’t take His grace for granted. We must seek to recognize our sinfulness, continue to repent, and seek to walk in greater faith and obedience to the Lord.