Hyper Grace, Antinomianism, And The Gospel

“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

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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.

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Struggling Vs Embracing Sin

“Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?”——Luke 6:46

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We all have bents toward sin.  And although our bents toward sin differ from person to person, each of us are nonetheless tempted to go our own way and do things against God and His Way.  As believers, it is critical that we have a clear understanding of sin and how to deal with it if we are to walk according to true faith in Jesus.

One area that I have found really important in dealing with the practical issues of sin, is the concept of struggling versus embracing sin.  While all of us struggle with overcoming sin, it becomes disastrous when people begin to accept their sin.  This problem is especially dangerous among those that profess faith in Jesus.

Those that earnestly struggle with sin are those that humbly and openly recognize when they have gone against God’s commands and seek to confess and repent of those things.  It is a lifestyle of daily submitting to God and of repenting of our sinfulness.  Struggling with sin doesn’t mean that we may never fall into sin again or that those struggles will simply disappear, but rather that we have a clear intent to “go and sin no more”. (John 8:11)  Those that struggle with sin recognize that the guilt associated with their sin isn’t something to be rejected, but that “godly sorrow” produces repentance. (2 Corinthians 7:10)  Without being convicted sin, we can never get to the place of seeing our sin as truly sinful and our need for God’s forgiveness and grace to move on in obedience to Him.

On the other side are those that embrace sin.

Those that embrace sin are those that might recognize their sinfulness, but make excuses to justify themselves.  They focus on ways to explain their sin rather than seeking to turn away from it.  They become “victims” rather than the offenders.  Those that embrace sin often times question the things that God has written in Scripture as being misunderstood or irrelevant in order to endorse their own beliefs and lifestyles.  Or worse yet, they pick and choose verses and passages that allow them to emphasize on what God has done for them through His forgiveness and grace in order to comfort themselves without truly having to change.  Embracing sin doesn’t seem to happen overnight in most cases, but something that happens slowly over time; slipping from struggling with sin to affirming it as something that is now acceptable. (Romans 1:32)

There tends to be a fine line between struggling with sin and embracing sin.  There might be a time when someone truly desires to walk in obedience to the Lord, but might fall into the same sin over and over again.  Each time, they call sin for what it is, confess it to God and those they might have sinned against, and seek to repent and get back walking with the Lord.  But as time goes along, this struggle might begin to erode into no longer hating the sin.  The struggle begins to no longer be such a struggle, but something that has become a habitual pattern of finding ways to assure themselves that God loves and forgives them in spite of pursuing any tangible change.  Whereas there was once a “godly sorrow” over sin, now has become a part of a person’s lifestyle.  We must be on guard against drifting into this gray area where we can mistakenly believe we are struggling to overcome sin, when in actuality, we are beginning to embrace it.

We cannot embrace sin and believe that we will be saved.

As soon as someone crosses over from struggling with sin to embracing sin, they have made a mockery of Jesus’ sacrifice.  This turn from faith in Jesus for paying the penalty for our sins, dying on the cross and rising again, means nothing if only sought after for Jesus’ forgiveness; but then only to continue to believe and act upon the sinful things we are being saved from.  We cannot drag God’s name through the mud and believe, even for a moment, that we are free to define sin by our standards and then think that we have assurance of salvation.

I think we can all relate to the difference between struggling versus embracing sin.  As we look around there are many that profess to believe in Jesus, but by their beliefs, words, and actions, deny Him. (Titus 1:16)  In no way are any of us made right outside of our faith in what Jesus has done through His sacrifice for us, but there is a huge difference between those who might admit to sin versus those that actually seek to turn away from it.  And we can talk forever about the great hope we have through the Gospel, but without exhorting people in both repenting of sin and adjusting our lives in obedience to God’s commands in the Bible, people will never truly understand faith in Jesus.

Sin is a very serious matter.  And what we believe about sin and how we deal with sin is critical.  True repentance always accompanies those who have placed their faith in Jesus.  Therefore, we must be quick to recognize when we do sin, that we turn in repentance to God, and get back walking with the Him.  Let’s not find ourselves embracing sin, but seeking to walk in greater faith and obedience to the Lord.

Take The Meat And Spit The Bones

You may have heard the old cliche, “Take the meat and spit the bones”.  This is a common phrase used within Christianity.  What this phrase means is to take the good things that people say and discard the rest.  But as with everything, we must ask the question if this is something we should truly be doing??

On the surface, this phrase indicates two things:

1. Acknowledges that there is some sort of benefit to be gained, but also some level of disagreement.

2. With the parts of disagreement, we should look past them to focus on the things we can learn and apply to our lives.

The intent of “taking the meat and spitting the bones” is to show charity to those who we might not agree with fully.  It gives the “benefit of the doubt” without having to believe exactly the same as someone else.  This phrase gives room for disagreement, while simultaneously still believing we are on the “same team”, so-to-speak.

And although this phrase seems to be tolerant and accepting of those having differing beliefs and theology within Biblical Christianity, it also allows for the opportunity of embracing those who are false teachers or even non-believers to be given a place and to have their say.

Nowhere in the Bible does this phrase of “taking the meat and spitting the bones” exist.  Scripture doesn’t even allude to allowing truth mixed with error.  But what we find more often today are not disagreements over what are truly non-essentials of faith, but clear attacks against salvation and what it means to believe, live, and act with Christ as Lord and King.

So when I hear people use the phrase that we should simply, “Take the meat and spit the bones”, what they mean is to stop causing a ruckus and simply look for the positive.

It is important to stop and clarify that we will never find anyone we will agree with 100% on every issue.  And even though that is the case, it is still not a reason to compromise and accept any “professing Christian” or some “expert” and to give them a platform to speak things that might happen to be a mixed with truth.  Maybe a better question we should ask ourselves is how much false teaching and error should we or can we allow before it becomes a problem??

With the growing confusion over Christianity, where are those who are making a stand for Truth??  If our pastors and leaders aren’t making stands themselves, how can we expect others to do so as well??

I don’t know about you, but it gets very old when instead of calling things for what they are, people are given an opportunity to share their “insights” simply because we are told we need to “hear them out”.  Is this how Jesus dealt with false teachers??  What about Paul or others in Scripture??  No, they rebuked them publicly and called them to repentance.  They didn’t just tell people to take the things that are true and ditch the bad; but to seek after Truth alone.

Again, I’m not saying that we must distance ourselves from everyone who doesn’t believe exactly as we do on every theological point; because in doing so we would all end up alone.  But what I am saying, is that when we clearly know or have been warned by others about the dangers of what people are proclaiming, we must take them seriously and not dismiss them or make excuses as to why they might have something “good” to say.

As I have said time and time again, not everyone or everything is beneficial.  This notion of “taking the meat and spitting the bones” is a cliche that needs to be put to rest.

As true believers in Jesus, we shouldn’t have to wade through all the muck in order to try and find truth.  We also shouldn’t force others to have discern these things for themselves when we are aware of the dangers ourselves.  Our goal should be to read and study the Bible that we might know God more, apply what it says to our lives, and in turn that we might be able to discern the truth and share the great hope we have with others.  All else is just a waste of time.

I always evaluate someone and their teaching by how much it takes to have to discern what they say against the Bible.  If their beliefs are in any way a clear threat that might cause someone to drift away from the truth of the Lord and what is said in His Word, there is absolutely no shame in making it known.  I don’t want anyone to have to hear someone speak, read a book, or anything else that might cause confusion over what is truth and what is error.  We all deserve better than that.

Instead of lowering the bar and giving credibility to those that “turn to the right and to left” (Deuteronomy 28:14, Joshua 1:7, Proverbs 4:27), let us set our aim on surrounding ourselves with those that are humbly grounding themselves in the Word.  We may not always agree on every theological issue, but we can at least agree on those things which can clearly be derived from the true context of Scripture or not.  Truth cannot be mixed with error and still be truth.  Therefore, it is only acceptable for each of us to continue to pursue the Truth and accept nothing less.