I recently wrote a brief article commenting on Hebrews 10:29, pointing out that the “radical grace” movement is actually an insult to the Spirit of Grace. You can read that article here.
Most of the feedback on the article was given on Facebook, however in the comment section of the article, I received a simple question: “What do you think about these teachings: http://radicalgrace.com/grace.htm“
I was going to reply with a brief answer, but after reading through some of the materials on the website provided in the comment, I felt compelled to write a response that was a little longer than I originally intended. The more I read and hear about the radical grace movement, the more I fear for the body of Christ. With several #1 selling authors, and pastors that have world-wide impact teaching this stuff, I wonder what the outcome will be. Regarding radical grace teachers, I don’t believe that they are false prophets in the sense that they are damned, unconverted heretics. However, I do feel that they are teaching a message that is damnable in the sense that it can lead multiplied millions of people to hell by giving them false assurance of a salvation they don’t have. I also fear for the teachers of this movement, because even though they may be saved, many of them have such a large following of people that they’re teaching. The bible says that we will all give an account for every careless word spoken (Matthew 12:36) and that those of us who teach will incur stricter judgment (James 3:1). Even writing this article, I don’t do so lightly. I do so with the understanding that I will give an account for what’s written below. However, I am convinced by the overwhelming clarity that the bible gives regarding these issues.
With that being said, I would encourage you to read through some of the materials on the site noted above to at least give you a working knowledge of the radical grace message, but more importantly, read the bible for yourself and see what it says about God’s grace.
Here is my response to the question, “what do I think about these teachings”.
I first want to thank you for taking the time to visit this site, read the material, and leave a comment. Regarding your question, before answering, I just want to iterate that if there’s one thing I don’t want to be wrong about, it’s the grace of God. I am not claiming to have everything figured out. I, like every true lover of the Word of God, am still learning; and one of the key elements of learning the things of God is to have a willingness to change your beliefs if the bible points in a different direction. I am open to changing my mind about anything, so long as it’s scriptural.
With that being said, in regards to the link you sent, I find the overwhelming evidence of scripture to teach differently than the conclusions of the author. From the link you provided, the author states his thesis in the beginning – “A life of obedience can be obtained only by resting in God’s grace”. My question is – what verse in the bible says that? I continued to read through the material, and didn’t see where he quoted a scripture in context that said that. If I’m mistaken, please point it out to me.
Don’t get me wrong. I believe that we do need to rest in the grace of God. That’s what God’s grace allows us to do – rest from our works. We’re not trying to work for our salvation. We’re not trying to do things in order to be saved. However, the bible does say that we are saved to do good works (Ephesians 2:10). So even though we are not saved by works, works still have a place in our lives as believers; and the New Testament doesn’t give the idea that we need to just sit back and let the good works happen. Rather, we have exhortation after exhortation to “make every effort to…:
- “Enter through the narrow door…” (Luke 13:24)
- “Do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” (Romans 14:19)
- “Keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:3)
- “Live in peace with all men and to be holy…” (Hebrews 12:14)
- “Add to your faith goodness; and to goodness knowledge…” (2 Peter 1:5)
- “Be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.” (2 Peter 3:14)
So yes, we are to rest in God’s grace, but that doesn’t happen by just sitting back and letting it fall in your lap. The bible even tells us that entering into God’s rest is a result of us making “every effort” (Hebrews 4:11).
In the lesson titled “We Proclaim Grace with No Balance”, the author said, “How can we become obedient? -or- How do we get there from here? That is a valid question to ask, because we do not have any ability within ourselves to obey. In fact, in our own natural ability, we are just as incapable of obeying as we were before we were redeemed (saved). What we were in our natural selves (our flesh) did not change [at all] once we were saved.”
Even though there is an element of truth in those statements, practically speaking it’s unlivable, and that’s why the bible doesn’t talk that way. If we were incapable of obeying, then why would God give us commandment after commandment to obey? Would a loving God tell us to do something we were incapable of doing? Now, I know that the author is probably working his way to the point that we are to obey “by the Spirit” (not in our own natural ability, as he rightly said above), but he didn’t get to it in the article. In fact, he didn’t even mention it until his 3rd teaching, and only in passing. My point is that the radical grace message gives you half of the truth and leaves you with the idea that you sit back and let obedience come to you as you rest in God’s grace. I’ve heard radical grace teachings with the title, “effortless change”. How is it effortless, when the bible tells us to make EVERY EFFORT numerous times?
The author said, “We agree that obedience is the pathway to blessings…”. There is truth in that statement, but that’s not all obedience is. Obedience is also the evidence of salvation. If one doesn’t produce fruit of obedience, it may be evidence that they are not truly saved. Read these scriptures and ask yourself, “what are these verses obviously saying about those who live in disobedience?”
- Luke 6:46 – “why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?”
- Hebrews 10:26-27 – “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.”
- James 2:24-26 – “you see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone. In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.”
- 1 John 1:6 – “If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.”
- 1 John 2:3-6 – “We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, ‘I know Him,’ but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys His word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in Him: whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did.”
Do those verses imply that people who live in disobedience merely need to rest in God’s grace?
The author tried to prove his point by noting how many times the word “grace” is used in the New Testament. I don’t understand his point. No one is saying “God doesn’t emphasize grace”. I’m saying (along with other bible loving critics of the radical grace movement) that the radical grace teachers have a misunderstanding of God’s grace and how it works. I love God’s grace. It’s all of grace. I just think they teach it wrongly. For example, the author pointed out that the two churches (the church in Corinth and the church in Galatia) who should have been scolded most harshly were given “more grace” because of the amount of times the word grace is used in those books. However, just do a quick study of those verses. Go to www.biblegateway.com and do a keyword search for the word “grace” in those books, and read the verses in context. In 1 Corinthians, the word grace is only mentioned 2 times to the church directly (as the opening and closing salutations). The rest of the times are used in other contexts. I’m not saying that God’s grace wasn’t active in those churches; I’m just saying that the author’s point held no water to support his thesis.
It’s interesting to note that the author chose to focus in on 1 Corinthians to prove that we need to give “carnal Christians” more grace, when 1 Corinthians is the book where we learn about church discipline. Paul told the church to expel the immoral brother from the assembly. He literally told them to “hand this man over to Satan, so that his flesh (or the sinful nature) may be destroyed…” Now, I believe that even the act of handing the man over to Satan was an act of grace, because it was “so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 5:1-5). But that’s not how the radical grace teachers present grace. Grace, to them, wouldn’t include a harsh rebuke and expelling someone from the church. “Grace” would be to show the immoral brother how he needs to rest in God’s love. But the Apostle Paul didn’t say that.
The radical grace teaching goes even further into the “scary zone” when its teachers say things like, “we are free even to disobey” (excerpt from the authors 2nd article on the site mentioned above). Really?! Where is that verse? I haven’t found a single verse that says, “you are free to disobey now that you are in Christ.” I have read where Paul, after explaining for 6 chapters that we are saved by grace, said, “what then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!” (Romans 6:15) It’s pretty clear isn’t it? Radical grace teachers would say, “Now you are free to disobey” and the bible says, “by no means!”
It’s true that we are freed. We’re freed from sin. Sin was our master before Christ. Now, Christ is our master, and we are slaves to righteousness. What does that mean to be a slave? It means that you don’t make your own decisions – you are told what to do by a master, and you are to obey. When we were slaves to sin, we did what our master told us to do. Now that we’re slaves to righteousness, we do what Christ tells us to do. That’s the teaching of Romans 6. Just read Romans 6 and ask yourself, “what is this obviously saying”. Radical grace teachers would have to explain the whole chapter away and confuse the obvious teaching to the point of absurdity.
Another concept taught by the author in the second lesson is that, “We are free to suffer the normal consequences that might result from disobedience, but those consequences are not engineered by God to punish us”. Again, I would ask, “Where is the verse that says that?” If God doesn’t punish us, then we are illegitimate children. Now, I prefer to use the word discipline (because that’s the word the bible uses), but let me ask you a question: do you punish your children for disobedience, or do you just create an atmosphere in your house to where when your children disobey, they suffer consequences based on how you ordered things? No, you lovingly intervene and discipline your children for disobeying. You discipline them for their own good because you love them. The fact that God disciplines His children doesn’t mean therefore that God is the source of all things that go wrong. I don’t believe that God inflicts people with cancer so they’ll obey Him, or that He causes their legs to get cut off in an accident if they drink and drive. Obviously there are fixed laws set in place wherein blessings follow obedience, and trouble follows disobedience. That’s true. But the bible has vast amounts of evidence that God disciplines His children as a loving Father (Psalm 94:12, Proverbs 3:11-12, 1 Corinthians 11:32, Hebrews 12:5-11). How that plays out is not for me to judge (if someone is sick, I would never assume that it was God punishing them for something they’ve done – we have learned from Job how that turns out). I wouldn’t ever tell someone that God was disciplining them; I wouldn’t have to. That’s God’s job. Further, aside from disciplining His children, God also disciplines the wicked; but that’s a-whole-nother subject we can save for another time.
The last point that I want to make is that from reading the materials on that website, and hearing several messages and reading other material written by radical grace teachers, it seems that there is a wide misconception of the difference between justification and sanctification. Justification occurred the moment we believed and put our faith in Christ (Acts 13:39). That means that we were saved. We are no longer Hell-bound. When we die, God will not judge us according to our works, but according to Christ’s work. That’s grace! Again, our justification was sealed the moment we believed.
However, there is also a process called sanctification. Sanctification is also God’s grace towards us. However, sanctification will not be complete until we are resurrected in glorified bodies. This process will continue with us all the way to the grave. Sanctification is the process in which we are being made into Christ’s likeness. Even though we are justified, we don’t always act like it; therefore Christ sanctifies us. He makes us clean. He changes us. Sanctification is a work of the Holy Spirit – not our flesh (1 Peter 1:2). However, the Holy Spirit works with us in this process of sanctification. He leads and empowers, we respond and follow. For example, Paul tells us in Romans 8:13 that “if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live”. Who puts to death the misdeeds of the body? We do! How? By the Spirit! The Spirit convicts us, leads us, instructs us, enables us, and empowers us. We respond in faithful obedience and willful submission. It doesn’t happen automatically though. There is a struggle (Hebrews 12:4). We do strive (1 Timothy 4:10). There is a battle, a fight (James 4:1, 1 Timothy 1:18, 2 Timothy 4:7). Reading through those verses (and the countless others like them) do not leave you with the impression that you sit back and rest in the grace of God in order to overcome sin, but rather you fight it with all of the resolve the Holy Spirit gives you. Another way of putting it is that we don’t work for our salvation, we work from our salvation.
Most of what radical grace teachers emphasize I would categorically disagree with (as mentioned all throughout this response). However, there are also some very good points that I would strongly agree with, such as the idea that “grace means power for life”, as the author stated in the second teaching. That is what the bible teaches. Grace isn’t merely unmerited favor or complete forgiveness… it is also divine empowerment to live a supernatural life freed from sin’s mastery (Romans 6:14). God’s grace also instructs us to live godly lives (Titus 2:11-12). However, I believe the truth of those statements are skewed when you remove the aspects of our duty and obligation to work, strive, battle, make every effort, obey, etc. When you tell someone that they don’t have to work, or they shouldn’t make any effort, it relieves the hearer of any obligation to actually try and do what the bible says, when our effort was the very intent of the command in the first place.
Why do I feel that this message is dangerous? Because I believed it for 22 years of my life as an unconverted, Hell-bound sinner. All of what the radical grace message teaches rings an echo in my ear of the old way of thinking I so strongly held onto in order to justify my choice of living in sin. I was not a Christian, though I said I was. I would have fought you tooth and nail to say that I wasn’t saved by my works, and that’s why I was living like I did. The truth is that I love my sin more than I loved God. It wasn’t until people had the courage to tell me what the bible really said about my disobedience; only then was I able to see God’s true grace. I then called out to Him for help to save me from myself. And do you know what happened? God showed me grace! He forgave me. He empowered me to turn from my sins. He instructed me to live a godly life. And He sustains me in this new life I have found as I respond to Him.
My challenge to you is this: read the bible for yourself. Read through the New Testament and ask yourself, “What is this obviously saying?” Set aside any teachings you have heard and pretend as if all you had was the bible, without any outside influences. What conclusions would you come to? Thank you again for checking out our site, and I hope this response was beneficial. God Bless!
For more on my story, you can read my testimony here.
Michael Brown, Hyper-Grace:
The Great Deception of the 21st Century