False Grace Teaching vs True Grace and The Need for Holiness

“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, 12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.”

(Titus 2:11-14)

Mankind finds itself in a predicament when confronted by a Holy God. Many of course would prefer to avoid facing up to the problem for as long as possible, while others adopt a kind of “Christian” belief system which makes it easy to live with the problem, without really surrendering to God’s will. I suggest that this won’t end well for many.

The problem is that we are born with an inclination to sin, we have all sinned, and every time we sin we give just a little more power to sin. Jesus said, “Most assuredly, whoever commits sin is a slave to sin” (John 8:34).

The Bible also says concerning eternal judgment that

“Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. 15 But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie.” (Revelation 22:14,15)

It also says in Hebrews 12:14, “Pursue peace with all people, and holiness,without which no one will see the Lord”.

Theologians and pastors sometimes work really hard to dismantle the impact of what the Word of God says about God’s requirements for entering eternal life, because to be honest they are very confronting and challenging. When it gets down to it, God really requires a surrender of heart, and many religious people want to stop well short of that surrender, while calling what they are doing “faith”. Many times people hide behind an idea of GRACE which sounds very appealing to the natural nature of man but actually destroys the correct fear of God in the church. (There is a wrong fear of God also, and there is an error of legalism, but the real truth lies on neither extreme. It is hard to teach on the dangers of one side of this problem while still helping people to avoid the opposite error, which is equally dangerous.) The point I am trying to make right now is that many churches lack the fear of God precisely because they believe that it is SAFE to go on wilfully sinning, or rebelling against God’s will and plan.

How I See The Situation

Our text above says that Jesus gave himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed (Titus 2:14). Let us be clear about the agenda of God. Jesus did not die so that people could continue as they are, disregarding the Word of God, and somehow expect to enter the Kingdom of Heaven because “Jesus has done it all” and “I don’t have to do anything”.

God hates sin fiercely. God’s hatred for sin as as intense as the fires of hell. Sin destroys everything it touches and God can’t accept it, tolerate it or condone it. Sin is what made a beautiful worship archangel Lucifer into the devil himself. And sin will destroy those who do not forsake it. The question is how to forsake it and how to deal with its effects and the guilt of it.

The gospel makes it clear enough that we can never pay for our sins. We can never, by good deeds of any kind, purchase a redemption for ourselves. Doing what is right now never pays for what was done wrong before. If I murdered your mother, but then stopped murdering people, or even campaigned against violence, it would not atone for the murder of your mother. Doing right things now cannot pay for the wrong done against God earlier.

Furthermore, sin has defiled everyone who gets to a certain age, and no person can cleanse themselves or heal themselves of the effect of their sin by any kind of self-improvement exercise. You might get to be somewhat better in some sense, but really, it will fall so short that you would never be fit to enter heaven, where a holy and perfect God lives.

The Good News is that what we never could do for ourselves, Jesus Christ did for us by his sacrificial death on the cross. At the cross He took the guilt and punishment of our sin. Not only that, but He took our sinfulness – our iniquities – upon Himself. He rose again from death three days later proving He was not just another religious leader who died a martyr’s death – but in fact the very Son of God through whom we MUST be reconciled to God, if we are to be reconciled at all.

The question now arises, in view of Christ’s death, what is required from our side if we are to receive the benefits of this sacrifice? It is precisely at this point that the various sects of Christianity divide.

People give different answers to this question:

Universalists say that NOTHING is required from our side – eventually God will teach everyone to believe, or everyone will find out that His love and blessing is unconditional. Some say that people will come back to God after a period of suffering for their sins, others say that they will encounter pure unconditional love and light when they die. In any case, no change is REALLY required to avoid the penalty of eternal death (if such a death indeed exists).

Roman Catholics and Orthodox people usually insist that at least for those who hear the message, what is required is loyalty to the “correct” God-ordained (historical) church, which they assume that they are. Loyalty to the church and its requirements of sacraments really stands at the heart of what they teach God expects. According to them, if you do these things well enough, you may well be accepted by God ultimately. But no one can really be sure.

Some “Evangelicals” or “Grace teachers” also teach that “you don’t have to do anything” – that “Jesus has done it all” but they insist that at some point you had to hear and believe that Jesus did it all for you, or you would not benefit from the sacrifice of Christ. In other words, if only you could hear and believe once, your eternal salvation would be secure, because “its not by works” and “once you are born again you cannot be unborn” and God gives “ETERNAL life” meaning it can’t be lost no matter how you live, or what you end up believing. On this question of believing, these Teachers further divide on the issue of whether you have to believe in the sacrifice of Jesus, exactly WHAT you must believe about the sacrifice of Christ (for example do you have to believe their version of the gospel to be saved), whether God FORCES you to believe or whether there is an element of human will in the matter of believing. But for me the essential problem with all these sets of views in this category is that it disconnects “saving faith” from “corresponding works” or any kind of “loyalty to Jesus”. It essentially disconnects “faith” from “faithfulness” whereas the two words are actually the same in Greek (the word is pistis). It recognises a faith that has no love for God in it.

Legalists believe that Christ’s sacrifice is all very well and good, but basically, your salvation now depends essentially on your own choosing to conform to certain legal requirements – for example, and I just give one example here, the keeping of Saturday as the Sabbath. For such people God expects people to know and conform to the rules, or there is no salvation. Legalists generally rely on their own willpower to keep the rules they have adopted as important. These rules may or may not be explicitly part of the Bible.

True Followers of Christ, however, recognise that the only Way of Life is to depend on and rely on Christ, His Spirit and His saving power, while surrendering to Him on a daily basis. We recognise that we cannot save ourselves by our own efforts, or pay for our sins, or cleanse our hearts, but we need to cry out to God to do these things.

“Whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13). There needs to be this desperate cry for help, for salvation that comes out of the heart of a convicted sinner, to the Lord. If we really want this salvation FROM SIN itself, then God will step in, and work in us what we could never work in ourselves.

At the same time, and this is where many want to disagree in spite of the clear teachings of the New Testament – if we later on DENY HIM, He will DENY US (2 Timothy 2:12; Matthew 10:33). If we cease believing in Jesus, our access to eternal life also ceases while we do not believe. If we presume that we can give ourselves over to the lusts of the flesh and the mind listed in Galations 5:19-21 and other places, while “believing in Jesus” and “trusting in God’s grace” and we do not repent, we will also be LOST. We will then have “believed in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:2). Paul warned on multiple occasion concerning sinful lifestyles that “those who do such things shall NOT inherit the Kingdom of God”.

So our situation could be likened to a man in a boat on a flowing river. Downstream there is a waterfall which if entered into will lead to certain destruction. Upstream lies our destination. We are now on the boat with God. Formerly we were in the river out of the boat heading for destruction. Then we called out and God put us in the boat.

People in the boat might take one of two disastrous courses of action. One might be to say, “I am safe in the boat, there is nothing more to do” – and the tide of the world and its lusts will drag them to perdition. Do nothing at all, and the world and the flesh and the devil will take you down. Another bad choice would be to try to paddle in one’s own strength to move upstream. Alas, the current is too strong for our natural selves. All our best efforts will not keep us on the path of life. To attempt to live the Christian life without God’s help is foolish and frustrating, and it is actually rooted in pride and independence, both of which attitudes God hates.

So what is the solution? The solution is that God has provided the boat with an outboard motor. This motor represents the Holy Spirit and his work in our life. If we engage with the Holy Spirit, and trust in His power – which is really God’s grace – and we use that motor, it will take us upstream, but not basically by our own effort. We are told in Jude, “But you beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God”. (Jude 20-21).

This analogy is a simplified picture, and has its limitations, but it illustrates some essential points.

Now I would like to address some actual statements in books I have received, and try to show that what I am saying is truly consistent with everything the New Testament teaches on the subject.

I read in one book, “If Satan can keep us from the truths of righteousness and grace he will prevent us from entering into every blessing; because we believe that it is our behavior which qualifies us for these things”.

This is a half truth. Of course it is not our BEHAVIOR separated from living faith and the work of Christ which qualifies us. But our behavior can certainly DISQUALIFY US. Let us hear what the Bible says:

“They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work.” (Titus 1:16).

Your actions can disqualify you from entering heaven. If in works you deny Him (as this text says), He will deny you. The Scriptures are plain. It won’t do you a bit of good to profess that you know God. You won’t be the first to have tried this one on. So please don’t do this.

True faith in God will cause us to trust God while trembling. “Work out your salvation in fear and trembling” the Bible says in Philippians 2:12. We are not “working ON” our salvation as if our works could purchase salvation. We receive salvation as a gift, but to keep hold of salvation from sin, guess what – we must forsake sin. God gives us time to repent, but if we don’t repent in time, there will be a disaster for us.

Jesus, who by the way sees all the sins of the church in the Book of Revelation AFTER THE CROSS AND THE RESURRECTION says about one woman “And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent.Revelation 2:21

This is why we as believers need to take hold of the Word of God and the power of the Holy Spirit in sanctification. We need to pursue holiness, because until we die in Christ or meet Him in the air, we are only CONDITIONALLY secure. Satan is prowling around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he MAY devour. We MUST resist him, or we could be devoured. We resist Satan with the supernatural provision of God in the whole armour of God, in prayer, in the Word and it dependence on God Almighty for strength. We must fight, being strong in God’s grace and the power of His might, or we will be defeated. And to be defeated means to be enslaved once again to sin. This we should fight against with everything God gives us. The stakes are too high.

Forgiving our Future Sins

Some make a big deal of the idea that Jesus died for all our sins, past, present AND future. This is presented as an argument why we don’t have to be too concerned about indulging in “future sins”. This teaching suggests that because the future sins are paid for, the forgiveness has already been guaranteed regardless of whether we continue to believe in Jesus, follow His Word, live for Him or deny Him, and so on.

It is not enough to just STATE a thing and expect that people should believe you. The Bible never uses the phrase “future sins” in this way. Instead the Bible tells us to “make our calling and election sure” by adding to faith virtue, knowledge, self-control, godliness, brotherly kindness and Christian love.

Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble;” (2 Peter 1:10)

Right away this Scripture should dispel the foolish notion that our calling and election have nothing to do with our responses to God, but are something God decided before the Universe began, without reference to anything he foresaw in us. That kind of teaching makes people feel secure in being spiritually LAZY, whereas this Scripture is telling us to be “even more diligent”. Call it “striving” if you want, but Jesus Himself said, “Strive to enter the narrow gate”. It is a pity that so many church people allow themselves to be swayed by unbiblical slogans and cliches, while feeling safe in disregarding the words of our Lord and Savior as well as His apostles. It won’t end well for such people, unless they repent. And this repentance is to be done through the GRACE of God – not human effort. I mention this lest people go from one extreme to the other.

There is a big deception going on in the church based on a misinterpretation of the past tense statements of the Bible. All the things Jesus did for us are declared to have been done in the past tense, but it really refers to the provision made in the past, at the cross. Just because the provision is there does not mean that you will receive it in this life. I will give you an example:

The Bible declares that “by His stripes you were healed” (1 Peter 2:24). This is a reference to Isaiah 53:4,5 and Matthew 8:16,17 makes it clear enough that this is a reference to physical healing primarily.

So the Bible says that we were physically healed. So if this is true, how come so many genuine believers are sick? Well, the way I see it, is that the physical healing was PROVIDED at the cross, but it is sometimes a very different proposition for us to reach out and get it. Sometimes we receive easily, and sometimes, we have to wait and go through struggles and opposition from Satan.

The same thing applies to our sanctification and holiness. The Bible declares that we were sanctified, that we were made holy, but this is sometimes only a potential condition. We must enter into it by faith. This faith will also result in a change of heart, a change of mindset, and a change of behavior. I think it is dangerous to assume that we are righteous while we are deliberately sinning. The Bible says:

For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment (Hebrews 10:26,27). There is no such “truth” that liberates us from the requirement to trust and obey the Living God. Anyone preaching such mysteries is teaching a kind of false doctrine which borders on gnosticism. We must be very careful not to be “led away with the error of the wicked” in the name of “grace”.

Grace that doesn’t save from the power of sin is no grace at all. And if you are still giving yourself to sin, don’t assume you have that grace that saves. Humble yourself instead, and cry out for it. Because only the Lord can save. You still need Him to save you.

 

 

 

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About Michael Fackerell

The Christian faith is about Jesus. He came to save the lost. About Jesus Christ, Bible teaching, Testimonies, Salvation, Prayer, Faith, Networking.

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