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July 2, 2012

Grace: The Gospel Error of Preaching Only Grace

In 2012, I have heard from the airways so many Christian messages about "Grace" as a monolithic theology that covers everything Jesus preached. This is misleading and a great error! If Christians are not careful, they will be misled by the over-sensationalism of the Gospel of Grace. Such gospel perception may lead us into believing Eastern mysticism of Hinduism. The gospel message is not about everything that feels good! Jesus did not come to teach about consciousness, or fuzzy feelings of human emotions so we can feel good about ourselves. He came to teach us many things coming from the heart of the Father. The most important aspect of grace is to embrace the LOVE of God through Christ. Jesus said, "As Father has loved me, so I have loved you." Now, there is a condition associated with that love. Jesus said, "If you keep my commandment, you will remain in my love as I have kept my Father’s commandment and remain in his love" (St. John 15:10). However, this divine love of the Father is tied to so many things Jesus wanted us to know about God, different from any other religion. Jesus did not teach a monolithic gospel of grace alone so we can feel good about our sins. Jesus taught a multi-faceted gospel, not a monolithic dogma.

The message of grace I’m hearing on the airways today creates problems for Christians and non-Christians alike. It implies that the gospel of grace covers everything just like the Eastern religion embraces everything associated with humanism. According to the gospel of grace I’m hearing, we Christians are supposed to be living under grace and feeling good! Consequently, all our sins are forgiven even before we commit them. We therefore do not have a reason to repent, or confess such sins to God because we have already been forgiven before we commit them. Such argument is seemingly supposed to justify living under grace. This is absolute nonsense! Was this the only message of Jesus from the four gospels? Such a message perhaps inadvertently, may lead people to justify sin under the notion of pre-forgiveness of sins. Some people are therefore advocating, "Enjoy the sin because you’re born to reign, you’re already forgiven." So, if you want to sleep with somebody else’s spouse, just go ahead, because you’re already forgiven! This is a dangerous theology saturating the Christian airways today. This is an apostasy! Sadly some people are accepting this gospel similar to the gospel of "Sow your seeds into my ministry and God will bless you." The theology of Hinduism and mysticism has invaded many churches in the Western World. Man is born to reign and to be rich! Give me a break!

Truth About the Gospel of Grace

We need to set something straight about the theology of grace. Grace did not come into being after Jesus died on the cross and was resurrected. Anybody who is preaching such a message does not understand the Bible. In the Old Testament, grace existed and manifested from God to humanity before Jesus came to this earth. Take for example Moses’ prayer before God saying, "Show me thy way O Lord, so that I may know you, so that I may find "grace" in thy sight" (Exodus 33:13). If grace only existed after Jesus came to the world, why was Moses asking God for grace? Grace defines the kindness of God to man. Grace is God’s kindness of unmerited favor to humanity because of his love as a Father. It is not a passport to sin, or not to confess sin. God granted grace to Moses, David, Solomon, Samson and many more in the Bible. Grace does not require work either, even in the Old Testament. It required only obedience to God! Adam and Eve were under grace in the Garden of Eden. They did not have to work until when they sinned against God. Subsequently, God made them eat from the sweat of their labor.

In the New Testament instead of God’s judgment, we receive his grace through Jesus Christ. Even under the church age, grace is not unconditional. Grace is conditional because Jesus said, "Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand" (St. Matthew 4:17). Jesus also said, "Until a man is born by the water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God" (St. John 3:5). If Jesus placed conditions on entering the kingdom of God, why do we believe grace is unconditional today? If grace is unconditional, then we do not need Jesus. Today, grace makes a difference after resurrection because grace is tied to repentance. Repentance was the heart of Jesus’ gospel message to the people of his time.

Abrahamic and Davidic covenants were under unconditional grace. However, grace in the Old Testament had a condition attached. The condition was, "do not disobey God." Both Adam and Eve got in trouble with this including King Saul. Grace in the Old Testament required obedience to God. It did not require work. This obedience was placed under God’s old covenant. Man violated the conditions God placed on the covenant. God kept his own side of the covenant but man failed miserably to fulfill his own part of the covenant. Consequently, God initiated a "New Covenant" in the blood of his only Son Jesus Christ. Jesus confirmed this when he said, "This is the New Covenant in my blood that was shed for many" (St. Luke 22:20).

Jesus Fulfilled the Law in the New Covenant

With the New Covenant when Jesus came to the picture, he fulfilled the law humanity was unable to keep. Jesus therefore granted man a way of reconciliation back to God the Father by not only fulfilling the law, but also creating man’s way back to God. In this package, Jesus gave man a free return ticket back home to God the Father. By this process, man regained paradise lost in the Garden of Eden through the way of the cross of Christ. However, the condition of grace in the New Testament is different from the condition of grace from the Old Testament. In the Old Testament the condition God placed on humanity was to obey the law. Man failed God just like we are doing today. We are unable to keep the law because man is born in sin and will continue until he will receive the new body with a purified soul. In the New Testament, the condition was "Repentance of sins," because man is unable to live a sinless life. This was the critical reason why Jesus started his ministry by saying, "Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand." Just because Jesus fulfilled the law did not take from us our responsibility to the law as a mirror to guide us through life. Jesus himself said, "If you love me, obey my commandments" (St. John 14:15). In John Epistle, this fact was confirmed saying, "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (I John 1:8-9).

Essence of Life on Earth

The critical reason for man’s journey on earth is for "soul purification." The devil’s seduction in the Garden of Eden contaminated the human soul at the level of his desires. All of man’s sins have to do with lustful desires impregnated inside his soul by the enemy of God. God therefore puts every person on earth in the wilderness of life on a journey of soul purification as guided by the Holy Spirit. Man cannot purify his own soul, that was why Jesus replaced himself on earth with the Spirit presence of the Holy Spirit to guide us through life. One thing God wants us to do in this life’s journey is to learn to say, "No" to the devil and "Yes" to God. Man sinned against God willfully in the Garden of Eden, man must therefore choose in his heart to come back to God by denouncing the devil and his ways. Jesus is very much aware of the deception of the devil, and the events of the Garden of Eden. That was why he came to man’s rescue as instructed by God the Father. God is the one who created the plan of salvation, and Jesus is the one who fulfilled the plan. Jesus knows we have a sinful nature. Nonetheless he is willing to forgive us when we confess our sins to him.

In addition to soul purification, God wants life’s journey to reveal his love for humanity. In the Garden of Eden after the original sin, neither Adam, nor Eve, nor the devil took responsibility for what happened. In essence, God was blamed for the original sin perhaps for placing the devil in the Garden with a naked woman, or for not granting both Adam and Eve the wisdom to say "No." In whichever case, God took responsibility for the actions of disobedience of both Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. As a result, God is the one who took the punishment for the sins of humanity by dying on the cross because he is a just God. God will judge sin, and he has established rules in which he was not willing to violate. Therefore, somebody has to be crucified in payment for the sins of humanity. God allowed his own Son to pay the ultimate price for sins on the cross. Jesus in turn extended the grace to us in order to reconcile us back to the Father to express God’s love. Grace is therefore not a passport to sin. Instead, it is a precious gift dripping with the blood of Jesus Christ.

Grace Concludes with Repentance

In comparing grace of the Old Testament to the one in the New Testament, it stresses repentance and forgiveness of sins in the new covenant. This is why Jesus’ blood was necessary to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Therefore, without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins. Grace is what follows repentance, forgiveness and the remission of sins. The point being, instead of facing the judgment of God, we experience mercy through the Grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ. This is why we express the blessing in the church as, "May the grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you and forever more." Such blessing is tied to what Jesus said, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son. That whosoever believes in him shall not perish, but have an everlasting life" (St. John 3:16). We should realize that this statement works when we tie it to repentance of sins. Jesus came to die for anybody who chooses to believe in him. However to truly believe in him, you have to obey his instructions. If repentance is not one of the conditions for grace, otherwise forget it! If grace is unconditional without repentance, everybody goes to Heaven and nobody goes to jail in hell. Jesus made this very clear when he said, "Not all those who call me Lord, Lord shall enter into the kingdom of God, except those who do the will of my Father" (St. Matthew 7:21). Amen! Amen!

Evidently Jesus requested some conditions to be fulfilled before enjoying the privileges of grace inside the kingdom. I strongly disagree with the concept that once we know God loves us under grace, it will prevent us from sinning. Just because I’m a patriot and love my country do not prevent me from breaking the speed limit. Can I go to the court and offer a defense to the judge before the court that because I love my country, I should not be held accountable for breaking the speed limit? The hefty fine in the traffic court, and chastening of God under grace can help to shape human character, so we can learn to do better next time.

While operating under grace, you can still receive a lot of whipping if you continue to sin. Jesus said, "And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent. Indeed, I will cast her into a sick bed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds. I will kill their children with death, and all churches shall know that I am he who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works" (Rev 2:21-23). If Jesus threatened to kill some un-repented Christians within the church, how do we think repentance is unimportant under grace? If we keep sinning, Jesus is ready to kill the body to save a person’s soul!

Monolithic Theology Tends to Leads People Astray

Years ago, we were hearing "the gospel of forgiveness of sins." We want people to learn to forgive. It was like forgiveness of sins covered everything. We started hearing about "the gospel of the kingdom work." Everything we were hearing was about working in the kingdom. At other times we heard many other gospels. "The gospel of love your neighbor as yourself " was being preached in churches. Other gospels we have heard over the years included; the gospel of faith without works; the gospel of faith and works; the gospel of kindness to others by feeding and clothing the poor: the gospel of Jesus wants to bless you, just empty your pocket for this ministry; the gospel of obedience to God, because a delayed obedience is a disobedience; the gospel of the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues; the gospel of evangelism and the Great Commission; the gospel of pre-ordination and other souls are destined for hell, etc. If we can eliminate the false gospels of prosperity preachers, and the preordination, the gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ was never a monolithic theology, but a multi-faceted one. Jesus preached an eclectic gospel in his sermon on the mountain. If grace was the only thing that mattered, why did Jesus waste his time preaching to us about all these other issues? The danger of monolithic theology is to over-stress one issue at the expense of reducing the importance of others from the teachings of Christ.

What grace does for us before God is the admission of guilt because we have sinned against God. To prevent us from going to jail in hell, Jesus granted us a plea bargain by paying for our sins on the cross. We are therefore to rest assured that our eternal salvation is a done deal before God. However, we do not want to continue to sin and putting Jesus to shame. We cannot be perfect, but we can always strive to do our best considering God’s infinite love for us. Jesus dying and paying for our sins represent the best love God the Father displays over his children. Instead of getting justice that we deserve, we receive the grace of mercy through Jesus Christ.

"Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (St. John 15:13).

Grace cannot be taken very lightly because it is a gift dressed is blood, and it is still dripping with blood of the Lamb. The blood will never lose its power! Jesus did not suffer and died on the cross so we can party with the devil by continuously sinning against God. God forbid! All he asked from us is to repent and turn away from our wicked ways. Subsequently, we become witnesses to others who do not know God. We cannot be good witnesses for the Lord while we are sitting on the throne of grace and dressed in the outfit of the devil called sin.

By Yinka Vidal Author, Closer Walk With Jesus