The Grace Controversy

What is grace?
What is grace? (Flickr/Creative Commons)

When I began to address the error of hypergrace several years ago, hardly a day would go by without me hearing from people who had been deeply hurt by the message. At the same time, I would consistently hear from people who had been greatly helped by it.

Since we know that a good tree cannot produce bad fruit and a bad tree cannot produce good fruit (Luke 6:43-44), how can we explain the fact that some are helped and some hurt by the same message?

This is one of the 12 questions I tackle in my new book, The Grace Controversy, released May 3. At the end of this article, I'll list all 12 questions from the book.

Here's an abbreviated version of how I answer this important question in The Grace Controversy.

It appears that there are two primary classes of believers drawn to the hypergrace message.

The first group consists of serious Christians who really want to please the Lord but they struggle with a particular sin or they have very sensitive consciences and always feel like they're falling short. They're not looking for a license to sin, they want to live godly lives, but they can't seem to find a place of freedom from sinful habits or a place of acceptance in the sight of God.

When they hear the hypergrace message, which tells them that all their sins are forgiven—past, present and future—and that nothing they do can ever affect their relationship with God, and when they are taught that, on the very worst day of their lives, God sees them as perfect and holy, they take their eyes off themselves—off their performance and their failures—and fix their eyes on Jesus. And as they do, they are wonderfully set free and transformed.

Was there a mixture of truth and error in what they heard? Without a doubt. But since they were not looking for an excuse to disobey or backslide, and since one of their biggest problems was measuring their relationship with God on the basis how they performed on a given day, the exaggerated message of grace was liberating for them.

On the other hand, there are believers who are attracted to the hypergrace message because they have a problem with discipline and holiness, and when they hear these same words and listen to these same sermons, they become complacent, carnal and compromised, mocking those who call for holy living, branding them grace-hating Pharisees, and claiming that they are mixing grace with works. Rather than draw closer to the Lord in intimate prayer, consistent reading of the Word, and deepening purity, they actually backslide in the name of grace.

So then, the positive truths of the hypergrace message, even in exaggerated form, are incredibly liberating when received by those who want to please the Lord. But the exaggerations, distortions and errors are deadly and destructive, especially for those who are looking for a way to accommodate the flesh rather than crucify the flesh.

I'm sure that many believers are drawn to hypergrace because they have been burned by legalism, but the problem is that they often swing from one extreme to the other, going from one form of deception to another form of deception. Why not move from error to truth?

To repeat: The true parts of the hypergrace message are what is helping millions of people around the world, and all of us should proclaim these truths as loudly and clearly as possible. They include the teaching that:

  • We should put our focus on Jesus and not on ourselves.

  • Salvation is a free gift that we could never earn in a million lifetimes.

  • On the worst day of our lives, God deeply loves us.

  • Committing one sin does not cause us to lose our salvation.

  • If we fail to confess a sin, that doesn't mean we are not saved until we do confess it.

  • Even if we commit a sin, as far as our salvation is concerned, we are still in the "forgiven column."

  • We are still God's children even as we struggle with sin.

  • The moment we are saved, God sets apart as holy and even calls us holy.

  • God's grace empowers us to live above sin.

  • The Holy Spirit is not here to condemn us.

  • Holiness is not a matter of keeping a set of external laws.

It's a shame that many pastors and leaders sometimes fail to emphasize these truths, because of which a new "grace revolution" rises up every few decades to bring balance. Unfortunately, it often goes way too far, mixing truth with error to the point that others have to counterbalance the new message (today, hypergrace) with a more biblically based version of grace.

If you embrace biblical grace, you will still realize that God's desire is to bless you and care for you and spend eternity with you; that His love is still fixed on you, even when you sin; that confession of sin as a believer is for the purpose of relationship, not salvation; that you never have to fear losing your salvation if you have truly committed your life to the Lord; that the Holy Spirit convicts but doesn't condemn and that His conviction is designed to bring you near to the Father, not drive you away.

All this means that we can approach the throne of God with total confidence, "in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water" (Heb. 10:22). And we can do this without the message of hypergrace.

You might say, "But I feel like you really want me to spit out the meat—the very heart and soul of the grace message—since the things that have really helped me are the things you say are in error."

Actually, you can rest 100 percent secure in your relationship with Jesus without believing in "once saved, always saved" doctrine. And you can enjoy the favor and smile of God 24/7 without believing that it's impossible to displease Him. You can also live totally free from condemnation without believing that the Holy Spirit will never convict you or your sins, and you can walk in assurance of forgiveness without believing that confession of sin is not for believers. I'm a living witness to these realities as are countless millions of believers worldwide.

The key, then, is to get rid of false and unbiblical thinking and to renew our minds and hearts with the truths of God's Word—liberating truths, life-giving truths, transforming truths—rather than to fill our minds with lots of wonderful truth mixed with some very dangerous error.

In short, the key is to embrace biblical grace rather than hypergrace.

Here are the 12 questions answered in The Grace Controversy:

1. Is Grace a Person?

2. Are All Our Sins—Past, Present and Future—Already Forgiven in Jesus?

3. If a Believer Fails to Confess Even One Sin Before He Dies, Will He Go to Hell?

4. Does the Holy Spirit Convict Believers of Sin?

5. Does God See Us as Righteous?

6. What Does It Mean to Be Under Grace and Not the Law?

7. If God Requires Anything of Us as Believers, How Is That Grace?

8. Are We Made Completely Holy the Moment We Are Saved?

9. If "Hypergrace" Is Not True, Why Are So Many Believers Transformed by the Message?

10. Do the Words of Jesus Apply to Us Today?

11. Is God Always Pleased With Us as His Children?

12. Is It Possible to Lose Your Salvation?

Dr. Michael Brown (www.askdrbrown.org) is the host of the nationally syndicated Line of Fire radio program. His latest book is Evangelicals at the Crossroads: Will We Pass the Trump Test? Connect with him on Facebook or Twitter, or YouTube.

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