This post isn’t about either bashing or promoting Joseph Prince. I’ve heard very little of his teaching. But there seems to be a lot of people doing both. I keep hearing we should watch out for this “hyper grace” message.
What are we actually afraid of? And are we defending our evangelical traditions or actual biblical teaching?
So, the question I will put to you is, are teachers like Joseph Prince preaching “hyper grace” or have they tapped into God’s radical grace?
The grace that Paul taught was actually pretty radical. The Judaizers thought he was teaching a false grace in his day.
The knee-jerk reaction is that this is the latest “sloppy agape” trend, giving people permission to just do whatever they want. But I don’t think there is any honest view of grace being taught that says we now can be as self-absorbed and indulgent as our unrenewed mind desires. I’m sure there are some that teach that, or their followers take it that way, but that’s not what I’m talking about here.
But I do think we’re finding out that grace is a lot more amazing and freeing than we’ve previously thought, so let’s take a look at it.
Our heart wants freedom, but all we’ve ever known are boundaries, whether we’ve embraced them or rebelled against them, so we’re really just groping in the dark as to how far out into the wild world of God this freedom goes. Our opinions, logic and humanistic reasoning won’t help us here. We need revelation. And this only comes from the heart of God.
When you look carefully, you see that Paul had a very radical view of grace. He didn’t get it from a book, a Bible college, or seminary. No, he personally encountered the One who captured the heart of the worst of sinners–a murdering religious zealot. This over-the-top, radical grace was divinely revealed to him. Here’s an example of that revelation.
“All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.” (1 Cor.6:12 NASB)
Imagine the scene here. Paul just got done telling these carnally minded Corinthians (vs.9-11), who he had earlier chastised for acting like “mere humans” (3:3), that those who are alienated from God and engage in sinful lifestyles will not inherit the Kingdom of God. And he reminds them that “such were some of you.” (vs.11)
We all say amen…so far.
However, now that he and they had become a “new creation” in Christ, Paul goes on to say that all things are legal! Whoa, Paul, you’re a little over the top here!
We need to see what Paul is saying here with fresh eyes of faith. “All things” meant everything. We’re not permitted to change it into something else to make it more palatable to our religious sensibilities.
The point in Paul’s mind is not the sinful activity, but about our identity and what real freedom looks like. The implication is that there is nothing we cannot do as a Christian and not be still be a Christian. For salvation is not based on our behavior, it’s based on our faith.
This one point should be instructive to a lot of believers held in needless self-condemnation and religious guilt and shame.
Does this rattle your theology? If it doesn’t, you’re not really understanding the implications here! Now, before you label and dismiss me as another grace heretic, read on…
We must come to grips with the fact that anything more than living by faith is a performance trap designed to keep us locked up in condemnation and shame. So, rather than having altar calls to guilt-trip orphan-hearted Christians weighed down by their sin-dominated conscious, living on an endless treadmill of unmet expectations and defeat, it’s now just faith and grace.
It’s a soul at rest.
Grace makes us God-conscious instead of sin-conscious.
To quote Graham Cooke about how God sees us, “When I see you, I don’t see what’s wrong with you. I see what’s missing in your experience in Christ.”
Beloved, God is not dealing with our sin anymore. He seems to think Jesus did that already. He’s about forming Christ in us.
But there is a sin we should be striving against. And that’s our unbelief.
We sin because we don’t know who we are. We still identify ourselves by our bondages and alien identities.
Can you handle this 200-proof grace?
So what does this “godliness” look like then, if it’s not based on trying to behave? I’m glad you asked. And now we’re getting to the real meaning of grace.
Paul said that everything was legal for him to do, although not all things are helpful, nor would he be bound by anything.
In other words, true freedom is not being free to sin but being free from sin. And dead people don’t sin (Rom.6:2).
For what God calls “sinful” is what’s not really in our best interest. Actually, it has nothing to do with who we are now as a new creation in Christ.
What this looks like is, even if everything in the world was legal for me to indulge in, and nothing was considered sinful or immoral by the church, I would still do exactly what I do now.
For I’m not managed by rules; I am managed by the Spirit. That’s grace.
Welcome to the New Covenant!
And this is an important distinction if we are ever going to live in true freedom.
The Law is for sinners. God used the Law so He could have a relationship with fallen man (called the “Old Covenant”). He put a legal fence around them so they wouldn’t destroy themselves before their Messiah could come. If we apply it to ourselves now as a new creation in Christ, we use it illegally. Didn’t we get the memo from Paul on this? (1 Tim.1:8-9).
Both Paul and James said we cannot separate the moral Law from the ceremonial Law (Gal.3:10; 5:2-4; James 2:10). You either have to obey it all, every jot and tittle, or you’re under a curse…and you’ve actually fallen from grace (Gal.5:4).
Grace is the power and heart-felt desire to live a godly life from the inside-out. I’m not going to be managed from the outside, but from within.
After all, self-control is a fruit of the Spirit.
For the only form of government that brings real freedom is self-government. Didn’t we learn this in school?
For we live in a world today where there is almost no external pressure to live a godly life. These cultural fences have been torn down.
But even in the “good old time religion” days that many Christians seem to want our world to get back to, people just hid whatever was unacceptable behavior and judged others who didn’t. Can I tell you that this was never freedom. It was a religious cultural façade.
But this is good news to me because if we’re not going to live according to our accepted behavioral fences, then we must live by grace! For grace is the power to live a godly life in this present age (Titus 2:11-12).
Paul thought this was “normal” Christianity, not some convoluted mixture of law and grace you’ve probably been taught. He called that “foolish.” (Gal.3:1)
So, I am not bound by laws or rules, behavioral expectations, the should do’s or shouldn’t do’s. I am free from those things. What I am bound by is love. Because faith works through love (Gal.5:6). It’s Christ’s love that “compels” me to live for Him (2 Cor.5:14-16).
So if this is “hyper grace,” then give me all you got, Jesus!
Mel, Sorry I should have sent a note long time ago. Wanted you to know Bill and myself really enjoy all of your articles, your sermons or, “In My Fathers House”. I look forward to the days you have another one in my e-mail. We have talked about visiting on a Sunday, we are looking forward to that day. Thanks again. God Bless——–Shirley(Bird) Reed
Hi Shirley! It’s so good to hear from you again! I hope you and Bill are well. I still remember the time when we had a layover in Vienna, coming back from a mission trip to Ukraine, and we celebrated your birthday in that 500-year old Greek restaurant with all the signatures of famous people. One of the waiters came out with an accordion and played for your birthday. That was a trip!
We would love to see you again. Looking forward to it. Blessings. 🙂
You’re ‘stirring the pot’… keep it up. Questions and insights like this shake the bushes until we’ll have to come to terms with the radical meanings of Grace. Maybe that makes us ‘bush-whackers’…. Fun! Love it!
Amen! Thanks, fellow bush-whacker! 🙂
Love it! Thanks for being real 😉
You’re very welcome. 🙂
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Thank you. How refreshing. What a wonderfully written essay. It makes me thankful to God. While all grace is hyper, what you are talking about isn’t “Hyper-grace”. it’s the Gospel. God’s grace is wonderful.
I realize that part of this “hyper-grace” controversy is really just a problem of relativity; your position as you perceive the issue. Real problems do exist on both sides: legalism, universalism, hedonism. But they are fewer than we realize. Well said.
Thank you, your comments are much appreciated. And amen. You make a great point here, Sean. There can be excesses on both sides. So people will point to the abuses, exceptions, to marginalize or dismiss something they don’t agree with. With the subject of grace, I wrote about the balance in “Grace in the balance between the prodigal and elder brother.” The point being that pure grace can only be truly embraced by those who have the heart of a son. Religious orphans (whether “prodigal” or elder “brother”) will abuse it either by licentiousness or stainless steel legalism. Blessings.
Hello Pastor Mel. I have a friend who just joined the radical grace movement and one of their teachings is we do not need to confess our sins when we did wrong or committed sins because we were already forgiven past, present and future. Can you explain about this? I have some members from my church who related to this group as well. Thanks for your reply.
You raise an important question here. As we navigate understanding the finished work of Christ, we need to sort these things out. I think the people you’re talking to either don’t understand fully what is being taught, or their teachers are in error. To say that confession has no place is not what the grace preachers I’ve read and heard have taught, and it’s even delusional. But we must understand what confession is and what it’s not.
First, yes, the Bible is pretty clear that we’re already forgiven of every sin we will ever commit, whether we receive that forgiveness by faith or not. Forgiveness is not ongoing with God. He seems to think Jesus already paid for all sin, once and for all–past, present and future. And not only is He not counting our sins against anymore, He’s given us that ministry too (See 2 Cor.5:18-20). We must get that fact straight first before anything else, otherwise, we mix grace with works, which we’ve done for centuries.
Having said that, we need to know something else here. Even though sin will never separate us from God, it can separate us from Him. In other words, sin hurts us personally and our relationships with one another. We sin because of deception and wanting the counterfeit to what God offers. So, we confess for revelation of what we’re missing, not for some ongoing need for God to forgive us of something already paid for. If you want to know more about what I mean, I wrote about it in more depth here and here. Blessings.