When I say, “When Gracers Go Too Far”, I don't mean one can go too far with Grace. Grace is absolute.
I trust that those of you who have listened to or read my teaching of the Word of God know how strongly I believe in Grace. The Bible teaches that Grace is foundational to God's working with man. And if one doesn't have a good grasp on the truth of the New Covenant that we are "no longer under Law but under Grace" (Rom. 6:14), then much of the rest of their theology and practical Christian living will be flawed.
I am a Gracer from start to finish. I believe the Bible teaches that we are not only saved inititally by Grace through Faith, "not of works, lest any man should boast" (Eph. 2:8,9), but that the keeping of our salvation and our ultimate glorification is entirely by Grace through Faith. That our works had nothing to do with our salvation to begin with, and our works have nothing to do with our staying saved and going to heaven.
I believe that there is nothing we can do to make God love us more, and nothing we can do to make God love us less, as believers, as born-again children of God. He has set His love on us and there is nothing that can separate us from that love.
Now, having said that, I have noticed something a little disturbing among some other so-called Gracers. There is something I have seen among those who really do glory in the Grace of God, that goes too far.
I want to be kind here, but there is something that I have seen among those who really do glory in the New Covenant of Grace that I believe has made them gullible.
By gullible, I mean that they have embraced as a brother or sister in Christ, anyone who claims to be a Christian, no matter what that person believes.
Under the banner of Grace, these well-meaning Gracers have undermined the Gospel of Grace.
While denouncing works-based salvation, while denouncing Galatianism, where grace and works are mixed together in a false Gospel, while meaning to be Grace-centered, they have stepped over into a strange acceptance of Legalism, even another Gospel, which is not a Gospel at all. And they've done it without even knowing it.
Now, I'm going to give a specific example of this. But first, I want to say a few words about that form of “legalism” which I call Performance-Based Christianity, as opposed to Grace-Based. It's that form of legalism that tries to earn God's favor or love by what we do.
There are several other forms of legalism, for example:
1. There is initial salvation by works;
2. There is the Seventh Day Adventist type of legalism, which speaks of initial salvation by grace, but it must be followed by law-works or you end up losing your salvation;
3. There is that extra-biblical type of cultural "legalism", such as "no lipstick", "no pants for ladies", etc.;
4. There is pure Galatianism, which mixes law-works with grace, which of course makes it not grace.
Which Paul points out makes it no longer grace, whereupon one "falls from grace", as the Galatians did in their foolishness, and gets on the ground of Law, which quenches the Holy Spirit, and inflames sin.
The problem with Law-based living is that the one who lives that way must, a. obey all of it, b. obey it continually, c. obey it perfectly.
"Striving to obey God's commandments" won't cut it, and one who lives that way is cursed by his own paradigm.
"For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law to perform them.'" (Gal. 3:10)
But...We are "...servants of a new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life." (2 Cor. 3:6)
And that New Covenant, of course, is in Jesus Christ, our Lawgiver, Lawkeeper, and Sacrifice Lamb, who became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God. What a Savior and Friend!
The Disturbing Habit of Some Gracers
Okay, let's get back to the problem I've seen in some Gracers. Those, who have come to see that our salvation from start to finish is completely by Grace, and not works.
Here's the problem. They have stood strong for Grace and against Legalism, but then in the name of Grace, have embraced those in false legalistic religions as brothers and sisters.
Some have gone as far a a form of Universalism, in which they teach that everyone will be saved, because after all, if Jesus paid for the sins of everyone, and unbelief is a sin, then didn't He pay for the sin of unbelief and therefore must welcome everyone into heaven eventually?
They are careful to say that no one EARNED their way into heaven, but everyone makes it anyway. This is, of course, a direct contradiction of the Word of God, which clearly teaches that some will never believe in Christ, and will indeed be thrown into the lake of fire.
But I'm not speaking of these Gracer Universalists. I'm speaking of those Gracers who have, in the name of Grace, embraced works-based religious leaders. This usually involves the works-based religion of Roman Catholicism, and might involve studying the monk Thomas Merton and his meditations. Or it might involve a dialog on the radio or the Internet with a Roman Catholic fellow who is so nice and loving that it is thought that he must be a true believer, and how can I judge him, when I'm not perfect myself? And so on.
And rather than give a detailed theological study of Roman Catholicism and how it so badly disagrees with the Gospel of Grace in the Scriptures, I will attempt to illustrate this disturbing tendency by asking the question:
Was Pope John Paul II a Great Spiritual Leader?
I choose John Paul, because he made so many public statements that sounded gracious, and was so attractive to Bible believing Christians, that if he couldn't be seen as a good spiritual leader, then who could, in the Roman Catholic Church?
To my Gracer friends, if the answer to the question, Was Pope John Paul II a Great Spiritual Leader? is “No”, then I would urge you to not extend your understanding of Grace to include the false Galatianist religion of [so-called] grace-plus-works of which he was a part. Use the Scriptures and your God-given discernment to discern the awful Legalism that his religion embraces.
So, Was Pope John Paul II A Great Spiritual Leader?
First, let me say, I liked Pope John Paul II. He was kindly, charming, hard-working. A genius who spoke many languages, and he shared some of my own views on moral issues, such as the evil of killing our unborn, so I'm grateful for his influence in those areas.
And I wouldn't judge his final destination, heaven or hell, because it's God Who saves, by grace through faith, and none of us knows what may have happened, even on John Paul's death bed.
But was John Paul a great spiritual leader?
In the interest of slaying the dragon of Legalism, I must say "no", for three reasons:
1. He taught and supported a religion of "grace" plus works.
The Bible says clearly that if works is added to grace for salvation, it's no longer grace ("But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace." --Romans 11:6)
Look at some excerpts from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (this is the "new" "modern" "open-minded" one...you should see the Traditional One!):
". . Baptism is the first and chief sacrament of forgiveness of sins because it unites us with Christ, who died for our sins and rose for our justification, so that 'we too might walk in newness of life,'"(Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 977).
Note this first of seven sacraments actually obtains the forgiveness of sins.
"In every circumstance, each one of us should hope, with the grace of God, to persevere 'to the end' and to obtain the joy of heaven, as God's eternal reward for the good works accomplished with the grace of Christ," (CCC, par. 1821).
Note, "as God's ETERNAL REWARD for the good works".
"Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then MERIT for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification." (CCC, par. 2010).
Note we not only MERIT for ourselves, but for others.
And since the Catholic Church obviously teaches that salvation includes man's works, then it follows that the failure of man's works can destroy that salvation and damn him again, after he's been "justified".
The solution: more works! Listen to the following:
"Christ instituted the sacrament of Penance for all sinful members of his Church: above all for those who, since Baptism, have fallen into grave sin, and have thus lost their baptismal grace and wounded ecclesial communion. It is to them that the sacrament of Penance offers a new possibility to convert and to recover the grace of justification. The Fathers of the Church present this sacrament as 'the second plank (of salvation) after the shipwreck which is the loss of grace.'" (CCC, par. 1446).
Acts of penance may be such things as prayer, saying the Rosary, reading the scripture, saying a number of "Our Father's" or "Hail Mary's", doing good works, fasting, etc.
Hold on, I gotta breathe in some fresh air of the Word of God, here:
"You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? (Galatians 3:1-3)
2. John Paul also affirmed the Council of Trent,
...even traveling to Trento, Italy for the 450th Anniversary of the Council, and giving his approval. Among many other unbiblical teachings, the Council of Trent curses with damnation all of us who teach salvation "by grace through faith, not of works". Excerpts can be viewed at www.carm.org/catholic/trent.htm.
3. Like many false teachers, John Paul was deceptive in his public speeches,
...opening the gates of heaven to almost anyone from Protestants to Buddhists, Hindus, etc., ignoring the words of Jesus, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me."
Whether by deliberate deception, or personal confusion, John Paul spoke out of both sides of his mouth when it came to whom are children of God.
At best his sloppiness has caused masses (no pun intended) of people to miss the pure beautiful Gospel of faith alone, by grace alone, in Jesus Christ alone.
At worst, he deliberately said whatever itching ears wanted to hear, in order to win the crowds.
Either way, he couldn't qualify as a great spiritual leader.
Let me say, I have a particular love for Roman Catholics. I was once a member of the Roman Catholic Church myself, and my wife Michele was raised Roman Catholic. Many of our family members are of that faith.
If you are a Roman Catholic, or anyone who thinks that heaven can be earned by Sacraments or good works of any kind, I have terrific news for you. Jesus died on the cross for sins. He took the penalty for the sins of His people. He was buried and rose again from the grave, to give eternal life to all who will believe on Him and trust that His work on the cross was enough...who will believe that He meant it when He said on the cross, "It is finished." Whoever will may come to Him. God calls all men everywhere to repent, to change their minds. No works can earn it. It's a free gift of God. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.
So, in conclusion, I hope my Gracer friends don't see this as some kind of hate piece against Roman Catholics, or any other religion. It's simply a plea to stay consistent in your proclamation of the wonderful Grace of God, and correspondingly to stand firm against Legalism in its all of its forms.
Preach the truth that we have been set free from the Law. We are no longer under Law but under Grace.
We love the laws of God, and we love the fact that He is working in us both to will and to do for His good pleasure. We are His workmanship, and He is working in us His good works which He prepared for us before we were even born.
But we are free from having to perform to get the Lord's love and favor.