Because the church system neglected or forgot the message of grace and the sufficiency of Christ, those who teach grace are often thought to be bringing a new gospel. The message meets a certain amount of opposition simply because the people haven’t heard it before. But, for the same reason, it attracts predators who want to use the freshness and excitement that comes with it.
Jesus used the birds to illustrate this opportunism. The birds swoop to the new seed and snatch it away from its intended purpose before it has a chance to take root. They come to feed, to use the seed for themselves, with no regard for the needs of the gardener.
Often, when the grace message is proclaimed, there are those who welcome it with open arms because they see ways to use it for their own agenda. In the last post I wrote about the anti-law people who see in the message of grace support for their desire to serve certain passions of their flesh. Today I want to focus on those who use this message to promote their unorthodox teachings.
The grace message teaches that God takes the initiative and does the work of salvation. This has been used by some in recent days to support their ideas of universal salvation. They say that, since we can do nothing toward our salvation, then God has done the work for all people in Jesus. All are saved; all are forgiven; all are reconciled to God, they say, because that was what Jesus did on the cross for all people. They do not believe that any personal reception or expression of faith can be necessary because Jesus died for all. They believe hell was an invention of those who wanted to keep people in line under the law.
The error of this is obvious for many people, but the argument is now couched in the language of grace. Since God loves all people and the sacrifice of Jesus is sufficient for any and all, then salvation has been given as a gift to all, whether they know it or accept it or not, they say. Many of these people held this view before they learned of the grace message, but now they have changed their vocabulary.
Another very current area in which we find the grace message used is in the advocacy of certain movements which have been challenged by the church. Homosexual marriage, for example, is said to be acceptable because “we are not under law but under grace.” Drug use, pornography, and other practices deemed immoral by conservative churches are to be accepted because to reject them would be to operate under law. Believers find this very confusing and some reject the grace message because it is misused.
We must understand that this is to be expected. The definition of grace is a Person, not a code or a list. We do not have standards to which we must measure. We don’t have a law at all except to love one another and God above all. We cannot point to commandments that must be obeyed in order for us to experience grace. Frankly, the door that was opened to allow us into Christ without requiring a change of behavior is the same door that is used to suggest that such behavior is now acceptable.
But accepting a person is different from accepting that person’s behavior. And living under grace is not the same as license to do whatever we wish in the flesh. Nor does the truth of the sufficiency of Christ negate the personal responsibility of each individual to accept what Jesus has done.
Just because the truth is misused does not make it less true.