“Grace is an outrageously relational term.”
– Dr. Ed Khouri
“How is the indwelling Spirit not relational?” – David Crabtree

Contending for Grace

The Holy Spirit Commences a New Age

Pentecost and the coming of the Holy Spirit marked a pivotal transition point in world history. Jesus’ ministry, death, and resurrection made this transition possible.  The Grace that Jesus provided is the greatest empowering gift God could give a fallen world. Not only are believers saved, but they are also empowered to do the same as Jesus did.

Saul, the Christian-killing ex-terrorist, has a revelation of Jesus on the Damascus road and becomes the leading exponent of Grace of all time. As he said himself, “all that I know has been taught by Jesus himself”. The believer now lives and works by faith in Jesus alone. Faith alone accesses the righteousness that Grace provides. We are no longer living in the Old Covenant but the New. We are no longer ruled or even guided by Old Covenant Law (Torah) but by the indwelling Spirit of God Himself.

Paul’s bold teaching on this subject, which he called the Gospel of Grace was incredibly good news for the new Christian believers, particularly the Gentiles who were freed from the expectation that they should conform to Jewish rules and customs to prove their bona fides as genuine believers.

Thus began the conflict in the early Christian church

Paul’s letters to the Galatians, the Ephesians, the Colossians and the unknown writer (probably Paul) to the Hebrews, describe in historical and theological terms that conflict.

Paul was adamant that…

  1. The New Covenant replaced the Old.
  2. The Old Covenant is now obsolete and therefore “fading away”.
  3. Christians, particularly non-Jewish Christians were no longer obligated to the Law of Moses (Torah).
  4. Faith in Jesus alone brought righteousness.
  5. Faith in Jesus alone allowed the Holy Spirit to enter and empower a believer.
  6. Grace, God’s empowering presence, equipped every believer with all they needed to live a godly life.
  7. The Law was not based on faith and could not bring righteousness.
  8. The Law is good, but only for unbelievers.
  9. God can accomplish all He wants in the believer’s life through Grace.

This new teaching (new “administration of Grace” – Eph 3) became a massive offense to those who wanted to cling to the Old Covenant. They could not bring themselves to completely trust in God’s ability to save or transform.

It is still true today.

Religious folk in the church have long maintained a tradition that the Law of Moses (Torah) is required to live righteously. It is stated that if we remove the Ten Commandments as a moral standard in a Christian believer’s life that also means it is also a license to sin, and what is to stop that same believer from stealing and even killing if the Ten Commandments are removed from their life? A good question, at least from a traditionalist’s point of view who assumes that the Law is absolutely necessary to define sin. Take away the Law, because we are now “not under Law but under Grace” (Romans 6:14,15), and we cannot know what sin is and therefore have the so-called ‘liberty’ to sin as much as we want. At least that’s how the argument goes.

The question is, does laying aside the Torah, Mosaic Law, and the Ten Commandments make someone “lawless”?

According to Paul, absolutely not. The Law cannot enable righteousness, Its job is to always condemn. Romans speaks of the righteousness that comes by faith in Jesus. The Law states that you are obliged to keep all of it and therefore you are always deserving of judgment because you have not kept all the Law.

The so-called Grace, Hyper-Grace, and Law conflict

So begins the conflict between Law and Grace.

Despite the many New Testament references about the all-sufficiency of Grace to sustain righteousness, proponents will still argue that we need Law (Torah) to ‘balance’ the so-called excesses that come about because Grace is taught without balance. Therefore, according to the anti-hyper-grace proponents, those who present a “grace-alone” Gospel are in error because their teaching does not demand righteousness that can only be developed through the discipline of keeping Law.

Therefore “Grace-only” teachers and preachers are accused of teaching a “hyper-grace” message that leads to licentious behavior. Apparently, Grace (by itself), according to this view, is unable to grow us in righteousness and those who teach Grace without Law are called “antinomians” (those without law).

Interestingly, those that hold this view would have to regard Paul the Apostle as an antinomian. Paul is very clear about the Law (Torah) being unnecessary for believers in Jesus. More on this later.

I am personally aware of many teachers, preachers, and authors who espouse a very strong “Grace-alone” message, not one of them is permissive in regards to sin and unrighteous behavior.

However, there are those who express great concern that Grace is being distorted by the so-called “Hyper-Grace” teachers and preachers, and are trying to bring correction to what they see as being a dangerous error.

Some of the cautions expressed are made with good intent and a desire for a more righteous church. We’ll explore that notion and others in the articles in this section.

Haystack Rock, Cannon Beach, OR - Photo by David Crabtree
David Crabtree
Author: David Crabtree

David has spent more than 30 years in Senior Leadership, and is the founding senior pastor of DaySpring Church (Sydney) where he led for 27 years. He is currently living in Highlands Ranch (Denver), Colorado where he is a teacher, preacher and author. He is married to Narelle (also a senior pastor) and has 2 children with 6 grandchildren. Life's good! David and Narelle are also members of the Bethel Leaders Network (BLN) and have a role as BLN Builders.

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