It would be wonderful to think that GRACE is revolutionary on its own. It certainly came over that way when first presented in the New Testament. Jesus’ death and resurrection, and the coming of the Holy Spirit paved the way for the introduction of Grace. All believers in Jesus are made righteous without the need for Law. Radical? A Reformation? You bet! Grace ‘got up the noses’ of the religious folk, and still does!
Is it time to renew the Reformation?
Martin Luther’s Reformation is 504 years old this year (October 2021) and his legacy still prevails. That we are saved by faith in Jesus alone is a concept that shatters the concept that we are saved by both faith and works (Law-keeping).
Luther didn’t invent the doctrine, he discovered it anew from the writings of the Apostle Paul in the New Testament. If Jesus and Paul started the 1st Reformation in 33-60 AD, perhaps it is safe to say that Martin Luther started the 2nd Reformation in 1517 AD.
In my mind, it was Paul (Jesus before him of course) who started the First Reformation by announcing what he called the Gospel of Grace (Acts 20:17-32). He was right in warning that “savage wolves” (Acts 20:28-31), false teachers, would come into the church and “savage” or distort the Good News of Grace. The Christian Church largely lost its way in regard to freedom and Grace as early as the 1st Century. It also lost its emphasis on the presence of the Holy Spirit and started to emphasize instead dependence on Law, primarily variations on Old Covenant Law. It was the key issue that Paul was facing in the Galatian church.
Stick to the Real Deal
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel “” 7which is really no gospel at all. Evidently, some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! 9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse! – Paul – Galatians 1:6-9 (NIV)
You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. 2 I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? 3 Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? 4 Have you experienced so much in vain if it really was in vain? 5 So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard? 6 So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness. – Galatians 3:1-6 (NIV)
It is still the same today. Christians still can’t let go of Law. Why?
The legacy of theological teaching that has lost its primary emphasis on the Holy Spirit has “bewitched” the church and turned them into unbelievers. There is such a distrust of the Person and power of the Holy Spirit (the Spirit of Jesus) that we are taught by many leaders and teachers that Grace (the empowering presence of God that enables us in power and righteousness) cannot be fully trusted without the “balance” of Law. Somehow Jesus cannot rule alone, He needs the assistance of Moses (Law).
As Paul said, these teaching “wolves” will distort the pure Gospel of Grace in order to win people for themselves. At the heart of legalism (any dependence on Law) is the need to judge and control believers. We think that we are responsible for other people’s righteousness. This is the driving force behind legalistic religion and it is of demonic origin.
It’s time to trust the Holy Spirit’s ability to affect and transform lives and to enable them to live as holy people. Do we need another Reformation? We sure do. We need to return to Paul’s 1st Reformation of Grace. Call it Reformation 3.0 if you will.
“Any moral code that is based on the Ten Commandments is legalistic.” – Dr. Michael Eaton – Theologian & Author”
Summary points comparing traditional or “mixed grace” and New Testament, New Covenant Grace.
The typical or traditional view of Grace – Mixed Grace
- Grace is “unmerited favour”. It is our “get out of jail card”, our free ticket to eternal life, as long as we prove it so by our behaviour and law-keeping disciplines. Grace (“unmerited favour”) by itself is not good enough for living righteously, it needs to be “balanced” with truth, or Law, or behavior regulations.
- Grace is good for justification (God declaring us righteous because we believe in Jesus), but insufficient for sanctification for which we need Law or at least guidelines.
- Grace is something we need to be careful about because too much grace is dangerous and will allow people to sin as much as they want.
- The “Grace only” message is a “hyper-grace” message which is only a license to sin. In other words, with the “grace-only” teaching it is thought that one can sin all they want because “I am under grace”.
- The Law (Mosaism) is necessary to help keep us righteous.
- Only part of the Law has been “done away with”. The Moral Law or Ten Commandments remain in force for Christian believers. The “Ceremonial” and “Civil” laws are the ones that have disappeared.
- When Jesus is talking about Law in Matt 5:17-19, He is speaking only of the Moral Law or Ten Commandments.
- Faith saves but not without works. Grace always needs “works” for validation. Therefore we are saved by faith and works together.
The points of view listed above constitute the “standard” view taught by the majority of Christians. For the most part, if these points were taught in church hardly anyone would object. Only those who have been taught the truth of Grace will refuse to be subject to them and live a fulfilled righteous life.
The New Testament view of Grace
- Grace is given as a gift from God to all who believe in Jesus.
- Salvation and eternal life are given by Grace only through faith only in Jesus.
- Grace is God’s empowering presence through the indwelling Holy Spirit.
- Grace empowers us to be righteous.
- Justification and sanctification come by faith alone in Jesus. Jesus gives us the Spirit of Grace (Heb 10) as a guarantee of our inheritance. ie. Grace (God’s empowering presence) both justifies and sanctifies us.
- Anything (particularly Law) added to Grace kills Grace and is an act of unbelief that denies the work of Jesus on the cross.
- Grace keeps us in close connection with Jesus and empowers the supernatural gifts given to us by the Holy Spirit.
- Trying to be righteous by observing Law alienates us from Christ and causes us to fall from Grace (Galatians 5).
- When the New Testament is speaking about Law, it is talking about the whole Law, all of Mosaism. Jesus includes the Psalms in the Law (John 10:34-35)
- The Law is not based on faith (Gal 3:12)
- Leaning on Law as an addition or balance to Grace actually causes us to sin and it neutralizes the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit.
- We are saved by faith alone. Works are not necessary for salvation but a saved believer will produce the fruit of righteousness because of the Grace they live in.
In light of these differences, and in light of the prevalence of “traditional grace teaching”, it seems that we do need to advocate a radical change of thinking.
Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification (righteousness) you are not able to obtain under the law of Moses. – Acts 13:38-39 (NIV)
Grace has absolutely everything to do with Jesus and His Spirit
From His fullness we have all received grace upon grace. For the Law was given to Moses; Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. – John 1:16-17
It was clear, at least to John the Baptist that the coming of Jesus heralded a brand new era. Here was the One who took away the sins of the world. Here was the One who would make a transition from the government of Law to the government of Grace.
The phrase “grace upon grace” is better read as “grace replacing grace”. The grace (unmerited favor) of the Old Covenant, good though it was ten, is replaced by an extraordinarily powerful Grace (God’s empowering presence), the same Grace that is in Jesus which is given to every believer.
Moses had a major role in leading the people of God to the point of ‘handover’ when Jesus took over as Ruler of the world. Now that Jesus has come, Moses’ role is taken over or superseded by Jesus. Moses was the giver of the Law, but Jesus comes in with something far more powerful, Grace and Truth. To allow another authority to be in governance with Jesus is an act of distrust and unbelief. Hebrews 10:29 speaks about the Spirit of Grace who is capable of being insulted or outraged! That’s extraordinary!
Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the spirit of grace? – Hebrews 1:28-29 (ESV)
How is it possible to outrage the Holy Spirit? Good question!
The book of Hebrews is all about announcing and establishing the fact that after His resurrection Jesus is absolutely in charge. Jesus supersedes Moses. All authority now resides fully in the Son. No need now for sacrifices or priests of the old order. Jesus is now the high priest who will never be superseded because He lives forever. The Law is now obsolete. The priesthood has now changed forever, therefore the Law has also changed. The Law demanded that forgiveness came through the sacrificial system and only through the sacrificial system. However, Jesus put an end to Law and the sacrificial system which means that anyone who tries to keep the Law (any part of it) and fails, sins without the possibility of forgiveness because the law demands that forgiveness will be obtained through sacrifice.
We are now caught in a bind. The law demands that we obtain forgiveness only through old covenant sacrifices. The New Testament (new covenant) teaches that forgiveness can only come through Jesus and belief in him. Only Jesus can forgive sins as he is now our high priest. The law is no longer in authority and cannot be used to obtain forgiveness or righteousness. To try to use law in this way means that we doubt Jesus’ ability and authority. Our unbelief has “trampled underfoot the Son of God.” We “outrage” the Spirit of Grace when we use Law in any way to obtain righteousness.
The Law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming – not the realities themselves. For this reason, it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. Otherwise, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshippers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins. It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Therefore, when Christ came into the world he said… “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them” – though they were offered in accordance with the law. Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.” He sets aside the first to establish the second. And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. – Hebrews 10:1-9 (NIV)
If this is the case, why is it that religious teachers demand that we “balance” Grace with Law? That’s outrageous! No wonder we need a Grace Reformation or Grace revolution.
And there’s more…
The greatest obstacle to receiving and living in the power of Grace is trying to live ruled by Law. If you now think that that means ‘lawlessness’ and ‘sinfulness’, you have missed what Jesus and Paul are saying. Grace, God’s empowering Presence through the Holy Spirit, is the only means by which we can live a righteous overcoming life.
It’s time that Spirit-filled New Testament believers live in their heritage of promise and power. The world is in need of humble and empowered believers who represent Jesus well.
There are many things to be said that can’t, or shouldn’t, be said on one page. I and others will be saying more in the pages to follow and more in the weeks and months to come.
You are invited to explore this site further. Please bear in mind that we have just started and there is still much to add.
Grace to you!