Counterfeit Grace

Dr. Vic Reasoner

THE ARMINIAN MAGAZINE. Issue 1-2. Spring & Fall 2015. Volume 33. Posted Sept., 07, 2015  

Nothing ruins the truth like stretching it. The doctrine of grace is a biblical truth, but like any other truth, it can be distorted when it is not kept in balance with other biblical truths. In the last issue of The Arminian Magazine we reviewed Antinomianism: Reformed Theology’s Unwelcome Guest? In that book Mark Jones expresses his concern about Calvinism’s default weakness toward lawlessness. This is reflected in Kevin DeYoung’s declaration, “If people hear us talking about justification and don’t almost think that we are giving them a license to sin, we are not preaching grace strong enough.” If that is the goal of modern Calvinism, they are certainly getting the job done!
Among the modern charismatic movement there is also a new distorted emphasis on grace. If the prosperity gospel is based on hyper-faith, there is a new “grace reformation” based on hyper-grace. Michael L. Brown, Hyper-Grace (2014) has attempted to confront this cheap grace. He wrote, “It is increasingly common to hear about worship leaders getting drunk after church services and dropping f-bombs while they boast about their ‘liberty’ in the Lord.”
While salvation is all of grace, we know a tree by its fruits. Here is a list of tendencies flowing from the “grace reformation” that we must guard against:

The emphasis of 1 John 1:9, however, is not on the state of the subject — whether John is addressing gnostics who do not believe they are sinners, awakened sinners who are seeking God, or believers who have fallen short. Rather, the emphasis is on the reality of sin. John is teaching that joy, assurance, and victory do not come by denying sin, as characterized in the three denials of 1:6-10, but they come when we acknowledge and confess our sin.

I am aware that the old Pentecostals had a propensity toward legalism. They got it from the holiness movement from which they sprang. But we do not compensate for one extreme by going to the opposite error.
Solomon declared that there is nothing new under the sun. Those who do not learn from history are destined to repeat it. Anyone with a working knowledge of church history will recognize these false teachings which were advocated by false teachers in other periods of history. The charismatic movement has emphasized experience instead of education and therefore what they claim is new revelation is simply old heresy in new clothes. Essentially, this new hyper-grace is ancient gnosticism. 1 John in particular was written to refute this pagan heresy which had already begun to infiltrate the early church.

In the meantime what we are afraid of is this: lest any should use the phrase, “the righteousness of Christ,” or, “the righteousness of Christ is ‘imputed to me,’” as a cover for his unrighteousness. We have known this done a thousand times. A man has been reproved, suppose for drunkenness. “Oh,” said he, “I pretend to no righteousness of my own: Christ is my righteousness.” Another has been told, that “the extortioner, the unjust, shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” He replies with all assurance, “I am unjust in myself, but I have a spotless righteousness in Christ.” And thus, though a man be as far from the practice as from the tempers of a Christian, though he neither has the mind which was in Christ nor in any respect walks as he walked, yet he has armor of proof against all conviction, in what he calls the “righteousness of Christ” [“The Lord our Righteousness,” Sermon #20, 2.1, 12, 19].

According to Titus 2:11-14 true grace teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age. Those who practice hyper-grace, whether Calvinistic or charismatic, will not be found ready when our God and Savior Jesus Christ returns.

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