Recently, there has been a buzz in Christian circles because of Michael Brown’s article rebuffing grace teaching (http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/38297-confronting-the-error-of-hyper-grace). He (incorrectly) contends that grace teaching goes too far. Last week, there was an article published on Charisma Magazine’s website entitled, “8 Signs of Hypergrace Churches.” I read the article and while I agree with a little of what the author said, I took umbrage with the remainder of it. I think the greater threat to Christianity is not so-called “Hyper-Grace” churches but churches that are mired in the Old Testament and the Law. This is my point-by-point rebuttal.
In the spirit of fairness, I am including the link to the original article:
Over the past two-thousand years, the church has gone from mere departure to complete distortion of scripture, eschewing the teachings of Jesus, Paul, and the rest of the apostles in favor of man-made doctrines and teachings that have served to hold the people of God in bondage.
Entire movements and denominations have been established to unnecessarily stratify lifestyle constraints and rules, effectively nullifying the grace shed abroad by the blood of Jesus and turning the church from an institution of liberty to a bastion of legalism.
Indeed, these institutions preach sin and hell to the degree that they have become sin-conscious, instead of the righteousness-conscious that the church should embrace. As a result, sinful behavior is not dealt with head-on but is nodded and winked at, and its consequences are frequently swept under the rug.
These same institutions preach from the Old Testament with religious fervor, trying to mold New Testament saints into Old Testament paradigms, effectively striving to pour new wine into old wineskins.
The legalist will retort that grace teaching is giving people license to sin and to ignore the “moral law.” However, Jesus, Himself, said all the law and the prophets can be distilled to this – Love God and love your neighbor as yourself. And when you get right down to it, the Ten Commandments can be broken down thusly: the first five deal with loving God; the second five deal with loving your neighbor. The legalist will loudly tout the veracity of the Ten Commandments but conveniently exclude the remaining six-hundred and three (603). But I digress…
While Paul clearly mentions that the law is holy, righteous, and good, he similarly states with equal clarity that we are not saved by the law. Moreover, the law is not the measure of righteousness for the NT saint, Christ is (Ephesians 4:11-16). And because He is righteous, so are we (2 Corninthians 5:21)!
The law cannot be our standard because it is impossible to uphold in its entirety (Acts 15:10). While it is the standard by which all non-believers will be judged by, it is most effective when wielded as a tool to show the lost their desperate need for a Savior.
That said, here are the key indicators of a legalistic church:
1. The preachers preach far too many messages on sin and hell.
The wages of sin are death. Period. This is a message that has to be proclaimed FOR THE UNSAVED. However, the gift of God is everlasting life (Romans 6:23)! Jesus instructs us to abide in Him and His Word to abide in us (John 15:4-7) – this joins us to Him. But the Bible also teaches us that in Him there is no sin (1 John 3:5)! Therefore, if we are in Him, we are blameless because we are in Him and in Him there is no sin! It makes no sense to constantly remind saved folks of what they’ve been saved from! There needs to be more preaching on how to walk in the fullness of Jesus’ Finished Work! The Gospel is GOOD NEWS! The Gospel sets people free (2 Corinthians 3:17). Preaching it is far more effective than beating people up over sin and condemning the unsaved to hell.
2. The lead pastor politicizes from the pulpit.
Cultural matters such as abortion and homosexuality are wrong and the fact that their proponents are active and vocal about societal codification of their sin makes them easy targets. However, issues such as lying and racism are conveniently ignored. Churches and pastors that strive to legislate from the pulpit ignore the truth that the Kingdom of God is the government that surpasses all governments. Effective Kingdom preaching will break the chains of sin and religion and will displace earthly governments. Don’t believe me? Ask the government of Rome!
3. The Old Testament is the standard for holiness and righteousness.
The Old Testament is useful for illustrating the historical basis of the New Covenant. The prophecies of the Old Testament speak not only to the advent of the Messiah but also prophetically to events to come. Others contain eternal wisdom and praise, such as Psalms and Proverbs. And, of course, Genesis, which chapters one and two effectively outline God’s mission statement. However, to use the Old Testament as a guide to righteous living serves to put New Testament Saints in bondage. The Old Testament is the chronicling of the Old Covenant and the New Testament is the illustration of the New (Current) Covenant; and the New is superior to the old (Hebrews 8:6-7). Remember, if you’re guilty of one point of the law, you’re guilty of the whole (James 2:7)!
4. People who live immoral lives are allowed to teach and lead ministries.
Immoral lifestyles are rampant in both legalistic and grace churches. Music ministries are flush with homosexuality, pulpits are filled with fornication, and the pockets of deacons and leaders are lined with the lucre of the church. The difference is these matters are conveniently ignored in legalistic churches, lest the musical “anointing” be lost, or the preaching become lifeless, or someone’s political boat is rocked; grace churches, on the other hand speak to the individuals in love, allowing the Word of God and the Holy Spirit to effect change. Grace churches are also more likely to teach the correct interpretation of repentance; that is, a change of mind. According to Strongs:
g3341. metanoia; from 3340; (subjectively) compunction (for guilt, including reformation); by implication, reversal (of (another’s) decision):— repentance.
AV (24)- repentance 24;
a change of mind, as it appears to one who repents, of a purpose he has formed or of something he has done
not confession of sins! (Also applicable to point 8 in the original article)
5. The lead pastor speaks often against non-institutional church.
The institutional or denominational church is basically a variation of the Roman church, which is a deviation from the first-century church (Acts 2:44-47). Nowhere in the book of Acts do you find the dependence upon hierarchies, devotion to tradition, or being defined by buildings as you do in the modern church. The modern, institutional church has become a corporate machine. It is dependent upon a complex array of talent and resources and has become largely dull to the needs of those lacking said talent and resources. Instead of giving to its community, many institutional churches have become gross consumers of resources.
6. The lead pastor harps on tithing.
There is no New Testament command to tithe. Period. The only cases of tithing before the law was Abraham – who gave tithes of the spoils of war to Melchizedek AND the remainder of the spoil to the King of Sodom – and Jacob – who promised to tithe CONTINGENT UPON God blessing him! There is no evidence of Isaac tithing in Scriputre. There is also no evidence of anyone tithing in the New Testament. The paradigm for giving is giving all – understanding that none of it is ours in the first place! I’ve written extensively on this subject; you can click here to read what I’ve written about this.
7. The lead pastor only preaches negative messages.
Here’s a question: How many times did Jesus preach on hell; how many times did Paul? Why, then, is this such a big deal in the modern church? We are called to be preachers of the Gospel; that is, GOOD NEWS. Instead of scaring people to take fire insurance by preaching hell, we should be proclaiming the whole life that is available only in Christ. The only news worth repeating is that God so LOVED the world that He sent His Son to be not only the payment for our Sin that we may have ETERNAL life (John 3:16), but that we should have abundant life in the here-and-now (John 10:10). The key to grace teaching is the Greek word, “sozo,” which not only means salvation from sin but also deliverance from demonic oppression, bodily healing, and material blessing. The legalistic church and its preachers will tell you that prosperity is not for the believer, healing died with the original Apostles, and that deliverance is completely dependent upon the oppressed. Folks, that ain’t good news!
There are many other things I could mention regarding legalistic churches and their preaching – like how they are one step away from Calvinism (that only the “elite elect” are saved and everyone else is born to go to hell) and traditions of men that nullify the Word of God (Mark 7:13), because many of their traditions have little basis in the Word. It’s time to get away from the traditions and religion that have shackled the Body of Christ for centuries and get back to the bold simplicity preached by Jesus and His Apostles.
One final note, Grace is not the license to sin, it is liberation from the yoke of sin.
© 2013 – Derrick Day (www.derrickday.com)