The Battle for God's Grace
and its Connection to the
Rock of Offence Special Commentary
This is Part 3 of a four-part Bible study.
Click on the links below to access the
other parts of this study.
“Hyper-Grace” Is Just A Modern
Term that Pertains to the Same
Internal Church War Against the
Grace Gospel that Began in the
Why is it necessary to review church
history? It was in the past where
many of the religious errors - which
are now widely accepted Christian
doctrines had their beginning. By
examining the past, we can better
understand the complex problems the
Church faces today.
Due to the efforts of both Augustine (in the 4th century) and John Calvin (in the 16th century), this formerly rejected “doctrine of the believing Pharisees”, which mixes Old Testament Law with the New Testament Grace of Christ - is now accepted (in countless modified versions) as fundamental Bible truth in many Christian churches and denominations – both Catholic and Protestant. On the Protestant side, some refer to it as either “Historical Christianity or Biblical Christianity” – and insist that it represents God’s original theology and intentions. Yet, Paul labeled it “a different gospel of Christ” (Galatians 1:6-8) - and a heresy. What motivated Paul to take this position? After the cross, continuing to trust in an Old Testament Law-based conditional salvation can unknowingly cause spiritual death (2 Corinthians 3:4-6, Romans 3:20). After Jesus provided His new Grace-based salvation at the cross, Paul now labels the Law’s Old Testament brand of salvation as, “the law of sin and death” in Romans 8:2-4 - “the ministry of death” in 2 Corinthians 3:4-11 – and “the letter that kills” in 2 Corinthians 3:4-6. According to the New Testament, it’s one of the few doctrines to officially carry a curse (Galatians 1:6-8, Galatians 3:10-12). Many times, the word “heresy” is thoughtlessly used to describe any wrong teaching from the Bible – and we generally avoid this practice. Properly understood, the term only applies to specific teachings that change and distort the rules and principles for obtaining Christ’s salvation. The “doctrine of the believing Pharisees” and its popular modern-day counterparts qualify as a heresy for this reason – it’s not just a difference of opinion as some wrongly teach.
The Hidden Agenda Behind
The Word “Hyper”
It’s important to understand that the believing Pharisees in Acts chapter 15 were not necessarily interested in eliminating grace from their gospel message and replacing it with the Law (more on this later). Instead, Scripture indicates that they believed both Grace and the Law (Works / merit) are required to obtain the salvation of Christ. (Note: Dave Hunt talks about this error in his previous comments) This is one reason these Pharisees insisted that obedience to Old Testament Law must be added to Paul’s gospel message as additional behavioral requirements. But, Paul taught that “grace through faith” with no dependency on the Law was the only requirement ... because Jesus paid the ransom price, in His blood to purchase the believer’s complete salvation.
This paid-in-full blood ransom, also
call “redemption” removes all works
of righteousness and human merit from
the requirements to obtain eternal life
making it “the gift of God” as taught
in Ephesians 2:4-9, Romans 6:23 and
In a continuing effort to emphasize
this powerful truth, Paul made the
"...not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His Grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life." (Titus 3:5-7)
And ... speaking about how salvation
is obtained and kept, Paul stated;
"And if by Grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work." (Romans 11:6)
Paul’s words from Romans 11:6 are important because it exposes the error of the popular “grace plus works gospel”. It is spiritually illegal to mix both works and grace together because ...
One cancels out
If you believe any of your righteous works and good behavior are requirements to possess salvation, then grace must be eliminated and removed. But, if you believe salvation is by grace through faith only, then works must be removed. God allows no compromise or middle ground on this issue because grace and works are mutually exclusive. Paul’s statement represents one of the cardinal rules of God’s Grace, which the New Testament defines as; “the unmerited and undeserved favor of God”.
After the cross - and contrary to popular Christian teaching, reinserting works and personal merit into the requirements to obtain eternal life - creates a doctrine that Peter calls, “a damnable heresy that denies the Lord” (2 Peter 2:1-2). Paul sounds a similar warning when he said;
"You have become estranged (separated, cut-off) from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from Grace." (Galatians 5:4)
These warnings from both Peter and Paul describe the spiritual consequences connected to the doctrine and theology of these believing Pharisees in Acts chapter 15, which is why the apostolic council condemned their teachings. Yet, many sectors of the institutional Christian Church preach a similar version of this theology today.
The Hyper-grace controversy is skillfully designed as a diversion by various church leaders who continue to embrace one of the modern versions of the Pharisee’s doctrine from the first century. As we previously discovered, this same doctrine is modified and used in the teachings of both Augustine and John Calvin. On the surface, accusations always appear to be directed at a particular preacher or ministry - involving some type of extreme grace teaching. Yet, when closely examining the argument, we discover that it’s actually part of the nearly 2000 year-old effort to discredit and replace the teachings of the Apostle Paul found in the New Testament canon of Scripture. As a result, anyone who teaches the Bible (and salvation) according to Paul’s “grace through faith” principles is guilty of preaching “Hyper-grace” - according to the critics.
Grace Does Not Release
Us From Good Works
And Holy Living
We often repeat the following Scriptural admonition in our studies to address common misconceptions about the Christian faith:
Obtaining salvation through the unmerited and undeserved favor of God (called “Grace”) does not release us from the task of avoiding sin, doing good works, adopting Christ-Like behavior and holy living. God instructs all Christians to seek after these things - but for reasons other than obtaining His gift of eternal life. Scripture instructs us to avoid sin because it is inconsistent with our new life in Christ (Romans 6:1-4). Our Heavenly Father also tells His children that seeking these character attributes is the right thing to do - since they are Christ's representatives (the New Testament calls them “the body of Christ” - Ephesians 1:15-23) on earth. The world often forms their beliefs and opinions about God by observing the conduct and behavior of His representatives. If the believer’s conduct involves a sinful lifestyle, it often causes those around them to have an improper or false perception of God – possibly to the point of speaking evil of Him. Yet despite these reasons, our Heavenly Father sternly warns that our attempt to achieve these character attributes (which involves work and effort) is never to be used as requirements or pre-conditions to obtain and keep what Scripture calls, God’s unmerited and undeserved gift of eternal life. (Read Ephesians 2:8-9, Galatians 2:19-21, Galatians 3:10-12 and Galatians 5:4, Romans 4:4-8, Titus 3:5-7)
Paul’s evangelistic message offended these pharisaical teachers in Acts chapter 15, which caused them to reject and oppose his ministry established on the New Covenant of Christ. His removal of the works and human merit requirements of Old Testament Law ... from Christ's New Covenant requirements to obtain salvation is what various modern-day preachers are now calling “Hyper-grace”. The prefix “hyper” is used because they consider Paul’s doctrine (and anyone who agrees with him) to be “out of balance” and extreme (or hyper) – because it fails to also include works, merit and obedience tied to Old Testament Law. Yet, the New Testament repeatedly warns that authentic Christian salvation; “does not come by works of righteousness which we have done” (Titus 3:5-7) – is “not of works” - and is obtained “apart from works”; according to Ephesians 2:4-9, Romans 6:23 and Romans 4:4-8.
Also … concerning the claim that obedience to the Law (which also includes circumcision) remains a requirement to obtain salvation – the New Testament strongly disagrees for the following reasons;
- Jesus Christ fulfilled the law so that it
could be replaced with something better
(Matthew 5:17, Hebrews 7:22,
- Believers are now dead to the law
through the body of Christ
- Believers are now delivered from the law
- Believers are not under the law
but under grace
- Believers have been set free from the law
of sin and death
- The law is now taken out of the way
and nailed to the cross
- The law is abolished in Christ
- The New Covenant in the blood of
Christ has now made the law obsolete
We must first learn that the sacrificial death
of Jesus Christ has taken the law out of the
way. Only then can we understand the true
nature of New Testament Grace.
... For where there is no law
there is no transgression.
Therefore it is of faith
that it might be according
(Words of Saint Paul-Romans 4:13-16)
The Acts chapter 15 apostolic council ruled that Paul’s evangelistic message based on the Grace of God was correct - and the doctrine of these “Christ believing Pharisees”, who illegally reinstated works and obedience to the Law in order to obtain salvation ... was wrong. The council felt so strongly about this problem that they wrote a letter to the churches warning them of the doctrine. This official ruling taken from Scripture exposes a troubling problem with much of the teaching in the institutional church concerning Christ’s authentic salvation.
Galatianism: The Source of
the Anti-grace Agenda in
in the Church
In the opening statement of his
letter to the Galatians, Paul
sets the stage for the final
part of our study.
"O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? Have you suffered so many things in vain - if indeed it was in vain?" (Galatians 3:1-4)
Paul provides an important way to identify this aberrant form of Christianity. If any church or denomination adds "works of the law", involving certain types of acceptable behavior, merit and Christian service (the Bible refers to this as "the flesh") as requirements to be saved - then they are not teaching true New Testament Christianity regardless of how much of the Bible they quote. Yet, this is what more than 80% of Christendom believes is "true faith in Christ".
Various students of world history often point to something called "The Big Lie" as the initial cause of the Holocaust during World War 2 - which killed over 10 million people of whom 6 million were Jews. From this tragic period of history, a common quote by the perpetrators of the 'Big Lie' is often cited ...
"Make the lie big, make it simple,
keep saying it, and eventually
the people will believe it."
Yet, Christendom has been plagued with
its own version of "The Big Lie" since
the first century. One of its many
names is ...
The sacrificial death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (often referred to as “the cross”) radically changed the way God dealt with sin and how salvation was obtained before the cross. As we previously discovered; under the Old Testament program of the Bible, salvation was directly tied to a person’s obedience to the Law of Moses (or “the Law”). But, after the cross - God now grants salvation as a gift according to Grace through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ. Yet, since the days of the early church, there have always been two major groups within Christendom. The first group correctly embraces and teaches these changes - initiated at the cross and known as “the New Covenant”. But, the second group which has now grown larger and more influential - resists these changes in an effort to retain many of the Old Testament rules that previously governed salvation before the cross. Today, both these groups claim to be “Christian”, but God accepts one and rejects the other. Concerning these radical changes made by Christ, the Bible declares ...
"For the preaching of the
cross is to them that
perish foolishness but
unto us which are saved it
is the power of God."
(1 Corinthians 1:18)
Romans 8:2-4, indirectly identifies
these two groups as ...
Those who now embrace the law
of the Spirit of life in Christ
Jesus (or the New Covenant)
Those who continue to embrace
the law of of sin and death
(or Old Covenant Law)
In this study we identify the second group as; the believing Pharisees from Acts chapter 15 - which continues to exist under countless different names today. Readers should understand that we are not necessarily speaking about the major religious cults - but about a rejected first century theology that now dominates many sectors of the world-wide institutional Christian Church. In an effort to provide clarity to this complex problem, some modern-day Bible scholars refer to it as:
- The Galatian error
- The Galatian heresy
- Galatian religion
- Being "Galatianized"
The name was chosen because it represents the same (or similar) teaching that nearly destroyed the faith of an entire fellowship and motivated Paul to write his “Epistle to the Galatians”.
Galatianism, in all its countless expressions, is a counterfeit “Old Testament brand of Christianity” - which has nearly replaced authentic “New Covenant-based Christianity” taught in the Epistles of Saint Paul. Its chief characteristic is mixing or merging the program of the Law with Christ’s new program of Grace. As a result, it leaves us with the misconception ... that the way God deals with sin and the sinner before the cross (under the previous Old Testament program of the Law) – remains essentially the same after the cross under the New Covenant program of Christ. The teaching appears to come from the pages of the Bible, yet subtly denies the redemptive work of Christ.
Due to its deceptive counterfeit
characteristics - what a vast
majority of Christians (but
thankfully not all) often refer
to as 'the gospel', 'Biblical
Christianity' and their version
of 'faith in Christ'
is actually ...
This is one reason Peter referred to it as “a damnable heresy” (2 Peter 2:1-2) – because it tricks inexperienced Christians into believing that God says things – He does not actually say. This misrepresentation of Scripture is often accomplished by lifting Bible verses from their original context and teaching them in a way that God never intended. Some modern-day journalists have successfully used this tactic for years. But, when the Bible's context is ignored or abused by ministers in the church, it can result in unthinkable eternal consequences. Paul warned about the danger by saying ...
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
I do not frustrate the Grace
of God: For if righteousness
come by the Law, then Christ
is dead in vain.
Note: The word “vain” means that
Christ’s sacrificial death becomes
void and meaningless.
"You have become estranged (separated and cut-off) from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from Grace." (Galatians 5:4)
The problem with any theology
that mixes Old Testament Law
with New Testament Grace
It cancels out or redefines
God's Grace while maintaining
the illusion of looking and
In order to provide different viewpoints, we sometimes include a recently discovered commentary from C.I. Scofield, who was the architect of the popular “Scofield Reference Bible” and speaks a sober warning to the church. We are not necessarily students of Scofield. Yet, we find that his writings reinforce the subject of this Bible study.
“In contrast to Reformed theology is Dispensationalism. Dispensationalism says that to find the believer’s rule of life you must go not to Mount Sinai, but to Mount Calvary. Mount Sinai is powerless to justify a person and Mount Sinai is also powerless to sanctify a person. The law is not the believer’s rule of life. Something else is. The Scofield Bible states this position very clearly: 'The test of the gospel is grace. If the message excludes grace, or mingles Law with grace as the means of justification or sanctification, or denies the fact or guilt of sin which alone gives Grace its occasion and opportunity, it is ‘another’ gospel, and the preacher of it is under the anathema of God.'”
[From "Footnote #6" in the Scofield Reference Bible under Galatians 1:6.]
“Most of us have been reared and now live under the influence of Galatianism. Protestant theology is for the most part thoroughly Galatianized, in that neither the law or grace is given its distinct and separate place as in the counsels of God, but they are mingled together in one incoherent system. The law is no longer, as in the divine intent, a ministration of death (2 Cor. 3:7), of cursing (Gal. 3:10), or conviction (Rom. 3:19), because we are taught that we must try to keep it, and that by divine help we may. Nor does grace, on the other hand, bring us blessed deliverance from the dominion of sin, for we are kept under the law as a rule of life despite the plain declaration of Romans 6:14.”
-- C.I. Scofield --
The most frightening aspect of these quotes is Scofield's use of the word "anathema" when talking about those who preach the popular gospel that mixes Law and Grace.
Note: Reformed theology, Holiness theology, Calvinism, various brands of fundamentalism - and Galatian religion are different denominational systems of faith connected to the same error.
We should not make the mistake of thinking that Scofield is just offering us his own personal beliefs concerning this problem. He is citing the Apostle Paul, who uses the word "accursed" when describing the misleading Biblical message of these preachers (Galatians 1:6-8). Both words (anathema and accursed) suggest a type of "Divine rejection" that falls upon these unsuspecting ministers (and their followers who teach the same message), who passionately insist that they are preaching what some like to call “the uncompromised Word of God”. However, when the word “uncompromised” is used to describe their brand of Bible teaching, it sounds good, but often means something totally different than what their listening audience thinks.
This is what they are not
The preacher is refusing to
“rightly divide” God’s Word
(as Paul instructed in
2 Timothy 2:15) and is
teaching it “undivided” or
“uncompromised” as some
like to say.
When Scripture is interpreted and taught “undivided” - the difficult-to-satisfy (and in many cases “impossible to satisfy”) requirements of Old Testament Law are illegally mixed with the New Testament Grace of Christ. These “difficult or impossible to satisfy” additional behavioral requirements are then applied to obtaining (and keeping) salvation. As a result, salvation (eternal life) - paid for by the blood of Christ at the cross - is changed from a gift that God gives freely according to Grace (unmerited favor) - into a benefit that must be earned (it’s conditional and therefore no longer a gift) through proper behavior, personal merit and good works. It is this counterfeit merit-based evangelistic message that its supporters are proudly calling "uncompromised". But, in this study the word “illegal” is used to describe this brand of evangelism since the Bible warns against this popular way of handling the Scriptures. In his previous quotations, Scofield uses the theological term “dispensationalism”, which essentially carries the same meaning and mindset as Paul's command to “rightly divide God's Word”. Both terms warn that we must respect the context of Scripture, otherwise a wrong understanding of God and His Word will be the result.
Those who reject Paul's command to "rightly divide the Word" tend to attack God’s Grace by calling it the sugar-coated gospel, easy believism and “greasy grace”. Red flags should go up when we hear these common phrases in a sermon. On his daily radio program, one angry fundamentalist preacher claimed that those who preach salvation as God's gift (or available by grace as stated in Ephesians 2:4-9) - are members of "the Grace cult" and suggested they were "of the devil". It is for these reasons that our commentaries and studies attempt to expose this popular yet dangerous theology, which has dominated the Christian Church in various ways since its beginning in the first century. It nearly destroyed the Galatian Church and motivated Saint Paul, who wrote nearly half of the New Testament canon, to both refute and publicly condemn this counterfeit Bible teaching for the remainder of his life.
Teaching the Bible “undivided” (or by rejecting the dispensational and divided design of God’s Word) is the very essence of the “Galatian Error” and represents the counterfeit faith held and taught by those who are “Galatianized”. It’s one of the most serious threats to the true Gospel of Christ. It is never properly addressed in a church service because it causes fierce controversy and emotional disagreements that can divide a congregation. Yet, it’s a subject that should never be treated as a "disagreement" over someone's opinion. Scripture warns that God doesn't respect the opinions of man - and that many are wrong. Do you want to gamble your eternal life on something as unstable as someone’s opinion?
This is Part 3 of a four-part Bible study.
Click on the links below to access the
other parts of this study.
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