The hyper-grace gospel that Jesus revealed declares that God loves you with an unconditional love. His grace for you is, to quote the apostle Paul, hyper- or super-abounding (Rom 5:20).
The gospel of God’s grace is the good news that this world needs to hear, but according to some this message is controversial, divisive, and faddish. Dr. Michael Brown is one of the critics opposed to this “dangerous” message and he has just written a book. It’s called The Grace Controversy and an abbreviated version of it can be found on CharismaNews.
In the CharismaNews article Dr. Brown says that the hyper-grace gospel is a deception that attracts two kinds of believers: those who are closet sinners and those who have a problem with discipline.
There are two primary classes of believers drawn to the hyper-grace message. The first group consists of serious Christians who really want to please the Lord but they struggle with a particular sin or they have very sensitive consciences… On the other hand, there are believers who are attracted to the hyper-grace message because they have a problem with discipline and holiness.
Dr. Brown’s language is provocative but controversy sells. In an earlier book, Dr. Brown suggested grace preachers were Marcionites (a heretic) and Gnostics (ditto). Now we are secret sinners and carnal Christians. So beware of us!
I don’t really mind the slander – it comes with the territory – but what I do find odd is how Dr. Brown applauds the “incredibly liberating” and “positive truths of the hyper-grace message,” but then dismisses that message as extreme and unbalanced. He acknowledges that this message is bearing much fruit, but he wants to chop down the tree.
Grace is good, but it’s controversial. Grace is helping people, but it’s dangerous.
That doesn’t make any sense to me, but maybe I’ve got a sensitive conscience.
In his book Michael Brown asks twelve questions. I like questions and, as always, I appreciate the opportunity to provide hyper-grace answers to his:
1. Is Grace a Person?
Yes, in the sense that the gospel of grace is the gospel of Jesus (Acts 20:24, 2 Th 1:8). All the blessings of God come to us by grace alone and all of them are found in Jesus.
But a better question is, why does it matter? It matters because if we define grace as something other than Jesus – a concept, a doctrine, a teaching – we diminish it. We put it in a little box and tell ourselves, “That’s grace, I have it all figured out.”
The problem is your grace-in-a-box won’t change you. It won’t lift you up, give you aid, or help you overcome sin. But Jesus will! This is why I say grace is a Person and his name is Jesus.
2. Are All Our Sins—Past, Present and Future—Already Forgiven in Jesus?
You bet! The preacher of mixture cheapens grace by saying Jesus only died for some of your sins or God’s forgiveness is merely a debit card, but in Christ you are eternally forgiven. Jesus will never die for your sins again (Heb 9:26). Forgiveness is not something God does; it’s something he’s done.
Does this mean everyone is saved? Does this mean hyper-grace is really universalism in disguise? Not at all. What it means is that because of Jesus, God is no longer counting your sins against you (2 Cor 5:19). You don’t need to waste a second of your life begging God to forgive you – he already did!
3. If a Believer Fails to Confess Even One Sin Before He Dies, Will He Go to Hell?
Nope. Just as we are not qualified by our righteous deeds, we are not disqualified by our unrighteous deeds. We are saved and kept by Jesus. “He will keep you firm to the end” (1 Cor 1:8).
4. Does the Holy Spirit Convict Believers of Sin?
No. How could he, since he remembers our sins no more (Heb 10:17)? There is a long tradition of teaching that the Holy Spirit “lovingly” convicts us of sin, but there is not one scripture to support this. Love keeps no record of wrongs. The Spirit of Christ makes you Son-conscious, not sin-conscious.
5. Does God See Us as Righteous?
Yes. The gospel of grace announces a divine exchange – your sin for Christ’s righteousness. One with the Lord, you are as righteous and holy as he is. Jesus said, “I am the Vine and you are the branches.” If the Vine is righteous, then so are the branches.
“Ye were declared righteous, in the name of the Lord Jesus” (1 Cor 6:11, YLT). “Having been declared righteous, then, by faith, we have peace toward God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 5:1).
6. What Does It Mean to Be Under Grace and Not the Law?
It means trusting in grace from start to finish and having nothing to do with the law. As Paul explains in Romans 7, running after the law is committing spiritual adultery. It’s cheating on Jesus. The Galatians put themselves under a tiny bit of law and Paul called them deceived fools.
The law does not teach you how to please God, live right, or do anything. The law is not for you. “The law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful” (1 Tim 1:9).
7. If God Requires Anything of Us as Believers, How Is That Grace?
Everything God requires, God provides – that’s grace. God requires that you be righteous, so he gives you his righteousness. He requires that you be sanctified, so he gives you his sanctification.
“Impress God by being good,” says the works preacher, and God does a face palm. Your goodness is as filthy rags, smelly with the stench of the flesh. Your goodness is not good enough. “Be perfect,” said Jesus (Matt 5:48). The perfection that God demands he supplies, and in Christ you have it.
8. Are We Made Completely Holy the Moment We Are Saved?
Are we fully human the moment we are born?
The holiness preacher makes much of the exhortation to be holy, as though holiness was something to strive for. “Sign up for the holiness gym. Get running on the treadmill of spiritual discipline.”
But holiness, along with every other spiritual blessing, is a gift to be received. “We have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Heb 10:10). Why do the scriptures exhort us to be holy? Because that is our true identity.
Holiness is not something to do in order to become something we are not; it is something we do because of who we are.
9. If Hypergrace Is Not True, Why Are So Many Believers Transformed by the Message?
Here’s a better question: If so many people are transformed by the hyper-grace message, why do some attack it?
10. Do the Words of Jesus Apply to Us Today?
Yes. Dr. Brown likes to marginalize grace preachers by saying we are dismissive of Christ’s words (and don’t forget we’re also closet sinners!), but it’s a myth. In fact grace preachers are the only ones taking Jesus seriously.
A mixed-grace preacher reads the words of Jesus selectively (“those tough words are just hyperbole” or “Jesus is exaggerating – he didn’t really mean it”), but a hyper-grace preacher values everything Jesus says.
11. Is God Always Pleased With Us as His Children?
Definitely. God sees Jesus in the River Jordan, before he’s done any ministry or preached any sermons, and he says, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased” (Matt 3:17). God did this to show us his love is unaffected by what we do.
Your behavior may not please the Lord, and your choices may not please the Lord, but you can rest assured that you are always 100 percent pleasing and acceptable to the Lord. God will never say, “You disappoint me.” You are and always shall be, the apple of your Daddy’s eye.
12. Is It Possible to Lose Your Salvation?
No. For you to lose your salvation God would have to forsake you or cast you out, when he said he wouldn’t (Heb 13:5, John 6:37). He would have to forget we are his children (Is 49:15), remember what he has chosen to forget (Heb 10:17), and do what he promised never to do (Rev 3:5).
Fear and doubt are the fruit of mixed-up preaching, but your heavenly Father wants you to be certain and secure. So what does he do? He fills his book with unshakeable promises so that we might have confidence and live free from worry.
Grace (without controversy) and peace (without qualification) to you all!