The Serious Problem of “Cheap Grace”

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As we have discussed the nature of the gospel in these blog postings, the issue of “cheap grace” may be a topic that you have felt needs to be discussed. The gospel I have presented here has been described by some Christian leaders as “hyper-grace,” “cheap grace,” “license,” “antinomianism,” and other pejorative terms that imply a version of the gospel that is a “false gospel” not true to the Bible. I understand that sentiment completely, and I too think it warrants addressing.

There is something in me that doesn’t want anyone to get away with anything. I want justice to be fair and equally applied and for everyone to get what they deserve. That is why a final Day of Judgment, a great “evening-up time,” is so anticipated by Christians. As one friend of mine used to passionately express, “I don’t even care if I have to suffer; I want justice to be served!”

As my good friend has learned, its way too late; justice has already been served—at the cross, 2000 years ago. There God fully applied the full measure of His judgment on all “adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like” (Galatians 5:19-21) that mankind has ever committed on the person of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Therefore, Jesus really meant it when He cried from the cross, “It is finished!” As crazy to the natural mind as it seems, we are now free from the bondage of the above list of sins and the fear of ever having to suffer any punishment whatsoever for them; we are now free to live just as we please!

That sounds like heresy to the Pharisee and the wanna-be Pharisee. However, each of us is in the process of learning this great truth of the cross—Christian, atheist, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, humanist, etc. Eventually, we will all, in disparate ways, at various speeds, through dissimilar circumstances, and at different times, “see” that the cross indeed is everything. As Paul wrote, “For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2).

Is that “cheap grace?” I agree with the critics: God’s grace is never “cheap.”  Amen. For Jesus, it cost Him everything. For us, it costs nothing at all—it is completely free. Neither “cost Him everything” nor “completely free” can possibly be “cheap.”

However, I disagree with the critics who say that the grace of God is not hyper; it must be hyper or “over the top,” because it had to be to get the job done. How can you have too much grace when infinite sin must be forgiven! As Paul says in Romans 5:20, “Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more.” Abounding sin must be covered by “over the top of sin” grace.

“But Andrews, what about the law? Paul seems to say in the verse above that the law of God actually causes us to sin more, so should we avoid it altogether? Is the law of God then a bad thing? Doesn’t this message pave the way for license and all manner of profligate living? If I am free to live as I please with no consequences, who knows what I will do!”

On “seeing” the answer to this objection, according to Martin Luther, hangs the essence of experiencing Christianity. So, the inevitable question we all face, as did Paul in Romans 7:7, “What shall we say then? Is the law sin?

Paul provides the answer for us in many places in the New Testament if we have eyes to see it. One of those is 1 Timothy 1:8, 9: “But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless . . .” Paul says in this verse a very astonishing thing to today’s average Christian: “The law isn’t for you (a Christian who has been made righteous by faith in what Jesus did at the cross) to try to obey. As a matter of fact, Paul says it is an “improper” (sinful?) use of the law if you try to do so. The law is only for those who are not living by faith in Jesus Christ.

However, there are two legitimate (and very important) uses of the law for those who aren’t. In the next few postings we will look carefully at the law of God and discover why the testimony of the saints of God in the Bible, without fail, was “Oh, how I love Your law!”

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  1. Bob says:

    After 30 years of “seeking first the kingdom,” it’s only in the last few years that I have begun to understand the message of grace, and by that, perhaps I mean the message of there having been an old covenant with its terms and conditions of keeping the law, but there now being a “New Covenant” with completely different terms and conditions of grace and faith. I only recently discovered that in establishing the new covenant, God abolished the old and took it away. I believe that, like me, the vast majority of Christians have unwittingly taken both the old testament and the new and, because they’re both recorded in the same book, we just smoosh them both together and try to practice them both as one religion. The two covenants really are as distinct as two different religions – one that justifies everyone and another that cannot justify anyone.

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