The present day Church is being contaminated with the “gospel of hyper-grace,” which its followers advertise as “gospel of grace.” This study focusses on what it actually is, what its dominant teachings are, and what the Bible actually says regarding those teachings. This author’s intention is to help the readers identify what the true gospel of Jesus Christ is, and how to identify the false teaching spread in the name of “gospel of grace.” Understanding the truth from the Scripture can make the difference between one having eternal life or eternal damnation.
False teachers today deceive others and spread their teaching using the phrase “a new revelation which we received.” Jude 3 says that “… exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.” When the writing of the Bible was completed, all doctrines and teachings necessary for our faith were written once for all. So beyond the Bible and its authority, there is no other “special revelation” given to anyone. Jude was saying that the Church should contend for the true faith and not just simply sit idle. Paul says in 2 Cor. 11:4, “For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted – you may well put up with it!” In other words, Paul is saying that the church should not agree with a false gospel. Therefore if anyone tries to propagate any teaching contrary to what the Bible says, then we can conclude that a false spirit is behind such teaching and teachers.
What is Grace? What is the Gospel?
“Grace” means God’s unmerited favour towards humans out of God’s mercy. The word “gospel” is derived from the Anglo-Saxon godspell meaning “good news.” The “good news” is the salvation offered through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ on the cross to undeserving sinners out of God’s grace.
Grace preachers commonly employ the phrase “we believe in the finished work of Jesus Christ.” Jesus said on the cross “It is finished” (John 19:30). All what was required for salvation was paid in full by Jesus on the cross. Nothing more is required by humans to gain salvation. Hence there is no need to say that phrase since all born-again Christians believe in the “finished work of Christ.”
Grace preachers also say that they are preaching “gospel of grace.” This causes a misunderstanding and can cause the hearers to assume that other born-again preachers are preaching some other gospel. Is there such a terminology in the Bible? The “gospel” has been called by different terms in the Bible. Some are as follows. In Rom. 15:16, Paul calls the gospel “gospel of God.” In Rom. 15:19 and 1 Cor. 9:12, Paul calls the gospel “gospel of Christ.” In Rom. 1:9, Paul says “…gospel of His Son.” In Rom. 2:16, Paul says “…my gospel.” In Eph. 1:13, Pauls says “…gospel of your salvation.” In Rom. 10:15, Paul says “…gospel of peace.” On the other hand in Gal. 1:6, Paul uses the term “a different gospel.” So any “gospel” that was not in line with what Paul or the apostles preached was in fact “a different gospel.” Therefore what the grace preachers are preaching is actually a different gospel. To such people, Paul says “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed” (Gal. 1:8). Therefore those who preach any other gospel other than what Jesus, Paul or the apostles preached, and those who add or subtract anything from the whole message of the Bible are accursed. Such people should repent and mend their ways and teaching.
The Dangers of the Gospel of Hyper-grace
Grace preachers commonly say that their teaching is based on Paul’s epistles and advocate that only his epistles are the instructions given to the Church. Such people neither consider the teaching of the Old Testament nor give due emphasis to the teaching of Jesus found in the gospels. They may accept certain portions of the Bible which are convenient for them so as to justify their position and in a way spread their false teaching. There are false preachers who say that there is no need of the Old Testament. Let us see what Paul said regarding this. Paul himself said, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17). The Old Testament was the Scripture existing during the time when Paul wrote his epistles. Since he himself gave credence to the Old Testament, how can the grace preachers say that only Paul’s epistles are the only Scripture for the Church today? It is simply a heresy. It is interesting to note that in the Old Testament it is written, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever” (Isa. 40:8). This proves that the Old Testament comprising of 39 books is God’s Word just like the New Testament. It is important, written for our admonition (1 Cor. 10:6-11) and can’t be disregarded. In relation to Jesus’ teaching found in the gospels, Jesus Himself said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away” (Matt. 24:35; Luke 21:33). How can the grace preachers say that Jesus’ teaching is not relevant for the Church today?
Old Testament law contained three sections – ceremonial laws, civil laws, and moral laws. Ceremonial laws consisted of the laws regarding religious observances, sacrifices, dietary laws, priesthood, feast days, and temple worship. Civil laws consisted of those laws given to Israel by which they are to be governed as a nation including issues of debt, divorce, inheritance, or other relationships. The ceremonial laws have been fulfilled in Christ in His once-for-all sacrifice on the cross as described in the book of Hebrews. The civil laws were for the governing of Israel’s society. As such, the ceremonial laws and civil laws are no longer applicable to a New Testament believer. The third section, moral laws, is associated with the Ten Commandments and is based on the character of God. These laws have permanent validity and are binding on the New Testament believer. For example, the Law commanded “You shall not commit adultery” (Ex. 20:14). The New Testament makes it stricter when Jesus says, “But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt. 5:28). Those people who disregard the Old Testament law would want to indulge in sinful and unbiblical lifestyles and that would be the reason why they say there is no need of the Old Testament. Paul says that his hearers should learn from Israel’s journey in the wilderness, “Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted … and they were written for our admonition…” (1 Cor. 10:6-7, 11). Also Gal. 3:24 says, “Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” So the Old Testament law makes us realize that we are sinners and that we need Christ for our salvation.
Believer’s Responsibility Before God
The hyper-grace preachers stress only on ‘salvation by grace.’ It is a truth that salvation is freely given by God and it is by grace alone, but the New Testament also teaches that a believer should lead a responsible life before God. 2 Cor. 13:5 says, “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves.” This examining is a believer’s responsibility. Col. 1:23 says, “if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel.” Continuing in the faith, and not moving away from the hope of the gospel are a believer’s responsibility. Heb. 3:12 says, “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God.” This shows that there is a possibility of a believer in forsaking God if s/he is not careful. Heb. 3:14 says, “For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end.” The believer should hold fast onto his/her faith and confidence in Christ till the end. Rom. 6:13 says regarding the believer’s responsibility in presenting his/her body before God, “And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.” Paul says in 1 Cor. 9:27, “But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.” This shows that if a believer is to remain in the grace of God, s/he should responsibly discipline the body and bring it under Christ.
Falling Away From Grace or Falling Back Into Grace?
The hyper-grace preachers teach that when a believer sins, s/he doesn’t actually fall from grace, instead s/he falls back into God’s grace. This is a dangerous heresy. The Bible teaches that a believer can actually fall away from God’s grace. Heb. 3:12-13 says, “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God …lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” Heb. 2:1-3 says, “Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation…” Paul, writing about the danger of falling away, says in 1 Cor. 9:27, “But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.” 1 Cor. 10:11-12 says, “Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition …Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” In addition to these warnings, the Bible contains examples of Christians who actually fell from the faith. The Christians at Galatia advocated practice of circumcision also for a believer in Christ. Regarding this, Paul says in Gal. 5:4, “You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.” It is actually separation from Christ which is a terrible condition since only those who are “in Christ” will be saved. Besides this, the Bible records cases of individuals who were overcome by sin and no longer in fellowship with God. 1 Tim. 1:19-20 says, “…having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck, of whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander.” From these verses, it is evident that believers can sin in a way that they may fall away from grace, no longer be in relationship with God, and lose his/her salvation by practising sin or by adopting false doctrines.
Is There Need for Confession?
Another heresy which these hyper-grace preachers teach is that, believers need not confess the sins they commit after the moment of their salvation because they are believers. Their logic is that once we are saved (become born-again), God sees us through His Son Jesus and therefore won’t see our sins. They say Jesus died for our past sins we have committed, present sins we are committing, and also for the future sins we may commit, and that God has forgiven all those sins. It is true that Jesus died for our past and future sins. But this doesn’t mean that all our future sins and those sins which people yet to be born will commit in their life, are automatically forgiven. All the people in the world are not automatically saved. It is only when one person confesses his/her sins that God will forgive his/her sins. It is the human responsibility to repent of sin and reject sin. Let us look at the first epistle of John. Hyper-grace preachers would say that 1 John chapter 1 was written to the then false teachers of Gnosticism. This is not true. The apostle John wrote this epistle to inform believers that the false teachers’ claims were false, and wanted to prevent them from being deceived. Furthermore, the Bible was divided into chapters only in A.D. 1250, and in the original text, the text is continuous without any chapter division. It is true when 1 John 1:7 says, “…and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” But the condition is mentioned in 1 John 1:9 which says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” This means that if we don’t confess our sins, Jesus will not forgive our sins. 1 John 1:8 says, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” So unless a believer repents of his/her sin that s/he commits after s/he has become born-again, his/her sins won’t be forgiven by God.
The hyper-grace preachers teach that God will not judge or punish His children and misinterpret Rom. 8:1 to suit their teaching. Rom. 8:1 says, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” Such heretics have thoroughly misinterpreted the word ‘condemnation’ and say that since God sees believers through His Son Jesus, God will not look at their sins or punish them for their wrongdoings. This heresy eventually leads to a license to commit any sin. But what does Rom. 8:1 really say? The condemnation mentioned here is the eternal damnation in the Lake of Fire. Those who have accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour have been bestowed with the gift of eternal life and they will eventually reside with God in heaven. This doesn’t mean that God won’t punish believers for their sins and discipline them in this earthly life. Titus 2:11-12 says, “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age.” The word for ‘teach’ found here in the original Greek language actually means ‘instruct’ and ‘discipline.’ So the grace of God doesn’t just bring salvation, but grace also instructs and disciplines His children to walk righteously before God. In relation to the conduct at the Lord’s Supper, Paul says in 1 Cor. 11:32, “But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.” The word for ‘chasten’ found here in Greek is the same word used for ‘teach’ found in Titus 2:12 which means corrective disciplining. Due to the unworthy conduct at the Lord’s Supper, 1 Cor. 11:30 says, “For this reason many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.” Are these blessed conditions? Certainly not. These acts of judgement of God are part of His corrective disciplining His children.
If there is no punishment for God’s children doing sinful deeds, why does Paul instruct the Corinthian church to expel the immoral believer from the church in 1 Cor. 5:1-5? Paul doesn’t say that God looks that man through His Son Jesus and therefore that man can be seen as sinless and perfect! Paul’s explanation is very clear that the punishment of God is upon that man for his sinful conduct.
In Rev. 2 and 3, as Jesus addresses the seven churches, Jesus exhorts five of them to repent and warns them of consequences if they don’t. He explicitly says that they will be punished. For example, in Rev. 2:5, to the church of Ephesus, Jesus says, “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent.” Again in Rev. 3:16, to the church of the Laodiceans, Jesus says, “So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.” Even if they are churches, neither God the Father nor Jesus excuses them. Instead of the Laodicean church being seen through Jesus and given a clean report card, Jesus explicitly says in Rev. 3:17, “… you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.” What a shocking statement!
The hyper-grace preachers’ teaching that a believer will not be punished is baseless. Their heresy leads to careless sinful living. God will discipline and correct His [born-again] children so that they should mend their ways and live a righteous life before God. Heb. 12:7-11 aptly says, “If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. … but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”
Once Saved, Always Saved? Is it Biblical?
Another heresy which the hyper-grace preachers teach is that once a believer is saved, s/he is always saved. In history, this doctrine was actually put forward by the famous theologian John Calvin.
Calvin said that man is totally depraved and can do nothing on his own but evil, and therefore unconditional election by God is required to save him. For this, God has made an eternal choice of certain persons unto eternal life and some to eternal damnation and that number is fixed. Not only that, since man doesn’t need to do anything to be saved, he doesn’t need to do anything to remain saved. If he does anything that affects his salvation, this would contradict the miraculous work of God in saving him. Even if such a person sins, he will never lose his salvation because he is destined for eternal life.
This is a dangerous teaching. Adopting this false teaching, the hyper-grace preachers teach that since believers are born of God, they cannot sin or they are unable to sin and lose salvation. If at all a believer sins, such a person was not saved in the first place. Furthermore, they teach that since salvation is a free gift, God will not condemn that believer to hell even if that person doesn’t lead a life pleasing to God. Sadly, this teaching actually encourages people to lead sinful lives.
What does the Bible say regarding this? In Matt. 13:41-42, it is seen that all who are in Christ’s kingdom have been born-again but some of those who “practise lawlessness” will be “gathered out of it and cast into the furnace of fire.” In Rom. 11:22, a warning is given to Gentile Christians who were in God’s “goodness.” If they failed to continue in God’s goodness, they would be “cut off.” Even though the apostle Paul was a child of God, in 1 Cor. 9:27, Paul said that “I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.” Paul himself knew that even though he was a born-again Christian, he could lose his salvation if he didn’t discipline his life according to God’s will and ways.
In 1 John 3:6-9, we see phrases like “does not sin”, “cannot sin”. The verb structure in these phrases actually means “doesn’t continue to sin” or “cannot continue to sin”. Any truly born-again believer cannot continue in a sinful lifestyle. When the Holy Spirit convicts him/her of a sin in his/her daily life, s/he should repent and turn away from sin. That is the mark of a true believer. If a person doesn’t mend his/her ways and continues in sin, then s/he isn’t born-again and is still a child of the devil. Hebrews 6:4-5, referring to born-again believers, says that such people were “once enlightened”, they had “tasted the heavenly gift”, they were “partakers of the Holy Spirit”, they had “tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come.” And Hebrews 6:6 says that such children of God could continue to sin and fall away so far away that it would be “impossible to renew them to repentance.” Hebrews 10:26-27 says, “For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.” Here also, it is seen that continual sinning leads to a state wherein a believer can lose his/her salvation.
Exodus 32:33 says, “And the Lord said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book.”” Revelation 3:5 says the same thing, “He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.” This shows that there is a possibility of one’s name being removed from the Book of Life if a person continues to sin after becoming born-again, and thereby lose his/her salvation. Also the reward of one’s name not blotted out from the Book of Life is for one who overcomes sin and leads the life pleasing to God. Those who continue to sin after becoming born-again will not be overcomers but failures, and such people’s names will be blotted out from the Book of Life.
A Word of Advice
The roots of the heretic ‘gospel of hyper-grace’ go all the way back to the 1st century A.D. in the teachings of Gnosticism and also to the 2nd century A.D. in the teachings of Marcionism which were all refuted by the then Church Fathers and apologists. In the 21st century, the heretic ‘message of hyper-grace’ has resurfaced and was widely propagated by Joseph Prince, senior pastor of New Creation Church, Singapore. Almost all of the hyper-grace preachers have wholly adopted the teachings of Joseph Prince without verifying what the Bible actually says. This author would sincerely ask the readers to carefully inspect and study the Bible and find out the truth for themselves. The verses that this author gave in this study are not exhaustive, and upon further study of the Bible, any earnest and truth-seeking reader can see more verses and the proof that the message of hyper-grace is really a heresy. It is a well-known fact that a healthy balance is the key to anything in life. Any truth taken to the extreme and which ignores other aspects related to its subject is unbalanced and can be harmful. This is why the apostle Paul said that he teaches “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27), which involves the complete and whole presentation of truth. This whole counsel is what a believer should accept and declare. May the Lord help you. Amen.