No “Ands” in Grace

Sarah Bessey’s beautiful post (more at the link) on the sufficiency of Jesus:

What are some more “ands”?

You need Jesus….. and circumcision.

You need Jesus …. and baptism.

You need Jesus … and the right voting record.

You need Jesus … and natural family planning….

Let go of your “should” and your “ought to” and your “need to” and your implied and overt “and” attachments to Jesus. Live like Jesus is enough, and remember you do not earn any part of your redemption.

You don’t need to be qualified by a committee. You are accepted because, simply, He is enough. You can relax. You are loved and you are free.

You don’t need anymore “and” in your life. Jesus is enough.

Jesus is enough.

God alone is enough, yesterday, today, and forever.

Wildflowers, sparrows, you, me, listen: “ What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.” (Matthew 6:31-33 MSG)

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  • Steve

    Here’s a few more.

    You need Jesus …. and His teachings.
    You need Jesus …. and His Church.
    You need Jesus …. and the prayers of other Christians.
    You need Jesus …. and repentance from sin.

    “Jesus only” is good sloganeering, and its really useful for bashing people who take the other elements of the faith seriously…. but it is really bad theology. Accepting Jesus is a package deal, you can’t just sift Him off of the other things He established / taught / gives / made.

  • RJS

    Well I didn’t react quite a negatively as Steve. I think she has a very important point, especially when considering most of the things on her list. The inclusion of Jesus and baptism though takes me aback a bit. Baptism isn’t considered an optional add-on in the NT anywhere.

    I think do need “ands” but most of them on her list are false “ands” (ones we definitely don’t need).

  • Nathan

    What Steve said.

  • Brandon Powell Wilson

    Ms. Bessey’s post is beautiful and there are some who need to hear it’s message. But Steve is right too. Nobody is going to disagree with the statement “You need Jesus”, but what individual persons mean by that can vary person by person. Therefore to some degree there are some “ands” that are necessary.

  • God works through means. While grace alone isn’t wrong, the way it gets expressed today pits grace vs. the means of grace. And that is deeply wrong. Or what Steve said.

  • Phil Miller

    I like it. I think trying to nitpick a short poetic piece like this for theological accuracy is kind of missing the forest for the trees.

  • MatthewS

    I think part of the issue is whether the “and” is an attempt to influence our standing with God.

    “Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all.” (Gal 5:2)

    I’m more familiar with the traditional view than the New Perspective; on the former view, big-wigs from Jerusalem were pushing Gentile believers to accept Jesus + Moses and Paul pushed back that Jesus plus anything is really not Jesus at all. Our faith is either in Jesus only, or not in Jesus at all. I wish I had more time to understand the ramifications of NPP better as it touches on this.

    James makes it clear that a faith which doesn’t work itself out in real life is a dead faith. Making disciples, active involvement in the local church, doing good in the community, speaking truth in love, etc. – these are all part of a faith working itself out. They are not in any way improvements to our standing with God.

    I wonder if someone could say it’s a difference between “Jesus and…” and “Jesus only, resulting in…”?

  • Kenton

    I’ll side with Sarah here (or “what Phil Miller said”).

    I don’t think Sarah is knocking baptism, repentance or anything else in her or Steve’s list. I think what she is saying is that we tend to get a little too worked up over those things, and from the response here, I’d say she’s right.

  • dopderbeck

    You need Jesus and…. to love your neighbor as yourself?

    You need Jesus and… the Father and the Holy Spirit (the Trinity)?

    There seems to be some confusion here about “justification” in a forensic sense and in a lived sense?

  • Dopderbeck

    Clarifying: it seems she’s talking about what you need to “get to heaven.” In a sense, I think she’d be right: it is all grace and all what Christ has done. But we all know that is an inadequate way to frame “the Gospel.” Do we “need” to be baptized, to follow Christ’s teachings, etc.? Of course, because all of that and more is part of the lived meaning of being saved by grace and of the good news that the world is being reconciled to God in Christ.

  • Kenton


    So… if a “seeker” is from a culture where baptism is considered a form of dishonor to one’s parents and one’s cultural identity, and if said seeker wanted to participate in reconciling the world to God, would he or she “need” to be baptized? As I see it, faithfulness to the Jesus Creed might mean that the “need” is to *not* be baptized. Indeed the message of “You need Jesus… and baptism” would become a stumbling block akin to the stumbling block circumcision became in the early church.

  • I’m going to side with Anne here, but that’s not to say I disagree with those of you who don’t. It’s all in where you are looking at it from. For one who is struggling with self-doubt and their own felt inability to be what they feel they MUST be to be at peace, then the word “all you need is Christ” is Truth. For the one who stands satisfied and secure in belief that he has Christ, the word of God to him is “IF you do, you will also have all of these….”

  • Oops, got my blogger mixed up. Meant to say “Sarah” not “Anne”. Actually, I’m not even sure who Anne is…

  • I’m so with Phil and Nate and Kenton here! This is not a theological treatise, but a beautifully written poem to freedom in Jesus. Give it a rest, boys. This is what wears us out – nit-picking every single theological nuance of every word said/written/thought. Just breathe in her message – it’s a powerful and true one and lines up quite nicely with a lot of Paul’s teaching in Galatians. Thank you, Scot, for featuring it here.

  • dopderbeck

    Kenton – there are all kinds of missiological complexities here, I think. In short, to say that Christ is the final truth and that his body, the Church, is his living presence in the world, is not to deny the value and truths of other traditions, or to argue for insensitive or aggressive tactics. But it does mean that part of the Missional imperative is to invite people to participate in the New Kingdom made manifest in the Church, even if that is costly – and to provide a sustaining community in the face of such costs.

  • Thanks for reading it and featuring it here, Scot! I appreciate it.

  • So… if a “seeker” is from a culture where baptism is considered a form of dishonor to one’s parents and one’s cultural identity, and if said seeker wanted to participate in reconciling the world to God, would he or she “need” to be baptized?

    Well, the earliest Christian communities said yes, and almost all of them were participating in forms of dishonor to one’s family and cultural identity.

    If baptism is about establishing identity in Christ, then it makes more sense to say it’s pretty important.

  • Jon T.

    Oversimplified but I get the point. How about…and faith…for without it we cannot please God much less receive grace. Besides, Jesus is not exclusive to the gospel message or to God’s master plan to restore his creation. Jesus is tied to the Father, for he reveals Him, etc.

  • Aaron

    I understand the point, but at the same time I think it ultimately undermines the very thing it’s trying to say. How do you separate Jesus from Baptism/Holy Spirit/Father/Bible or anything else? How do you separate Him from His body? Sure, technically I don’t need ‘you’ (fellowship with believers) to get ‘saved’ or stay saved, but if you are in Christ and part of His body then the phrase “Jesus only” includes you. ‘Jesus only’ should be inclusive not exclusive. The so-called ‘ands’ are really just definitions, clarifications and parts of the whole – some having more value than others. The molecules or DNA that make up the person Jesus. You can say “Jesus only” all you like, but the real question is: “Who is Jesus?”

  • Jon T.

    Jesus asks this question in Luke 18:8…”when the Son of Man comes (returns), will He find faith on the earth?” Interesting, huh? Also, the greatest command, according to Jesus in Mark 12:29, is to love the One God of Israel w/ all of one’s heart, soul, strength and mind and your neighbor as yourself, for in so doing you fulfill the law and the prophets. Even the article includes God, who alone is enough, so by default it says, You need Jesus…and God. The Father and the Son are not one and the same individual, except in purpose and plan.