Can Grace be Overdone?

David Ravenhill:

How to stay balanced? May I suggest two principles: (1) Let the Bible say what it says and avoid providing your explanatory apparatus. (2) Let the Bible’s balance be yours. That is, teach or preach or absorb Gal 1-4 and 5-6, Romans 1-11 and 12-16, Matthew 5-7 and the soteriology of the Gospels.  What I find in grace overcooking are violations of both Principle 1 and 2.

Someone wisely stated, “The church has suffered more from her exponents than from her opponents.” This is certainly the case today, as we are seeing an onslaught of dangerous teaching sweeping through the body of Christ like never before….

One of the enemy’s wiles is to take something that is inherently good and seek to make it appear better. The hyper-grace message is a prime example of this. What is more amazing than grace? Nothing sets Christianity apart more than the message of grace. None of us would ever know our magnificent Savior and Lord without His redeeming, reconciling grace. There is no sect, cult or religion that has any doctrine comparable to it. Grace is found in Christ alone!

Little wonder, then, that the enemy has sought to improve on this glorious message by appearing to make it even more glorious, while at the same time lacing it with his deadly poison of deception and distortion.

Consider how you would respond to a message exhorting you to guard your mind, stay sober, be obedient, don’t be conformed to your former lusts, be holy, conduct yourself in fear, obey the Word and put aside all malice, guile and hypocrisy? What if the message went on to tell you to love and read God’s Word, grow up, tell others about God’s goodness, avoid fleshly lusts, do good deeds, do right, don’t speak about evil, be zealous for what is good and sanctify Christ as Lord?

Many within the body of Christ today would cry out against such a message, claiming it to be nothing more than a religious spirit or legalism or even fleshly works. Grace, we are told, frees you from all these works and liberates you so that you are no longer under any obligation of any kind. Grace, they say, is the gift that comes to us with no strings attached. But is that really the message of grace? Has the enemy blinded our eyes through super-sizing the true message of grace—and thereby distorting it?


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  • Doug

    Grace wants the best for us. But as every parent knows, it is impossible to want the best for someone without also wanting the best *from* that someone. To decline responding to the latter while responding to the former is self-deceit. To reject either is to reject grace.

  • Adam

    I really can’t take any statement about theology, religion, or teaching seriously if they use the word “dangerous”. As far as I can see, using the word dangerous is more dangerous that any danger that people perceive.

  • The Reformation was a time when men went blind, staggering drunk because they had discovered, in the dusty basement of late medievalism, a whole cellar full of fifteen-hundred-year-old, two-hundred proof Grace–bottle after bottle of pure distilate of Scripture, one sip of which would convince anyone that God saves us single-handedly. The word of the Gospel–after all those centuries of trying to lift yourself into heaven by worrying about the perfection of your bootstraps–suddenly turned out to be a flat announcement that the saved were home before they started…Grace has to be drunk straight: no water, no ice, and certainly no ginger ale; neither goodness, nor badness, not the flowers that bloom in the spring of super spirituality could be allowed to enter into the case. ~Robert Farrar Capon

  • Barb

    I don’t know where this “dangerous teaching” is “sweeping” it sure hasn’t come anywhere close to where I am. Most that I know still want to definitely limit grace to what they agree with and approve of and what’s easy for them to do.

  • Andy W.

    Ya, the chuch is being overrun by grace….that would be the day! Sure, there are some churches that don’t want to call anything bad, but the grand sweep of church history is the opposite…stingy grace, heavy burdens, crushing guilt. The grace shown by Jesus did not let people off the hook, but with deep empathy, he met them where they were at and then picked them up to move forward. Most people know all to well how messed-up they are and being reminded of how short one falls is not particularly helpful. However, being reminded that God actually knows all about your dark places AND He knows the way out for you (and wants to provide it) is the message that grace offers. Properly positioned, grace is the very means by which real transformation comes!

  • I don’t think it’s about “balancing” grace with works or judgement or anything else. When it comes to merit (what we earn from God), we don’t contribute anything. It’s all grace, 100%. But when it comes to demonstrating our love for God and others, when it comes to seeking after holiness in and by the Spirit of holiness, when it comes to aligning ourselves with the telos toward which our gracious redemption points . . . that all requires effort. It’s hard work. Not meritorious work, adding to our status before God or his love for us, but hard work nonetheless. Most valuable goals require effort, but that’s different from earning. (I credit Dallas Willard here).

    Even such efforts, while truly ours, are empowered by God’s grace. As Paul writes, “it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” (Phil 2:13) and so “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me” (Phil 3:12).

    A colleague of mine wrote a helpful article in JETS, in which he argues that the question “what does it mean to be saved” in the gospels gets answered in three different ways: (1) on what basis am I saved? (2) what does God do to save me? And (3) What must I do to receive what God gives? It’s an in depth examination of this question (and sub-questions) as it appears in the gospels. You can find it here: