Hyper-Grace: Revisiting the Controversy


hyper-graceIn 2014, I wrote my book, “Hyper-Grace: Biblically Confronting Current False-Grace Heresies”, and self-published it on Amazon (including a full text PDF download available on Google Books for free).  It was in response to the rise in various errors and I believe heresies I had seen in the body of Christ, and, after studying for a few years, discussing with various people on both sides of the issue, I felt led to write.

When I wrote the book, it was with some awareness that another, more elder minister had written a book with a similar title, “Hyper-Grace: Exposing the Dangers of the Modern Grace Message”.  Although I had not read all of his book at the time I wrote mine, I have done so in the time since.

In addition to reading his book, I also payed attention to how this senior, well-respected minister has approached the subject.  His philosophy, as I have understood it, was that he wanted to confront the un-Biblical extremes to which several had taken the subject of ‘Grace’, while at the same time not stealing away any true freedom that some had found through it.  In choosing the title for his book, in fact, he intentionally chose a title, “Hyper Grace”, which ‘Grace adherents’ could rally behind, as a ‘positive thing’.  In addition, he also claimed he purposefully chose to not refer to the errors he was addressing  as “false-grace”, merely Grace that, in some instances, was taken too far.

In the few years since I wrote what I did, I have remarked upon how this minister had chosen to write, and his particular focus.  My book, on the other hand, clearly referred to the errors I was dealing with as “false-grace”, and, in the spirit of the Levites becoming the priests by being zealous for the Lord at the Golden Calf in Exodus 32, placed a rather aggressive cover-art on the front (cross-hairs of a rifle scope with three bullet holes).  I attempted to be as forthright and aggressive in dealing with the book, as I was engaged in the lives of those who were living it.  It mattered, and, while I need not stand on my own authority, it doesn’t take a brilliant scholar to just read the Good Book and explain what it says.

Between myself and this other minister, was one right, and another wrong?  Were they both acceptable, from their particular point of view?  Could both use improvement?

Has Hyper-Grace Helped Anyone?

michael_browndrThese questions may not have answers, but as I study more of this subject, I come across articles like this one:

If the Hyper-Grace message is wrong, why does it help so many?

Dr. Brown, writing in the article, makes the assertion that the “Hyper-Grace” message has both helped and hurt its followers.  He attempts to answer the question of why this can seemingly be true, despite that the Bible says you cannot pick figs from thistles, nor grapes from briers.  So, this article attempts to take a look at this claim.  Is it true, as Dr. Brown apparently affirms, that people are indeed ‘helped’ by an exaggerated Grace message?  We will look at Scriptures, reason, and a little bit of honesty.

Dr. Brown begins his response with the claim that there are two main groups of people that are drawn to the modern ‘Grace’ message, and follows the basic line of “If you seek, you will find”.

For The Sincere Believer?

The first group Dr. Brown highlights is the ‘serious believer’, those who have a sensitive conscience, who sincerely desire to please the Lord.

What Dr. Brown’s claim is is that these people are not looking for a license to sin, but that some are struggling with some personal sin or another, and, for whatever reason, are unable to get free.  His claim is that God loves them no matter what, and that their relationship is not affected by their temporary inconsistencies (my rough paraphrase).  Rather than basing their Christian experience on ‘performance’, they learn to set their walk based on His unshakable love, are strengthened, and often do better than when they were living motivated by shame, guilt, and condemnation.

But, if we examine the words of Jesus, is this consistent with what He said?  Jesus said that no one was greater than his teacher, but the one who is fully trained will be just like him.  While many can take the Words of Jesus in many different way, it is only in the full counsel of Scripture that we find the totality and balance of Wisdom.  It is my thought that the one who must come to Christ must submit himself to the Words of Christ, and not to another.  So, what did Jesus say?

Jesus said, if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off.  But, no where in all of history has a physical limb actually caused someone to sin.  Jesus said that the evil one does comes from heart.  So, what is Christ saying?  Simply put, He is saying that if it was as easy as cutting off a limb, as drastic as that is, you should do it, if it caused you to live holy.  Of course, cutting off limbs wont help, so don’t do it…  But, if it could, that is what He said you SHOULD do!  What He doesn’t’ say is cut off someone else’s hand or eye, nor does he intend us to physically harm oneself (as if that could do any good), but to apply a moral violence towards one’s own life, and to do whatever it takes to get free, no matter how ‘maimed’ your life may get.  If you have to never watch TV again to stay pure, burn the thing, and never allow one in your house.  But, if you have liberty, and can monitor your intake, is there any prohibition?

A Better Approach?

bibleSo, what else does the Scriptures speak of the group of believers who is honestly sincere, and whose conscience is pricked, and wants to please the Lord?  That the sinner who comes to the Lord, beating his chest and unable to lift his head to heaven–this one walks away forgiven.  It says that God’s heart is to forgive 70 times seven, beyond casual counting.  The answers are right in the Word.

Wouldn’t it be better, instead of making space for error-fraught teaching, and excusing it on the claim that it ‘helps’ people, to simply teach people the true meaning of Grace?  If it means people will have to do their own work before the Lord to get holy, to seek the Lord diligently until He comes for them, and to stop relying on other people to tell them they’re OK, wouldn’t that be best?  It sure would save a lot of pastor’s effort in trying to counsel people into believing the Word, if they would simply seek Him until they had an encounter they could rely upon.

At issue with this group of conscience sensitive people is this:  The good fruit their lives produce comes only from the transformational work in their hearts that Christ already did, and, being encouraged by the reminder of God’s enduring love, they press on further.  That’s it.  It was the work that was already there, not the work of a Hyper-Grace teacher.

But, what is the enduring fruit in this class of believer?  Some, demonstrating the true-ness of their faith, will press on DESPITE the ‘affirming words’ of the false-grace message.  They may be encouraged not to give up, but their consciences will STILL be pricked, they will STILL want to please the Lord, and they will not take the empty platitudes of soulish surgeons who address their wounds only superficially.  This internal work will progress in spite of the fact of the false teaching, and, in due time, if they do not give up, they will find the aid of the Lord.  They will respond, then, to the inward call of the Spirit, the desire for holiness, and the love of the Lord that He has placed within their hearts, The same one they started with, and they will discover progress in the Lord, some even in their minds attributing it to the hyper-Grace.

The peril, however, is that some are taken captive by the philosophies of these “new mystics” (as John Wesley called them, in his correspondence with Count Zinzendorf in the Letter at Grey’s Walk Inn).  Unfortunately, no matter how well meaning, some will buy the message, take in the falsehood (contrary to Christ’s teaching), that sin is not as dangerous as it is.  Whereas, Christ said, “If your brother sins, rebuke him.  If he repents, forgive him” (Luke 17:3), many of these take in the message that, yes, God loves them, and Yes, He gives them time to depart from wickedness, but (unfortunately) that he is not still concerned about sin each and every time we commit it.  Some merely use it as a reason to lower their standard.  This is never okay, and comes only from defeat.

God said He would write His laws on our heart.  If I can trust that He has done that in my heart, I can trust that He has done that in someone else’s heart, meaning I don’t have to write it there for God or them.  All I need to do is speak the truth in love, follow His Word and His Spirit, and let God handle them.  Thus, as I work out my own salvation with fear and trembling, they can work out theirs, as well.

Then, it appearsa that the fruit that apparently comes from the false-grace message in these believers neither comes from it, nor is fed by it.  It comes solely from a converted, sensitive heart, and, if anything, can only be harmed by it–the work of the cross already accomplished in their heart, planted as a seed and growing to maturity.  What this class of believer does not need is help de-sensitizing their hearts to the grave nature of sin, disconnecting them from the Spirit within.  What they need, however, in line with Luke 6:48 is help to “dig deep”, to examine their own hearts, the motives, desires, drives, and internal conditions of their own souls.  What they need is spiritual doctors, not carnal prognosticators, unable to either know the Lord, nor to pull the stumbling block out of their brother’s eye.

The Fruit for the Sincere Believer

In either case, what is to be gained by the exposure of these to the unscriptural formulas of various false-grace movements?  Absolutely none.  What is the fruit of them?  Absolutely nothing.  Yet, in the fields of each of our our hearts, as well as corporately, there is both the true wheat and the tares of false teachings.  May the Lord deliver us from the latter.

“Be careful,” Jesus warned them. “Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.”

Mark 8:15

What is the yeast of the Pharisees in this passage?  It is not, as many claim, to be “legalism”.  No, in Luke 12:1 Jesus explained what He meant, it was their hypocrisy.  Claiming to be legalisticly holy, none of them were, and were hypocrites.  Jesus knew and expected this, but what condemned them in that generation was not their unrighteousness (the sinners and tax collectors were already that and some of them turned to Christ), but rather, that they refused to be honest about their own depravity.

Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.

John 3:20

And, what of the claim of liberation, freedom, by some?  Some is simply because people took to reading and listening to the Word more.  Some is a sham, merely the ‘yoke’ being kicked off and not feeling the ‘oppression’ of righteous living (said every unsaved sinner ever).

Yet, Jesus even said that the one who breaks and teaches others to break the least command will be the least in the Kingdom.  This is not “thrown out and stoned”, for breaking the rules, but as in you’re missing out on all the good stuff, and all the good stuff in found in 1 Corinthians 13:13.  Right teaching on Grace is the antidote for performance based spirituality, and preaching the Gospel as found in the Word of God the best solution what ails man.  For digging deep, and for cleaning the inside of the cup, rather than the outside.  Simply teach the Word, sow the seed, and it will produce its own fruit, whether you understand how it works or not.

Yet, may it be the last thing in our minds ever to want liberation from a soft and tender heart.  Should our hearts smite us, may we never want liberation from that.  In any form, on any level.  Again, the sinner who cannot even lift his eyes to the Lord, who comes to the altar, whether he knows it or not, leaves forgiven.  The sacrifices of the Lord are a broken heart, and a contrite spirit, and what He forgives, He does not remember.  It doesn’t matter how far you have fallen, it matters how fast you get back up again.

False Grace, in all its forms, is merely a stumbling block designed to steal away from our hearts the response to the tender leading of the Lord.  True Grace loves into correction, wholeness, and purity.

While understanding there are many varied realms of pastoral issues involving false guilt, critical spirits, unforgiveness, and many more, none of these are ever addressed by the false, but only the true.  And, for this reason, I continue to call it false.

He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field.

Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”

Matthew 13:31-32

And for the Carnal Christian?

But, of the other group, out of their corrupt hearts, they are continually defiling and being defiled.  Some may be saved, but young.  And, even among them are the believers who, having been brought captive by the other’s devices, believing a lie.  Their sensitive consciences paralyzed by fear, complacency, and the false approval of man are now succumbed, and temporarily undone by, the ungodly deeds of those around.  Feeling liberated from the call of holiness, they often do, in some measure, experience some relief, yet, they turn to carnality every moment they are inclined.  While God will work within the hearts of these souls, and while they are legitimately saved and loved in the mean time, there is no profit in their labor, nor increase in their service, so long as they serve in bondage to the slave.  As Paul said, some will enter life, but their works will be consumed, having little or no reward.

Those that do eventually move error to truth, as Dr. Brown indicated, likely demonstrate that they were never really “one of” those of the false-grace, but were called, chosen, and born again to an eternal living hope.  Understanding it or not, they simply followed their Shepherd.  Needing deliverance, counselling, and true Spiritual meat, many will be those who come out of these dregs, into the light of day.  Only, God, let there be more.

There is, of course, a wrong way to emphasize certain truths about Grace, but that is what rightly dividing the Scriptures is about.  But, even the error of an unbeliever is an honest error, and not a deceitful one.  One does truth, desiring to be true, and the other, while perhaps using the language of truth from time to time, only borrows the expression for the indulgence in their ungodliness.

What flows from the mouths of most false-grace preachers I have directly interacted with is not legitimate error–it is outright deception.  The difference?  One looks to Scripture, and one does not.  One has a knowledge of God, and the other does not.  One cares, and is doing their best, and the other is making excuses and covering up their darkness.

And this is the verdict, that light came into the world and men loved darkness, rather than the light.

John 3:19

Those who do evil don’t want people to know what’s really going on behind the scenes.  Those who are really “doing truth” are forthright.  They enjoy their deeds and motives exposed, brought out and examined by similar minded hearts.  But, those who do evil do not come into the light, lest their deeds be exposed.

So…  Are there any figs on this thornbush?

Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.”

2 Timothy 2:19

figsSo, Dr. Brown lists in his article several “truths” he says that the “hyper-grace” are teaching rightly.  But, with so many of these statements, it is what they really mean by the phrase that makes the difference.  Take these example, given by Dr. Brown:

  • We should put our focus on Jesus and not ourselves.
  • Salvation is a free gift that we could never earn in a million lifetimes.
  • On the worst day of our lives, God deeply loves us.

No one is arguing this points.  All mainstream churches teach these things.  But, if by these “cliche” sayings, one means that our personal conduct therefore doesn’t matter, they are utterly false, and laughably in denial of a good portion of the New Testament which says directly the opposite.  It is all by what you mean by them, by the context and conclusions attached to each statement.

Too often, Hyper-Grace teachers like to dominate the conversation, cause chaos by confusing context, and slip in a bald faced lie attached to what we are trained to accept.  Does God love us deeply?  Of course, John 3:16 and Romans 5:8 show that unequivocally.  Does this mean our actions don’t matter, or that we have to earn it?  No, and these are clearly covered by anyone with a basic working knowledge of the Christian faith.  These statements are true on the surface, and have nothing to do with the “modern Grace movement”, nor do they originate from it, but they are too often used to mean more than they actually say.  Does God deeply love everyone?  Absolutely, and, with great sadness, He will damn billions to hell for Eternity, even though He loves them, because He is righteous.

  • Committing one sin does not cause us to lose our salvation.
  • If we fail to confess a sin, that doesn’t mean we are not saved until we do confess it
  • Even if we commit a sin, as far as our salvation is concerned, we are still in the “forgiven column”
  • We are still God’s children even as we struggle with sin

These statements, likewise, are not new, yet neither do they imply that our behavior is not connected as an outgrowth of true faith in Christ.  All of the above are true in their own right, but whenever someone attempts to take one of these to mean that a right response to a born again experience is to do your best to avoid sin is lying, deceived, and is preaching from the wrong tree.

One cannot disagree with these on the surface, because we all do at time to time stumble.  Yet, if by it one concludes that we are not to care, be grieved, or be miserable that we continue to fail, then no.  Jesus said it was as urgent as an amputation.  If you tell a homosexual they’re okay, you damn them to hell for Eternity (see 2 Corinthians 6:9-10).  If you tell them the truth, those who want out will get out.

Where is the Grace in that?  It is in those who are thus called to remove the beam from their own eye (often, their own human and fleshly beliefs and opinions), and to speak the truth in love, learning to be doctors of the soul, and help those who are hurting find deliverance, so they don’t have to live in the constant torture and struggle every day of their lives.  As Paul wrote in Galatians, we need the ministry of ‘restoration’ as much as ever, today.

Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.

Galatians 6:1

  • The moment we are saved, God sets apart as holy and even calls us holy
  • God’s grace empowers us to live above sin
  • The Holy Spirit is not here to condemn us

These, then, again, are merely statements that should appear in all good churches.  These are straight out of the epistles of Paul (and others), and are represented well in works such as “The Spiritual Man” by Watchman Nee, or “The Normal Christian Life”.  The adoption of these sayings, then, does not come from the thrust of the Modern Grace Movement, the ‘Hyper Grace’, as it were, but rather the true teaching of Grace from the Word.

And yet, with each of these, the moment any of these statements is taken as a ‘free pass’, or an ‘excuse’, it is wrong.  When true statements are adopted by a movement to express something other than what they originally intended, they are no longer true, but false.  We are holy, and yet, if we do not strive to perfect it, are we really what we claim to be?  If God’s Grace is truly empowering us to live above, what is our reason for living below?  And, Romans 8:1 says that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ who follow God’s Spirit.  Should an unbeliever feel condemnation?  Absolutely!  That is the conviction of judgment spoken of by Christ.  Should a “make believe” believer, who is claiming to be something when they are not feel condemnation?  Of course, because that is what they are.  Guilt and condemnation are like pain to a wound.  If we didn’t feel pain, how would we know we have hurt ourselves?  Likewise, how should the unbeliever know they are a sinner unless they feel the Spirit’s conviction of such?

  • Holiness is not a matter of keeping a set of external laws
And, finally, this one.  I leave this one set apart, because it is so obvious.  This is the offspring of the reformation, marked probably clearest by Martin Luther.  Whereas, in Colossians 2, we are clearly told not to live any longer by the outwardly imposed laws, having died with Christ, how many have flipped the page over into Colossians 3, where, Having been raised by Christ (v1)…  Put to death therefore the misdeeds of the flesh (v5)…  The contrast is simple–whereas the law could only impose outward regulations to control a man’s behavior (“Do not commit adultery”), the Law of the Spirit goes to the root (“Do not lust”).  What the Law could not do, being limited only to outward actions and not thought and intent of the heart, God wanted all along.
What is missing, then, is the instruction to “put to death [by the Spirit]…”, not the adultery, but put to death lust itself within you, by the power of the Spirit.  If one slays lust within, and one is filled with God’s Spirit, where then is the inclination towards adultery in the flesh?

As with all of these, they might sound great, but they’re meaningless.  Jesus never told us to ignore our conduct, nor did Paul, nor any writer of Scripture.  In fact, there is a greater density of commands to believers in the New Testament as compared to the old.  In fact, Paul told Timothy to watch  his doctrine and manner of life closely, and that by it, he would save himself and his hearers.

Whenever anyone uses one of these to claim that it does not matter therefore how one lives, it is the false spirit of hyper-grace.

Just as the devil may use Scripture to tempt us, he may use phrases borrowed from true moves of God, words which have a ring of truth, but at their core, they are about one thing–Lawlessness.  Or, whatever the flavor of the day is.


Are there figs on this thornbush?  No, not one.  There may be a few confused individuals who pick and choose which flow they choose to operate out of, from time to time but God’s foundation is sure.  God, in the end, is the only one who knows whose are His, and those who name the name of the Lord must be working on getting holy.  2 Timothy 2:19.

In the end, having watched several of my friends lost to this movement, including to the “universalism” in disguise called “inclusion”, there is no true fruit from the hyper-grace message, Scripturally speaking.

After all, to what lengths will we go to excuse sin?  Jesus told us to make every effort to enter the gate, because the way is narrow, and the path is hard that leads to life.  If you do your best, you will make it, for God gives grace to the humble, but resists the proud.  Too often, we want a cheap answer to apply to someone who is struggling with sin, and are willing to make little to no effort spiritually to help them get there.  But, for a heart that wants to be free, one that has gotten in contact with something Beyond this life, the best thing you can do for them is to let them be.  If you can’t help them, at least do them the Grace of staying out of their way.

I have spoken with individuals who have embraced this movement.  For too many, it is a stepping stone right out the door of the faith, right out of Christ altogether.  For others, it is into whatever vice has given them comfort from the pain, whether it is into the marketplace or the cares of this world, or to numbing the pain to the point of nervousness, or to walking into homosexuality as personal identity, rather than facing the pain of their childhood.

Why is there apparent good fruit?  Because God can and does use anything to help His kids, even errant teaching, because the heart is seeking after Him.  But, that is is the difference of taking a fig, grown on a fig tree, and hanging it in arms reach of a child caught in the thorns, as opposed to having grown there.

Was Dr. Brown wrong then, in his book, article, and his overall approach?  Not necessarily.  His was a pastoral work, and his focus and intent different.  Mine was of a different reasoning.  While mine concludes that there is truly no good fruit from the hyper-grace camp, his was to divide the field differently, recognizing that many are not willing, able, or ready to deeply differentiate between this and another.  I appreciate his work, and the alarm he has raised on in accord.  If mine is more of the shock treatment akin to bombs and bullets, it is only because it is to save a culture of my friends from an avalanche of false teaching, looking to snow them.

To that end, I have been pleased with the attention given to this subject of the matter of Grace.  The grace and mercy we afford to others is the same God says He will afford to us, and the same measure we use will be measured to us.  Surely, the greatest thing anyone can do is to approach the Word of God with an open heart, and honest mind, and let it convict, align, and strengthen you.  If we are harsh, condemning, or mean-spirited with anyone, we only have to look as far as our own hearts to find out why.  Whether you are right or wrong, if you are attempting to live by what is true, you willingly come into the light that what you have been done may be plainly seen to be God… Or, if it turns out it wasn’t perfect after all, you gladly repent, change course, and thank Him for showing you His heart.

But whoever [does] truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

John 3:21