Hello, everybody! We hope you have gotten a good start this new year! Please feel free to browse the previous articles. Since we are talking about the Bible – God’s love letter to you – you should find that most of the content on these pages remains relevant to living life to the fullest measure even after a couple of years!
This new year, we pray that you would really study the Bible – like your life really depended on doing so. If you knew that by studying the Bible you would essentially tap into God’s infinite store of wisdom and thereby gain understanding that would enable you to live life with more rest and peace, wouldn’t you find the time – no, wouldn’t you make sure you have a good chunk of time blocked out each day for reading God’s Word? If you haven’t done this, you don’t know what you are missing!
So, you owe it to yourself - if you don’t already have one – to get yourself a good study Bible; such as Zondervan’s “NASB Study Bible”. A good study Bible has notes that help explain almost every verse. Another good study Bible (King James version) is “Dake’s Annotated Reference Bible” by Dake Publishing.
The concept in both of the above study Bibles is that the Bible is self-consistent and self-explanatory. This is important because the Bible is the inerrant Word of God. So, in order to keep from straying into deception, we need to increase our knowledge and understanding of God’s Word. If we are faithful in this, God is able to teach us His will for our lives through His Holy Spirit that indwells us. When we are careful to follow the truth of God’s Word, He will bless us beyond our understanding.
An example of a deception that is being debated today is that of “Hyper/Extreme Grace”. Extreme Grace is basically the idea that once we pray the “prayer of faith” accepting Jesus Christ the Son of God as our Lord and Savior, we are free to live our lives however we would like; even if this means spending the rest of our lives in the deepest mires of immorality we can imagine.
However, if we would diligently search our Bibles for God’s thoughts on the subject, we would find that God’s Word commands us to live holy lives free from immorality. This can be seen in Jesus’ teachings in the Gospel books (the first four books of the New Testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John); as well as, in the other books of the New Testament.
A major part of Jesus’ teachings can be found in what is commonly called “The Sermon on the Mount” which can be read from Matthew chapters 5 – 7. Matthew 5:7 says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” Verse 16 says, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Verse 20 says, “For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” Here, the scribes and Pharisees were the teachers of religious law in that day.
Reading further in verses 21 – 47, Jesus teaches how we are to have a higher standard than what the Old Testament laws taught. Here, Jesus’ examples include: Calling someone a fool carries consequences as severe as committing murder; Lusting after someone carries consequences as severe as committing adultery; The consequences of sin is hell so it is better to cut off a part of the body that might be used in committing that sin in order to enter heaven than to have the whole body thrown in hell; If someone wants to take advantage of us, offer them more than they asked for and we are to love those who hate us.
In the last verse of chapter 5 (verse 48), Jesus said, “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect”. From these passages, it seems pretty clear that Jesus’ teachings contradict the “Extreme Grace” message and this is really just scratching the surface. But, how might the Extreme Grace deception come about?
Deceptions such as Extreme Grace can be avoided by being careful students of God’s Word. A good rule in Bible interpretation is to always look at the verse in question in the context where it appears. Our studies must be based on the belief that God’s Word is perfect (inerrant) and consistent; since this is also God’s character. Therefore, a verse must agree with its contexts; such as, the chapter where the verse is found; as well as, the book of the Bible where it is found; as well as, with all the other books of the Bible.
Admittedly, such a thorough study of God’s Word takes time, but we will find that we are blessed abundantly for our efforts. Jesus promised in John 8:31-32 that ”If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
With the above thoughts in mind, we should be able to search the Bible and uncover the flaws in the reasoning of the Extreme Grace deception. Proponents of Extreme Grace like to cite the Ephesians 2:8-9 passage where the apostle Paul wrote, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” One deception here is that salvation is a gift from God to us and that because it is a gift, that He would never revoke it.
Actually, this teaching is not new. This message has been preached for many years. The main motivation being to help make the gospel message more appealing to people. Basically, “Just ask the Lord to save you and you are headed to heaven.” Granted, many have prayed that prayer realizing that they were making a total commitment to follow Jesus as their Lord; but because of the way the message was presented, not a few probably prayed that prayer without realizing the requirement of a total commit and thinking that they are headed to heaven.
It’s been likened to purchasing “fire insurance”. Jesus warned us against this deception by His teaching in Matthew 7:13-14, “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” Jesus warns further in verse 21, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.”
Jesus’ closing passage reads in verse 24, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock.” And in verse 26, “Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.” Here, Jesus is emphasizing the importance of following Him in obedience to His teaching.
When we look at Ephesians 2:8-9 by itself, we can see that one can easily come to the conclusion that we don’t have to do anything more to get to heaven after we receive God’s gift of salvation. The Amplified version reads, “For it is by free grace (God’s unmerited favor) that you are saved (delivered from judgment and made partakers of Christ’s salvation) through [your] faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [of your own doing, it came not through your own striving], but it is the gift of God; Not of works [not the fulfillment of the law's demands], lest any man should boast. [It is not the result of what anyone can possibly do, so no one can pride himself in it or take glory to himself.]” The phrases enclosed in parentheses and square brackets have been inserted by the translators to help increase the reader’s understanding. This is why it is called the “Amplified” version.
If we are not careful, we can fall into deception when we are used to reading a passage with a certain mindset gained from popular teaching. So, we really need to think about what we are reading before accepting it for Bible-truth. We need to pray that the Lord will give us a Spirit of Wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. And that the eyes of our hearts may be enlightened so that we will know … (see Ephesians 1:17-18).
The Amplified Bible is a good example to us how even the scholarly translators can become confused when translating the word “grace”. Besides the Ephesians 2:8-9 passage as quoted above, the apostle Paul uses the word “grace” in numerous passages in this same book; as well as, in his other letters (epistles).
If we look at the way this word “grace” is translated in a few of the other passages we start to see inconsistencies that might not be readily apparent in more casual reading. For example, in Ephesians 1:2 of the Amplified Bible, Paul writes, “May grace (God’s unmerited favor) and spiritual peace … be yours from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.” Do you see that the above seems inconsistent with the translation of the word “grace” in Ephesians 2:8-9?
If Paul really meant the word “grace” to mean “unmerited favor” as it is being translated in both the above passages, then would it really make sense for him to wish in this passage that we have this “grace” when, as the Extreme Grace proponents have asserted, God has already bestowed this “unmerited favor” on us? Here, Paul is definitely writing to Christians as can be seen from the preceding verse 1 where he mentions that he is writing to the saints at Ephesus.
The same line of reasoning can be applied to other passages in which Paul uses the word “grace”. But as this discussion has become quite lengthy, we will defer to the next time. We hope you found this discussion stimulating, thought provoking and even uplifting. We think it’s so important to know the truth and we hope this has gotten you started in searching out God’s truth in His precious written Word, the Bible.
Until next time, we pray that God’s blessings would be on your lives as you commit to live your lives for Him each day.