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Here’s a quote to start the week.  It’s a quote I found very encouraging last night.  Yesterday morning I preached the first message in a series on Galatians.  Paul pulled no punches and I reflected that somewhat in my message.  So this morning I’ve woken up pondering this quote from Andy Stanley:

“The church, or I should say, church people, must quit adding the word 'but' to the end of our sentences about grace. Grace plus is no longer grace. Grace minus is no longer grace. We are afraid people will abuse grace if presented in its purest form. We need not fear that; we should assume that. Religious people crucified grace personified. Of course grace will be abused. But grace is a powerful dynamic. Grace wins out in the end. It is not our responsibility to qualify it. It is our responsibility to proclaim it and model it.”

I wonder what proportion of gospel preachers really preach the radical message of God’s grace, and how many feel the need to qualify it and augment it and protect it?  How do we over-qualify grace?

1. We preach grace, but insist on human commitment and responsibility in our gospel preaching.  It’s so easy to preach of God’s wonderful, amazing, life-transforming, gaze-transfixing, heart-captivating grace.  And then in the same breath speak of our need to make a personal commitment, to be diligent, to conform to standards, etc.  Either God’s grace is as good as we say it is, or it is lacking and needs human supply.

2. We preach grace, but quickly shift to focusing on our legal obligations as humans.  Grace plus works is not grace.  Grace minus relational freedom and delight is not grace.  Grace with a good dose of law is not more, but less.  People might abuse grace?  Indeed, so let’s put more effort into communicating how good God’s grace is, rather than feeling obliged to supply qualifiers that are somehow meant to stop people gratuitously sinning in light of the message of the gospel.  When a heart is truly gripped by God’s grace, then it is truly free to live a life of love for God and others—will such preaching lead to licentiousness and abuse?   Certainly not as much as preaching law will lead to rebellion and the fruit of the flesh.

All that I say here applies to both evangelistic and to edificatory preaching.  If the text speaks of our response in some way, or offers guidance on the difference this gospel will make, then of course we must preach the text.  But let’s not automatically feel the need to over qualify and potentially lose the impact of the message if the inspired author didn’t add qualification.

Preaching grace is dangerous.  It is dangerous because unlike overqualified human-centered preaching, it might actually stir a heart to be captivated by the abundant grace of God and lead to radical transformation!



Peter Mead is involved in the leadership team of a church plant in the UK. He serves as director of Cor Deo—an innovative mentored ministry training program—and has a wider ministry preaching and training preachers. He also blogs often at BiblicalPreaching.net and recently authored Pleased to Dwell: A Biblical Introduction to the Incarnation (Christian Focus, 2014). Follow him on Twitter

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John E Miller

commented on Mar 13, 2012

THe first indication that God's grace has touched a human heart is repentance towards Him. The second is faith in Christ. Both come as a result of God's love in operation. That is God's grace. Once learned it is an inexhaustible reservoir from which we can draw without reserve. It can never run dry.

Chet Gladkowski

commented on Mar 13, 2012

Grace is inherently dangerous and there is no way around it. Every other world view, philosophy, faith/religious system is based on works. (the very antitheses of grace). Their foundation is what we must do to get God's attention, win His favor, bribe Him to answer, pay for my sins. Grace as found in the Bible and Jesus Christ is God taking the initiative and acting on our behalf to rescue and restore our broken relationship with Him and one another. This is so radically different that it must ignite words, action and danger. Grace strikes at the very heart of idolatry towards the unholy trinity - me, myself and I.

Jim Hays

commented on Mar 13, 2012

I don't ever see it as a matter of "grace-plus " or "grace-minus" ... but as a matter of "grace-equals." Paul never had a problem preaching grace and then talking about the qualities of the grace-filled life. We do not lead holy lives to be saved. We lead holy lives because we are saved. No shame in preaching that. Titus 2:11-13; 3:5-8. God bless.

Prescott Jay Erwin

commented on Mar 13, 2012

Well said, fellows! Jim, I especially like the way you put your reply. Thanks to all three!

Alexander L. Gibson

commented on Mar 13, 2012

It's true that we are saved by grace and grace alone. Paul in his letter to the believers at Rome reminds us "shall we continue in sin that grace may abound" Certainly not! Is his response. As Bro. Hayes has reminded us "that Paul had no problem preaching grace and then talking about the qualities of the grace-filled life" that is are "but" we still have to talk about those qualities to our congregations and sometime in doing so it may appear that we are adding to grace but we are not. To all who have loved His appearing.

Ron Hoffmann

commented on Mar 13, 2012

I agree with this article wholeheartedly! Seems to me that we have some preachers who are guilty of adding works to their Gospel presentation. It is done sincerely, with the desire to "make sure" those who respond to the free-ness of salvation offered, with an appropriate surrender of life. Sanctification is added back into the Gospel of the grace of God, so that justification is made to be dependent on some form of works - surrender, serve, follow, be baptized, turn from every known sin, and the list goes on. But in the sincere attempt to bring about a "lasting profession of faith," the grace of God - His unmerited favor - is either lost or clouded. The Apostle Paul preached grace so radically that he was accused of being lax in the response he required (see Romans 3:8; 6:1; Gal. 1:6-9). Grace IS dangerous! Yes, the unbeliever needs to know what God will be doing in his/her life once they trust Christ as Savior, but TO ADD THOSE AS CONDITIONS TO THE GOSPEL OF GRACE IS TO BE CLOSE TO OR ACTUALLY GUILTY OF THE GALATIAN HERESY. We have to see this, brothers and sisters, otherwise we are preaching the same Gospel the great Reformers fought so valiantly to recover from the corrupt Catholic church in the 1500's. Is justification by grace, through faith, plus nothing? Or, does our response of works add something to initial and final salvation? We must not "front-load" the Gospel of grace with the confusing issue of works and behavior. Salvation is free and will eventually produce discipleship. Discipleship is costly, but it is a product of salvation by grace, not an equal component of it!! And yes, they must be separated to authentically hold to grace.

Lyall Scheib

commented on Mar 13, 2012

True grace makes a difference: Titus - the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared, teaching us that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts we should live soberly, righteously and godly in this present life... I can't help seeing that there is a but to the grace message but the but is not law, rules, regulations - do not touch, do not taste, do not handle. The but is the end of Galatians: it's truly letting the Spirit of grace create a godlike person out of you. What the law couldn't do God did - that the righeous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Derrick Tuper

commented on Mar 13, 2012

Agree with Jim Hays. Good scriptures ref. I would also add Eph. 2:8-10. And we have James 2:14-19. Works are not the basis for salvation, it is the evidence of it. As Martin Luther is credited with saying, "We are saved by faith alone but not by a faith that is alone." Jesus tells us the cost of discipleship in Luke 14:25-33. Even though we can't earn it, it does come at a cost. But we might erroneously think we have to do this perfectly or meet a quota of good deeds in order to keep our salvation; which is not true. Grace covers us in our imperfections. We can correctly preach grace with an understanding of what grace produces in those who have genuine faith.

Lawrence Rae

commented on Mar 13, 2012

I would like to suggest that the problem doesn't lie in preaching grace, but that the preachers are unwilling to state with the same clarity that an unholy life indicates that many in our congregations have missed the essence of the original message... and may still abide under the wrath of God.

Myron Heckman

commented on Mar 13, 2012

Another point of view comes from Bonhoeffer: "Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession.... Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.? We are helped by the old coupling of law and Gospel. One without the other is incomplete on the full counsel of God.

Vincent Olaer

commented on Mar 13, 2012

In short, preaching God's word is NOT about pleasing the ears of men... It is about pleasing the Lord. As pastors, we need to understand that gospel is used not only for encouraging people but for correcting what's wrong. We do not have to be afraid if people get hurt of the truth as long as it is the truth that comes from the Bible and not out of human emotions.

Myron Heckman

commented on Mar 13, 2012

Another point of view comes from Bonhoeffer: "Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession.... Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.? We are helped by the old coupling of law and Gospel. One without the other is incomplete on the full counsel of God.

James Long

commented on Mar 13, 2012

Thanks bretheren for the many thoughts and approaches to grace. In my recent reading of I John I cannot help but notice his qualifications of grace without actually calling it that. Using the qualifier "if" he says things like "If we walk in darkness and say we have fellowship, we lie..., "if we hate our brother...we walk in darkness..." "if anyman love the world the love of the Father is not in him." "If thjat which you heard from the beginning remain in you, you shall continue in the Son and Father. Finally, whosoever doeth not righteousnees is not of God. I think the truth is not found in one or two pet verses but in a complete consideration of the whole counsel of God.

James Long

commented on Mar 13, 2012

Thanks bretheren for the many thoughts and approaches to grace. In my recent reading of I John I cannot help but notice his qualifications of grace without actually calling it that. Using the qualifier "if" he says things like "If we walk in darkness and say we have fellowship, we lie..., "if we hate our brother...we walk in darkness..." "if anyman love the world the love of the Father is not in him." "If thjat which you heard from the beginning remain in you, you shall continue in the Son and Father. Finally, whosoever doeth not righteousnees is not of God. I think the truth is not found in one or two pet verses but in a complete consideration of the whole counsel of God.

Stephen Summers

commented on Mar 14, 2012

Romans 6:1-2 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Romans 6:12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness

Pollie Marabe

commented on Mar 14, 2012

What a Blessing to know that Salvation is not by "you" but by God's Grace!Thanks to all of you who give inspirational comments. I learned more about Grace, through the Grace of God!May the Grace of God continue to works in us!

Gerald Graham

commented on Mar 14, 2012

It seems to me that what gets lost in this discussion is the true need of mankind. It is not "to work or not to work". If I read Scripture correctly it is ALL God's work. Grace, faith, gifts, even character is all evidence of God's work in our lives. As I read passages like Galatians 5 or Matthew 7:15-23 it seems to me the central message of the Gospel is that humans can not do anything good on their own and need the Spirit and power of God in our lives in order to truly do anything good or right. And because God loves us he doesn't hold our foolishness in thinking we can, against us. Instead he gives us all we need to truly function in Love and Grace through Jesus' sacrifice and the gift of the Holy Spirit despite the fact that we do not deserve them. Works, therefore, will be evident in our lives not because of what we do, but because of what God is doing IN us through a genuine relationship with Him? Isn't that why Jesus paid the price for us?

Gerald Graham

commented on Mar 14, 2012

Oops left this out... 2Peter 1:3 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. (NIV)

Roger Scovil

commented on Mar 14, 2012

Yes, no doubt, we are saved by grace. I memorized Eph. 2:8-9 a long time ago. "For it is by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not of yourselves, it is a gift of God, not by works so no one can boast." But we must not forget the "our part." "For we are God''s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to DO GOOD WORKS, which he has prepared in advance for us to do." We are saved by grace, AND grace causes a response in our hearts, not to earn his love or salvation, but an automatic response of gratefulness. THANK YOU JESUS FOR YOUR INDESCRIBABLE GIFT!

Roger Scovil

commented on Mar 14, 2012

I don't mean to sound like I disagree with you Peter. I totally agree with your comments on "dangerous grace." BUT (there I go just like you said) grace doesn't just leave us passively going about our business, pursuing our own agenda. NO! Grace evokes an irresistible response that overflows with thanksgiving and gratefulness.

Lyall Scheib

commented on Mar 14, 2012

It actually sounds like we all agree with the article and fully understand salvation is grace plus nothing, but there really is a but. The church is full of kids saved by grace having sex with their girlfriends. Adults saved by grace but cheating in their income tax or gossiping etc. You have to preach the but because these people might not be saved. If they haven't received the grace of God that teaches them to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts and to live soberly and righteously in this present age then they haven't received the grace of God at all. They've received a licence to sin and still imagine themselves saved. If there is no repentance there is no salvation.

Mike Ingo

commented on Mar 14, 2012

You are right that His grace is sufficient. I heard that grace is getting what we do not deserve and mercy is NOT getting what we do deserve. God did tell us to be holy and be pure in heart and we can only do that by His grace, but we must understand Pauls teaching in Ephesians 4: (21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: 22 that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, 23 and be renewed in the spirit of your mind).

Audrey W. Young

commented on Mar 17, 2012

Thank you. You kept me from preaching in error about God's grace...always available unconditionally...whether we accept it or not.

Audrey W. Young

commented on Mar 17, 2012

Thank you. You kept me from preaching in error about God's grace...always available unconditionally...whether we accept it or not.

Robert Sickler

commented on Mar 19, 2012

Grace is our covenant relationship with God. A covenant is a two party agreement, with conditions spelled out. Grace most certainly is the foundation of our relationship with the Godhead but it is not a Universalist balm poured out on mankind in some Unitarian distribution. To say that there are no conditions associated with the application of God's grace is to throw away 90-percent of the New Testament. It is by the grace of God that I have access to the thrown of God and it is to that thrown that I must constantly go: as a repentant man. Grace wrote the covenant I now have with God but it is up to me to fulfill my obligations under that contract.

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