Hyper-grace…exposing the danger of modern grace message
Author: Michael L. Brown PhD
Reviewer: Gbenga Osinaike
Publisher: West Africa Theological Seminary
The book, Hyper-Grace: Exposing the dangers of modern grace message by Michael Brown, is perhaps one of the most profound Christian books in recent time.
Brown not only corrects a perceived mishandling of the grace message; but also carries out the assignment clinically and convincingly.
He engages the extreme grace teachers in a way that brooks no offence. Rather than being combative, he presents the work in a teacher-student and student-teacher way.
He tells you from the onset that he has gained a lot from grace teachers despite disagreeing with some of their excesses. He then gives reasons why some of their extreme positions are harmful to faith.
The beauty of the book however lies more with Brown’s credentials. He is a Jew. He speaks Hebrew so he understands the original language of the Bible. He has experienced grace first hand being a former drug addict. He is well-read and shows a great degree of scholarship in his presentation.
He understands the issues he is interrogating while also picking the tiny dots in the hyper-grace teachings.
From chapters 1 to 15 where he concludes with the topic, the finished work of the cross there is nowhere he comes across as being arrogant.
Grace message is liberating
Chapter 1 gives practical instances why the grace message should be embraced. The author’s first experience of grace was on December 17, 1972. Then, the revelation of the love of God flooded his heart.
He became free from that moment. ‘No more heroin. No more weed. No more hallucinogenic drugs. Jesus truly delivered me,’ He writes.
Before that glorious experience, he had battled with drugs. He explains in the book however that he never for once doubted the love of God.
He attests that the grace message has liberated so many people from guilt adding that under no condition should the mercy of God be denigrated.
He writes, ‘God forbids that any of us would ever act against grace because others may teach about it in an exaggerated, distorted or erroneous way. On the contrary, it is jealousy for God’s grace that moves me to write this book.’
Indeed, one could feel his passion throughout the 284-page dissertation which exposes the innocuous lies in the celebrated teachings of some well-known grace teachers.
Is modern grace message new?
Is there a new grace reformation? That is the second chapter of the book. Here Brown interrogates the view about the newness of the grace teachings which seem to have caught up with many believers.
He presents some of the issues and deals with them clinically wondering at the way some lethal errors have crept into the church.
He contends there is a need to make a balance between grace and legalism. Some according to him, have been liberated by the grace message while some have dipped further into sin because of it.
In chapter three, he wonders why there are so much name-calling and divisiveness in the name of grace by these teachers. He gives instances of judgmental comments by grace teachers and how they present their views with so much finality and arrogance.
The author who holds a PhD in Near Eastern Languages and Literature goes on in chapter 4 to x-ray all the excessive teachings on grace. One of them is that all our future sins have been forgiven.
Sharing a personal experience he writes, ‘I remember clearly the spiritual battle I was fighting, first, to believe that Jesus died for my sins-Afterall as a Jew I was raised without any faith in Jesus at all.
“And once I believed he is the saviour, the battle was to turn from my sins….but when God’s conviction won the day I asked the Lord to forgive me and I surrendered my life to him…in a moment I was clean.’
He notes that he could never have contemplated a future sin when he had the salvation experience. Quoting from Bible portions he explains that nowhere does the Bible talk about future sins. He added however that at conversion God already put us in the righteous column. Referring to the Lord’s Prayer he writes that Jesus would not have talked about forgiveness on an ongoing basis if our future sins have been settled.
The fact that Jesus reprimands the seven churches in Ephesus as recorded in the book of Revelation also comes handy for him in this chapter. He then insists that after conversion, God deals with our sins as they occur.
We need not confess our sins?
He goes on to puncture another insidious teaching in the hyper-grace movement that we need not confess our sins to God. Quoting a popular hyper-grace teacher, Ryan Rufus, who says, ‘going to ask for forgiveness of sin by a believer is a sin,’ the author wondered at the danger inherent in such teaching.
Hyper grace teachers believe we can only say sorry for our sins and not say “father forgive me”. The author finds this ludicrous. Being a Bible scholar himself. He punctures, for instance, the claim that 1john 1v8 was written to Gnostics stating that the Gnostics came many years after the apostles have died.
He explains that “the forgiveness that is being talked about in that scripture is relational, not judicial having to do with our fellowship with God and our experience of being cleansed and forgiven as opposed to our overall standing with God.’
Holy Ghost does not convict?
In chapter six Brown debunks the erroneous teaching that the Holy Ghost does not convict believers and the unsaved of sin.
He explains that the reason why some will buy into this position is that they confuse conviction with condemnation. “Conviction says to the believer ‘you have sinned come to me while condemnation says to the lost, you are damned sinner, you are pronounced guilty away from me.’
Brown explains that the word convict simply means to correct, rebuke or discipline adding that everywhere the word is used in the New Testament it is used in a relational term.
He also tears into shreds the belief that repentance only means a change of mind and not a corresponding change in lifestyle.
Sanctified or not?
In chapter seven he x-rays the subject: sanctified or not? Here he explains what it means to be sanctified stating, we have been sanctified, we are being sanctified and we will be sanctified.
This is contrary to the belief that the moment you decide to do something to be holy you have trusted in yourself for salvation instead of Christ. He takes exception to the view that no matter what you do, your holiness is not affected.
He then asks; where do we put the scriptures that challenge us to pursue holiness. Quoting Dr Bob Gladstone he writes, ‘failure to grasp the biblical tension of already/not yet is a failure to grasp biblical grace and Jesus himself. The kingdom is now. The kingdom is not yet. I am saved. I am being saved. The hour has come. The hour is yet in the future. I am sanctified. I am being sanctified. I am a new creation. I await resurrection…”
Spirituality: it is not effortless
In chapter 9, he treats, “is spirituality effortless? Here he pursues the subject further on the role the Christian has to play in living for God. He points out the danger of an effortless Christianity noting that many have gone astray with such teaching. He states that changing from within is not an effortless exercise.
Quoting Smith Wigglesworth, he writes, “Great faith is the product of great fight”. He then goes on to quote several scriptures by Jesus, Paul and Peter that talk about efforts the believer has to make.
God has wrath
Brown goes a step further to debunk the belief that God is always in a good mood in chapter 10. He devotes this chapter to puncture the teaching that God has no wrath. He then raises the alarm that some Bible translations like The Mirror Bible have gone further to remove elements of God’s wrath from the translation.
Chapter 11 seems to be the highpoint of the book. Here the author situates the genesis of all the hyper-grace teachings. He traces it to Marcion, an influential heretical church leader who died more than 1800 hundred years ago. He states that many of the hyper-grace teachings were derivatives from this man who during his lifetime dismissed the Old Testament.
Brown, however, notes that many of the scriptures used in the New Testaments were scriptures derived from the Hebrew Bible which is the Old Testament.
Quoting a previous a book, he states that almost one out of three verses of the New Testament contains an Old Testament quote. He insists that the Old Testament was not quoted in the New Testament as a contrast but to validate what is being said in the New Testament
God’s law is beautiful
Chapter 12 explains the beauty of the law of God which many hyper-grace teachers find repulsive. He writes, “If Paul believed that the presence of the resurrected Christ inside of us was enough, why did he need to write so many letters telling believers how to live.? He posits that the law is not what kills ‘What kills is putting the law on stones and commanding us to follow them without giving us a new nature…”
Chapter 13 breaks forth on a question note: Why are we running from the words of Jesus? Here he addresses the belief that the teachings of Jesus are for the old covenant people and not for us today. He laments in this chapter how some teachers of grace try to attack the Old Testament, the gospels and the teachings of Jesus.
Quoting Charles Spurgeon, he writes, “If there is any verse that you would like to be left out of the Bible that is the verse that ought to stick to you, like a blister, until you attend to its teachings.”
Hyper-grace and The New Gnostics
In chapter 14, Brown writes on The New Gnostics. Here he explains that though many of the hyper-grace teachers are sincere and committed preachers of the gospel who love the Lord, there are some dangerous seeds of the Gnostics in their teachings.
He punctures the interpretation of the scripture as he is so we are (1John4v17) stating that where such thinking leads is to assume equality with God in His omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresent nature.
Chapter 15 which is the last chapter of the book provides a profound truth on one of the most celebrated sayings in the hyper-grace movement. The statement, “it is finished” is often used to dismiss any effort on the part of the believer. It is believed that Christ has done it all. But Brown explains in this chapter that the phrase translates from one word in Greek, tetelestai, from the root, teleo which means to finish, fulfil.
He explains that though the verb teleo occurs 28 times in the New Testament, the form tetelestai is found only twice and those two occurrences are in the same context right next to each other as used in John chapter 19, meaning all that ought to be done have been done. By implication, it is not saying Christians no longer have responsibility.
There is an appendix to the last chapter where the author discusses the issue of “once saved forever saved”. Here he agrees that salvation is eternal, warning that it is only eternal if the believer puts his trust in Christ. He states however that “if you believe that since you were once saved, even if you reject him and live in unrepentant sin you are still saved then you have deceived yourself and are in danger of falling under God’s judgment”
Indeed, any careful reader who reads through Brown’s book will go off with a lot of understanding and new insight. The language employed though simple is deep. It shows evidence of a Bible scholar with an uncommon ability to rightly divide the word of God. Every position taken in the book is backed with sundry scriptures and references from both the hyper-grace teachers, moderate grace teachers and several other Bible teachers and scholars.
This book is indeed a quiet effort to upstage the erroneous gospel that seems to have taken root in the lives of some people. It is a compelling read. It is hoped that many Christians will take advantage of this great effort to put their theology right.
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