Grace that is greater than all my sin...

...the common assertion, "You just need to believe the gospel more," essentially undermines the position of the antinomian... - Antinomianism, Mark Jones

Yesterday, I was speaking with a young student about his faith and he was describing a church he'd attended when he was in high school. He said that, while wrong on a number of Biblical truths, the church "got grace."

A few minutes later, he spoke of the first Sunday he attended another church. He'd been displeased by the preaching because it focussed on specific Biblical truths. As he saw it, specific truths weren't needed as much as simple faith in Jesus, so he left the worship service angry. Another student met with him during the following week, and as he described it, "(John) did an excellent job helping me to see my pride. It was the first time I saw my sin. Grace."

Yes, that's precisely how he said it. "Grace" came out sort of under his breath, as an afterthought. He didn't say, "It was the first time I saw my sin and God's grace." He didn't say, "It was the first time I saw my sin and understood grace." He said, "It was the first time I saw my sin." Full stop. Then a soft and almost imperceptible... utterance: "grace..."

Dark is the stain that we cannot hide.
What can avail to wash it away?
Look! There is flowing a crimson tide,
Brighter than snow you may be today.

Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that is greater than all our sin.

The problem with many churches today is not that there's too much grace, but that there's no grace. Remember my young Christian brother had just said a couple minutes earlier that his earlier church "got grace?" Yet, just a few minutes later he said that it wasn't until a man pointed out his pride to him that he came to see his sin "for the first time." So in what sense did his prior church "get grace" if he'd never been brought under conviction of his sin there?

Let me tell you what I suspect. The earlier church had made a big show of "getting grace" and their marketing worked. Everybody told everybody they were the church that "got grace." And in the church that "got grace," everything was "grace" this and "grace" that and "grace" the other thing. But it was an empty mantra because that church didn't preach God's perfect law and man's perfect depravity and Christ's perfect righteousness. This seems the best explanation of this brother telling me the first church "got grace," but then a minute or two later uttering "grace" almost subconsciously after explaining his first realization of how sinful he was.

Many Protestant churches today are led by pastors who are opposed to calling men to repent. These men are antinomian ('anti' meaning "against" and 'nomos' meaning "law"), but they certainly don't announce it. The sheep would be scared off.

Instead, they patter on and on about "grace" this and "grace" that and "grace" the other thing, with the occasional "Ya'll know you need grace, right?" thrown in for good measure. They are enemies of the holiness without which no man will see God, hiding their hostility underneath grace-patterned camo.

Ask them how the souls in our churches come to know they need grace if God's Law and His coming judgment are never proclaimed, and they answer:

"People already know they're sinners. People are materialistic and selfish—they get it. Everyone gets it! People don't need the law—they need grace. They don't get grace. They think they have to perform better, to be better, to try harder, to make themselves good enough. But no one can ever be good enough for God. It's grace they don't get! The church is all about performance, so I'm calling people back to the wonderful grace of God, to freedom in Christ. That's my calling."

Thus souls seeking relief from ennui, angst, and alienation are pacified with cheap grace, never coming to the knowledge of God's holiness and their depravity, and thus never coming to any knowledge of grace. They sing and talk of it. They drone on about grace being their deepest passion, but they're graceless because they've never been under the preaching of God's Law and judgment.

Any explanation of God's grace to sinful man must begin with this explanation of the ministry of the Holy Spirit given us by Jesus:

But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment" (John 16:7, 8).

In certain circumstances when the sin is serious and has become public, our elders require the repentant soul to confess his sin publicly before the congregation. Anyone who has had the privilege of being a part of those services will testify to you that they have never seen or felt the power of God's grace more than then. Those services of worship are not punitive or moralistic or Pharisaical, but joyful and holy and pure and joyful. All of Heaven rejoices and it's contagious.

Forget all the verbiage: where God's Law is not preached, men are not called to repentance; and men who have not repented know nothing of the precious grace of God.

Ennui, angst, and alienation are simply the sorrow of the world. 

For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death. (2Corinthians 7:10)

What we must pray for and preach towards and seek is the sorrow that is according to the will of God, the sorrow that produces repentance without regret, leading to salvation. Pastors who love their sheep will preach and counsel toward that sorrow, knowing it is all of grace.

So, the reason "the common assertion 'You just need to believe the gospel more' essentially undermines the position of the antinomian" is that believing the Gospel more is, in the antinomian scheme, the work that pleases God.

Tim Bayly

Tim serves Clearnote Church, Bloomington, Indiana. He and Mary Lee have five children and fifteen grandchildren.

Comments

I just wanted to say that I thought this post made an excellent point.  The churches that just repeat the "grace, grace, grace," "love, love, love" mantra teach nothing that brings any true, lasting peace to an awakened and wounded conscience.

Hi Tim, my friend put me on to your blog a while ago and to be honest, at first I thought you were a bit harsh but as of late I guess the Lord has softened my heart and I see that you speak the truth plainly even though sometimes it's uncomfortable to hear......

I appreciate this post but need guidance...there are sins in my life that I am tired of, that are dishonouring to God, that I have been struggling with since childhood......i believe i have had sorrow over them but obviously not the godly sorrow which leads to repentance......I want to change; i want to repent; i want this godly sorrow which leads to true repentance.......I guess my question would be where do i start....how do i get this true sorrow over these particular sins.

Thanks!

Dear Naomi,

I've not responded because I'm not sure how to. If you were a woman in the church I serve, that's easy. But over the internet, that's much harder.

Would you be willing to correspond privately, and if so, to allow me to give your e-mail address and name to a an older TItus 2 woman of our church?'

May God give you faith to believe His Word and to follow Him with all your heart, dear sister.

With love in Christ,

Yes, please do. That would be much appreciated. Thank-you!

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