Hypergrace and Other Myths

The other day I had the fortune (or misfortune) of doing an internet search on the term “hypergrace”. It is a term I had heard in church discussions, mainly by those bringing attention to a dangerous new doctrine. But I had never taken time to find out exactly what those who used the term actually meant by it. All I knew is that the contention was that people who believed in hypergrace were teaching something that did not line up with what the Bible said. And so I decided to check things out.

As with most things internet, it takes a while to sift through people denouncing a thing but never getting around to what they really mean, but I finally stumbled on this comment from Dr. Michael Brown, who has been a critic against hypergrace, and this is what gets down to the heart of it:

[My] principle area of disagreement [with hypergrace advocates] remains [the] teaching that the moment we are saved, our future sins are pronounced forgiven.

When I read this, I was like, “Wait — what?” And then I realized Dr. Brown simply believes that as believers, we are not fully forgiven. Because of this, “hypergrace” advocates, in his mind, are promoting a dangerous doctrine. And it was in that moment I realized “hypergrace” is nothing more than the doctrine of grace, and of its advocates, I am chief among them.

In case the term “future sins” has you confused, let me do my best to explain. In Dr. Brown’s world — and others — God did not forgive us at the Cross: He forgave our sins. And “our sins”, by necessity only being the sins we had committed up to that point, are the only sins that were covered at that time. So it is possible, in Dr. Brown’s world, for us to find ourselves in a state where we are not forgiven, and according to Dr. Brown that is the state between committing a sin as a believer and “bringing the sin before God.” Up to that point, that sin is not forgiven.

Which, of course, might make you wonder what would happen if you died before bringing that sin before God. Dr. Brown does not mention anything about eternal security, but based on the Bible’s teaching on the severity of sin, I would have to think at least theoretically one’s chances of going to Heaven are in jeopardy here — after all, we are heading right for God’s presence with unforgiven sin.

But I digress. The real problem here is Dr. Brown’s understanding of what got forgiven at the Cross. He thinks its individual sins — which is why he makes distinctions between “past” and “future” sins” — when in fact what got forgiven at the Cross was us. Whenever the Bible talks about our forgiveness, it ties it to who and what we now are, not our sins themselves. Consider Ephesians:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us

Notice in this passage we are told who we now are (bold), then how this was made possible (underline). In other words, at the Cross God has made us holy and blameless in His sight and has adopted us as sons and daughters; He accomplished this through the Cross by which we were forgiven from our sins. It does not say God made us potentially holy and blameless in His sight or potentially adopted, provided we make sure to bring our future sins before God. Nor does it even focus on the sins themselves. Its focus is on what is now true about us: We are holy and blameless in His sight. In other words, it is not our sins (up to that point or otherwise) that got forgiven: It is we who have been forgiven.

By faith we have been transferred from the Kingdom of darkness to light, from a state of law to a state of grace in which our sins are no longer counted against us. This agrees with what we read in Colossians:

When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross

More than our sins being forgiven, the Law, consisting of decrees against us and was always hostile to us, has been removed. Because of the Cross, it is impossible for us to be punishable.

One wonders why anyone would make complicated such a clear teaching of Scripture. But I think the reason can easily be found by what those who have preached against hypergrace (can we please just call it grace?) are saying: They are afraid of what believers might do if they realize they are, in fact, fully forgiven. They may use it as a license to sin. The may live lives of unbridled debauchery, immorality, and corruption.

Now if our goal is to control behavior, I think this concern is totally legitimate. After all, if you tell your teenager your car is in the garage with keys in it and they are legal age to drive, there is no telling what they might do. But if our goal is to bring others into a deeper understanding of truth as well as a deeper experience of God’s grace, calling what is true not true just seems like a really bad idea.

Besides, what does it say about those who feel that if we knew how forgiven we are, we would use it as license to to sin? For one, it says they believe the only reason believers seek holiness and righteousness is fear of what might happen if they don’t. That they need that fear to be better people.

I have a different view. When Jesus went to the Cross, He went to forgive me completely: Making me holy, blameless, perfectly loved and perfectly accepted in His sight. And that transformation has put inside me a holy desire that cannot be satisfied by any earthly thing. Sure I can do as I wish. But what I want more than anything is to be where Jesus is, doing what He is doing. And fear of not being fully forgiven is one thing that I do not need to make sure I pack for that journey.

Photo by Caleb Jones on Unsplash

I am a Warrior and a Son

In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered.

Hebrews 2:10

I am a warrior, but God has called me first to be a son. The difference is when God calls a warrior to do a thing, a warrior says “yes” without hesitation but also without counting the cost. When things get difficult, the warrior finds himself on his own. He does not mean to be, but his “yes” binds him to continue at all cost, with only the recourse to endure. A son, on the other hand, though still saying yes, talks to his Father about what is difficult for him and what he is uncomfortable with. He recognizes that on his own he is nothing and that the battle cannot be won without God’s help. A son maintains intimacy throughout his yes.

I can be both a son and a warrior, but I cannot be a good warrior without being a son. I have permission to say, “this is difficult for me” or “I do not feel comfortable with this: Help me, because I cannot proceed here without your help.” This often marks the difference between success and failure in the Kingdom, because the currency of the Kingdom is intimacy. If we forget we are sons and daughters, we can often find ourselves suffering needlessly instead of benefiting from the one who suffered on our behalf. God has called us into battle, but the secret of the Kingdom is that it is always His victory.

Pour out before the Lord your heart: Tell him all you are going through. Here is where you will not only find comfort but also find His power.


Photo by Benjamin Davies on Unsplash

Eternal Rewards

My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done.

— Revelation 22: 12

Most, I would hazard to say, are comfortable with the idea that we are rewarded for what we do. It seems to be a basic fact of life that we get out of life what we put into it. If I sit idly, I may starve. If I go out and get a job, I won’t. If I apply myself and work hard, chances are I will make a comfortable life for myself. Continue reading “Eternal Rewards”

Echoes in Eternity

Every Thursday, my son holds a meeting (now virtual) called Eclectic Christian Conversations (ECC for short) for people interested in discussing any aspect of the Christian faith. It is a great time to discuss the hard questions not typically addressed at church, such as, “How does evolution fit into our understanding of creation?” or “Is there such a thing as objective morality?”, or — like last week — “How do we come to terms with an extravagantly good God in the midst of a global pandemic?” Continue reading “Echoes in Eternity”

Hope

Years ago, I found myself in a tight spot. I was in the seventh year of a failing business. Making matters worse, it was a business I felt God had led me to begin. But I now found myself struggling to pay my bills. Which, full disclosure, is an understatement. Truth was, I was up to my eyeballs in debt, about to lose my home, and already beginning proceedings to file for bankruptcy. I was receiving calls daily from my creditors who, like prophets predicting my doom, said that unless I paid up, bad things were going to happen to me. If there was ever an indicator that my world was about to come to an end, it was right there, in plain sight. Continue reading “Hope”