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