Fall From Grace

Liberty in the LORD 2

Liberty in the Lord leads to a Life in the Spirit with His Fruit in the believer.

It doesn’t make sense to me. How could a local church which has impacted thousands (locally and overseas) with the preaching of the Bible have six members of their leadership found guilty of misleading members on the use of church funds? Personally, I reckon it has to do with the incomplete understanding of scriptures.

And I also tried to fathom how my own church which has impacted millions worldwide (one can read the testimonies of the thousands who have been transformed by the Gospel of Grace) could have members who are regular and comfortable in the pews and yet have accusations levelled at a few for inconsistencies (in true-life anecdotes and in the social media). Somebody I know was taken advantage (working conditions) by an employer from my church and who reportedly ‘rub shoulders’ with church leaders.  When someone marketed an investment to me, he lauded the standing and character of his principal boss as being from my church.  Soon, this boss / church member had to flee the country upon complaints to the authorities, leaving behind many who lost millions.  With his “credentials” I would have invested much (and consequently lose much) if not for my limited resources.

Both the above anecdotal incidents relate to money matters, or rather to Mammon. What is happening? Personally, I reckon it has to do with the incomplete teaching and understanding of scriptures. Or could the pulpit be unconsciously encouraging the pursuit of prosperity when highlighting the goodness and unmerited favour of God to bless us materially? Has the pulpit been too eager to champion God’s Grace, blessings and benefits compatible with secular conventional wisdom to make our message attractive? And in so doing, have we rationalised and justified the pursuit of prosperity? So we narrate anecdotes of believers getting a double promotion, a big pay increment! Preach this in Cambodia, and they will tell us how can it be when they do not even have a job! No, proof texting on prosperity appeals to conventional wisdom and the human desires found also in the temptations in the garden and the wilderness!

It is the new normal nowadays for the pulpit to teach scriptures topically or in a partial manner, instead of expositing scriptures in the form (complete chapters, books) it was delivered.  The preacher is subject to the text, not the other way around. Scripture is the authority, and its message must be presented honestly, apart from personal bias.  A topical approach tends towards license for our own opinions and personal inclinations. Expositional teaching will give a fuller, more balanced picture of the “whole counsel of God”.

Randal Runions said = 1) A steady diet of topical sermons does little to help Christians learn the content and contours of the Bible. 2) The preacher, rather than the book of the Bible, determines the preaching agenda, often leaving the congregation with an unbalanced diet. 3) Bible passages can easily be wrenched out of context to support the points of the sermon. 4) It reveals a lack of confidence that “all Scripture is…useful” and relevant (II Timothy 3:16).

 

The Gospel of Grace indeed has restored, refreshed and renewed thousands of believers who have been wounded by the mixed message of discipleship / obedience / commitment so pervasive in many churches. It has also enlightened weak brethren not soundly established in the Gospel of Grace. That is why I often share that churches should spend six months in a year teaching on the legacy of our salvation, on the doctrines of the Gospel of Grace; and to preach the Gospel to ourselves every day.

Indeed this awesome, amazing and dazzling teaching has shone a light and liberated many who are weak and wounded by years of wrong teaching in churches.

On the other hand, in espousing the Gospel of Grace as the “full counsel of God” (??) and proclaiming that fruit bearing is automatic is definitely misleading and damaging. Citing testimonies of lives changed and transformed by the Gospel of Grace as examples that indeed Grace does not lead to sin may not portray or reflect the experience of the ENTIRE community of Christ, or the Full Counsel of the Gospel of Grace!

I found this out when I returned to the book of Galatians.  The pulpit has taught that “falling from Grace” is a return to the legalistic bindings of the law; after having been freed from being a slave to the law and the disciplines of works (which are impossible to fulfill, and heavy and implacable burdens to bear).

But I have yet to receive teaching that falling from Grace also means a descent into libertinism. This is clearly and forcefully taught in the latter part of Galatians. Romans chapter 6 bears this out beautifully, collaborating with the need for sanctification. There is abundant grace for sin committed in weakness.  But for sin committed in willfulness, there is this reminder that we must be instruments for righteousness, abandoning all passions and desires. There must be sanctification by right living, following right believing, having been saved by Grace, to be strong in Grace and to stand in true Grace.

Proclaiming my position in Christ that “I have the Righteousness of Christ” is an affirmation of my salvation from sin.  And whenever I sin (verb) my confessions of sins reaffirm my position in Christ, and also reminds me not to have the liberty to make light of my sins. Proclaiming that “I have the Righteousness of Christ” does assuage the conscience and any sense of condemnation. But this incomplete teaching could also anaesthetize our conscience to the deceitfulness of sin, to rationalize and forgive / excuse ourselves.  No – our conscience can also be a “spiritual alarm system” illumined by the Holy Spirit Who alerts us to our sins and point us to repent and change, in our minds, and subsequently in our behavior, lest we deceive ourselves. No wonder many has warned us of the teachings of Hyper Grace.

Truly the Gospel of Grace proclaims that we have Liberty in the LORD. It is  

  • Not to live according to the law of works and self righteousness  AND
  • Not to live APART from the law of the Spirit which is lawlessness.

It behooves all, especially those entrusted with teaching of the Word to determine the full counsel of God in the flow of the scriptures and in the format it was written and delivered.  In the previous post, I referred to Frank Viola’s chapter on “The Bible is Not a Zigsaw Puzzle”.

We must avoid the approach to scriptures with scissors and glue, cutting  and pasting isolated, disjointed sentences  from  different  epistles,  lifting them  out  of their  real-life setting, lashing them together  to build floatable doctrines, and then calling it ― the Word  of God.

‘Proof texting’ using isolated proof texts can become a weapon in the hands of agenda-driven men. It is because the text have been lifted out of their historical context. Each letter (epistle) has been plucked from its chronological sequence and removed from its real-life setting. Put another way, text has been transformed into a series of isolated, disjointed, fragmented sentences—so anyone can lift one sentence from one letter, another sentence from another letter, and then paste them together to create a …. philosophy of his or her choice.

Proof texting on prosperity has been the bane in churches and often derided and disparaged by the world, and we have been held with ridicule and disdain. It has lured believers to the deceitfulness of wealth, and to the unrestrained behavior and extremes in many WOF groups. Rarely do I find regular consistent expository teaching in WOF churches.  Rather it is weekly doses of topical teachings.

Likewise, incomplete and inadequate exposition of the complete content and context of the Galatians have neglected and negated the dangers of libertinism and the license to indulge in the flesh.

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