Cheap Grace Theology Actually Deny Jesus

Mark 8: 34-38

Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”

On the night before Jesus was betrayed, Peter told Jesus so confidently that he would lay down his life for Jesus. But right after the arrest of Jesus, Peter denied Jesus 3 times. Luke 22:54-62.
1. The first time, he denied knowing Jesus.
2. The second time, he denied being one of His disciples.
3. The third time being cornered, he cursed, swear and dismissed summarily the allegations by saying, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about !”

1. In all these years that I have been warning about the extreme danger of the cheap grace theology, I tried to show the believers of this false theology that they actually deny knowing Jesus by denying His words such as His caution against the lure of wealth and living in dissipation in life, and that life does not consist in the abundance of possessions and we may even be persecuted and hated for His name sake. By denying or dismissing His words is akin to being ashamed of His words.
2. And that they also deny being the disciples of Jesus if they do not take His demands of discipleship of giving up the hold of family, self and possessions seriously to heart. Luke 14:25-35.
3. To complete the denials, if I press too hard about the above two denials in my argument, these believers will simply dismiss me off by saying, “You have got it wrong” without telling me where I have got it wrong.
If these professing believers want to make the best of this life on earth just like the unsaved, they will lose it. They may gain the whole world but they will forfeit their souls. The tenet of this whole false theology is effectively being ashamed of identifying with a Suffering Saviour and Lord, refusing to be content with just food and clothing, and ashamed of His words of caution against the lure of the world.

To the chagrin of some, my regular writing to contend for the faith against the cheap grace theology is done in the hope that I can win some brothers back by the grace of God. James 5:19-20. At the very least, I hope to do my little part in fighting off the spiritual deception through exposing the flaws in this false theology. In fact, I will be so uncharitable and it will weigh on my conscience if I am indifferent to the terrible destiny of those who are misled by this false theology.

The Real Ulterior Motive of False Teachers

2 Pet 2: 1-3 NLT

But there were also false prophets in Israel, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will cleverly teach destructive heresies and even deny the Master who bought them. In this way, they will bring sudden destruction on themselves. 2 Many will follow their evil teaching and shameful immorality. And because of these teachers, the way of truth will be slandered. 3 In their greed they will make up clever lies to get hold of your money. But God condemned them long ago, and their destruction will not be delayed.

If we believe in the inerrancy and the authority of the Bible, then we have to believe that the stated real motive of the false teachers in proliferating false teaching is all about personal greed. Note the words “clever lies” in the above verses. The false teaching will be cleverly devised to sound so appealing and authoritative with the ulterior motive of getting your money.

(In other passages in the Scripture,  such motive is referred to as Balaam’s error. Balaam, who for the sake of gain, would still consciously go against the will of God despite nearly being judged by the angel of the Lord and saved by his donkey. He was ultimately judged. Num 22-24; Num 31:8; 2 Pet 2:15; Jude 1:11; Rev 2:14.)

Just as the enemy masquerades as an angel of light, his servants – the false teachers – will also masquerade as servants of righteousness. 2 Cor 11:13-15. They will always speak politically correct words pandering to the itching ears of their followers. They will avoid the bluntness of the truth and speak only feel good messages. Why will they do the opposite of pronouncing hard truths and risk losing these income generators in their congregation ? John 6:60-66.

Tolerating False Teaching is Sin

Rev 2:1-21 NLT
“Write this letter to the angel of the church in Ephesus. This is the message from the one who holds the seven stars in his right hand, the one who walks among the seven gold lampstands:
2 “I know all the things you do. I have seen your hard work and your patient endurance. I know you don’t tolerate evil people. You have examined the claims of those who say they are apostles but are not. You have discovered they are liars. 3 You have patiently suffered for me without quitting. 4 “But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first! 5 Look how far you have fallen! Turn back to me and do the works you did at first. If you don’t repent, I will come and remove your lampstand from its place among the churches. 6 But this is in your favor: You hate the evil deeds of the Nicolaitans, just as I do…14 “But I have a few complaints against you. You tolerate some among you whose teaching is like that of Balaam, who showed Balak how to trip up the people of Israel. He taught them to sin by eating food offered to idols and by committing sexual sin. 15 In a similar way, you have some Nicolaitans among you who follow the same teaching. 16 Repent of your sin, or I will come to you suddenly and fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
20 “But I have this complaint against you. You are permitting that woman—that Jezebel who calls herself a prophet—to lead my servants astray. She teaches them to commit sexual sin and to eat food offered to idols. 21 I gave her time to repent, but she does not want to turn away from her immorality.

It is very clear from the above Scriptural passage that our Lord’s main rebuke was for tolerating false teaching of Balaam and the Nicolaitans, and the Jezebel’s spirit. It is sin for tolerating false teaching.

Exposing false teaching is serious business and urgent because it concerns eternal life and death of souls. James 5:19-20.  Let us be obedient in exposing false teaching instead of tolerating it for the sake of false peace and unity.

Dealing with Propagandists, Victims and Would-be Victims of False Teaching

Jude 1:3-4,12,16-19,22-23 NLT

3 Dear friends, I had been eagerly planning to write to you about the salvation we all share. But now I find that I must write about something else, urging you to defend the faith that God has entrusted once for all time to his holy people. 4 I say this because some ungodly people have wormed their way into your churches, saying that God’s marvelous grace allows us to live immoral lives. The condemnation of such people was recorded long ago, for they have denied our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ…12 When these people eat with you in your fellowship meals commemorating the Lord’s love, they are like dangerous reefs that can shipwreck you…16 These people are grumblers and complainers, living only to satisfy their desires. They brag loudly about themselves, and they flatter others to get what they want. 17 But you, my dear friends, must remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ predicted. 18 They told you that in the last times there would be scoffers whose purpose in life is to satisfy their ungodly desires. 19 These people are the ones who are creating divisions among you. They follow their natural instincts because they do not have God’s Spirit in them…22 And you must show mercy to those whose faith is wavering. 23 Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. Show mercy to still others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives.

The Scripture above makes a clear distinction on how we should deal with propagandists, victims and would-be victims of false teaching.

For the propagandists, we are warned that fellowship with them can shipwreck our faith. And the appropriate response is mentioned in 2 John 1:10-11, “10 If anyone comes to your meeting and does not teach the truth about Christ, don’t invite that person into your home or give any kind of encouragement. 11 Anyone who encourages such people becomes a partner in their evil work.”

For the victims, we should show compassionate interest in guiding them out of such false teaching into the biblical truth.

For the would-be victims about to be lured away, we must give strong resolute warning and instruction as described in the imagery of snatching them away from the flames of judgment. We must also show our great disapproval of their sins despite showing mercy. That call for spiritual wisdom to handle such situation as the firm way of warning and instruction and hating the sins simultaneously may come across as condemnation.

Law-less Grace

“The Law sends us to the Gospel, that we may be justified, and the Gospel sends us to the Law again to enquire what is our duty being justified.” – Puritan Samuel Bolton.

“Keeping God’s Law is not the BASIS on which we are put right with God – but it is the RESULT of it. Again, keeping God’s Law is not the MEANS of our salvation – but it is the ESSENCE of it.” – John Stott.

In His encounter with the Pharisee Nicodemus, Jesus our Lord said clearly that nobody can enter the Kingdom of God unless he or she is born of water and of the Spirit and he or she must be born again. This born again experience is best explained in Ezek 36: 25-27 :

I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.

We will be cleansed of our sin and we will be given a new heart and a new spirit. God will also put His Spirit in us to MOVE us to follow His decrees and be careful to keep His laws. That is the reality of sanctification as expounded by both the Puritan Samuel Bolton and John Stott. Ultimately keeping God’s Law is the essence and result of justification. The epistles of John also testify to the same teaching that whoever abides in Christ will also keep His commandments. 1 John 2:3-6.

We fully agree with the true biblical part of the hyper grace doctrine that we cannot earn our salvation through works or we are not put right with God by keeping the Law. But we completely disagree with the false erroneous part of the hyper grace doctrine that the Law is being dispensed with or abolished altogether. Our Lord made it very clear too that He came not to abolish the Law but to fulfill it.

Gal 6:15 says, For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.” and 1 Cor 7:19 says, “For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God. ” Clearly we see that a new creation in Christ is equated to keeping God’s commandments.  St Paul was not contradicting himself as he confirmed in other parts of Scripture that when one is born again and is justified, God will put His Spirit in him or her and move him or her to keep His laws.

If the Bible ever contradict itself between one part of Scripture with another, it cannot be the Word of God for God’s truth has to be consistent and immutable. We have just seen in a mere few verses in the epistles of Paul, John, James and parts of Ezekiel and the gospels – they are harmonious on this same truth that the essence and result of justification, and not the means, is keeping God’s laws.

If God’s Spirit is truly in us, He will MOVE us to keep His laws. If we are indifferent to keeping God’s laws, we must re-examine our faith again for we reveal our true heart condition that we want nothing of the kind of life of holiness in heaven which we will be perfect as Christ is perfect. Just to ensure their followers do not examine themselves, a broadside of this false teaching not to examine oneself is frequently fired.  That is the kind of spiritual warfare.  Terribly subtle deception.

Effort-less Grace

The epistles in the New Testament are full of exhortation to obey God’s commandments and to live a holy life. Search these three words “make every effort” and you will find at least 9 verses. Luke 13:24; Rom 14:19; Eph 4:3; Heb 4:11;Heb 12:14; 2 Pet 1:5; 2 Pet 1:10; 2 Pet 1:15; 2 Pet 3:14.

Heb 4: 11 Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.

Heb 12: 14 Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.

2 Pet 1:10 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble.

We were born again when God gave us a new heart and a new spirit and His Spirit to MOVE (convict) us to OBEY His laws. Ezek 36:26-27. And His Spirit is only given to those who OBEY Him.

( Acts 5:32. We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who OBEY Him. John 17:6. “I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have OBEYED your word…)

It is by grace that we are saved by faith alone in Christ Jesus, and not by works. But we are God ‘s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do. Eph 2:8-10. Though we will continue to sin after believing in Jesus, the desire to obey is evidence of this new heart and new spirit given by God. The struggle with sin is real as we all experience just like St Paul but we take heart that Christ Jesus has overcome the world and He will deliver us. Rom 7:14-25. On the contrary, a heart not intending to surrender and does not have the desire to obey from the onset is evidence of the ABSENCE of this new heart and new spirit !

So it is not difficult to understand why the hyper grace doctrine keep insisting that obedience is a WORK…because if it is a WORK, they can conveniently dismiss it as we are not saved by works. If it does not have this rhetoric of trivializing obedience, the net will not be cast wide enough to reach the unsaved who does not really want to surrender the throne of their lives to live a holy life but living covetously with wealth and every good thing without any prick of their conscience – so much so that the doctrine further deny the prompting work of the Holy Spirit in convicting the Christian of sin.

When the hyper grace believers exclaim, “it is done, it is done, it is done”, what they really want is that they can have the salvation in Christ without surrendering any part of their lives in active obedience. They rightly claim that their version of grace is effort- less.

The False Teachers today And the Super Apostles of St Paul’s time

Matt 7:21-23.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
Matt 24:24-25.
For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you ahead of time.

The false prophets today are performing great signs and wonders to deceive even the elect. And you know what ? They are doing all these great signs and wonders in the name of Jesus ! Yet on that day of our Lord, He will not know them at all.
These false prophets do not come wearing a badge telling everyone they are false prophets. They will come masquerading as apostles of light. 2 Cor 11:13. Since Satan will come masquerading as an angel of light, it is not surprising that his servants will come masquerading as servants of righteousness. 2 Cor 11:14-15.
They will be among us preaching a false doctrine that sounds so pleasing to our ears. They will perform miracles in the name of Jesus and whip a frenzy in drawing the multitudes.
The Corinthian Church was being infiltrated this way during St Paul’s time. 2 Cor 11. The church readily accepted these false prophets as Super Apostles. 2 Cor 11:4-5. They were so eloquent in their delivery of messages. 2 Cor 11:6.
Though Paul was in no way inferior to these super apostles in signs and wonders, he rather boast in his weakness. That would be a tough act to emulate for the false prophets today who were there for the money, fame and power. 2 Cor 11:22-29.

Let us take a second close look at the characteristics of these false prophets being heralded as apostles of light in St Paul’s time and compare with the false teachers today:
1. They performed signs and wonders in the name of Jesus.
2. They preached a different Jesus and a different gospel which was easily accepted.
3. They were so eloquent or so sleek in their delivery of messages.
4. They were paid well for their ministry work. (So much so that St Paul felt short-changed as he was considered inferior for not being paid at all for his ministry work. 2 Cor 11:7).
5. They could not and would not boast in weakness like St Paul otherwise they would over-turn all their own messages of power and look silly.

I am not saying that God does not allow signs and wonders anymore today. He is sovereign and I believe He still does. But to chase after signs and wonders is another matter altogether and that will make us vulnerable to deception. It will be better to chase after His Word which is more sure. St Peter had the blessing of witnessing the transfiguration of our Lord Jesus and many other miracles,  yet he proclaimed the Word of God to be MORE SURE or MORE RELIABLE. And it will do us well to pay attention to the Word of God. 2 Pet 1: 16-21.

Postscript:
IVP New Testament Commentary Series…..”…it is a reasonable conjecture that Paul’s rivals were Palestinian Jews who, claiming the backing of the Jerusalem church, came to Corinth carrying letters of reference and sporting an impressive array of credentials (such as visions, ecstatic experiences and revelations). They sought to sway their audience through polished delivery and powerful oratory. They combined this with an outward show of the Spirit, appealing to the prominent role of the miraculous in Jesus’ ministry. The intruders’ focus on the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit, compelling rhetoric and Jesus the wonder worker may well be what Paul cryptically refers to as “another Jesus/Spirit/gospel.” If so, their approach is not much different from what we call “power evangelism” today.”

The Unpardonable Sin

Matt 12:31-32

31 And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.

The unpardonable sin is identified here as blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.   Jesus our Lord had performed a miracle and yet the Pharisees attributed the work of the Holy Spirit to be the work of the devil.

Our Lord rebuked 5 out 7 churches in Rev 2 and 3 for their sin and ended with this exhortation, “Whoever has ears,  let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”    And culminated in Rev 3:19 which is very clear that Jesus or His Spirit will reprove and convict the Christians of sin and call for us to be zealous and repent.

(Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.  Rev 3:19.)

It is bad enough to deny this work of the Spirit of Jesus to convict a Christian of sin but to attribute it to the work of the devil will be utter blasphemy similar to the above incident told in the Scripture to specifically warn us.

The false cheap grace teachers have preached that the definite and marvelous work of the Spirit in convicting us of sin is actually the work of the devil in robbing us of joy by making us sin conscious.

They are even audacious enough to say that all the theologians and pastors in the past had got it so wrong about the conviction of sin by the Spirit of Jesus and the need to confess our sins.

They have confused guilt with contrition.  Or the confusion of their followers may be deliberate.  Guilt is bondage but contrition is true worship.  Ps 51:17; Is 66:2.

Discerning False Prophets

1 John 4: 1-6.
Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.4 You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 5 They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.

Two tests are mentioned here :
1. Every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus has come in the flesh is not from God which is the spirit of the antichrist.
2. The false prophets are from the world and speak from the viewpoint of the world and the world listens to them.

The first test is the test of the Christology or doctrine of Jesus Christ held by these prophets or teachers.
The second test is to test whatever these prophets or teachers say belongs to the prince of the world or the Son of God.

The second test is so crucial because the enemy’s agents will come masquerading as angels of light. They may have the rhetoric of praising Jesus or speaking correctly about the grace of our Lord, but their hearts may be far away from our Lord.

The prince of the world has and will continue to tempt mankind with the same three temptation – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. He had done so with Eve (Gen 3:6) tempting her that the fruit was good for food, pleasing to the eye and desirable for gaining wisdom. He had done so with Jesus our Lord too (Luke 4:1-13).
Any true prophet or teacher will not twist the teachings of our Lord Jesus and His Word (through the Prophets and the Apostles) to mean the opposite if they truly love Him. If any prophet or teacher promote the same three temptation, you can be sure that they are of the world and not of God.

Let’s look at some of these famous rhetorical key phrases by the false prophets or teachers and compare them with our Lord’s.

False prophet : Abundant life is an abundance of every good thing in life.
Jesus our Lord : Life does not consist in the abundance of things. (Luke 12:15).

False prophet : God wants to prosper Christians and we are called to enjoy wealth, to enjoy health and to enjoy a life of victory.
Jesus our Lord : The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced. (Matt 13:22-23)… Be on guard, so that your hearts will not be weighted down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of life, and that Day will not come on you suddenly like a trap. (Luke 21:34-35).

False prophet : Only good things happen to those who believe God loves them.
Peter the Apostle : Don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. 13 Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world. If you are insulted because you bear the name of Christ, you will be blessed, for the glorious Spirit of God rests upon you. (1 Pet 4:12-13).

Whoever is of the world does not listen to the Word of God; and this is how we recognize the spirit of truth from the spirit of falsehood.  1 John 4:6.