Monday, February 16, 2009

Justified By Grace or Justifying Your Grace?

Many Christians criticize New Creation Church for preaching the message of grace which proclaims that all of our sins - past, present and future - have been forgiven, and our salvation is eternal, we can never lose it. They even have a brand name for this message - "Cheap Grace".

In my earlier post "Can Grace Be Cheap", I have explained that there is no such thing as "Cheap Grace", there is only "Free Grace". Those who subscribe to this concept of "Cheap Grace" say that it is "the justification of the sinner without the fruit and works that should accompany the new birth" (quoting from Rev Kong Hee's Resisting Cheap Grace article).

Are we justified by grace or works? Let's look at Romans 3:21-26.

21 But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, 26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

We are justified when we have faith in Jesus (v26), that's it. We are justified FREELY by God's grace (v24) - we don't deserve it, and there is NOTHING we can do to deserve it or pay for it.

Rev Kong Hee, in his article, quotes from Bonhoeffer : "Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate."

I totally don't understand how grace can be without the cross, without Jesus Christ because Romans 3:26 clearly says we are justified through faith in Jesus.

"Cheap grace is grace without discipleship" - does that mean that grace with discipleship is expensive? Are we justified by grace or "grace with discipleship"?

Consider the thief hanging on the cross beside Jesus. Jesus said to him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise." Did the thief receive grace or "Cheap Grace"?

Does anyone have the "fruit and works that should accompany the new birth" at the point when they first received Christ? Of course not! Babies need time to grow - have you ever seen a newborn baby wave at you and say hi? What does the baby do? The baby just feeds and sleeps and in time grows up and will be able to talk and walk and run.

After you are justified by grace through faith in Christ, even if you never ever show "the fruit and works that should accompany the new birth", are you still justified? or have you lost your justification?

If you say you have lost your justification, then I say you, who were justified by grace, are trying to justify your grace! You who were so undeserving of God's grace, having received God's grace, are now trying to show that you deserve it! How can we ever be deserving of God's grace, for "while we were still sinners, Christ died for us"! (Romans 5:8)

Shouldn't we bear fruit after we are justified by grace? Yes we should, and we do but fruit takes time to grow, and we should be patient when we don't see the fruit yet. I checked out some gardening tips from a website and it says "Generally, plants grown from seed can take the longest time to produce fruit; plants purchased in five-gallon containers will take less. Pineapple guava, for example, can take 10 years from seed to produce its first fruit."

However, whether we bear fruit or not is not a condition for our justification. Let me give an analogy:

You received a macbook as a birthday present. Whether you use the macbook to do research for a school project or use it to search for porn, the macbook is yours and remains yours. Whatever you do with the macbook does not make you deserve it. You received the macbook as a gift and you received it simply because you were born!

Am I encouraging you to surf for porn? NO! I am saying that you don't have to use the macbook for the greatest good to prove that you deserve it. It is a gift.

God's grace is a gift and if you have to prove that you deserve it, then it is no longer a gift but a bribe or reward or wages as it says in Romans 4:3-6:

For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” 4 Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt.5 But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, 6 just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works:

Consider the parable of the workers in the vineyard - Matthew 20:1-16. Philip Yancey in his book "What's So Amazing About Grace?" says "Significantly, many Christians who study this parable identify with the employees who put in a full day's work, rather than the add-ons at the end of the day. We like to think of ourselves as responsible workers, and the employer's strange behaviour baffles us as it did the original hearers. We risk missing the story's point: that God dispenses gifts, not wages. None of us gets paid according to merit, for none of us comes close to satisfying God's requirements for a perfect life. If paid on the basis of fairness, we would all end up in hell."

Do you want God's gift or wages? Not sure? Consider Romans 6:23 - "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."


Jeffrey said...

Hi Bro,

You nailed it again.All I can say is this."Go write a book!"

Jimmy said...

Hello, Great post and blog. I thought the article my Steve Mcvey is relevant to your post also. God Bless.


Stanley Wong said...

Hi Jimmy,

Thanks for referring me to that great article :-)

I fully agree with Steve's statement: "The real threat to the church isn’t that we will go too far with grace, but that we won’t go far enough."

Jeffrey said...

The Law has it's rightful place but it's not for the righteous in Christ. 1 Tim 1:9

To say that we need the Law is to say that we are sinners.To say that we still live by the sinful nature.To say that Christ doesn't live in us.To say that we are not of the faith.To say that we are still having an affair with Mr.Law and that we are not married to Another (Christ) Gal 2:20,Rom 7:1-6

Angie said...


With the many previous exchanges I had with my uncle, i think NCC is often misunderstood as not having to repent since we're justified by His grace not knowing that we do repent out of heart of gratitude/understanding of His finished work; focusing more on what He has done than where we have failed in.

But having said that, I think many of us still at times struggle with our failures. That's why the need to listen to grace-based, Jesus-centered preachings all the time!

Nothing is more liberating than to hear Jesus has done it all for us! It is His Finished Work and not abt our continuing efforts to finish the work. ;)

"And God is able to make ALL GRACE abound to you, so that in ALL THINGS at ALL TIMES, having ALL that you need, YOU WILL abound in every good work" 2 Cor 9:8 NIV

Charistan said...

If we were truly born again, the fruit of the new birth should automatically appear and should be our desire. If we lost our justification, we weren't justified in the first place.

Angie said...

Hi Charistan

Would you like to share what justification means to you and how one looses his/her justification? :)