Saturday, August 16, 2008

Grace-based or Truth-based Church?

Recently our church was accused as not being a “grace-based church.” I received the ‘criticism’ as kindly as I could and have spent much time reflecting on the statement. My grandfather once said, “If someone criticizes you, think and examine before you react.” I have tried to do so the past few weeks.
First, I want to thank that person for causing me to study and pray and seek out in God’s Word the concept of being “grace-based.” I have prayed and studied God’s Word concerning the topic and asked the Lord to ‘open my eyes’ to the truth and to be willing to follow the truth no matter what. God, as He always does, opened my eyes and taught me ‘wondrous things out of thy law.’ I will also take this time to recommend a book to read on the matter by Pastor Mike Allison ( entitled, Who is the Lord?
What is grace-based? Do a google search on “grace-based” and you will get the idea. There are grace-based churches, grace-based schools, books and teachings on grace-based parenting, etc. To what I have read and understood, those who seek to be ‘grace-based’ hold to the following: A “Biblical” belief of how to treat others, self, and our children (in parenting) based upon the “grace” of our Lord and His treatment of us.
Now, I am sure that those who believe such thoughts would have a better definition than that, but I also think that each one would agree that my synopsis is correct as well.
You will notice I placed “Biblical” and “grace” in parenthesis as I do not fully agree with their way of thought. I will give an example: If one is a thief, we should not judge them or condemn them, but love them and accept them as Jesus did the thief Zacchaeus. Thus, we have grace-based theology and practice. Jesus “didn’t judge Zacchaeus, He loved and accepted him and he was won by that love and lack of legalistic judgment and great showing of grace.” Sounds good doesn’t it? Of course to this crowd things like standards and practicing church discipline is ‘ludicrous.’ (as it was put to me last week by a separate critic). After much prayer, I make the following response:

John 1:14 says that Jesus Christ was “full of grace and truth,” and verse 17 reads “grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” To many people, the terms ‘grace and truth’ do not go together. We love the Truth and we love Grace, but we rarely use the two terms together; yet Scripture does repeatedly. 2 Peter 3:18 says that as a believer I am to “grow in grace, and in the knowledge (truth) of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ…” Grace and Truth. Colossians 1:5-6 teaches that grace comes from hearing the truth. We all know what grace is: getting what we do not deserve (example Heaven). We all know what truth is: Truth is the Lord Jesus (John 14:6) and Thy Word is Truth (John 17:17).
Facts are: You can have truth without grace, you cannot have grace without truth, and you can only have as much grace as you have truth. Let me expound…You can have truth without grace. If God wanted to, He could have not given grace to us and still been perfectly righteous, holy, and true. You can have truth without grace. You cannot have grace without truth. Truth exposes us for what we truly are. It was truth that told us we were lost. It was truth that told me I was a sinner and condemned me(Rom. 7:7). Why? Galatians 3:24 tells me, “Wherefore the law (truth) was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” When I was given truth (I am lost), then I could receive grace! Amen! That is how any of us got saved, by being shown we are sinners and lost (truth) but we could be saved by grace through faith! Then, I can say, you can only have as much grace as you have truth. As we grow in the truth, we grow in grace.
Now let me bring it home…when we are accused of not being a grace-based church, it is because of our standards, our practicing of Biblical church discipline, and/or our strong preaching against sin. Fact is, we must have those things; for the more truth we get through preaching and practicing of the Truth, the more grace we can experience and offer. We need strong New Testament preaching that “reproves, rebukes, and exhorts with all longsuffering.” There are people that covet and don’t think its bad. Matter of the fact, it is common today for people to covet their neighbor’s wife. Why is that common? We have departed from the truth. Now, when that person hears the truth, “Thou shalt not covet,” he realizes he is wrong and now can experience grace upon asking forgiveness.
People today want the grace without seeking the forgiveness. Read Luke 17:3-4 and you will find the command of God, “if he repent, forgive him.” We should forgive every time someone asks forgiveness. Why? Because God said to.
People say, “But you owe me grace!” NO, grace is something we DO NOT DESERVE! If we get it, Amen! If not, we deserve the judgment. Grace is not an entitlement we have.
I close with this. In 1 Cor. 5 a man was known to be participating in immorality with his step-mother. Paul brought the sin before the church. Paul counseled that they should remove the sin from the church to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh. In today’s world, the church at Corinth would have been a “grace-based church.” They knew the sin was commonly reported, but were accepting him and the sin. Paul said this is wrong. The man was confronted with the Truth…that he was in sin. Praise God, the man repented and by 2 Cor. 2 Paul told the church to forgive him and show grace! The man was forgiven and experienced grace after truth! Had Paul not shown the truth, the church would have remained carnal, the man would have continued in sin, and he or the church would have ever experienced grace.
Summary: You can’t have grace without truth, you can have truth without grace, and you can only have as much grace as you have truth. That is why to every preacher who holds standards, practices church discipline, and preaches that sin is sin…keep on keeping on! For when we quit presenting truth, we will cease to experience grace. We don’t need grace-based churches, we need truth-based churches, and the grace then will be there. By the way, Zacchaeus got saved because the Lord told him he was lost—the truth—then came grace (Luke 19:10).