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Mishandling Grace

By Burl Curtis

religion, articles, christianity

Paul told Timothy to be "a workman who doe not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth" (2 Tim. 2:15).

You may hear some who leave the impression the salvation is by grace only and that one does not have to be a "workman" at all.

Such statements as, "Salvation is 100 percent by grace," may be heard and not once do you hear "Please do not misunderstand me. I am not saying salvation is by grace only. God's grace must be accepted by faith, repentance, confession and baptism and after these there are commands to keep and work to do." Such clear statements you do not hear.

"Salvation is 100 percent by grace" means to the common man (and I am one of them) nothing else is required. This sack contains "100 percent wheat" means, try as hard as you may, no cocklebur can be found, not even a grain of corn.

This house was raised "100 percent by jacks" means no booms nor levers were used.

I paid my bill "100 percent by check" means completely paid by check only.

To avoid mishandling grace one must, as the Holy Spirit did, connect grace and truth. "The Word [Jesus] became flesh ... full of grace and truth" (John 1:14) For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Christ Jesus" (John 1:17). Paul connects grace and truth in his letter to the Colossians. In chapter one, verses 5 and 6, he writes, "You have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel that has come to you ... and understood God's grace in all its truth."

Since grace must be connected to truth, it must also be connected to the Word of God. Jesus prayed, "Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth" (John 17:17). Paul handled grace this way when he told the Ephesians elders he had received a ministry "to testify the gospel of the grace of God" and commended them "to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified" (Acts 20:24, 32). Grace is mishandled when somehow it is made to appear disconnected from God's Word.

Grace is mishandled when it is made to appear disconnected from the right kind of law, commands, regulations, restrictions, deeds, and works. You may have heard, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith ... not by works" (Eph. 2:8-9). The impression was left that works (deeds), of any kind, had nothing to do with your eternal salvation.

If this is true, then the words of Jesus to the seven churches of Asia become very strange and confusing. Over and over he said, "I know your deeds (works)." Why was he so concerned about works if salvation is not by works of any kind? Why did Jesus say, "If you love me, you will obey what I command," and "If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love," if there are no commands to keep in order to be saved?

While it is true that no amount of rule keeping, without accepting Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, can save, it is also true that salvation in Christ requires obeying his commands (John 14:15; 15:10).

Mishandling grace may make one feel good, but it encourages sin, neglect, laziness, irreverence, and selfishness. When a person is convinced that "grace is all that is needed," why should he work hard and sacrifice? Did not Paul understand grace and works better than those living today? "But by the grace of God I am what I am.... I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me" (1 Cor. 15:10). Why did Paul mention working in connection with grace? This certainly does not fit the pattern of those who mishandle grace. Please listen carefully to your preacher or teacher and see if this verse is ever used. And if it is not, please ask why? Those who mishandle grace would have Jesus say to the church at Laodicea, "My grace is sufficient for thee," instead of "I know thy works; ... be zealous therefore, and repent" (Rev. 3:15,19).

God does not want nor need churches that emphasize grace and neglect truth, proper law, commands, and works. Nor does he need those who emphasize work and neglect grace.

Published September 1996