Cheap Grace – Greasy Grace – Hyper Grace

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the great German pastor, theologian, martyr, spy was asked in 1943 how it was possible for the Church to sit back and let Hitler seize absolute power. His firm answer: “It was the teaching of cheap grace.” 

“Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

We live in a time and culture that not only teaches cheap grace, but praises it. 

Cheap Grace or Greasy Grace

The phrase “cheap grace” is often associated with German theologian and minister Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book The Cost of Discipleship. In his book, published in 1937, he said that cheap grace was “the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline. Communion without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ.”

As defined by Bonhoeffer, cheap grace is an approach to Christianity that only emphasizes the good or easy parts without telling the truth regarding the difficult aspects of it. To leave out the more difficult aspects of repentance, church discipline, confession, discipleship, the cross, or the full story of Christ’s life offers an incomplete, “cheap” view of God’s grace.

In contrast, grace is not cheap but is a priceless gift. God sent His one and only Son to die as a sacrifice for our sins. Jesus endured the pain and the shame of the cross to offer us salvation by grace through faith in Him (Philippians 2:5-8; Hebrews 12:1-2; Ephesians 2:8-9).

Further, though salvation is a free gift of grace, the Christian life includes times and aspects of costly sacrifice. Paul, James, Jude, and Peter referred to themselves in their letters as a “servant” or “slave” of Christ Jesus. Jesus even referred to those who lived for Him as people who would take up their cross daily and follow Him (Luke 9:23).

Much debate often arises between those who emphasize salvation by grace as a free gift and those who emphasize the actions of a changed life that should result from a person who has been changed by Christ. For example, in the past century a debate arose between two views representing these ideas known as Free Grace and Lordship Salvation.

Both views believe salvation is available only by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. However, each position differs in other aspects. The Free Grace position emphasizes all that is necessary for salvation is to receive Jesus as Savior (John 1:12; John 3:16; Romans 10:9). The Lordship Salvation view argues that a person must receive Jesus as Savior and Lord to truly be saved and that genuine life change must be exhibited as a result (Luke 14:25-33; Romans 5:20-21; Ephesians 4:17-24; James 2:14-26).

A driving motivation in this debate has been the growth of what some have called “carnal Christians.” These are people who consider themselves Christians yet show little or no difference in their lives than non-Christians. A Free Grace position would argue that many of these people are true believers who are living in sin while a Lordship Salvation view would argue these carnal Christians have never been saved at all.

In summary, the idea of “cheap grace” is one that was developed by Bonhoeffer and has had great influence within Christian thought over the past century. While the grace of God is a free gift available to all who will receive it, a disciple of Jesus Christ will also be willing to grow and endure hardship for the sake of the Gospel. Salvation is about transformation (2 Corinthians 5:17) and new life in Christ (John 10:10), not about a ticket to heaven. Our freedom came at great cost to Jesus (1st Corinthians 6:20; 7:23; 2nd Corinthians 5:21). Grace is free, but it is not cheap. Source

Hyper Grace

Hyper-grace teaches an outsized theology of God’s grace that overshadows our need for confession of sin and repentance. Teachers of hyper-grace fail to note God’s other attributes of holiness and His call for followers to be righteous. They teach that there is no need to deal with our sin since God has forgiven all our past, present, and future sin.

However, this view is not biblical. Believers are saved, through grace, from eternal separation from God. It is true that all our sin—past, present, and future—has been completely forgiven. We are eternally secure in Jesus Christ (John 10:28–29). And yet, God still calls us away from sin. Romans 6 explains this well. We are no longer slaves to sin, but slaves to righteousness. Why would we, being freed from sin, want to continue on in sin? God’s grace is meant to free us, not to enable us to indulge in sin. Sin brings only death (Romans 6:23; James 1:13–18). Living God’s way brings about life (John 15:1–11).

When Jesus spoke with John about the seven churches in the book of Revelation, He called five of the seven churches to repentance (Revelation 2:5, 14–16, 20; 3:3, 15–16). He said to the church in Ephesus, “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lamp-stand from its place, unless you repent” (Revelation 2:5). Second Corinthians 5:10 says, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” The way we live our lives matters to God.

Those who are followers of Jesus are called to confess their sins. James 5:16 says, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working” (James 5:16). John gives clear instruction to believers to confess their sins in order to experience forgiveness and cleansing (1 John 1:9). Paul counseled the Galatians, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted” (Galatians 6:1). It is evident that believers sin, and evident that they need to deal with it when they do. God’s standards do not disappear simply because we are forgiven of the eternal consequences of sin.

Teachers of hyper-grace sometimes counter and say that 1 John was written to unbelievers, but John clearly addresses this letter (book) to some believers he knew. They were his “little children.” He wrote, “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1st John 2:1).

Teachers of hyper-grace say the Holy Spirit does not convict Christians of sin, but Christians know this to be false as they are convicted of sin by the Holy Spirit regularly in His effort to purge unrighteousness from our lives. The Holy Spirit is a Spirit of Truth (John 15:26), not avoidance of truth (1st Corinthians 6:19).

Confession by believers isn’t to avoid eternal punishment, as that has been decided by a decision to accept and follow Jesus as the Son of God and the propitiation for our sins (John 3:16–18). Confession by believers is to reestablish a close or closer relationship with God (1st John 1:9). Some teachers put it this way: Believers are positionally righteous before God, but practically sinful.

God’s ways are not intended to restrict, nor are believers trying to earn God’s love or forgiveness through obedience. Rather, obedience is a result of love (John 15:1–11). It is because we have been saved that we are enabled to live righteously (Romans 8:29–30; Philippians 2:12–13).

While teaching God’s great mercy and grace for His followers is good and needed, we need to study and understand God’s holiness and justice as well. We need to know the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). We are instructed to “pursue righteousness” (1st Timothy 6:11; 2nd Timothy 2:22; 3:16). In other words, we have not arrived and must grow spiritually, which includes confession of sin. How can we experience the spiritual discipline that Hebrews 12:11 talks about that leads to a “fruit of righteousness” if that is not in response to our understood errors and immaturities?

Hyper-grace rubs up against the teaching that there is no need for a moral law due to Jesus’ sacrificial death and fulfillment of the Old Testament Law. This is called antinomianism and is directly refuted by Paul in Romans 6:1–2: “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?”

This is a delicate and somewhat mysterious balance: God’s provision for us to be saved completely by grace alone, apart from works of any kind (Ephesians 2:8–9; 1 Timothy 1:14), and His expectation for our continued refinement and growth in righteousness (Ephesians 2:10; Romans 14:17; 2nd Corinthians 9:10).

When we are saved, we are not only forgiven of our sins, we are transformed (2nd Corinthians 5:17). The Holy Spirit works in us to begin to desire the things of God. Understanding who God is—His utter holiness and His abundant grace—we want to put to death the sin that is in us. We do not want to be like those “who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (Jude 1:4). Rather, we want to live a new life in the Lord, putting off the “old self” and putting on the “new self,” as Paul explains in Ephesians 4:17–32.

John describes Jesus as being full of both “grace and truth” (John 1:14) leading the reader to understand that both are present – the need for truth coupled with grace. God’s grace is, without question, more abundant than we can fathom. Salvation is a gift of grace. God justifies us and ushers us into a process of sanctification through which we become more like Him. Part of God’s grace is life transformation and learning to live in righteousness. So we do our best to honor Him and live His ways. Ultimately, we trust that it is He “who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen” (Jude 1:24–25). Source

Grace Revolution Or Sin Revolution

Hebrews 6:4-6 “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened (refers to those who have accepted the Light of the gospel, which means accepting Christ and His great sacrifice), and have tasted of the heavenly gift (pertains to Christ and what He did at the Cross), and were made partakers of the Holy Spirit (which takes place when a person comes to Christ), 5 And have tasted the good Word of God (is not language that is used of an impenitent sinner, as some claim; the unsaved have no relish whatsoever for the truth of God, and see no beauty in it), and the powers of the world to come (refers to the work of the Holy Spirit within hearts and lives, which the unsaved cannot have or know), 6 If they shall fall away (should have been translated, ‘and having fallen away’), to renew them again unto repentance (‘again’ states they had once repented, but have now turned their backs on Christ); seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh (means they no longer believe what Christ did at the Cross, actually concluding Him to be an imposter; the only way any person can truly repent is to place his faith in Christ and the Cross; if that is denied, there is no repentance), and put Him to an open shame (means to hold Christ up to public ridicule; Paul wrote this epistle because some Christian Jews were going back into Judaism, or seriously contemplating doing so).”

Every Christian can testify about how they came to receive the Lord Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour. They remember feeling the powerful conviction of the Holy Spirit. They remember repenting and asking the Lord to forgive them and how, afterward, feeling the relief and joy of restored fellowship with Him.

Most Christians realize that this is the same way the Lord deals with Christians when they sin: the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin and, out of a repentant heart, we confess that sin to the Lord, receive His forgiveness, and resume our fellowship and walk with the Lord.

A FALSE TEACHING

Unfortunately, there is a teaching that is becoming quite dominant in this country and elsewhere. It’s referred to as the Grace Revolution, but in reality, it is an evolution away from the true grace of God.

In essence, this hyper-grace doctrine claims that the Cross of Christ addressed all sin, past, present, and future, which is exactly correct. Most definitely, the Cross did do this. But then it states that when a Christian sins, due to the fact that all future sins have been atoned as well, the believer does not have to confess his sin, or ask forgiveness, or even mention it at all. In other words, just go on as if though nothing has ever happened. Plain and simple this is error. And as all error does, sooner or later it will cause the believer terrible problems. In fact, some will even lose their souls.

The foundation of this false doctrine claims that 1st John 1:9 is speaking to sinners only and not saints, and that Christians do not – and should not – confess their sins to the Lord.

KNOWN SIN UNCONFESSED IS SIN UNFORGIVEN

In the Expositor’s Study Bible, 1st John 1:9 says:

If we confess our sins (pertains to acts of sin, whatever they might be; the sinner is to believe [Jn. 3:16]; the saint is to confess), He (the Lord) is faithful and just to forgive us our sins (God will always be true to His own nature and promises, keeping faith with Himself and with man), and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (‘All,’ not some. All sin was remitted, paid for, and put away on the basis of the satisfaction offered for the demands of God’s holy law, which sinners broke, when the Lord Jesus died on the Cross.)

As my husband put so well in these expository notes, “the sinner is to believe; the saint is to confess.” So my question is this: are there really born-again believers who think that they no longer have to confess their sins to the Lord?

OPPOSED TO THE FALSE DOCTRINE, NOT THE PEOPLE TEACHING IT

Rather than name the false teachers of this hyper-grace doctrine and list their gross error regarding unconfessed sin, I want to quote instead from the commentary my husband wrote concerning 1st John 1:9 as I think it will be a great benefit to you.

He writes:

“The phrase, ‘If we confess our sins,’ pertains to acts of sin, whatever they might be. No Christian has to sin; however, the sad truth is, every single Christian does, at times, sin.

‘Confess’ in the Greek is homologeo, and means ‘to say the same thing as another,’ or, ‘to agree with another.’ Confession of sin on the part of the saint means, therefore, to say the same thing that God does about that sin, to agree with God as to all the implication of that sin as it relates to the Christian who commits it and to a Holy God against whom it is committed (Wuest).

All of this includes the saint’s hatred of that sin, his sense of guilt because of it, his contrition because of it, the determination to put it out of his life, which can be done only by understanding that all victory is in the Cross, and that our faith must ever be in that finished work. In fact, the very reason that we sin is because we get our eyes off of the Cross (Luke 9:23-24) and onto other things.

The English word confess means ‘to admit the truth of an accusation, to own up to the fact that one is guilty of having committed the sin.’ But the Greek word means far more than that, as we have addressed above. The Greek word teaches that the constant attitude of the saint towards sin should be one of a contrite heart, ever eager to have the Holy Spirit to point out all wrong, and to put it out of the life by the power of that same Holy Spirit.

To whom are we to confess our sins?

We are to confess them to the One who is going to forgive us, namely the Lord. Also, if we have harmed someone else, we should confess our wrong to that person as well.

In fact, the very moment that we do something wrong, the Holy Spirit without fail, will convict us (John 16:8). At that moment we should confess our sin to the Lord, whatever it might be, and wherever we might be. This is a matter of the heart, so it does not need ceremony of any kind.

But what if the Christian does not confess his sin? Failing to confess his sin to God means that the Lord at the same time, cannot forgive such a sin, which leaves the believer in a precarious situation. Forgiveness by God, in the context of which the Holy Spirit here speaks, is not automatic. It requires confession of our sin to Him and for many and varied reasons.

The believer is to never take sin lightly. In fact, there is really nothing anyone can do to make amends for sin. All we can do is to acknowledge our guilt and turn to God for forgiveness. As well, there is really nothing we can do to make up for the hurt we cause others, other than mutually extending and accepting forgiveness. However, if we have harmed someone else in any way, and refuse to confess our wrongdoing to that person, John plainly says that such a person ‘walks in darkness’ (1st John 2:11). Jesus said, ‘Therefore your sin remaineth’ (John 9:41).

Any Christian who sins, and refuses to confess that sin to the Lord, or sins against a brother or sister and refuses to confess the wrongdoing to the individual, asking forgiveness, is in serious spiritual trouble indeed! If that person continues on in such a state, it is impossible but that spiritual deterioration must be the case. As it regards the salvation of such a person, I’ll have to leave that to the Lord; however, it should be well understood that we are speaking here of very serious things.”

I think this commentary makes it perfectly clear that 1st John 1:9 is speaking about believers and not sinners, as this hyper-grace teaching claims. Another claim of this false doctrine – and perhaps even most dangerous to the believer – is this: that the Holy Spirit does not convict believers when they sin.

As my husband pointed out on his program, The Message of the Cross, if sin is present in a Christian’s heart, the Holy Spirit will absolutely convict that believer:

“Whenever you do something wrong, and it’s obvious that it’s wrong, you feel it in your spirit. You sense it. The Holy Spirit is grieved. The Holy Spirit convicts you of that thing you did wrong.

A child of God is not saved in sin, he’s saved from sin. And while sin may be something that happens once in a while, it is not a constant occurrence in the heart and life of the believer. If there is something wrong, the Holy Spirit convicts you, where you are.

When Simon Peter denied the Lord, and Jesus came by and looked at him; Peter went out and wept bitterly – that was the Holy Spirit convicting Peter of what he had done.”

My husband and I feel so strongly about the dangers surrounding this false doctrine, that we’ve been using every opportunity to warn Christians who may have gotten tangled up in this wrong teaching. That’s why we’ve been discussing it on our SBN programs, The Message of the Cross and Frances & Friends. My husband also addressed this error of unconfessed sin in his newest book, Elijah, which will be available to you very soon. I don’t think he would mind me giving you a short preview of his book in following excerpt since it fits so well here:

REPENTANCE

Repentance is admitting the wrong, condemning oneself and totally justifying God. It is completely turning around from the erroneous direction that one has been traveling.

Repentance is seldom engaged by the church, simply because it is an ugly business. One has to admit wrongdoing. It seems that only the most destitute can do so.

Actually, at this particular time repentance is such a rarity in the modern church that the church really does not even know what to do with one who repents. Due to a plethora of man-made rules, repentance toward God is not even recognized, only repentance toward man. God will not accept repentance toward man simply because it is God who has been offended by our sin. There is not a single Christian denomination in America and Canada, at least of which I am aware, that will accept repentance toward God. Every single one, again, of which I am aware, completely ignores the Word of God, makes up its own rules, which by and large deny repentance. Repentance is always toward God and never toward man. While it certainly may be true that repentance toward God may include the asking of forgiveness of man, still, all sin is in its conception directed toward God.

TRUTH AND ERROR

One of Satan’s chiefest ploys is to mix some truth in with error. The truth serves as bait, with the believer then thinking that all that is said must be correct. So the fact that error contains some truth doesn’t make it acceptable at all. So the believer has to listen very carefully to what he is hearing. And to be sure, the idea that a Christian doesn’t need to confess his sin to the Lord whenever sin is committed, is facetious indeed!

ALL SIN IS AGAINST GOD

The believer must understand the truth of our heading, in that all sin is ultimately against God. Considering that when we sin we have offended Him, means that we have to ask forgiveness for that sin.

WHAT HAPPENS TO A CHRISTIAN WHO BELIEVES THIS LIE?

What you’re asking concerns the believer who believes this error, never asks forgiveness for anything that he’s done that’s wrong, and what will be the results?

God is patient, loving and kind. He doesn’t throw us over when we make a mistake, or when we do something foolish. He seeks to bring us back to the fold. However, when one fails the Lord in any capacity, even in the act of refusing to confess our sin to Him, relationship is somewhat hindered. It cannot be otherwise. God is the judge, however, if the believer continues on that erroneous path, there will come a time that the wrong direction will reap it’s results, and it won’t be pretty.”

Ladies and gentlemen, this false doctrine is by no means a revolution of grace but, more accurately, a revolution sin. My husband and I believe that this is one of Satan’s biggest efforts to hinder the Message of the Cross — the true message of grace. The response we are receiving on this subject from our SBN audience indicate that many Christians are migrating toward this false doctrine. As a Christian, if you find yourself struggling with this deception, I would encourage you to go to the Lord in prayer and sincerely ask Him to help you discern what is right and what is wrong. Ask Him for His leading, His help, and His guidance because the most important thing in the world is to be right with Him. I believe the Lord will answer that prayer and lead you to correct doctrine, the correct teaching, and the correct way.

James 5:19-20 “19 Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth (James is speaking here of believers, and of them straying from the truth of the Cross), and one convert him (refers to strengthening the individual, turning him back to the right way of truth, which is back to Christ and the Cross); 20 Let him know, that he which converts the sinner from the error of his way (bluntly proclaims any way other than the Cross as the ‘way of sin,’ which then makes the one traveling such a way ‘a sinner’) shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins. (This refers to the fact that if the believer leaves the Cross, thereby transferring his faith to something else, and such an erring way is continued, it will result in the loss of the soul. To pull one back to the Cross saves that soul, which the Cross alone can do!)”  Source: Frances Swaggart


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