What the Hyper-Grace Movement Gets Wrong

The grace of God really is a “hyper” type of thing. It is overwhelmingly amazing, it washes away all sin from a person’s life and heart, it is given freely at no cost to the sinner (but at high cost to Christ), and it alone can change a person’s heart.

Jeremy White, a self-identified hyper-grace preacher, answered several of the objections often raised against the so-called hyper-grace gospel in his article Why I am Hyper-Grace (written in 2014). He did a good job clarifying and explaining exactly what proponents in this stream of doctrine are teaching and believing. I appreciate his honesty and candor, and I consider him a brother in Christ.

Grace and Law Are Friends

For someone like me, there is great difficulty in critiquing the hyper-grace movement because I love and need the grace of God so much. Plus, Scripture is abundantly clear that God’s grace alone can save and sanctify the human soul. The last thing I ever want to do is minimize God’s grace, which is my only hope for eternal life.

But I must offer one very careful critique which I think could correct hyper-grace thinking and save it from becoming an abuse-of-grace movement. It is simply this: God’s law and God’s grace are not at odds with one another. They are friends and should not be pitted against each other unnecessarily. For example, Jeremy wrote:

“And this is why we are so adamant about never mixing a law-based mentality with a grace-based mentality toward spiritual life or growth under God’s New Covenant. The New Testament repeatedly affirms that our salvation and sanctification are either completely by law or completely by grace, but cannot be a result of mixing the two.”

Oh, this is so nuanced and subtle! It is so important to think carefully here. There is a difference between what fuels the achievement of salvation (both justification and sanctification) and the actual goal of salvation. Grace fuels salvation (as White says), but the goal is holiness. And what is holiness? Very simply, to be holy is to keep God’s law.

Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

We are saved by grace, but salvation itself is the achievement of holiness in a person’s life. We are to walk in good works (which means to keep the law). To say that the law plays no role at all in the process of salvation or sanctification is to dismiss what the whole plan is about. The New Heavens and New Earth will be populated by people who keep God’s law so perfectly that it could be said that the law is written on their hearts (Jeremiah 31:33; Hebrews 10:16).

Grace Leads to Obedience

If I’m pulled over for going 90 mph on the interstate, but the officer shows me grace and sets me free, I will rejoice and celebrate! Grace is wonderful! But that doesn’t mean the law no longer has any role in my life. I wasn’t saved by keeping the law (since I broke it), but I was saved by grace — saved from paying a high fine. However, I don’t immediately assume that the grace given to me by the officer frees me from any further consideration of the law. I’m saved and free, but the law is still the law. In other words, being saved by grace does not suddenly give me permission to go 90.

This is precisely why the apostle John could write these words without contradicting the idea of full and free grace:

1 John 2:3-4 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him.

It seems to me that this one passage totally dismantles hyper-grace thinking. A disregard of God’s law, whether before or after salvation, is a big mistake. Yes, I agree that it is an even bigger mistake to attempt to be saved by trying to keep the law. But throwing it out altogether is not wise or biblical.

To be fair, Jeremy and other hyper-grace teachers do not ever say that the law is bad or unholy or evil or anything like that. But they do have a tendency to reduce its proper function and use in a believer’s life (yep, the ole third use of the law).

1 Timothy 1:8 Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully.

I strongly agree with the hyper-grace movement that grace alone can change a heart (Romans 8:3!). Jeremy emphasizes this a great deal in his article and other writings — Grace does what the law cannot do, which is redeem and change a human heart. But change it how? What does grace change it into?

According to Scripture, grace regenerates a spiritually dead person and transforms him (progressively) into one whose “delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:2).

Romans 3:21 Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.

Grace changes the heart into one that longs to obey. Being in Jesus inevitably makes us like Jesus. Grace moves us to “walk in the same way in which he walked” (1 John 2:6).

The hyper-grace movement often speaks of the burdens placed on people by the law. Yes, I understand. Without Christ, the law is burdensome because we are unable to obey it. It crushes us, destroys us, obliterates us. However, once we are set free by grace (totally and forever), we should look at the commands of God much differently. John plainly states: “his commandments are not burdensome.” Indeed, they are life-giving and life-preserving.

Not committing adultery, for example, is a command that, if followed, will bring happiness and joy. Just because a person is saved by grace doesn’t change this fact. The law is a good law and always leads to human thriving when obeyed. Because God’s grace frees us from condemnation under the law, the law becomes our guide and friend. It teaches us how reality works best.

After a believer is saved by grace alone, God’s law functions like train tracks for his life. It keeps him moving in the direction of God’s holiness. It can help prevent him from falling into a soul-killing ravine. It is a pathway for bringing wisdom and blessing into his life. This is the good and proper function of the law in the life of a believer. And it is not burdensome.

We are not saved by keeping the law, but neither is a believer (saved by grace) crushed by it anymore. Grace not only frees us from the penalty the law imposes on us, but grace also shows us the glory and beauty of living by it for the glory of God.

The classic sermon from Jonathan Edwards
Updated for Today’s Readers
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