Can you get too much of grace?

“And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace.  For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.  No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.”                                                                                                                                                        John 1:16-18

 Notice how the law was ‘given’, but grace and truth ‘came’. If grace or truth were just doctrines, the scripture would have read that “grace and truth were given through Jesus Christ”. Moses could ‘give’ the Law, because he was separate from it, but grace and truth had to ‘come’ through Jesus because He could not separate Himself from either. There are many things I can give you of mine and still remain apart from you. I can give you instructions without having to come with them myself. But there is one thing of mine I cannot give you and remain apart from you; my presence.

The Bible says more than just ‘God loves us’. It declares “God is love”. (1 John 4:8). Jesus claimed more than just that He knew the truth. He declared “I am the Truth”. (John 14:6) When the scripture states that “truth came through Jesus Christ”, it is declaring that truth is more than a doctrine, truth is a person.

The greatest exposition of truth is the exposition of the person Jesus Christ, which is why error inevitably seeps into our understanding of truth from the moment a church stops preaching Christ and Him crucified and starts to move onto so-called ‘deeper’ truths. There is no more profound, no more liberating, no more powerful truth than Christ and Him crucified for us (1Cor.2:2). The Gospel is not just for our conversion, it is the deepest truth of life that carries us into maturity, for the mark of maturity in the believer is their understanding of righteousness (Hebrews 5:13). The Gospel revelation of Christ as our righteousness is the power (Romans 1:16,17) that lifts us out of mere religion and enables us to walk in the liberty of the Spirit, free from the condemnation of the Law and the constant striving to do better that it demands. The revelation of Christ as our righteousness, our life before God (Col.3:4), frees us to walk forward boldly and confidently in life with our eyes on Him, rather than stumble hesitantly, fearfully and increasingly wearily around in circles, as a man does who is trying to walk while constantly examining himself.

It is not possible to separate Jesus from truth, which is why for truth to come to man, Jesus had to come. But this same scripture in John 1:17 also clearly declares that for grace to come, Jesus had to come. The scripture places grace and truth together, united as one in the person of Christ. Just as Truth is a person not a doctrine, so too is Grace. We can no more separate grace from truth, than we can separate Jesus from the Father. To see one is to see the other (John 14:9). To preach grace is to preach truth. To preach grace is to preach Christ.

This is why Paul described the gospel he preached as “the gospel of God’s grace” and declared his whole ministry was based on simply proclaiming this message of grace (Acts 20:24) To the Galatians he declared the grace of Christ to be ‘the’ Gospel (Galatians 1:6) and warned them that in moving away from preaching grace they were beginning to preach a different gospel, one that would result in them cutting themselves off from the power of the Gospel, which is the revelation that Christ is our righteousness (2 Cor.5:21). Only this truth sets us free from trying to establish our own righteousness. This is why as soon as Paul heard that signs of self-righteousness had appeared in the Galatian church (i.e the teaching that there are some things you need to do and keep doing to be ‘really’ saved), he knew that they must have started to try and mix in a little law into the pure grace message, not knowing that even one little addition changes the whole nature of the gospel (Gal.5:9)

When the scriptures declare that we are “saved by grace, through faith and this not of ourselves, but is the gift of God, so that no man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8), this is a declaration that the entirety of our salvation (justification and sanctification) is by grace. In other words you don’t become a Christian by grace (Christ’s obedience), but stay a Christian by hard work (your obedience). You become and are then kept in Christ, totally by the grace of God, for He is not the author only but the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2) “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6) It is His Spirit, His life in us, that is our sanctification (holiness), not our efforts to live right (Romans 15:16) Right living can be a fruit of holiness, but never the root. The root of our holiness is Christ (John 15:5).

This misunderstanding, that I am saved by grace, but kept saved by my performance, explains why many Christians see the gospel, the message of grace, as an elementary teaching, something we need to teach the world, whereas we Christians need something ‘deeper’. In attempting to go on to something deeper, Christians get caught up in all sorts of teachings that sound very important and impressive, but they may take years to notice that in leaving behind the simplicity of the gospel (grace), they have cut themselves off from the power to live the Christian life (2.Cor.11:3). They are left listening longingly to the testimonies of new believers and wondering what happened to the joy of their salvation!

For over 25 years I have been telling Nicola “I love you”. I have yet to hear her say “That’s all you ever say, Can’t I have a more varied diet? Isn’t it time you changed the message and moved on to something deeper?” The gift of Christ (grace), is the Father’s declaration of love to us (John 3:16). Is it possible to get too much of grace? You can only believe it is, if you believe it is possible to get too much of Christ or possible to get too much of the love of the Father. I believe that preaching and teaching every week that the Christ life is a gift of love (grace) and not a reward (religion), is restoring to folk the joy of their salvation, the joy of knowing that their Father is not withholding Himself from them, but has already in Christ, freely given them all that He has (Luke 15:31) That joy is our strength and so a diet of the gospel of grace is the richest soul food a believer can receive.

So eat up Church and be filled with the joy of the Spirit, over how completely Christ has saved you. Let the nations see our joy and ask us for the food that brings it and let us tell them that the fullness they see is “His fullness that we have all received and grace for grace.”

2 thoughts on “Can you get too much of grace?

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