Daily Archives: February 1, 2014

Questions about Salvation: What Is Cheap Grace?


The term “cheap grace” can be traced back to a book written by German theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, called The Cost of Discipleship, published in 1937. In that book, Bonhoeffer defined “cheap grace” as “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.” Notice what is emphasized in Bonhoeffer’s definition of cheap grace and what is de-emphasized. The emphasis is on the benefits of Christianity without the costs involved; hence the adjective “cheap” to describe it.

A similar debate regarding cheap grace erupted in the 1980’s and 1990’s over the Lordship Salvation controversy. The controversy began when pastor and theologian John MacArthur objected to a teaching that was becoming popular in evangelical circles called “carnal Christianity.” The reference is to a statement that the Apostle Paul made in his first letter to the church at Corinth: “But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:1). The phrase “of the flesh” is the Greek word sarkinos meaning “flesh.” The word “carnal” comes from the Latin word for flesh. In the New Testament, “flesh” can simply mean skin, flesh, body. However, Paul often uses it to speak of our sinful nature—that unredeemed part of man with whom the new man in Christ must battle daily (Romans 7; 1 Corinthians 3:1–3; 2 Corinthians 10:2; Galatians 5:16–19).

Carnal Christianity essentially teaches that as long as one makes a profession of faith in Christ, he or she is saved (Romans 10:9), even if there is no immediately obedience to the commands of Jesus and the Apostles to live a life of holiness. It is the idea that we can have Jesus as Savior, but not necessarily as Lord. People who advocate for carnal Christianity, or “free grace” as it’s often called, do not deny the necessity of good works (i.e., holy living) for sanctification, but they distinguish the call for salvation from the call to sanctification (or discipleship).

There are many Scripture passages that free grace advocates use to support their position. It is not necessary to cite them all, but two of the most popular and forceful passages are John 3:16 and Romans 10:9.

•     For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

•     Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9)

Clearly, these passages, and others, teach that the one who believes in Jesus Christ “has eternal life” and “will be saved.” There is no disputing this. However, what people like John MacArthur and others were objecting to is not that salvation and eternal life are free gifts of God’s grace, but rather the teaching that the call to salvation does not also include a call to repentance and holy living. In other words, they were objecting that the doctrine of free grace was becoming a doctrine of cheap grace. What the proponents of lordship salvation assert is that salvation is a call to discipleship, that one cannot have Jesus as Savior without also acknowledging Him as Lord.

The New Testament uses the word for Lord (kurios) 748 times, and 667 of those times it is used in reference to God or Jesus (e.g., “Jesus Christ our Lord,” Romans 1:4). In contrast, the New Testament uses the word for “savior” (soter) only 24 times. It seems clear that the emphasis in the New Testament is on Jesus Christ as Lord, not as Savior. Now in saying that, it is not meant to downplay or denigrate the saving work of Jesus Christ on the cross. What a glorious and gracious provision God has made for His people in providing Jesus Christ as our atoning sacrifice who thereby guarantees salvation and eternal life for those who believe in Him. Jesus Christ is most certainly our Savior, but this cannot be separated from the fact that Jesus Christ is Lord, and as Lord, He commands and we obey.

Jesus, in his Great Commission to the 11 remaining disciples, commanded them to go into all the world and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them to observe all that he has commanded them (Matthew 28:19–20). Evangelism and discipleship go hand in hand. A disciple is one who observes (keeps, obeys) all that Jesus has commanded. There is no two-stage process in Christianity—first be saved, then become a disciple. This arbitrary distinction is foreign to the New Testament and therefore foreign to Christianity.

To play off the title of Bonhoeffer’s book, let’s look at what Jesus said to His disciples about discipleship in Luke 14:25–33. In that passage, Jesus says to the crowds that no one can be His disciple unless they first hate their family (v. 26). Furthermore, the one who cannot bear his own cross cannot be his disciple (v. 27). Two conditions are given by Jesus in order to be His disciple. The first is to be willing to renounce family in order to follow Jesus. The second is to be willing to die, both literally and metaphorically (“die to self”) in order to follow Jesus. Jesus then gives two examples of “counting the cost.” The first is an example of a man who desires to build a tower without first counting the cost of building the tower. After realizing he cannot complete it, he gives up in shame and embarrassment. The second is that of a king preparing to go to battle and making sure he can defend against the superior foe. The point Jesus is making is that discipleship has a cost.

Furthermore, discipleship requires repentance and obedience. At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, the message He preached was a message of repentance (Matthew 4:17). The message of the Apostles after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension was also one of repentance (Acts 2:38). Along with repentance comes obedience. Jesus told a crowd of listeners that salvation and obedience go hand in hand: “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?” (Luke 6:46). Jesus then goes on to differentiate the one who builds his house on the sand from the one who builds his house on the rock, which is the man who not only hears the words of Jesus, but does them too.

Cheap grace seeks to hide the cost of discipleship from people. It seeks to claim that as long as we make a profession of faith, we are saved. God’s grace covers all our sins. Again, that is a wonderful truth! The Apostle Paul says as much when he writes, “Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 5:20–21). Yet, right after writing that, he follows it with this: “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?” (Romans 6:1–2). Salvation by grace alone through faith alone is so much more than simply mouthing the words “Jesus is Lord.” We are not saved by a profession of faith. We are not saved by praying the Sinner’s Prayer. We are not saved by signing a card or walking an aisle. We are saved by a living and active faith (James 2:14–26), a faith that manifests itself in repentance, obedience and love of God and our neighbor. Salvation is not a transaction; it’s a transformation. Paul says it best when he says we are “new creations” in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). There is nothing “cheap” about grace![1]

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Topical Bible Questions: How Should a Christian Respond to Illegal Aliens/Illegal Immigrants?


Illegal immigration has become a volatile issue, especially in the U.S. Many have raised their voices passionately in their condemnation of illegal immigration while others defend it just as fervently. The subject of illegal immigration has not only generated heated debate, but has caused intense division and strife among politicians, educators, co-workers, families, and friends. Sadly enough, its contentiousness has infused itself into the church with Christians drawn into the turbulent fray with supporters on both sides seeking to justify their positions based on their own personal beliefs.

So, what does the Bible say about illegal immigration? What should be the Christian response to those who enter our country illegally as well as to those who condone and support such activity? The first consideration is that those who enter any country illegally violate that nation’s laws as well as the laws of God. Believers are torn between showing compassion and mercy to those who seek help and yet not wanting to violate God’s will.

Sadly, we have brothers and sisters in Christ fighting over the issue of illegal immigration where the Bible is quite clear on what our Christian response should be: “The LORD detests the way of the wicked but he loves those who pursue righteousness” (Proverbs 15:9, 28:5; Psalm 5:4–5). When we condone criminal activity where people blatantly and habitually violate the laws of our government, we no longer “shine like stars in the universe” (Philippians 2:15). The Bible makes it clear that those who violate the laws of our government are in sin, as are those who support or assist them in breaking the laws (Romans 13:1–7; 1 Peter 2:13–14; Titus 3:1–2).

Peter’s reference to “those who do wrong” clearly means those who break the laws and who, by doing so, are also guilty of doing wrong to others. These are to be punished by the governing authorities. Paul has made it abundantly clear that the government is in the best position to judge the course of action that should be taken to find solutions to this problem. Our government has the divine authority to do so. Whether or not the government authorities exercise their legal and divine right to enforce the laws doesn’t change the fact that the church cannot knowingly support illegal activity and be in the will of God. To condone or aid and abet people who cross borders illegally is sin, just as the initial act of coming into the country illegally is sin.

At the same time, as Christians, we have to separate our attitude toward the act of entering the country illegally and our attitude toward the illegals themselves. The first obligation of a Christian is to express Christ-likeness in all our thoughts and deeds (Romans 8:29). There is no room for hatred toward those who come into the country, albeit illegally, desperately seeking work, refuge from danger and persecution, or a better life for themselves and their families. Christian compassion must be shown towards those who would risk their lives in a dangerous, and often fatal, attempt to cross a border. Acts of hatred or violence toward illegal aliens is never to be considered or tolerated by those who name the name of Christ.[1]

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

My god is too small

by Mark McIntyre

I do not have a theological problem. I have no trouble affirming the God of the Bible, especially as revealed in Jesus.

I do not struggle to assent to an infinite, all powerful God; this is not an intellectual problem.

My problem is a belief problem. What I truly believe is indicated by my actions and when I observe my behavior, I must confess that my god is too small.

My god is too small when:

• I look to others to define who I am and how I am doing
• I am overwhelmed by my circumstances
• I feel that no-one understands me
• I get bogged down in guilt
• I let my failures define who I am

On the flip side, Scripture reveals the character of God and speaks to all of these issues. For example:

• Psalm 139 tells me that I am fearfully and wonderfully made and that I am not a mistake. God determines who I am and how I am doing (Psalm 139:14).

• Jesus promises to be with me (Matthew 28:20) and is in control of my circumstances.

• Jesus is the Wonderful Counselor (Isaiah 9:6) and understands me
In Jesus I am under no condemnation (Romans 8:1)

Scripture presents every giant of the faith as having experienced failure. Their failures did not define them or keep them from being used by God.
If I truly believe these things, I will act upon them. When I am caught in the first list, it is evidence that I am not believing in the God of the Bible. At that point, the god in which I believe is too small.

Thankfully, I can echo the prayer recorded in Mark 9:24, “I believe; help my unbelief!” A prayer from which I have taken much comfort over the years.

Mark McIntyre | February 1, 2014 at 12:40 pm | URL: http://www.mhmcintyre.us/god-small/

Assurance of Salvation Part 7: Questions to examine ourselves Part 1

The Domain for Truth

Go to Part 6


j. Test of Assurance #2: Questions to examine ourselves

i.      Establish the need: Besides knowing the Gospel accurately, assurance of salvation means we bear certain fruit.  Are these true in your life

ii.      Purpose: To examine ourselves with questions to see if we are in the faith.

iii.     PICTURE: Think of the danger as someone who takes the car in the autoshop for a check up.  He hears the tires are okay, the brakes and the power steering but don’t think it’s dangerous when warned that there are problems with the engines.

iv.      Question 2a: Are you fellowshipping with God and God’s people?

1. Passage:1 What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life— 2 and the life was manifested, and we…

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The Destruction of Pride and the Elevation of Furtick

Pride is a devastating sin. It is the sin that cast Satan from Heaven (Isaiah 14:12–14). It is at the root of every transgression against God. Yet it is a temptation that confronts every man at nearly every turn. To succumb to pride is to begin plummeting down a dark and cavernous hole of sin. Dr. Steve Lawson has rightly said, “We are never more like the devil and never more unlike Christ in His incarnation than when we are proud.”