What Do You Mean By "Cheap Grace"?

"By Silvanus, a faithful brother unto you, as I suppose, I have written briefly, exhorting, and testifying that this is the true grace of God wherein ye stand."
1st Peter 5:12

In the above Scripture, Peter states why he has written his first epistle. He is bearing witness to the elect about the nature of the "true" grace of God. Why is an accurate understanding of God's grace so important? Because it is the grace of God that brings us into a saving relationship with the Lord (Ephesians 2:5-8, 1st Peter 1:10).
Pervert the presentation of God's grace and you are left with a distorted, unscriptural view of salvation. "True" grace is put forth and defined by the Scriptures. Anything that does not measure up is something less genuine, it is a cheap or false grace. By cheap grace, we are referring the presentation of God's grace absent of any acknowledgement of holiness and a turning away from sin.


In His divine wisdom, God knew that the grace of God would be cheapened by men in an attempt to accommodate their own sinful natures. Jude 1:4 states, "For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ." The word "lasciviousness" here is the Greek word Aselgeia meaning unbridled lust, excess, licentiousness, wantonness, outrageousness, shamelessness, and insolence.


This is what's happening today. Men are cheapening God's grace in order to accommodate sin. Instead of teaching that we must crucify the flesh and its desires, many are saying that we are "covered" by grace even while willfully participating in sin. God may be merciful to those who sin, giving them time to repent and turn away from it, but grace does not cover you while you are in sin. Grace is extended to those in sin and it pulls them out of sin into right relationship with God. Oftentimes Christians will say "I am just a sinner, saved by grace." This is one example of the cheapening of God's grace. Christians were sinners, but now they are called to be saints -- saved by grace through faith. You cannot be a sinner and a saint at the same time. If you examine the "true" grace of God as defined in Scripture, you will see that what many people are calling grace is far from the mark.


Let's examine what Scripture reveals about the grace of God:

  • What is "True Grace"?
  • Unmerited NOT unconditional
  • Understanding New Testament Grace
  • All grace is not ALL grace
  • Falling short of God's grace


What is "True Grace"?


In his first epistle, Peter provides insight into what makes up the "true grace" of God. Accordingly, true grace contains the following attributes:


Produces Holiness
1st Peter 1:15-16, 1st Peter 3:8-12, 1st Peter 3:15, Also Romans 1:5


Requires Obedience
1st Peter 1:14, 1st Peter 1:22, 1st Peter 2:7-8, 1st Peter 4:17


Instills a Desire for the New Life at the Expense of the Old
1st Peter 2:1-3, 1st Peter 2:11-25, 1st Peter 4:1-10


Establishes a Respect for God's Patriarchal Order
1st Peter 3:1-7, 1st Peter 5:1-5


Equips us to Deal with Suffering
1st Peter 2:19-23, 1st Peter 3:14-18, 1st Peter 4:12-19, 1st Peter 5:10


Unmerited NOT Unconditional


How many times have you heard someone define grace as the "unmerited favor of God?" While this is true, many misunderstand what this means. Just because you cannot earn God's grace (unmerited) does not mean that there is nothing necessary for the gift to be received (unconditional).


Let's say that I purchase a gift for you and then tell you how to get it. Your following my instructions to retrieve the gift does not mean that you have earned it nor that you now deserve it. Likewise, refusing to retrieve the gift does not nullify the fact that I have given it to you. The failure to distinguish this difference is one of the most common flaws with those who aspire to a "grace only" or "grace alone" doctrine.


God Himself never says that grace is unconditional. On the contrary, He identifies two attributes necessary for those who would receive grace. Proverbs 3:34 states that God "scorns the scorners: but he gives grace unto the lowly." Similarly, we see that He "resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble" (1st Peter 5:5, James 4:6). The Bible also states that it is faith which gives us access to the gift of God's grace (Romans 5:2, Ephesians 2:8). In order to receive God's gift of grace that brings salvation we must first recognize the fact that we need the gift (humility) and then trust that God is the only one who is able to redeem us (faith).


Understanding New Testament Grace


The first reference to the word "grace" in the Bible is in Genesis 6:8. In the verses leading to this Scripture, we see that God is planning to destroy mankind due to their wickedness. Right after God makes this determination, Scripture says, "But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord." Just as the world is set to be condemned, Noah finds favor with the Lord and is given protection from His wrath! This is one of the more obvious benefits of God's grace. It saves us from experiencing the judgment of God.


While God's grace is evident throughout the Old Testament, Peter tells us that the grace New Testament believers have was not available to Old Testament believers (1st Peter 1:10). One might say that the obvious difference between the two is Jesus Christ, but that is only part of the answer. Peter tells us that these prophets were prophesying about the grace we have by the Spirit of Christ (1st Peter 1:11). If the Old Testament prophets had access to the Spirit of Christ, then how is our grace so different? The answer is in the blood. In the New Testament, God's grace is applied to the life of a believer through the blood of Jesus.


The mystery of "true" New Testament grace is not that it simply covers sin, but that it changes us from the nature of a sinner into the nature of Christ (Ephesians 1:6-7). The grace of God - through the blood of Jesus - is applied to the believer allowing us to become partakers of the divine nature. The purpose of God's grace is to transform us into the image of Christ by birthing the nature of Christ within us. As Paul stated in Romans 8:29, God has called us by His grace in order to reveal His Son IN us. Salvation is not about simply receiving a knowledge of Christ, but being transformed into the image of Christ (Romans 12:2, Galatians 1:15-16, 1st Corinthians 15:49, 2nd Corinthians 3:18, Colossians 3:2). This is why Hebrews 10:29 states that those who insult the Spirit of grace by rejecting Christ after salvation are guilty of degrading the "blood" of the covenant.


All grace is not ALL grace


Do we receive grace, get saved, and that's it? Not according to Scripture. The Word of God shows us that just because we have received grace does not mean that this is all the grace to be received. We are expected to grow in grace just as we are to grow in other aspects of our salvation (2nd Corinthians 8:7, 2nd Peter 3:18, 2nd Timothy 2:1). We must be good stewards over the grace that God has given us, understanding that we may each experience different forms of this grace (1st Peter 4:10, Romans 12:6, Ephesians 4:7).


Falling Short of God's Grace


The Bible urges us to continue and be strong in the grace that God has given us. Yet Scripture also shows that God's grace can also be resisted, even by believers. One of the most prominent verses on this is Galatians 5:4 which states, "Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace." Those who seek justification by the law after having been saved make Christ of no effect and have fallen from grace.


Additionally, we see that after admonishing us to seek holiness, Paul says in Hebrews 12:15, "Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled."


Friends, this is so important! Failure to be diligent to the things of God can cause us to fail of God's grace. We are told that such individuals have received God's grace in vain (2nd Corinthians 6:1, 1st Corinthians 15:10).


If God promises that His grace will save us in spite of our faithfulness to Him, then how can we be removed from Gods grace (Galatians 1:6)? How can we frustrate God's grace - which in the Greek means "to do away with, to set aside, disregard, to thwart the efficacy of anything, nullify, make void, frustrate, to reject, or to refuse" as referred to in Galatians 2:21? God is not directing these comments to those who are lost. In each instance, He is speaking to the believers, the church, the brethren.


If the "grace only" doctrine is correct, then the Bible is wrong. For Scripture is clear that we can fall from God's grace, frustrate His grace, be removed from His grace, and have received His grace in vain based upon our actions after receiving salvation.


"Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ"
1st Peter 1:13


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