J. B. Hixson
Is Grace Worth Fighting For? Defending Grace Graciously
I am really looking forward to spending the morning with you all. I hope you’ll stick around for worship; I’m going to be dealing with the subject One Minute After the Rapture during our worship hour. But during out Bible study hour I want to invite you to turn with me to Galatians 1, as Dr. Woods, who’s a very good friend of mine, we’ve known each other for many years, I actually predated him at the College of Biblical Studies where I taught from 1999-2005, and then about the time I left to go to Grace Seminary and teach he came onboard at College of Biblical Studies and I know he has since moved over to Chafer. I’m so excited to know that Chafer is having his very gifted hand. So we’ve crossed paths quite often, spoken at various conferences together already this year, I think we’ve spoken at a couple of conferences together and I always enjoy fellowshipping with him and Anne. And as I mentioned Wednesday night he’s number one of my speed dial, I go to Dr. Woods frequently when I have theological questions I want to bounce off of him just to make sure I’m not crazy when I come up with something.
But my wife Wendy and I are here, I hope you’ll take the time to meet here, she’s at our resource table, we have six children as Jim mentioned, and they normally travel with us, we do a lot of traveling, but not on this trip because we’re in the midst of a two month trip so part of the time they’re with us, part of the time they’re not, we’re kind of hopscotching around the country and looking forward to what the Lord is going to do through this trip.
Dr. Woods asked me to deal with soteriology during the Bible study hour, which is my passion, my greatest passion; that’s what my PhD is in and our ministry is about the clarity, accuracy and urgency of the gospel message. And even though we do a lot of end times prophecy stuff and we’ve written about that and I have a lot of DVD’s about that, even in the midst of teaching on end times we try to make the gospel central to everything that we do. But for our time together this morning we want to explicitly focus on this idea of Defending Grace Graciously.
What I’ve discovered through the years, being kind of at the tip of the spear in some of the grace movement, I was the founding board member and first executive director of an organization called Free Grace Alliance. I was also very intimately involved in another organization called Grace Evangelical Society and I’ve been kind of our promoting the purity of the gospel for many years, over twenty, almost thirty years now. And what I’ve noticed is that sometimes those of us that are passionate about the clarity and accuracy and purity of the gospel message and about grace and about protecting the gospel from any influence of good works or performance or anything like that, can sometimes be pretty ungracious in how we defend it. And that’s a lesson I’ve had to learn the hard way because like so many in my younger days I was so passionate I would just get animated and just could come across ungracious in defending the gospel.
So I want to ask this question to begin with: is grace worth fighting for? That’s why I wanted you to turn to Galatians 1. I love this passage, I’m sure you’re very familiar with it. I love it because it’s the first book of the Bible that Paul ever wrote, the first letter that he wrote. So here’s a guy who wrote prolifically in the New Testament, wrote more books of the New Testament than any other New Testament writer, though Luke actually wrote more of the New Testament than Paul did because Luke and Acts take up more space than all thirteen Pauline epistles. But here’s a guy who’s one of the greatest apostles. We all know the story, saved on the road to Damascus after having persecuted the church and being an enemy of grace, then he came to embrace grace.
So Galatians to me is intriguing because it answers the question, what was so important in the mind of God that with all of the incredible truths that God revealed through the pen of the Apostle Paul under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, what did He chose to reveal first? What was the priority? And what we find out is that it was the defense of grace.
Let’s pick it up in verse 6 where we read, “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another, but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.  But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed.” [Galatians 1:6, American King James Version]
The Greek word there is anathema, he’s come under strict judgment, anathema does not in and of itself mean go to hell, although depending on who it is that’s coming under anathema it could mean, if they are an unbeliever, they end up in hell. But it generally just means a very strict harsh form of judgment. And then he says, “For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I would not a bond servant of Christ.” [Galatians 1:10]
So let’s put this in context. Paul and Barnabas are gone on their first missionary journey, Acts 13 and 14, around A.D. 48-49. Remember Paul got saved in 35 A.D., two years after the church started, on the road to Damascus. He spent 14 years or so studying the Word of God and being discipled and then he launches his first missionary journey from Antioch of Syria, and they visit the region of Southern Galatia, cities like Iconium and Lystra and Derbe and so forth.
And there’s an incredible harvest of souls, people embrace grace, they embrace the free gift of eternal life that comes only through the shed blood of Christ when you receive Jesus Christ as your personal Savior. And so it’s an amazing trip. They get back to Antioch and he’s going to give a report to the sending church on how successful and wonderful this mission trip was. And no sooner does he get back to Antioch than he begins to hear reports; he gets an e-mail or something, or a text, and finds out that these false teachers, right after he left southern Galatia had crept into those cities and begun to disparage Paul, and begun to teach something other than the pure grace message.
And so Paul, obviously, is greatly disturbed by this and if you know your early history of the apostolic age the Jerusalem Council took place between Paul’s first and second missionary journey, in 50 A.D. in Jerusalem. And that’s when many of the early church leaders got together and sort of discussed this whole notion of Jew and Gentile in one body, what does the church look like, how does it relate to the Jewish law and circumcision in particular. Now this was still during the apostolic age, the New Testament hadn’t been completely written yet, God was still revealing His truth through the apostles and prophets.
And so that counsel was to address a lot of these issues that Paul addresses in Galatians but it’s my contention, I can’t prove it but I think it makes the most sense in re-dating and reconnecting the dots of the timeline, that while Paul was on the journey from Antioch to Jerusalem to attend the Jerusalem Council he penned the words that we’re reading in Galatians. In other words, he was so bothered by what he was hearing coming out of Galatia that he didn’t wait for the Jerusalem Council to rule on the matter; he penned these words immediately and sent it back to Galatia.
And so I think it’s interesting that the very first issue that Paul addresses is one on the purity of the gospel. But is grace worth fighting for; it sure seems like it is from Paul’s perspective and let’s take a look at what he says. First of all, I think if you look at verses 6-7 that we read, the gospel of grace, it seems to me, is very unambiguous, it’s very unambiguous. I was reading from the New King James and Paul uses a couple of words here in Greek that are translated differently in English. He says, for example, in verse 6, “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from him that called you into the grace of Christ to a different gospel.” The word translated “different” there is the Greek word heteros, and it means literally another of a different kind, entirely different in other words. So he says you’re turning to an entirely different gospel.
Then he says in verse 7, “Which is not another….” “Which is not another;” now the word “another” is the word allos in Greek and it literally means another of similar kind. Now what’s interesting is the King James, which is what I grew up with, actually uses the same word “another” to translate both Greek words. So it gets a little confusing because it sounds like Paul is saying you’re turning to another gospel which is not another gospel. But of course, the Bible wasn’t written in English, the Bible was written in Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic, in this case Greek, and so we need to know that he was using two different words. It’s a little bit more clear, the New King James, because at least the translators used two different English words.
But what is he saying here? He’s saying you’re turning to a heteros gospel which is not allos gospel. Let’s see what he’s really trying to say here; I’ll try to use an analogy. First of all, let’s look at the word allos, another of the same kind. Suppose Wendy asked me to run to the grocery store and pick up a bag of apples and she said now make sure you get red delicious apples, that’s what I want. Now being a guy, of course all I heard was apples, and also being a guy I’m a hunger/gatherer so I get in my car and I run to the supermarket, which where we live in Colorado would take over an hour by the way, but here I could run to the nearest grocery store, let’s say I lived in Houston, and I’m timing myself because you know, being a competitive guy I always like to see, can I beat my last time that I had when I went to the grocery store, so I rush into the grocery store, fortunately for me the produce section is always near the front of the door and I find the first big bin that has red apple looking things in it and I throw a bunch of them in a bag and I go to the self-checkout because you never want to go the full checkout because it always takes a long time, I can go faster than the checkout person, that’s my theory, right? I check out, get in the car, come home run in, hand her the apples, but what’s she going to say when she sees that I got a bag of, say Braeburn apples. She’s going to say those aren’t red delicious apples, I asked for red delicious apples and I’m going to say what? An apple is an apple, what’s the big deal? Why does it matter?
That’s kind of the idea behind allos, it’s different but it’s not entirely different; it’s similar, and Paul says this isn’t the kind of gospel that you guys are turning to. He says this is a heteros gospel. It’s as if I went seeking a bag of apples and came back, for example came with a bag of oranges which would be pretty noticeably different. But even that really isn’t a strong enough analogy because heteros means completely and utterly different; at least in this case you could argue they’re both fruits. But it would be like my wife sent me to get a bag of apples and I came back with, say, a bag of poison. That’s kind of the idea here, completely different, nothing similar at all.
And Paul says that’s the kind of gospel that you’re going after, it is precise, it is clear, it is unambiguous. But he also says, if you read on, that the gospel of graces is unadulterated; it’s unadulterated. It begins in verse 7 again “Which is not another;” is not an allos gospel, it’s not similar, it’s rather a heteros gospel, but then he says, “but there be some” here, “there are some that want to trouble you, and pervert the gospel of Christ.” That’s the New King James translation. The word “pervert” there in verse 7 is actually the Greek word metastrepo, and it’s used a couple of times, actually three times in the New Testament. It can mean distort or twist and because it’s used so rarely I thought it was interesting to look at the other two occurrences of metastrepo in its various form. And this was very telling to me, kind of the force behind this idea of metastrepo.
The first place besides here in Galatians 1:7 that we find the word metastrepo is in Acts 2, Peter’s famous Pentecost sermon, when he’s quoting actually from Joel chapter 2 and he says, “The sun shall be turned into darkness’” that word “turned” is the Greek word metastrepo, and the moon into blood [before the great and terrible day of Jehovah cometh.” Joel 2:31] The only other time it’s used is by James, the Lord’s brother, when in chapter 4 of his epistle he says, “Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.” [James 4:9] That word “turned” again is the word metastrepo translated pervert in Galatians 1:7.
So three times it’s used in the New Testament in its various forms; twice the New King James translates it turned, once pervert, but it’s interesting, if you look at those other two occurrences there on the screen you’ll notice that in both instances he’s using the term metastrepo, or the term metastrepo is used to refer to something that’s 180 degrees opposite; you’ve got light and darkness, you’ve got laughter and mourning. That’s kind of the force behind metastrepo; it’s not just a minor messing up or slight alteration or twisting. It’s a complete reversal, it’s turning it on its head.
And that’s indeed what these Judaizers were doing, who had come in to southern Galatia. Their argument went something like this, if we sort of read between the lines. They had come into Galatia after Paul had taught that you simply believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God who died and rose again for your sins and because of your faith in the right object you can have the gift of eternal life. You can be saved! And they have come in and said well, that’s okay, that’s good but that’s not quite the whole story; if you really want to get to heaven you’ve got to keep the Law, in particular you’ve got to be circumcised. So they had begun to alter the gospel. And Paul says it was a metastrepo alteration, it was a complete reversal, it was turning it on its head.
And what we learn from that is that even the slightest addition or subtraction to grace turns it in its head; it’s not a matter of degree. It can’t be almost the right gospel; the gospel is either right or wrong. If you think of it in terms of a mathematical equation, if we were to say the gospel is X, then if we were to say is X plus one the gospel? The answer would have to be no. Is X minus one the gospel, or X plus Y? Part of the problem with the attack on the gospel, which by the way is nothing new because 2 Corinthians 4:4 tells us the devil has been blinding men’s hearts to the gospel for the last 2,000 years. [2 Corinthians 4:4, “In whom the god of this world has blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine to them.” American King James Version]
And in our book, Getting the Gospel Wrong, The Revised Edition, we deal with six now very prevalent false gospel models that are permeating the evangelical landscape, and all of them are equally wrong. Why? Because it’s not a matter of degree; any alteration completely turns it on its head. [Getting the Gospel Wrong: The Evangelical Crisis No One Is Talking AboutRevised Edition]
So the gospel of grace is unambiguous, unadulterated and then finally in verse 10 another reason we know grace is worth fighting for is because of what Paul says in verse 10, unashamed, and we too should be unashamed. He says, “For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the bondservant of Christ.” You have to understand the conflict here; this is way before Paul had established himself as a leading apostle of the day. He didn’t have quite the standing, say Peter might have at that time. And yet he was willing to stand firm for the gospel. He knew the Lord, he met the Lord, he understood grace. If anybody understood grace it would be Paul. That’s the amazing thing about grace, sometimes people who are opposed to the free grace gospel suggest that somehow it cheapens grace when we talk about how sin cannot impact your eternal destiny. Some people say the more you sin the more it proves you’re not really saved because of course, no believer would sin.
Now I have plenty of exegetical evidence that we stress in a couple of our books that make that patently untrue but I always like to do a little antidotal proof as well whenever I’m speaking in conferences. I’ve done this, I don’t know how many times, I’ve spoken at over 600 churches, but let’s do it here. How many of you are believers? Good, praise God. How many of you sin? There, I’ve proven my point. So absolutely believers sin; sin cannot impact our eternal destiny because once we’ve trusted Christ by grace through faith our name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, we’re sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, we pass from death to life and shall never come to judgment, we’re justified, we’re positionally sanctified, we’re reconciled to a holy God, we become regenerated, born again, adopted into the family of God and many other things in that punctiliar moment in time when faith meets the right object.
Now we still have that old nature, we still have that flesh that’s going to do battle as Paul describes in Romans 7 and as he frequently contrasts in places like Galatians 5 where “the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; the two are contrary to one another….” [Galatians 5:17] Or the old man, new man dichotomy, or walking by faith not by sight, but nothing can change our position “in Christ”, who we are “in Christ.” Nothing can change that!
Paul understood that; he understood the purity of grace and he understood the amazing nature of grace and how he could be… such a sinner as him could be made right with a holy God and become placed in Christ, in the body of Christ and so he didn’t really care what people might think of him. In fact, in chapter 2 of Galatians, if you know the story, he actually confronts Peter, none other than Peter, the pastor of The First Baptist Church in Jerusalem [laughs], Acts chapter 1. He confronts Peter and so absolutely the gospel of grace is unashamed; it’s unambiguous, unadulterated, unashamed. So all of that to say is grace worth fighting for? Absolutely, absolutely grace is worth fighting for. However, in defending grace we need to make sure that we are gracious in how we defend it.
Now here’s a little thing that I’ve learned and you probably have learned this too, you probably learned it before I did, I’m a little slow sometimes, but sometimes, usually when we’re ungracious it’s a sign of insecurity. Now here’s the thing, if we’re confident, as Paul was and as I just laid out there in Galatians 1, in our view and understanding of the free grace gospel we really have nothing to be insecure about. So we really don’t need to be defensive; we don’t need to react, we don’t need to get animated or our blood pressure doesn’t need to go up when we are confronted with someone who’s impugning the gospel the way these Judaizers were.
Now that’s an easier said than done task, and I understand, but I want to give you ten principles to keep in mind when defending the grace message. And we’ll just go through these pretty quickly as we look at the whole counsel of God.
First of all, recognize which issues are worth fighting for and which ones are not; recognize which issues are worth fighting for and which ones are not. What matters most is the gospel of grace. And there are other non-negotiables but we must also recognize that not every issue is worth fighting for. Now in almost 30 years of formal church staff ministry I’ve seen some pretty incredible fights and we could probably sit around and all tell stories, I’ve had people leave the church because the communion bread was too crunchy; I’ve had people leave the church because the refrigerator door opened on the wrong side of the refrigerator. I’ve had some crazy issues that have come up that have become BIG issues because people didn’t understand what issues are worth fighting for.
And the same thing is true when defending grace. I’ve known people who every misstatement… in fact, I get e-mails all the time through our ministry, we have a national radio show, we speak all over, so we get e-mails from people and I love to talk about theology, it’s what makes me tick so I try to respond to every e-mail. We get e-mails all the time, people talking about something their pastor said or something they heard on the radio and I have to do my best to try to walk them through how to handle that or give my two cents worth on how to handle that. But sometimes people give me a quote that their pastor says (and this just happened this past week) and what I had to say well, have you sat down and met with the pastor because let’s face it, all of us at times are guilty of making a sloppy statement.
I go back and listen to some of my early messages, when I was first starting the ministry at age 19, and I wonder how in the world anybody ever got saved listening to me because it was so bad; it was so sloppy and it was so unclear… but my heart was in the right spot, I cared about people, I wanted to see people come to faith in Christ but I was just a little sloppy. That’s one of the chapters in our book, Getting the Gospel Wrong, is The Puzzling Gospel. And in those cases I think it’s sometimes just a matter of sitting down and saying did you really mean this and what did you mean by it.
And that’s far different than someone who is passionately preaching a works based gospel and demanding that people surrender their lives and promise and make a pledge of allegiance to the Lord as if it’s some kind of a contract, because that’s the way most gospel presentations are presented. The question is, is that something they’re really passionate about or are they just using common 21st century western American colloquialism? Right. For example, “commit your life to Christ.” Right, how many times have you heard that?
I taught for twelve years fulltime at the college and seminary levels and one place that I taught, many of my students were pastors. So Monday morning classes were always awesome because the students would come in and pastors would come in and they would tell stories about how things went at their service the day before. And sometimes they would say something like, prof, we had a great service yesterday, we had ten people commit their lives to Christ. And I’d always say the same thing: Man, that’s fantastic! Did any of them get saved? Because you don’t get saved by committing your life to Christ; you never find that language anywhere in Scripture. As a matter of face, my mentor, Charles Ryrie, pointed out before he went home to be with the Lord, that the gospel is not about what we give to the Lord. Right? The gospel is one directional; one giver one receiver. We’re the receiver, He’s the giver, John 1:12. [“But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:” American King James Version]
So many people are trying to give their life to Christ, give their heart to Christ, give their all to Christ, give up everything, give over everything, trying to give something to the Lord and He’s just sitting there saying look, if you’ll put all that down and come to me, nothing in your hands you bring, simply to the cross you cling, I’ve got a great gift for you; it’s called forgiveness of sins and eternal life. Would you like to have it? But see, we’re so busy trying to give things to the Lord.
But sometimes pastors, well-meaning evangelists, even evangelistically minded brothers and sisters in Christ will say “commit your life to Christ.” Now that’s not always an occasion to call out the grace police and whip them with fifty lashes with a wet noodle you know; sometimes you can just say causally, graciously, you know, did you really mean commit your life to Christ, because really commitment is more a discipleship issue and that’s how we live the Christian life. We wake up every day and say I’m going to be committed to Him and walk by faith and trust His Word and not my own ways, but it’s not how you get saved. You need to kind of think through the issue each time in terms of what’s worth fighting for and what’s not.
We see this in Scripture and passages like Hebrews 13:9, “Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace;” with grace. Paul puts this into practice in Romans 14:20 when he says, “pursue the things which make for peace” and he goes on to say, do not “destroy the work of God” for the sake of food; “All things are indeed pure; but it is evil for that man who eats with offense.” In other words, all things are lawful to me but not all things are beneficial. If eating meat sacrificed to idols makes my brother stumble I’ll never again eat meat. So recognize which issues are worth fighting for. Don’t destroy the work of God for the sake of crunchy communion bread, for example.
Number two, reject any teaching that undermines or contradicts God’s grace; being gracious does not mean compromise, or equivocate, or waffle. You can reject false teaching and be gracious, they are not mutually exclusive. Now I know that’s becoming very difficult in this postmodern culture where any time you draw a line of distinction rather than a circle of inclusion you are automatically labeled as hateful, mean, ugly, whatever. But you can’t give up that fight, you can’t concede that point. You still need to fight hard to be gracious and be direct and be honest.
So what I’ve taken to saying in recent years whenever I disagree with someone, and usually it’s in the context of someone coming up to me and saying have you read this book or have you heard this person, someone they’ve become enamored with and found benefit out of but it’s someone who I believe is teaching something false, so I’ll usually say look, you know I’m sure they’re a great person, I’m sure they love the Lord, (depending on who it is because sometimes they’re charlatans, and there are those out there, but usually most of the false teaching is coming from people that are just a product of their culture, they think they love the Lord, they think they love His Word, they think they’re handling His Word correctly even though they’re not, so if I’m sure so and so, or that person is a good person, I’m sure they love the Lord, probably very encouraging, probably a good writer, a good speaker but I just have an honest disagreement with them on such and such an issue… I mean, it’s harder for people to accuse you of being mean and hateful when you say it that way, even though they sometimes still will.
But as we’ve seen in Galatians 1 we have a duty, a mandate, to reject any teaching that undermines the gospel of grace. And Paul makes it pretty strong, if you’re preaching any gospel other than what he preached to you… and by the way, we have a record of what Paul preached to the Galatians, we don’t have to wonder what that was, we have a direct record in Acts 13 and 14. He says let them be anathema, “let him be anathema.” [Galatians 1:8, “But though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach unto you any gospel other than that which we preached unto you, let him be anathema.” ASV]
And one of the things that I find really difficult, that really bothers me is the way people lump the gospel in with other issues, as if it’s also one that you can sort of agree to disagree on. Right? And so they’ll say things like, now here’s a great book on how to manage your money and the guy is terrible on the gospel; he’s dead wrong on the gospel but he’s really good on this stuff. And I’m like well, okay, can’t we find an author who’s not been anathematized by Scripture, who also speaks some good things about how to handle your money? I mean, the gospel is what matters most. I understand that there are people that are very knowledgeable in other subjects but unless we’ve exhausted every other possibility why do we need to….
I run into this all the time which I was Dean of Faculty at the college, in choosing textbooks. Some of the best textbooks on certain subjects, that are really quite good, are written by people that have a false gospel. And so we want to try to find someone that has a clear gospel because especially with impressionable college students, if you give them a book that might, even though the content of that particular book is accurate that’s going to be seen as an implicit endorsement of that author. They’re going to then go out and buy other books by that author that are troubling when it comes to the gospel. So definitely reject any teaching that undermines or contradicts God’s grace. Paull makes this clear when he says avoid those who teach contrary doctrine.
Number three, remember theology is a process, not a product. Remember theology is a process, not a product. As a systematic theologian sometimes we fall into the trap of thinking that if I could just complete my eight volume set, where I published a book on every subject of the classic ten categories of theology I would be done and then I could just sort of sit back and rest on my laurels and those kind of things. But that’s not what theology is. Now we call it a theology… have you ready Ryrie’s theology, have you read Chafer’s theology, have you read whoever’s theology? But really, theology is a process, not a product.
You never stop learning; you never stop connecting the dots. We spend our lives studying the Word of God and every time I study for a new message, almost every time I’ll find some passage that brings to mind another passage that I hadn’t correlated before, hadn’t connected the dots before and it strengthens my theology. Or, quite often I’ll read a passage and as I’m continuing to study it I’ll begin to see that maybe I misunderstood a particular contextual marker and I maybe I was mishandling that passage. We have to study the Word of God and preach and teach the Word of God with great confidence yet with a degree of humility, understanding that it’s a process.
So this is the five steps of the process of theology that I teach in my theology classes, and this is one of the 70+ color charts in our chart book out there, but it starts with the development phase; it starts with step 1, start with the Bible. There’s a novel idea, theology starts with the Bible. Right? So you read it in its literal, grammatical, historical context; what does the text say?
Step two is then you begin to expand your focus and compare Scripture with Scripture. Remember Scripture best interprets itself. I think it was Augustine that famously remarked never forget the Bible will shed a lot of light on commentaries. Right? So we tend to pull for that commentary rather than just letting the text speak.
And then step three is formulating a clear belief statement. What does the Bible teach about… fill in the blank. We start with the Bible, you compare Scripture with Scripture and you arrive at a conclusion at that time. So you might say what does Hebrews teach about angels? Well then what does the rest of the New Testament teach about angels? What does the entire Bible teach about angels. And no doctrine can be considered complete until it has addressed everything the Bible has to say on the subject. But that’s the development phase, but there are five steps in the theology process. And by the way, that’s a cyclical thing, you consistently do it throughout your life.
But then you move into the implementation phase… the implementation phase. Step four is evaluate what you have discovered from the Word of God, evaluate other truth things from outside the Word of God based on what you’ve discovered from within the Word of God. In other words, the Bible is like a grid, a filter for all truth finding. And so when you hear something else you’ve got to run it through the grid.
And then step five, and you’ve not completed the Bible study process until you’ve gotten all the way to step five, is to apply what you’ve learned to your own life. The goal of Bible study… and we study with this particularly in the Bible churches, when I pastored a couple of Bible churches, I grew up in the Bible church movement, and sometimes we tend to think Bible study is about getting smarter or figuring it all out, or winning Bible trivia games, or being able to name the twelve sons of Jacob and the judges in order, and the kings of Israel in order, both in the united and divided kingdom. We think that’s Bible study. But I’m here to tell you the world is filled with biblically brilliant morally bankrupt people because knowing the Word of God is meaningless; it’s just puffed up if you don’t translate it into a changed life.
So that’s the development phase and the implementation phase. And it’s helpful to remember this process and that theology is a process when it comes to defending grace. Why? Because some people might not be where you are; some people might just be getting exposed to the whole clarity of the gospel thing. Remember, we’re fighting a formidable foe—Satan wants to blind men’s hearts to the gospel and it’s even more a problem today, the deception is getting worse and worse and worse. And one of my great joys and great thrills, and I’m sure Dr. Woods would say the same thing, is seeing people, particularly young men and women, who have been exposed to grace through the ministry of not by works and embraced grace and are now championing in grace. And if I had not taken the time and God had not allowed by His grace the opportunity for our lives to intersect and given me the opportunity to influence in their lives, if I’d just have, the first time I met them and saw how sloppy they were on the gospel if I’d written them off as a heretic instead of defending grace graciously, maybe they wouldn’t have gone through that process and come out on the other side.
Number 4, and I kind of touched on this already, but reflect humility when defending your views… reflect humility when defending your views. Notice I said “reflect humility” not project humility because in this postmodern age people will see right through fake humility. You have to really examine your heart and just recognize, hey, I love this person, I think they’re wrong and I think they’re wrong about a pretty important issue, but I love them in the Lord and I really want to help them come to the incredible, amazing understanding of grace that God has allowed me to come to. So I want to be humble in defending my view with them. Paul talks about this in Colossians when he says, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, long-suffering. He says above all put on love, and let the peace of God rule in your hearts. [Colossians 3:12, “Put on therefore, as God’s elect, holy and beloved, a heart of compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, longsuffering;  forbearing one another, and forgiving each other, if any man have a complaint against any; even as the Lord forgave you, so also do ye:  and above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfectness.  And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to the which also ye were called in one body; and be ye thankful.”]
And he goes on to say in verse 16, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts unto God.” And that’s what we’re talking about, defending grace with grace, grace with grace!
Number 5, resist the temptation to compromise for friendships, money or other practicalities. Resist the temptation to compromise for friendships, money or other practicalities! Now I’ve seen this time and again; the first edition of getting the gospel wrong created quite a stir in the free grace movement because I took to task some leaders within the free grace movement who were preaching a false gospel and even though we agreed with them on some things we fundamentally disagreed on some things, namely that you have to believe Jesus died and rose again for your sins to be saved and they were teaching that you don’t even have to know Jesus died and rose again to be saved. And so I took them to task, I feel like graciously, and you get longtime friends of these people who had known them for thirty years…
I remember going to lunch with one gentleman and he had heard of my book, he had actually like 30 different scholars in front of the book that had read it blurbed it but it just goes to show you a lot of times they don’t read the whole book when they blurb it (that was a lesson learned for me too) because in these footnotes where I had addressed some of this false teaching apparently they missed that or they didn’t notice it but this one particular gentleman said that some of his books were being pulled from the shelves of this one ministry that I had critiqued and he said boy, if I had known they weren’t going to sell my book any more I wouldn’t have endorsed your book. To which I said well, that’s interesting, do you agree with me or not? Well, I agree with you but you know…. So again, that’s just an antidotal example of compromising for friendship, money or other practicalities.
One of the gentlemen that I critiqued was a very close friend of mine, I have known him since 1989 and you know, love him, we used to be contract bridge partners together, we played in competitive bridge tournaments, and I had him in my church to speak when I pastored. And I’ve lost that friendship because, as much as I love him I love the gospel more and I had to make a tough choice. So sometimes we find ourselves in really difficult positions but remember the gospel is what matters most. Do I seek to please men or God?
Number 6, resolve to hold firm even in the face of persecution. Again, grace is about confidence and self-confidence; if you’re insecure about your view than you might begin to waver, you might begin to waver, you might begin to get defensive but when you’re secure you can be kind of like Shadrach, Meshach and Aged-nego, you can say you know what, we trust the Lord and if He’s willing to save us from this fire great, but even if he does not He’s still God. And that’s what we need to be sometimes when we’re facing difficult persecution when it comes to the gospel.
Number 7, and this is important; respond graciously in your tone, demeanor, and attitude. Now I use a lot of humor in my messages and in talking, and sometimes sarcasm can come back to bite you. And I’ve been in different contexts all across the country; I’ve learned that some jokes that will work well say in the Bible belt won’t well on the west coast, and they won’t work well in the northeast either. I remember the first time I spoke out on the west coast, this was years ago, I used some joke about a gun and people came up to me and said you’ve actually seen a gun? You’ve actually touched one? I said, listen, I’m from Texas, you know, and you fly into California they confiscate your gun, when you land at the airport in Texas they hand them out, you know, here’s your gun, welcome to the state. So you’ve got to recognize that your attitude matters, people are looking at your tone, they’re looking at your demeanor and sometimes what you perceive as an innocent joke can create a stumbling block.
But more than that, what is your actual attitude; you know, if you’re angry, if you’re defensive, as I’ve said, and again it’s hard not to be because this is the gospel we’re talking about. It’s the reason that I don’t have to spend eternity in a literal place of torment called hell because of my sin, because my Savior paid for my sins. He paid a debt I didn’t owe because I owed a debt I could never pay. And that’s pretty important to me, and we saw that’s pretty important to Paul in Galatians 1.
So I understand how our natural tendencies can come through when we feel like something’s being attacked that’s so valuable… and it IS valuable, we’re not talking about compromise here; we’re talking about the way in which you defend it. And take a breath, realize that you want to win a friend here, you want to win an advocate for grace, and begin to work them through… and be patient… be patient because there are some people that take a long time. Especially pastors that I’ve come across, they’ve been embracing this other terminology and this verbiage without really stopping to think what it communicates, for a long time and to change is really an implicit admission that they were wrong. And nobody like to admit that they were wrong. And nobody likes to change; change is difficult. Mark Twain said the only one who likes to change is a wet baby, and as the father of six I concur.
So again, respond with grace in your tone and your attitude, we see this in Solomon’s words—the words of a wise man are gracious. [Ecclesiastes 10:12, “The words of a wise man’s mouth are gracious; but the lips of a fool will swallow up himself.”] Have you ever thought about that? So when we are being ungracious, no matter how smart we are we’re not being wise. And no matter how right we are we’re not being wise. “The words of a wise man’s mouth are gracious.”
Going back to Paul’s words in Colossians, “Let your speech always be with grace.” [Colossians 4:6, “Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer every man.”] Even before the church age, as the Lord sent out the disciples, He said, “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” “Be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” [Matthew 10:16, “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.”]
And then number eight, realize we will all give an account for our thoughts, attitude and actions someday. Did you realize you can win the battle but lose the reward? Have you ever thought about that? Sometimes we win the battle, we win the argument but we lose the reward because again, it’s not about being right, it’s not about winning the argument, it’s about defending grace. Some people might say grace doesn’t need any defense. Well, it certainly does, Paul defended it and we’re called to defend it, but it doesn’t need any help, it stands on its own. There’s nothing we can say or do that’s going to add to the already impressive resume of grace, but when it comes under attack we need to be willing to defend it but we need to do so graciously.
Paul said in Romans 14 we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ. [Romans 14:10, “But thou, why dost thou judge thy brother? or thou again, why dost thou set at naught thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment-seat of God.”] And by the way, we have a chapter on that in our eschatology textbook, What Lies Ahead: A Biblical Overview of the End Times [J.B. Hixson, Mark Fontecchio]
And I have another book out there that I didn’t write but I endorsed and I think Dr. Woods endorsed it as well, by some mutual colleagues of ours, that’s about the whole notice of punitive damages at the Bema Judgment because there’s a growing trend right now among free grace people that suggests that the Bema Judgment is not just about reward or lack of reward but it’s about punishment, that some will people appear before the judgment seat and be spanked or worse yet be cast into outer darkness where there’s weeping and gnashing of teeth for a thousand years, where they’re going to miss out on the kingdom, kind of like a Christian purgatory, and it’s not a pleasant place. And then after the thousand years you get let out and you get to go on into heaven. And that’s not a new teaching, it’s actually been around for a long, long time but it’s really gaining new traction because of some popular authors today that are promoting it. So there’s a very detailed exegetical critique of that view called Should Christians Fear Outer Darkness that’s out there if you’re interested in that. [Should Christians Fear Outer Darkness? Paperback – September 18, 2015 by Dennis M. Rokser (Author), Thomas L. Stegall]
But having said that, even though we know we never need to fear punishment because we passed from death into life and shall never come into judgment, [John 5:24, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.” NASB] We will appear before the judgment Seat of Christ and there will be that moment, I don’t know how it’s going to work out, I don’t know how it can happen in a timeless eternity but somehow God’s figured it out and there will be that moment when we all wish we had done more. That’s why 1 John 2:28 says, “little children, abide in Him,” stay in close fellowship with Him so that when He appears you will be confident “and not ashamed.” Right. [1 John 2:28, “And now, my little children, abide in him; that, if he shall be manifested, we may have boldness, and not be ashamed before him at his coming.”]
And so we want to make sure that in defending grace… see, we don’t get any extra bonus points, we don’t get any extra crowns because we were on the side of grace. We get extra crowns for being gracious, that’s what we’re rewarded for, the counsels of the heart, 1 Corinthians 4. [1 Corinthians 4:5, “Wherefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and make manifest the counsels of the hearts; and then shall each man have his praise from God. ASV]
So number nine, rest in God’s grace and trust Him to resolve any conflict. I threw this in there just because I know the heartache that many feel because they have loved ones, relatives, friends, son, daughter, who are wrapped up in the Reformed gospel that’s so prevalent today, I call it The Gathering Storm, and it really pains them to know that someone they love so dearly is embracing a false gospel. And all I can say there is there comes a point where you can’t necessarily convince them, it’s going to have to be the Lord, so you know, the time may have come and gone for you to just continue to sit down and beat them over the head with all the Scripture passages and stuff. You may just have to rest in God’s grace, and certainly as you have interaction at family gatherings and other occasions when something overt comes up that is attacking the gospel you can graciously give a counter point just in passing conversation. But you may not be able to win the day just by continuing to lecture them. So you just trust Him to resolve the conflict.
Paul, you know, had similar a attitude when he was dealing with his thorn in the flesh, and he says, “My grace is sufficient for you, my strength is made perfect in weakness.” We can’t solve all the problems, we can’t fix everybody, we can’t stand up and rebuke people publicly any time they make a misstatement in the pulpit. I’m not condoning it but I’m saying you know, let’s be gracious and if they’re saying something that’s not consistent with the free, pure, clear, accurate gospel message talk to them about it. Maybe it was a mistake, maybe they really believe that. If so then you’ve got to go to the next step, say how do I handle this and so forth.
And then finally, number ten, and this is what I’ll leave you with, reinforce the grace message at every opportunity. Being gracious does not mean being silent. Being gracious does not mean being silent! Look for opportunities to advance the grace message clearly, correctly and confidently. We call it, in Not By Works we’ve taken to calling it instinctive evangelism rather than intentional evangelism. To me intentional evangelism, it’s not a big deal, I know there’s a lot of people that use that term, but to me it’s always sort of smacked of… like, you know, you’ve got to be intentional about it. Like today you’ve got to… it’s almost like working out or dieting or something, I’m going to be intentional about something that’s hard to do.
And I just think of evangelism as just talking about the Lord and talking about it clearly, distinctively so when the opportunity presents itself reinforce the grace gospel. Can you believe… you know, and you hear this all the time, you run into people wherever you may be going, grocery store, the doctor’s office, and you might be wearing a Christian T-shirt or a pen or somehow, maybe you’ve got your Bible, they think… they notice you’re a Christian so they strike up a conversation. And they may be way off the reservation theologically but they feel like there’s this common bond because you both have something to do with Jesus so they’ll start up a conversation. And that’s an opportunity; that’s divine appointment where you can begin to tell your story and you can talk about how you’re a sinner and you were hopelessly and helplessly lost and there was no hope whatsoever but because of the grace of God you have new life because Jesus Christ paid your debt on the cross, rose again the third day, defeating death out of the grave and He offers not only to you but to everyone the free gift of salvation. Tell me how you got saved. And then you just let them talk. But never make… you know, Rahm Emanuel back there in the Obama administration said never let a good crisis go to waste.
Well, never let a good opportunity go to waste either, right. When you have the opportunity reinforce it—that doesn’t mean preach a sermon, it can mean just a sentence… it can mean just a sentence but reinforce the grace message. 1 Peter 3:15 says, “but sanctify in your hearts Christ as Lord: being ready always to give a defense,” an apologia, “to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, yet with meekness and in fear:” “… in meekness and in fear!” He says redeem the time… redeem time. Walk circumspectly, the Greek word circumspectly means carefully, cautiously, lively, defend grace at all costs. But let’s be gracious in doing so… let’s be gracious in doing so.
So I hope that I gave you some food for thought, I know we’re passionate here at Sugar Land Bible Church about the grace message and I certainly know Dr. Woods is, that’s one of the things I love most about him.
Let me close by just mentioning a few things about our ministry. Our ministry is based on Titus 3:5, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done but according to His mercy He saved us.” I started this in 1999 when I was in my first year of teaching, fulltime, when I was an adjunct at first, and it just sort of grew and grew, it was mainly just a website where students could go get supplemental information but it just grew and grew and then we incorporated, it became a non-profit and it was an auxiliary ministry of our teaching ministry when I was pastoring and teaching, but it is now fulltime. It’s now something we do full time and we’d love to tell you more about it.
One of the big things we’re excited about this summer is our first ever Grand Canyon Rim and Raft Tour, I mentioned this Wednesday night, but a good friend and colleague of mine, a creation expert who is world renowned with Creation Ministires.org Russ Miller, he and I worked together many times, for several years now at different conferences, and he runs these rim and raft tours where he actually shows you where creation meets judgment at the Grand Canyon. And the Grand Canyon, by the way, is the death nail for Darwinian evolution; it completely dismantles the entire argument. He’s been trying to get me to hose one of these and so we finally took him up on it and we’re so excited. There’s been a huge response and we still have a few spots open and if you are interested we’d love to talk to you about it.
How many of you have been to the Grand Canyon, by the way? Fantastic. How did you like it when that tour guide from the National Parks Service pointed out where the creation [can’t understand words] was, wasn’t that awesome. [someone says something] Oh, he didn’t tell you that? Well, we’re going to show you that; we’re going to show you where creation meets judgment. We’re going to explain how the Grand Canyon formed in three days as a result of a global flood and when you see it and witness it firsthand it’s like how did I miss this before, it’s so obvious. And it will really embolden your faith. And this is not one of those sort of rough and tumble outdoorsman type trips. It says “rim and raft,” this is not a white water raft; this is for ages 4 to 400, I mean, anybody can go, still water, you’re just kind of floating down and he’ll stop and show you some things. And it’s an air conditioned chartered buses, we’re eating in restaurants, staying in hotels, it’s an all-inclusive trip, everything is covered so don’t think you can’t handle it. We’d love to have you come if you’re interested.
And a couple of more things I just want to mentioned. This is our brand new Not By Works Theological Book of Charts, Diagrams & Illustrations, we get a lot of requests for different charts that I’ve shown in classes and lectures and seminars and conferences and churches so we finally put over 70 of our most requested ones, they are eight and a half by eleven, full color, and it’s got different sections with an index and it may be something that you may be interested in. This is the book I’ve referenced a lot today, Getting the Gospel Wrong: The Evangelical Crisis No One Is Talking About, Revised Edition.
And the genesis for this book is I was speaking at conferences, I would have a repeated experience that was very discouraging to me. What happened is I would be backstage or in the green room waiting with other speakers and I would hear kind of what’s going on on stage or lots of times they’d have a TV screen up in the green room so you can kind of watch what’s going on on state and I’d hear somebody get up and speak, good speakers, very gifted, but they would obliterate the gospel. And you know, the crowd would all clap at the end of the message and show no discernment. Then another speaker would get up right after them, preach an entirely different gospel, also usually incorrect, but completely different, and I would wait to watch the reaction of the crowd, hoping and expecting that surely, with hundreds of people there, will notice this is completely opposite to what the last guy just said. But no, they just sort of clapped, you know, and so the subtitle of this book is “The Evangelical Crisis No One is Talking About.” And the idea here is that the gospel matters and people don’t think it matters and they’re not even paying attention, any old gospel will do. So that’s kind of what that’s about.
Then we have The Gospel Unplugged which is a much shorter, kind of a nice little easy to read, you can sit and read it in one sitting, it’s under a hundred pages, with study questions and just kind of the clear gospel, no footnotes, no [can’t understand word]. And we have a couple of audio series, The Gospel Unplugged audio here and then The Amazing Grace audio is here. These are 20, 30 minute radio shows, each one on a different area of grace. We picked 20 messages from the radio program on grace, then we picked on the radio program on the gospel, so those are available.
And then just one more I want to mention, what we’re going to be looking at in the second hour today is the One Minute After the Rapture and we do have that on DVD so after we study that if it’s something that you found helpful or you want to pass it on to someone else, particularly as an evangelistic tool, that is out there. And then my books, What Lies Ahead is out there as well as The Great Last Days Deception. So thank you guys very much and I think we are about out of time for the first hour.
Let me close in prayer and then we’ll take a break before worship. Father, we thank You so much for the opportunity to study Your Word and for the reminder of how important the gospel is and yet how important it is to be gracious when we present the gospel and defend the gospel. Father, than, You for this church and for Dr. Woods and for his passion for grace. I pray that You continue to bless the ministry here as they take a stand and make a difference in this community. We ask Your blessings now on the worship service to follow; use it for Your honor and glory, we pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.