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Thursday, July 19, 2012

Cheap Grace is Dead Wrong, but NOT for the reason you might think. (Repost)

I ran into someone the other day who pointed out that within this post, I became a little too pointed and a lot too personal. I thought a lot about it, and reread what I had written. It was true. I didn't mention any names, but I attacked with way too much specificity and zeal. I had no call to say some of the things I said. I apologize. That said, I firmly believe in the truth of this article as it stands now. I've made changes that better reflect the argument and reasoning...rather than the anger I was feeling when I originally wrote. So, if you're a Christian, and you're stuck on the not-so-merry-go-round, read on and discover just how amazing God's grace really is. --WtB

Cheap Grace

I am an angry man right now. It's not the simple anger of a bad call in a football game. It's not the reactive anger of stubbing my toe or stepping on a kids' toy left in the wrong place. No, this is the kind of anger that comes from years of mistreatment at the hands of the unjust. This is waking up after years in the Matrix, realizing for the first time that you've been a slave.

That's how angry I am.

You see, my Pastor (Joe Duke, Lifepoint Church) is preaching out of Romans (my favorite book of the Bible). And his sermon this weekend, "A Matter of Life and Death," finally rang some much needed bells in my head. And I woke up. You can listen to the sermon here by the way: A Matter of Life and Death, Joe Duke, Lifepoint Church.

And when I woke up, I became angry. I'm not just angry for myself. I'm angry for generations (maybe centuries) of Christians who have been mistreated or misstaught or misled on two key areas of Christianity:
The Grace of God
and the Nature of Justification

So what's the problem? What has imprisoned me and so many Christians for generations? What is it about some teachings related to Grace or Justification?

The problem is that there are those who consciously or unconsciously teach that people can only be saved from hell by Grace plus something. It's the plus something that murders humanity.

The problem is that there are those who consciously or unconsciously teach that Justification can be proved or disproved by a person's behavior, implying that the only people who are really justified (who are really Christians) are the ones who live a virtually sinless or actually sinless lives. This imprisons humanity behind bars of ice. 

And when someone like me comes along and says: "Wait a second! The Bible tells us that salvation is FREE. The only thing that must be true of us is that we believe that Jesus died for our sins and confess Him as Lord. And by God's amazing Grace, we are saved! We are justified which means declared ultimately righteous. And it's a free gift." When someone like me says something like that, there are those who would accuse us of me of teaching, "Cheap Grace."

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German theologian who spoke out against Nazi aggression during World War II. Bonhoeffer was arrested and eventually hung for his faith and his relentless criticism of Nazi evil. He was a great man, a brilliant man, a man who no-doubt inspired thousands, if not millions to become Christians or follow after Jesus. I have no right to speak against him, but I do believe some of his teachings are either somewhat errant or have been horrendously misunderstood. In his treatise "The Cost of Discipleship," Bonhoeffer wrote this:

"Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our Church. We are fighting today for costly grace."

"The only man who has the right to say that he is justified by grace alone is the man who has left all to follow Christ."
-Dietrich Bonhoeffer

We read those now out of context, of course, and that's why I think, perhaps Bonhoeffer didn't mean what it sounds like he means. When you read this, part of you wants to raise a fist and yell, "ROCK ON!" But there's this nagging suspicion that something's a little off. In the first quote, do you see the pair of oxymorons? "Cheap Grace" and "Costly Grace." Neither of these things are possible. Not if we understand the Biblical definition of Grace.

In the second quotation, do you see the issue? If you are justified by grace alone, how can leaving everything behind be a PRErequisite? How can there be any other condition if you are saved by grace ALONE. There cannot be. Not if we understand the Biblical definition of Grace.

Ephesians 2:8-9

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast."

Romans 3: 21-23

 21 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;

Romans 4: 1-6

 1 What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS CREDITED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS.” 4 Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. 5 But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness, 6 just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works..."

Romans 5:1

 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ..."

Romans 5:15-17

  15 But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many. 16 The gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification. 17 For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. 

Galatians 3: 1-11

 1 You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. 2 I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? 3 Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? 4 Have you experienced so much in vain—if it really was in vain? 5 So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard? 6 So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”
 7 Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. 8 Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” 9 So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.
 10 For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” 11 Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.”

Romans 6:23

23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

God gave His life up for us. He ransomed us, paid our debt, and saved us. He GAVE us forgiveness. He gave us salvation. He gave us life. And He gave us eternity in Heaven. 
Grace is defined as unmerited favor. We didn't deserve it. We didn't earn it. We have nothing to boast about. We have no byline, and our names are not in the credits of Grace. It is God's gift. Do you see how many times the scriptures declare it is a gift? A pure gift, uncorrupted by any puny deeds we might manifest? You just can't have "cheap" or "costly" grace. It cannot be costly and costless at the same time. It's free. Do you hear me? IT IS FREE.

Now, there are some who distinguish the cost of Grace to God from our own cost. Yep. I get that. Jesus had to leave heaven and put on mortal flesh. That cost Him. Jesus has to muddle through human existence for 33 years. That cost Him. Jesus had to endure the taunts, the spit, the torture, the humiliation, and death on the cross. That cost Him...dearly. Perhaps even more than all of that: Jesus had to experience a span of time where He was completely cut off from God the father. I often wonder if that wasn't the moment where Jesus experienced the blow from the bearing the sin of the whole world--that in those moments, Jesus took the sum total of all humanity's sin and separation, the sum total of all humanity's eternity stay in hell--upon Himself. Grace cost God more than we could ever tally or imagine. Frankly, we're just too limited to go there. But for us, the recipients of Grace, it is free.

Believe: It really is that simple

What is the one word used the most in the New Testament to explain how a person gets saved? You guessed it. Believe. BELIEVE and you will be saved. For God so loved the world that He gave His only son that any who would BELIEVE. John wrote his whole gospel to encourage folks to BELIEVE.

Now, you might be thinking that the word "believe" in the Bible has some double-secret probationary meaning. Maybe in the Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic there's some extra complication to the word "believe" that Western readers wouldn't understand today. Nope. It meant then just what it does today. It means to be persuaded, to understand and agree with, to trust as true, or to pledge faith in as reliable. How can it be that simple?

I think that's the real problem. We stubborn humans just can't accept something as free. There's got to be a string attached somewhere, right? Maybe we think we'll be more spiritual if we do something to get it. Maybe we think we're helping God out. Maybe we rightly know how screwed up we are, how big a debt we owe, and then wrongly assume that, therefore, we owe some kind of penance before we can be truly saved. Maybe we were raised to be independent, can-do people.

But sorry...what do the scriptures tell us? Jesus did it all. And He gives it to us for FREE.

And the cool thing is that God knew all along how screwed up we are. He knew all along that there was NO WAY we could save ourselves. He knew our natures and knew we needed an utterly complete, simple gift--or we'd all be toast. Literally.

"For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. (For rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person perhaps someone might possibly dare to die.) But God demonstrates his own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, because we have now been declared righteous by his blood, we will be saved through him from God’s wrath. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, how much more, since we have been reconciled, will we be saved by his life?" Romans 5: 6-10

See there, God's absolute brilliant generosity. God wasn't about "Go clean up your act, and then come see me about salvation." God wasn't about "Go do more and more sacrifices, and then come see me about salvation." God wasn't about "leave everything behind, and then I'll save you." No, God said, "Let me make this easy for you. Believe." 

John expressed what kind of simple belief was necessary when he compared Jesus to something Moses did back in the OT:

"Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”

This hearkens back to Numbers 21 where God sent poisonous snakes to bite some sinful folks who just wouldn't listen. Then, in their misery, they cried out for help. Moses held up a bronze serpent (the symbol of the AMA) and all who looked at it were saved. Jesus, John says, is just like that. He was lifted up so that all of us miserable folk could look to Jesus for salvation...and be saved. It's just that simple. Look on Him. Believe He can save you. Boom, it's done. 

Modern Pharisees
So who's trying to sell Grace with a string attached? I won't name names, but you've probably heard of many of them. You've read their books, heard their sermons, etc. They will use all kinds of interesting phrases for it: full surrender, Lordship, absolute repentance, sinless perfection, instant sanctification, and so forth. And each one of these tells you to believe in Jesus for salvation, BUT...  There's something else: some level of repentance, some activity, some attitude--some something necessary to really be saved.

According to many of these groups, especially the sinless perfection folk, a person who calls himself a Christian, who then sins often (or even at all, in some extreme teachings), must not be a Christian at all. Never was one. Or maybe was--but lost salvation. (Don't get me started on "losing salvation." Hello, it's called ETERNAL life for a reason!) These folks clearly have x-ray soul vision and can see an unregenerate heart. They will say in one breath, Grace alone, but in the next--so long as you don't sin, believed in this certain way, or add this to belief. And they would then accuse me of teaching "cheap grace." 

These folks are like modern Pharisees, trying to add to God's work on the cross. Remember the Pharisees? Of all the folks Jesus met on earth, the Pharisees earn the prize for being ripped up one side and down the other by the Son of God. He called them serpents, hypocrites, white-washed tombs, and more! Why? Jesus didn't like that these mere men were adding rules, adding restrictions, adding ANYTHING to God's way.

I'm sick of it too. Seriously. SICK OF IT. My problem started way back when I first became a Christian. The dude who led me to the Lord was one GLOW IN THE DARK believer. Based on the person I assumed this guy to be, I assumed that as soon as I believed, WHOOSH, there goes all my issues with sin.

Well, there were some neat changes initially. I stopped cursing. I quit drinking. I dumped tons of things that might have been temptations. It was kind of a cleansing. Was I completely sin-free during that time? I don't think so. It was 20+ years ago, so I can't really recall. But I don't think I was ever sin-free. At the very least, I remember getting really angry playing a video game and throwing the controller so hard against the wall that is put a hole in the drywall. So, yeah, I probably sinned still during that time. And yet, it was a change.

But it didn't last forever. Even though, I was in the word more than ever, praying more than ever, and active in church more than ever, sin crouched at my door and I stepped in it like is was a pasture full of manure. Decades went by. Some days, months, years were more pure than others. But, if I am honest, there were periods where I sinned more as a believer than I did during certain periods as an unbeliever. So what happened? Did I lose my salvation? Was I never a Christian to begin with? And for those who might teach such things: just how much sin is necessary to show I never was a Christian? One sin a day? Twelve? 17.5? 

As you might have guessed, I noticed the discrepancy between my status as a Christian and my behaviors. And honestly, the first fifteen years of my Christian life were characterized by frequent terrors of hell, by questioning my salvation, by repeated altar calls and sinners prayers, etc. etc. Eventually, I came to a kind of stasis. I just kind of said to God that I don't know how to be more sincere. I don't know how to have more genuine faith. And I need help.

I led Bible studies week after week. And I could argue apologetics with atheists, mormons, Jehovah's witnesses, evolutionary biologists, etc. But the sins didn't always stop. Neither did the fears. I became a bit of an insecure Christian. I clung to Jesus and felt a desperate need for His touch, but I also couldn't seem to let go of the fears. And those fears made almost EVERY single act of Christian service feel hollow and insincere. I could witness to people, but like CS Lewis said, it felt like I was handing out brochures to a place I had never visited.

Holy Facepalm, Batman!
But, over time, and with the help of some pretty amazing apologetics-meisters, and especially with God's grace, I came through and utterly dismissed that errant belief system. So when my pastor began preaching out of Romans, it just connected. It was like a Holy Facepalm! How could I fall for that utter nonsense? How could I listen to this false teaching and remotely entertain the thought that I might be cheapening grace.

You know who "cheapens" Grace? It's these folks, these false teachers. As if God's grace can't cover all sins. As if God's grace can't save you unless you...blah, blah. As if God's grace just isn't powerful enough...unless we help.

You who try to add clean living or baptism or full sacrifice or total repentance or anything else to grace: STOP IT. Who can supplement the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross? Does Jesus' suffering, death, and resurrection NEED anything to supplement it? Is it not enough? Was Jesus kidding on the cross when he cried out, "It is finished"?

To those who see other Christians who sin, and in your minds judge them as people "who can't possibly be saved," is it not you who, in judgment, are serving the devil? Do you know that person's soul? Are you finding a label for these people out of a desire to comfort your own discomfort? Are you troubled by the incongruence between the name Christian and obvious sin? And since you can't make heads or tails of that, do you then comfort yourself by a wholesale declaration that sinning Christians aren't really Christians at all?

Matthew 23: 13 and 15
But woe to you, experts in the law and you Pharisees, hypocrites! You keep locking people out of the kingdom of heaven! For you neither enter nor permit those trying to enter to go in. 

Woe to you, experts in the law and you Pharisees, hypocrites! You cross land and sea to make one convert, and when you get one, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves!" 

What you do is drive away the lowly, broken Christians who have blown it, making them think they never were Christians to begin with. And since they never were, they despair that they never can become Christians because they simply don't know how to muster more sincerity with which to believe. 

What you do is frighten whole generations of new believers into keeping a desperate, tragic secret. By your falseness, your legalism, and superficial holiness, you have made these new believer think that as soon as they become Christians, POOF, all troubles, all sin issues are instantly resolved. So now, these new believers, confronted with the reality of their own sin, inwardly cringe. Who can they tell and not be worried about rejection? And everyone else at church looks so great, like they've got the world on a string and the tiger by its tail. How can I possibly admit...that I mess up?

What you do is chase away the nervous unbeliever who comes to church one day, hoping against hope that maybe someone knows what they are going through. But instead, he finds a sanctuary filled with plastic people, perfect smiles and glad-handing glee-meisters…and if he digs deep enough, he finds hypocrites. 

I can't possibly know the motivations of teachers of such doctrines. I imagine that for a great many of them, they have the best of intentions. They want to steer people toward holiness, and that's not a bad thing at all, is it? No, not in essence. And I know for a fact that at least some who teach these troubling doctrines do a LOT of good, helping believers through many of life's difficulties and so on. They steer a great many people to Jesus...and that is fantastic. But, once a believer begins to mature and explore the theology, he/she will discover a troubling and often crippling set of disclaimers like: 1) You have faith, but need ___ as well  OR  2) You believe, great, but you must be sinless now or you weren't really a Christian  OR  3) You believe, but have you left all behind? Etc. etc.  

How dare we sell grace short by attempting to a) add something of human effort to it OR b) by claiming that Grace covers only a finite amount of sins (just the sins committed prior to conversion).

Priceless Grace
But, you may say, what about those people who claim to be Christians but sin...or even sin a lot? Well, maybe they are Christians and maybe they aren't. Maybe they are just walking out of fellowship with God. Maybe they have never been discipled properly or never had a good church...or even a friend good enough to teach and sharpen them. Isn't God's grace powerful enough to save them? Of course it is.

What if they sin a little? How do you define "a little?" What if they sin a lot? How do you define "a lot?" Do you see the problem? It's a problem of YOU, finite man, trying to define something that only the infinite mind of God has any right to define.

And I ask again, isn't grace powerful enough to cover those sins? Of course it is. You cannot out-sin Grace. Don't take my word for it. God has a lot to say on the matter. Check out Romans.

"The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more,  so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." Romans 6: 20-21

Grace always trumps sin. ALWAYS.

God took a magnificent risk in dying for sinful people. He risked that once we believe in Him and receive the gift of eternal life, we might at some point, just walk away. You've seen it, and I've seen it. We might as well stop denying it or trying the old "never was a Christian dodge." My first pastor was as godly and wise a man as you're ever likely going to meet. On fire for the Lord for thirty plus years. Smart as a whip. Taught at an accredited Bible College, led hundreds maybe thousands to Jesus. The man's faith was no doubt Grade A bonafide true. Ten years later, gone. Left his wife. Left the church. Struggling. Let every man be a liar and God be true. God has saved this man. Yes, even him. Or even me. I still sin too. And I say, there but for the Grace of God go I. See, I look at the picture below and see a sacrifice so great and so comprehensive--an ocean of agony to rescue broken mankind. Grace trumps sin.

Please understand, I am not advocating any kind of universalism thing here. Jesus' sacrifice is powerful enough to save mankind, but it did not save everyone. Some will reject the gift of Eternal Life. Some will reject the Grace of God. It's a free gift, but people still have to accept it.

Sinning Free for All?
At this point, you might be wondering: does that mean that I can become a Christian and just go sin all I want? Paul addressed that question in Romans too.

"What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?" Romans 6: 1-2

Here, God is saying, you no longer have to live that way. Sinning hurts nonChristians. There are nasty natural consequences to sin. But for the believer, I think it's tenfold. You get the natural consequences plus some. You may lose the assurance of your salvation--the feeling that you are saved. You may be driven practically mad by the disconnect between your inner man who is alive with Christ and the outer man sinning madly. You might even just die. The wages of sin is death. And one thing that's definite is that you'll lose reward in heaven. That's another topic for study. Seriously, there will be glorious rewards in heaven, but not everyone will earn them.

Salvation--Justification--the Grace of God is FREE. Discipleship is costly. Sanctification is costly. Growing to be more like Jesus will refine you through Holy Fire. Christians have lots of work to do. Jesus Himself prepares good works for us to do. That's kind of a cool thought. But please get the point: all this is once you are IN THE FAMILY. Once you are saved, then the works come. But not automatically. You need the power of God each and every day to follow after Him.

Get off the not-so-Merry-go-round
Do you believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross to pay for your sins (past sins, present sins, and future sins)? Do you believe He is the Son of God who rose again to defeat death once and for all? Do you believe Jesus loved you enough to give his life for you? You do? Great. You're saved. God saved you.

But the thing is, you really have to SETTLE IT. You can't go back and forth on this. Trust me. It is a never ending cycle of futility. Am I saved? Yes, but I sinned. Maybe I wasn't saved. Lord, save me. Oh, I must be saved now. Crud, I sinned again. Maybe it didn't take. Lord, save me.

See where that leads? I'm convinced that the "Am I saved or not technique" is one of satan's greatest ploys to keep Christians from doing God's work. If you're not convinced you're saved, all you'll do is pine over that. You won't be much good to the cause of Christ. SETTLE IT.

Jesus paid your price. You are saved. If you sin again, confess it, move on! Ask God to give you the power to turn from sins. Look for the way of escape God provides us for every temptation. It'll be there. Seriously. Get a friend to hold you accountable. Pray for each other.

One more thing: be real. Stop trying to act more put-together than you are. Remember the broken sinners, Christian and nonChristian alike. Maybe they need an ear and an arm rather than an eye of judgment.


Anonymous said...

"You who try to add clean living or baptism or anything else to grace: STOP IT. Who can supplement the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross?"

So are you saying that baptism is not necessary to be saved? You have a lot of good points in this post but I would like to hear you elaborate on that... As far as I can tell the Bible clearly states that baptism is one of the five steps to salvation. (which could be four if you're leaving baptism out)

WayneThomasBatson said...

Hi, Xcal, I am saying just that. That doesn't mean we don't get baptized. We're commanded to. We're commanded to do a lot of things that we very much should do. But "believe" is the key to Grace. Here's an article you might find helpful on the same topic:

Megan said...

Thanks for posting this. I agree with you in everything you said. Grace and grace alone saves us. Grace is a gift, and all we have to do is accept it by believing, after that we are saved period. People should stop selling the one true all-powerful God short. He has the power to save us and that's that. Never, ever alone.

Hannah/Eruanna said...

I agree on a fair few points in this, but everyone has their own translation of the Scriptures. Your pretty good with talking about things like that, its simple, but also very meaningful. :D Rock on!

Brian said...

Hi Mr. Batson,

I apologize for the length of this comment, but my father happens to be one of the biblical scholars whose work has been mis-characterized as "works righteousness," which is a hefty accusation to make that is often the result of lack of understanding that there are other ways to look at justification and grace.

While I appreciate the sentiment of your post, I think there are some problems with thinking about grace the way that you articulate it. Bonhoeffer goes on to say in that book that when Christ bids a man come, he bids him come and die.

What I think Bonhoeffer means, and what many sincere, intelligent, faithful Christians have come to believe, is that Grace does have to cost us something--our lives.

While I agree with you that people who claim that true Christians don't sin are way off base, there is something between the two extremes that has to do with death. "For I have been crucified with Christ," says St. Paul, "and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me."

The problem with the John 3:16 verse is that people take that one verse to sum up all of Christianity. I'm not sure how, though, Christians necessarily equate belief with grace--John and Paul were two different writers with different approaches. Paul's language is about justification by faith (faith in Christ may be better rendered "faith(fulness) OF Christ) and very often associated with a very real sense that part of faith and grace is dying with Christ. Romans 6 is all about this notion of being buried and dying with Christ.

This is all to say that a lot of harm is done by insisting on belief alone as what brings us into death and life with Christ. It has helped make "eternal life" about life after death alone; it has removed the urgency and necessity of taking part in restoring God's creation through justice for the poor and for the land. This is what we mean by cheap grace.

And at the root of all this is some difference in understanding about what it means to be saved. Evangelicals have coined phrases like "accept Jesus" that are found nowhere in the Bible, and often preach a gospel of salvation of one's soul from the eternal torment of hell.

Jesus doesn't want your soul apart from your body. Jesus came to earth to show us how to be fully human as children of God, that we might be "transformed into the same image from glory to glory." This doesn't necessarily equate to something specific that one "does," which would rightly be categorized as "works righteousness," but is more about the whole life conversion that may begin with belief or even an emotional response to an altar call.

Brian Gorman

everlastingscribe said...

Hey, XCalibur54, one of the best cases of 'being saved by grace through faith' without baptism is found with the Thief on the Cross. You can find the story in Luke 23:39-43. Now, obviously the poor fellow couldn't get down off the cross and go get baptized, after making a publish show of his faith in Christ, and was promised that that day he would be with Christ in paradise.

So, short answer, will lack of baptism keep you out of heaven if you are trusting in Christ Jesus for salvation? NO.

Should you be baptized?
YES, as it is a sign that you are really dead to self, and alive in Him.

I think the simple truth is this: Salvation is FOR us, but all ABOUT Him. Jesus has to save us, Jesus has to keep us, Jesus has to help us become more like Him.

It's all about Him, and it's not about us ( our being good enough, our trying hard enough, our adding to His work)

Isn't that a relief?

Check out Max Lucado's "It's Not About Me" for some really cool thoughts on the whole 'point of view shift' I can't recommend that little book enough. And it's an easy read. Life changing book, but an easy read.

R.E. Johnson said...

God wants to save us, but we have to let him (he's such a gentleman), and that requires a decision on our part. He's the groom with the ring, but he wants our "yes."

The thing is, choosing God is a little more than "Okay Lord, see you in heaven in a few." It is not passive. It is active, though it must also be receptive to his grace! The Bible spells out how we need to act. Not recommended, not should, but need to to the best of ability, and grace is what takes us even beyond our ability. And yes, we need to act, for we will be judged by the one who gives grace, and in his own words: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven." Matt 7: 21 Also see Rev 3:15-16 If a singular thing such as grace were the only factor, we would not be judged.

In case there's confusion, I'm not saying works justify salvation, but with God beckoning for us as he is, we should be concerned with serving him. We should not toss and turn at night questioning our salvation and to what degree we're involved, as Luther did, and to disastrous results.

Estelwen said...

I agree completely. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. All have sinned. No exemptions there. All means everyone. Any man who claims he is without sin lies and the truth is not in him, but if we confess our sins, then he will be merciful and forgive our sins. God never demanded we be perfect. He knows that is impossible. I was struck by Jeremiah 5:1. God tells Jeremiah to go look at the streets of Jerusalem and if Jeremiah can find one honest, truth seeking man God will spare the city. God did not say one perfect man, he said one honest and truth seeking man. He calls us to be honest about our own failings and to search for the truth. And the truth is, grace is a gift, God freely offers, to everyone. Everyone. Once again, no exemptions. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves it is a gift from God.

I would like to make one other point. Belief that God exists is not what is being discussed. Satan knows full well that God exists, yet Satan is not saved. Belief that God loves you, and is offering you the gift of grace, and the acceptance of that gift is what saves you.

Anonymous said...

I believe you are right, Mr. Batson, on that there is no such thing as "cheap grace". I do, however, think that those that often use that term don't always mean that grace has a cost to us, but that often the way many preachers today present grace "cheapens" the sacrifice that Jesus had to pay on the cross for our sin. We are saved by faith, through grace, on that there is no question whatsoever. But to think that grace is merely a covering of sin is a falacy. To get another biblical aspect on Grace, we should look even farther than Romans to Titus 2:11, where it says: “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.”
This means that if we are covered by grace, we will also have the power, through grace, to defeat sin and ungodliness. Grace is not an excuse to sin, but an empowerment to live for God.
Salvation is not dependent on us, but if we are not striving to obey the commands of God, we can fall away. There is no such thing as “once saved always saved.” There are many times in scripture where it warns us to strive towards the goal, to not fall away. If it warns us to not fall away, then, clearly, we can fall away.
Don’t get me wrong, I sin, every day, but I do not live in sin. There is a difference. If someone is living in sin, going against what the Bible teaches constantly, then he has probably fallen away, or departed from the faith.
This does not mean he is outside of the reach of grace, for God’s grace is always sufficient.

George said...

I am a firm believer in salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. It is certainly true that we are called to believe. However, Jesus also asked people to do something else besides believing. In Mark 1:15 Jesus says "repent and believe in the Gospel". When Paul later on talked about his ministry he said his ministry was one of "solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ"(Acts 20:21). Doesn't it seem strange to you that in this day and age we talk so much about believing while leaving out the message about repentance? We make faith mean just agreeing with some information we have received but true faith is not just that. The faith that saves is the faith that WILL result in works. Is is true that we are saved by faith alone. But the faith Paul speaks about in Ephesians 2:8 is not a faith that can be devoid of good works. When one has the faith of Ephesians 2:8, the works of Ephesians 2:10 will follow. If the faith of 2:8 is not followed by the works of 2:10 it is not saving faith. That is why James in James 2:17 says that "faith, if it has no works, is dead" and in 2:17 "I will show you my faith by my works". A saving faith is a working faith.

GOD guy said...

Mr. Batson, you completely hit the mark on the grace thing. There is no such thing as "paid grace", grace was given to us, therefore by definition we cannot buy grace, earn grace, etc. BUT, I do disagree with you on the count that it's just believing. While this may sound all "you get to heaven by works", it's not. In James the Bible says that "Even the demons believe--and shudder" believing is not going to get you to heaven; it takes a whole-hearted devotion to God, and while you do have to believe, that's not all there is. In Matthew 25:31-46 it says:
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ The king will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’ Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into an eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for the least of these, you did not do for me.’ Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” This does not mean in ANY way that you get to heaven by doing this. It means that when you live in whole-hearted devotion to God, you try to live like Jesus. It does NOT mean you're perfect by any stretch of the imagination. Basically: what's on the inside will show on the outside. If you like sports, you'll talk about, watch, listen to, play, etc. sports! If you like quilting, you'll quilt! What's most important to you shows up in what you invest your time in and the way you act. Being a follower of Jesus is more than just believing, it takes a whole-hearted, reckless abandonment of yourself for Jesus.

Anonymous said...


The Thief on the Cross account happened before Jesus died on the cross. Christianity itself did not exist yet. It is also entirely possible that the thief had been baptized at some earlier point in his life.

The Bible clearly says that baptism by immersion is necessary for salvation. Believing in God, repenting your sins, and confessing Jesus as Lord are all important, but baptism is when the Holy Spirit enters your body. Writing off baptism as 'optional' or some other thing is completely ignoring the Word of God.

So to answer the question: "Will lack of baptism keep you out of heaven if you are trusting in Christ Jesus for salvation?"
Feel free to interpret it your own way, but I think the answer is yes.

Imagine this: You have a really slow computer. You hear about a place down the road that offers to give out free computers, far better than what you have. You decide that that is the only place you can get a better computer. You admit to the guy who's hosting the giveaway that you have a bad computer. You tell everyone you see that the computers there are awesome, and free, and so much better than any computer they have ever seen. But you never go get one. That is what happens when you aren't baptized; you aren't getting a new body through Christ.

This PDF has some good points (but it does ramble quite a bit):

Chris said...

Your post is so true. Many Christians forget about Lot who is called just in 2 Peter 2:7.
In Galatians 3:3- "Are ye so foolish? having begun in the spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?"

The book of Galatians is an excellent treatise on salvation by grace alone.

In Isaiah 64:6 our righteousnesses are called filthy rags, how on earth will they keep us saved?

Liz said...

Hey Mr.Batson, thanks so much for posting this. It really helped me. Because, yes, I have heard a lot of those Pharisee people, and it just annoys me! So I'm glad that someone agrees with me.(You would be a really great preacher!)

everlastingscribe said...


Could you give me some clarification?

Are you saying that you believe that unless a person is baptized, they are not saved?

If that is the case, what do you believe happened to all the saints that lived before Christ, and trusted in the coming Messiah?

None of them would have been baptized after Christ died, and Resurrected. Nor would they have had the baptism of John The Baptist which was under repentance.

The gift of the Holy Spirit physically indwelling the believer, I believe is separate than the water baptism which is a symbol of our death, burial, and new life in Christ.

Maybe it's a doctrinal difference you and I are having. It's beginning to sound like it.

WayneThomasBatson said...

HI, all! Wow, I figured there would be some spirited discussion of this topic. Thanks to all who took the time to read the whole thing through and chew on the meaning. I have to admit that I spent so much time on this post that I kind of rushed it at the end so that I could finish. I definitely should have cleaned it up a bit and clarified a some of my thoughts. Hopefully, this will answer some of the insights here. I will respond to the others when I can.

Hannah Rebekah said...

I'd like to say that you have no idea how good it is to hear someone say this so confidently and with biblical proof, but maybe you do. This is an issue that is rampant in the church, and it lifts my spirit to know that there are more people out there defending and teaching Christianity as Christ intended it. Thank you for taking the time to write this post.

Eliandr said...

Grace costs us nothing, but it cost Jesus Christ everything. Grace is freely given, but it was not freely gained.
Because Christ gave His life, we are commanded to give ours as well. This is not to receive Grace, but to abide in His Love.(John 15:10)
This is why we are told that: "You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." and "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service." (Matt 5:48; Romans 12:1)

WayneThomasBatson said...

Hey, Brian, thanks for writing. I certainly respect your father and your whole family. Please tell them all I said hello. You've made some solid points, and I don't really think we're far off in our interpretation. But what I'm critical of are the folks who confuse justification with sanctification. Salvation is free to the believer. Outside of having a humble heart toward God, we can't bring anything to the salvation equation. He did the work. He bore the penalty. He rose again. He made the offer. He drew us near. We have to accept the gift. But then, sanctification begins. And that, you are so right, is costly.

sockpuppet said...

"'You too come forth' He will say 'Come forth, ye drunkards, come forth, ye weak ones, come forth ye children of shame!'And we all shall come forth, without shame and stand before Him.And He will say unto us,'Ye are swine, made in the image of the beast and with his mark; but come ye also!'And the wise ones and those of understanding will say,Oh Lord,why dost Thou receive these men?'And He will say 'This is why I receive them, oh ye wise, this is why I receive them, oh ye of understanding, that not one of them believed himself worthy of this.'"-Crime and Punishment,Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky.

Mickey said...

I am guessing from what I have read that XCalibur54 and I are from the same denomination,lol.

I think that the truth lies somewhere in the middle of what XCalibur54 and Mr. Batson are trying to say.

I think that, yes, Baptism is a key component to Christianity.

I believe that Baptism is a holy moment, something that is a sign of Christ entering you--not vise versa, which is why, in my denomination, we Baptize people as babies. Remember that, when Jesus was Baptized, God descended on Him in the form of a dove.

While I think that Baptism is key, and also helps a lot with your walk with God, I do not think it is necessary to being a Christian. BUT I do think that, while we have the opportunity,it is our responsibility to be Baptized.

I also have to agree that a relationship with God is not cheap.

Why would there be temptation to turn from Him otherwise? MANY Christians fall away from Christ, because of physical and emotional attacks on their faith. It hurts. There is sacrifice. . . sometimes even down to our very lives.

Anyway, Mr. Batson, I really appreciate the work you do and love having a Christian author to turn to. I will also be praying for the possibility of a movie for The Door Within--how exciting! :D


Anonymous said...

Grace is something everyone needs to here about. The scriptures you used really told me that we has humans do not have the right to judge people. Only God can do that.

Did you ever think about writing a devotional book? After reading this here post I definitely think you should.

Bonnie Silver said...

That was a wonderful post, Mr. Batson. I loved every word of it! God bless you!

Gabe M said...

Wow, this post and the John 3:16 post are EXACTLY what I needed to hear right now.

I agree with Beth. You should totally do a devotional book.

The Olson Ranch said...

sorry to interrupt but...Sir Batson? Is the Underground still there? It says page not found whenever I try to load the page. i was just wondering so...thanks!

your faithful reader,

The Olson Ranch said...

Oh, It's working now... (the ug i mean) :) Sorry to trouble you.

Sir Jared said...

I agree that grace is free. But Jesus said in John 14:15, "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments." That seems to be saying that keeping His commandments is a sign that you've been saved. Not a cost for grace, but a sign that you've received it. I'm kind of wondering what you think of this verse. I'm not perfect. I still sin. I haven't been baptised yet (but I plan to be as soon as possible), but I have accepted the Lord Jesus Christ into my heart. Also, what about repentance? Are you saying that that's kind of the same thing as accepting the Lord into your heart?

Gabe M said...

Excellent question, Sir Jared, and one that I've been struggling with for a while my self.
I believe that yes, we have to keep God's commandments, but it's not something we can do in our own strength, even after we've been saved. We need God's spirit in us. Sometimes we still struggle though, because we don't always let God's spirit take control. Sometimes we push God's spirit aside, and try to do things in our own strength, and that's when we mess up. When we do mess up, we repent, and live in God's light again.
Even when you struggle, don't give up hope. Crucify your flesh daily, and live in God's grace. He'll help you if you ask him, and He'll lift up up if you fall.

Peter Dudek said...

Thanks so much for your thoughts on the matter of Grace! I've been doing a lot of thinking about the "extra" requirements often tacked onto salvation as well, and am encouraged to see others doing the same. Thanks again!

Caleb Painter said...

Are you saying that the spirit can enter a person before that person has believed in the one tire God through baptism? Pleas clarify.

Caleb Painter said...

By the way, my last comment was @Micky

Anonymous said...

On a different subject, when will we hear of dark sea annals 3?

Gabe M said...

Anonymous, Sir Batson said that it would come out some time in November.

Anonymous said...

Hey WTB, I just saw a site named Debunking Christianity, not to put you on the spot but I think you could do good debating with them.

Jake said...

"The only man who has the right to say that he is justified by grace alone is the man who has left all to follow Christ." - Dietrich Bonhoeffer, quoted in your post

I step up to defend this quote, which you have said is wrong. Regardless of what Bonhoeffer said about cheap or costly grace, this quote (as far as I can tell) is on the mark. Why?

You've said that you believe that you are justified by grace alone. Good. So do I. But let me focus on that word, belief.

You believe that you are justified by grace alone because you believe in the Gospel. Good. So do I.

However - if you believe in the Gospel, you believe in an all-powerful God. You believe in a Lamb who who is worthy. And if you truly believe could you NOT give Him everything that you are? To surrender what we have and tell Him it is His? To abandon everything to follow Christ? If we believe in a God that is worthy of everything we are, then why would we not give him everything we are?

This abandonment is not the cost of salvation, but, as Bonhoeffer's book is titled, the cost of discipleship - the cost of following Christ.

If a man truly believes in a sovereign God, then he will let his God be sovereign over his mortal possessions.

The man who has the right to say that he is justified by grace alone is the man who believes. The man who believes leaves all to follow Christ. Thus, the man who has the right to say he is justified by grace alone is the man who leaves all to follow Christ.

"If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it." —Matthew 16:24-25

WayneThomasBatson said...

Jake, well written post. It may come down to semantics between us. The point that must be maintained is what God requires of us to be saved: believe. What is the work of God? To believe in the One He sent. But I think you're right: there is a lot understood in that belief. Just like the bitten and dying looked up at the staff of Moses to be made whole again, we also don't go looking for our Savior if we do not believe we are as good as dead in our sin. When we come to Jesus to believe, we recognize our sinfulness and our inability to save ourselves. We believe in Him, and He saves us. Bonhoeffer's quote may indeed have all the components of truth--I have not read the rest of the book, so I really don't know where he stood. But, the way it is written makes it sound like we must clean up our own act, divest ourselves of all wrong doing, all, well…everything before we might consider ourselves saved by grace. That sounds backward. Saved by Grace first, work our butts off to be sanctified. It's a differentiation between salvation and discipleship.

And I really have to caution phrases like this "The man who has the right to say that he is justified by grace alone is the man who believes. The man who believes leaves all to follow Christ. Thus, the man who has the right to say he is justified by grace alone is the man who leaves all to follow Christ." I don't think it necessarily follows that all those who are saved will leave all and follow. Some will stumble. Some will turn their backs. But I don't believe that Eternal Life given will ever be stripped away. Rewards in heaven, yes. Eternal life. No.

Jake said...

"That sounds backward. Saved by Grace first, work our butts off to be sanctified. It's a differentiation between salvation and discipleship."

Exactly. That's what I think Bonhoeffer's aim was in that quote - not to add anything to salvation, but to illustrate that people who are saved don't go back to the way they were.

By "leave all and follow" I merely mean that all is surrendered unto God. As David Platt (and author and preacher I highly respect) says, "We must give God a blank check." That may mean that God gives it right back (as in your case) and says, "I want you to stay here." Or it could literally mean that he wants you to go and give up everything to spread the Gospel. The rich man in the Gospels wasn't saved because he didn't want to give up his wealth; to believe costs nothing, but once you believe, your belief may cost you everything. Thus, the line is blurred between the cost of belief and the cost of discipleship, and that, I think, is where the confusion comes in.

I think I'll say that I disagree that salvation cannot be lost and leave it at that. You are fully convinced; I am fully convinced, and little change comes about from merely debating. :)

Thank you for taking the time to respond, Sir Batson, and God bless.

Unknown said...

Wow Very well said, It is so true the Church has such a misconception of what Grace really is, It's God unmerited favor, it's God telling us that no matter how how good we are or how much we mess up, He loves us no less.
Your first paragraph of this post really hit home with me.
It definitely gave me a heart check . It also made me realize that when I have forgive people that have hurt me a lot, I need to once again see then as God sees them, And it's so true that God never brings up our past He never reminds us of our wrongs, and for me to say something even if it's write and some people might like it , it's wrong for me for expose there faults, our there heart especially over Social media, especially when it's a close friend never in a million years would I want to hurt them. Thank you again for this post ,God was definitely speaking through you!
I have some things and pic, I need delete now and need to make something's right with some people.

Albert said...

I noticed how the Holy Spirit was never mentioned by the writer of this post. The message is all about "grace" and "believing" but there is nothing whatsoever about the Holy Spirit and the role of the Holy Spirit in the believer's life.

Unless a person is led and controlled by the Holy Spirit, as Jesus was, anything he does is by his own power and self-effort. True Believers must operate under the power and leading of the Holy Spirit. It is ONLY when we are led by the Spirit that we are not under the Law.

"But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law." ~Galatians 5:18

It is clear that the writer is guilty of ... "having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people." ~2 Timothy 3:5

WayneThomasBatson said...

@Albert: First, counterpoints are always welcome. Glad you felt drawn to respond. However,I'm a little stunned that your take away from this post was "he didn't mention the Holy Spirit." And from that, you quickly conclude: "It is clear that the writer is guilty of..."having a form of godliness but denying its power." That's quite a leap, don't you think? Seriously, you need to step way back before you think you can categorize me or any other Christian so quickly. Plenty of scriptures call that sort of judgment: sin.

You said yourself, "the message is all about grace and believing." Yes, that's right. The title of the post is "Cheap Grace is Dead Wrong..." This is a post about Grace, not about the role of Holy Spirit in salvation. That would be an entirely different article.

In the post where we talk about believing or about grace, of course, the Holy Spirit is behind all of it. A man doesn't come to God on his own lest God draw him by the Holy Spirit. A man can muster nothing on his own, but believes that Jesus is Lord as the Spirit informs him. But again, that's not what this post was about.

In the future, if something seems amiss, maybe ask questions rather than make accusations. You do not serve the Body of Christ or bring any glory to God by jumping to conclusions or exercising prejudice.