The Grace Boys

Those who (realize that they) are forgiven must love much (Lk 7:47). We can even say that love/gratitude is the highest motivation for Christian living. What we can’t say is that it is the Christian’s only valid motivation. Not by a long shot.

I know a little about God’s grace. I’ve experienced God’s grace in Christ in my own life. I’ve written three books with grace in the title. I’ve preached grace as an ordained minister for 28 years. Yet I am disturbed by certain ministries that only preach grace. They proclaim no other message. They know no other motive for the Christian life. They recognize no other gospel and insist that any formulation of the gospel that differs from their own is no gospel at all.

Essentially what the grace boys preach is this: sanctification by realization. Realize what Christ has done for you; realize His great love; realize His costly sacrifice; realize His gracious gift of salvation; realize your adoption and your security in Christ; realize the ongoing gift of the Spirit of Christ and His power for sanctification; realize all this and you will have all the motive you need to enter and sustain the Christian life.

When we succumb to temptation, or when we indulge our lust, when we bow to the idols of materialism and success, when we act selfishly or fail to love it is a sign that we need more gospel. No, we don’t need to be scolded (what the Bible calls “rebuked”) or warned or reminded of our duty, or threatened. No, no, no. When we indulge carnality and worldliness we don’t need LAW (a very scary word in these circles). We need to hear more, ever more about God’s love, His grace, His gifts, His Christ. These alone will provide the proper incentive to live the Christian life.

Is there a problem with this? Indeed, there is. The grace boys are being one-sided in a realm in which they need to be multi-sided. Undoubtedly they have identified the central motivation for the Christian life. Love mixed with gratitude is a powerful incentive. When we realize what God in Christ has done how can we not want to please, honor, and serve Him in return? Those who (realize that they) are forgiven must love much (Lk 7:47). We can even say that love/gratitude is the highest motivation for Christian living.

What we can’t say is that it is the Christian’s only valid motivation. Not by a long shot. What might be another valid motivation? Fear. “Conduct yourselves with fear,” says the Apostle Peter (1 Pet 1:17). “It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God,” the writer to the Hebrews warns (Heb 10:31). “Terrifying?” Is this a part of the vocabulary of the justified? Apparently so.

Any others? Sure. Threats. God motivates believers by threatening them. He does this in Scripture all the time. In that great Epistle of Justification, Galatians, the Apostle Paul warns the church that those who practice the deeds of the flesh “shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal 5:19-21). He threatens the same to the Corinthians (1 Cor 5:9, 10). Threatening believers (it is to them that he is writing) with exclusion from heaven is a powerful incentive to obedience, is it not?
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