Exposing The Error of
Redefining God's Grace
By William Handschumacher
Rock of Offence Special Commentary
This is Part 1 of a two-part Bible study.
For the next part, click on the
Return To Basics of Salvation Page
Go To Home Page
Some Opening Comments
Before We Start
Some readers may recognize this logo (shown above) of a popular television program. Between 1956 and 1967 CBS produced a prime-time game show; "To Tell the Truth". The theme carries an important message for Christians today. The program consisted of the host, Bud Collyer, a panel of four Hollywood celebrities and a set of three mystery contestants. Broadcast time only allowed 2 or 3 sets of challengers to appear. The object of the game was simple - at least on the surface. All three challengers introduced themselves as the same individual, using the same name. The host read a statement describing the life and experiences of the person who all the contestants claimed to be. The panel of celebrities was allowed to question the three contestants to determine which one was telling the truth and which two were lying. At the end, each celebrity voted for whom he or she thought was the person the host described in his opening statement. Wrong guesses credited money to all three contestants, who split the winnings equally. The largest sum of money was awarded when the three contestants "stumped the panel" (no one guessed correctly). It was in the contestants best interests to fool the panel.
The famous line stated at the end of each
"Will the real [person's name]
please stand up!"
Several identities were discovered
quickly. But, some clever contestants
would 'stump the panel'.
Spiritual counterfeits approach
us in a similar way.
The Dangerous Game of
All Christians face the game of "To Tell The Truth" on a spiritual level. Yet, being 'stumped or fooled' by a religious counterfeit will lead you astray ... and cause you to miss out on the life that Jesus came to give.
Counterfeit Bible teaching approaches
us in much the same way as the two
imposters on the television game show.
They all look and sound as if they
originate with God. They all look and
sound like "the real thing". Unless
you ask some very direct questions and
examine the facts, you will be fooled.
Proverbs 14:12 warns us about spiritual
things that 'seem right';
"There is a way that seems right
to a man, but its end is the way
The Current Collapse of
Evangelicalsim is Caused
By Spiritual Counterfeits
Masquerading and Being
Received as Biblical
A recent article in "The Christian Post" perfectly illustrates the danger discussed in this commentary. Pastor Erwin Lutzer of "Moody Church Chicago" gave a sermon in 2014 describing 'The 5 False Gospels Within Evangelical Churches'. This title immediately got our attention since one of the goals of this ministry is to address various false gospels operating within Christendom. We believe Pastor Lutzer generally shares our view concerning this problem. However, after carefully reading his statements, we discovered that our agreement was a mistake for the following reasons.
Various Christians are encouraged when they find a particular church leader - or an entire church - that faithfully and truthfully preaches the New Testament Gospel of Christ. In our opinion, this was the case with a popular American evangelist by the name of Dwight L. Moody (1837-1899), who literally transformed the way millions understood Jesus Christ and the Grace-based salvation He came to provide. All of this eventually led to the creation of Moody Church in Chicago ... and later "Moody Press" - the publishing company that printed and circulated its materials.
The problem here is both simple and complex. Once Moody died, those who agreed with his message took over and continued his work for a season. However, over the years they too died - and others began to take over what was now a major and influential evangelical ministry - but were not aligned with Moody's original teachings. Slow and incremental changes took place ... and modern-day Christians who had come to respect Moody's ministry - were lured into making a serious mistake. They saw a popular and historical evangelist, Dwight L. Moody, connected to the organization he founded ... then assumed that the new leadership remained true to his teachings. Yet, when their doctrine was examined, it became evident that this perception was incorrect.
This illustrates a problem that has plagued the church since its birth in the first century. False and misleading doctrines often change the definition or tenants behind a particular 'word or title' - while keeping the 'word or title' the same. Saint Paul warned about this strategy used by those who preached 'a different gospel' - which was actually a false gospel that traveled under the same name as the one he taught. This methodology is so effective that it continues to be used within Christendom today.
Unfortunately, this very same strategy is also used against God's Grace. One of the hallmarks of D.L. Moody's ministry and his followers was the preaching of 'free grace' ... meaning that Christ's salvation is offered "freely" through faith in Christ alone - as originally taught by Saint Paul in the New Testament. This means it does not depend on godly behavior and good works, which are character attributes connected to 'a transformed life'.
At this point, Scripture demands that
we correctly define certain terms.
The New Testament reveals that our
salvation comes as a result of God's
free gift (Ephesians 2:8-9,
Romans 3:24-26) often and correctly
associated with the term 'free grace'.
Therefore, 'a transformed life', which
involves an intense life-long training
program in learning Christ-like
character--along with other behavioral
changes...comes at considerable expense
to the believer and therefore can never
be equated with the 'free gift' aspect
of eternal life - which is something
Scripture sternly warns about. This is
why God will never use these works and
behavioral changes as preconditions or
requirements to obtain or keep His
unmerited gift of eternal life.
God certainly wants all Christians to have a changed life and Christ-like character. However, this kind of training only occurs through a life-long process called 'Sanctification' ... that begins after we have securely received God's gift of eternal life. As a result, the free gift remains in our possession even if we miserably fail in His program of Sanctification designed to create 'a transformed Christ-centered life'. Otherwise - the gift becomes nonsensical and meaningless. This is why God forbids any Bible teacher, denomination or church to use Sanctification (designed to produce these changes) - as a precondition or requirement to receive and keep His 'free gift'.
Additional information concerning
this important distinction can be
found at the following link:
The 3 Stages of New Testament
The Theology of the Current
Leadership of Moody Church
Chicago - Disagrees With
the Original Teachings of
Dwight L. Moody
D.L. Moody based his evangelistic message around the Epistles of Saint Paul, which are established on 'Free Grace', or what Pastor Lutzer rejects as one of the five false gospels - and refers to as; "permissive grace" ... as stated below from the original Christian Post article.
"During their conversation, Lutzer listed five false gospels, the first being that of “permissive grace,” which involves churches saying that people can have grace without personal transformation.
“We have to preach about sin and do so compassionately so people know that they need the abundant, undeserved grace of God,” said Lutzer."
“But today what you find is that there are many people who preach grace even before people really know that they need it.”
Fair Use Disclaimer
Due to the non-profit research and educational
nature of the Rock of Offence website, we qualify
under Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 of the “fair use”
clause for copyrighted materials. For this reason,
any copyrighted work on this website is provided
under the “fair use” provision without profit or
payment for non-profit research, educational and
discussion purposes only.
We certainly agree with the pastor when he said; “We have to preach about sin and do so compassionately so people know that they need the abundant, undeserved grace of God."
However, we must also understand
the correct New Testament way to
preach about sin.
Many incorrectly use 'preaching against sin' as a way to "front-load" the gospel - meaning that we must stop all sin and "clean up our life" before we can be saved. Yet, the New Testament warns that achieving this state of "sinlessness through human effort" - as a precondition to obtaining salvation (Saint Paul refers to it as "walking according to the flesh" - see Romans 8:1-11) is impossible ... since the Bible states that "all have sinned and come short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23)
This means, from God's perspective--that everyone (including all Christians), regardless of their intention to 'live sinlessly', continues to sin in some measure (often many times a day) throughout their entire life on earth. Therefore, if it’s necessary to "stop sinning" to obtain and keep salvation ... very few will be saved unless they are - as they see it - constantly on their knees 'repenting' and crying out to God for forgiveness. This popular preoccupation with the sin Jesus previously took away at the cross is connected to a condition called "spiritual bondage", which is why God condemns this practice of "walking according to the flesh" as a way to obtain salvation.
Saint Paul said it this way ...
"For sin shall not have dominion
over you: for ye are not under
the law, but under grace."
"Stand fast therefore in the
liberty by which Christ has
made us free, and do not be
entangled again with a yoke
of bondage." (Galatians 5:1)
How do we stand fast in
what Saint Paul refers
to as "the liberty by
which Christ has made
It involves learning how God
treats sin after His Son
took it away at the cross.
"For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the rightousness of God in Him." (2 Corinthians 5:21)
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, Who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses (sins) to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation." (2 Corinthians 5:17-19)
"For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace." (Romans 6:14)
Putting it another way; "the liberty by which Christ has made us free" is having an unwavering assurance that the power of sin is eternally removed by Christ's finished work at the cross - and can no longer prevent anyone from being saved ... or revoke salvation once it is received. How is this possible?
"The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29)
This 'eternal removal of sin
by Christ' is found only under
the authentic New Testament
'Free and Unmerited Grace'
Repentance Takes On
A New Role
Are we saying that repentance is no longer necessary? Of course not. However, after the cross, repentance is expressed in a radically different way ... when compared with the way it operated under the Old Testament program. How is this possible? Jesus paid the price, in blood, to take away all human sin; past, present and future. Our faith in Christ, which applies this permanent 'sin removing' benefit to our life - is now the New Testament expression of true repentance. Christ's one sacrificial act at the cross changed all of the previous rules. Following the cross, when a Christian sins, they can immediately acknowledge (confess) the sin and ask for forgiveness ... knowing that our Heavenly Father has already forgiven the sin before they ask. The offense is already forgiven, since God's Son previously took it away.
God did not treat sin this
way before the cross.
This same truth also covers all of the countless sins we are not aware of--or have forgotten. As a result, the offending Christian is "set free from the dominion of sin" and continues to possess Christ's perfect imputed righteousness as stated in Romans 5:15-21, Romans 6:14, 2 Corinthians 5:21 and Romans 4:4-8.
This is why it is not necessary to tearfully plead and beg God for forgiveness, which is a common practice in holiness and fundamentalist congregations ... and among those who embrace various brands of 'Lordship Salvation'. Believing that you must beg and plead for God's forgiveness - when He has already forgiven you through the finished work of His Son - is often a sign that you have been led astray from true faith in Christ by a spiritual counterfeit.
A Careful Choice of Words
It's important to notice that Pastor Lutzer carefully chooses his words and refers to his evangelistic message as; undeserved grace - which is actually a half-truth. The Epistles of Saint Paul refer to God's Grace as both unmerited and undeserved. By omitting the word "unmerited" (meaning no dependence on works or behavior), Lutzer is refusing to associate his brand of Grace with Paul's definition of New Testament Grace. This omission tells an important story.
The following is something many Christians may not know. An ongoing internal church war exists, where one side seeks to change the definition of New Testament Grace ... while continuing to call it 'Grace'. The war started in the first century and continues today, so its not something new. This is why various terms are often assigned to Saint Paul's 'free grace' gospel message, which are designed to discourage and even prevent its acceptance. Four terms we often hear used in this way are: Hyper-grace, false grace, greasy grace - and now Lutzer's "permissive grace". The same idea is also communicated through the use of such terms as; the watered-down gospel and the sugar-coated gospel. Warning bells should go off anytime you hear these names and phrases used in a sermon.
As with most false teachings, the motivation behind this anti-grace agenda is both noble and sincere, which is why it leads so many Christians astray. Various church leaders are alarmed about the sin sweeping over the world ... and the Church. In their eyes, to combat this 'tidal wave of sin' the New Testament belief that salvation (or eternal life) can be obtained (and kept) freely must be eliminated. This is accomplished by redefining Grace so that God's gift becomes dependant upon "a transformed life", which always sounds good in a sermon. Yet, we should remember that a changed or transformed life always comes through a regiment of discipline and work. This added requirement alters the authentic New Testament Gospel - and changes it into what Paul refers to as, "a different gospel".
Lutzer appears to agree with this kind of gospel when he states that churches preaching a "permissive grace" message are saying that; "...people can have grace without personal transformation".
[Important Note: Yet, God's "unmerited favor called Grace" - or what the pastor is calling "grace without personal transformation" (remember that transformation always involves 'works') - is exactly what the New Testament teaches in Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 5:18-21, Romans 4:4-8, and Titus 3:5-7 ]
Lutzer's perception of the situation is both incorrect and misleading. The churches he opposes are only repeating the message of the New Testament Gospel of Christ - where salvation is obtained through Grace without works or merit ... also called 'free grace'. This is clearly seen in four Scriptures ;
"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9)
"And if by Grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work." (Romans 11:6)
"...Being justified freely by His Grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:24-26)
“Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: "Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin." (Romans 4:4-8)
Altering the definition of Grace to include various good works and behavior (something the pastor calls "a transformed life") is a strategy used by those who preach an aberrant mainstream theology known as "Lordship Salvation". Yet, these same corrupt tenants also travel under countless different names and labels - found in various expressions of Calvinism and Reformed Theology.
The following abbreviated quotation
is from Dr. Harry Ironside, who
ministered at Moody Church Chicago
from around 1929 to 1938 - and was
asked to be the head pastor. He
was one of the select few who
followed in the footsteps of
D.L. Moody who died in 1899.
From the following comments, it is
obvious that Ironside, like Moody,
would not approve of the works-based
theology taught by the current
leadership of Moody Church.
"The Gospel is God's wonderful story of His beloved Son. It is a message of grace to be received in faith. It is not a code of laws to be obeyed or good advice to be followed. It is not a system of ritual observances or a call to submit to certain ordinances. It does not set forth the claims of any human church organization, however venerable, nor does it exhort men to seek after experiences, however remarkable, though a blessed experience follows its acceptance. It simply sets forth Christ crucified and risen as the Savior of all who believe in Him.
When the Legalist comes insisting that salvation is by obedience to God's holy law (which in itself is just and good), he is preaching another gospel, for the Word of God declares, "By the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified in His sight."
When the revivalist comes promising salvation to those "who make a full surrender" of all that they have to God, and who "pay the price of full salvation," he is preaching another gospel, for the price was paid on Calvary's cross and the work that saves is finished. It was Christ Jesus who made the full surrender, when He yielded Himself unto death for us that we might be redeemed from the curse of the broken law and forever saved from the judgment to come upon all who refuse His grace.
The solemn fact is there is no other gospel. Every pretended substitute is but a Satan-devised delusion meant to turn men away from the strait gate which alone leads into the narrow way, and make them contented as they crowd down the clear side of the broad way to eternal perdition."
"I am not ashamed of the gospel
of Christ; for it is the power
of God unto salvation to
everyone that believeth; to the
Jew first, and also to the Greek.
For therein is the righteousness
of God revealed from faith to
faith" (Romans 1:16,17)
Henry Allen "Harry" Ironside (October 14, 1876 –January 15, 1951) was a Canadian-American Bible teacher, preacher, theologian, pastor, and author. From 1916 to 1929, Ironside preached almost 7,000 sermons to over 1.25 million listeners. In 1918, he was associated with evangelist George McPherson; and in 1924, Ironside began preaching under the direction of the Moody Bible Institute. In 1926, he was invited to a full-time faculty position at the Dallas Theological Seminary, which he turned down, although he was frequently a visiting lecturer there from 1925 to 1943. After a series of sermons presented at the The Moody Church, in Chicago, he was invited to a one-year trial as head pastor in 1929. Almost every Sunday that he preached, the four thousand seat church was filled to capacity.
While at Moody Church, he continued traveling to other US cities during the week for preaching engagements. In 1932, he expanded his travels internationally. Ironside preached at the 1935 funeral of Billy Sunday, which was held at Moody Church. In 1938, he toured England, Scotland and Ireland, preaching 142 times to crowds of upwards of two thousand. In 1942, he also became president of the missionary organization, Africa Inland Mission. In 1930, Wheaton College presented Ironside with an honorary Doctorate of Letters degree, and in 1942 Bob Jones University awarded him an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree. [This modified biography is taken from Wikipedia]
Baptist theologian, Dr. Ernest
Pickering, comments on this
same dangerous brand of
"One of the chief objections to the notion of ‘Lordship salvation’ is that it adds to the gospel of grace. It requires something of the sinner which the Scriptures do not require. The message of salvation by grace proclaims to sinners that they may receive eternal life by faith alone whereas the message of "Lordship salvation" tells sinners they must be willing to give up whatever is in their life that is displeasing to God. At the point of gospel presentation they do not know what things those are, nor does the personal worker seeking to point them to Jesus know. There is a vast and significant difference between believing on Christ for salvation and learning from Him as our Lord....None of us are happy with shoddy, fleshly, and disobedient Christians.
But the remedy for this condition is not found in changing the terms of the gospel. Well over 100 times in the New Testament, we are told that salvation is by faith or through believing. It is a very serious matter to add an ingredient to the gospel of salvation which is not found in the New Testament.... Our task is to keep preaching the plain, simple gospel of free grace. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to produce in true believers those qualities of righteousness which we all devoutly long to see."
[Lordship Salvation, by Dr. Ernest Pickering, published by Baptist World Mission, P.O. Box 1463, Decatur, AL 35602]
Dr. Andy Woods of Sugar Land
Bible Church also warns about
this same doctrine in the
What's Wrong with Lordship
Pastor Lutzer of Moody Church Chicago is teaching, with the best of intentions, a subtle brand of Lordship Salvation, which is something D.L. Moody, if he was alive today, would vehemently reject. According to the warning given by Saint Paul, the works-based tenants of Lordship Salvation represents "a different gospel" that redefines New Testament Grace. Yet, Pastor Lutzer is not the only one who preaches this brand of theology. Many Bible teachers and church leaders embrace the tenants of Lordship Salvation ... thinking that it represents the true 'Gospel of Christ" - when it's actually a skillfully designed spiritual counterfeit.
Important Note To Readers
In this study, we are not focusing on the
leadership of Moody Church due to some
previous negative experience - or any
ill-will toward Pastor Lutzer, his
staff or the congregation. Our only
desire is to draw attention to a popular
aberrant doctrine that is greatly
accelerating the collapse of
Evangelicalism - as well as Christendom
in general. Unfortunately, Moody Church
is only one of many churches and
denominations that unknowingly preach,
with the best of intentions, a type of
gospel that is condemned by the Apostle
Paul in the New Testament Scriptures. If
the original founder were alive today, we
have no doubt that he would come to the
In the following section
we take a closer look at this
mainstream agenda, which may
cause its followers to assume
they are saved...when just
the opposite might possibly
This is Part 1 of a two-part Bible study.
For the next part, click on the
Return To Basics of Salvation Page
Go To Home Page