Friday 25 September 2015


Do we downplay obedience and works once we have been saved by grace?

Jesus applied the perfect balance between grace and truth when he dealt with the woman caught in the act of adultery (John 8:3-11). After all, He is the personification of grace and truth (John 1:14,17).

Grace was seen in His act of forgiving this woman: “ I do not condemn you.” Truth was upheld when He charged her: “Go and sin no more.”

In short, Jesus told her: “I forgive you but make sure you obey God’s law by forsaking your adulterous lifestyle.

In other words, God forgives us but we need to show personal responsibility. We too need to keep our end of the bargain.

This is in direct contrast with the teachings of hyper-grace that states, when believers embrace grace, they do not have to be subject to the law. Obedience to the law is seen as something negative—an attempt to earn God’s blessings apart from grace.

The following (IN BLUE) is the stance taken by hyper-grace:

“While most people have no problem with agreeing that we have been saved by grace, they are nevertheless still subjecting themselves to the law. They are depending on the “works of the law” or their obedience to the law to earn, merit and deserve God’s blessings.”

“Grace is the undeserved, unmerited and unearned favor of God—the moment you try to merit the free favors of God, His grace is nullified.”

(Page 262, Destined to Reign)

In other words, hyper-grace states that obedience is unnecessary and negative in the life of a believer—that we should not nullify God’s grace through obedience or “works of the law”.

Let us examine some passages in the Bible to see whether obedience nullifies God’s grace.

Firstly, Jesus states clearly that obedience or keeping His laws is evidence that we love Him. “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him” (John 14:21).

Secondly, Jesus told his disciples not only to think about satisfying their hunger but be focused on doing God’s willobedience. He set the example. “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work (John 4:34). Needless to say, we first need to determine God’s will for our lives before we can carry it out. He also emphasised the urgency of bringing in a harvest of souls into His kingdom (John 4:35-36).

Thirdly, though Paul put no confidence in the flesh (Philippians 3:3) and trusted in Christ’s righteousness—not try to gain it by obeying God’s law (Philippians 3:9), he did not rest on his laurels after being saved by faith.

On the contrary, his life was marked by obedience and good works:

  • He worked out his faith with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12).

  • He pressed on toward the goal for the heavenly rewards that await him (Philippians 3:14).

  • He warned and taught men so that they will become mature in Christ (Colossians 1:28).

  • And he strives with great effort, inspired by what Christ has done for him (Colossians 1:29).

  • He was careful to discipline his body like an athlete so that he might win the spiritual race and not be disqualified (1 Corinthians 9: 24-27).

  • As the apostle to the Gentiles, he was not disobedient to the heavenly vision God gave him (Acts 26:19).
From the above, we can conclude from the life and teachings of Jesus and Paul—the two main protagonists in the New Testament—that though we are saved by grace, we still need to obey God’s laws, do His will and work out our salvation.

Obedience does not nullify grace, unlike what hyper-grace asserts.

Believers, saved by grace, need to obey God’s laws, work out our salvation and live out His specific will for our livesall done out of gratitude for what Christ has done; not in the flesh but through the empowering of the Holy Spirit.

Obedience, the spontaneous response of believers to God’s grace, must not be downplayed in the lives of believers. And we do not dump works just because we are saved by grace.

Obedience must be reflected in the lives of believers in the following ways:

  • BEING—Moral uprightness so that God’s laws are not violated

  • DOING—Living out God’s specific will for our lives

Jesus’ idea of discipleship and obedience involves self-denial: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). “And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10: 38).

Has obedience being downplayed because it is too unsettling to the ‘feel good’ message of hyper-grace?

This errant teaching that obedience nullifies God’s grace will cause church fathers to turn over in their graves like the other hyper-grace teaching that the Holy Spirit never convicts believers of sins and never points out their faults.

“It would not be difficult to point out at least twenty-five or thirty distinct passages in the Epistles where believers are plainly taught to use active personal exertion, and are addressed as responsible for doing energetically what Christ would have them do, and are not told to “yield themselves” up as passive agents and sit still, but to arise and work. A holy violence, a conflict, a warfare, a fight, a soldier’s life, a wrestling, are spoken of as characteristic of the true Christian.” ― Michael L. Brown, Hyper-Grace: Exposing the Dangers of the Modern Grace Message

Referring once again to the above hyper-grace premise (IN BLUE),
“While most people have no problem with agreeing that we have been saved by grace, they are nevertheless still subjecting themselves to the law. They are depending on the “works of the law” or their obedience to the law to earn, merit and deserve God’s blessings.”
“Grace is the undeserved, unmerited and unearned favor of God—the moment you try to merit the free favors of God, His grace is nullified.”

  • Does it mean that we can break God’s law once we are under grace?

  • Does it mean we can steal or cheat (etc) once we are under grace?

  • Doesn’t it make more sense that our moral standards are raised to a higher level once we come under the New Covenant of grace (Matthew 5: 21-22; Matthew 5:27-28)?

  • Does it mean we are above the law once we are under grace (Matthew 5:17-18)?

It’s great to experience God’s unmerited favour. But we must not stop there. Have we come to a point in our faith walk when we say to ourselves, “Thank you God for taking me as I am,” and then happily go on our way? After all, as some teachers say, believers always enjoy God’s unmerited favour—grace beyond measure—whatever we do or don't do.

Some say that believers only need to change their mind (correct their past erroneous thinking) when they repent. Is this what the Bible teaches?

Many believers focus on the privileges of being a Christian and forget that there are conditions attached to the blessings. In short, blessings come with responsibilities.

Some compare the Christian life to a walk in the park. They say everything is by faith. You just have to believe in what Jesus has done for you at the cross. Anything more than that smacks of self-effort, pride and legalism.

by Bob Williams

Saving Faith Has Works
If we are in Christ, then such will be evidenced by good works. Good works are the evidence of our justification and right relationship with God. In 1 Corinthians 15:10, Paul spoke of his abundant work for the Lord; he said, "But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me." 

Paul did not do the many good works that he did in an effort to gain salvation; rather it was the grace of God and salvation itself that led Paul to do what he did.

We are indeed to do good works, but it is God (through His Holy Spirit) who enables us to do these good works. Ephesians 2:10 says, "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." 

Acts 26:20 speaks of "performing deeds appropriate to repentance." In Matthew 3:8, John the Baptism similarly said to the Pharisees and Sadducees, "Therefore bring forth fruit in keeping with repentance." Galatians 5:6 speaks of "faith working through love."

Paul said in Romans 4 that Abraham was not saved by works of the Law. But Jesus said in John 8:39, "If you are Abraham's children, do the deeds of Abraham." If indeed they were his sons, then they would produce the natural fruits of sonship. Those who are sons of God will produce fruits of evidence showing that they do indeed belong to Him.

Thus, in James 2:14ff, it is shown that Abraham's faith was evidenced by his works. Furthermore, without such works, he would not be justified. A faith that does not have such works is not a true saving faith (v14). As Jesus said in John 14:15, "If you love me, [you will] keep my commandments."

Surely the Bible shows that genuine faith in Jesus Christ will exhibit itself in genuine acts of good deeds, godliness, and righteous living.

Judged by Our Works
Since genuine saving faith produces genuine good works, we are therefore justified, not only by faith, but by our works. And thus, in a sense, we are judged by our deeds. Numerous passages of Scripture refer to this (in the apparent context of salvation in general).

Romans 14:12 "So then each one of us shall give account of himself to God."

Matthew 25:31-46 Those who have fed, clothed, etc. will "inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." Those who failed to do so "will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

John 5:28-29 "Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs shall hear His voice, and shall come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment."

Romans 2:6-7 "[God] will render to every man according to his deeds: to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life."

2 Corinthians 5:10 "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one of us may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad." Later Paul referred to false apostles, "whose end shall be according to their deeds" (11:15).

2 Timothy 4:14 Paul said, "Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm; the Lord will repay (KJV: reward) him according to his deeds."

1 Peter 1:17 "[God] impartially judges according to each man's work."

Revelation 20:11-15 "...And they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds."


  1. Obedience is necessary when we profess faith in Christ. We cannot say we have faith but refuse to obey God. Faith and obedience come in a single package. “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” (John 3:36).

  2. Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked
    (1 John 2:3-6).