Is the teaching of Radical Grace “Strange Teachings” permeated by “Wolves in Sheep Skins”? We are often told that this new teaching of Radical Grace as “strange teachings” by the conventional church. As such when many conservative interpreters of the Bible teach their congregation not to be “blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.” They as such attached the same to grace preachers like yours truly
As such I decided a do a study for myself what the Bible has to say about “strange doctrines” and the “teaching of wolves”. Here is what I found.
This is based on my 1st study. It is alleged:
1. A person who preaches grace is a “wolf in sheep skin”; and
2. A person who preaches grace is a fruitless person; “by your fruits you will know them”.
The passage in which these 2 statements were made is in Matthew 7:15-20. I reproduce the same for an easy reference:
True and False Prophets
“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.”
It is easy to misread the passage. “A wolf in sheep skin” is traditionally interpreted as being a person who is being deceitful, dishonest and not to be trusted. As sheep are adult lambs and wolves are known to attack lambs, the message here is this person would like to appear to be just another lamb to deceive someone, but in reality he is waiting and hoping to attack the sheep.
While this may be right, to attach it to a grace believer shows complete shallow understanding. Firstly, you will know a wolf not from its fruit but from the tree. Jesus here is saying that you will know the condition of the fruit and the tree the fruit comes from. He is NOT talking about the conduct of the person but rather the condition of the tree. If the fruit is good, it must come from a good tree. Note Jesus is comparing a good fruit with thorns and figs. That, to him is bad fruit. Thorns and figs are symbols of human effort and self-righteousness.
In other words, the emphasis here is not the fruit he produces but rather the TREE the fruit comes from. It is important to note that there are fundamentally only 2 trees in the Bible: The tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The tree of life is Jesus’ kind of righteousness whereas the tree of knowledge of good and evil represents righteousness through human effort.
If you read the above statements in context, Jesus is addressing the Pharisees as being the wolf in sheep skins. The prostitutes, sinners and tax collectors are called His sheep. As such, a “wolf in sheep skin” is a person who comes and tells you, you are not good enough for God unless you perform your religious duties or to try to be righteous by doing good works.
This is my 2nd Study.
Paul referred to these people in Ephesians 5 when he said “You can be sure that using people or religion or things just for what you can get out of them—the usual variations on idolatry—will get you nowhere, and certainly nowhere near the kingdom of Christ, the kingdom of God.
Don’t let yourselves get taken in by religious smooth talk. God gets furious with people who are full of religious sales talk but want nothing to do with him. Don’t even hang around people like that.” (The Message)
What is the context of the 2 verses? Paul again speaks about this problem he had in Ephesus in 1 Corinthians 15:32 (NIV) “If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus with no more than human hopes, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” It refers to the teaching of non resurrection. As such clearly the reference Paul is making is about the false teachers in Ephesus. He also makes reference to this in Acts 20 when he calls such people “wolves”! Beasts! Wolves! Same thing. Let me refer you to verse 28 onwards:
“Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God,[a] which he bought with his own blood.[b] I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.”
Surely this refers to the teaching of Radical Grace you say! Well, note Paul states there are false teachers in Ephesus. So Paul prescribes a cure towards the false teaching. He says the cure lies in verse 32. I shall now refer to it:
“Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified!
The word of His GRACE is the cure. It is NOT the false teaching. It is the CURE to the FALSE TEACHING.
You may now say, “Yes but it is not the Radical Grace teaching! It is the Grace teaching that must be balanced by Law!!!” Let us define the teaching of Radical Grace. The gist of Radical Grace teaching is this: The Law of Moses (including the 10 commandments) has been abolished when Jesus fulfilled it, achieved its purpose and died a perfect man in our stead to give us his righteousness with is apart from law (as it has been abolished) and to free us from a performance orientated religion. In short: the Law of Moses (including the 10 commandments) has been abolished. We now live by the Spirit.
Is this “word of Grace” the message of Radical Grace? Let’s look into the context of Acts 20. Firstly Paul was addressing the plot of the Jews (followers of the Mosaic Law) and the problem affected Ephesus:
“Paul’s Farewell to the Ephesian Elders
Acts 20: 19-20 “I served the Lord with great humility and with tears and in the midst of severe testing by the plots of my Jewish opponents. You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house.”
Paul thereafter states that His Grace Gospel is for both the Jew and the Gentile.
v 21:“have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.”
Note this Gospel unites the Jew and the Gentile. Now I refer to:
“Ephesians 3:6 (NCV)
This is that secret: that through the Good News those who are not Jews will share with the Jews in God’s blessing. They belong to the same body, and they share together in the promise that God made in Christ Jesus.”
Paul the gives us how the Jew and Gentile become united:
“Ephesians 2:15 (Amplified Bible)
By abolishing in His [own crucified] flesh the enmity [caused by] the Law with its decrees and ordinances [which He annulled]; that He from the two might create in Himself one new man [one new quality of humanity out of the two], so making peace.”
Are you not convinced? Yet then some of you will say “this the ceremonial law and not the 10 commandments.” Dear friends consider what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 3: 7 which is reproduced here:
“Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone”. The only part of the Law that was inscribed on stone is the 10 commandments. To argue that it is the ceremonial law that is done away makes it even worse for the believer. He is guilty for his moral convictions and trespasses but he has no way of cleansing himself since there is now no priests or ceremonial cleansing that can be done for him to wash him of his conscience. Why do you think Paul calls the 10 commandments “the ministry of death” and “ministry of condemnation”?
The “word of Grace” here refers to the Gospel of Radical Grace! Grace without Law. Pure unadulterated Grace! This is what the Brethren and Spurgeon believed!
Spurgeon says “There is no point upon which men make greater mistakes than upon the relation which exists between the law and the gospel. Some men put the law instead of the gospel: others put the gospel instead of the law; some modify the law and the gospel, and preach neither law nor gospel: and others entirely abrogate the law, by bringing in the gospel. Many there are who think that the law is the gospel, and who teach that men by good works of benevolence, honesty, righteousness, and sobriety, may be saved. Such men do err.
On the other hand, many teach that the gospel is a law; that it has certain commands in it, by obedience to which, men are meritoriously saved; such men err from the truth, and understand it not.
A certain class maintain that the law and the gospel are mixed, and that partly by observance of the law, and partly by God’s grace, men are saved. These men understand not the truth, and are false teachers.”
Note it is Spurgeon that call people who try to balance the Law and Grace as “false teachers”!!!
Let us then also look at the teaching wherein people say that you have a parental relationship with your Father in Heaven and as such you need forgiveness from Him as a father. If I sin against him he will thus leave me alone until I confess my sin to Him to have my relationship restored.
They argue this principle from Hebrews 12. Please see my note on Hebrews 12: https://hischarisisenough.wordpress.com/2011/05/05/what-is-the-sin-that-easily-entangle-us-hebrews-121/
Suffice to say that Hebrews 12 does not refer to God disciplining you because of “sins” but “the sin” of not believing Jesus’ work is complete and utterly more than enough to guarantee your salvation. Such teaching totally ignore the next chapter. Hebrews 13 itself states without doubt “I will never leave you nor forsake you!” Interesting the definition of “strange doctrines” is given shortly after:
“9 Do not let all kinds of strange teachings lead you from the right way. It is good to receive inner strength from God’s grace, and not by obeying rules about foods; those who obey these rules have not been helped by them.”
What are these “strange teachings” then? It is definitely not the Grace teaching. Here Paul says that “Grace teaching gives you inner strength.” What he is referring to is “rules about food, and rules that do not help people!” Rules which lead you to think one minute God is with you, the next He leaves you. We do not have a “strange God”. We have a God who is faithful and loves us dearly. We have a God who is unmovable. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. It is interesting to note the context of this statement.
“Hebrews 13:7-9 (New International Version 1984)
Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by ceremonial foods, which are of no value to those who eat them.”
Jesus is always the same. The day He saved me, is the same today, is the same forever! He is not schizophrenic! He is loving and always gentle. The only time He was angry was with the self righteous people and people who yoke the believers with the Law of Moses. These are the people who are strange. The Gospel is all about Grace. Jesus plus NOTHING. That is NOT strange teaching.
Church, we have been deceived! The real wolf is the one who is trying to balance Law and Grace. Thank God we have now teachers who know how to rightly divide the Word. Be warned! The wolves are already in the Church!