Michael Brown in his criticism of the grace teaching wrote this on his article “One of the foundational doctrines of the hyper-grace message is that God does not see the sins of his children, since we have already been made righteous by the blood of Jesus and since all of our sins, past, present and future, have already been forgiven….
It is easy to see how such teaching can be dangerous, especially to a believer being tempted to compromise.
One hyper-grace teacher wrote this: “When God looks at me, He doesn’t see me through the blood of Christ, He sees me—cleansed! Likewise, He sees us as holy and righteous. He sees us, and He loves what He sees!”
Really? Always? 24-7? God always loves what he sees when he looks at his people?
Yes, he loves us, but does he always love what he sees?
….If Jesus doesn’t see our sins, why did he say to the church in Ephesus, “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love” (Rev. 2:4, NIV)? And why did he says this to the church in Sardis? “I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.” (Rev. 3:1-3)
Let’s study this carefully in terms of Ephesus.
“To the angel[a] of the church in Ephesus write:
These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands. 2 I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. 3 You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.
4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. 5 Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. 6 But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.”
Let’s look at first who the message is addressed to. It is to the angel of the church of Ephesus. Another word for angel here is messenger. It is a message to the messenger, and in this case the pastor of the church. The problem of the church is not that they don’t have great behavior or deeds as suggested by Dr Brown. That is a gross misunderstanding on his part. The church had great exploits in terms of deeds, ministry, morality and they endure hardship for Jesus.
Where the Lord has a problem with is not with the church. You see the lampstand Jesus wants to remove is his church and he is removing the church from the messenger.
What is the problem with the messenger? He forgot his “first love”. In Greek it means “the primary love” (“protos agape”), this means the “love of God”, God’s love. In other words, he was practicing deeds before God’s love and grace. That is also the teaching of Nicholas a deacon who practice law before grace by using the law of Moses to control the church members.
The remedy Jesus had for the church of Ephesus was to remove the congregation from this pastor. He was calling the pastor to repent NOT the church. Please note lampstands are churches. The lampstand is the church not the Holy Spirit.
The reason Jesus threatens to remove the church away from this pastor is because Jesus sees the church as the beloved and because he love what he sees about the church. He sees it as righteous but being led by a leader who emphasized on works rather than grace.
Hence the repentance here is repentance of what he believed and not what he did. You can see the comments the Lord made about him is not his good deeds, see: “I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance.” The repentance has to do with what he believed.
Why did Jesus remove his church from such a person? Because the church is already righteous. What he didn’t like was what the pastor was doing with his church.
Let’s look at the church at Sardis.
“angel of the church 2 Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God. 3 Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee. 4 have not defiled their garments 5 He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels. 6 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.”
Jesus here again is speaking to the leader in the church. He also points out there is a difference between what is living and what is dying, the difference here has to do with “overcoming”. Jesus said “remember how you received and heard”, Paul in Galatians said, they have began in grace and went into legalism after that. It is the same thing here. That is why he tells us to hold fast- grace. Not works.
You may argue what about the overcoming part? Doesn’t overcoming mean we have to strive to please the Lord? We started with grace, let us see 1 John 5:4 For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. 5 Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?
He that believes. We are saved by grace by faith. That is what Jesus meant by repent and remember how we first came to him. We are to repent from thinking we are saved by deeds to saved by his grace.
This goes totally against what Dr. Brown alleges against hyper-grace teaching. The reason by Jesus rebuked the pastors of those churches is because these so called pastors of the church was misrepresenting the church to herself. While Paul calls the church, holy blameless and without wrinkle (Eph 5:25) these “angels” were telling the church they are not good enough and the Lord was not happy about what he saw.
That is exactly what Dr. Brown is doing. I am sorry he is saying the church is not perfect and that he sees imperfections in the church. I am sorry. With due respect he is wrong. He is doing exactly what Jesus rebukes the 5 angels in Revelations from doing.
The book of Hebrews in chapter 10 tells us that Jesus took our sins away once and for all. It was taken away, not washed, not forgiven, not cleansed. Taken away. Once and for all.