Recently Dr. Brown published a rebuttal to my good friend Paul Ellis’s article some answers to Dr Brown on his questions to Joseph Prince. The questions are in bold. He also quotes Paul Ellis. My comments to this joinder are attached to my initials SY. Dr Brown’s comments are marked “DB” and Paul Ellis’s rebuttal is marked “PE”.
DB: Does God require anything from you as his child, other than receive his grace? If so, are there spiritual benefits that come through obeying these requirements and spiritual losses that come from ignoring them?
PE: Ephesians 1:3 tells us that every spiritual blessing comes to us through Christ. There are no extra blessings that come to us separately from Christ and in response to our obedience. All is grace.
DB: First, this avoids the simple question of, “Does God require anything from you as his child, other than receive his grace?” Of course He does. Jesus says that not everyone who says to Him, “Lord, Lord” will enter the kingdom of heaven but only those who do the will of His Father (Matthew 7:21). He also said that if anyone would come after Him, he must deny Himself and take up the cross and follow Him (Mark 8:34).
SY: Dr. Brown doesn’t seem to appreciate this. Firstly, Matthew 7:22 says that the people whom Jesus never knew were very involved in ‘doing many things in Jesus’ name!’ Even miracles. Yet they were not doing the will of the Father! In fact, Jesus called them evil doers.
To ensure Jesus never rejects you, you only need to do ONE thing. The will of the Father! What then, is the will of the Father?
In John 6:28 the people asked our Lord ‘what must we do to do the WorkS (note plural) God requires?’ The crowd was faced with same problem. What must we do? Note Jesus’ answer. This is the work (note singular) of God: to believe in the one he has sent!
God actually considers belief in His son as work. Further, this one act is ALL Father requires from me! Then Jesus says in verse 40 in John 6, ‘for my Father’s WILL is that everyone who looks to the Son and BELIEVES IN HIM SHALL HAVE ETERNAL LIFE AND I WILL RAISE HIM UP ON THE LAST DAY.’
Lastly, Hebrews chapter 10:10 says “For God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time.” The verse is stated in the context of the Holy Spirit testifying “I will remember your sins no more!”
The Father’s will is always for us.
The will and the acceptable work which God’s require is your faith and not your deeds as you have been SAVED by Jesus! The people Jesus referred to were doing so much that they missed out what God’s will is. Like Martha we think we are pleasing to God when we give to Him. Yet Jesus says to her ‘one thing is needed and Mary has chosen the right thing.’ What pleases God is not your service but who you place your faith in: your service or your saviour?
Note if your confidence lies what you do for Jesus, Matthew 7:23 calls us evil-doers.
The will and the work of The Father is you believe in His Son. Your faith will cause Him to produce deeds in your life as James says.
SY: You must notice Paul does not tell us to take up the cross deny yourself and follow him. He says “you are already crucified with Christ.” In other words you have already taken up the cross and followed him. You have now died with him and has been raised with him.
DB: Paul in his letters lists many things that God requires of us – after all, we have received Jesus as our Lord and it is now our sacred calling to do His will – not to be saved but because we are saved. Just take out your Bibles and read Ephesians 5:1-6 (or, if you like, start in the fourth chapter and read through to the end of the fifth) and very clearly, Paul tells us how we are to live and warns us about the dangers of deviation from God’s ways. Or read 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8 (again, among many other passages), where Paul lays out what God requires of us as His children.
SY: Dr Brown you seem to forget that these epistles do not begin with the later chapters. The earlier chapters of Ephesians and Thessalonians are doctrinal chapters. They speak of what Jesus has already done for us. Hence our blessings are secured for us by what Jesus has done for us.
In fact the doctrinal chapters tells us that our identity and who we are in Jesus. The latter chapter of these letters hence tells us that since we already are that’s how we should act. It is not a demand but merely a manifestation of a chamber that is already there. Do you call that a requirement?
A requirement is something that you attain to be. You already are you don’t have to be.
DB: Second, Dr. Ellis rephrases his answer to make it fit with his theology, stating, “There are no extra blessings that come to us separately from Christ and in response to our obedience.”
Who ever said anything about doing anything “separately from Christ”? Everything we do for God is in and through Jesus.
At the same time, the New Testament tells us over and over again that certain lifestyles will bring greater blessing than others. For example, Jesus taught that if we walked in unity with Him and stored His words in our hearts, we would bear much, lasting fruit, which is why some believers bear much more fruit than others (John 15:1-9). That’s also why Paul urged Timothy to live a certain way before God, separating himself from what was unclean, to have the maximum effectiveness in the Lord (see 2 Timothy 2:19-21)
Without a doubt, every spiritual blessing we could ever need is found in Jesus. But those blessings are accessed through obedience and faith, and the believer who is lax and careless in his walk with God cannot say, “It’s all grace!” and then expect the same effectiveness and blessing as the one who serves faithfully – by grace, of course.
SY: I find this strange. Am I to believe that God would show partially in the giving of his gifts to those more deserving? That God’s blessings and gifts are given to the obedient only?
What about this?
For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.
What about this?
So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.
For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”
It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.
What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory—
These verses clearly negate only the obedience have access to his blessings.
In fact the access to his blessings has always been by grace.
through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.
What about Paul then? How righteous was he before was made the most effective of disciples? What then was his secret?
1 Corinthians 15:10
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.
Doesn’t Paul tell us that it is grace that empowers him to produce works. Paul ‘s directions were not for effectiveness per se.
Before he said all that he told Timothy all that he told Timothy this.
2 Timothy 2:1
You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
It’s the Grace of God that empowers. It’s not about earning.
DB: Is it possible for us to displease the Lord? Is he always pleased with us? Can we grieve the Holy Spirit?
PE: As I say elsewhere, the notion that “Hyper-grace preachers say God is not grieved by your sin” is a myth. Your choices and behavior can grieve the Holy Spirit, but only because he cares for you and wants you to prosper in every area of your life. Your behavior matters because you matter. But don’t confuse behavior with identity. You are not defined by what you do. Your identity is Christ and in him you are and always will be 100 percent pleasing and acceptable to God.
DB: This is seriously wrong on several fronts.
First, Dr. Ellis has just contradicted his previous answer, since he says here that God doesn’t want us to sin because we won’t fully prosper if we do, yet in the previous answer he said that, “There are no extra blessings that come to us separately from Christ and in response to our obedience.” Both can’t be true.
Second, our sin grieves God not “only” because He cares for us – although He certainly cares for us far more than we could ever imagine and He absolutely grieves for the harm we do to ourselves – but our sin also grieves God because it is an affront to His holiness and because often, our sin brings reproach to the name of Jesus. Dr. Ellis’s answer is part of the “it’s all about me” mentality of this generation, sad to say.
Third, Dr. Ellis makes a wrong distinction between behavior and identity. True, my identity is not defined by my behavior, and so, when I was a rebellious 15-year-old, I was still my father’s son, deeply loved by him. But my behavior grieved and displeased him. In the same way, as attested from Genesis to Revelation, our disobedience displeases our Father, who still loves us as His children but who is not pleased with our sinful conduct, especially because we are His children.
In Hyper-Grace, I cite numerous verses from the New Testament where the Lord calls us to please Him or where He expresses His displeasure with us. A simple reading of Revelation 2-3, the words of Jesus to seven congregations in Asia Minor, indicates that it is scriptural nonsense to claim that “we are and always will be 100 percent pleasing and acceptable to God.” Not so. Paul’s corrections to the Corinthian church are another reminder that we are not always “100 percent pleasing” to God.
SY: I don’t see the contradiction. As pointed out to you whether you lax or don’t, God always blesses by nature.
God does not judge on the basis of your obedience but his Son’s.
When you study the rebukes of the churches in Revelation, they have one thing in common. They were all about deeds, human effort and about pretending to be Jews. Human effort as if the churches were departing from grace.
I will repeat what I had said about your wrongful interpretation of what amounts to grieving the spirit.
The way to grieve the Spirit is actually, by not ministering grace and telling a believer he has yet to be fully forgiven and has to do something to be forgiven.
Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.
And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.
Notice that God forgave you because of Christ’s sake.
Note God does not forgive you base on your request or your confession.
Also you insult the Spirit by treating the blood of Jesus as common blood. The context here is blood of the bulls and goats.
How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?
What this simply means is that you deem Jesus blood as insufficient to secure your salvation and that you have to ask for forgiveness on a yearly basis. “Unholy” in the context means “Common”. Common blood is the blood of bulls and goats. They secure your forgiveness for only a year.
That’s how you grieve the Spirit.
DB: If the Lord always sees you as perfect, is there any way for you to disappoint him? I’ve heard it said that we can only grieve or disappoint him by not trusting his grace, but according to your message, hasn’t that sin been forgiven as well?
PE: Yes, every sin was carried on the cross and in Christ we are completely and eternally forgiven. Still, there are things we can do that make the Lord sad, such as being slow of heart to believe the good news of his grace.
DB: As demonstrated in Hyper-Grace, and as Dr. Ellis acknowledged in his rebuttal, there is not a single verse in the Bible that states that when we get saved, God pronounces our future sins forgiven. As Dr. Ellis wrote, “Dr. Brown notes that there is not one verse in the Bible that pronounces us already forgiven for our future sins (page 43). Nor is there any verse that says Jesus will come and die a second time for your sins” (pp. 54-55).
But that’s whole point. There is no verse that says “Jesus will come and die a second time for your sins” because He won’t, just as there is no verse that says that God “pronounces us already forgiven for our future sins” because He doesn’t. Jesus paid for our sins once and for all on the cross, but the blood is applied to our lives the moment we are saved and then in an ongoing way once we are saved (notice the present continuous tense of the Greek in 1 John 1:7).
Without a doubt, we are placed in the “forgiven” column the moment we are born again, and without a doubt, all our sins were paid in full at the cross. But throughout Scripture, God forgives sins we have committed, not sins we have not yet committed.
SY: Dr. Brown’s idea of cleansing seem to akin a rock that gets dirty and then it is washed. Then it gets dirty and then it is washed. That is a wrong picture. The right picture is a rock being placed in running water. It is constantly being washed.
Further Dr. Brown is mistaken to say there is no verse that suggest that our future sins are forgiven.
for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God,
Jesus did not come to forgive sins. He came to put away and take away sins. Once and for all.
If your sins have been taken away once and for all, what else is there to forgive?
As to our future standing with God, despite the fact both Dr Brown and I will still sin, this is what the word says.
He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.
I think the word “eternal” covers our future blemishes.
DB: If God has pronounced your future sins forgiven in the same way he has pronounced your past sins forgiven, why do Paul and other New Testament writers address these very sins in their letters? Why does God bring our present sins up to us in the New Testament, even warning us about the dangers of walking in those sins, if they have also been forgiven and forgotten in advance?
PE: God will never judge or punish you for the sins that Christ bore on the cross. The audacious claim that he chooses not to remember or record your sins comes straight from scripture (Rom 4:7-8, 2 Cor 5:19). In Christ, you have received redemption and the forgiveness of sins (Eph 1:7, Col 1:14). So why do Paul and the other NT writers talk about sin? Because sin is destructive. Sin can hurt you. Your Father loves you too much to say nothing while you ruin your life. Your sin won’t undo the work of the cross, but it could undo you, your marriage, and your family.
DB: We agree that sin can be deadly and costly. Where we disagree is whether sin can “undo the work of the cross.” In short, in the same way an unbeliever can reject the finished work of Jesus, thereby not receiving the forgiveness that was paid for, numerous exhortations in the New Testament indicate that as believers, we can walk away from God’s mercy and reject His grace, thereby forfeiting our salvation. There is absolute security in Jesus, but if we absolutely reject Him, we lose that security.
SY: Really? Are you saying that our sins are more powerful that the work on the cross?
but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.
This interceding is not praying for us everytime we sinned. Rather it is being seated at the right hand of God after completing the work of purifying our sins.
After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.
He is still seated there. As long as he is there your salvation is secure.
DB: 5a. A leading hyper-grace teacher claims that the doctrine of progressive sanctification is a “spiritually murderous lie”…
PE: Clark Whitten makes this claim (on page 28 of his excellent book Pure Grace) and I agree with him. The “saved by grace but perfected by human effort” teaching has produced a church that is, in Whitten’s words, “judgmental, angry, hopeless, helpless, dependent, fearful, uninspired, ineffective, and perpetually spiritually immature.” He’s right. The idea that sanctification is something we produce is a stone cold grace-killer.
DB: I take issue with Clark Whitten a number of times in Hyper-Grace, pointing in particular to his harsh rhetoric against other believers who do not embrace his message. (Note here his exaggerated assessment of churches that do not embrace hyper-grace.) The reality is that some of the finest, most vibrant, Jesus-exalting, fruit-bearing, Spirit-empowered churches in the world are those which preach a message of scriptural sanctification and reject hyper-grace.
But again, Dr. Ellis has misrepresented the question and painted a misleading picture when he claims that I’m saying that “sanctification is something we produce.” This is a common trait (intentional or not) in hyper-grace circles, namely the caricaturing of an argument to sidestep the real issue. According to the Scriptures, sanctification is both instantaneous and a process, yet all of it is done with the Spirit’s help and we are active participants in all of it, as I’ll explain in the next answer.
SY: You do that too.
DB: 5b. If “progressive sanctification” simply means to walk out our holiness with the help of the Spirit, what is so dangerous about this teaching?
PE: There is nothing dangerous about it, since that is what scripture and hyper-grace teachers teach. In Christ we are 100 percent holy. The message we preach is “be who you truly are.” But this is not progressive sanctification as most understand the phrase, or as Michael himself describes in his Hyper-grace book when he says our sanctification is positional (ie: not real) and something to pursue. Michael insists “sanctification is a process!” (p.100) and he interprets New Testament exhortations as demands and requirements that must be obeyed, but I smell carrots and sticks.
DB: Notice again the rhetoric (“I smell carrots and sticks”) along with the misrepresentation of progressive sanctification. Let me clarify.
First, I actually teach what he claims I don’t teach, namely that the moment we are saved, we are set apart by God as holy and called “holy ones” (saints). That is our identity in Jesus – saints, not sinners – and now we are called to live that out. That’s why Peter writes, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’” (1 Peter 1:14-16)
Unfortunately, many in the hyper-grace camp react against calls to holiness, branding it legalism and calling you a grace hater. (If I had spoken these words rather than Peter, I would certainly be accused of hating grace or misunderstanding grace.) And notice that Peter does not first say to his readers, “You are already 100% holy; just be who you are.” He simply calls them, as beloved children of the Father, to live lives of obedience and holiness.
SY: With due respect that is exactly what Peter is saying.
Is he saying you are not holy and that you are still in a state of sin? Is he saying that you have to labor to be holy?
Let’s look at some of the things he says.
1 Peter 1:1
1 To God’s ELECT, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia,
1 Peter 1:2
2 who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying WORK of the SPIRIT, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood:
1 Peter 1:3
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has GIVEN us NEW BIRTH into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
1 Peter 1:9
9 for you ARE receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
(Note you ARE receiving not you MAY be receiving)
Now note what he says after the injunction to “be holy”.
1 Peter 1:22
22 Now that you have PURIFIED yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart.
1 Peter 1:23
23 For you HAVE been born again, not of perishable seed, but of IMPERISHABLE, through the living and enduring word of God.
1 Peter 2:2-3
2 Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, 3 now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.
(Note he says that you may grow up in your ALREADY INHERITED salvation and that they HAVE tasted the Lord is good.)
Then he speaks about God building a house. Totally out of the blue. Let’s leave this thought later.
He then says this in 1 Peter 2:7
They stumble because they disobey the message–which is also what they were destined for.
I want us to see that this does not refer to believers but the Jews of that time.
This is what he says about believers.
1 Peter 2:9-12
9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
11 Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.
If you read the whole thing in its context you will realized:
- A) you are already a holy nation.
- B) you are already saved.
- C) you are already a royal priesthood. You cannot get holier that who you already are.
- D) you are born out of imperishable seed. You cannot die to your salvation.
He is saying “you are already like him”. The problem is this because you are already holy so act like it.
DB: Second, Dr. Ellis is entirely wrong to say that “positional” holiness is “not real.” Of course it’s real. It’s simply not the entire story. In other words, just as, in a real sense, we are seated with Jesus in heavenly places (this is positional and it is real), in another sense, we still live in this world, in earthly bodies. Both are true. In the same way, we have already been made holy and we are being made holy, meaning, walking that holiness out. Both are true.
Third, hyper-grace theology breaks down at the foot of the Word of God, having to reinterpret verses like 2 Corinthians 7:1, where Paul writes, “Since we have these promises [see 2 Corinthians 6:16-18], beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.” Our holiness has not yet been completed; it is progressive, according to the Word.
Similarly, Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 4:3, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality,” after which Paul gives specific instructions for how we are to live, closing this with, “For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.”
Unfortunately, Dr. Ellis must conform the Word to fit his theology, as illustrated by his paraphrase of 1 Thessalonians 5:23 (also p. 73). The verse states, “May God Himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through” (1 Thessalonians 5: 23a). He rewrites it to say, “Sanctification is God’s work, not yours. Just as His gift of salvation is something to work out in your life, so is His sanctification. You already have it, so enjoy it!”
SY: With due respect Dr Brown, you really are quoting something outside its context. 2 Cor 7:1 is not talking filth from sins but rather, to be married to an unbeliever.
The word “therefore” would beckon you to look at a previous discussion.
2 Corinthians 6:14
Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?
2 Corinthians 6:18 – 7:1
And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.
Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
That’s the context. Hence Paul is not talking about “completing your holiness” but marrying a Christian woman. He is talking about the completion of a Christian family.
So as such Paul Ellis is right on 1 Thessalonians 5:23.
DB: That is not what Paul was praying for. He recognized the “already-not-yet” aspect of our experience: We are holy but we are not perfectly holy in every area of our lives, as we will be when Jesus returns and we become like Him in a way beyond what we have experienced so far (1 John 3:2). And in this world, as God’s holy people, we are to grow in holiness.
SY: Again he misses the point. Look at what the next verse says.
1 John 3:3
All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.
It does not say only when he appears we become pure but when we have this hope. We have this hope because it’s Christ in us.
Being like him when he comes refers to something else.
DB: We agree that the Holy Spirit never condemns us for our sins as believers, but does he ever make us uncomfortable when we sin?
PE: Jesus called him the Comforter, not the Discomforter, so I guess not (John 14:16). I have written elsewhere on how God deals with us when we sin.
DB: This too is wrong on several fronts. First, although the King James Version translates paraklētos as “Comforter” in John 14:16, the word is best rendered “Helper” or “Advocate.”
SY: With respect, I am an attorney. In fact I am an advocate. My job is make sure people are acquitted even at times when they are wrong. It’s my profession. Hence an advocate does not convict a person of his sins. The judge does. Hence he comforts you by telling you, you have been acquitted.
DB: Second, because God loves us so much, He makes us uncomfortable in our sins, which is why Jesus, speaking by the Spirit to Laodicea, says, “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent” (Revelation 3:19; note that the Greek word for “reprove” is the same as the word used for “convict” in John 16:8). These words – and the ones that preceded them in chapters 2-3 of Revelation – were hardly designed to “comfort.” Rather, Jesus brought strong correction because of His love, with the goal being repentance and restoration. How dangerous it is to say that the Spirit will never make us uncomfortable when we sin. That discomfort might just save our marriage or ministry.
SY: Dr. Brown conveniently leaves out 2 things. John 16:9 and that Revelation 3:19 is directedonly to the church at Laodicea.
Let’s look at John 16:9 and see who the Spirit “reproved”.
Of sin, because they believe not on me; People who do not believe.
Let’s not consider the passage in Revelation 3.
Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.
Is he speaking to people who are in fellowship with him or people who are NOT having fellowship with him. The assumption here is that Jesus only love people who have believed.
DB: It is a tragic consequence of this anti-conviction preaching that many believers have become compromised in their lifestyles, giving place to enslaving sins. That’s one reason so many leaders worldwide are sounding the alarm against hyper-grace.
SY: That is a statement of opinion. Are you saying that people who sit under a mixed gospel does not lives lives of compromises? That is a purely prejudiced statement.
Let’s look at what Paul says.
But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of coveting. For apart from the law, sin was dead. Once I was alive apart from the law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died.
Note what Paul says, apart from law, sin was not active in his life. Sin only sprang to life when the law was introduced.
Hence it is NOT the teaching of grace that leads to sin. It is the teaching of prohibition that leads to sin.
For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death.
DB: We agree that we do not need to confess every sin we commit each day in order to “stay saved,” but is any type of confession and request for forgiveness appropriate? For example, is it appropriate for believers to say, “Father, I’m sorry for sinning and I ask you to wash me clean”?
It’s not wrong to ask God for forgiveness and grace in your hour of need. If asking helps you to receive what God has already provided, have the freedom to ask. What’s not okay is telling people that God only forgives them because they ask, confess, repent, or do anything. The Bible teaches that we are forgiven in accordance with the riches of his grace (Eph 1:7), not our asking.
I’m glad to hear Dr. Ellis affirm that it’s acceptable for a believer to ask for forgiveness, since some hyper-grace teachers say that it’s sinful to confess our sins and ask for forgiveness. And he is right in saying that our sins have been fully paid for. But as 1 John 1:9 indicates (it is written explicitly to believers and it is in the present, continuous tense in Greek, thus speaking of our ongoing life in the Lord), there is relational forgiveness (not salvific forgiveness) that we receive when we sin and ask God for cleansing. That is healthy and beautiful, not negative and destructive.
SY: This is untrue. As I had said above, the idea of cleansing that Dr. Brown is repetitive cleansing by having to dip the stone into the water as opposed to placing the rock under constant cleansing.
Also he is misconceived. It is not the “asking for forgiveness” that is the “sin”. It is the notion that “you are only forgiven until your next confession” that we take issue against.
Also the beginning passage of 1st John is addressing an issue of certain teaching of a person who was claiming Jesus did not come in the form of the flesh (body).
1 John 4:2-3
This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the FLESH is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.
Hence John speaks about having physically apprehending him.
1 John 1:1
That which was from the beginning, which we have HEARD, which we have SEEN with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have TOUCHED—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.
1 John 1:3
We proclaim to you what we have SEEN and HEARD, so that YOU also may have fellowship with US. And OUR fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.
This portion of Scripture was addressed to people who were not having fellowship with John’s disciples.
The group concern will be then known as the Gnostics. Dr. Brown argues at the time of writing the Gnostics have yet to appear. That is not true. The person concerned was Cerinthus. A search in Wikipedia will show:
“Early Christian tradition describes Cerinthus as a contemporary to and opponent of John the Evangelist, who may have written the First Epistle of John and the Second Epistle of John to warn the less mature in faith and doctrine about the changes he was making to the original gospel.”
“According to Irenaeus, Polycarp told the story that John the Apostle, in particular, is said to have so detested Cerinthus that he once fled a bathhousewhen he found out Cerinthus was inside, yelling “Let us flee, lest the building fall down; for Cerinthus, the enemy of the truth, is inside!” One tradition maintains that John wrote his first two epistles to counter Cerinthus’ heresy.”
Hence Dr. Brown is clearly mistaken the plea of John to confess their sins was directed to believers.
DB: I know that you are against certain types of self-examination lest you become “sin conscious”… (But) if I understand you correctly, you would question the salvation of someone who demonstrated no change of life and continued to walk in unrepentant sin. But doesn’t this mean that, on some level, you are looking at your “performance” to verify your salvation?
PE: Not performance, but fruit. Performance suggests a show put on to impress others; spiritual fruit can only be produced by the Lord. If you want to know if someone has been apprehended by the love of God, look for the fruit. Fruit are not sin. Fruit always point to Jesus.
DB: Actually, I only used the word “performance” because hyper-grace teachers often speak against a performance mentality, and I agree with Dr. Ellis that we should look for fruit. But according to Jesus, fruit can be good or bad, and so, we are to recognize false prophets by the bad fruit they bring forth (Matthew 7:15-20).
But I’m glad to see that, once again, Dr. Ellis says that a truly saved person will live differently. Amen! Sadly, in interaction with other hyper-grace adherents, they react negatively to any call for self-examination or any exhortations to live differently than the world, as if grace covers it all. Better to say that grace changes us as well as blots out our sins.
SY: When a person wants to sin, he will look for all grounds to excuse himself. There are countless testimonies of how grace have stop people from sinning. Why does he harp on those who react negatively?
Hence what Dr. Brown is doing is selective persecution.
Further part of the idea of Grace is change. However it is believing right that causes the right change.
Spurgeon said this: No doctrine is so calculated to preserve a man from sin as the doctrine of the grace of God. Those who have called it ‘a licentious doctrine’ did not know anything about it. Poor ignorant things, they little knew that their own vile stuff was the most licentious doctrine under heaven. If they knew the grace of God in truth, they would soon see that there is no preservative from lying like a knowledge that we are elect of God from the foundation of the world. There is nothing like a belief in my eternal perseverance, and the immutability of my Father’s affection, which can keep me near to Him from a motive of simple gratitude.
DB: Do you think there’s any danger in claiming that the teachings of Jesus before the cross don’t apply to us as believers today?
PE: In his book Michael suggests that hyper-grace preachers claim “The teachings of Jesus are not for us today” (p.203). This comes in a chapter entitled “Why are we running from the words of Jesus?” But who’s running? Who is dismissing the pre-cross words of Jesus? Certainly not Joseph Prince or any other prominent grace preacher. These are scurrilous claims which may be why Michael doesn’t repeat them here. Instead, we get the watered-down hypothetical: Is it dangerous to dismiss the pre-cross teachings of Jesus? Of course it is, Michael, which is why we don’t do it. Please stop suggesting that we do.
DB: What is scurrilous is that Dr. Ellis denies the facts. For example, I intentionally started my first answer with quotations from Jesus, knowing that some hyper-grace adherents would say, “But that’s not for us today. That was for His Jewish disciples before the cross.” Precisely my point.
Dr. Ellis himself has written that the Lord’s prayer does not apply to us today, writing, “Jesus said, ‘If you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins’ (Matthew 6:15). This is not good news. This is bad news that should make us shake in our boots for it links God’s forgiveness to our own. It is not grace, it is law. It is quid pro quo and tit for tat. It is something you must give to get” (The Gospel in Ten Words, p. 28). He also wrote that, “before the cross Jesus preached conditional forgiveness; forgive to be forgiven.”
Joseph Prince is even more clear: “Whether interpreting the Old Testament, or the words which Jesus spoke in the four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John), let Jesus and His finished work at the cross be the key to unlocking all the precious gems hidden in God’s Word. This means that we have to read everything in the context of what He came to do and what He accomplished at the cross for us. For example, some things that Jesus said in the four gospels were spoken before the cross—before He had died for our sins—and some were said after the cross—when He had already won our complete forgiveness and rightfully given us His righteousness. It is the latter that applies to us (believers under the new covenant) today” (from his website).
How then can Dr. Ellis deny that he and Joseph Prince say that many (or all) of the pre-cross words of Jesus do not apply to us directly today? (These are just two examples among many others, which I document in Hyper-Grace.) How then can he call this scurrilous when it is the very position he holds?
If he has changed his position, I rejoice, but as of now, I have not seen him correct these previous statements. In fact, one of the weakest part of his rebuttal book was his attempt to reject the glorious biblical evidence presented in Hyper-Grace, demonstrating how the words of Jesus before the cross apply to believers today (as always, using right principles of biblical interpretation). Unfortunately, for many in the hyper-grace camp, rather than actually reading what I had compiled – it is life-giving, biblical truth – they simply read Dr. Ellis’s response and said, “Good. I don’t have to deal with the Sermon on the Mount.”
In an email dated January 28th, Dr. Ellis stated that I can put him on record as saying that “the life and teachings of Jesus are divine, beautiful, life-giving and relevant today.” I responded by saying that being consistent with that statement would necessitate him repudiating some of his former teaching, which I strongly encourage him to do.
SY: I have already addressed this issue in my previous article.
However I would like to say Paul is spot on with regards to his understanding on the Lord’s Prayer. It has no bearing with us as we no longer ask for forgiveness. We already have forgiveness. We don’t forgive to be forgiven after the cross. We forgive because we already have forgiveness.
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Also Dr. Brown has mistakenly said that Grace believers say that the Sermon of the Mount is irrelevant.
May I say this?
The preamble of the Sermon on the Mount is this.
For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.
The apex of the Sermon of the Mount is this.
But seek first his kingdom and HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS, and all these things will be given to you as well.
He was speaking about a righteousness that surpasses that of the Pharisees which is the righteousness that is from the Father.
Unlike the righteousness of the Pharisees, the Father’s righteousness is a gift.
If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!
This is what Paul says in Romans.
But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.
This righteousness is GIVEN through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile.
It is a gift.
Hence, we are not saying the Sermon of the Mount does not apply, we are saying that it has been misapplied.
PE: What does it mean to walk in the fear of the Lord? What do you make of verses like this: “And if you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear… (1 Pet. 1:17).
What does it mean for the wives of unbelieving husbands to live in “purity and reverence” (1 Peter 3:2)? I only mention this because the word for reverence is the same word for fear Peter uses in chapter 1. If Michael is suggesting that we fear the Lord, is he also suggesting wives fear their husbands? Surely not. Jesus says that to fear the Lord is to worship him.
DB: Actually, context is everything, and it is clear that the fear of the Lord is not simply a matter of “worship” (although worship is certainly a part of it), while a wife’s reverential respect for her husband is going to be quite different than our reverential awe of the Lord. The fact that Dr. Ellis answers as he does once again reveals some of the problems in hyper-grace theology.
Consider some of these verses: Jesus, speaking to His disciples said, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).
After the sudden deaths of Annanias and Sapphira after they lied to the Spirit, Acts tells us, “And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things” (Act 5:11).
And notice the larger context and warnings of Hebrews 12:25-29, then read these last two verses: “Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:28-29, quoting from Deuteronomy 4:24; and note the warning to believers in 10:31: “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”)
Day and night, we serve God out of love, overwhelmed by His mercy and goodness, basking in the ocean of His grace. And we recognize He is the all powerful and holy God, and therefore we don’t play foolish games with Him.
SY: It does seem again Dr. Brown’s perception of “fear” is base on the phrase “God is a consuming fire”.
Let’s look at this in context.
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.”
Let’s look at this in context.
To the Israelites the glory of the Lord looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain.
This mountain we are concern is Sinai.
When Moses went up on the mountain, the cloud covered it, and the glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai.
The writer of Hebrews is not saying we need to fear God with dread. What he is saying is that we “used to” have to fear God with dread.
The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, “I am trembling with fear.”
But note what he says.
You have NOT come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm;
God was a “consuming fire” on Sinai. However, we have NOT come to that mountain.
Rather we have come to this brand new mountain.
But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly.
Here is he is known as the “living God”.
to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect,
The Judge to the spirits of the righteous. That is who we are.
Hence the issue about God being the consuming fire is addressing people who refuse to come out of Judaism. The Law. Jerusalem. These things were destroyed in AD70 along with all the Jews who refused to come out of the Old Covenant. The Temple and Jerusalem were destroyed by fire. This is what how God judged them by consuming fire.
It’s not about us. It’s about the generation who rejected Jesus in his day.
This is what notable preacher Charles Spurgeon said:
And you who have passed from a state of trembling hope into that of lively faith, I beseech you call him so. Let your faith say, as you see him suffering, bleeding, dying, “Thus my sins were washed away.” But let not your faith stay there. As you see him sweating, toiling, living a self-denying laborious life, say, “Thus the law was kept for me.”
COME UP TO THE FOOT OF SINAI NOW, AND IF YOU SEE ITS LIGHTNINGS FLASH, AND HEAR ITS THUNDERS ROAR, BE BRAVE, AND SAY LIKE MOSES, “I WILL ASCEND ABOVE THOSE THUNDERS, I WILL STAND ENWRAPPED WITHIN THE STORM-CLOUD, AND I WILL TALK WITH GOD, FOR I HAVE NO CAUSE FOR FEAR, THERE ARE NO THUNDERBOLTS FOR ME; FOR ME NO LIGHTNING FLASH CAN SPEND ITS ARROW, I AM PERFECTLY, COMPLETELY JUSTIFIED IN THE SIGHT OF GOD, THROUGH THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF JESUS CHRIST.” SAY THAT, CHILD OF GOD!
DB: Do you see any possible danger in emphasizing that it is impossible for a believer to lose his or her salvation? On a practical level, do you feel it’s important to add any scriptural caveats to your teaching of eternal security and, if so, how can you do this without putting an emphasis on “performance”?
PE: There is no danger in reassuring believers that Jesus keeps his promises. Instead of preaching “scriptural caveats” I recommend we preach the gospel. Instead of judging the performance of others, I recommend we preach the performance of Jesus. This is what Joseph Prince and every other grace preacher does.
DB: It looks like Dr. Ellis understood the gospel better than Paul, since Paul freely used “scriptural caveats” like this while also exalting “the performance of Jesus.” Paul wrote, “And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard” (Colossians 1:21-23a).
The author of Hebrews had no problem with “scriptural caveats” either, like this: “For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end” (Hebrews 3:14).
The same goes for Peter: “Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:10-11)
Why can’t hyper-grace believers simply say “Amen,” to these exhortations, believing that the one who started the work will bring it to completion, that the Lord is the author and finisher of our faith, and that Jesus is our good and great Shepherd who will never leave us or forsake us? Why will we be accused of preaching a “works righteousness” or adhering to a “saved by human effort” mentality when we are simply sharing God’s Word, with each of the verses holding to the exact same meaning when studied in context.
SY: I think again Dr. Brown is wrong to say that grace believers don’t accept spiritual caveats. Paul Ellis said instead of speaking about spiritual caveats we should speak about the Gospel. He has never said that we don’t accept spiritual caveats.
Also, accusations made against him for being preaching “works righteousness” and “saved by human effort” are justified aren’t they?
He had maintained that we can lose our salvation. He had said God blesses you on the basis of your merit when the book of Galatians in chapter 3 says:
2-4 Let me put this question to you: How did your new life begin?Was it by working your heads off to please God? Or was it by responding to God’s Message to you? Are you going to continue this craziness?For only crazy people would think they could complete by their own efforts what was begun by God. If you weren’t smart enough or strong enough to begin it, how do you suppose you could perfect it? Did you go through this whole painful learning process for nothing? It is not yet a total loss, but it certainly will be if you keep this up!
5-6 Answer this question: Does the God who lavishly provides you with his own presence, his Holy Spirit, working things in your lives you could never do for yourselves, does he do these things because of your strenuous moral striving or because you trust him to do them in you?
Don’t these things happen among you just as they happened with Abraham? He believed God, and that act of belief was turned into a life that was right with God.
Again those 3 verses which were quoted were also done out of context.
He seems not to know that there was a transition between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant when this three passages were written.
The issue here concerns Jews who had come out from Judaism and became Christians. However, they were persecuted by the Jews for it and many out of the fear of this persecution were tempted to return to Judaism.
Let’s look at them in this light and you will know grace believers have never shy away from these “spiritual caveats”.
if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel.
The moving here is moving from the gospel back to the old covenant.
We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end.
The original conviction here is the gospel. The shrinking back here is going back to the Law.
Paul speaks about these things in Galatians.
Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.
This is why he asked them to keep to the Gospel. It was never about “keeping themselves saved” or any human effort to keep themselves saved.
These caveats in fact speak about “losing it when you put your trust in your own effort”. It’s also not about losing your salvation but the impending doom that would destroy the Jews in AD70.
2 Peter 1:9-10
But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.
Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble.
Do you realize that to make every effort to confirm your calling and election is to remember you have been cleanse from your past sins?
2 Peter 1:8
For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
How do we keep ourselves from being inefficient and unproductive?
2 Peter 1:9
But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.
So. That is why we don’t preach the kind of caveats to tell them that they should be sin conscious. That is the best way of making them ineffective and unproductive. Unfortunately that is what Dr. Brown is doing. Sadly, he still sees himself a champion of his misdirected cause.