Why I hate the doctrines of grace
And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. Ephesians 4:11-13
My friends who know me to have a love and passion for the teachings of scripture often called “the doctrines of grace”** may scratch their heads at such a title, but I assure you this article has nothing to do with sovereignty, election, or the truly unmerited grace of God. Instead it has to do with the manner in which these truths have been presented to the Church since the reformation. The doctrines of grace, as commonly taught, are actually only one half of the doctrines of grace taught in scripture, yet they are presented as a whole. The other half have been lost in the pages of scripture since the time of the reformers, up through the puritans, and down to modern reformed and Calvinistic teachers. In fact, I have found that the groups who most vocally teach the doctrines of grace during their weekly meeting are often the ones who exercise it the least. Take a minute and read these scriptures before we go any further. I have bolded some text to help detect the pattern laid out here concerning Gods grace.
There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore He says: “ When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, And gave gifts to men.” Ephesians 4:4-8
As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 4:10-11
For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness. Romans 12-3:8
The grace of God, as clearly show in the scriptures, is inseparable from the gifts given to the many membered body of Christ. God’s grace is not relegated to five points of doctrine and it has to do with far more then the manner in which God elects men. The true grace of God has as much to do with the gifts given to various members of the body as with the salvation given to the various members of the body. This is so that the Church might truly function like a body, rather than a roman catholic modeled religious institution.
To put it another way, where one man stands and preaches every Sunday there is a lack of grace to some degree. I know what I am writing applies to many well meaning Godly men, some even used mightily of the Lord despite their falling short in this area, but this does not make it any less true. A local Church may make up for this lack by way of being strong in other areas, but there is a lack none the less.
Looking at the clear, living, and powerful word of God, we see that Christ has not only led captivity captive, but He also gave gifts to men. These gifts do not only included teaching, but also prophesy, speaking in tongues, exhortation, giving, healing, evangelizing, and so forth. This differs greatly from the reformed crowd that teaches that Christ has led captivity captive, but has only given a teaching gift – and that to the senior pastor. What’s worse is when senior pastors come right out and say they believe the other gifts to the church have ceased. So instead of the grace of God being manifest through the many membered body, the focus becomes on expository preaching, performed by a senior pastor that holds an unbiblical position. How such a senior pastor can stand and teach that all other gifts have ceased besides his make believe super teaching one is beyond me.
The need of the Church is not expository preaching
The Church arguably needs expository teaching, with gifted elders who labor in the word, but not expository preaching. Preaching in the New Testament is primarily for the open air and in church planting, not for the weekly meeting until the end of time. Yet one of the major focuses of those who promote the doctrines of grace is on the expository preaching of these doctrines to the church. This is accomplished by standing at a pulpit and dominating the church meeting week after week with such. The thinking must go something like this “I will mature the body of Christ by preaching great truths, even at the expense of retarding the body of Christ by refusing the means of truth by which God has ordained to mature it”. Read that last sentence again.
Rather than a clergy-laity religious system, the bible really does show the Church teaching and admonishing one another as the called out saints of a risen Christ. This does not negate true eldership or the need for gifted teachers in the Church, rather this is the setting in which all gifts are used for edification. Yet many true brethren think it better to stand at a pulpit and preach a mini package of Calvinistic truth week after week then to raise their churches to live out the truth of truly being the body of Christ. I don’t want to sound too harsh coming against true teaching pastors that are off in this area, and purposely am not naming names. I will even make a point to say that in certain times and places God has seen to richly bless and use these men. I am thankful for them as brethren, respect them as elders, and yet in love and boldness must cry out against their empty traditions with the full authority of God’s word.
Imagine that I invited you to church and you came in to find one man standing a at a podium speaking in tongues for an hour every Sunday – you would know something was out of line (unless you were raised to know nothing but this tradition). In the same way, having one man stand at a podium and “teaching” (really it is preaching, teaching is relational) week after week and calling it a church meeting is almost as out of line as the example I gave. One man preaching week after week is in line with scripture only when planting a church as I stated earlier, until elders are raised and the body starts to function like a body. Yet in most of the reformed crowd the body is never taught to function as a body, it is always being planted, but never growing into maturity.
The biblical method to mature the body in this generation has less to do with teaching the doctrines of grace then it does with simply not retarding the saints through an unbiblical puritanical or clergy-laity religious system. The call for the hour is not to teach the “doctrines of grace”, it is to teach the whole council of the word of God! This includes laboring to build up the body of Christ through the manifold grace of God. It is time to shun the thought that we can build up Gods church into maturity while spurning the clear means by which God ordained for it to be built up. What an utter contradiction to reject and suppress the manifold grace of God and yet claim to be a teacher of God’s grace. What can be said in its defense?
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. ~ Colossians 3:16
[Edited to make small correction]
** I am not a ‘calvinist’. I am a Christian who believe that Jesus Christ has preeminence in all things as the scripture says… including the salvation of our souls. A ‘calvinist’ would accuse me of being an ‘armenian’ and an ‘armenian’ would accuse me of being a ‘calvinist’.