By Tom M. Roberts
A Dallas editor continues to bemoan that churches of Christ do not teach on the subject of grace. In a recent letter to this editor, one of his readers stated that they had to “listen to Ed Roger’s sermons on T.V. (1st Baptist) or to Jack Rothenflue who preaches for the Christian Church, Disciples of Christ to hear grace preached” (Persuader, “Shame of Shame!”, p. 2). To which the editor agreed that it was ture, adding, “Shame, Shame.”
One hardly knows where to begin to answer such a transparently false charge, but I suppose the best place is with a plain denial. I have heard grace preached all my life. If grace is so scarce among us, why arc people still obeying the gospel? If grace is unheard of in the churches of Christ, why are members still in the fellowship of God? Why, indeed, do we take the Lord’s supper, sing (yes, even “Amazing Grace”), pray, trust, believe that heaven-is attainable or 100 other things that are possible only by the mercy of God? A more spurious charge one would have difficulty finding than that grace is not taught from the pulpits in the churches of the Lord. It is difficult to contain my anger at such a statement. Not only is this editor pretending to know the sermon material that has been preached around the world each Sunday for an entire generation among Christians, but he also claims that one would have to turn to the Baptists or to the Christian Church to hear grace preached at all! Lord in Heaven, help us!
When has any Baptist, in keeping with Baptist doctrine, had any knowledge of the “true grace of God” (1 Pet. 5:12)? Has this editor become so enamored with false doctrine that he supposes “salvation by faith alone” to be a true exposition of God’s grace? Perhaps it is “once saved, always saved” that teaches about grace more than the gospel sermons among us. Yet again, does a Christian Church preacher qualify to tell us about grace? Wherein? Is it when he splits the body of Christ over instruments of music that he is most eloquent about grace? Or perhaps it is when he takes the Lord’s supper on Christmas Eve in the middle of the week that he is closer to grace than brethren who eat the supper on the Lord’s day? Could this Christian Church preacher lecture us on grace because he stands for “unity in diversity” with every sectarian of every stripe, regardless of how the word of God is trampled under foot and despised? Tell us again, brother editor, just when a Baptist or Christian Church preacher is qualified to preach on the grace of God! Is it when they receive into their fellowship one who has never been baptized for remission of sins? Is it when they deride gospel preachers (and the truth) for believing more “in the creek than Christ”? Is it when they accuse us of believing in water salvation? Or that Christ is now on his throne in his kingdom? Maybe they understand about grace when they say that the church was started by John rather than Jesus. Or is it something else? Point out to me, brother editor, what I can’t seem to see. Tell me when, where, how and why a Baptist can tell gospel preachers about grace. And when you have done that, tell me why you still claim to be a member of the church of Christ and not a Baptist or a member of the Christian Church. Shame, indeed, that a man grown old with the Bible (as has this Dallas editor), should, at this late date renounce the truth and lecture brethren about sectarians knowing more about grace than we. I pray that he may repent before God calls him to judgment.
Why Teach Such A Thing?
Why would a man who has preached the truth for many years as has this editor make such a statement? Giving him the benefit of the doubt as to honesty, one must conclude that he has fallen into doctrinal error. From what he has written in the past (and continues to write), he believes that grace is unconditional. In addition to the article just reviewed, he also included another article in the same bulletin entitled, “Percentage Religion.” A poorer grasp of God’s grace would be difficult to locate than either of these articles. One part of this latter article states: “This idea of God’s grace playing only a percentage role in salvation is unscriptural and spiritually deadly! . . . . It is the demand of legalism, not of grace. God and sinners are not in a partnership when it comes to the salvation of our souls! It is all of grace (God) or it is nothing as one views the source of a sinner’s salvation. Why will we never learn that salvation is a gift, a free gift? Why have we allowed men to instill the nonsense within us that says that we, at least to a degree, have earned, merited or worked for this ‘free gift’? It is to our shame that such ever developed.” Charles Hodge, another preacher, is then quoted as saying, “Man refuses to admit that all are on charity (grace) . . . God did not pay 50 cents with man equally paying 50 cents. This is hard for man’s pride to swallow! It is not even 90 cents from God and 10 cents from man. Jesus paid it all! 100 cents on the dollar! This is grace” (Charles Hodge, Amazing Grace, p. 4).
Thank God none of us are teaching this error. Where does one begin to refute such misunderstandings of truth?
No, We Don’t Preach Baptist Doctrine
These quotations explain why we are charged with never preaching grace. Since these quotations are in full agreement with, and in actuality are, Baptist doctrine, I must plead guilty to never preaching these doctrines except to expose them. Salvation wholly of grace is Baptist doctrine and can be found in the manuals of faith, but not in the Bible. Many years ago, our editor friend used to preach the same truth he now spurns. Quotations can be produced to prove this But now that he has abandoned truth, he attempts to lay guilt on us by claiming that we don’t preach the grace of God. On the contrary, we are still preaching what he used to preach, the “true grace of God” while he has turned to sectarian error. Be sure that you note the difference: it is his definition of grace that we don’t preach. We still preach the Bible definition, just like he used to do. Again, I ask, if Baptists are preaching grace and we are not, why remain in the church of Christ? Do you not find it strikingly odd, my friend, to find that your teaching would be acceptable to any Baptist church in the world? In fact, you could preach it at the largest Baptist church in the world right there in Dallas, Texas, and Pastor Criswell would praise you for it. Do you really expect all of us to change our preaching of truth and begin preaching Baptist doctrine? In truth, we don’t teach salvation wholly of grace, but we do teach the true grace. There is a distinct difference, even as you used to know.
Grace Is Conditional
Is salvation wholly of grace? Are there conditions to God’s grace? Is salvation 50 percent God’s part and 50 percent man’s part? 75/25? 90/10? 99/1? And are there folks in the church really teaching that? How sad that ignorance would create such confusion from the simple plan of redemption.
The Bible formula is: “for by grace have ye been saved through faith” (Eph. 2:8). Grace is God’s part; faith is man’s part. Both grace and faith play a part in salvation, as the text affirms. The grace of God is of non-effect without man’s faith, else would the whole world be saved. Both grace and faith are generic in that they include all that brings about our salvation. Grace includes all that God has done and is doing to save us: Christ, blood, church, remission, atonement, revelation, etc. Faith includes all that man must do in response to God’s grace: repentance, confession, baptism, godly a living, etc. What is the “percentage” that is God’s and what “percentage” that is man’s? Why brother, it is not 50/50 or even 99/1. It is 100/1,00! Do you get that? Let me explain. Only God can extend his grace (100 percent); only man can respond in faith (100 percent). Man cannot act on God’s behalf; God will not act on man’s responsibility. Grace, which is God’s part, is 100 percent God’s part. Man could not send Christ, shed the blood, establish the church, grant remission of sins, provide the truth, etc. On the other hand, God will not do what man must do: believe, repent, confess, be baptized, live godly lives or, in other words do that which peculiarly is man’s part 100 percent. Therefore salvation is not wholly of grace. Hodge is wrong when he describes his view of “percentage religion.” Our editor in question is wrong when he chides us for not believing or preaching grace. The Baptist is wrong, also. None of them really understands the grace of God. Yes, so far as source is concerned, salvation is from God. But God has also put salvation on a conditional basis and man must do something to meet these conditions. In some places, this “something man must do” is called “works” (John 6:28; 8:39-43; Jas. 2:17-26; etc.). These are not the works of merit or of boasting (which are condemned, Rom. 4:2ff, etc.), but conditional works to show our faith as a response to God’s expressed grace. It is this grace that I have heard preached all my life, which is preached today in the churches of the Lord, but has never been preached in Baptist Churches. Every time Acts 2:38 is preached, the grace of God is being preached. Will anyone deny that? Every time the Great Commission is preached, the grace of God is being preached? Will our editor deny that? Every time a precious soul is baptized into Christ, the grace of God has been extended. Every time a Christian prays and has his sins forgiven, God’s grace is active. The apostles preached it twenty centuries ago; we preach it today. May it be so until Jesus comes again.
May the grace of God be with you all.
Guardian of Truth XXXII: 6, pp. 170-171
March 17, 1988