True Grace vs False Grace
The Apostle Paul warned the Christian Church near the end of his life that wolves would come into the church and distort the true message of the Gospel, distorting the true understanding of God’s amazing grace and how it works.
“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!… ” – Acts 20:29-31
Today we’re going to be on our guard and together discover if what we have been taught in our churches and in mainstream Christianity is scripturally verified as True Grace or if it is a mere counterfeit, appearing to be authentic but actually being False Grace.
You may ask, “Rich, surely a false doctrine of grace would not saturate the majority of the church, perhaps religious sects but not the mainstream church!”
“For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” – 2 Tim 4:3
“A great number of teachers” are teaching false grace today and we “want to hear” it! Listen, when it comes to scripture, there is no comfort in numbers… “a great number” does not prove a doctrine’s authenticity. In fact, if a “great number” are teaching false doctrine, that would mean only a small number are getting it right.
“But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” – Matthew 7:14
Jesus taught that we must pay attention to a teachers “fruits”, or in other words their actions, rather than their words, to determine if they are leading us to life. When Jesus uses the term “good fruit” he is referring to “good deeds” or “good actions” done in love for one’s neighbors.
“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.” – Matthew 7:15-20
There are a “great number of teachers” who appear to be sheep, even truly believing they themselves are sheep, but are misinformed at best or are “ferocious wolves” at worst. Truly a Pastor, even an entire church, can all be together under a delusion believing in distorted grace. Therefore, in order to recognize if this is happening in our church, we must test the teachings we receive.
“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” – 1 John 4:1
Again there is that word “many”, and indeed there are many more teaching falsehoods than the truth. So let’s begin…
Are you being taught True Grace or False Grace?
First, how do we know we are saved? What is the evidence that we have come to know Jesus?
“We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.” – 1 John 2:3-6
We can confess and claim to know Jesus all day, listen to worship all day, and go to church every time the doors are opened but if we do not prove our belief by obediently doing good deeds of love for our neighbors “as Jesus did”, we are still lost.
“Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.” – 1 John 4:20
How do we love our brother and sister? What will be the evidence on Judgement Day that we truly believed and were forgiven of our sin? Matthew 25:31-46 is the story of Judgement Day, where “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” – 2 Cor 5:10
There is your first sign you’re being taught false grace… if your teacher does not talk about Judgement Day as being a day where your good deeds (or lack thereof) are reviewed, it’s a false doctrine.
Here is what Jesus says will happen on that day…
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats…
…Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’…
…Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’
Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”” – Matthew 25:31-32, 34-36, 41-46
Notice Jesus isn’t even concerned with our sins, our church attendance, our doctrine, our words, or even our confession of belief…
“And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.” – Hebrews 9:27-28
He is only looking for the true evidence that one believed in Him and was forgiven of their sins; He’s looking for good deeds.
He is saying ‘”I was hungry” so, if you claimed to believe, what did you do about it?’
Too many teach a false comforting grace, a no works necessary grace, and as a result their flock is dismally unprepared for Judgement Day. They are correct that one’s works cannot save them as only God’s gift of Grace can do that, but let no one be mistaken, when someone truly believes and has truly received grace, they will do good works for their neighbors.
If your church never teaches Judgement Day according to Matthew 25:31-46 and 2 Cor 5:10 above, there is a very high chance you are in a false-grace church. Matthew 25, the separation of the sheep and the goats, is indeed the final judgement when “all nations” are gathered before Christ. We must heed Jesus’ warning of how that day plays out and what is truly important to Him on that day.
It is true, you will not be saved by your own works; your sins must be forgiven by God’s grace or else they will negate the good you do. However you cannot be saved without good works as your faith in Christ must be proven by your deeds.
“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?” – James 2:14
This is a rhetorical question, the answer is no.
“You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.” – James 2:24
If I came into your church and said James 2:24 in the pulpit without reminding anyone that it is from scripture, would they run me out? Would they call me a heretic that teaches “saved by works”?
A false grace church would.
Truly what I am teaching is that a true Christian must love their neighbors, but not with mere words. It must be with true genuine actions, it must be with our good deeds. I am teaching that to proclaim Jesus as Lord is to proclaim He is one to be obeyed. I am teaching precisely what Jesus taught.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” – John 13:34-35
Jesus taught that one must love others, that’s how someone will know we are truly his disciple; our love put in action is our proof that we believe.
How can we ensure we are truly loving our neighbors?
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?” – 1 John 3:16-17
Another rhetorical question, the answer being it can’t be in that person.
But why are giving money and material possessions used as the example of how to demonstrate real love in 1 John above? Well consider this, if your friend or family member whom you love was hungry, would you call it authentic love to merely pray for them and not give them food from your well stocked fridge?
“Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?” – James 2:15-16
Jesus is not foolish, He knows that if we really love someone, we will help them. This is why He taught that wherever your material goods and money are going will reveal what you truly love.
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” – Matthew 6:21
Since we cannot see God, nor do we know what He looks like… we could very well be passing Him by when we are indifferent to the needs of others.
“Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.” – 1 John 4:20
This is why on Judgement Day Jesus says whenever we helped the needy with acts of generosity and love, we helped and loved Him. Yet whenever we were indifferent and passed by, we passed by Him.
“‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’” – Matthew 25:45
He says this for two reasons:
The first being that for all we know, the homeless man we ignored could very well have been Him. It would not be the first time people “were kept from recognizing him.” (Luke 24:16). This is why the appearance nor financial condition of the needy, not even the sins they have committed, should remove their inherent value as God’s child in our eyes.
Secondly, if we are able to love “the least” important, most overlooked, oppressed, and uncared for neighbors of the world… we can truly love all of our neighbors.
So how does Grace work exactly?
We must pay close attention to how God himself says grace works and not how anyone else says it works, no matter their title or position in the Christian Church. We will not be able to stand before God and say “but my Pastor never told me that”.
To reiterate, we are indeed saved by Grace through faith, not by works… but we are created in Christ to do good works. We do them in gratitude for salvation and in obedience to the one we claim is “Lord”. The works are the evidence of true authentic belief and genuine love for our neighbors. Without doing the good works Jesus commanded to prove you genuinely believe He is Lord, you will not be saved. This is why Jesus said…
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 7:21
- Works without belief in Jesus = no salvation.
- Belief in Jesus without works = false salvation.
- Belief in Jesus evidenced by works = true salvation.
This is why James said “…Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.” (James 2:18). He is telling us his deeds are the proof he truly believes.
In other words…
- No faith in Jesus + Good works = Unsaved.
- Faith in Jesus + No good works to prove it = Unsaved (but think you are).
- Faith in Jesus + Good works to prove it = Truly saved.
“And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him…” – Hebrews 5:9
False grace treats Jesus’ commands with complacency, as though disobeying Him is not a problem because of “overwhelming grace”. False grace says “you don’t need to do good deeds, it’s only optional, you’ll still be saved”. If the end result of your belief in grace leads you to feel safe disobeying Jesus, it is false grace.
“…They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality…” – Jude 1:4
True grace teaches us to LIVE self-controlled and be eager to DO good for our neighbors.
“For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” – Titus 2:11-14
We are saved by grace, a free gift unearned, but the true receipt of grace is evidenced by our subsequently doing good deeds personally and as a church.
“…And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.” Acts 4:33-35
In fact, doing good deeds is our purpose as a saved Christian and precisely what Jesus created us to do according to Eph 2:10.
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” – Eph 2:8-10
Even St. Paul himself, the most misunderstood teacher of God’s grace (2 Peter 3:16), knew that if God’s grace were upon someone, they would be working hard doing good for others. He knew, as evidenced in his own life, Grace would cause someone to work.
“…I worked harder than all of them–yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.” – 1 Cor 15:10
The work he did was to do good deeds for others…
“and recognizing the grace that had been given to me… They only asked us to remember the poor— the very thing I also was eager to do.” – Galatians 2:9-10 NASB
Indeed St. Paul taught that true belief must be followed by repentance, and that repentance must be demonstrated by doing good deeds.
“…I preached that they should repent and turn to God and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds.” – Acts 26:20
But many will say “But Paul taught us not to work lest we be trying to earn salvation!”
Yes, he did teach us not to work to earn salvation…
“Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness” – Romans 4:4-5
But he likewise taught that one must work as a “sign” or “seal” that they are indeed saved. When referring to the father of faith, Abraham, he said that Abraham was considered righteous by his faith, but he later circumcised himself (a work) as the “sign” or the “seal” that he was righteous.
“And he received circumcision as a sign, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised.” – Romans 4:11
God’s grace through Abraham’s faith made him righteous before he ever did any work, yet he still proved his faith by his work (circumcision) after his salvation.
If Abraham is our example, we must see he didn’t kick back and say ‘Alright, I’m saved, no need to do works!’; a truly saved person will not do that! On the contrary, using Abraham as our example, we see a truly saved believer works!
“Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.” – James 2:21-22
If we do not follow up our confession of faith in Jesus with obedience, then our faith is dead, useless, and cannot save us.
“In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” – James 2:17
Look at it this way, Paul is absolutely right in saying “And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.” in Romans 11:6.
What he is saying is… if someone refuses to believe in Jesus yet does good deeds all their life, it will be of no use, their sins will still be counted against them and they will not earn righteousness.
Like poison, even one drop of sin in pure water contaminates the water and no amount of good deeds will cleanse that water. We must entirely rely on God’s miraculous grace to do that for us.
However, in the same way, if someone claims to believe yet refuses to do good deeds for others, righteousness will not be credited to them. Only the one who believes and then does good deeds in obedience, all the while relying on God’s grace to forgive their evil deeds, will receive righteousness through Christ as a free gift. Even while doing good deeds, we must still rely on God’s free grace to cleanse our sins, otherwise our good is in vain.
So you must ask yourself, are you saved?
“Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you–unless, of course, you fail the test?” – 2 Cor 13:5
If Christ is in you, if He is truly your Lord, you will be obedient.
“Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me.” – John 14:21
“Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching…” – John 14:23
If you keep Jesus’ commands to love God and to love neighbor in action by doing good for them, then you need not fear Judgement Day. You may safely rely on God’s grace to have forgiven you of all your sins through your faith in Jesus Christ because your faith is proven by your good deeds.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” – Matthew 25:34-40
You might say “but I believe! Isn’t that enough?”
No. Demons believe too, but they are not obedient, neither do they do good deeds.
“You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?” – James 2:19-20
You are not saved, made righteous, or justified by belief or faith alone.
“You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.” – James 2:24 ESV
Your faith must be accompanied by obedience and that obedience must lead you to generously do good deeds.
“Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else.” – 2 Cor 9:13
Why do we do this service of generous and merciful good deeds for our neighbors? It’s all in gratitude for grace, to demonstrate our thanks to God for sending his son Jesus.
“This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.” – 2 Cor 9:12
It is also to preach the Gospel, not only with words, but in deed and truth.
“In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” – Matthew 5:16
We don’t do good deeds to be admired by men, there is no heavenly reward in that. We do them to demonstrate our love to Jesus, Jesus’ love to others, and to say thank you to God for everything He has done for us. The good deeds are our grateful response to God’s amazing grace, given as a love offering to him.
“In Caesarea there lived a Roman army officer named Cornelius, who was a captain of the Italian Regiment. He was a devout, God-fearing man, as was everyone in his household. He gave generously to the poor and prayed regularly to God… And the angel replied, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have been received by God as an offering!” – Acts 10:1-2,4
Like Cornelius, we give to the poor as an offering made in gratitude for God’s overwhelming love and undeserved grace.
Why resist this truth? Simply go and do good for your neighbors; care for the hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, imprisoned, and strangers. Be a good Samaritan and give materially to those in need, all in gratitude for the salvation God has given you. Prove yourself, don’t delude yourself.
“But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” – James 1:22 NASB
Overall in order to practice true religion, to be a true Christian, to prove we believe, we must care for the suffering in this world our entire life, especially the fatherless and widows, using our resources to help relieve them, just as Jesus does.
“Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.” – James 1:27 NLT