Paul's Passing Thoughts

4 Hyper-Grace Myths: God Loves Everybody, Backslidden Christians, Sinners Saved by Grace, and it’s wrong to Fear God

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on October 13, 2010

As some know, I am dating a fellow Southern Baptist named Susan. We did not meet in the same church, so we are presently going to both by alternating back and forth. This post is sparked by the fact that I have been able to offend parishioners in both churches via Sunday school discussions. I did this at Susan’s church first while we were discussing “backslidden” Christians during Sunday school. I suggested to the class that it is wrong to give “backslidden” Christians assurance of their supposed salvation while in a state of perpetual rebellion; it was not well received.

Then in Sunday school last week while we were at my church I repeated my offensive behavior by suggesting that God does not Love everybody following a comment by someone in the class to the contrary. And while I am at it, I would like to throw in two more Christian clichés that I have suffered by throughout my Christian life: we are “sinners” saved by grace, and as Christians, we shouldn’t have any fear of God.

But before I begin, why does it matter? My answer to this question is my belief that how we think about these issues has a profound effect on evangelism and discipleship.

First, does God love everybody? Do we really want to tell unbelievers that God loves them and has a wonderful plan for their life? I understand the angle: “if you would just give your life to the Lord, you would find true happiness!” “Don’t you understand? God loves you!” (assuming that knowledge will motivate people to be saved).

And what about John 3:16? “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” If you think about it, this verse probably means that God’s love could potentially love everyone without distinction, but is conditional upon their belief in His Son. The second part of the verse seems to add that condition. Why do I say that? Because of what Psalms 11:5 says: “The LORD tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.” In regard to the righteous and unrighteous, Romans 9:13 says: “As it is written, ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.’”

Even those who want to believe that God loves everyone must concede that God does not love unbelievers the same way that He loves us as believers. Matthew 7:23 records the words Christ will say to some: “Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” Of course, this doesn’t mean that Christ never knew who they were, but rather refers to intimacy (Genesis 4:1, Gen. 19:5, 8). Christ never knew them or loved them intimately. So, to simply tell unbelievers that God loves them is to allow them to assume God loves them in the same way he loves believers which at the very least is false. Furthermore, it is a half-truth because it is also true that God hates them as well, so to only mention the love part is only half of the truth. It should go without saying that it is very important for unbelievers to have a truthful and accurate picture of their standing before God while being evangelized.

Secondly, should we say anything to professing Christians to give them assurance of salvation when they are living a disobedient lifestyle? Should we just label them “backslidden” and patiently wait for God to deal with them when he pleases, if at all? Should our reasoning sound like the following?: “Well, at least they are saved. It will all be good in the end. Besides, we shouldn’t judge.” But isn’t giving them assurance of their standing with God making a judgment as well? So, do we want our judgments to be truthful, or merely positive? Actually, I wouldn’t make any judgment; I would follow Scripture which would certainly forbid giving comfort, or encouragement to people living in a lifestyle of disobedience to God.

The Scriptures are clear; a disobedient lifestyle is indicative of unbelievers regardless of their claims otherwise: “Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous” (1John 3:7). “By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother” (1John 3:10). The first chapter of 2Peter also makes it clear that we make our calling and election “sure” by “adding” spiritual virtues to our life. Therefore, disobedient persons who have assurance of salvation are a biblical anomaly. Do I believe that many well meaning Christians are unwittingly making some unbelievers as comfortable as possible until they one day wake-up forever separated from God? I say with great concern, yes.

Thirdly, are we “sinners saved by grace”? No, we are not. We are born again (John 3:7), new creatures (2Corintians 5:17), who sin at times (1John 1:8). There is a significant difference. “Sinners” are those who have a life characterized by sin; that’s not us. The English dictionary defines “sinner” via the synonym “evildoer.” We are not evildoers, that’s a biblical description of the unregenerate. Clichés such as this are not healthy nomenclatures among Christians and send the wrong message. Any phrase that downplays the vast difference in spiritual abilities between the saints and unbelievers tends to neutralize Christians. This vast difference between the two is a major theme in the book of Ephesians. If the distinction is blurred, Christians will behave accordingly. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

Lastly, is it wrong for Christians to fear God? Francis Chan, in his book, “Crazy Love” describes his own fear of God as a time in his life when he was spiritually immature. Now that he is supposedly mature, he describes his present fear of God as “reverent intimacy.” Likewise, throughout out my own Christian life I have been continually taught that “fear” means “reverence.” This eliminates a very important sanctification element in the lives of believers: a healthy fear of God.

Throughout the New Testament, Christ and the Holy Spirit use fear of God as a positive motivator for proper behavior and spiritual growth. In fact, Christ commands Christians to fear God in Matthew 10:28; “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.” It is also interesting to note that no fear of God is usually associated with unbelievers: “Transgression speaks to the wicked deep in his heart; there is no fear of God before his eyes” (Psalm 36:1). Furthermore, Philippians 2:12 should make it clear what kind of fear is being talked about: “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling….” The word “trembling” should adequately qualify the word “fear” in this passage of Scripture. Here again, we have an imperative to fear God.

In the Apostolic Age, Christians might have been getting overly caught-up in “saved by grace alone.” Whatever the reason was exactly, God sent the church a wake-up call via Ananias and Sephira (Acts 5:1-11). The results are then stated in verses 11, “Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events,” and 13, “No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people.” And also 14, “Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number” [obviously, those who really meant business]. In addition to this point, Proverbs 1:7 says, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Throughout proverbs and Psalms, fear of God is associated with wisdom that unbelievers do not have. Throughout the New Testament, fear of God is used as a motivator to do what’s right: “and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him. The Lord will punish men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you” (1 Thess. 4:6); “Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door” (James 5:9); “For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 11:29).

Therefore, does Francis Chan and many others like him do the church harm by teaching that Christians shouldn’t fear God? Yes they do, obviously. To the contrary, they should have the heart of the Psalmist: “Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD” (34:11).

In a time such as ours when an overemphasis on the gospel among the already redeemed replaces discipleship, Christians are living on a steady diet of sound bites that taste good. I hope this post provokes many to rather “…. demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2Corintians 10:6).


16 Responses

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  1. tad wyoming said, on October 13, 2010 at 9:38 am

    I agree 1oo%. Excellent and well supported argument. Ihadnt caught that ananias and sapphira were so well regarded b4. Good detail. Funny how this god is love thing has become almost like a religion to some …tw

  2. Anonymous said, on October 13, 2010 at 10:32 pm

    “Likewise, throughout out my own” This needs to be corrected for clarity by leaving off the word “out” in the quoted sentence.

    Romans 9:13 says: “As it is written, ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.’”

    Romans 9 in context is a discussion not of the persons of Jacob and Esau. Paul was quoting Gen. 25:23 It is important that when a verse is quoted you go back to study the verses to see the context that it is coming from. When a verse from the Old Testament is being used in the New Testament you will understand the New Testament verse more clearly. Paul often quoted Old Testament Passages as proof text for his own writings/sermons. When you read Gen. 25:23 there is then no room for confusion and it is clear God is referring to the nations that would come from them. and not them as individuals.

    Gen. 25:23 The LORD said to her,
    “Two nations are in your womb,
    and two peoples from within you will be separated;
    one people will be stronger than the other,
    and the older will serve the younger.”

    The subject of the text is through whom the promise would come. God is saying that the promise was to come through the nation of Israel/Jacob and not Edom/Esau.

    The use of the word “hate” gives a misrepresentation of the meaning of the expression used in Romans 9 and several other passages of scripture.

    Jesus says, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brother and sisters –yes, even his own life –he cannot be my disciple.”

    Is this a command then for every Christian to hate their mother, father, brother, or sister? Or is it to say that you and I are not to favor them above God?

    This article is well written and you have made several good points. It is important however that when you are going to use a verse or two as proof-text that they should be used in the context of the passages they were taken from.

    I especially enjoyed this quote, “In a time such as ours when an overemphasis on the gospel among the already redeemed replaces discipleship, Christians are living on a steady diet of sound bites that taste good.”

  3. tad wyoming said, on October 15, 2010 at 10:05 pm

    Good points, anon, but which is worse, to hate one person or their entire lineage of descendants? Why so reluctant to let hate be hate, as I doubt u would say the same about god hating divorce and sin in general. On the other hand jesus does seem to use some level of hyperbole to shock us, butHe is also serious. Wed be better off hating the fam then following them to Hell. Likewisen it’s literally true wed be better off plucking n tossing the eye than continuing to sin with it. Tw

  4. paulspassingthoughts said, on October 17, 2010 at 1:11 am

    Yes, I agree. Though Christ may not want us to literally perform the act, He certainly wants us to know how seriously he takes an issue. Making salvation a *better life choice* in your presentation (God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life) of the gospel doesn’t quite cut it.

  5. p160 said, on November 11, 2010 at 11:16 pm


    To be saved, you must believe in the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 16:31).

    However, that’s not all. Sacred Scripture clearly shows other things you must also do to be saved:

    You must endure to the end. Matthew 10:22, Matthew 24:13, Mark 13:13.

    You must accept the Cross (suffering). Matthew 10:38, Matthew 16:24-25, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23, Luke 14:27.

    You must be baptized with water. Mark 16:16, Titus 3:5, I Peter 3:20-21.

    You must be a member in God’s true church. Acts 2:47.

    You must confess your sins. James 5:16, I John 1:9.

    You must keep the Commandments of God. Matthew 5:19-20, Matthew 7:21.

    You must heed the words of St. Peter, the first Pope. Acts 11:13-14, Acts 15:7.

    You must eat the flesh and drink the blood of Jesus Christ. John 6:51-58, I Corinthians 10:16, I Corinthians 11:23-29.

    Our justification comes from the grace of God. Grace is favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to His call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life. CCC 1996, John 1:12-18, John 17:3, Romans 8:14-17, 2 Peter 1:3-4.

    The only Church that meets all the requirements of Salvation is the Holy Catholic Church.

  6. pauldohse said, on November 12, 2010 at 10:07 am

    Maybe you could enlighten me on the following experience: I was invited to a large Catholic church by a friend – probably had about 1000 in attendance. I took my Bible with me, and as far as I could tell, nobody else present had a Bible with them. Not only that, I quickly became a major distraction to those sitting around me because I had a Bible with me. As I was leaving, parishioners gawked at me in disbelief for the same reason. How come? paul

    > —–Original Message—– >

  7. Tad Wyoming said, on November 23, 2010 at 6:47 am

    Fair enough, Paully Wog. How about the thrust of this one? tw

    EVANGELICALS AND THE SUPERNATURAL (Title Modified without permission; article used without permission)

    By Dr. Riley Case

    The most recent Happenings article addressed the matter of supernaturalism and world Christianity. It quoted Methodist Bishop Hwa Yung from Malaysia who argues (Christianity Today, 9-11-10) that church renewal will never take place if the church does not deal with the supernatural world that exists quite apart from the secular understandings of science and naturalism that dominate much of the thinking in the western world.

    Responses to this article deserve further comment.

    1) Several who read Yung’s original article pointed out that Bishop Yung was critical not only of liberals (who were at least consistent-they deny the supernatural both in the Bible and in the present) but also evangelicals, who fight to defend the miraculous in the Bible but rarely cope with it in real life.

    Our Methodist history might be instructive here. Early Methodists, both in England and America (and other places) practiced experiential religion, often characterized by unbridled emotionalism (labeled as enthusiasm). As part of this, Methodists dreamed dreams, had visions, were slain in the Spirit, claimed miracles, and cast out demons. This in part explains Methodism’s phenomenal success among African-Americans in the early 19th century since persons with African connections held to a world-view not unlike that of the Bible. In reaction, modern critical thinking, influenced by the enlightenment, deism, and other forms of rationalism, looked with disdain, not only upon Methodist enthusiasm, but also on the supernaturalist assumptions of the Bible. Ideas such as spiritual warfare and battles against principalities and powers had to be deconstructed, resymbolized and recast into the thinking of the modern times. The educated elite of much of mainline Protestantism, and indeed, of the whole western world, bought into much of that thinking.

    The evangelical world was not unaffected. Bishop Yung’s comment about evangelicals who sought (or seek) to defend the miracles of the Bible while failing to cope with it in real life, assesses the evangelical world accurately. Evangelicals were often people who lived in two worlds: they believed in the supernatural in their church world, but did not act as if they did when they lived in their everyday secular world. Dispensational fundamentalism sought to reconcile the two worlds by teaching a form of cessationism, the view that signs and wonders are not needed for the Church age and thus ceased after New Testament times (so modern fundamentalists seldom are seen casting out demons). Among Calvinist evangelicals the full appreciation of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit fell into neglect.

    It was Methodism’s holiness movement that kept alive original Methodism’s appreciation for the supernatural. Marginalized by establishment Methodism, holiness evangelists and missionaries carried out deliverance and healing ministries, drove back spiritual darkness and struggled against primal forces. This was especially true on the mission field. A little over 100 years ago one part of the holiness movement morphed into Pentecostalism. Despite all of its excesses, it is the Pentecostal appreciation for the supernatural that has been the major basis for the phenomenal growth of Christianity around the world.

    Establishment mainline Protestantism, in the meantime, a captive to the restrictions of modern secularism, finds itself unable to cope with such matters as deliverance and spiritual bondage. Modern progressive ideology (it would be a mistake to call it theology) is reduced to self-help, social engineering, and political activism. It is unable to address some of the deepest spiritual needs in our society. There is a reason for its increasing irrelevance.

    At the same time, there is still some resistance among evangelicals, even United Methodist evangelicals, including those in the holiness tradition, to fully embrace the supernatural implication of the gospels. Evangelical preaching is often characterized by a simplistic gospel of self-help advice and moralisms. Serious doctrinal preaching is often in short supply (this is a major concern of The Confessing Movement) in many of our pulpits. But there is also a hesitancy on the part of pastors and churches to present a message of deliverance and spiritual release to congregations which are themselves influenced by naturalism and secularism.

    The call for a recovery of the supernatural applies to evangelicals as well as non-evangelicals.

    2) Several responses to the article on the supernatural made reference to Aldersgate Renewal Ministries, a United Methodist movement that is part of the larger charismatic movement. The modern charismatic movement celebrates its 50th anniversary this year (it usually is dated to the ministry of the Episcopalian priest Dennis Bennett). This movement was a reaction, or at least a corrective, to the spiritual barrenness of much of mainline Christianity of the mid-1900s, which had much of the life sucked out of it due to liberalism. The movement started among Episcopalians and Catholics, and then spread to all the major denominations. Though not especially identifiable as a movement today, it has still influenced western Christianity in noticeable ways. The uplifted hands, the praise choruses, and the prevalence of prayer ministries represent some of the contributions of the charismatic movement. Ongoing references to spiritual warfare and healing made even in mainline churches testify to its ongoing influence (this was unheard of in the 1950s).

    The influence of Pentecostalism and the charismatic movement have also helped many American churches to connect with Christians in Africa, South America, and Asia, where a thriving church is quite comfortable with healing, deliverance, and signs and wonders.

    Aldersgate Renewal Ministries dates from the late1970s and is known primarily for annual Aldersgate conferences (seldom covered by the official church press). Because the movement has believed that God’s power is most likely to operate apart from institutional structures, Renewal Ministries has disdained political action. It has given faithful witness to the workings of God in supernatural power. Tongues of fire, healings, and other manifestations of the supernatural have been evidenced at the Aldersgate conferences.

    Although Renewal Ministries is not usually mentioned when evangelical renewal groups are listed, it is a movement within The United Methodist Church that shares a common goal with other evangelical renewal groups, namely, to confess the fullness of Jesus Christ as Lord in the church today.

    United Methodists who are frequently and regularly discouraged by the boards and agencies, by the seminaries, by an obsession with social activism that characterizes a significant part of the church, should be encouraged that a number of churches and pastors and renewal groups and individuals believe and proclaim the supernatural power of God.

  8. paulspassingthoughts said, on November 25, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    Ok, this one; first thing in the morning with a cup of coffee.

  9. Anonymous said, on September 28, 2011 at 7:21 pm

    What about “the first Pope, Peter” while the apostle Paul was confronting him to the face because he was to be blamed for destroying the truth of the gospel by his actions?

  10. cpaul57 said, on May 5, 2012 at 2:11 pm

    pretty good. I only disagree with points #1, #4, #2, and #3.

  11. paulspassingthoughts said, on May 5, 2012 at 3:24 pm

    Thanks for letting me know. My life has been profoundly changed by your unction.

  12. Lar Smith said, on March 11, 2013 at 3:15 pm

    Concerning Rom9;13 It is God’s prerogative to inspire the apostle to pen HIS opinion on the matter.In 11Thes2;11-12Father gives certain persons over to lies damning them from ever coming to a knowledge of the truth.The word damn only has one meaning,which gives us insight into the severity of such an act by Father.1 Jn 5;16 gives us a little insight into this when the statement is made that we are commanded to not even pray for them.This is an insight into how serious damning is to Father.We try to put His Infinite wisdom into finite brains and come up with man made theology.Israel was guilty of doing the same thing so they wrote the Talmud.Look where that got them!!!They could not recognize the Author of life standing in their midst because of the cloud of confusion caused by their theology. Good word Brother!!!

  13. Joshua Williams said, on March 15, 2013 at 2:22 pm

    I really liked this posting, solid arguments and theology. However you make one argument using an english dictionary and synonyms between sinner and evildoer. Remember this was written 2000 years ago and no english synonym means a hill of beans. Be careful not to read todays understanding into yesterdays teaching. What was meant then, without our presupposition, is what was meant, not how we want to translate it. But again I like your teachings it has good theology behind it and I agree with you wholeheartedly.

  14. Kevin said, on January 8, 2014 at 11:11 am

    Thanks for a great Calvinistic post!

  15. paulspassingthoughts said, on January 8, 2014 at 7:47 pm

    Kevin: you seem to be confused; let me recommend this book;

  16. angelsd123 said, on March 20, 2014 at 6:14 pm

    Yea, I get it. We should fear Gods. Demons know about God and tremble. I still rather love our precious Lord Jesus because He first loved us. I want to please Him because He gave everything up for me. Humans tend to eventually hate those things they fear. No; I’d rather love my heavenly father. He loved me so much He gave his beloved Son for me. Yup. I think I call this Grace.

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