Category Archives: 2014 – May/June

The Editor’s Page – Paul Kirkpatrick, Interim Editor

Jon Mitchell is our new Associate Editor and will serve as the interim editor until a new editor is appointed. He will begin the interim editor duties with the July/August 2014 issue of the Carolina Messenger.

This issue deals with “Adversaries To Evangelism.” We readily recognize those threats to evangelism that appear before us outside the Lord’s church, but we must understand that there are adversaries to evangelism within the church as well.  Paul said it best when he informed the brethren at Rome that they should place the carnal or “fleshly” side of man under submission to the spirit.

“For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you. Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” (Romans 8:5-13)


Sometimes we are our own worst enemy.


The Community Church Movement – Steve Miller

Today we are hearing more and more about the growth of community churches. What is the appeal to attend and join a community church? It’s really not complicated. When you consider that many people are only concerned with satisfying what pleases themselves and are not concerned with what their Creator desires. Community churches are man-founded groups within the denominational configuration that is contrary to the New Testament order.

The system and ideology founded on the division of the religious population into numerous ecclesiastical bodies, each stressing particular values or traditions and each competing with the other in the same community under substantial conditions of freedom (Jerald C. Brauer, Ed., The Westminster Dictionary of Church History, Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1971, pp. 262‐263).

J. Ruskin Howe gave a brief history of the emergence of community churches.

A growing phenomenon in American religious life since 1900 has been the rise of Protestant churches without denominational affiliation. Such churches were originally called union or federated churches. They came into existence most frequently through the merger of small, competing congregations in communities inadequate for the proper maintenance of several separate church plants, staffs, and programs. The mingling of men of all faiths in the armed services during World War I, and the rapid emergence of new communities where families of many religious backgrounds were thrown together, accentuated the demand for a type of church fellowship where inherited denominational differences could be transcended in a religious fellowship centered about the great central Christian convictions and expressed in terms of the nature and needs of the individual community. The name community church became a name to conjure with, and such non-sectarian congregations sprang up spontaneously throughout the land (“Community Churches,” Twentieth Century Encyclopedia Of Religious Knowledge Volume I, p. 278-279).

Community churches have been established to serve man, not God! Terms like smorgasbord, hodgepodge and potpourri describe the conglomeration of religious beliefs and practices. One writer cited a reason for the quick growth of community churches: “How do you sell a very old story to a crowd of bored baby boomers weaned on TV, wined and dined by advertisers and struggling to keep up with the 90’s pace of life?” (USA Weekend. April 13-15, 1990. p. 4) Bored baby boomers? Keeping up with the times? It sounds as if the people decide what pleases God in their lives. Can a community church fit the Bible’s qualifications for the church of Christ?

One community church that has served as a pattern for others is the Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois, just outside of Chicago. Bill Hybels started Willow Creek Community Church in 1975.

He began renting the Willow Creek movie theater in Palatine every Sunday morning. He would conduct services aimed at ‘Unchurched Harry’ – that spiritual seeker full of questions about the meaning of life, but uninvolved with any organized religion. Instead of merely preaching from the Bible, Hybels would compose sermons that linked Bible passages to everyday life – dealing with anger, for example, or the difficulty of being fully honest with people (Daily Herald, Suburban Living Showcase. May 18, 1988. p. 1).

A very revealing statement enlightens us as to the foundation of their purpose for existing:

After conducting a neighborhood survey to determine why people didn’t attend church, the church created an innovative weekend ‘seeker service’ with drama, contemporary music, and relevant messages targeted to 25-45 year-old ‘Unchurched Harry,’ a friend of a Willow Creek member (Willow Creek Association. 1993 Conferences And Seminars. p.3).

The idea of “giving people what they want” seems to be a common denominator among many of these community churches.  Saddleback Community Church founded by Rick and Kay Warren has been influential in the movement to practice religion according to the desires of the people. In Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Church, he writes:

Targeting for evangelism begins with finding out all you can about your community. Your church needs to define its target in four specific ways: geographically, demographically, culturally, and spiritually … I use the word culture to refer to the lifestyle and mindset of those who live around your church. The business world uses the term psychographies, which is just a fancy way of referring to people’s values, interest, hurts, and fears … Within your community there are most likely many subcultures, or subgroups. To reach each of these groups you need to discover how they think. What are their interests? What do they value? Where do they hurt? What are they afraid of? What are the most prominent features of the way they live? (pp. 160, 165).

Dan Winkler comments on this quote by stating:

This entails what Warren later describes as learning to “Think Like a Fish” when you go fishing.’ His church, the Saddleback Valley Community Church of Orange County, California, has even personified their community’s composite profile into what they call, “Mr. Saddleback.:” Their ministry, in turn, is governed by the “priorities,” the “skepticism,” the personal “preferences” as well as the economic status, the academic prowess and the varied struggles that “Mr. Saddleback” represents (The Spiritual Sword, Vol. 32, No. 1, p. 31).

The terms of entrance into Warren’s Saddleback community are something other than what God has commanded. Notice their position on baptism:

Baptism by immersion symbolizes the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus and is your public declaration that you have accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior. Baptism does not save you, but shows the world that you have already been saved. And while baptism is not required for salvation, it is a biblical command and demonstrates your love and obedience to Christ.

How could baptism “not save you” but is a “command” and also “demonstrates your love and obedience to Christ?” Contradictory statement? Certainly (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 1 Peter 3:21)!

The conclusion rests in our purpose for assembling: it is not for ourselves, it is to honor God our Creator. Owen Olbricht produced the following excellent observations:

Anyone or anything that takes center stage where God belongs and becomes the object of worship is robbing God of His rightful place of worship…Too often assemblies gather to observe what the created can do instead of assembling to express praise for what the Creator has done…Man is not to be the center of worship. Worship is not to be a performance for the benefit of other human beings. God is the audience instead of man (God Is The Audience, p. 117).

God is the object of our worship (Revelation 4:8, 11; 5:12-13; Romans 1:25; Acts 12:22-23), and He is the audience (Psalm 139:7-12; Genesis 28:16; Hebrews 4:13).

The church of Christ revealed in the New Testament is right in its origin, foundation, head, guide, designation, worship, and organization (Daniel 2; Isaiah 2; Matthew 16:16, 18; Colossians 1:18; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; Romans 16:16; Acts 2:42; 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:1-2; Ephesians 5:19; Titus 1:5).

For a church to be “of Christ” it must have Divine identifying marks! The community church movement fails to satisfy God’s prescription for the New Testament Church!

The International Church of Christ – Clint Rowand

The International Church of Christ is the most recent name of what had been called the Boston Movement and before that the Crossroads movement. Since the 1960’s when the Crossroads movement first began until now the group has been in constant change. For many years it grew rapidly, but between 2002 and 2005 they had a large internal division and shakeup over Kip McKean; the group’s main leader, and the preacher at the Boston Church of Christ. The result was a self-reported membership decline on the ICOC.ORG website that went from over 135,000 to less than 89,000 in that span. They do report a growth since that time to make a total membership just shy of 100,000 in 2012. The ICOC lists being in 152 countries with a total of 634 churches and a total membership of 99,478 on the ICOC website according to Disciples Today (An ICOC publication). Of local interest there are 8 churches in NC and 5 in SC. The ICOC has shifted from trying to take over congregations like it did in the 70’s and 80’s to an attempt to “plant” congregations in large cities that commonly have college campuses nearby. It is this shift that has cut down significantly on their interaction with many of the faithful congregations in our brotherhood but they are still alive as a movement.

From their beginnings on the Florida University campus in Gainesville Florida until now they have concentrated their efforts largely on young adults especially college students. They noticed something long ago that many of our own congregations would do well to learn. The majority of people that leave religious organizations do so between the ages of 18 and 25. Many college students are on their own for the first time, they are looking for meaning in life, they want to feel connected to something and they are very teachable. This can be an exciting and wonderful time in a young adults life, but it can also be a point of great danger. The ICOC has focused on them and built their congregations around what resonates with them. If there is anything positive to learn from the ICOC it is how important it is to not ignore the vulnerable young adults in our congregations.   We often give great focus to them until they graduate high school and then throw them to the world. There are a lot things that can end up happening to our young people when they leave home. Unfortunately far too many in our brotherhood ended up in the ICOC.

Back in the 70’s and 80’s as the now ICOC is known was getting started, they intentionally infiltrated congregations like ravenous wolves as Paul warned the Ephesian elders of in Acts 20:29-31. Many congregations faced fierce battles over control in those times including the one that I serve with now. If it were not for a few faithful brethren the congregation that I serve with would not exist due to some that had snuck into it unaware in the 1980’s. The Boston Movement was worse than any denomination, because at least most denominations will leave others alone and not try to destroy congregations from the inside. A change in their strategy to not try such confrontational measures is a welcome change, but the church “planting” method that they currently employ is still very much alive. They have not gone away even though less of our brotherhood currently interacts with them on a regular basis.

What are the current differences in the ICOC and the congregations that most of us are a part of in the churches of Christ? One of the main points of difference is in the structure of the congregations. Most of our congregations have deacons that take leadership roles in service and elderships that also serve but in specifically spiritual matters. The role of elder has authority for spiritual matters and they have the responsibility to shepherd the flock. (1 Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9; Acts 20:26-35, 1 Peter 5:1-5) The ICOC instead has a hierarchy of disciple partners and prayer partners that connect everyone in the congregation. Each individual has someone over them to “disciple” them all the way to the top. Although making disciples is the pivot point of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20); the disciples are to be disciples of Christ and not of any human person or personality. Dr. Flavil Yeakley was invited by the Boston Church of Christ to do an independent study of their congregation in 1985. He conducted interviews and conducted psychological studies on over 900 members of the congregation. The findings in great detail are contained in the book The Discipling Dilemma that Dr. Yeakley wrote after the studies. He also interviewed members in what are usually referred to mainline churches of Christ and even some denominations to see if test results were similar. He also compared studies done of various cults. The results showed that only less than 5 percent of members at the Boston Church did not switch personalities after conversion. The opposite of that was true for mainline congregations in which almost no one changed personalities after conversion. At the time they claimed that Kip McKean’s personality; which the majority took on, was the personality of Christ. It doesn’t take a very careful look at all to see that the apostles had vastly different personalities and these were men that were directly discipled by Christ. Behaviors need to change when one becomes a Christian, but there is nothing wrong with personality differences.

Although it is biblical to confess our sins and shortcomings to one another (James 5:16), it was never commanded as a prayer partner or a subordinate and leader relationship. It is also never commanded that we confess things beyond the scope of who knows about the sin. For instance, if a sin is between two individuals then there is no need to take it beyond that if the two can work it out together.

A quick look at the current ICOC website shows them worshiping with instruments and it also gives details of conventions with delegates representing individual congregations in making decisions. They claim non denominational status, but look very much like the Community Church movement that is so prevalent today. The errors that exist at this point would be far beyond the scope of this publication to address, but be aware that they continue to exist and the lessons learned in dealing with their pervasive methods should not be forgotten.

Clint Rowand is the minister for the Augusta Road church of Christ in Greenville, SC.

Apathy: The Silent Killer – Paul Kirkpatrick

In Mark 16:15, Jesus charges his followers by saying to them, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” This is a command that is just as applicable as the command in the next verse, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.”

There are certainly numerous commands that we readily follow and defend.

In Luke 13:3, 5, Jesus informs us that unless we repent we will perish. All will follow that command if they want to go to Heaven.

Luke 22:29 provides the setting for the institution of the Lord’s Supper. “Do this in remembrance of me” is a command to partake of the Lord’s Supper.

We rightfully defend the communion of Lord and serve it every first day of the week according to Acts 20:7.

We mightily profess that we have Apostolic example in the New Testament for giving of our “means” found in 1 Corinthians 16:1-2.

We treasure the fact that the music of the early church was without instrumental accompaniment and no command given authorizing the use thereof.

But for some reason we have a disconnect when it comes to our responsibilities to follow the Great Commission.

I am in the fourth decade of serving God with my life as a Gospel preacher. I have seen numerous attempts to motivate Christians to evangelize and thereby comply in fulfilling the Great Commission.

The Lord’s church has used motivational speakers, seminars, workshops, lectureships, video’s and much more to educate and equip the Lord’s Body and prepare them to render obedience to the simple command to “go.” However, we have not addressed the real problem:


Although we are grown men and women, it seems our reaction to evangelism is the answer of a five-year old: “You can’t make me.”

We live in a country that has instilled in our education that we have freedom to choose. Liberty gives us that freedom. Though independence was a rallying point in this nation’s history, we must remind ourselves that we are Christians first and we belong to Him. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 informs us of that fact. “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.”

Paul describes the position that the Christian has in relation to accepting God’s wonderful gift of salvation. No one has twisted his arm or forced him to sign a contract he had not read. Every sinner knew what he was “signing up” for. Our obedience to Jesus and our promise to serve Him faithfully until death was the beginning of a life-long, voluntary SLAVERY.


Could the slave pick and choose which command to obey or to refuse? This would have been unthinkable! When God gives us a command we have no choice but to obey it. Hebrews 11:6 reminds us that the child of God seeks to please the Father.

2 Thessalonians 1:7-9 reminds us of the coming judgment on all who are disobedient. And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels,In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;

Apathy, “absence or suppression of passion, emotion, or excitement. Lack of interest or concern for things others find moving or exciting.” (

It is my opinion that preachers and other church leaders have been guilty of a lack of preaching in this area. If one does not follow all the teachings and commands of Jesus then that one has simply failed to follow Him. How can we say that we are truly His followers and yet we do not serve Him in evangelism? How can we ever sing the song “All To Jesus I Surrender,” when we clearly are lying as we mouth the words?

In John 10:26-30, Jesus said, But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. I and my Father are one.”  His sheep follow Him. Won’t you?

Paul Kirkpatrick is a minister for the Warners Chapel Church of Christ in Clemmons, NC.

Efforts To Unify The Christian Church and Churches of Christ – Melvin Sapp

The church is a spiritual body of baptized believers who unite under the authority of Jesus Christ and his New Testament. This glorious body was in the mind of God the Father from eternity to contain the redeemed through the gospel of Jesus Christ (Eph. 3:8-11). The church is the house of God that was prophesied by Isaiah 700 years before its establishment upon the earth (Isa. 2:2-3) and was promised by Jesus (Matt. 16:13-19). Jesus built his church as promised and on Pentecost of 33 A.D. the terms of entrance were proclaimed to Jews gathered from every nation under heaven (Acts 2:1-5, 36-38). The gospel was preached to Jews first, then to the Gentiles and everybody were united in one body of Christ (Acts 13:42-48; I Cor. 12:12-14; Eph. 4:3-6; Gal. 3:26-28).

The church has gone through several apostasies and divisions over the centuries. Men in positions of leadership would introduce ideas and proposals that are of human origin and that conflict with the New Testament of Jesus Christ (Acts 20:28-32). One division that occurred in the 1800s was over the Missionary Society, mechanical Instruments of music and men fighting in the Civil War.

The first of these controversies was the Missionary Society. “Cooperation Meetings” were advocated for in the Millenial Harbinger by Alexander Campbell in 1831-32. The intent was to cooperate in supporting local evangelist where financial support was lacking. Walter Scott, Jacob Creath, Jr., Tolbert Fanning and others opposed these meetings as unscriptural and that the New Testament had ordained elders to oversee the work of evangelism, not a separate society. The Missionary Society was never fully accepted by the church but was tolerated as brethren differed on the subject.

The Civil War (1861-1865) pitted the Northern brethren against the Southern brethren as it required taking up arms against one another. The South seceded from the Union when Abraham Lincoln became president over fear of abolishing slavery, taxes and state’s rights. Many popular preachers taught that it was sin to fight in the military and others leaned on patriotism as justification for taking up arms. This farther divided the brethren as many from the North also supported the Missionary Society.

During the same time mechanical instruments of music were introduced at Midway, Kentucky by L.L. Pinkerton using a small melodeon in 1860. The instrument was being defended on the grounds of “expediency” to improve the singing. J.W. McGarvey, Moses Lard, Benjamin Franklin, David Lipscomb and others opposed their use in the worship of the church. Most of the churches that used the instruments were in the North and the combination of these forces brought a division what would later be recognized as two separate bodies, the Christian Church and the Churches of Christ.

In the 1900’s these bodies have grown even farther apart. Most Christian churches still support the various societies, use mechanical instruments of music, and have preachers who serve as “pastors” and wear the title “Reverend.” Women are ordained as preachers and serve in other positions of leadership in various organizations. In the latter part of the 1900’s unity summits were held in various places seeking to unite the Christian Church with the Churches of Christ. Most of these meeting brethren were invited who were willing to compromise on matters of faith for union. They treated matters of faith as if they were matters of opinion. The instrument was accepted as an opinion and those who opposed it were called legalist. Faithful brethren were willing to use the New Testament as our faith and pattern to determine fellowship based on truth (Rom. 10:17; Jno. 8:31-32). In matters of expediency, freedom is allowed as long as it is supported by a generic command. Those who have departed from the doctrine of Christ are encouraged to return for unity sake (II Jno. 9-11).

How has a desire for unity negatively affected the Churches of Christ in the area of evangelism?

Those who sought unity were willing to compromise on the fundamental teachings of the New Testament. Compromise seeks growth by union or by absorption. Union would bring congregations into our number without having to evangelize the “unchurched.” If union was accepted between the Christian Church and the Churches of Christ, compromises will have to be made on societies, instrumental music, women preachers, fellowshipping with denominations and organizations that are set up to do the work of the church. The Churches of Christ would look more like the Christian Church than vice versa. If we can fellowship the Christian Church with all of its innovations and perversions, why can’t we seek unity among denominations that have as many innovations? The Christian Church looks more like many of the mainstream denominations than it looks like mainstream Churches of Christ.

Another effect of the desire for unity with the Christian Church is the failure of many to recognize the saved from the lost. Jesus said that it is not enough to be religious, but one must be right (Mat. 7:21-23). Many who are religious are not doing the Father’s will, but what they want to do. Yet, Jesus will refuse to claim at the judgment those who have twisted, altered, perverted or changed the will of the Father. Paul exhorts us to prove all things before accepting them as doctrine and practice (I Thess. 5:21). The apostle John charges us to test, examine, scrutinize and try everyone who teaches the word of God (I Jno. 4:1). If we fail to see those outside the Lord’s church as lost, there will be no motivation or interest in doing evangelism. If God is going to tolerate the religious errors of the Christian Church, why would he not overlook the errors of the denominations?

We don’t have to be self-righteous or insulting to those who are lost, but we are commissioned to go to them and preach the gospel unto them (Mk. 16:15-16). Paul felt the urgent need to preach the gospel to the Jews who were religious, but ignorant of God’s righteousness (Rom. 10:1-3). He was just as eager to preach the gospel to the Gentiles as well (Rom. 1:14-16). Let us not allow compromise or apathy to hinder us from carrying out the “Great Commission” (Mat. 28:18-20)!

Melvin Sapp is the minister and an elder for the Kingsbury Road Church of Christ in Sumter, SC.  He is also Director of the Central Carolina School of Preaching.

The High Cost of “Cheap” Grace – David Bragg

God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense! Unmerited Favor! Every major branch of “Christianity” believes in it. Countless minions blindly trust it. Sadly the day will dawn to the sad realization that few accurately understood it. So what is grace?

The Definition of Grace

 Translated from the Greek word charis, grace describes a display of favor, especially from God to man. Grace is the tender heart of God through which the plan of salvation was extended to an unworthy humanity. The gospel is, Paul argued, offered by grace and is accepted by faith (Ephesians 2:8).  While the denominational world is deeply divided by what Paul wrote next (“gift of God,” “not of works”), his words effectively capture the essence of grace. It is a gift for which no explanation can be given but that “God is love” (1 John 4:8). It is His gracious heart.

How does one personally access God’s grace? Paul’s answer is, “through faith” (Ephesians 2:8). From the very beginning of Christianity the gospel message was preached and the recipients of God’s grace were instructed to “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized” (Acts 2:38). Throughout the remainder of the New Testament believers marched through the portal of grace by simple obedience in baptism (Acts 16:22; Galatians 3:27; 1 Peter 3:21). It is in baptism that obedient faith embraces divine grace resulting in the confidence of salvation (1 John 5:13). Those who thus obey and faithfully live in Christ claim God’s divine offer of salvation and are vested with grace’s confidence to access the very presence of God (Hebrews 4:16).

Denominations Have Misapplied Grace

Centuries ago Chinese rulers constructed their famous wall. It was built high and thick to discourage invaders. Yet during the first hundred years of its existence China was invaded several times. Their enemies didn’t go to the trouble of climbing across or breaking through, they just simply bribed the gatekeepers.1 Those gatekeepers are like the trusted religious leaders who “sold out” those they professed to protect by offering them a cheap substitute to God’s amazing grace.

The best way to pervert the divine plan of salvation is to redefine grace. This was accomplished within Roman Catholic theology by their identification of two classes of grace: sanctifying (involved in conversion) and actual (individual divine intervention).2 Of course, the Roman Church claims power to restore the loss of even the sanctifying grace provided the fallen Catholic complies with the specified ordinances and the directives of the Catholic priests.

Grace was further adulterated by Martin Luther and John Calvin in what would become known as the Reformation Movement, leaving a lasting influence on doctrine of total depravity, the belief in original sin, the idea was advanced that mankind is unable to contribute anything to their salvation. They asserted that God’s grace was extended to only a preselected portion of the human race, those predestined by God.3 This new doctrine was contrary to the inspired teaching of Paul (Titus 2:11). True grace is available to all.

This redefined “grace” becomes a kind of “Get Out of Jail Free” card for spiritual security. Religious leaders insist that grace’s sole purpose is to protect the believer. Sit back. Relax. Let grace drive you straight to Heaven without any effort on your behalf. “After all, isn’t grace ‘the gift of God,’” they say pointing to Ephesians 2:8-9 as they decry “works salvation.”

It is obvious that no amount of obedience will ever be sufficient to earn one’s way into heaven (Ephesians 2:9). If such were possible Christ’s sacrifice on the cross would have been unnecessary. Grace is a divine gift that must be accepted by a living faith of active obedience (James 2:21-26). It may also be lost (Galatians 5:4). Many who object to the requirement of “works” in accessing God’s grace mainly object to the one “work” most clearly identified with salvation in the New Testament, baptism (although the one doing the baptizing is the one actually “working”).

 How Has Their Definition Influenced the Church?

While it may be tempting to resist the idea that the perversion of God’s grace by others has any impact within the church, it is nevertheless a fact. Consider this partial list of controversies that have rocked the Lord’s church in recent decades:

  • Instrumental music.
  • Marriage-Divorce-Remarriage.
  • The Unity Movement.
  • The New Hermeneutic.
  • Female leadership roles.
  • The necessity of baptism for salvation.

Each of these cases mimic the abuse of grace perpetrated by the denominational world. What pattern have they followed? Simply this: the best way to pervert the divine plan of salvation is to redefine grace. The easiest course for anyone seeking to do what the Bible specifically forbids is to embrace this denominational tactic. In their hands the inspired guidelines become simply “love letters,” the divine pattern is drained of its power, and even the clear boundaries between the New Testament church and the denominational world come crumbling down.

God’s true grace does not grant freedom for anyone to live their lives as they wish while still claiming grace’s protection. Grace in fact does the exact opposite. It “teaches” believers to live righteous lives (Titus 2:11-13). Grace is a spiritual “safety net” below the obedient believer, a safeguard for active faith when the inevitable falls occur (1 John 2:1-2). However, those who have grown complacent through a misunderstanding of grace will tend to use it as a hammock! Grace is not an excuse for complacency but an incentive to grow. It offers hope to sinners (Romans 5:1-2). It gives power to prayers (Hebrews 4:16). It draws Christians close to the very heart of God.

In the end “cheap” grace doesn’t save, it costs!


1Pulpit Helps, No Security in High Walls. (Date unknown).

2, s.v. “Actual Grace,”
3 While the word predestination does appear in the New Testament, Paul utilized it to describe all those who would be saved through the New Testament church, a predestined “class” rather than individual predestination.

David Bragg is the Associate Minister at the Northwest Church of Christ in Greensboro, NC