There are a lot of tensions in Scripture:
- Predestination v. Free Will
- Deity and Humanity of Christ
- Old and New Testaments
- Law v. Grace
- Holiness v. Grace
We’ve only been to a few churches and we have usually spent a long time at each. The last church I attended for 18 years and my wife was there for longer. This current one we have been at for over 11 years now.
The two churches in many ways could not be more unalike. There are many differences but the one difference I want to look at today was their approach to the character of Christians/ God. Holiness v. Grace.
One church very strongly emphasized something that I believe is true from Scripture: It is possible to be “perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect” as Jesus commands us to be in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:20, 48). In fact the Scriptures tell us how. First be born again (otherwise you can’t even see the Kingdom of God), second consecrate yourself to do the will of God only, third walk in the Spirit, or as John puts it, abide in Him (John 15). And, despite doing this, if you do sin, and everyone sins, then confess your sins and you will be cleansed and can start afresh (1 John 1). Simple really.
The other church very strongly emphasizes something else that I believe is true from Scripture: Jesus died for the sins of the whole world for all time so you can stand before God unconditionally unashamed. It is by believing in your heart that Christ died for you and confessing with your mouth that you are saved (Romans 10:9-10). This is typical evangelical doctrine and, inevitably, there will be a proclamation of that simple Gospel at every service so that people have a chance to encounter God. The hope is that the encounter will then change everything for the person who has it – and very often it does.
Emphasis is the main difference here. An over emphasis on walking in the Spirit or your behaviour as in the first case, can lead to that being the criteria that you are assessed by. The danger is that on entering that church you would first have to behave in a certain way and then show the right beliefs before you (might) be accepted.
However the emphasis in the second church also has its problems. In this case you are accepted no matter what your behaviour is like with the hope that you will believe and then God will then work with you to change your behaviour. However you can be left wondering what difference there is between those going to the church and those who don’t. In some cases their behaviour can seem indistinguishable. It is very messy.
Personally I think the second emphasis is better than the first. But then who wouldn’t prefer grace to holiness?
Is it even possible to get the balance right?