It helps our understanding of a particular subject, say "Grace", when we look at a range of it. As "Grace" is the most important of Christian belief, we need to study a degree of it. The Calvinist and Armenian Doctrines seat on different positions on a scale of "Grace" from "Grace-less" to "Ultra-Grace" (or Hyper-Grace). Calvinist seats closer to "True Grace" and Armenian seats closer to "Grace Plus X".True Grace
But first, let me cover my biased view of "Grace", or "True Grace". I have written quite a few posts on the definition of Grace, such as,
- "Grace is Unmerited Favor" - This Common Definition is Wrong
- Grace - God's Loving Power for You to become Your Very Best
- Grace Based Doctrines
- Salvation of Tripartite Man - The Details
- Spirit Soul Confusion and 2 Types of Defeats
From the viewpoint of time, Grace covered our past sins by forgiveness and cleansing because of the price paid by our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross. But we should not just stay there, we should focus more on the present and future of Grace. This side of Grace is the Power of Grace. Grace is the empowerment from God to enable us to do the right things that glorify God. It enables us to become what God wants us to be before the foundation of the earth. Grace is here to within us through Christ in us to power us to be like Christ. But we holds the control to decide how much grace do we want to release out of our inner being. We decides to walk according to the flesh (our old man's will ) or to walk according to the Spirit (within us).
The Bible uses two illustrations to show forth how on one hand we are complete in Christ and on the other hand we need to grow up to conform to the image of Christ. The first illustration is a seed. A seed is complete in everything for life. There is no lack. How can we tell? We just need to plant it. When the seed dies, a tree grows out of it. The tree may bear no, or some fruit, or lots of fruit. If the seed is not complete, it will not grow or it will grow into something strange and dies. Everyone has the same Christ within, due to different calling, we become different members of Christ. But not all fully live up the full potential of the initial calling of God. We have to bear the responsibility of how we response and let Christ rules in and out of us.
Another illustration is the treasure in the earthen vessel where Paul told us it is up to us to choose what type of vessel do we become from the same treasure within. The process of growth comes from less and less of old selves and that the vessel becomes more and more transparent to allow the treasure of Christ withing to show forth.
Ultra-Grace or Hyper-Grace
The important journey of growth is ignored in the Ultra-Grace people. They think they are already complete in Christ and therefore entitled to all the blessings, usually means wealth and health for oneself. They are entitled to God's favours and need not work for anything. In fact, work is seen as work of the flesh. They believe more in the revelation by the Spirit instead of spending time doing real extensive Bible study. Hard work is not compatible to God's favors. Failure is not allowed in the world of "Blessings and Favors" and hence it is to be hidden if such misfortune does happen. It is like we are out of the will of God. The concept of discipline and training does not tally well the the blessings and favors. Adversity are to be avoided rather than faced up and accepted as part of growing up. Growing is not a concept acceptable in a world where we have arrived. Sin is taken lightly since all sins, past, present and future are already forgiven. Some people criticized this 'ultra grace' as license to sin. Of course, no one is truly Ultra-Grace. It is a matter of degree in the scale of "Grace".
Grace Plus X
Grace Plus X people are grateful to God for His salvation. They thank God for His Grace of Salvation and then want to continue the growing-up process of sanctification by their own effort. God has done enough already, let me do the rest. To them, Grace is sufficient to start but insufficient to finish the race. It is Grace + Good Discipline, + Good Work, + Good Moral Living, or + good tihng. Different people has different '+' requirement. Because it is '+', salvation is conditional on my keeping in close connection to God and is not eternally secure. Grace + people live a stressful live. It is ourselves trying to hold on to God rather than trusting God to hold on to us as God has promised. Grace + people lives a life of up and down spiritual and emotional mood. They are on a high is they felt they read the Bible and on a low if they did not.
Grace-less is typical of all religions. We achieve salvation by our own effort in following some form of Laws of Righteousness. I am not sure how they handle sin though. It is very likely that they practice some form of accounting system that the amount good work done can compensate for the amount of sins committed. Again there is no security and likely a lot of hypocrisy.
Table of Comparison
On the scale of "Grace", it is a matter of degree. It is a reflection of what we belief. Hopefully by knowing the truth, we can growup to greater maturity. Grace-less is not safe and not saved. Grace Plus X is missing on the empowerment of Grace for our sanctification and causing us needless stress and self-condemnation or self-pride. Ultra-Grace ignores the need for growth and our responsibility to response to God's empowerment of Grace. Let us rest in security of God's grace within to work out the Christ in us through relying and working with God to show God's glory through our good works made possible by His grace.