Understanding the "Radical" Grace Message of Joseph Prince

The radial grace message of Joseph Prince invited many criticisms from some of his Singapore churches in the earlier days and now from the US churches since he is very famous there. It took me some time of listening to his weekly and mid-week sermons to fully appreciate his 'radical' grace message. Not that his message is correct in all aspects, but rather, we are encouraged to filter out the bad and only take in the good part of any message. A sinner needs not more condemnation to repent but rather an unconditional love for and acceptance of him and the grace empowerment to overcome the sinful acts. It is grace that breaks the bondage of sin and give the freedom to glorify God.
A Child Upbringing - To Punish or Love ? It is both in the right order.

A pastor shared his touching story of a childhood experience.

As a child, he stole from the family shared piggy bank to buy food and things for friends to gain acceptance and popularity. He stealing was discovered one day by his parents. His father gave him a hard caning. However, he was surprised that the next day, his parents brought him to a restuarant to have the food he liked.

His father told him that despite the canning they still love him much. The canning was for correcting his bad act. They want to assure him that he was loved and valuable to them.

What do you think of the Father's behavior?
Is that the way you would follow to discipline your child?

Please analyse the situation carefully. If you discover a wrongful, what will you be doing?
If you ignore the stealing, the child grow up thinking that it is ok to steal so long as you have a good reason.

If you just do the beating without the subsequent assurance of love and acceptance, the child may grow-up to be insecure and even rebellous.

Often times, the consequences of a wrong act will be good enough as the disciplining action. Additional beating or scolding will over-disciplining. e.g. a child over-ate and suffered stomach upset or get sick. The consequence of pains as long as he understood the cause of his pains, is a good enough discipline. Over doing discipline will cause rebellion or self-condemnation.
  • Eph 6:4 AMP Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger [do not exasperate them to the point of resentment with demands that are trivial or unreasonable or humiliating or abusive; nor by showing favoritism or indifference to any of them], but bring them up [tenderly, with lovingkindness] in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
  • Colossians 3:21 (AMP) Fathers, do not provoke or irritate or exasperate your children [with demands that are trivial or unreasonable or humiliating or abusive; nor by favoritism or indifference; treat them tenderly with lovingkindness], so they will not lose heart andbecome discouraged or unmotivated [with their spirits broken].
What has that got to do with the Bible teaching of Law of Grace?
We are like child that commit sinful acts. By knowing the Law, we know what is right and wrong. After we know right and wrong and then did something wrong, what should we do? What should be
the best way to put us back on the right path?

If we know we sin, then more condemnation does not help. (Of course, if we are like David, who thought he did not commit adultery and murder with Besheba, then he needed a Nathan to tell him).

Will condemnation help? Will more punishment help? 

Devil is very good at this accusations and condemnation. If devil could accused and condemn you to get you accept that it was you that was bad and not the act, then you will give up the fight and behave like what the devil accused you of.

The Law can only show you that you sin. The devil and your guilt will accuse you and condemn you for that sin. What can you do? Nothing. It is only Who can help you! You need the assurance of love from someone that is close to you, like the Father to the child of the above story. You need to remember of your identity as Child of God, and be assured of His love still for you. With the secured of love and identity, you can then bold face up to the sins that you committed and call it rightly as a sin. But know that you are not the sinful but righteous in standing because of Christ and can boldly standup to face the consequence and take steps to make good.

Of course, the best way is not to sin at first. That's why Paul tell us to gaurd our mind with pure, truth and praise worhty thoughts. Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”

That is the key of the grace message of Joseph Prince though he seemed to preach in such as way as to confuse people to criticize him as ultra-grace preacher (ultra-grace is grace as licence to sin).

Grace is not ignoring the sins but rather admitting it as sins and drawing upon Christ's forgiveness, restoration and grace empowerment to live the life that one should.

The best way to get people to admit and to realise their sinfulness is not more condemnation but rather showing of love and acceptance of the persons and not the sinful acts. For example, Zacchaeus in the bible(Luke 19:1-10), was convicted of his sins, simply from Jesus' show of acceptance that he would like to come to his house to have dinner with him!

If you want someone to change, accept him first and earns the right to show him his weaknesses. Grace and Truth comes together but it is grace first and then the truth. Without grace, we will only give accuses to deny our sins .... what else could we do if we are to show our face in front of others?

Hope we can practise this "grace then truth" way of dealing with people.

Law and Grace - Rightly Dividing the Words - The Motivation for Obeying the Law
Joseph Prince's grace had been accused by many as the ultra-grace or antinomianism, lawless grace, grace as license to sins. We need to go deeper to find the finer points of a statement when it looks contradictory.  Since Jesus has taken the curse of the Law and paid the debt of our sins, then we no longer need to follow the Law. On the surface, it looks like are indeed given a license to sin whenever and whatever without condemnation. However, if you do deeper, it actually means we don't have to follow the Law to gain our justification because we have been justified by Christ through faith. When we receive Christ's salvation, we actually acknowledge that the Law is good, we are sinful, we cannot help ourselves, and we want Christ's to forgive and transform us. Christ said he came to fulfill and not to do away with Law. The Law always remain the standard of right and wrong no matter what we do or do not. We want Christ's grace so that we can do what the Law want. Grace is the empowerment given to us to do what we should. As a transformed person, with the Love of Christ in us, we actually surpass the requirement of the Law. So now, we obey the Law automatically because of our new nature. By following our new nature in Christ, the Law of Love and of the Spirit, we surpass the Law requirement.

The motivation of our obedience to the Law is very important.  Consider a rich man giving money to charity. If his motivation is to gain respect and reputation as a kind person, then is his giving really an act of love? It is more like a business transaction - giving money in exchange for fame. As new creation, the child of God, we will automatically follow the Law, because our new nature is love. We do not obey the Law to gain justification because we are already justified. We obey the Law unknowingly and automatically because we are only acting out of our new nature.  As Jesus said, we follow not the letter but the spirit of the Law, which is a much higher standard.  
  • See Matthew 5:27-28 (AMP) 27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; 28 but I say to you that everyone who [so much as] looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
  • Matthew 5:21-22  (NKJV) Murder Begins in the Heart21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder,[a] and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause[b] shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.
Grace Gospel is not about making a man good or better, but rather is about making a dead man alive. We are dead in our sinful self. It is not that we cannot do anything good. We sure can, But there is this sin within us that we need to die to and be given a new life. This new nature of life is very important. A monkey can behave like a man. A parrot can speak like a man. But they remain monkey and parrot in their nature. Unless we be given a new life, a rebirth, we cannot enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. 

This does not mean that we will not sin anymore, but rather we will not purposely sin and sin. Those taking grace as license to sin does not understand grace and is not rebirth and will remain in their sins. When the new man sins. The devil will be quick to condemn him and his own conscience will accuse him too. Unless he is deceived, he will know that he sins and will repent. He needs to come boldly to the throne of grace, to obtain mercy and find grace to help in his time of need (Heb 4:16).

What is the differene between Peter and John? Peter said he would die for Jesus and yet denied him three times. John who said he was beloved of Jesus was found to be with Jesus even under the cross of Jesus. That's is the key radical grace of Joseph Prince's message - Focus of being loved unconditioally by Jesus that you may live a victorious and God glorifying life. The power is in experiencing the love of Jesus for you.

See also Grace, Law and Joseph Prince's Preaching
To have a more in-depth and balanced view of this issue, please read the following articles from Tim Keller ....The Gospel - Key to Change and the 15 applications in The Centrality of the Gospel.

Have a fruitful and fully rested and charged up weekend.

Lim Liat (c) 29 Feb 2016

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