A Review of Pure Grace by Clark Whitten
The most important criticism of of Clark Whittens book Pure Grace is that it cripples the Christian so that they cannot walk in righteousness. While there is much emphasis on Gods grace in justification and the imputed righteousness of Christ being counted to the believer, the book seriously twists and neglects the subsequent sanctification of Christians who actually practice righteousness when God regenerates them. Apart from this sanctification and regeneration, there can be no final justification and salvation.
Whittens book exchanges biblical grace for hyper-grace and turns biblical obedience into legalism. Whitten uses the word law very generally by taking New Testament verses about the Mosaic Law and applying it to any form of obedience or moral law. Whitten says,
Can we agree that Christians are not under the law? . . . A gospel of law-keeping is no gospel at all. There simply is no good news associated with a life lived under the law. That is true before salvation and even more applicable after one is saved. (Clark Whitten, Pure Grace (Shippensburg, PA: Destiny Image Publishers, Inc., 2012), 59-60)
In context, there is no indication that Whitten has the Law of Moses in mind when he says under the law as Paul did when he said under the law. Its easy to see how Christians who take the commandments of Christ seriously will be accused of being legalistic according to Whittens misuse of law. It is true that Christians are not under the Law of Moses. Certainly Paul rebuked what he called another gospel (Galatians 1:6) which caused the Galatians to fall from grace (Galatians 5:4). But this other Gospel was not obedience to Christ; it was seeking to be justified by observing the Law of Moses.
Paul said that not being under the Law was conditional based upon walking in the Spirit and obedience, not in the flesh. Paul says: But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envying, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. (Galatians 5:18-23)
Again, Paul uses Whittens phrase under the law telling us that the true evidence of being under grace and not under the law is that sin has no power over you. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. (Romans 6:14) On the contrary, if sin has power over you, then you are not under grace. Christ requires obedience and His grace gives us power to obey. But Whitten finds the leaven of the law in my previous statement and the following presentation of the Gospel:
The Holy Spirit was given to you to empower you to act better and better and convict you of your sin when you stray. God is pleased when you act right. When you dont, He will clean your clock! Fear God and keep His commandments. (28).
Ironically, what Whitten finds to be leaven of the law in the previous presentations of the Gospel, the book of Revelation declares to be the everlasting Gospel. John wrote, And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him (Revelation 14:6,7; See also Matthew 10:28; Luke 12:5).
What is most troubling is that Whitten finds the leaven of the law in a direct quotation of Scripture: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man (Ecclesiastes 12:13). Legalism is contrary to the Spirit of Christ, but Whitten is one among many false teachers who confuse the keeping of Christs commands with legalism and call it law by applying Scriptures about Mosaic Law. Whitten says,
Religion and legalism have painted a portrait of God as a distant, severe, and joyless father who is almost impossible to please. (65).
Perhaps Whittens above statement is true regardless of what he had in mind with his ideas of legalism. But whether or not his statement is true, God is severe. We ought to be cautious about making statements that portray the Lord contrary to Scripture. It is true that God is not a distant Father who is impossible to please, but He is severe. Saying that he is not severe can nullify Pauls warning to believers about Gods severity: Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. (Romans 11:22) False teaching often presents an imbalance by over-emphasizing one truth of Scripture over another, i.e., Gods goodness and severity. The writer of Hebrews does not separate grace from godly fear and reverence toward God: let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. (Hebrews 12:28)
Again, what Whitten describes as leaven of the law is presented all throughout the New Testament teachings of Gods grace in regeneration and sanctification of the Christian (See Matthew 5:48; John 14:15,21; 15:10; Romans 6:22; 7-8; 11:20-21; 1 Corinthians 6:11; 10:1-13,19-22; 2 Corinthians 3:18; 4:10-11,16; 5:2,10-11; 7:1; Ephesians 5:10,21; Philippians 2:12; 1 Thessalonians 4:3; Hebrews 6:1; 12:14; 1 Peter 1:15,16; 1 John 2:3-4, 5:3). But Whitten declares the doctrine of sanctification to be a lie when he says,
I am already justified, and get thisI am already sanctified! Sanctificationhaving been made perfectis a state of being, not a goal to be achieved or grow into. . . . (29)
The old religious approach of I am justified, I am being sanctified, and I will be glorified is a lie. (29,30).
I am sanctified, and so are you if you are born againwhether you believe it or not! (37).
Even Paul the Apostle said he had not already attained when he wrote the Philippians and he spoke with terrifying warning to those who were otherwise minded: Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing. Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample. (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.) (Philippians 3:12-19)
Based on Whittens standards, Paul was way too conscious of sin and too unconscious of Gods grace. Whitten says,
Christians are way too conscious of sin and way too unconscious of Gods grace. Listen, Jesus did not die to modify your behavior! (19).
Is this true that Jesus did not die to modify your behavior? Granted, this was not the only reason for Jesuss death or His ministry, but it is certainly a primary reason He came. Jesus said, I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. (Matthew 9:13) One of the reasons Jesus came was to call sinners to repentance which includes behavior modification. Specifically speaking of Christs death, Paul says, And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again. (2 Corinthians 5:15) Thus, Christ died so that our lives and behavior would resemble His life and behavior, so that we would no longer live for ourselves.
Speaking of grace, Christians actually prevent the grace of God being fulfilled in their lives if they continue to live for themselves in the flesh. We cannot practice righteousness on our own, but by faith we cooperate with Gods grace in our lives so that we might live for Him. While righteousness cannot be obtained by keeping the Mosaic Law, Christians are obligated to obey Gods moral law by faith and cooperation with Gods grace and power. But if we continue to live in the flesh, we thwart Gods grace from succeeding in our lives. Paul explains, For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain. (Galatians 2:19-20).
read the rest of the article here: http://www.holybibleprophecy.org/2013/04/30/pure-grace-hyper-grace/
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