Grace vs. Works – Synchroblog

This post is part of Glenn Hager’s Synchroblog. He asked people to write on the topic: Things I Learned From Church (That Didn’t Prove True And What I Am Learning Lately).

In church I was taught all about “grace.” I was taught that grace is urging people into coming to church, shaming people, adding expectations to people, holding things over peoples heads. I was also taught about works. I was taught that works could not get you into heaven. This included, coming to church, being ashamed, acting as people expected, and responding to manipulation for forgiveness.

First, people were being “urged” into coming to church. They were urged to come early for Sunday School or more frequently for other programs and services. The guilt came in small packages, designed to trick people into becoming righteous in God’s eyes. If you come more often God will love you more. If you do more then God will bless you more. But most of all, doing this would not save you… but do not worry about that, just come to church.

Second, I noticed that when the numbers low that meant God was not happy with us. Most likely it was because the majority was not being faithful to God and giving him back 10% of what was rightfully his. After all, he did give us 100% of what we have… surely we could give him a measly 10% back. Oh, and if you didn’t, that means you are not in his will and his love will not fall on you until you do. But most of all, tithing will not save you… but do not worry about that, just give your 10%.

Third, I noticed that there were a number of people who acted differently than I did. Some thought a Christian cannot even think of the word alcohol or you would be sent directly to hell. Some thought a Christian needed to wear a suit to church. If you did not do this, then you were being a bad Christian, a bad witness, and a bad example. But most of all, doing these things will not save you… but do not worry about that, just follow my lead.

Forth, I also noticed that some people liked to hold grudges. Forgiveness? Why should I forgive you for what you did to me? You have to prove to me first that you have changed, then I might forgive you, we’ll see. Dance puppet, dance. But most of all, trying to win my approval will not save you… but do not worry about that, just relax and let me string you along.

Then I picked up my Bible, talked to God, and I realized something. Grace was something completely different than what I was seeing. I learned that grace is simple, not complex. With grace, there is no guilt, there are no extra-biblical expectations, there are no comparisons, there is no puppet-master. Instead there is admonishing, teaching, loving, and forgiveness. This is what God showed me about Grace and he showed it to me most of all through his Son’s work on the cross.

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  1. Lew…

    Sounds like we attended the same church, or at least, the same denomination. (I would just about bet you on this one.)

    You learned the routine, as did I. I am so glad that our frustration with church as we know it has moved us to discover the wonder of grace.


  2. Well, I was going to post a comment then realizes that I couldn’t have said it better than you did. Sad, isn’t it? It’s especially sad when you realize that you bought into to all these years …


  3. I concur heartily. You spelled it out so well, Lew.

    Praise God for true grace!!

  4. Just to comment, I’m not really getting what you’re saying here. Could you be a little more obvious?

    I mean, Roman Catholics think grace is a created thing you eat. Evangelicals think it is the actual loving work of God within the soul.

    Are you saying that there is no distinction between grace and works, or what? I mean, works, quite apparently, are things that you do. Grace, as far as I can see it, is the mercy of God but not at something we work. It might be God’s work, but not ours, and not a thing at all.

    So, I guess I don’t get it. I mean, I’m sorry your church was weak and all but what is it that you now have that you didn’t have then, besides a change in yourself?


  5. Neiswonger,

    First, thanks for stopping by and welcome.

    Second, to answer your question, I think you failed to see the irony in my post, which is what caused the initial confusion. I am by no means equating works with grace, quite the opposite in fact. The point I was trying to get across was that the church was “teaching” grace (in theory) but in practice they were teaching works.

    I hope this helps. Let me know if you have any further questions.

    God’s Glory,

  6. i think that is one of the ironies/flaws of human nature – we love grace but we kinda want to have some guidelines/rules to know we’re still in grace – in fact we’re soo good at it that we can create our own guidelines/rules for what is/is not a grace experience, lol.

    of course maybe that is just the hang over of modernity – i want to define thangs, label thangs, know thangs a lot more than i want to practice them…

  7. Hey Paul,

    Sorry for the late reply. You have made some excellent points. I know that I have wished in the past that things were more legalistic. It is so much easier for us if we “know” what to do and what not to do. It is much harder for us to be free and to lean on God for understanding. But that is where the biggest blessing comes from. We’re just like the Jews that Moses was leading up the mountain. We’re scared to go, so we want someone else to do it for us.

    Great comment,

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