Effort is Not Antithetical to the Gospel (Dated 22 August 2020)
“Christianity, unlike other religions of the world, is a religion of grace. Christianity is about God in His love, sending His Son Jesus Christ, to die for our sins – that by believing in Him as Lord and Saviour, we are promised of forgiveness of our sins and eternal life. In short, Christianity is about what God has done to save sinful humanity. This truth is best captured in Paul’s writing in Ephesians 2:8-9. In contrast, all other religions and belief systems are a form of human self-effort to save themselves which depends on their own personal piety and good works. This will not do because no amount of good works and personal piety will be enough to save us from eternal condemnation due to our sins. That is why the gospel of God’s grace is such good news for sinful humanity like us.
However, the fact that we are saved by grace through faith does not necessitate that Christian living is totally effortless. The New Testament is full of moral and ethical commands for Christians, in response to the grace already shown to us through Jesus Christ. The New Testament is full of language that indicates effort, struggles and strive as part of normal Christian journey after they have been justified by grace through faith (e.g: 1 Cor. 6:9-11, 2 Cor. 7:1, Gal. 5:19-26, 1 Pet. 1:16). Of course, these
efforts are not done by our own strength, but with the help of the Holy Spirit. Yet it does not negate our human responsibility. Neglecting these moral and ethical commands as our response to the gospel is to neglect a very large portion of the New Testament teaching itself – which no Bible-believing Christian should do. That is why the teaching of hyper-grace and effortless Christianity as espoused by Joseph Prince – a megachurch pastor in Singapore – is unbiblical. This teaching teaches that as Christians, we are to rest only on God’s grace, without giving any effort whatsoever in our sanctification (a process in which we
are transformed in the image of Christ day by day). This kind of teaching has a very skeptical look at laws and commands of the Bible, and the commands for Christian obedience. In his most popular book to date, Destined to Reign, Prince discusses how God has given us everything necessary for godliness (2 Peter 1), and yet there is no mentioning of the part where Peter calls for Christian to ‘make every effort’ (p.102). He conveniently selects Bible passages that fit with his unbiblical theology while ignoring the rest of the Bible.
Given the popularity of Joseph Prince and the New Creation Church he pastors, it indirectly makes this unbiblical teaching popular as well – especially among undiscerning Christians, which means he is a dangerous false teacher. Given the vast array of moral and ethical commands and encouragements to strive, make effort and struggle in the New Testament as a response to God’s grace, we do a great disservice to God’s people for not teaching it accordingly. By doing so, we are in effect telling God Himself that we know better than Him – which is a form of idolatry. God has so loved us that He sent His Son Jesus Christ to die for our redemption, and we respond by trusting in Him. And the fruit of that trust is walking in obedience and good works through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. Those who add or subtract this teaching – like Joseph Prince does – is in fact teaching an error. They must be exposed, rebuked, and prayed for that God will grant them repentance.”
Revd. Wilston Trin
St. Peter’s Anglican Church Saratok, Sarawak, Malaysia