By Jack Kinsella
I heard a new term the other day that I’d never heard before. I don’t know why, since when I looked it up, I must be the only one that hasn’t.
The term is “greasy grace” and I’m told it is a stock phrase in fire-and-brimstone preaching in the Deep South.
I love fire-and-brimstone preaching, and I’ve spent a goodly part of my life in the Deep South, but it is a phrase I’d never come across, nonetheless, so I had to look it up.
The phrase, “greasy grace” is used to describe people who “abuse the liberty” that comes with saving grace by living like the devil.
We’ll return to grace in a moment, but right now, I want to shift focus over to the “greasy” part — the part about the “abuse” of grace.
Specifically, I’m going to enumerate a few ‘grace abusers’, and then we’ll return to the doctrine of grace itself.
Would one qualify an enormously fat Christian as an abuser of grace? One of the “seven deadly sins” is the sin of gluttony. Do you know any enormously fat preachers? I can think of several famous ones, and one in particular.
He stands out in my mind, as I recall him bending over to point one of his sausage-like fingers at his congregation and hiss, “If you smoke, you’re defiling the Temple of the Holy Spirit.”
I can think of a dozen ‘fat preacher’ jokes, most of which I heard from the pulpit of a fat preacher.
“All the fat is the Lord’s” – a parody on (Leviticus 3:16). “He that trusts the Lord shall be made fat” (Proverbs 28:25); “They are waxen fat, they shine” (Jeremiah 5:28), and so on.
Are they grace abusers? Indeed, they put the “grease” in greasy grace. Are they still saved? If not, can anybody be saved?
I know many, many enormously fat Christians. They aren’t all preachers, but many of them are Christians and many of them would agree that the salvation of a smoker or a drinker is questionable on the premise that if God’s grace is powerful enough to save you, it is powerful enough to release you from the sin of addiction.
Is smoking a sin? Does it defile the Temple? I’d say the answer to the second question defines the answer to the first. Of course smoking defiles the body, and will eventually kill it, so it is inherently sinful.
It is also an addiction, which seems to be what the Apostle Paul was referring to when he was explaining what grace means.
“All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.” (1 Corinthians 6:12).
It would be easy for me to slam smokers (now that I’ve quit) or to slam drunks or druggies, but according to the government’s Body Mass Index charts, I’m still fat. (And a preacher). Am I saved?
What if after an injury, I became addicted to pain killers? Or some other drug? What if I was gay? Am I lost? Unredeemable? Is grace one-size-fits-all?
A study conducted by scientists at the University of Cambridge (UK) compared the brains of addicts to the brains of volunteers without addictions. The results of the study determined that the brains of addicts are inherently abnormal.
It wasn’t that the addiction caused the brain to become abnormal. It was abnormal from birth.
The study including siblings of addicts (who were not addicts themselves) and discovered they shared the same brain abnormality, although somehow, either due to environmental factors or other differences in brain structure, were able to resist addiction.
In all, they tested fifty biological sibling pairs, one of whom was an addict and the other was not, and compared them with a control group of fifty non-addicts. The tests measured how well they could control their impulse behavior.
The researchers found that the sibling pairs — even the non-addicts — fared significantly worse on the test than the healthy volunteers.
The study examined addiction; drugs, pathological gambling, obesity and obsessive-compulsive disorders.
Brain scans showed that the siblings shared some of the same weaknesses in the frontal lobe and its connections to the basal ganglia, which mediates motor, cognition and behavior.
How does that fit in with the notion of greasy grace? When a fat guy gets saved, is his brain abnormality cured? I dunno. Sometimes, fat people get saved and are convicted of the sin of gluttony and bring their weight under control.
Sometimes, they go to Bible college and become fat preachers and give sermons about the eternal consequences of misunderstanding grace.
The problem with grace is that, for it to be grace, it HAS to be “greasy.” That isn’t a problem for lost people, but it seems to be a major problem with those of us that are saved (and not fat, or smokers, or addicts, or drinkers, or fill in the blanks here).
Most Christians will agree that Christians are not under law, but under grace, until they run into somebody who takes more grace than they think they should and consequentially, “loses” his salvation.
A good illustration is the preacher that “falls from grace” into some sexual sin, leaves his wife and runs off with his secretary. Has he lost his salvation? Was he saved by grace, or by a temporary suspension of moral law that, in his case, has just expired?
We tend to confuse moral law with Christian grace. It is moral law that reveals to us what abject and wretched sinners we are — it is moral law that demonstrates our need for a Savior. The very purpose FOR moral law is to demonstrate we can’t keep moral law.
Moral law points us toward grace, but it can never save us. Moral law never brought anybody to Jesus. Grace does that.
I am going to shamefully rip off somebody else’s illustration because it is better than anything I can think up here.
Grace is like the fire department. Now the building inspector (moral law) may cite you twenty times for breaking the fire code. But when your house goes up in flames, the fire department still responds every time, whether you’ve been warned or not.
A fireman never walks up to a burning house and begins to read the violations to the owner. Reminding, educating, cajoling, shaming, and guilting doesn’t stop the flames. The bystanders watching the burning house could easily see the rescue as permission for the owner’s unwillingness to “follow the rules.”
And the homeowner could certainly take the rescue as permission to violate the fire code again. The only person who doesn’t see it that way is the fireman that put out the flames.
And that’s how God is. People may take permission but the rescuer never gives it. That doesn’t stop them from abusing grace…but neither does it stop God from giving it.
The risk is inherent to the gift. Though law and grace can work together, grace is always the bigger of the two. Not because we’re worth the effort — but because of the matchless generosity of the Father.
To summarize, let’s briefly return to the conclusions of the Cambridge study. It proves that grace MUST be, as they say, greasy, in order for it to exist at all. The study concludes that certain people’s brains are wired from birth with a predisposition for addiction.
There is a school of thought that says that the brains of homosexuals are also wired differently, causing certain people to be predisposed toward homosexuality.
Does that mean that God wired their brains that way? What else could it mean? Satan has no creative powers. Neither do you.
That doesn’t excuse the sin, whether it is the lust for drugs or for sex, whether gay or straight. Neither does it excuse the sinner — IF using drugs or being gay was the unforgivable sin.
But the only sin for which the Bible says there is no forgiveness is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, ie; the rejection of grace.
“And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.” (Romans 11:6)
We have a whole raft of sins for which we’re prepared to pronounce somebody else to be lost or saved, based on the fact some particular sin isn’t part of our own personal repertoire. But for sin to be sin, it must mean all sin, and for grace to be grace, it must be beyond the reach of all sin.
If you are still struggling with your sin, you can achieve victory. But don’t let somebody else who doesn’t struggle with your sin tell you that you’re lost. He has his own sin to deal with. Not the least of which is his own pride at being less sinful than you are.
In terms of deadly sins, “Pride” ranks #1.
This Letter was written by Jack Kinsella on February 3, 2012.