Have We Made Too Much of Grace?

Thomas Watson writes in The Ten Commandments:

If we trust in our grace, we make a god of it. Grace is but a creature; if we trust to it we make it an idol. Grace is imperfect, and we must not trust to that which is imperfect to save us. ‘I have walked in my integrity: I have trusted also in the Lord.” Psa xxxvi I. David walked in his integrity; but did not trust in his integrity. ‘I have trusted in the Lord.’ If we trust in our graces, we make a Christ of them. They are good graces, but bad Christs. (57)

For a decade I was taught to completely write off the law of God, or at least that’s what my ears heard. Honestly, it’s what I believe is the general temperature of the evangelical pool: a lot of cool grace but none of the warm law. In the last four years my disposition to the law has altered. I’ve grown to not only have strong affections for the ten commandments, but I use them constantly in my life to war against sin. As I introspectively watch over my life, the commandments of God play a crucial role in seeing my disobedience and my need for Christ. In turn I apply the instruction of the law as I instruct my children, using resources like New City Catechism, the London Baptist Catechism, the Westminster Catechism, and the Heidelberg Catechism. Both my wife and I have been enriched by these resources.

But I imagine, a lot of people reading this, would be a bit surprised by this shift. It’s just not the view that I swam in for so long. It’s like I got into a different pool, one that’s a little bit warmer, and, well, I like it there. My whole family likes it there. Now I really want to go to the old pool and show others that maybe their water is a little too cold.

My concern is that some in their thirst and need for grace fashion an idol out of grace. Though we should make much of grace, we should not make too much of grace. Fundamentally, as Watson says above, grace makes a poor Christ. It is no Christ at all. Grace is an instrument of God. It is an abstract idea that describes a relationship. It is an attribute of God, so a facet of him for sure. But you cannot worship the part in substitute for the whole. Then you make less of who God is. Grace, I would say, is more than a thing but certainly less than a person, and it’s only a person that saves, the person, Christ (1 Th. 5:9). I am fascinated by how Watson refers to grace as a creature.

Likewise, the evangelical air is filled with a spiteful aroma towards the law and commandments of God. Where we have made too much of grace, we might have made too little of the law of God. Perhaps some have put their trust in grace, thus eliminating a need for law, rather than putting trust in Christ. But the same argument above applies to the law of God. God is just and thus a law-maker and the first law keeper. When we write off God’s law and commandments, we write off God’s equity, his justice. And then God becomes less than who he is. We fashion a false god by butchering his attributes and amputating the ones we don’t like.

We need the law, but don’t be confused. By saying we need the law, I am not arguing that the law saves. The law does not save us. The person Christ saves (1 Th. 5:9); he saves us by grace (Eph. 2:8). But, I need to remind you, that the person Christ embodied the law, kept the law, and fulfilled the law (Matt. 5:17). Thus, it must be significant; it ought to be precious in our eyes — as precious as grace. But I bet that sounds discomforting to you. And that’s because I’m heating up the evangelical pool pretty quickly, and you might not find that new temperature the comfortable temperature that you are used to. But many would argue that the law schools us towards Christ (Gal. 3:24). It instructs us of our great need for him. We do not embody, keep, or fulfill the law like Christ did. Thus, we need Christ. This makes the law precious.

Because Christ in His human nature, lived righteously and justly, piously and equitably, he satisfied our need to keep the law of God. In his piety he kept the first table of the law and in his equity he kept the second table of the law. Watson says, “The first and second tables are knit together; piety to God, and equity to our neighbor” (46). Christ set the standard we could not keep and achieved what we could not achieve. He was fully pious and fully equitable. He did it for us, so that we might be counted as righteous with him (Jer. 23:6). Thus, we need the law to need Christ. And we need the law so that we see Christ. Christ is not just an incarnation of grace; he’s an incarnation of the law too because he is an incarnation of justice.

Final Thoughts on Sola13

Sola13 was an outstanding conference. If you missed the conference, worry not. I’ve live blogged each of the sessions for your enjoyment. You can get the best of the content in about 30 minutes of reading.

Sola13 Live Blog Introduction and Session 1 Sola Noel Heikkinen

Session 2 Ad Fontes Kevin DeYoung

Session 3 Sola Fide Matt Chandler

Session 4 Sola Gratia Leonce Crump II

Session 5 Solus Christus Stephen Um

Session 6 Sola Scriptura Albert Mohler

Session 7 Soli Deo Gloria John Piper

If you wish to hear the entire 7 hours of audio, Sola13 will be releasing that audio content later this week at there website, sola13.com.

Here are my 3 takeaways from this conference.

1. The Church needs these kinds of conferences. During the last few years I have traveled to many conferences but all of them have been geared to pastors. This is the first conference that I went to that target a lay audience. Every speaker preached their sermon with this in mind. People left having engaged the Scripture, educated on the reformation, and enlivened by the gospel. Churches dream of delivering this kind of training to their people. I hope that Sola13 finds a way to reproduce itself in every region of the United States. Every Christ-foller should have access to this kind of experience. Perhaps they could have a circuit to hit other regions of the US in the coming days.

2. Pastors need these kinds of conferences. As a pastor it was a thrill to observe how the teaching had an immediate impact on people. As I furiously live blogged the conference, I was able to capture how the audience responded to what preachers preached. I was able to listen in on people’s conversations between sessions. I got to watch people get excited about their faith. I observed their interest in the bookstore, consideration of seminary, or even church planting. It warms pastors heart to see how the Body of Christ respond to solid biblical exhortation.

3. Publishers, Seminaries, and Church Planting Networks need these kinds of conferences. There are the obvious reasons for why these organization find these conferences helpful. But there are also more subtle reasons. There is something special when you get a blogger, a couple directors of admissions, a marketing representative from a publisher, and a church planter/gifted web developer together to fellowship and robust discussion about matters of the Church, seminaries, theology, ghostwriting, Nelson Mandela and Carrie Underwood singing the Sound of Music Live. Through these kinds of conferences new friendships are formed.

I’m grateful for my time of fellowship with Jared Oliphint, Stephane Jeanrenaud, Pat Daly, and Matt Heerema on Friday night. I was refreshed by my late night conversation with Michael Breznau, who kindly hosted me at this home. It was great catching up with a seminary bud. I enjoyed getting to know the guys at Crossway, Andrew Tebbe and Matt Tully. And then there was the hilarious antics of Dave Kurt and Ken Buck, two fellas who sat near me while I live blogged on Saturday.

Forming new friendships is a blessing of conferences.

Roy B Zuck Enters Glory (1932 – 2013)

Roy-ZuckRoy B. Zuck, senior professor emeritus of Bible Exposition at Dallas Theological Seminary and editor of Bibliotheca Sacra, went to be with the Lord on the evening of Saturday, March 16, 2013. Family visitation and viewing time will be on Thursday, March 21, from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m., at Redeemer Bible Church (Fellowship Hall).

There is an excellent tribute article written on DTS’s website. You may view it here.

Also, you may view his last Chapel message, Is the Rapture Next? here.


Top Ten Books I Read and Reviewed in 2012

It was tough to narrow it down to my favorite ten books, but here is my favorite ten books I read and reviewed in 2012. This is a ranked countdown. Visit my book reviews page here to read these reviews.

10. Giving Up Gimmicks by Brian Cosby

9. Glorious Ruin by Tullian Tchividjian

8. Am I Called by Dave Harvey

7. Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler

6. Servanthood as Worship by Nate Palmer

5. Modest by Tim Challies and R. W. Glenn

4. Creature of the Word by Matt Chandler, Josh Patterson, and Eric Geiger

3. Counterfeit Gospels by Trevin Wax

2. Gospel Deeps by Jared Wilson

1. Note to Self by Joe Thorn


2013 New Year’s Resolutions

  1. Resolved, to brush up on Greek by doing a weekly devotional from Devotions on the Greek New Testament by Duvall and Verbrugge.
  2. Resolved, to read Scotty Ward Smith’s Everyday Prayers: 365 Days to a Gospel Centered Faith. I’m going to be giving away a print copy of this book on the blog soon.
  3. Resolved, to blog for quality over quantity this year. I hope to put together a couple solid interviews and book reviews a month and continue to blog about theology, family, youth ministry, and popular issues in the Church.
  4. To delve deeper in dependence on the gospel for hope.
  5. To love my family well with quantity time.

What’s Ahead While I’m Out: Next Week at jtcochran.com

This morning my wife, daughter, son and I piled into the mini-van and started our delightful journey to a magical vacation in Disney World. Therefore we will experience an intercalation of our review series on Michael Svigel’s wonderful work, RetroChristianity. I know. This is a very dispensational thing for me to do and say.

When I return from vacation you can expect to see the last two installments on RetroChristianity, an evaluation of Unit One of the Gospel Project, a review of the Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd Jones, and my review of Gospel Deeps by Jared Wilson releasing from Crossway on September 30.

In the meantime, here is a preview of next weeks guest posts.

Saturday September 15th high school student Claira Hull shares about her most prized possession.

Monday September 17th author and blogger Aaron Armstrong will share about the not so glamorous life of a writer.

Tuesday September 18th blogger Nate Claiborne will disclose his strategy of applying triperspectivalism in a small group environment.

Wednesday September 19th blogger Kyle Worley will impart insights from the transfiguration pericope.

Thursday September 20th pastor Michael Breznau will provide four critiques on why a print bible excels over the use of a digital bible.

Lastly, on Friday September 21st and Saturday September 22nd, wife and mother Tammy Adams shares from the Genesis story of Joseph and her own touching story that God moves from being cool to astounding.

Look forward to these good reads and please pray for our safe travel.

August’s Featured Posts and Book Reviews

At the end of each month I like to share the most popular posts for the month. Here are the featured posts for this month. If you happened to miss any of these posts, give them a read. Sampling these posts also is a great way to decide if you might want to subscribe to my RSS feed.

Each month I also write a number of book reviews. Typically, the books I read go highly recommended by myself and others. In case you missed any of these reviews here is a list of the books that I reviewed this past month.

Flap Jack Fundraiser for Bless the Children Ministries

Post Updated: 9/6/12

On Saturday September 8th from 8-10am go out to the Applebee’s in Tulsa Oklahoma at 106th and Memorial. For $6 you’ll be able to enjoy a great meal of flapjacks and help raise money for Bless the Children Ministries. Please share with others about this event and spread the word! You can register for this event at orphanrunflapjack.eventbrite.com

To learn more about Bless the Children Ministries visit their website.

My Favorite Tweets

Occasionally at the end of the day I like to look through my tweets that I favorited and share some of them with my readers. Typically the people I favorite on Twitter are well worth a follow, so you should consider following these people. Here are some of my favorite tweets.