Peace, peace, grace, grace...

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(David) In reading Jeremiah this week I  was reminded of a friend's description of his PCA presbytery: "It's all brokenness and grace," he said, "whenever I hear them talk about brokenness I feel sick."

This friend is not loath to speak of sin or grace, but calling sin  "brokenness" and then turning immediately to grace strikes him as a shallow Gospel--cheap grace rather than the Biblical picture of repentance and regeneration.

His words came to mind as I was reading Jeremiah 6:14 where God, speaking through Jeremiah, says of His unfaithful prophets and priests:

"They have healed the brokenness of my people superficially, saying, 'Peace, peace,' when there is no peace.'"

Substitute "grace" for "peace" and you could have the redemptive-historical, "grace-filled" preaching of substantial portions of the PCA--only, none of us would ever say "peace, peace," because, after all, we've read the book of Jeremiah....

The difference between grace and peace, which Paul frequently pairs in his benedictions, is that grace is the work of Christ objectively applied to the sinner while peace is grace's subjective result in the conscience. But a declaration of grace IS a declaration of peace because peace is the product of grace.

Let's be clear about the fundamental nature of God's complaint against Israel's prophets and priests: it's not that these, His servants, were blind to Israel's sin. Did they not see Israel's sin? Of course they did--after all, they sought to heal her brokenness. Their failure was not one of vision or diagnosis, but of medication and treatment. They failed not by refusing to see sin, but by healing it superficially, by declaring God's benediction in the absence of repentance, without a prior declaration of judgment and wrath. They treated cancer by waving their wands lazily in the air and then declaring a cure. They treated with happy talk what radical surgery alone could cure.

Without first preaching the Law of God to bring sinners to repentance, the grace of our preaching is shallow, empty, cheap. A few verses later in Jeremiah 6:19 God says,

“Hear, O earth: behold, I am bringing disaster on this people, The fruit of their plans, Because they have not listened to My words, And as for My law, they have rejected it also."

Perhaps deep in our hearts we believe that salvation came by obedience to the Law in Old Testament times while in the New Testament era it comes by grace alone. 

But if salvation in Old Testament times was as much by-grace-through-faith as in the New Testament, what do we make of God condemning Israel's priests and prophets for declaring His grace too readily even as they rejected His Law? And finally, could our declarations of grace be as odious to God as His prophets' declarations of "Peace, peace," to Israel if we fail to do surgery with His Law before declaring His grace and peace?