Grace Rules. By Steve McVey. Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1998. 203 pp. Paper, $8.99.
This book has a simple message on how to live the Christian life: Focus on Jesus Christ in us and not on rules. Living by rules does not mature us or please God. The difference is between compliance and obedience, trying and trusting, rules and relationship.
McVey, President of Grace Walk Ministries, repeats this enough throughout the book so that you get the message. But it would have helped to have more substance to flesh out what this means in the Christian life. Many readers will appreciate the message, but will want more depth and discussion of Bible passages than this popular-level discussion offers.
At least McVey’s emphasis on grace is consistent and healthy. On initial salvation he writes, “Every true believer fully understands that he did nothing to become a Christian. He simply trusted Christ” (p. 21). Though McVey never really explains the gospel, nothing he says compromises the grace gospel. His view of the Christian life would lead us to believe that he is in the grace camp.
McVey’s discussions of our relationship to the law, sin, knowing God’s will, and forgiveness are helpful even though his style is more conversational than expositional or tightly logical. It would have strengthened his book to discuss more of the Bible. Arguments feel weak when specific passages are not discussed but only used as proof-texts, even when you agree with most of the conclusions.
This weakness shows in his discussion of Rom 5:19. I thought it odd that McVey would understand the phrase “by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous” as not just positional but experiential or “literally righteous.” He does not deal with the language or context, which leaves the reader with many questions even though he says, “That doesn’t mean we always act that way. How we act and who we are may not always coincide” (pp. 57-58). How then are we “made righteous?” Does McVey understand this as a reference to the process of sanctification with ultimate glorification in mind? It doesn’t seem so, though that is how some interpret the phrase. Clarification is needed on this troublesome phrase. A consideration of the context shows that imputed righteousness is in view in Rom 5:16 and 17. Thus many interpret the verb kathiste„mi with the sense of constituted righteous or placed in the category of the righteous, which denotes imputation not actualization. We might think this interpretation better fits into McVey’s view of the Christian life so that we merely live up to our standing in Christ. But his view is more that we are righteous because Christ’s life is in us, so just focus on Christ and you will live righteously; don’t worry about rules.
In essence, I agree with the message of relationship instead of rules. However, when this is translated into action, it helps to know what Christ wants us to do. Thus the many exhortations in the epistles to do certain things. Whether we do from a desire to serve God (love) or a desire to gain acceptance with Him (legalism) is a matter of the heart, a matter of motivation. But instructions and commands are helpful so that we are not left in a mystical vagueness. There is nothing wrong with saying, “I love you Lord; now tell me what I can do for you,” as long as we do not neglect the relationship.
Even with this slight imbalance, it is good to see a book that emphasizes grace. Its message will help those who have been trapped in legalism or performance as their basis for acceptance with God.