The Grace Exchange: God’s Offer of Freedom from a Life of Works. By Larry Huntsperger. Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1995. 192 pages. Paper. $8.99.
The title is fascinating: The Grace Exchange. After reading the book, I’m still not sure what it means. The author seems to mean something like this: by grace, when we submit to Christ—more on this in a moment—God exchanges our sinfulness and unrighteousness with Christ’s sinlessness and righteousness.
The subtitle is disturbing. What is “freedom from a life of works”? Surely we have been saved in order that we might produce good works and glorify God (John 15:7-17; Eph 2:10). We do not need, nor should we desire, freedom from a life of works. Evidently what Huntsperger means by the subtitle is that while God gives us “a moral framework” to be obeyed, the Christian life is not centered on that framework, but on the Person of Christ. I can certainly say “Amen” to that, though I cannot to the subtitle.
Huntsperger believes that, “Entrance into the family of God happens only through true heart submission to Christ” (p. 21). He repeats the phrase “submission to Christ” over and over again in the book as the condition of obtaining eternal salvation (see, for example, pp. 21, 22, 31, 41, and 124). Does he believe that “true faith” always includes submission to Christ? Possibly, but he fails to make this point clearly. Does he believe that faith is submission to Christ? Again, he isn’t clear. He seems to assume that all will accept as biblical the notion that submission to Christ is the condition of eternal life.
Thus, while he often says that we are not saved by our own works or anything we can offer God, he holds up submission as the condition of salvation. He evidently sees nothing contradictory in this.
Another way in which the author seems to contradict himself is on the question of whether believers will necessarily act in a godly manner and persevere in the faith. On the one hand he gives the impression that he understands verses like 2 Cor 5:17 and 1 John 3:9 to refer to the sinless new nature of the believer, not to some guaranteed level of holiness all believers will manifest (cf. pp. 9, 45-46). Yet, on the other hand, he indicates that all true believers have “a new longing to live in a manner pleasing to God…a sensitivity to sin that [they] never had before…[and] a love for other people that was never a part of [their] former life” (p. 46; see also p. 57).
He makes a nice point regarding our physical bodies being the source of our sinful habits and desires. He indicates that when Paul said, “I discipline my body and bring it into subjection…” (1 Cor 9:27), he probably literally viewed his physical body as something which he must tame in order to please God.
Huntsperger seems to lack a formal theological system. This is both good and bad. It results in some helpful comments on passages like 1 Cor 9:27, 2 Cor 5:17, and 1 John 3:9. Unfortunately, it also results in some contradictory statements that the author doesn’t realize are contradictory and hence sees no need to explain.
Finally, when Huntsperger discusses what he calls our “biblical moral framework,” he comes up with five principles (pp. 126-69), all of which are helpful and biblical: the centrality of love (p. 127ff.), the importance of submitting to human authority (p. 141ff.), the exclusiveness and vital significance of sex within marriage (p. 150ff.), the importance of using our tongue to edify (p. 159ff.), and the need to submit ourselves to the Holy Spirit and not to drugs or occult influences (pp. 168-69). One wonders, of course, why there are only these five principles. Certainly many more principles could be drawn from passages like Eph 4:17-34.
There is helpful material here. However, since the book is inconsistent in places, lacks clarity on the condition of eternal salvation, and fails to treat the subject in depth, I recommend looking elsewhere for a thorough treatment on the spiritual life.
Robert N. Wilkin
Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society