Steve McVey is influential. He is the founder of Grace Walk Ministries, located in the Tampa Bay area of central Florida. He has published a half million books in 15 languages, has a radio ministry, a pod cast, a GraceVine newsletter, and travels widely “sharing the wonderful message of God’s grace.” McVey’s Grace Walk Groups, which are located in many states as well as overseas, are cliques of people who follow his teaching. Practically anyone can become a Grace Walk Group leader by watching three informational videos, submitting one’s name and contact information, and taking further training from McVey’s web site.
McVey is yet another of the countless enemies of any type of fundamentalist church. He even promotes a “Grace Walk Recovery Ministry” which is geared, not to help people quit drinking and abusing drugs, but to assist those who are “addicted” to Christ’s service. This “addiction” is broken by introducing people to McVey’s heresies and convincing them that his definition of “legalism” is sound. (Too bad McVey wasn’t around 2,000 years ago so he could “deprogram” the household of Stephanas who had unwittingly “addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints,” 1 Cor. 16:15.)
McVey’s books contain a lot of truth interspersed with a lot of error. He is right to emphasize that the true Christian life is not just a list of dos and don’ts. The essence of the Christian life is not a list of rules. Rather it is “Christ in me the hope of glory.” It is a personal relationship with the living God through Jesus Christ. It is Christ living in and through the believer. McVey is right to emphasize that merely following external “standards” and a works- and performance-oriented Christian life apart from a dynamic grace relationship with Christ is more akin to Phariseeism than true Christianity.
He says, for example,
“God’s purpose is not that we should rededicate our self with all its abilities, but that we should give up all hope in self. We sometimes try to live for Him when He wants to live His life through us” (McVey, Grace Walk, p. 36).
This is a very important truth that every child of God must learn and re-learn and learn better. McVey gives the example of Martha and Mary in Luke 10. Martha was not enjoying her life because she was under self-induced pressure to “serve” while not resting in and walking with Christ. McVey says, “Martha was stressed out while Mary was resting.” That is all well and good. Too bad he doesn’t stop here. Instead he rushes beyond the truth of Scripture into a frightful variety of heresies.
I have heard that McVey is having an influence among fundamental Baptists and it does not surprise me. For one thing, many fundamental Baptist churches are Bible ignorant to a frightful degree. They aren’t well grounded in the doctrines of justification and sanctification. Even pastors, in many cases, are not effective students of the Word. Further, many young people are ripe for the picking by someone like McVey because of such things as a shallow preaching ministry that is largely motivational and even entertaining and doesn’t ground the people properly in Christ and His Word, the pressure to look at the Christian life as rule- and performance-based rather than Christ-centered, shallow evangelism that tends to produce nominal professors lacking dynamic conversion testimonies, external standards without a strong Scriptural basis and the proper emphasis on the heart, preacher-centeredness rather than Christ-centeredness, pastors training people to be his servants rather than the servants of Christ, the giving of unquestioning loyalty to a man and trusting his interpretations almost blindly rather than learning to walk with Christ personally and test everything by His Word, a shallow concept of discipleship that is content with such things as short hair and ties and skirts, faithfulness to church services, not going to movies, and doing “soul winning.”
In spite of anything Scriptural that McVey might teach, though, his books are filled with out-and-out heresies and half truths that he turns into heresies, as we see from the following excerpts:
MCVEY - “Don’t get bogged down in a faulty understanding of 1 John 1:9 when the rest of the New Testament teaches that our sins have been absolutely forgiven--past, present, and future. ... The idea that we’re out of fellowship with God when we do wrong is a lie. It’s one of those cliches. It sounds good, but it’s not biblical. There is nothing you can do to put yourself out of fellowship with God. ... You are in fellowship with God all the time” (52 Lies, pp. 72, 73, 75).
COMMENT - This heresy forces a meaning upon John’s words in his first epistle that is unnatural. He plainly is talking about “fellowship” in chapter 1, repeating the term four times. To say that he is not talking about fellowship and not saying that the believer can be out of fellowship with God flies in the face of the Bible’s own words. This heresy fails to make a distinction between relationship and fellowship, standing and state, position and practice, which are plainly taught doctrines of Christian living and are emphasized in Paul’s epistles. The epistle of Ephesians is divided into two distinct parts on this basis -- chapters 1-3 relationship and standing, chapters 4-6 fellowship or state. Positionally, the believer is totally forgiven, redeemed, justified, the possessor of all spiritual blessings in heavenly places and is already seated in the heavenlies positionally, but his practice in this present life is not heavenly. The two aspects of sanctification are seen in Ephesians 5:8 -- since we ARE light, positionally, let’s live like it day-by-day, practically. We are told to put off the old man and put on the new practically, day-by-day (Eph. 4:22-24). We are children of God by faith in Christ the moment we are born again, but that doesn’t mean that He is pleased with everything we do and that does not mean that I am in fellowship with Him no matter how I act. It is the same in a human father-child relationship, though on a far less perfect basis. Growing up, when I disobeyed my father, I was still his son but I wasn't pleasing to Him and we didn't have proper fellowship. We see this in the account of the Prodigal Son. The father continued to love his son even when he was in the hog pen and the relationship was unbroken, but the fellowship wasn’t restored until the son repented and returned to the father’s arms. In his first Epistle John says there are two things that keep the believer in fellowship with the Father: walking in the light (obedience) and confession of sins. God isn't "mad" at His children in any frail human sense when we sin, but He can definitely be displeased and the onus is on us to stay in sweet fellowship by honoring and obeying Him and acknowledging our sins before Him rather than hiding them and excusing them.
The idea that there is nothing to do to get out of God's fellowship makes no sense in light of the New Testament's many warnings. Why does God chasten His children if they can't get out of fellowship (Heb. 12)? How could there be a sin unto death if we can't get out of fellowship (1 Cor. 11:27-32; 1 John 5:16-17)? If it is not possible to be out of fellowship through sin why did Paul fear becoming a castaway or being set on a shelf for not keeping his body under subjection (1 Cor. 9:27)? If it is not possible to get out of fellowship, why does Paul warn about loss at the judgment seat of Christ (1 Cor. 3)? Questions like this could be multiplied.
MCVEY - “Law will cause a person to say, ‘Lord, help me to do the things You want me to do.’ In other words, ‘Help me keep Your rules.’ Grace will cause a person to say, ‘Lord Jesus, I am abiding in You and You in me. Express Your life through me in any way You desire.’ It isn’t uncommon for Christians to think that God has a long list of things He wants His children to do. But in 1 Thessalonians 5:24 we read, ‘He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.’ Not only does Christ call us to the Christian life, but He will also live it for us. After all, who else could live the Christ-life except Christ?” (Grace Walk, p. 36).
COMMENT - This is a very dangerous half-truth. While it is correct to say that true Christian living is living by the power and direction of the indwelling Christ and not merely a matter of keeping rules, it is not true that it is simply a matter of resting in Christ and Him doing the living. The true Christian life is not passive in any sense. We don’t need McVey’s doctrine on this, because we have the Bible. Paul expressed it like this: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). If I am saved, Christ is in me and the Christian life is His life, but I MUST LIVE IT. I am to WORK it out (Phil. 2:12). I am to OBEY (2 Thess. 2:13). I am to SERVE (1 Thess. 1:9; Heb. 12:28). In His messages to the seven churches, Christ mentioned the importance of works 12 times (Rev. 2:2, 5, 9, 13, 19, 23, 26; 3:1, 2, 8, 15). He measured the churches by their works. He defined the overcomer as the one who keeps His works unto the end (Rev. 2:26).
The way we know how God wants to live His life through us is by heeding and obeying the New Testament faith and its “rules.” The path of God’s will is not a mystical path of following one’s inclinations and trusting that they are of God and having a vain confidence that I am in fellowship with God regardless of what I do. The path of God’s will is heeding Scripture as the light in a dark place. The Word of God is the will of God. This is not to say that the indwelling Holy Spirit doesn’t individually guide the believer. He does, and it is a wonderful thing to walk in the Spirit and to experience His guidance. But He does so insofar as the believer walks in the light of God’s Word, the Bible.
MCVEY - “Was the Bible written as a guidebook that is intended to show us how to live? Is that its purpose? I don’t think so. ... The Bible is not an end unto itself. Nor is it a guidebook or a handbook for living. The Bible is a grace book that points us to Jesus Christ” (52 Lies, pp. 77, 79).
COMMENT - The Bible is definitely a guidebook to show us how to live. One of its purposes is to give instruction in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16-17). We rightly interpret and read the Bible through the gospel of the grace of Christ and the believer lives by the royal law of grace and not the old law of condemnation, but the Christian lives by a law nonetheless and those who do not keep God’s commandments demonstrate that they are not saved (1 John 2:3-4). The New Testament is literally filled with “rules” and “commandments” that the born-again child of God is to obey by the power of the indwelling Spirit. We are saved by free grace without works, but we are saved unto good works (Eph. 2:8-10). There are 88 specific rules or commandments for Christian living in the epistle of Ephesians alone, by my count. We don’t keep them in order to be saved, and we don’t keep them in order to add to our salvation, and we don’t keep them in order to keep ourselves saved, and we don’t keep them by our own strength; but we are exhorted to keep them nonetheless! Walking in the New Testament commandments is the way of spiritual growth and blessing and sanctification. For a blood-washed, saved-by-grace saint to set out to keep the rules and commandments of the New Testament faith by the power and life of the indwelling Christ is NOT legalism.
MCVEY - “Nowhere does the Scripture tell us that the will of God is something that we have to find. ... That’s not grace, and it’s certainly not truth. That is legalism at its core. The truth is, you don’t need to find God’s will for your life. God will make His will known to you through your relationship with Christ” (52 Lies, p. 81).
COMMENT - The will of God is definitely something to be pursued and found. The path to this is described in a nutshell in Romans 12.
MCVEY - “To suggest to people that God is disappointed in them is a guilt-and-shame technique straight from the enemy of our souls. ... It is impossible for you to disappoint God. ... Our role is to simply live our lives with the confident assurance that it is He who animates our behavior. ... You don’t have to walk about with guilt or fear that you have disappointed God” (52 Lies, pp. 85, 86, 87).
COMMENT - McVey is promoting the same heresy that is taught in The Shack, where God is alleged to say: “The Bible doesn’t teach you to follow rules. ... Enforcing rules, especially in its more subtle expressions like responsibility and expectation, is a vain attempt to create certainty out of uncertainty. ... That is why you won’t find the word responsibility in the Scriptures. ... because I have no expectations, you never disappoint me” (The Shack, pp. 197, 203, 206).
The the word “disappoint” is not found in the Bible in relation to God and the believer, but the concept is taught there. While it is true that God knows the beginning from the end, He often expresses disappointment with man and his actions. He even repented that He had made man (Gen. 6:6). Jesus was “disappointed” in the disciples’ lack of faith on various occasions (Mat. 8:26; 14:30-31; 16:8; Luke 8:25). God is Almighty and All-knowing but He is not an unfeeling Being who is untouched by man’s actions. As for guilt and fear, there is definitely guilt when we sin against our Saviour (1 Cor. 11:27), and the New Testament teaches the believer to fear God (2 Cor. 7:1; Heb. 12:28; 1 Pet. 2:17).
MCVEY - “One of the most damaging errors most people make is making a dualistic distinction between secular and sacred things in life. This way of seeing the world forces a separation where none is warranted. ... You take holiness with you everywhere you go; therefore, you sanctify your environment because of God” (52 Lies, pp. 93, 94).
COMMENT - This is another dangerous half-truth which is turned into a heresy by McVey. It is true that every element of the believer’s life should be looked upon as sacred. We are priests of God and that is a 24/7 occupation in Christ. But the Bible makes a dramatic difference between secular and sacred in the sense of the things of this fallen world which are under the power of the devil. We are not to love the world and are called adulterers if we do (Jam. 4:4; 1 John 2:15-17). We are to come out from among them and touch not the unclean thing (2 Cor. 6:17). We are to have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness but rather to reprove them (Eph. 5:11). We are to keep ourselves unspotted from the world (Jam. 1:27). The believer most definitely does not sanctify an unholy environment or an unholy thing with his presence. That heresy is a recipe for spiritual disaster! This is the foolish Christian rock philosophy, and it is wrong. It is the same sin as that committed by the Jews of old. “Her priests have violated my law, and have profaned mine holy things: they have put no difference between the holy and profane, neither have they shewed difference between the unclean and the clean, and have hid their eyes from my sabbaths, and I am profaned among them” (Ezekiel 22:26).
MCVEY - “The idea that repentance brings God’s blessings to our lives is a prevalent, legalistic teaching in the church. ... Don’t believe the lie that you must repent in order to experience God’s goodness. Your Father’s loving goodness toward you is unconditional and independent of anything you do or don’t do” (52 Lies, pp. 115, 118).
COMMENT - God’s love is unfathomable, but it is not unconditional. To enjoy God’s love, I must repent. The unbeliever must repent in order to be brought into saving relationship with God (Lk. 13:3; Acts 17:30), and the believer must repent in order to stay in fellowship with God. In His messages to the seven churches, Christ repeatedly commanded them to repent (Rev. 2:5, 16, 21, 22; 3:3, 19). The apostle Paul praised the believers at Corinth for their thorough-going repentance (2 Cor. 7:8-10). McVey defines repentance as “a change of mind,” but Paul taught that it is much more than that. Biblical repentance is a change of mind that always results in a change of action. (See “Questions Answered about Repentance” at the Way of Life web site - www.wayoflife.org.)
MCVEY - “If you believe the lie that God speaks only through the Bible, then the enemy only needs to keep you from reading the Bible to keep you from hearing your divine lover. Don’t fall for the lie. God does speak through the Bible, but if you restrict yourself to that alone, you’ll miss many opportunities to hear His loving voice throughout your day” (52 Lies, p. 124).
COMMENT - We know that God speaks through nature and through conscience, but nowhere in this chapter does McVey warn that there are false voices and there is a great possibility of deception in this fallen world and that we must therefore carefully test everything by Scripture. The truth is that the Holy Scripture is the only INFALLIBLE, CERTAIN voice of God in this world. McVey’s position is blind mysticism, which is his fundamental and very dangerous approach to Christian living.
MCVEY - “Sometimes people contend that if you sin in a really serious way (in their judgment), you will be disqualified from being used by God. This lie infects the minds of the fallen and causes them to think that somehow they’re jumped the track and that God can never take their lives and use them for His glory. ... The idea that you can commit sins that will disqualify you from being used by God is so untrue” (52 Lies, pp. 139, 142).
COMMENT - McVey makes no proper distinction between serving the Lord in some general sense and serving the Lord in a specific capacity that requires meeting special qualifications, such as the pastorate or deaconate (1 Timothy 3). A person can definitely disqualify himself from certain offices of ministry. McVey also ignores Paul’s warning about the possibility of being castaway (1 Cor. 9:27) and John’s warning about the sin unto death (1 John 5:16).
MCVEY - “Many Christians ... believe there is an evil side within them--an evil nature--that fights against the new nature given to us by Christ. The big problem with this lie is that it implies a Christian still has two natures. But nothing could be further from the truth. ... If you imagine you have two natures competing for preeminence within you, you have fallen victim to this lie. You don’t have two natures. ... the battles you and I have now are not with our old man. Instead, the battle is with the power of indwelling sin, as Paul describes in Romans 7. Make no mistake about it, indwelling sin and the old man (the old nature) are two totally different things” (52 Lies, p. 145, 146).
COMMENT - This is disingenuous and even ridiculous. If there is no old nature, wherein is the “power of indwelling sin”? The old man is the fallen nature we inherited from Adam, and that it remains after salvation is clearly taught in the Epistles. Positionally the old man is dead (Col. 3:9-10), but practically we are instructed to put off the old man and put on the new man day by day (Eph. 4:22-24).
MCVEY - “If you define pursuing sanctification as getting better and better at keeping rules, you will find yourself right back in legalism, but we have already seen that rule-keeping is not the meaning of holiness” (52 Lies, p. 169).
COMMENT - This is a dangerous half truth. The believer can try to keep rules and still not be sanctified, but keeping rules is definitely an essential aspect of sanctification. McVey commits the error of setting up one “key” to sanctification and ignoring the fact that the New Testament presents a multiple path to sanctification. It is not only resting or not only abiding or whatever, it is abiding and resting and yielding and obeying and avoiding and obeying and pursuing, etc. If there were one “key” to sanctification and spiritual victory, the New Testament epistles would be much shorter than they are. Writing to the church at Corinth, for example, Paul would merely have laid out the “key” and that would have been the end of the problem.
MCVEY - “The suggestion that your righteousness is only positional and is therefore not a practical and real fact of your life is a lie. It will keep you from living up to your full potential as the righteous child of God you are” (52 Lies, p. 178).
COMMENT - This is McVey’s fundamental error in regard to the Christian life. He rejects the truth that there is both position and practice, standing and state, relationship and fellowship. One is absolute and unchanging, while the other is not, as we have seen.
MCVEY - “Biblical truth alone has no ability to bring about any change in our lives. The Pharisees proved that. Although they knew their Bibles as well as anybody in their day, their knowledge of biblical content did nothing for them. ... The modern church world has taken the idea that the truth will set your free and has mistakenly believed that learning the propositional truths of Scripture will change us. Because of that viewpoint, they’ve turned the Bible into a handbook of religious guidelines” (52 Lies, p. 231).
COMMENT - This is dangerous heresy. The Pharisees do not demonstrate that Bible truth alone has no power to change; they demonstrate that the Bible becomes ineffective when its message is corrupted by vain tradition. The very first purpose for Scripture is doctrine (2 Tim. 3:16-17), which refers to propositional truth, and it most definitely has the power to change when the doctrine is correct and the teachers are born again and yielded to the power of the Holy Spirit. Biblical truth has the power to cleanse the way of the young man (Psa. 119:9). It has the power to “build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified” (Acts 20:32). Jesus stated that His Word has the power to “make you free” (John 8:31-32).
MCVEY - “We have not been called to live by biblical truths. We have been called to live by the truth, who is the indwelling Christ” (52 Lies, p. 232).
COMMENT - In this chapter McVey’s sheep’s clothing falls off and his false teacher wolf nature is clearly seen. Apart from biblical truths, the believer has no way to know whether or not he is living by the indwelling Christ. He has no way to know, even, whether he is following the truth Christ or a false one. McVey is promoting blind subjective mysticism.
Steve McVey’s doctrine is a bridge to the emerging church and the heresy of cultural liberalism. It is similar to John Piper’s “Christian Hedonism.” (See the report “John Piper and Christian Hedonism” at the Way of Life web site - www.wayoflife.org.)
“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee” (Titus 2:11-15).
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