Free Grace

The Thessalonian Example and Three Views on Salvation

It is remarkable how much disagreement persists among otherwise likeminded believers regarding how one is saved. Presently there are three basic views (though even more subtle nuances) on how one receives eternal life: (1) the lordship salvation view, (2) what I call ultra-free grace, and (3) the free grace view.

Lordship salvation has been defined and popularized by John MacArthur as synonymous with discipleship. MacArthur says, “Those who teach that obedience and submission are extraneous to saving faith are forced to make a firm but unbiblical distinction between salvation and discipleship. This dichotomy, like that of the carnal/spiritual Christian, sets up two classes of Christians: believers only and true disciples” (John MacArthur, The Gospel According to Jesus, Revised and Expanded Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 35-36). MacArthur appeals to Acts 3:19 and Luke 24:47 for his definition of repentance as “turning from sin” (John MacArthur, Faith Works: The Gospel According to the Apostles (Dallas, TX: Word Publishing, 1993), 24.). These comments introduce major components of MacArthur’s lordship view: salvation equals discipleship, there is no such thing as a carnal Christian, repentance is a turning from sin, and consequently, believers inevitably must (and will) bear fruit in order to demonstrate they are saved.

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“Free Grace” Theology & Matthew 7:21-23

From The Cripple Gate. Reposted by permission of the author.

“Free Grace” is the label commonly given to a theological system founded by the late Zane Hodges and currently promoted, among others, by Bob Wilkin and The Grace Evangelical Society. According to “Free-Grace” theology (hereafter FG), genuine conversion does not necessarily result in a spiritually transformed life, for FG advocates affirm that someone can believe in Christ and yet show forth absolutely no fruit whatsoever in terms of obedience to God or love for Christ. Put another way, they believe in a regeneration that may or may not result in progressive sanctification. Most times, they say, it does not.

Many FG teachers would go so far as to say that if someone were to believe in Christ for a fleeting moment and then immediately recant of that belief and live out the rest of his life as a Christ-rejecting atheist who never obeys the Lord, that individual is a true child of God and will some day be in heaven. In other words, rather than recognizing that such an individual did not truly believe in Christ to begin with (1 John 2:19), Free-Gracers would affirm that person’s faith and conversion as genuine, for regeneration is no guarantee that one will persevere in the faith.

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