What is Free Grace Theology?

Download PDF

WHAT IS “FREE GRACE” THEOLOGY

 by Arch Rutherford

[A friend and fellow pastor wrote and asked me, “Arch, what do you mean by “Free Grace” theology? The following is the basic letter I sent to him. I have also used it to help others briefly understand the core values and convictions of those of us who are committed to “Free Grace” theology. Perhaps it can be of help to some in the GES family as well.]

 

Dear John:

Sorry I used a term that is not well known. You are probably more familiar with the phrase “Lordship Salvation.” Briefly, “Free Grace” theology stands in contrast to “Lordship Salvation” theology. By that I mean several things.

1. “Free Grace” theology teaches that we receive eternal life the moment we believe in Jesus Christ as our personal Savior and Lord. “Lord” refers to our belief that He is the Son of God and therefore, able to be our “Savior”. “Faith” is viewed as a simple and uncomplicated response to the truth God has revealed about His Son, and the Gift which He offers. When Jesus says “Truly, Truly I say unto you, he who believes in Me has eternal life” (John 6:47), “believe” means to be convinced and assured that what He says is true. (See John 1:11-13)

“Lordship” theology teaches that “faith” is not a simple and uncomplicated response. It is an all out commitment to follow Jesus Christ, to be His disciple, to surrender all that we have and are to Him. I heard a message by one pastor committed to “Lordship” theology, in which he said that real Christians will know the moment they “believed” in Jesus Christ, because “saving faith” involves such a radical turning to Christ and commitment to surrender all and follow Him! That is also why so many of those committed to “Lordship” theology have difficulty with the salvation of children, because in their view, there is just more to it than simply believing in Jesus as your personal Savior. How unlike Jesus who taught that we must have the faith of a little child in order to enter His kingdom!

2. “Free Grace” theology distinguishes between the “call to believe” in Jesus Christ as our personal Savior and receiving His gift of eternal life, and the “call to follow” Him and become His disciples. (See John 4 and compare what Jesus told the woman she needed in vs. 10 with what He told His disciples they needed in vs. 31-38).

“Lordship” theology sees faith and discipleship as two sides of the same coin. To “believe” is the same as being willing to become His disciple and follow Him.

3. “Free Grace” theology stresses the believer’s assurance of salvation. It teaches that we can know we have eternal life and are going to heaven based on the very promise inherent in the offer itself. (John 3:16; 5:24; 6:47) The Word of God becomes the basis of our assurance of salvation.

“Lordship” theology teaches that we can never be completely sure we are going to heaven, because we might fall away and thus prove that we were not real believers to begin with. We can, however, become somewhat confident if we see the Holy Spirit producing good works in our life. The basis of our assurance of salvation is the change in our life – it is based on what we do. People who validate the reality of their own salvation based on how they live, are usually quick to validate the genuineness of other peoples’ salvation on the same basis. It is not uncommon to hear remarks like “there is no way ‘he’ can be a Christian and live like that!”

4. “Free Grace” theology teaches that real Christians can fall away, slide into serious sin, and utterly fail. (Consider the many warnings to Christians in the New Testament). Conceivably, Christians could even end up denying the Lord, if they continue forsaking the truth and hardening themselves to the work of the Spirit of God in their lives. Never-theless, God does not forsake His children, but patiently disciplines them. (1 Corinthians 10:30-32; Hebrews 6:1-12; 12:) And even if they are “faithless, yet He remains faithful”, they will enter into eternal life. (1 Timothy 2:11-13)

“Lordship” theology teaches that if a so-called Christian falls into sin, persists in sin, and does not soon return to the Lord, that that so called Christian is not a real Christian at all. He is only a professing Christian. Real Christians persevere in the faith. If you do not persevere, then you are not a Christian, and you are lost. The logical consequences of such a theology on a believer’s sense of security, which is tied to his identity, is defeating. Believers caught up in this theology hear God saying, “If you want to know you are My child, consistently act like My child!

5. “Free Grace” theology sees the serious warnings and exhortations of the New Testament (from Jesus, Paul, the author of the book of Hebrews, James, and Peter) as encouragement to Christians to persevere in the faith and be faithful in doing good works. Christians soon realize in their walk with God, that to ignore these warnings and exhortations and persist in willful sin, incites Him to discipline His children. On the other hand, a mark of a maturing Christian is joy in doing what the Father asks, knowing that He delights in richly rewarding His children. (Matthew 5:1-15; 1 Corinthians 3:10-15; Hebrews 10:32 ff.)

“Lordship” theology sees the serious warnings and exhortations of the New Testament usually as a test that so called Christians should apply to their lives to see if they are really “possessing Christians” or only “professing Christians” who are deluded and ultimately lost.

6. “Free Grace” theology emphasizes the importance of persevering in doing good works for the Lord’s approval and reward. (Matthew 5:1-12; 1 Corinthians 3:11-15; 2 Corinthians 5:9-11) In addition to “crowns” of approval and appreciation, the reward will involve “reigning with Christ” and “inheriting the kingdom.”

“Lordship” theology depreciates the New Testament teaching of eternal rewards. Those committed to “Lordship” theology confidently claim that there is no “hierarchy” in heaven. Whatever rewards we do receive will only be momentary and ultimately cast at the feet of Jesus. The primary motivation for doing good works in the Christian life, in addition to validating our salvation, is to say thank you to God for what He has done. To do anything for the thought of a reward is selfish and self-centered. They overlook the teaching in the New Testament that reveals a heavenly Father delighting in seeing His children set their hearts upon laying hold of those things He has reserved in heaven for them. A personal illustration: I have emphasized the wisdom of a college education for my children. It is a “reward” I would like them to have assuming they are capable. When they were young it was not a reward they really wanted or even thought about. As they have matured I hope their love and respect for me will lead them to embrace the reward I want them to have by working hard in school! This illustrates in a very limited way how our heavenly Father wants us to embrace His rewards in our lives.

7. “Free Grace” theology sees a distinction between the New Testament expressions “entering the kingdom” and “inheriting the kingdom”. Entering the kingdom means just that-to enter the kingdom of God. We enter the kingdom by a simple and uncomplicated faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior. “Inheriting the kingdom” means just that–to inherit, own, or possess the kingdom. Believers who have been faithful servants of Christ, enduring hardships, and persevering in good works are “joint heirs with Christ” of the Kingdom. What that means is that they will “reign with Christ”, being given authority and power to share in the administration, leadership, and rule of His kingdom forever. (see Romans 8:17, 2 timothy 2:11-13; Revelation 2-3; 20 -22)

“Lordship” theology teaches that there is no difference in the expressions “entering the kingdom” and “inheriting the kingdom.” Rather, they refer to the same thing and are equivalent to the expression “going to heaven.” Those committed to “Lordship” theology say people will go to heaven by “faith alone in Christ alone, but not by faith that is alone,” by which they mean good works will accompany and validate a person’s faith.

8. Most visibly in practice, those who are committed to “Free Grace” theology tend to emphasize Grace in their lives. God’s grace overwhelms and moves them, and grace is what they seek to express in the way they live. And when “Free Grace” people are at their worst, what they most often need is more grace.

On the other hand, those who are committed to “Lordship” theology tend to emphasize works in their lives. The necessity to do good works to prove themselves overwhelms and moves them. And when “Lordship” people are at their worst, legalism and a lack of graciousness mark their lives, and their churches.

John, in my own spiritual journey, I have wrestled with these two very different theological viewpoints, and the people who embrace and teach them. Over the years, I have often asked, “Why is there such division and hostility between these Christian people, who otherwise both seem to love the Lord Jesus Christ and His Word?” I asked this once of a dear friend, who has taught me much about grace, not only how to teach it, but how to live it. “Why,” I asked him, “is there so much hostility and lack of graciousness over the grace of God?” He did not say much, but pointed me to a portion of God’s Word in Galatians 4:21-31 in which the Apostle Paul writes to Christians who had “fallen from grace” into living by the works of the Law:

“Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law? {22} For it is written that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman. {23} But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of the freewoman through promise, {24} which things are symbolic. For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar; {25} for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children; {26} but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all. {27} For it is written: “Rejoice, O barren, You who do not bear! Break forth and shout, You who are not in labor! For the desolate has many more children Than she who has a husband.” {28} Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise. {29} But, as he who was born according to the flesh then persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, even so it is now. {30} Nevertheless what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.” {31} So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free.”

I hope this provides you with a brief summary of two theological systems which are fundamentally different from the core outward, and which have been at odds since the church began. This is not a debate over the “two witnesses” of Revelation 11. Our whole ministry is rooted in these issues!

Your Friend and Fellow Servant,

Arch Rutherford

Pastor of Coast Bible Church
26300 Via Escolar
San Juan Capistrano, California 92629
‘Source http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/religion/793941/posts?fbclid=IwAR0BK679e7idEG_C4FxY6mAjz5gxMBSv7lDeREqTbb9wLoIAK4KqOOkBTDc

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll Up
error

Enjoy this blog? Please spread the word :)