Today, I would like to share some thoughts on Free Grace theology and its relationship to the requirement of holiness. What am I referring to when I say “free grace theology”? Put briefly, free grace theology is marked by a firm defense of salvation through simple trust in Christ alone and the protection of that truth in how we call sinners to be saved and in how Christians grow spiritually (see Mike Stallard in “Sin and Classical Free Grace Theology” in Freely by His Grace, eds. Hixson, Whitmire, and Zuck). This stands in opposition to what is called Lordship salvation. That view is marked by the inclusion of a commitment to serve Christ in the salvation process in addition to simple faith and the requirement of spiritual fruit and perseverance in good works in order to provide assurance of salvation. Overall, a good summary article is an old one from Roy B. Zuck which may be found online titled “Cheap Grace?” I would refer you to that for your edification and awareness.
Now, the focus of this article is to addres the frequent charge that the free grace position is identified with the idea of antinomianism (meaning that one is without law), because there is no promise to serve Christ included in saving faith. The implication in the charge is that classical free grace nullifies any requirement for holiness for God’s people. I only wish to offer a defense for why the free grace position does not lack a requirement for holiness in its theological structure. I would point out too that the shape of this requirement is markedly different from Lordship salvation. Free grace theology generally will point out the difference between free offers of the gospel by faith alone apart from works and the call to discipleship which is contingent on works, and lay out a firm logical difference between the two. D. A. Carson in his book Exegetical Fallacies (pg91) critiques a free grace theologian for this distinction, stating that grace and demand are not “mutually incompatible.” I think that even from a free grace perspective there is need to clarify the relationship between grace and demand as it pertains to a Christian. As far as the condition for salvation, yes, there is a firm distinction. Salvation is either through faith or works, and New Testament passages attest to this! For example, Rom. 4:14 says “[I]f those who are of the Law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise is nullified[.]” However, this is not to say that there isn’t a demand or a requirement associated with the one who receives grace. It is this simple: The one who is saved is required by God to live a holy life. Scripture says to church age Christians “[B]e holy yourselves also in all your behavior[.]” (1 Pet. 1:15b NASB). This may be connected with the statement of the believers position that “[he is] not under law but under grace.” (Rom. 6:14b NASB). However, this requirement does not thereby become a condition of being saved or of keeping his salvation, and that is where it differs from Lordship salvation. Lewis Sperry Chafer is one of the leading voices for free grace theology in the early 20th century, and he agrees with this overall approach as seen in his book Grace. In that book (pp. 96-97), he lists several areas of unity across all dispensations and includes this very idea:
“While there is wide difference between the rules of conduct which are imposed in the various ages, there is unity in the revelation that a holy manner of life is the divine requirement in every age.”
The problem with of Lordship salvation is that its seem to fall into error by their desire to restore the purity of the church by making the gospel harder. In reality, the solution could be viewed as two-fold. Baptistic ecclesiology which requires a person to be saved in order to be a church member and the correlating idea of church discipline on sinning Christians (J. B. Hixson in Getting the Gospel Wrong, 1st. Ed., pg. 350) are better antidotes to this issue. On the positive side, the solution is that saved people be taught in grace how to live holy lives. Chafer summarizes in Grace, pg. 14, as follows:
I. God saves sinners by grace,
II. God keeps through grace those who are saved, and,
III. God teaches in grace those who are saved and kept how they should live, and how they may live, to His eternal glory.
Let it be clear: Classical free grace theology is not antinomian. It is not antinomian because it upholds the requirement that all God’s people live holy lives. At the same time, it does not weaken the Biblical principle that we are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone (e.g. Eph. 2:8-9). Maybe some time in the future, I will discuss the difference between easy-believism, another concern of Lordship salvation, and classical free grace theology. My next post though will likely be a sharing of some thoughts on a specific Bible passage. In my studies, I need to try to maintain a both-and focus on Bible Study and theological integration, and I want to share thoughts on specific Bible passages on this blog too. Thanks for reading.