One of my classes during my time at Grace U. was on Doctrine. It was a survey class, but at the end we had to do a paper on different doctrinal topics. Mine was on Lordship Salvation versus Free Grace. It was in the form of a point/counterpoint paper. These are my conclusions.
The first side in this debate that I will look at is on the side of those who believe in salvation by faith along with making Christ the Lord of your life. This view is better known as Lordship Salvation.
Faith by means of which we are justified is the kind or quality of faith that produces obedience and the fruit of the Spirit. In the absence of obedience, in the absence of fruit, in the absence of submission to the Lordship of Christ, there is doubt whether the faith is saving. The faith that is the product of regeneration, the faith that embraces the atoning sacrifice of Jesus on the cross energizes a life of love and obedience and worship. The Lordship of Christ is not something one discovers and yields to only once, but thousands of times over the course of our Christian experience.
Lordship salvation does not teach that Christians can’t sin. It does teach that Christians can’t live complacently in it. Lordship salvation does not say that Christians will be sinless. But it does insist that Christians will sin less. Christians do sin, but they don’t practice it. In 1 John 3:6 it states, “No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.” All Christians sin, sometimes seriously. But if they are Christians, they will suffer for it. Complacency and contentment in sin are the hallmark of the unregenerate soul. Conviction is the sign of the saved one. In other words, the Christian will sin, but it will make him miserable.
Lordship salvation recognizes a distinction between the acknowledgement by the new convert of the principle of Christ’s rightful authority over his life, and the practice of progressive submission to the Christ who is Lord. Receiving Christ as Savior and Lord does not mean the new convert is wholly committed. It does mean that he is committed to being holy. The Christian life is one that begins with accepting and bowing to Jesus as Sovereign Lord with a progressive degree of experiential submission as one matures. The Lordship of Christ is not something one discovers and yields to only once, but thousands of times over the course of our Christian experience.
Lordship salvation insists that repentance is essential to the Gospel message. In Luke 24:47 it says, “And repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” It is impossible to suggest that a person can accept Christ without also coming to grips with how serious his sin is and not want to turn from it. In Scripture, those who met God were confronted with a sense of their own sinfulness. In Luke 5:8 we read of Peter, seeing Jesus for who He was, saying "go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man.” In 1 Timothy 1:15, Paul writes, “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst!" Job, whom God Himself identified as a righteous man said after seeing God face to face, said in Job 42:6, “Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” Isaiah, seeing God, stated in 6:5, "Woe to me!" I cried. "I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty." There are many other examples of people in Scripture, who having seen God, feared for their own lives – always because they realized the extent of their sin. Jesus came to expose us all as sinners. That’s why His message is so forceful. It breaks down our self-righteousness, and exposes our evil hearts.
The assurance of salvation is also part of this controversy as well. The one who is in the Lordship salvation camp will hold this belief on assurance of salvation. The promises of God’s Word, while necessary for assurance of salvation, are not sufficient. One must also look to his works. Genuine assurance of salvation comes from seeing the Holy Spirit’s transforming work in one’s life, not holding on to the memory of an experience that you had where you said a prayer of salvation. It is impossible to have firm assurance of salvation and yet walk in sin. Sin will weaken your assurance. The key to assurance is not to reduce the commands of Christ from requirements to options. Rather, it is meant to magnify grace as a power to obey as well as a pardon for sin.
These are the main views held by those in the Lordship salvation camp. Those holding to this view are many within the Christian community. They include: John MacArthur, Jr., J.I. Packer and James Montgomery Boice, among others.
Free Grace is the other side of this debate. There are strongly held beliefs on this side of the argument, and I will sift through these issues. There are major points that I will look at on this side of the issue.
According to Free Grace, the sole condition of eternal life is trusting in Christ as one’s Savior. None of the following are conditions for eternal life: turning from sins, being willing to turn from sins, committing one’s life to Christ, baptism, doing good works, or persevering in the faith.
Free Grace teaches that we receive eternal life the moment we believe in Jesus Christ as our personal Savior and Lord. The term 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 in John 6:47 "Truly, Truly I say unto you, he who believes in me has eternal life", believe means to be convinced and assured that what He says is true.
Free Grace 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. The promises of God’s Word are sufficient for assurance. While one’s works can have a confirming value, they are not essential for assurance. Any believer can have 100% certainty of his salvation if he looks to the promises in God’s Word. One can have firm assurance of salvation yet walk in sin. Sin, while grievous, does not necessarily weaken assurance. Only if sin results in a person taking his eyes off God’s promises can sin weaken assurance.
Free Grace teaches that real Christians can fall away, slide into serious sin, and utterly fail. 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. Nevertheless, God does not forsake His children, but patiently disciplines them (1 Corinthians 10:30-32; Hebrews 6:1-12).
Free Grace 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.).
Free Grace 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.
Free Grace 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. 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 (Romans 8:17, 2 timothy 2:11-13; Revelation 2-3; 20 -22).
These are the main views held by those in the Free Grace camp. Those holding to this view are many within the Christian community. They include: Zane Hodges and Charles C. Ryrie, among others.
Both sides of this debate have points made that make me take a hard look at what side I believe to be the right way. I am prone to believe that the Lordship Salvation side of this argument has the most persuasion in its defense.
I believe that a Christian is saved by faith in Christ, turning from his sins and allowing Christ to become the Lord of his life. It’s imperative for a person to make that turn from sin so that there is a definite break from the sin nature to the new nature that was given to them by Christ at conversion. This doesn’t mean that a Christian will never sin again. What it means is that a Christian will be living a lifestyle that reflects a Christ-like nature. Sin has its consequences for a believer, and he will feel the effects of his sin until he turns from his sin in repentance.
There will be outward signs of an inward change for all believers. If a believer has truly changed, then the fruit that his life produces will be an outward sign for others to see that there has been a change from a past way of living. The works that produce the fruit have no saving value. Salvation is not dependant on the works that one does.
I have friends on both sides of this debate, and I do believe that those on the opposite side of my belief are saved and that I will see them in Heaven one day. I do believe, however that there are people in the church today who believe that they are saved, but their works don’t show the faith that they proclaim. Unfortunately for them on judgment day they will hear God say to them what He said in Matthew 7:21-23 which states, "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'
Think about it,