When some friends of mine who are in the ministry told me they belonged to an organization called the “Free Grace Society,” I asked them who Grace was and if she had been incarcerated unjustly. I had this mental picture of people with placards bearing this slogan, picketing at Huntsville State Prison.
Then it was explained to me that this was an organization to promote the teaching and preaching of “free grace.”
Now, I don’t belong to this organization, but I am in agreement with their objectives. However, I have some questions:
-- Isn’t this redundant?
-- Isn’t grace, by definition, always free?
Apparently some think not. And many more are uncertain.
“Grace” has become another one of those terms that has to be defined by a synonym, like “true facts.” (See CHEAP GRACE.)
I guess a definition is in order here. The Evangelical Dictionary of Theology says: “ … its meaning is that of undeserved blessing FREELY bestowed on man by God – a concept which is at the heart not only of Christian theology but also of all genuinely Christian experience” (pg. 479).
Berkhof’s Systematic Theology says it “ … generally means favour or good-will. … The fundamental idea is, that the blessings graciously bestowed are freely given, and not in consideration of any claim or merit” (pg. 427).
When we speak of God’s grace, we may be speaking of any number of “favors” that God extends to man (and woman), but we are primarily speaking of His grace in Christ. (Ephesians 2:8, 9: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast.”)
We are reconciled to God through the death of His Son. (2 Corinthians 5:21: “He made him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”)
All that is required on our part is faith plus nothing. (Romans 4:5: “But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness.”)
These passages and many others like them seem to be clear, yet there are many who object. And it gets personal. I have been accused by some of my students and others, “You are teaching that all a person has to do is make a profession of faith and then they can live as they please! Those people who do this aren’t saved!”
Some object that there must be some sort of “commitment,” along with faith, or that faith must be redefined to include commitment. Others object that there must be some criteria used to distinguish between “true believers” and “professing believers” (by the way, neither of these is a biblical term).
Apparently, according to these objectors, I am sending people to hell by preaching and teaching the gospel!
This is not just some minor (or even major) doctrinal disagreement. This goes right to the heart of what Christianity is all about. It is an either/or. (Galatians 1:8: “But even though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed.”)
So in reply, I’d like to say the following:
1. Our salvation is totally based on the work of Christ on the cross. It is His work completely. No one can add anything to it. He died for ALL of our sins.
2. Our receiving of that salvation is by FAITH, not by “profession of faith.” These are two different (though not unrelated) matters.
3. Grace can be abused. As any parent knows, there will be those children who see freedom as an opportunity to sin. God’s children are no different than ours. There are those who say, “Let us do evil that good may come” (Romans 3:8). But possibility is not permission.
4. We are not the arbiters of who is saved and who is not. God is. He alone can see whether faith is real or not.
5. Christianity is not primarily a moral code. It is first of all a religion of rescue. Jesus said, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).
6. It is only AFTER we have experienced the grace of God in Christ that we can do works pleasing to Him. We will fail often. But our eternal salvation is based on that initial faith in the finished work of Christ, not on our successes and failures afterward.