| Publications | For More Information |

Putting the Gospel Debate in Sharper Focus

by Bob Wilkin


I have found that many on both sides of the Free Grace/Lordship Salvation debate are unable to delineate clearly the major differences between the views. In addition, I have discovered that most are unable to clearly articulate differences within each view.

DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE VIEWS

The Free Grace View.

All holding the Free Grace view have four beliefs in common.

First, the sole condition of eternal life is trusting in Christ as one's Savior. None of the following are conditions of 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.

Second, the promises of God's Word are sufficient for assurance. While one's works can have a confirmatory value, they are not essential for assurance. Any believer can have 100% certainty of his salvation if he but looks to the promises in God's Word to the believer.

One can have firm assurance of salvation and yet walk in sin. Sin, while a grievous thing, does not necessarily weaken assurance. Only if sin results in a person taking his eyes off of God's promises can sin weaken assurance.

Third, the Gospel of John is given great weight in formulating one's view of the Gospel.

Fourth, eternal salvation once gained can never be lost.

The Lordship Salvation View.

All those who believe in Lordship Salvation disagree with the first three Free Grace positions stated above. The following three points are held by all in the Lordship Salvation camp.

First, the condition of eternal life is more than trusting in Christ as one's Savior. One or more of the following are also conditions of eternal life: turning from sins, being willing to turn from sins, committing one's life to Christ, baptism, obedience, and persevering in the faith.

Second, the promises of God's Word, while necessary for assurance, are not sufficient. One must also look to his works. No believer can have 100% assurance of salvation merely by looking to the promises in God's Word to the believer. (Indeed, most, but not all, in the Lordship Salvation camp say that 100% assurance is impossible since no one's works are perfect.)

It is impossible to have firm assurance of salvation and yet walk in sin. Sin necessarily weakens assurance.

Third, care is taken not to give undue weight to the Gospel of John when formulating one's view of the Gospel. The Synoptic Gospels and the NT Epistles are felt to be at least equally as important as the Gospel of John in gaining a proper perspective on the Gospel.

Lordship Salvation advocates are divided on the eternal security issue. Reformed Lordship Salvationists, in agreement, with Free Grace Salvationists, believe in eternal security. However, Arminian Lordship Salvationists do not.

DIFFERENCES WITHIN THE VIEWS

Three Free Grace Views

Free Grace #1: Antinomianism

Holds to the four essential Free Grace views. Believes that perseverance is not guaranteed; apostasy is possible for the true believer; and that the believer is not under any set of rules or laws today.

Free Grace #2: Basic Free Grace

Holds to the four essential Free Grace views. Believes that perseverance is not guaranteed (however, many if not most in this view hold that all believers will produce at least some good works sometime somewhere, even though those works may not be evident to others or even themselves); and that apostasy is possible for the true believer. Unlike the above group, the basic Free Grace position holds that believers are under rules and laws today. This group tends to have a strong view of accountability and the believer's future judgment.

Free Grace #3: More Reformed Free Grace

Holds to the four essential Free Grace views. Believes that perseverance is guaranteed (with a strong view of perseverance which excludes the possibility of carnality lasting for a very long time and which asserts that all believers will produce good works which are clearly observable to themselves and others), and that apostasy is not possible for the true believer.

Three Lordship Salvation Views

Lordship Salvation #1: Mild Lordship Salvation, Reformed

Holds to the three essential Lordship Salvation views. Says that only a willingness to turn from sins and a willingness to commit all to the Lord is needed for eternal salvation. Has the same view of perseverance and apostasy as the previous group. Holds to eternal security.

Lordship Salvation #2: Strong Lordship Salvation, Reformed

Holds to the three essential Lordship Salvation views. Says that more than a willingness to turn from sins and a willingness to commit all to the Lord is needed. Major sins must be forsaken and all must be committed to the Lord before salvation can occur. Has the same view of perseverance and apostasy as the previous two groups, with the exception that this group sees failure on the part of the true believer as very rare and very short lived. Holds to eternal security. Does not emphasize the doctrine of rewards and the believer's future judgment.

Lordship Salvation #3: Strong Lordship Salvation, Arminian

Holds to the three essential Lordship Salvation views. Says that more than a willingness to turn from sins and a willingness to commit all to Lord is needed. Major sins must be forsaken and all must be committed to the Lord before salvation can occur. In addition, other conditions of salvation like baptism, confession of sins, and good works are added by various representatives of this group. Those holding this view believe that perseverance is not guaranteed and that salvation is lost if and when one fails to persevere. Apostasy is also viewed as possible for the true believer and again loss of salvation is considered to be the result.

CONCLUSION

While there is a spectrum of beliefs within each camp, the lines between Lordship Salvation and Free Grace Salvation are clearly drawn. I am grieved by the efforts of some today to blur the distinctions. Unity is a fine thing; but not at the expense of our lifeblood, the Gospel!

Bob Wilkin is the Executive Director of Grace Evangelical Society.



Return to Grace in Focus Newsletter Menu

Go to Main Menu