I’ve been reading through the works of Major Ian Thomas. He was the founder of Torchbearers International and the stunning Capernwray Bible School (look at that scenery!).
Many in the Free Grace movement hold to “higher life’ or Keswick spirituality. Thomas was an influential figure in that movement, so I thought I should get to know his work.
I’ve also been reading Thomas because I love the idea of a residential Bible school and retreat center. The Torchbearers have over twenty such centers around the world. They have produced many pastors and missionaries and workers (without issuing formal degrees). I wanted to know how Thomas got started.
Why couldn’t the Free Grace movement have a Bible school and retreat center? A place where students, pastors, individuals, and families, could come for a month, or a semester, or a year, and be discipled in Free Grace theology. Bob and I could teach. But we’d also get guest lecturers all year round. Pastors on sabbatical could come and teach for a week or two or longer. We could really pour our lives into a group of students and give them a solid foundation for ministry. Really make a difference. All we need is the right property and a generous donor! (Maybe here, or here, or here—I’m just dreaming here, people!)
Anyways, I found a good quote from Thomas on the difference between being born again and growing to spiritual maturity:
“If the initial act of faith was genuine by which you were redeemed (and you will only be redeemed if the initial act of faith was genuine) your subsequent attitude will never change the consequences of the act—you will remain redeemed by His one sacrifice for sins for ever (Heb 10:12) and irrevocably sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise (Eph 1:13), by whom God ‘…[has also appropriated and acknowledged us as His], putting His seal upon us and giving us His (Holy) Spirit in our hearts as the security deposit and guarantee [of the fulfillment of His promise]’ (2 Cor 1:22, AMP); but your subsequent attitude will determine on the way to heaven, how far it will be possible for the Lord Jesus Christ to implement in you that for which He has redeemed you! (Major Ian Thomas, The Mystery of Godliness, pp. 124-25).
There are three very good points in this quote.
First, Thomas is clear that eternal salvation depends upon a single act of faith. In that momentary act you are redeemed and sealed.
Second, Thomas is clear that believers are eternally secure. Subsequent failures or changes in attitude “will never change the consequences of the act,” he says.
Third, Thomas is clear that growing to spiritual maturity is conditional, not guaranteed. Being born again and growing to spiritual maturity are two different issues. The former depends on a momentary act. The latter depends on a lifelong attitude of faith.
Each of those points would be in strong agreement with Free Grace Theology. Not many people hold to those three points. I find it very exciting to see that in his work.
Now, I am not crazy about what Thomas implies about the “genuineness” of faith. I can see that kind of language making people confused. They might begin to think there are different ways of believing. But there’s only one way to believe—to be persuaded that something is true. What counts in salvation is not how you believe, but what you believe.
Have you believed the saving message or something else?
If you have believed in Jesus for eternal life, you have it, and nothing can change it, and you have no genuine reason to doubt it!