Not all people who identify themselves as holding to Free Grace Theology (FGT) agree that one must believe in Jesus for everlasting life/irrevocable salvation/permanent justification in order to be part of God’s forever family. In fact, some who profess to believe in FGT call that teaching a false gospel.
One seminary professor, in criticizing the GES position that assurance is of the essence of saving faith, wrote:
Therefore, if all Roman Catholics are non-Christians, then so are all other Protestants (except those few believing in eternal security without works). That is the problem with “faith alone in Christ alone” as a requirement for justification. I believe “faith alone in Christ alone” to be a true statement. But it does not mean that any addition of works nullifies a person’s faith in Jesus Christ as God and Savior from sin for justification.i
In this blog, I want to focus on the claim that only a few people today believe they are eternally secure apart from works.
The combined membership of Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant churches is nearly three billion. The author seems to suggest that most of that number are born again because nearly all believe that Jesus is God and that He, along with a little help from their own works, is their Savior. He says that the addition of works “does not nullif[y]…a person’s faith in Jesus Christ as God and Savior.” In his view, they are eternally secure, even though they have never believed in justification by faith alone.
How many people do you think have the assurance that, simply by faith in Christ apart from works, they have everlasting life that can never be lost?
I’ve seen some Barna studies recently. While they didn’t answer this specific question, it’s clear that very few Catholic priests, Pentecostal and Charismatic pastors, or mainline denominational pastors believe in eternal security apart from works. Even among Evangelical and non-denominational pastors, probably less than half believe that. The statistics are likely the same for laypeople in these groups.
I think it’s fair to say that less than 10% of professing Christians believe they’re eternally secure apart from works. If my assumption is accurate, then fewer than 300 million professing Christians currently believe the saving message.
But wait! How many people believed the saving message in the past but have since lost their assurance? The number could easily be equal to or even greater than those who currently believe that they are eternally secure apart from works.
I don’t know how many people living today are born again.ii But I do know that they are few. I know that because the Lord Jesus Christ Himself said that there are few: “Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matt 7:14). He used the word few (oligos).
So the seminary professor quoted above inadvertently undercut his own argument. He was saying that most members of Catholic, Orthodox, and works-salvation Protestant churches must be born again because otherwise there would be few who have everlasting life. But since the Lord Jesus said that the number of those who have everlasting life is few, maybe we should accept that.
i Kenneth Wilson, Heresy of the Grace Evangelical Society (N.p.: Regula Fidei Press, 2020), p. 134.
ii If I had to guess, I’d say there are probably tens of millions or even hundreds of millions worldwide who are born again right now. The number could be over a billion. We have no way of gauging how many believed in the promise of life in the past, but no longer believe it. And while a survey might reveal what percentage of people believe in the promise of life currently, there is no one I know of who has conducted such a survey. Maybe one of you would take on the task. We need to interview thousands of people all over the U.S. and we need to ask the right questions. This would even make a good topic for a master’s thesis or doctoral dissertation.