L. A. writes:
Hi Bob, I have heard James White say non-Calvinists or people who don’t believe in election to eternal life, are really saying it is not all of God saving, because their faith is contributing to their salvation.
I was a little surprised to hear John MacArthur agrees. He gave a sermon on the most hated doctrine, where he lumped in people who don’t believe faith is granted by God to the chosen, with all other works salvation religions. He says “they can choose to accept Christ. They can bring some of their religiosity, some of their morality, some of their human goodness as part of the payment for their salvation.”
So, they are saying faith is a work, but it is a work of God because He grants it to the elect. I know the obvious objections to this sort of argument like, Paul contrasts faith and works in Eph 2:8-9.
Could the problem also be that people make faith more than belief? If faith includes doing good works, or turning from sin, then I could see where this gets muddled.
But if faith is believing a fact to be true, then no one can accuse that of a work. No one would say believing that picking up trash on the side of the road is good, is a work. Only going and picking up the trash on the side of the road is a work.
What do you think? What other verses would you use to combat this argument? And am I misunderstanding, but it sounds like they are saying you are not saved unless you believe God grants you the faith. Thank you for your ministry and answering our questions.
I do not think the label easy believism accurately describes the Free Grace position. See here for a 7-minute video by me on this question.
However, I find it amusing that people who charge us with teaching easy believism and cheap grace also charge us with works salvation! The same people who criticize us for saying that one need not persevere in faith and good works in order to gain what they call final salvation, also accuse us of saying that faith in Christ is required and that it is not a gift of God.
L.A. is correct in her analysis. If faith and works are mutually exclusive, then faith is not work. But Lordship Salvation does not see them as exclusive. According to Lordship Salvation, perseverance in good works is necessary in order to get into Christ’s kingdom.
Here are some verses you can use. Ephesians 2:8-9 says that salvation is the gift of God and is gained through faith, apart from works.
Romans 4:4-5 distinguishes between faith for justification as a grace gift and works for justification as a debt God would owe.
The Lord said in John 6:28-29 that the only “work” (action) anyone can do to have everlasting life is to believe in Him, the One sent by God the Father.
It is important to note that the Lord Jesus and the Apostle Paul do not contradict one another. When Paul spoke of works, he was speaking of actions we do to obey God’s commands. But Paul did not consider faith to be work (Rom 4:4-5; Eph 2:8-9). Neither did the Lord. The Lord was probably using the expression the work of God ironically. He expected His listeners to understand that there were no works, plural, that could open heaven’s door. The only “work” that results in everlasting life is believing in the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Lord said in the last chapter of the last book of the Bible that anyone who is thirsty can take the water of life freely–that is, as a gift (Rev 22:17).
Why do some people not believe? Is it because God did not give them the gift? No! It is because they were unwilling to believe. Jesus said, “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life” (John 5:39-40).
See also Matt 23:37-39 where the Lord said He would have brought in the kingdom, but Israel was not willing.
Calvinism is a carefully constructed theology. It was not constructed by Calvin. He started the ball rolling. But those who followed him developed a very complicated system of thought. Calvinism has, unfortunately, been carefully constructed by men. God did not give us Calvinism. Men did.
Contradictions abound in Calvinism. One of them is the argument that people themselves do not believe in Christ; instead, God believes in Christ for them. Neither do we do good works; God does the good works for us. And we do not persevere; God perseveres for us. However, Calvinists also say that the elect must be warned that if they do not persevere in good works, then they will be eternally condemned. They call this another mystery–one of many in what I call the Calvinist Mystery Box. See here for an article by me on Calvinism’s Mystery Box.