I received an email pointing me to a video by Dr. Wayne Grudem entitled, “Salvation without Repentance from Sin: A Critique of the Free Grace Gospel.” You can see that 45-minute video here.
I’ve written a book responding to Dr. Grudem’s book Free Grace Theology: 5 Ways It Diminishes the Gospel. So I won’t cover his view of repentance in this blog. Check out my book if you have time (Grudem Against Grace).
However, I was struck by the words you see in the title of this article. Starting at the 5:39 mark, Grudem says that “we are justified by faith alone, but the faith that justifies is never alone.” Then about ten minutes later (14:45 mark), he says that some Free Grace people suggest that it is a contradiction to say that salvation is by faith alone and also to say that the faith that saves is never alone.
He counters that objection in this way: “A contradiction would be: we are justified by faith alone, and we are not justified by faith alone” (15:18-25).
However, is that not what Grudem and most people in Evangelicalism are actually saying?
Neither Jesus nor His Apostles ever said that there was some special sort of faith in Christ which was needed to be born again or justified. “Whoever believes in Him” in John 3:16 is clear. No special type of faith is required. “Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst” (John 4:14) illustrates faith by drinking. One drink. Not a special type of drinking. Just drinking. Just believing.
By coming up with a special sort of faith that is required to be born again, one cannot be sure he has that special faith apart from looking at the evidence he has it. According to this seemingly harmless little saying—a saying not found in Scripture and one which indeed contradicts Scripture—you know you have saving faith if you are always doing good works. Remember, the faith that saves is never alone. So if for 5 minutes one day you found yourself without good works, you would be right to conclude you do not have the special type of faith needed to be born again. Never means never.
If the faith that saves is never alone, that means that the faith that saves always is joined with good works. Let’s now go over that saying again: a certain type of faith alone saves, that is, the type of faith that always overflows with good works. Another way of saying that is: faith which is always joined with good works saves. The opposite of that would be: faith which at any time is not joined with good works does not save anyone.
That is a direct contradiction of John 6:28-29: “Then they said to Him, ‘What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?’ Jesus answered and said to them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.’” The issue is not works, plural. It is one work, one action, faith alone, apart from works. Paul says that same thing in Eph 2:8-9, “not of works lest anyone should boast.”
Here is the bottom line: many people think that only good people can get into Jesus’ kingdom. If you are not good, you are off to the lake of fire. But the Scriptures teach that we are all bad people, even Christians at our best (Rom 3:23; 1 John 1:8, 10). While we can and should produce good works that honor God, that is a far cry from saying that we only do good works. If the faith that saves is never alone, then logically it would never sin. Not once. It surely wouldn’t experience moral failure for a day or week or month—or even for a minute. Yet Grudem and those who accept this dictum all say that it is possible for a born-again person to fall away for a time and then return to the Lord and he will still be born again. But if so, why was his faith alone for a time? I thought it was never going to be alone. Never means never.
I appreciate Grudem’s desire that Christians glorify God. However, the way to spur Christians on to do that is not by distorting the saving message. We dare not garble the promise of life in order to do God’s work. God’s work must be done God’s way. Remember Uzzah and the Ark? Uzzah meant well. But he died because he was not a priest and he was not using polls to carry the Ark.
Grudem, like Uzzah, means well. But he too has abandoned the simple truth of God’s Word.
Faith alone saves, so faith alone, apart from works before or after one comes to faith, results in everlasting life which can never be lost. The moment anyone believes in Jesus for everlasting life, he is secure forever. His future lifestyle cannot invalidate his faith or his salvation. That is good news.