The other day Shawn and I received the following email from BP who listens to our daily podcast:
“Well it is funny because I know some people in Free Grace circles who would say, ‘I know for sure I have everlasting life. It is simply by faith in Christ apart from works. I know I am secure forever.’ But these same people would say, however, that someone who believes in one of these denominations that teaches you start the Christian life by faith and you keep your salvation by works, they would say those people are born again because they believe that Jesus died on the cross for their sins and rose again and they believe in God. And so, as a result, they would say they are born again even though they believe in works salvation.
I would say they [the Free Grace friends I mentioned] are born again because they believe the simple promise of life now. Now they happen to be wrong and confused about people who believe in works salvation; but that doesn’t mean they don’t personally believe the promise of everlasting life.”
So, Bob, I am confused somewhat and/or do not understand you. For it sounds like you are saying those who believe in works salvation are saved too because they included belief in Christ.
BP evidently transcribed what I said. Unfortunately, he did not understand who I was saying is born again. See the material in brackets and bold above. I added that since that is what I was talking about. Notice the very next sentence: makes it clear who I was talking about: “Now they happen to be wrong and confused about people who believe in works salvation; but that doesn’t mean they don’t personally believe the promise of everlasting life.” The third person plural, they, refers not to those who hold to works salvation, but to people who believe the promise of life.
Here is my position on those who believe in works salvation:
First, if someone believes in works salvation, then he does not believe in the faith-alone free gift of everlasting life.
Second, if someone believes in works salvation, then he may or may not be born again. How? If he believed the promise of life in the past, and then fell away, he remains saved (John 4:14; 5:24; 6:35; 11:26). If he has never believed the promise of life, he has not yet been saved.
Third, unless I’ve known this person a long time and remember a time when he believed the promise of life, then I don’t know if he is an unbeliever or a believer who has been bewitched (Gal 3:1; 5:4).
Here is an example of a bewitched believer. A friend of mine was a member at Victor Street Bible Chapel for over two decades. During that whole time, he was strongly Free Grace, and he heard the teaching of Zane Hodges twice a month and thought it was great. Eventually his wife and family found another church, one much closer to their home. No problem there. I thought he was doing well spiritually. I had not seen him for many years. Then he called me just before Covid-19 struck and was trying to convince me that Lordship Salvation is true. I know he is born again. I remember when he clearly indicated that he was born again by faith alone, apart from works. I told him I know that he is born again, but I also told him that he no longer believes the saving message and is now a false teacher. I urged him to pray about this and consider if he might be wrong.
Notice BP’s last sentence, cited above: “It sounds like you are saying those who believe in works salvation are saved too because they included belief in Christ.” People who believe in works salvation do not “believe in Christ” in the Biblical sense. To believe in Him (John 3:16; 6:35, 47; 11:25-27; 20:30-31) is to believe that He guarantees everlasting life to all who simply believe in Him. A person who believes in works salvation does not believe that. Hence a person who believes in works salvation does not believe in Jesus.
This confusion is widespread. Many think that if someone believes some of the fundamental truths about Jesus, then they believe in Him. But it is sadly possible to believe in Jesus’ virgin birth, sinless life, miracles, substitutionary death on the cross for our sins, and bodily resurrection on the third day, and yet not believe the message of John 3:16. To believe in Jesus in the Bible is to believe His promise of everlasting life to all who simply believe in Him for it.