A reader from Europe asks,
I have two questions about Free Grace Theology and Matt 7:21-23.
First, you say in your book Secure and Sure that the problem in Matt 7:21-23 is that they did not believe in Jesus for eternal life. But how is this compatible with John 8:24, “I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins,” which indicates that merely facts about Him (that He is the Messiah) would be enough?
Second, could Matt 7:21-23 be about lack of sanctification (compare 1 Thess 4:3)?
All faith is propositional. That is, all faith involves being convinced that some proposition is true. The sky is blue. Biden is President. God is good. Those are all propositions.
In order to be born again, we must believe the saving proposition. That proposition is given in John 3:16: whoever believes in Jesus Christ will not perish but has everlasting life. It is possible to believe other propositions about Jesus and yet not believe that one. Most in Christianity believe that Jesus died on the cross for our sins and rose from the dead, but do not believe that anyone who simply believes in Him has everlasting life.
Another way of stating the saving proposition is found in John 8:24. To believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, is the same as believing that whoever believes in Him has everlasting life. Compare what Jesus said in John 11:25-26a with Martha’s explanation in John 11:27 of why she believes that. Compare also John’s purpose statement in John 20:30-31. In a Biblical sense, if I believe that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of God,” that means I believe that He guarantees everlasting life to all who simply believe in Him for it.
No, “the will of the Father” in Matt 7:21 does not refer to progressive sanctification. It refers to believing in His Son. Compare John 5:24; 6:40.
Admittedly, Matt 7:21-23 can easily be misunderstood. How? If we do not already believe the message of John 3:16, we may misinterpret Matt 7:21-23 to be teaching salvation by works. In reality, the Lord is denouncing salvation by works there (as he also does in John 5:39-40 and John 6:28-29). Anyone who looks to his works to indicate why he should get into Christ’s kingdom is not believing the faith-alone message.
To find the saving proposition, I suggest you go to the book whose purpose is evangelistic, John’s Gospel. Don’t go to a book about discipleship (Matthew) in order to gain your understanding of the saving proposition.