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Not Simply Semantics

by Stan Nelson

Is the argument between Free Grace and Lordship Salvation just a semantic issue? Do both camps merely use different words to express the same message? Are people nitpicking when they see a distinct difference between a salvation provided (received by faith alone) and a salvation partly earned (received by dedication and service)?

No! No! And No!

I understand the Bible to teach that salvation from hell is a totally free gift offered to everyone who will but trust in Jesus Christ as his or her Savior (Eph 2:8-9; Rom 4:4-5). Thus I am disappointed by professing Christians who seem to think that there is no important difference between this and the requirement that in order to receive eternal life a person must make some kind of commitment or perform some conspicuous act like giving up sinful behavior. The issue is not semantic, and when this is pointed out it should be obvious. Double-mindedness in this matter either by an individual or by an institution may achieve some fancied unity, but only at the expense of the Gospel (Gal 2:11).

It is hard to understand how some churches and institutions can on one Sunday have a speaker who believes in Free Grace, on another Sunday have one who believes in Lordship Salvation, and on yet another Sunday have someone who doesn't know or care about the difference! Unity is a fine thing if it is unity around the truth. But unity which does not maintain the exclusiveness of the salvation which the Lord Jesus Christ has already provided in His atonement, and which tolerates requiring religious performance or promises as a condition or co-condition for receiving salvation, belittles the value of Christ's blood atonement and allows the unsaved to be misled.

Any fallen human's supposed offering of himself or his service as a means of obtaining salvation, or any effort to assist Christ in saving him, including making performance a part of believing, is an affront to Jesus Christ's atoning sacrifice and is a hindrance to receiving the salvation which He alone could and already has provided. Once spelled out, failure to see the difference between the sinner's offering and Christ's offering is amazing (Heb 10:10-14).

Let us not garble the message. Since it is so possible to slip and say something unintended, we must be very careful to train our tongues to avoid casual misstatements of the Gospel. We must train our eyes to be discerning in reading tracts and other literature. We must train our ears to listen for accurate presentations of the Gospel. We must, in Christian love, risk what some might call being petty and critical for the sake of accurate Gospel proclamation. There is no message like the message we have: Faith Alone in Christ Alone!

Stan Nelson is a layperson who, along with his wife Nancy and their children, lives in Port Byron, Illinois.

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