Contrasting Doctrines of Free Grace Theology and the Moral Obligations of a Christian
Table of Contents
- Contrasting Antimonianism and Legalism
- Reconciling Grace with Works
- Radical Free Grace Theory
- Spiritual Matters
Antimonianism (Greek anti- against, nomos – law) in the Greek, literally means lawless or without law. It is typically regarded as any view that opposes legalism, or the need for performance to earn something. It is the stance that argues against the need to fulfill or follow any type of moral, religious or social rules in order to obtain salvation. Antimonianists believe salvation is a free gift from God by His grace, and that salvation can not be earned.
Legalism is the belief in binding or keeping a moral law or set of commandments. Legalism is typically referred to as the belief that a person earns salvation by performing good works or good deeds. It is the belief that salvation is obtained after a person has either earned or proven their salvation through their own merit or good works.
Situational ethics was a proposition made by Jospeh Fletcher, an American Anglican theologian, in 1966 in his book the New Morality. In which he objected both moral absolutism (Divine morality) and moral relativism (human defined morality). He argued that moral duty was always based on circumstances, and the moral right of the outcome was based on wither or not you acted in love. He attempted to create a third standard that balanced between antimonianism and legalism, stating that moral duty was fulfilled if it was done in love.
Contrasting Antimonianism & Legalism
Antimonianists affirm the Biblical doctrine of salvation through free grace, that salvation is Gods free gift obtained through faith. There are a number of Bible verses used to affirm this doctrinal belief. This belief is typically correlated with and linked with the doctrine of the assurance of salvation, and that once a person is saved, they are forever saved.
Free grace theology affirms that a person can in no way earn their own salvation. That salvation is a free gift from God based on His gracious nature and will. Eternal assurance of salvation is taught since it is based on Gods will and free gift from His grace. Salvation can not be lost by anything a believer does. It is the understanding that Jesus Christs work, or death, on the cross justified all believers and paid our entire debt of sin that was against us, all our past sins and all our future sins. That there is nothing a man can do to cancel any amount of sin debt that he is guilty of.
Free Grace & Assurance for Salvation
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast– Ephesians 2. 8-9
He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,– Titus 3.5
having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.– Colossians 2.14
Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time1 Peter 1.5
They shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand– John 10.28
In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory– Ephesians 1.13-14
and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.– Romans 8.30
Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ– Phil 1.6
Wherefore, seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which easily besetteth us, and run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith– Hebrews 12.1
Legalism or Salvation by Works
Legalists believe that salvation is earned by a person either as a result of working for it, or by the coupling of Gods gift of salvation with a persons good works, deeds or actions. They base their beliefs off a number of verses that are interpreted with this idea. Often times, legalists that base salvation from human efforts or works, believe that salvation is something that can be lost and they teach there is no assurance of salvation.
Someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe — and tremble! 20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?
For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.– James 2. 18-20, 26
It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age 6 and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance.– Hebrews 6 . 4-6
For since the message spoken through angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, 3 how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him.– Hebrews 2 . 2 – 3
Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. 16 See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. 17 Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. Even though he sought the blessing with tears, he could not change what he had done– Hebrews 12 . 14 – 17
For we are become companions of the Christ if indeed we hold the beginning of the assurance firm to the end– Heb 3. 14
Parables of Wicked Servants
In this parable we see Jesus give a parable of servants who where given tasks to complete for their Lord. In the end the lazy and worthless servant is thrown into outer darkness:
For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.– Matt 25 . 29 – 30
In this parable the servant was forgiven his debt but did not forgive others and was cast into torment:
Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’
34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. 35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”– Matthew 18 . 32 – 35
The Wicked Servant here is cut into pieces and is assigned a place with unbelievers:
Suppose the servant says to himself, ‘My master is taking a long time in coming,’ and he then begins to beat the other servants, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk. 46 The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers.
47 “The servant who knows the master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what the master wants will be beaten with many blows. 48 But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows.– Luke 12. 45 – 48
Reconciling Grace with Works
With the understanding that we are saved by grace alone, many Christians ask the question, do I need to do works at all? This is a question that can be asked from a sincere heart with the desire to please God or this question can come from a heart of insolence looking for a way to receive heaven and continue on in a lifestyle of their own choosing (Luke 14.26, 28).
The Bible teaches clearly that when you are truly saved through a genuine faith and you are born again, you are a completely new creation. You have Gods desires inside of you and desire to do His will in your life.
Until your body dies, you have an old carnal nature that still desires sin, however in your regenerated or renewed spirit you will fight against it. If you happen to fall into sin, you continually turn away from it all your life, turning back to God (repentance Matt 3.8) or He will discipline you (Heb 12.5). A spiritual person chooses to die to themselves continually so that Christ may dwell in their hearts (Rom 12.1).
A spiritual person produces good fruit because they live for God, Spiritual fruit will naturally come from their life as they walk with God. Christians will produce spiritual fruit and good works not because they have to, but because they delight in God above everything else the world offers.
Just as a tree produces fruit naturally, a Christians life produces obedience to God, love for the brothers and a passion for the lost, just as taught in James. The children of God have assurance of salvation forever, no matter what, but the children of the world are condemned because they never truly believed (John 3.17).
that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His (Jesus) name to all the nations– Luke 24. 46
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.– 2 Corin 5. 17
God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose.– Phil 2. 13
For that which I do, I know not. For what I would do, that do I not; but what I hate, that I do– Romans 7 . 15
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.– Romans 12. 2
Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.– Matt 7. 17
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. 24 And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit– Galatians 5. 22 – 25
False Converts – Parable of the Sewer
In the parable of the sewer, Jesus teaches us there are four different kinds of hearts on which the word of God can fall. The hard ground who hears Gods word and do not receive it. The rocky hearts in which Gods word takes no root and dies in times of testing. The heart of weeds, in which Gods word gets choked by the care of the world, pleasures and worries. Then there is the heart the receives Gods word and produces fruit.
False converts, even though Jesus tells us they ‘believed for a time’ fall away from Gods grace because they never had saving faith that brought them to regeneration of the spirit. They had joy to hear Gods word, however did not have the faith of a true believer, to face the testing of the heart, or to overcome the pleasures or worries of the world.
This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God.
12 Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved.
13 Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away.
14 The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.
15 But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.– Luke 8 . 11 – 15
False converts hear about God and say a prayer without any faith because most of them selfishly wanted something for themselves, without believing the truth in their hearts (Rom 10.9). They think there is a possibility that heaven exists so they do what the preacher tells them because they want a hell insurance policy from a simple prayer. Once they walk out of the church unchanged and unregenerate, the devil plucks the seed of Gods word from their hard hearts, or it grows a bit before being choked out from the desires or worries of the world (Matt 13).
False converts never truly believed that Jesus is God incarnate, that he is God who rewards those who diligently seek Him (Heb 11.6), therefore never confessed with their mouth or believing in their heart that Jesus is Lord, the creator that made them (Rom 10.9). They have no real interest in the one who offers freedom from sin in this life and the consequence in the next, or to be restored to the living God who created them. They have no interest in dying to self, giving Jesus everything so that they may live with Him (Luke 9.23-25, 14.27,33, John 15.4-8, Rom 6.1-11, Gal 2.20, Phil 1.21).
If you truly believed, then you are converted, changed spiritually, and born again. You will have a new nature, Gods nature, within you and it becomes a part of you for the rest of this life and forever into eternity. You cry out to your Father in Heaven because you have His spirit inside of you (Rom 8.15). The Bible doesn’t teach that people can loose their salvation, its teaches that unbelievers and the unconverted never had it in the first place (1Jn2.19).
Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? —unless indeed you fail to meet the test!– 2 Corin 13. 5
They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.– 1 John 2. 19
It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age 6 and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance.– Hebrews 6. 4 – 6
Example on Galatians
In Galatians Paul gives us an example of a confrontation he had with the Apostle Peter. Who began to make the mistake of eating with Jews and separating himself from the gentile believers in accordance to the Jewish customary laws. Paul made an exhortation for all believers in this epistle that we are not to live by the works of the Jewish law and those who do are in debt to follow all of the laws.
If you place your faith in Jewish law, then Christ is of no use to you and you have fallen from grace (Gal 5.4), your faith is no longer in Gods free gift and payment for all your debt. Your faith then turns inward, believing that you can earn your way to heaven or earn Gods grace. Such individuals that retain this belief do not have the Spirit of God dwelling within them because they want to retain the worldly pride of life attitude, thinking they can earn their own salvation (1 John 2.15).
Radical Free Grace Theology
Why is the issue of works and free grace so confusion to so many people? It is because the devil want to keep people away from the truth concerning such important doctrinal issues. If he can’t keep you from believing in God, then he’ll try to do the next best thing (for him) and that is to keep you away from salvation or from teaching salvation to others.
If he cant get you bound into a works based salvation, which insults the completed perfect work and grace of God, he’ll work from the other end of the spectrum and try to get you to believe that nothing you do matters and to be lazy or unholy in your Christian walk.
This is where extreme antimonianism, or radical free grace theology R-FGT come in. Many twist the doctrine of the assurance of salvation to the point that they teach anything you do to try and be holy in your life, or obedient or repentance, is a work. That obedience is an insult to God and is a type of works based salvation. They teach you are ‘back loading’ works, meaning after you are saved you are trying to keep or prove your salvation through works.
Most radical FGT denies the very reason that Jesus came into the world. To free us from sin, its hold and consequences, so that we can have a relationship with a Holy God, a God who can not fellowship with sin. They twist everything that has to do with repentance and obedience, cutting out everything in the New Testament that gives Christians directions on how to live a Holy life.
Twisting the teachings of repentance and obedience into a sinful act itself, so that their followers have seared their moral conscience making true believers lazy and give unbelievers an excuse to continue in a life of sin. Making sensual remarks like “you can live like the devil and still go to heaven.”
For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. 14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.– Galatians 5. 13 – 14
Now the Spirit speaketh expressly that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils, 2 speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their conscience seared with a hot iron,– 1 Timothy 4. 1-2
For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of the flesh, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. 19 They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for “people are slaves to whatever has mastered them.” 20 If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning.– 2 Peter 2 . 18 – 20
You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord’s table and of the table of demons.– 1 Corin 10. 21
This issue like all theological issues is spiritual. Doctrinal issues are spiritual issues, not fundamentally logical issues. These spiritual truths are evidence in the New Testament, that a spiritual person will be spiritually minded. The issue of works vs a free gift can be confusing and seemingly contradictory if only taken from a logical, earthly point of view.
However, when you lift them up in prayer and seek God in His word He tells us the truth of the matter, that He changes a person’s heart. When you understand that a person really does become a new creation, is given a new heart and mind, and that God really does live inside of someone, you understand why salvation is assured forever for them and spiritual fruit is produced in their life naturally.
No man can come to God unless God first draws him, and the veil is lifted so that he may understand. We are saved for the praise of the glory of His grace. All the spiritual work done in a man’s life is done by God and for Gods glory, He draws us, gives us the faith we need, convicts us, leads us, teaches us, starts and finishes the work in us. This is why unless it is a spiritual act or work by the Spirit of God it can only be the work of human effort, which is worth nothing, because apart from God we can do nothing.
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.– John 6.44
But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away– 2 Corin 3. 14
We are to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.– Ephesians 1. 6
As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one– Rom 3. 10
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.– Galatians 2. 20
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.– John 15.5
Why False Religions Believe in Salvation through Works
There is a reason why all other world religions, outside of Christianity, believe in salvation through works, or in performance of your own good deeds. It is because salvation through faith alone is a truth that is absolutely spiritual. Since fallen man cannot produce anything spiritual, but only carnal things, the spiritual need for salvation is covered over with a false belief that good works can cover your sins.