Gospel of Grace

The Lord has blessed me greatly, words cannot express how I feel about His grace, His mercy, His love and the Finished Work of Jesus Christ. “What Has Jesus Done?” instead of “What Would Jesus Do?” cliché is the most important question to ask the unsaved and even the saved that have received wrong doctrine from these so called “Christian Churches.”

I am reading and studying a book by Robert Wilkins, called, “Confident in Christ.” It is a excellent teaching on subjects on: Saving Faith, Assurance, Eternal Security, and Perseverance, with also Appendices on Lordship Salvation, Baptism and Salvation, Repentance and Salvation, and Approach to Understanding God’s Word. I recommend this book highly for my people, after reading this book you will begin to understand where you can stand, holy and blameless in the presence of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. You will find that those who condemns you don’t have a clue about the true gospel of Jesus Christ and, therefore will be able to dismiss them like rubbish, and their words will not harm you, for you know the truth and it has set you free. But those who condemned are not free, they condemn each other as well for they are no different than the wicked. This is what I want to bring clearly in your mind about this very subject, “Falling From Grace.” The words are directly according to Mr. Wilkins.

The teachings in these churches started way back from the leaders of the early church. Thomas F. Torrance wrote an insightful book called “The Doctrine of Grace in the Apostolic Fathers. He showed that these men were “Christian” writers of the second century, to a man distorted the concept of grace. They replaced justification by faith alone with justification by faith plus works.

Baptism was one of the first major areas of confusion. The apostles taught that baptism was not a part of the gospel (1 Cor. 1:17), but that it was the first step every believer should take in following Christ, publicly identifying oneself as a believer in Him (Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 8: 12-13; 10:47-48; 16:15;18:8). The apostolic fathers, however, said that baptism was necessary for eternal salvation, and that at the point of baptism one’s former sins were forgiven. There are two problems with this. First, water baptism is not a condition of eternal salvation. Second, the forgiveness received when a person is born again – by faith, not baptism – is total, covering all sins past, present, and future.

What would you do if you were told that a clean slate, was necessary to go to heaven and that baptism gave you a clean slate, but that the slate would not stay clean long? You would probably do what many in the second-century did, wait until you were on your deathbed to be baptized.

The leaders of the early church had to do something since this situation wasn’t good. After several ecclesiastical huddles, a new and improved gospel emerged. Now baptism gave you a clean slate; repentance was a way of cleaning your slate; and you could have an unlimited number of opportunities to repent in your lifetime. The doctrine of penance was born.

All of this resulted because the apostolic fathers and their disciples departed from the gospel of grace. Baptism and turning from sins, both important aspects of following Christ in discipleship, became parts of the gospel itself. Tragically, multitudes went to their graves without Christ, because their tradition told them that all baptized and repentant church people went to heaven.

Things didn’t improve much until the sixteenth century and the Reformation led by Calvin and Luther. Sadly, however, many people rejected their teaching. More tragic still, many of the followers of Calvin and Luther departed from them on key points, and by doing so, garbled the gospel.

Only a small segment of Christendom is any era of church history has believed in the gospel of grace. Of course, this should be no surprise to those familiar with the teachings of Jesus. He said, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14). The narrow way goes against the flow. In order to believe the gospel, you must believe something that the vast majority of people not only do not believe, but consider foolishness (1 Cor. 1:18).

Years ago I came across a tract based on Galatians 5:4 entitled, “Can a Saved Man Fall from Grace?” According to that tract, “Once he has been saved from his past sins, the newborn child of God must maintain his saved state by walking in the light.” After quoting 1 John 1:7, it continued, “This is how a child of God stays saved. It is by walking in the light! One walks in the light by daily obedience to the truth – by regular worship, purity of life, love of the brethren, etc.”

That is not my idea of “blessed assurance.”

Many people believe that if a professing Christian falls from grace, he either loses his salvation or proves he was never truly saved in the first place. According to Lordship Salvation, the idea that one can be saved simply by believing in Christ for eternal life is easy believism, cheap grace, or fire insurance. They maintain that commitment, obedience, and perseverance in good works and sound doctrine must accompany faith in order to make it to heaven.

This way of thinking, though well intentioned, is misguided. By failing to see the distinction between eternal life, which is absolutely free, and eternal rewards, which are very costly, this view confuses the call of discipleship with the invitation of the gospel. Heaven is no longer for all who believe, but only for those who believe and persist in faithful service.

Falling from grace is painful. It is something we should strive to avoid. However, it does not close heaven’s gates, as the context of Galatians 5:4 makes clear. Sadly, those who believe that it does do not believe the gospel of grace.

Only Christians Can Fall from Grace

That the Galatians reader were born again is unmistakably clear. Paul indicates that they had received his gospel (1:9) and the Holy Spirit (3:2). He repeatedly calls them “brethren” (e.g., 1:11; 3:15; 4:12, 28; 5:11, 13; 6:1, 18) – a term that he reserved in his epistles for Christians.

Additionally, Galatians 5:4 itself makes it clear that Christians are being addressed. Paul said, You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.

Only a person who has received the grace of God can fall from that grace. An unregenerate person can’t fall from grace because he has never received it.

This is consistent with our experience. A person can only fall from a place where he is. A person can’t fall from the sphere of grace unless he is in the sphere of grace.

Falling from Grace Is Not a Loss of Eternal Life

Paul taught that it was impossible for Christians to lose their salvation. For example, he encouraged the believers at Thessalonica by telling them that Christ “died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him” (1 Thessalonians 5:19). In that context, waking and sleeping are used figuratively for being morally watchful and sober and morally blind and drunk (verse 6). Yet, Paul says that even believers who are walking in the darkness will be raptured and will “live together with Him.” Once a person is saved, he is guaranteed to live with Christ forever.

Paul also said, “If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself” (2 Tim. 2:13). What great news! Even if we are faithless (and who hasn’t been occasionally?) the Lord will remain faithful. He guarantees eternal life to everyone who comes to faith in Him.

Paul reminded all believers that we “were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory” (Eph. 1:13-14). That seal is God’s guarantee. Our eternal salvation is signed, sealed, and delivered. God couldn’t revoke our salvation even if He wanted to, because He has bound Himself with a promise and it is impossible for Him to break a promise. His nature will not allow it.

Paul beautifully affirmed that nothing can separate the believer from God’s love in Christ:

“For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 8: 38-39

In those two verses Paul employs a figure of speech called merism. In a merism two extremes are stated and everything in between is implied. For example, “nor height nor depth” refers to everything between the highest and the lowest places in the universe. “Nor things present nor things to come” contemplates anything that could ever happen from now through all of eternity. And, just in case a person might wonder if Paul left anything out, he includes a general reference that nothing created can separate us either.

Falling from Grace Is the Loss of an Experience of Grace in Your Daily Life

The Greek verb ekpipto is translated “you have fallen.” While its basic meaning is “to fall” (as in withered flowers that fall to the ground), in this context it is used figuratively and refers to the loss of one’s grip on grace as a principle to live by. Donald Campbell writes:

The issue here is not loss of salvation, for “grace” is referred to not as salvation itself but as a method of salvation (cf. 2:21 where “a Law” route is mentioned as an unacceptable way to come to Christ). If the Galatians accepted circumcision as necessary for salvation, they would be leaving the grace system for the Mosaic Law system. The same error is repeated today when a believer leaves a church that emphasizes salvation by grace through faith and joins one which teaches that salvation depends on repentance, confession, faith, baptism, and church membership.

The Galatians Christians were being told by legalistic teachers, often referred to as Judaizers, that while salvation begins by faith in Christ, final salvation would be achieved only through ongoing obedience to the Law of Moses, including circumcision (Gal. 3:1-5; 5:1-4). Believers lose their grip on grace by falling prey to the teachings of legalism. If a Christian leaves a church that is clear on the gospel and joins one that is not, he is in great danger of losing his grip on grace. If a well-grounded young person goes to high school, college, or seminary that promotes a “faith-plus” view of the gospel, that student is, like Humpty Dumpty of old, a candidate for a great fall.

That’s why Paul told the Galatians to run, not walk, away from the legalists. His advice is as relevant today as it was then. Legalism in Christianity, speaks of the doctrine of obtaining salvation by good works; the self-righteous process of working out one’s own salvation without the power of God, while still preserving the Old Sin Nature; strictly adhering to the law of God and the commandments of the Bible without grace. Keeping the letter of the Bible without considering God’s character and nature, grace, the overruling will of God, nor the liberty which the Spirit gives. These believers are often marked by self-righteousness. The grace of God is not practically applied. And just recently my pastor spoke on legalism and stated that anything added to grace. In Rom. 4:4-5, “Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness …” (NKJ).

In Romans 11:6 defines clearly what is grace and what is not grace. “And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work.” (NKJ)

You will lose your grip on God’s grace if you ever start thinking that believing is not enough to be eternally secure. Once you fall back to a faith-plus view of salvation, you have fallen from grace, for you regard your salvation as partly dependent on your performance. In Galatians 1:6-12, Paul is speaks the warning to them because of the Judaizers influence on these people.

“I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed. For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ. But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (NKJ)

Since assurance of salvation is central to the gospel itself, a faith-plus view of assurance also results in falling from grace. Many churches today teach that works are indispensable of assurance of salvation. However, a believer who accepts that teaching has fallen from grace and is not longer looking to Christ alone for assurance. He begins to think that in order to go to heaven he must do good works. That is not salvation by grace. In Ephesians 2:5-10, Paul goes even further in this vital subject of grace.

“… even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. (NKJ) In the next chapter of Ephesians, Paul talks about his encounter with God and why the mystery surrounding this grace came to being. “For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles — if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you, how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets: that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel, of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power. To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him.” (NKJ)

Quite a few Lordship Salvation pastors and theologians testify that at one time they believed in the Free Grace gospel. Respected scholar Dr. J. I. Packer writes:

I was just such a Gospel hypocrite for two years before God mercifully made me aware of my un- converted state. If I seem harsh in my critique of [Zane] Hodges’ redefinition of faith as barren in- tellectual formalism, you must remember that once I almost lost my soul through assuming what Hodges teaches, and a burned child always there- after dreads the fire.

If the Free Grace view of the gospel is correct – and it is, then by his own admission Dr. Packer has fallen from grace. Though born again and heaven bound, he is missing out on a present experience of God’s grace. A simple comparison of these two views with some questions will enable you to see clearly. Will simply believing in Christ for eternal life save us? Lordship Salvation says, NO, but Free Grace Salvation says, Yes. Is perseverance required for final salvation? Lordship Salvation says, Yes, but Free Grace Salvation says, NO. Do those who fall from grace go to heaven? Lordship Salvation says, NO but Free Grace Salvation says, Yes. Should fear of hell motivate Christians to live holy lives? Lord Salvation says, Yes but Free Grace Salvation says, NO.

Any believer in Jesus Christ, no matter how well educated or how dedicated, is in danger of falling from grace. It is vital that we stay in God’s Word and fellowship at a church that is clear on the gospel.

Stand Against the Tide

Professing Christendom is like an ocean whose tide flows away from the shore of grace. Watch out for the undertow. It will take you right out to sea. To continue in your experience of God’s grace, you must resist the tide. Don’t let anything pull you away from God’s glorious gospel of grace.