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My understanding of Free Grace Theology is that it separates the believers salvation from their sanctification, in that sanctification is not the necessary result of salvation. It separates the call to believe and be saved from the call to follow and be a disciple. In other words, people may be saved without exactly being "followers" (i.e., without going through the process of sanctification).

There are many passages in 1 John that seem to contradict Free Grace Theology, such as 1 John 3:9-10 (NASB)

No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. [10] By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother

This passage seems to contradict Free Grace Theology's teaching that the saved may not be "followers" of Christ.

How do adherents to Free Grace Theology reconcile/interpret 1 John?

Disclaimer: I understand that this passage is not saying that Christians will never sin, lest it contradict 1 John 1:10.

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4 Answers 4

It all hangs on the interpretation of the term ”eternal life”. Bob Wilkins explains that if one believes in Jesus as the giver of eternal life, then that person receives eternal life, which is immortality.

John 6:47 NET I tell you the solemn truth, the one who believes has eternal life.

If a backslider is to have immortality taken away from him, it means that the word immortality has been reduced to a nullity.

In other words, how can ”be alive permanently” be changed to ”be dead when you grow old”? It means the product was not as advertised.

1 Peter 1:23 NET You have been born anew, not from perishable but from imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God.

The mistake is in the interpretation of ”eternal life” as immortality. It should be translated as ”life of substance”, life that leads to accumulation of treasures in heaven as opposed to life that results in perishable treasure.

Believe in Christ, receive a life with the potential to earn heavenly treasure, live that life, and earn heavenly treasure.

I am grateful for the Faithalone.org site for enlightening me by making a distinction that the wrath of God leads to chastening, temporal punishment of varying degrees, even to the loss of earthly life. This while making a point that while the wrath of God remains on Christians, it does not affect their eternal destiny.

But while I admire Dr Hodges qualification and skills as a Greek scholar (he taught Wallace at DTS!), I have to differ on his take on 1 John. Which is just that, a take, one of the many possible with the many possible translations of the text!

However, if we review the teaching, it has the same results as other reformed teaching:

Believe in Jesus, receive eternal life. Do good works receive rewards and a warm welcome into heaven. Neglect works and receive no rewards, but still be allowed into heaven, albeit grudgingly, and be consigned to its outer darkness, far from close fellowship with God.

Its harmless, compared with Calvinism!

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I recommend you read Zane Hodges' book "The Gospel Under Siege" for a full answer to this question, as he deals with 1 John. I am fully convinced that 1 John is a letter to believers and is a test of fellowship, not a test of life. When it says in the original greek that they are "not of God" it is referring to their fellowship with God, not whether they are saved or not.

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Much of the debate around this issue occurs over two separate but connected portions. The salvation of a believer that confesses to Jesus Christ and how such a confession affects the believer's mortal life. Free Grace theology would view these conditions in that a believer is written into the Book of Life at the moment of a true, heartfelt confession. In this line of thinking, a true confession would be one that was always followed by proper christian behavior and beliefs and if it was not, then the confession was not true or even possibly a lie or mistake. Amongst other protestant theology a person can have a true conversion experience before Christ but then falter. In this case they believe that the original confession was valid, but the person failed to live uprightly afterwards.

The crux of this argument really lies in whether or not a person who falters after conversion can be considered to have true committed themselves in the first place. Your view on this completely changes the view of passages such as this and what they mean.

It is important to note that both theologies require that a person who obtains salvation to live a Christ-like life. Free Grace Theology does not grant permission for a person to continue their sinful life after conversion.

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It seems like you're describing the debate over eternal security (Once Saved Always Saved). Free Grace Theology (from my limited, Wikipedia-based understanding) is defined as follows: The view distinguishes between the "call to believe" in Christ as a Savior and receiving the gift of eternal life, and the "call to follow" Christ and become obedient disciples, meaning that the justified believer is free from any subsequent obligations unless he or she decides to undergo the process of sanctification (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_Grace_theology) –  Eric Jan 4 '12 at 23:13

I think this is the key part:

in that sanctification is not the necessary result of salvation

Free Grace would teach that a truly saving faith (not merely simple belief) is strong enough that "sanctification" will always result, and depending on who you talk to they may also say that on accepting Christ as their savior, the spirit of Christ will dwell in that person in a way that causes noticeable change (sanctification).

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I've read up a bit on Free Grace Theology, and it seems to teach that sanctification is not always the result of salvation. The call to believe and be saved, and the call to follow and be a disciple are treated as separate. I know that what you describe is a common belief (my own as well), but I'm interested in Free Grace Theology's view. –  Eric Dec 14 '11 at 15:40

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