Friday, December 1

Lordship or Free Grace - so which is it?

OK, I’ve been hedging. I have purposely left the impression that I disagree with both the ideas of “Lordship Salvation” and “Free Grace”. I’m sorry, it simply isn’t true. In fact, I do have a position – and it isn’t “in the middle”. As much as I like compromise, it just can't be done here.

John 1:14 NASB And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Christ is full of grace and truth. He isn't 50% of one and 50% of the other, but 100% of each. The two aren’t at odds, and they aren’t mutually exclusive. If it is Christ who saves us, why is it that we aren’t saved by both grace and truth, since He is both? Why is it that we feel compelled to move to one of those extremes while ignoring the plain Biblical truths of the other? Is there really a contradiction, or have people like John MacArthur and Zane Hodges built their own apparent contradictions by their inability or unwillingness to give ground where it obviously needs to be given?

With regard to Lordship, consider this passage:
Luke 23:43 NASB And He said to him, "Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise."
I look at this passage thinking about MacArthur’s “Lordship”, and I wonder what he would say about the thief. Was there time to comprehend the Gospel adequately? Where did he serve? What actions of discipleship did he take part in? I’m guessing there wasn’t much time. I’m guessing he was saved by grace through faith, and without having done much more than to have said, "Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!" That sounds like “bare mental assent” to me, but it was credited to him as much, much more.

With regard to Free Grace, consider this passage:
John 5:14 NASB Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, "Behold, you have become well; do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse happens to you."
When looking at this passage in view of Hodges “Free Grace”, I wonder where the “free” part comes in to play. Surely Jesus said exactly what He meant to say to this man (and to us). I note that the man was “made well”, and is then instructed to “sin no more”. While it isn’t stated conditionally, there is a definite relation of the command of truth to the act of grace. I’m guessing the man did his best to “sin no more”. If only Christians could recognize that they too have been “made well”, perhaps we would work out our salvation with more fervor if we would recognize what has happened to us inwardly what this man recognized was done to him outwardly.

Randy Alcorn, in his book The Grace and Truth Parodox writes:
If we minimize grace, the world sees no hope for salvation. If we minimize truth, the world sees no need for salvation. To show the world Jesus, we must offer unabridged grace and truth, emphasizing both, apologizing for neither. The Colossian church “understood God’s grace in all it’s truth” (Col 1:6).
For me, this goes along with what Sawyer writes when he says that “both are right in what they accept and wrong in what they deny.” In other words, not only are they not mutually exclusive as both extremes would have you believe, the are in fact interdependent upon one another. One without the other is meaningless.

More from Alcorn:
Truth is quick to post warning signs and guardrails at the top of the cliff. Yet it fails to empower people to drive safely – and neglects to help them when they crash. Grace is quick to post ambulances and paramedics at the bottom of the cliff. But without truth, it fails to post warning signs and guardrails. In doing so it encounters the very self destruction it attempts to heal.
Truth without grace crushes people and ceases to be truth. Grace without truth deceives people and ceases to be grace.

Truth without grace degenerates into judgmental legalism. Grace without truth degenerates into deceitful tolerance.

Grace and truth are both necessary. Neither is sufficient.

Truth hates sin. Grace loves sinners.

Those full of grace and truth do both.

Like I said, I just don't see the confusion. Again, for me each side is 100% correct in what they accept, and are wrong only in their fierce denials of the other view. Accepting both is comforting to me, not confusing. I thank God for both.


Stan said...

"I look at this passage thinking about MacArthur’s “Lordship”, and I wonder what he would say about the thief."

Question from a friend: Do you really? Would you suppose that MacArthur would say, "No! The thief was damned because he never did works consistent with making Christ Lord!! Christ was wrong, wrong, wrong!!!"? I'm pretty sure you wouldn't expect anything of the sort from MacArthur (or those who agree with Lordship Salvation). Perhaps you might expect, "What??? Never saw that before!! Wow! I guess I didn't think this thing through very well, did I?"? No, I don't suppose you would expect that, either.

Perhaps ... just perhaps ... this might serve to demonstrate that it is possible, nay, highly likely that MacArthur's position has been distorted, abused, misinterpreted? I think there isn't the slightest doubt that MacArthur would confirm the salvation of the thief on the cross ... while still holding that a person who comes to Christ must come to Him as Lord, not a "fire escape". In the case of the thief on the cross, there was no time to demonstrate that truth ... but it doesn't mean it wasn't true. The point, then, is not about "works." What I'm hearing from the "Lordship" side (as long as it's not the distorted side) is the very same thing I hear from Paul: "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved" (Rom. 10:9).

I know ... you've already affirmed what MacArthur affirms on this subject. I'm simply addressing this idea that maybe, just maybe, the "Lordship" side would actually deny that Jesus was right or that this reminder of the thief on the cross would change the position. That, I think, would be a strawman.

Scott Arnold said...

You have either misinterpreted or purposely twisted the meaning of what I have written.

I want to know what MacArthur has to say about why the thief was saved. I want him to explain to me how this man was saved while offering what Sawyer called "bare mental assent", something that MacArthur doesn't seem to believe is sufficient. I didn't ask if MacArthur denies the thief was saved - which would be a ridiculous assertion given what Christ Himself said. I want him to explain, given his teachings, why Christ saved this man who was unable to demonstrate all the things he says are necessary for true faith.

You seem to assume that since I think MacArthur is an extremist on this issue (a denier of Free Grace), that I think He is somehow a disbeliever in the Words of Christ. Is that really where you think I'm going with this? If not, then it seems you have purposely constructed your own straw man.

Stan said...

Yeah, all those safeguards I tried to put into place, and they all failed miserably. That's why I started with "Question from a friend", hoping you'd see the comment in the light they were intended instead of the confrontation you saw. Nor did I think you'd think any of that of MacArthur as I said: "No, I don't suppose you would expect that, either." I affirmed what you affirmed and tried to dance nicely with "I suppose" and "I think" type statements to avoid casting aspersions.

I hate this medium of communication. There are lots of ways to try to communicate gently, lightly, as friends, but this format seems to bypass all of them and make for confrontation long before it makes for friendly dialog.

Forgive me, friend. I repent in dust and ashes.

Scott Arnold said...

Yea, I saw the safeguards - it just seemed they were outweighed by an underlying accusation of, "hey friend, you at least appear to have 'distorted, abused, misinterpreted' MacArthur's position". :)

Dust and ashes, I'm with you Brother. I could have just replied, "yes, I do really wonder what MacArthur would say about the thief", then explained the context of that statement - but I let frustration get in the way of a more appropriate reply - so please forgive me as well.

Anyway, now that this is settled - can we move on to another subject?

Julianne said...

No, no, no...I have been enjoying reading both of your thoughts on all of this. But I am blessed to see you two humble enough to keep yoru friendship and continue being brothers seeking Christ.

Thanks for both of you shedding more light on this topic.

Blessings to you both, Julianne

Scott Arnold said...

We're fine Julianne. Stan knows when he's wrong :)

Blessings back,

Grigs said...

Here is what Dr. MacArthur says in his Study Bible:
"23:42 Lord, remember me. The penitent thief’s prayer reflected his belief that the soul lives on after death; that Christ had a right to rule over a kingdom of the souls of men; and that He would soon enter that kingdom despite His impending death. His request to be remembered was a plea for mercy, which also reveals that the thief understood he had no hope but divine grace, and that the dispensing of that grace lay in Jesus’ power. All of this demonstrates true faith on the part of the dying thief, and Christ graciously affirmed the man’s salvation (v. 43).
MacArthur, John Jr: The MacArthur Study Bible. electronic ed. Nashville : Word Pub., 1997, c1997, S. Lk 23:42

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