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New Wine for the End Times
Lordship Salvation vs.
The New Wine System solves seven major problems of Scripture that have divided the churches over the centuries. (See section 4.1 for a list, or just look at the title page of this book.) The controversy of lordship salvation vs. free grace is in this list. All the others in the list have been ongoing controversies for centuries. This controversy is much more recent. It's been ongoing for just a few decades.
Lordship salvation can also be called discipleship salvation. The controversy is about whether or not one must be a true disciple of Christ in order to be saved. Or does simple belief in Christ as Savior suffice? Both sides have very good arguments of Scripture. Both sides have their truths. Both sides have their problems. And of course the New Wine System clearly resolves the issue without stretching verses.
One of the best-known advocates for the lordship salvation side is John Macarthur. He has published three editions of his book titled The Gospel According to Jesus - What is Authentic Faith? The third edition of this book is called the "Revised and Expanded Anniversary Edition." In the preface to the first edition, page 16, Macarthur writes:
Because of the state of the gospel in contemporary evangelicalism, there is no way to teach about salvation without dealing specifically with this issue, which has come to be known as "lordship salvation." No more serious question faces the church today. It can be phrased in many ways: What is the gospel? Must a person accept Jesus as Savior and Lord in order to be saved? What is saving faith? How should we invite men and women to Christ? and What is salvation?
That there is so much controversy over this most foundational subject testifies to the effectiveness of the enemy's work in these latter days. Several who disagree with my views have said in print that the lordship controversy is a matter of eternal consequence. Whoever is wrong on this issue is seriously wrong about the most basic of Christian truths.
On that we agree. I went through a phase of thinking that the whole dispute might be a misunderstanding or semantic argument. But as I studied the issues, I came to realize that this is a fundamental difference in doctrine. After many conversations with those who disagree and hours of studying what they are saying, I am now convinced that the two sides in this argument have distinctly different views of salvation. The average person in the pew is confused, having heard two conflicting messages from the same conservative, fundamentalist, evangelical camp.
Another author on the lordship salvation side is Walter. J. Chantry. In his book titled, Today's Gospel - authentic or synthetic?, in the introduction on page 4, Chantry writes:
In the central issue of the way of salvation, large segments of Protestantism are engrossed in neo-traditionalism. We have inherited a system of evangelistic preaching which is unbiblical. Nor is this tradition very ancient. Our messages and manner of preaching the gospel cannot be traced back to the Reformers and their creeds. They are much more recent innovations. Worse, they cannot be traced to the Scriptures. They have clearly arisen from superficial exegesis and a careless mixture of twentieth-century reason with God's revelation.
The resulting product is a dangerous conglomerate - just the sort that Satan uses to delude the souls of sinners. What cult has not learned to use verses of the Bible and half truths to establish their lies? That has been the devil's strategy from the beginning [Gen. 3:5]. By selling another gospel to our generation, Satan has been employing many sincere men in preaching a dethroned Christ. The glories of the Saviour are being hidden even from his servants because preachers will not give careful attention to the gospel of God's Word alone.
Later on in his introduction, on page 6, Chantry continues:
All of this is related to the use of a message in evangelism that is unbiblical. The truth necessary for life has been hidden in a smoke screen of human inventions. On the shallow ground of man's logic, large numbers have been lead to assume they have a right to everlasting life and have been given an assurance which does not belong to them. Evangelicals are swelling the ranks of the deluded with a perverted gospel. Many who have 'made decisions' in modern churches and have been told in the inquiry rooms that their sins have been forgiven, will be as surprised as Tetzel's customers to hear, 'I never knew you; depart from me' [Matt. 7:23].
And later, on page 7 in the introduction, Chantry writes:
Pastors, this is no idle question. Have you not wondered about those 'converts' who are as carnal as ever? What about those who have 'decided for Christ' and you cannot tell what they decided? They are not godly like the Saviour they profess, nor zealous for his cause. They do not study the Word and do not mind if they are absent when it is preached. Consequently, you know that they give no evidence of true conversion. Have you considered the possibility that they were never evangelized at all? Have your preaching and methods led them to comfort apart from Christ?
The bottom line is that lordship salvation advocates say that countless numbers of Christians believe they are saved, but in fact they will die and go to hell. Unlike the New Wine System, lordship salvation does not distinguish salvation from inheriting the kingdom.
While writing this chapter, I received an email from a person who had quickly glanced at my web page without carefully reading it. People have a tendency to assume what you write if it's not what they already believe. Here is his entire email:
Sanctification is not about or necessity for salvation. That means salvation by works. Paul denies such thing. Sanctification is for saved people. They are saved. How can an unsaved person do sanctification? If you don't believe in eternal security how can you really believe in God's election? It seems you confuse a lot of things.
Man's holiness? There is NO such thing apart from the work of the Holy Spirit in believers. If holiness is required for salvation, what role does justification has? You are very wrong.
You clearly have a dangerous theology.
He starts out by saying that sanctification is not necessity for salvation. It's easy to see that churches have been teaching that salvation is basic belief in Jesus Christ as Savior, without including Christ's message of holiness and discipleship. I wondered what on my website made him negatively react and think that I had said sanctification is necessary for salvation. (Sanctification is necessary for eternal life, but not for salvation.) The first paragraph of my "Quick Introduction to the New Wine System" mentions sanctification. So this is what he probably read:
The gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come (Mat. 24:14). The gospel (good news) of the kingdom is that anyone can choose to completely overcome sin (all sinful habits), which is to be completely sanctified (1 Thess. 5:23), through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. No one who abides in Christ keeps on sinning (1 John 3:6), because in Christ there is no sin. No one born of God will continue to sin, because God's seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God (1 John 3:9).
Notice that I never associated salvation with sanctification. I just said that the gospel (good news) is a message about sanctification. He probably associated salvation with the word "gospel" in his head and immediately concluded that I was talking about salvation.
It would seem that any time you mention the overcoming of sin in our churches today, that you automatically get a negative reaction. The only thing you really hear about sin in our churches today is, "Nobody is perfect. We accept you just the way you are." The gospel has become all about "getting saved" and cannot include anything about holiness.
One might notice that this controversy seems to be only happening in the Protestant circles. The Roman Catholics do not have this problem of doctrine. That's because Catholics do not recognize a "decision for Christ" as being a point of salvation. Catholics would not agree that if one were to die before some moment of "decision for Christ," that they would go to hell. And anytime after this one "decision for Christ," that they would then be destined for heaven. The Catholics see salvation as a journey, beginning with infant baptism.
The New Wine System agrees with the Catholics that salvation is a journey. Everyone has been reconciled and then the journey begins with a profession of faith. But that’s only the start of our journey to righteousness. Salvation is a free gift that can be lost or forfeited. Salvation is not gained with a moment's "decision for Christ." Because everyone is reconciled, everyone can be resurrected.
At the same time, the only way to inherit eternal life is to be a true disciple of Christ, and to overcome all sinful habits through that relationship with Christ. The decision to follow Christ must be ongoing. The holiness aspect of salvation goes much further than even the lordship salvation advocates would claim.
Let's look at what Macarthur has to say about carnal Christians. On page 19 of his introduction, again in his book, The Gospel According to Jesus, Macarthur writes:
The gospel in vogue today holds forth a false hope to sinners. It promises them that they can have eternal life yet continue to live in rebellion against God. Indeed, it encourages people to claim Jesus as Savior yet defer until later the commitment to obey Him as Lord. It promises salvation from hell but not necessarily freedom from iniquity. It offers false security to people who revel in the sins of the flesh and spurn the way of holiness. By separating faith from faithfulness, it teaches that intellectual assent is as valid as wholehearted obedience to the truth.
Thus the good news of Christ has given way to the bad news of an insidious easy-believism that makes no moral demands on the lives of sinners. It is not the same message as Jesus proclaimed.
This new gospel has spawned a generation of professing Christians whose behavior is indistinguishable from the rebellion of the unregenerate. Statistics reveal that 1.6 billion people worldwide are considered Christians. A well-publicized opinion poll indicated nearly a third of all Americans claim to be born again. Those figures surely represent millions who are tragically deceived. Theirs is a damning false assurance.
The church's witness to the world has been sacrificed on the altar of cheap grace. Shocking forms of open immorality have become commonplace among professing Christians. And why not? The promise of eternal life without surrender to divine authority feeds the wretchedness of the unregenerate heart. Enthusiastic converts to this new gospel believe their behavior has no relationship to their spiritual status - even if they continue wantonly in the grossest kinds of sin and expression of human depravity.
It now appears that the church of our generation will be remembered chiefly for a series of hideous scandals that have uncovered the rankest exhibitions of depravity in the lives of some highly visible media evangelists. Most troubling of all is the painful reality that most Christians continue to view these people as insiders, not as wolves and false shepherds who have crept in among the flock (cf. Matt. 7:15). Why should we assume that people who live in an unbroken pattern of adultery, fornication, homosexuality, deceit, and every conceivable kind of flagrant excess are truly born again?
Yet that is exactly the assumption Christians of this age have been taught to make. They have been told that the only criterion for salvation is knowing and believing some basic facts about Christ. They hear from the beginning that obedience is optional. It follows logically, then, that someone's one-time profession of faith is more valid than the evidence of that person's ongoing lifestyle in determining whether to embrace him or her as a true believer. The character of the visible church reveals the detestable consequence of this theology.
Macarthur certainly makes a valid point. It's very difficult today to tell any real difference between the people in our evangelical churches and unbelievers in the world. The churches of today have become social groups that pretend to be holy on the outside, but the inside of their cups are filthy. Churches of today's evil generation are really no different than the Pharisees and Sadducees of Christ's evil generation.
In chapter 7, page 80 of his book, Macarthur writes:
Those who argue against lordship salvation have a tendency to identify the object of faith as a basic set of biblical facts. To them, the gospel is largely an academic issue, historical and doctrinal data about Christ's death, burial, and resurrection. Trusting those things alone constitutes saved faith, they say. Everything else is peripheral. Any talk of obedience, submission, or Jesus' right to rule is refuted as adding to the gospel, an illegitimate attempt to turn the pagan into a theologian.
Lest you think I'm unfairly presenting someone else's position, let me quote from an essay written to argue that lordship salvation corrupts the gospel: "This [referring to 1 Corinthians 15:3-4] is the essential message of the good news that must be believed for salvation. It contains these facts: (1) man is a sinner, (2) Christ is the Savior, (3) Christ died as man's substitute, and (4) Christ rose from the dead." The writer then goes on to argue that surrender to Christ's authority has no place in the gospel message: "Everyone who believes in the gospel believes that Jesus is Savior (1 Cor. 12:3). But not everyone who believes the gospel realizes that the Savor has the right to be sovereign over his life. The Child of God should also let Christ be sovereign over his life (Rom. 12:1-2), but obedience to that command is not a condition for salvation... All that is required for salvation is believing the gospel message."
(Thomas L. Constable, "The Gospel Message," in Walvoord: A Tribute (Chicago: Moody, 1982), 203-4, 209.)
Of course the position of the New Wine System is that you don't even need to believe that Jesus is Savior in order to be resurrected and live in the millennium. Christ died for everyone. Everyone has been reconciled and can be resurrected. However, Christ must be Lord over one's life in order to inherit the kingdom. Therefore, I would not characterize anyone as "Christian" who does not consider Christ to be Lord over their life - actively endeavoring to be like Christ.
Let's take a look at a few verses that would be used by advocates of lordship salvation. Notice that none of these verses actually use the words "saved" or "salvation." Thus, to say that these verses are talking about salvation is making use of some doctrinal rule or assumption. These verses talk about entering the kingdom, discipleship, becoming like children, going through tribulations, overcoming sin, doing the will (works) of the Father, and even getting thrown into Gehenna. Getting thrown into Gehenna is certain a loss of salvation. However, salvation itself simply means being saved from the grave. And Gehenna (the lake of fire) is a thousand years after the resurrection.
Luke 14:26-27 "If anyone comes to me, and doesn't hate his own father, mother, wife, children, brothers, and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he can't be my disciple. (27) Whoever doesn't bear his own cross, and come after me, can't be my disciple.
Luke 14:33 So therefore whoever of you who doesn't renounce all that he has, he can't be my disciple .
Matthew 5:20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 5:22 But I tell you, that everyone who is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment; and whoever shall say to his brother, 'Raca!' shall be in danger of the council; and whoever shall say, 'You fool!' shall be in danger of the fire of Gehenna.
Matthew 5:48 Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.
Matthew 6:15 But if you don't forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Matthew 7:20-23 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. (21) "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. (22) On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' (23) And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'
Matthew 18:3-4 and said, "Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (4) Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven .
Mark 9:47 And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell.
Acts 14:22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.
1 Corinthians 6:9-10 Or don't you know that the unrighteous will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don't be deceived. Neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor male prostitutes, nor homosexuals, (10) nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor slanderers, nor extortioners, will inherit the Kingdom of God .
Matthew 25:11-12 Afterward the other virgins also came, saying, 'Lord, Lord, open to us.' (12) But he answered, 'Most certainly I tell you, I don't know you.'
Matthew 25:28-30 Take away therefore the talent from him, and give it to him who has the ten talents. (29) For to everyone who has will be given, and he will have abundance, but from him who doesn't have, even that which he has will be taken away. (30) Throw out the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'
Matthew 25:41-46 Then he will say also to those on the left hand, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels; (42) for I was hungry, and you didn't give me food to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me no drink; (43) I was a stranger, and you didn't take me in; naked, and you didn't clothe me; sick, and in prison, and you didn't visit me.' (44) "Then they will also answer, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and didn't help you?' (45) "Then he will answer them, saying, 'Most certainly I tell you, inasmuch as you didn't do it to one of the least of these, you didn't do it to me.' (46) These will go away into eternal punishment , but the righteous into eternal life."
John 5:28-29 Don't marvel at this, for the hour comes, in which all that are in the tombs will hear his voice, (29) and will come out; those who have done good, to the resurrection of life; and those who have done evil , to the resurrection of judgment.
Now let's take a look at the other side of this debate. What do the free-grace doctrine advocates have to say about lordship salvation?
One of the best-known advocates for the free grace side of the debate is Charles C. Ryrie. In his book titled, So Great Salvation, page 15, Ryrie writes:
First, grace is unmerited favor. As a concise definition of grace, this serves well. More elaborate definitions have their place; but simply stated, grace is unmerited favor. It is undeserved on the part of the recipient. It is unearned and unearnable.
Skipping down a few paragraphs, on page 16, Ryrie writes:
Second, grace is not cheap. Grace is expensive. It is free to the recipient but costly to the donor. ... But to use the word cheap in the same breath with the grace of God in salvation seems almost blasphemous. It cost our Lord Jesus His life.
Skipping down a paragraph, on page 16, Ryrie writes:
Human works are like termites in God's structure of grace. They start small, but if unchecked, they can bring down the entire structure. And what are such works? Anything I can do to gain any amount of merit, little or much. Water baptism could be one such work if I view it not as an important or even necessary result of being saved, but as a requisite to be saved. It is a work even if I insist that it is God who gives me the desire to want to be baptized that I might be saved.
The same is true for surrender. If surrender is something I must do as part of believing, then it is a work, and grace has been diluted to the extent to which I actually do surrender.
On page 23, Ryrie writes:
Most readers of this book will probably agree that baptism and works are words that should not be used in the Gospel message simply because they mean something that is not a part of the Gospel message. That seems clear enough.
But what about the meaning of a word like repentance? That does not seem so clear. Is it part of the Gospel message? Is it a requirement to be saved? Is it only a matter of indifference whether one uses the word or not in presenting the Gospel?
Or what about the word Lord? What does it mean if it is made a part of the Gospel message? What about Messiah? God? Master?
Or what about the word give, as in "Give your heart to Christ"? Is that actually what has to be done if one is going to be saved? Is give another way of saying trust? And if it is, then is it true that in order to be saved, I must trust my heart to Christ? Or should I say, "Give my life to Christ?"
These are important semantic difference because they give different messages to the Gospel message. Some give a wrong message; others, an unclear one. But we must strive to use the words that give a clear witness to the grace of God. It is not that God cannot use an unclear message; doubtless He does more often that He would prefer to. But why should He have to? Why don't we sharpen our understanding of what the Gospel is about so that we can present it as clearly as possible, using the right words to herald the Good News correctly?
Words are crucial. How terribly important they are in statements like these: "Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and ...He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures" (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). "These have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name" (John 20:31).
Notice how Ryrie carefully separates salvation from anything that is done on our part. Discipleship hopefully comes after salvation. But discipleship is not a requirement for salvation, according to free-grace theologians.
The New Wine System would agree that all our sins are completely forgiven when we become a believer. That is in agreement with free-grace theologians. Before we were even born, we were reconciled with God through the death of his Son. You don't even have to know about Christ's sacrifice for that.
Romans 5:10 For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we will be saved by his life.
The next two chapters of this book are all about the Law vs. Grace from the New Wine System perspective. Chapter 14 is about grace and being filled with the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament. Then chapter 15 is about Law vs. Grace in the New Testament. It contains a complete commentary on Romans chapters 2 through 8.
Bottom line is that in the New Wine System we do not have to split hairs between belief and discipleship. As we will see, grace is all about living a life for Christ, which is discipleship. Faith without works is dead. Likewise, belief without works is dead. In the Greek, faith and belief are basically the same thing.
The important points are: (A) don't lose your salvation, and (B) continue your journey of righteousness by becoming a believer and a disciple of Christ. So under the New Wine System, becoming a believer and a disciple is indistinguishable. It's all a part of the journey. And yet the New Wine System does not require either belief or discipleship in order to be resurrected to live in the millennium.
Some free-grace advocates acknowledge that some amount of fruit of the Spirit will be present in any true believer. But then they are quick to say that the amount of fruit can be very small, even to the point of being unnoticeable. The more you get into the need of splitting hairs between belief and discipleship salvation, the more into trouble you get. Salvation is a journey in both the Catholic system and the New Wine System. With salvation being a journey of righteousness, you don't have to spit hairs between belief and discipleship.
Next, Ryrie has a good point in that if any aspect of lordship or discipleship is associated with salvation, then you cannot say how much discipleship is necessary in order to be saved. On page 43, Ryrie writes:
Those who hold to a lordship/discipleship/mastery salvation viewpoint do not (perhaps it would be more accurate to say "cannot") send an unambiguous message about this matter. On the one hand, they say that the essence of saving faith is "unconditional surrender, a complete resignation of self and absolute submission." True faith, we are told, "starts with humility and reaches fruition in obedience." "Salvation is for those who are willing to forsake everything. ...Saving faith is commitment to leave sin and follow Jesus Christ at all costs. Jesus takes no one unwilling to come on those terms." Denying self is essential to salvation: "Eternal life brings immediate death to self. ... Forsaking oneself for Christ's sake is not an optional step of discipleship subsequent to conversion; it is the sine qua non of saving faith.
But what if I do not follow Christ at all costs? What if later on in life I become unwilling to forsake something? Suppose I lack full obedience? What if I take something back that earlier in my experience I had given Him? How do I quantify the amount of fruit necessary to be sure I truly "believe" in the lordship/mastery sense of the term? Or how do I quantify the amount of defection that can be tolerated without wondering if I have saving faith or if I in fact lost what I formerly had?
The lordship response, in spite of its stringent demands on the nature of what the view calls saving faith, must either say that (1) a disobedient Christian loses his salvation or (2) some leeway exists for disobedience within the Christian life. Since many lordship people hold to the security of the believer, they opt for the latter.
So we read statements like this: "A moment of failure does not invalidate a disciple's credentials." My immediate reaction to such a statement is to want to ask if two moments would. Or a week of defection, or a month, or a year. Would two years? How serious a failure and for how long before we must conclude that such a person was in fact not saved? Lordship teaching recognizes that "no one will obey perfectly," but the crucial question is simply how imperfectly can one obey and yet be sure that he "believed" in the lordship/mastery salvation since? If "salvation requires total transformation" and I do not meet that requirement, then am I not saved? Or if my transformation is less than total at any stage of my Christian life, was I not saved in the first place?
A few paragraphs down, on page 45, Ryrie writes:
Frankly, all this relativity would leave me in confusion and uncertainty. Every defection, especially if it continued, would make me unsure of my salvation. Any serious sin or unwillingness would do the same. If I come to a fork in the road of my Christian experience and choose the wrong branch and continue on it, does that mean I was never on the Christian road to begin with? For how long can I be fruitless without having a lordship advocate conclude that I was never really saved?
A few paragraphs down, on page 45, Ryrie writes:
Should the worker on the college campus insist that a collegian who wants to receive Christ hold off until he or she breaks off an immoral relationship? Could such a person be saved at the dorm meeting one evening and yet spend that same night in a continuing adulterous relationship? Or could he or she have two or three days to break off the relationship? Or two weeks or several months? In the meantime, is that person born again?
Free grace salvation advocates distinguish as independent from salvation each of the following: discipleship, lordship, mastery, abiding in Christ, surrender, fruitfulness, being spiritual (not carnal), and repentance from sin. All these are considered to be aspects of Christian growth, but not requirements for salvation.
On page 89 of his book, Ryrie writes:
To return to the main point of the chapter. Is repentance a condition for receiving eternal life? Yes, if it is repentance or changing one's mind about Jesus Christ. No, if it means to be sorry for sin or even to resolve to turn from sin, for these things will not save. Is repentance of sin a precondition to faith? No, though a sense of sin and desire to turn from it may be used by the Spirit to direct someone to the Savior and His salvation. Repentance may prepare the way for faith, but it is faith that saves, not repentance (unless repentance is understood as a synonym for faith or changing one's mind about Christ.) Our Lord came to seek and to save those who are lost (Luke 19:10) simply because those who are healthy do not need a physician; only those who are sick do (Matthew 9:12).
So it would seem that the splitting of hairs between belief and discipleship must get down to two different types of repentance. One wonders if the New Testament authors really had that in mind.
As it turns out, most of the free-grace advocates who have written books on the subject are also dispensational. Some free-grace advocates believe that Christ's teaching in the Sermon on the Mount, and other similar verses, were only directed to the dispensation of law. This allows them to easily separate Paul's gospel from the preaching of Jesus because they say it was two different messages to two different groups of people in two different dispensations. They would say that the message of Jesus was for Israel and the message of Paul was for the Church.
A friend of mine, who is a retired pastor, graduated from Dallas Theological Seminary. This seminary is considered the center for dispensational teaching. Most of the famous dispensational authors were professors at this seminary. My friend does not agree with everything that's said by the dispensationalists. But he is very dispensational in his thinking. He told me he believes Jesus' message about the holiness that's needed for salvation changed at the cross.
The dispensationalists who hold this view might want to consider Matthew 7:20-23, quoted above, which is a part of the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus is saying that those who will preach in his name, and even do mighty works and cast out demons, will hear, "I never knew you." This verse is clearly in the context of wolves in sheep's clothing, who bear bad fruit. Surely these preachers believe in Jesus as Savior. The fault is that they do not do the will (works) of the Father. If this message of Jesus changed at the cross, then who are these preachers who cast out demons in the name of Jesus?
Sometime later, this retired pastor and friend wrote a book on free grace. He calls it radical grace. The book is titled Peace Seekers and is written by Jim Abrahamson. This book has an appendix devoted to addressing the problem verses that free grace advocates face. Abrahamson addresses this verse in Matthew 7:20-23 as follows (page 169):
"He who does the will of My Father"
In verse 21-23, Jesus seems to suggest our acceptance before God is based not upon our confession but our obedience to the law. "Not every one who says to Me, 'Lord Lord' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven" (vs. 21).
Jesus' concern in this context is to distinguish between true and false prophets in Israel (vs. 15). His argument is centered upon the nature of their fruits. Those who speak for God are also going to follow after God. A person who fashioned himself a prophet of God, but was living independently of God's covenant requirements, was not recognized as a true prophet. Furthermore anyone who claimed to be of God and then ignored God's covenant law (practiced lawlessness) had no reason to feel secure. In applying this teaching to ourselves today, we must ask - What is God's covenant with us in Christ? The answer is seen in three texts - Romans 8:1-2, Hebrews 7:12, and 1 Corinthians 9:21. Anyone who confesses Christ and yet does not accept or abide within the covenant of grace through His blood is not to be received as a true child of God. We are expected to live exemplary moral lives in response to God's grace, but the central issue in New Covenant orthodoxy is faith not moral perfection.
Notice how Abrahamson effectively uses a dispensational argument? He applies this verse to "false prophets in Israel." And he applies the verse to the old covenant of law. Then he makes an application of the verse to us today. This effectively removes any requirement for doing the will of the Father in order to enter the kingdom of heaven, as the verse literally states.
Thus Abrahamson has eliminated any salvation requirement for today's pastors to do the will of the Father. They are still saved as long as they totally depend of Christ's blood for redemption, even if they are not doing the will of the Father. The point here is that this use of dispensationalism allows for almost anything Jesus said to be altered from its literal meaning and to simply find a similar moral application for us today.
However, this specific verse causes dispensationalists some additional difficulty. If they simply apply the verse to an earlier dispensation, as Abrahamson has done, they have to ignore two problems. First, Jesus warns his disciples to watch for these false prophets, saying that they will come in the future. He says, "By their fruits you will know them" (verse 16). So these Old Covenant prophets must appear sometime after the Sermon on the Mount. Secondly, these false prophets claim to have prophesied in the name of Jesus, cast out demons in the name of Jesus, and did mighty works in the name of Jesus. If these are old covenant false prophets, then their false ministry would have to have occurred between the time of the Sermon on the Mount and Pentecost. That's because Pentecost marks the new covenant dispensation, according to dispensationalists.
So it's theoretically possible that Jesus was warning about a very few false prophets during the time-frame of his ministry. But it's very unlikely. Jesus is speaking of a future time, saying "Many will tell me in that day" (verse 22). Thus, Jesus says these false prophets are "many" in number. It's very unlikely that many, if any, false prophets who preached in the name of Jesus existed during the time of Christ's ministry before Pentecost.
Mark 9:38-40 John said to him, "Teacher, we saw someone who doesn't follow us casting out demons in your name; and we forbade him, because he doesn't follow us." (39) But Jesus said, "Don't forbid him , for there is no one who will do a mighty work in my name, and be able quickly to speak evil of me. (40) For whoever is not against us is on our side.
Of course the New Wine System does not recognize a dispensational change in Christ's teachings. In the New Wine System, this verse easily applies all the way from the time of Jesus to the second coming. The pastors who don't do the will of the Father are still saved. They will be resurrected. They simply will not "enter the kingdom of heaven," as the verse says. When Christ tells them, "I never knew you. Depart from me, you who work iniquity," he was not saying they will go to hell. He was saying they had not grown to know Christ in a discipleship relationship. They will be resurrected and live during Christ's millennial reign. They cannot "enter the kingdom of heaven." But they can still live in the nations.
Let's go back to John Macarthur's book titled The Gospel According to Jesus. Remember that Macarthur is the big lordship salvation advocate. On page 39, Macarthur writes:
In 1918 Lewis Sperry Chafer published He That is Spiritual, articulating the concept that 1 Corinthians 2:15 - 3:3 speaks of two classes of Christians: carnal and spiritual. Chafer wrote, "The 'carnal' Christian is ...characterized by a 'walk' that is on the same plane as that of the natural [unsaved] man." That was a foreign concept to most Christians in Dr. Chafer's generation. Dr. Chafer's doctrine of spirituality, along with some of his other teachings, have become the basis of a whole new way of looking at the gospel. It is therefore essential to confront what he taught.
Lewis Sperry Chafer was the founder and first president of the Dallas Theological Seminary. He was highly influential in shaping modern dispensationalism. Macarthur also considers himself to be a dispensationalist. But he thinks they have gone too far. Personally, I believe the validity of any system should be questioned if, when it's carried to its logical conclusion, becomes obviously in error. In other words, Macarthur should reconsider whether the original premises of dispensationalism are in fact correct if those premises naturally lead to these conclusions. On page 41, Macarthur continues:
There is a tendency, however, for dispensationalists to get carried away with compartmentalizing truth to the point that they make unbiblical differentiations. An almost obsessive desire to categorize and contrast related truths has carried various dispensationalist interpretations far beyond the legitimate distinction between Israel and the church. Many would also draw hard lines between salvation and discipleship, the church and the kingdom, Christ's preaching and the apostolic message, faith and repentance, and the age of law and the age of grace.
The age-of-law/age-of-grace division in particular has wreaked havoc on dispensationalist theology and contributed to confusion about the doctrine of salvation. [Skipping the rest of the paragraph]
Chafer's view of all Scripture was colored by his desire to maintain a stark distinction between the age of "pure grace" (the church age) and the two ages of "pure law" (the Mosaic era and the millennial kingdom) he saw sandwiching it. He wrote, for example, that the Sermon on the Mount was part of "the Gospel of the kingdom," the "Manifesto of the King." He believed its purpose was to declare law, not grace, and concluded it made no reference to either salvation or grace. "Such a complete omission of any reference to any feature of the present age of grace, is a fact which should be carefully weighed," he wrote.
Other dispensationalist writers did weigh those ideas and went on to state in more explicit terms what Chafer only hinted at: that the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount "have no application to the Christian, but only to those who are under the Law, and therefore must apply to another Dispensation than this." This lamentable hermeneutic is widely applied in varying degrees to much of our Lord's earthly teaching, emasculating the message of the Gospels.
It is no wonder that the evangelistic message growing out of such a system differs sharply from the gospel according to Jesus. If we begin with the presupposition that much of Christ's message was intended for another age, why should our gospel be the same as the one He preached?
But this is a dangerous and untenable presupposition. Jesus did not come to proclaim a message that would be invalid until the Tribulation or the Millennium. He came to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10). He came to call sinners to repentance (Matt. 9:13). He came so that the world through Him might be saved (John 3:17). He proclaimed the saving gospel, not merely a manifesto for some future age. His gospel is the only message we are to preach.
Dispensationalism, therefore, seems to be the root in the modern-day free-grace sharp-line distinctions between salvation and discipleship.
Is discipleship or some level of holiness required in order to "enter the kingdom" as Jesus says, or "inherit the kingdom" as Paul says? Can you be saved and not enter or inherit the kingdom? The issue of inheriting the kingdom cannot be simply dismissed as words of Jesus to another dispensation, because Paul talked about inheriting the kingdom and about believers being heirs.
Ryrie seems to have been silent on this question. There is one dispensational free-grace advocate, however, who is not. In his book titled The Gospel Under Siege, Zane Hodges has a chapter titled "Romans 8: Who are the Heirs?" Just as Ryrie decided to define two types of repentances, Hodges feels the need to define two types of heirs. One type of heir, Hodges believes, is for all believers. The other type of heir is for believers who suffer in fellowship with Christ. On page 128 of his book, Hodges writes:
The concept of two kinds of heirship is very natural indeed in the light of Old Testament custom. As is well-known, in a Jewish family all the sons shared equally in their father's inheritance, except for the oldest, or firstborn, son who received a "double portion." That is, he inherited twice as much as the other sons.
Against this background, Paul can be understood as saying that all of God's children are heirs, simply because they are children. But those who suffer with Christ have a special "joint heirship" with Christ. It is of great significance that later in this chapter Christ is actually described as "the firstborn among many brethren" (829).
Skipping down a few paragraphs, on page 129, Hodges writes:
But in Romans 8:17, Paul speaks also of a "co-heirship" that results in "co-glory." This contrast is a bit easier to see in Greek than it is in English.
In the Greek text, Paul juxtaposes two words for "heir," one of which is the simple word for this, and the other a compound word roughly equal to our word "co-heir." Likewise, two other compound words in Paul's text expresses the thought of "co-suffering" and "co-glorification." As Paul's words make clear, such an heirship is dependent on something more than saving faith. This heirship is contingent on our experience of suffering with Christ.
Romans 8:17 thus confronts us with a double heirship. One of these is for all believers. The other is for believers who suffer in fellowship with Christ.
There may be some small amount of truth to what Hodges is saying. The New Wine System sees a journey of righteousness, with the final destination being inheritance of the kingdom. And yes, there is a definite distinction between the elect who complete this journey during this age, and the nations who must continue the journey during the millennium. But I don't believe Paul is explicitly talking about two types of inheritances. The passage does not seem to be comparing two groups, or making a distinction between two groups. But Paul's words, in their context, can be seen as showing a progression as we suffer in Christ. Here is the verse that Hodges was talking about in its context.
Romans 8:15-19 For you didn't receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry, "Abba! Father!" (16) The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God ; (17) and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ; if indeed we suffer with him, that we may also be glorified with him. (18) For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which will be revealed toward us. (19) For the creation waits with eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.
Everybody is on the path of righteousness because of Christ's sacrifice. So everybody is a child of God. Therefore, everybody is an heir. But as we suffer with Christ, in our journey back to the Father, we become joint heirs with Christ. But this happens only if we suffer with Christ. So again, I see this as more of the progressive nature of being an heir, inheriting greater things as we suffer with Christ. Our rewards are in heaven.
Hodges continues his discussion of heirs in reference to the "wicked servant." Read carefully whether Hodges believes the wicked servant is destined for hell.
On page 131, Hodges writes:
The "wicked servant" in Jesus' parable failed to engage in his lord's "business" with the mina he had been given. He was not involved in "serving" his master. Whether or not he did other commendable things is not the point of the parable. At least he did not labor for his lord. As a result, he does not co-reign with his master over even a single city!
That he also went to hell would be an absurd and unfounded deduction from this parable. [emphasis mine.]
All Christians, then, are heirs of God. But they are not heirs to an equal degree. Their fidelity to the service of Christ, with all its attendant hardships and sufferings, will be the gauge by which that hardship will be measured out to them. Not to teach this simple truth is to deprive believers of one of the most powerful motivations to endurance which the Scriptures contain.
How anyone can read this parable and conclude that the wicked servant is not destined for hell, or even that the wicked servant's final destination to hell was not directly related to his lack of service? Why is the servant called wicked? It's because the servant rejected Christ's lordship over his life. This rejection was because the servant despised his Master. The servant rejected his Master. The wicked servant lost his salvation because he rejected Christ's lordship over his life after he became a servant and understood who Christ really is. This is the unpardonable sin. This parable was also discussed back in section 5.9, titled "The Parable of the Talents."
Matthew 25:26-30 "But his lord answered him, 'You wicked and slothful servant. You knew that I reap where I didn't sow, and gather where I didn't scatter. (27) You ought therefore to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received back my own with interest. (28) Take away therefore the talent from him, and give it to him who has the ten talents. (29) For to everyone who has will be given, and he will have abundance, but from him who doesn't have, even that which he has will be taken away. (30) Throw out the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth .'
Hodges does a good job in dealing with 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10. His position is basically the same as the New Wine System with regard to those who do evil. Those who do evil do not inherit the kingdom, but they are still saved. This is why Hodges decided to define two types of heirs. Hodges believes Paul is saying that carnal believers do not inherit the kingdom, in that they are not heirs with Christ. But they are heirs of God in that they are children of God and are saved.
Then on page 135, Hodges asserts the idea that to inherit the kingdom is not the same as entering the kingdom. Hodges believes one is a matter of ownership and the other is a matter of dwelling. In other words, Hodges believes the carnal Christian will live in the kingdom but will not own the kingdom.
Paul never spoke about entering the kingdom. This was only said by Jesus. Yet Hodges fails to address any of the verses of Jesus, quoted earlier, that say you must be righteous (Matthew 5:20), doing the Father's will (Matthew 7:20-23), become like children (Matthew 18:3-4), overcome sin (Mark 9:47), and endure many tribulations (Acts 14:22) in order to "enter" the kingdom of heaven. In other words, Hodges believes carnal Christians can "enter" the kingdom to dwell there, but not to own it. Yet he fails support this with the relevant verses.
Does salvation require fruits of the Spirit? Solving the friction between Lordship Salvation and Free Grace Theology. Solved by applying Old Testament Jewish eschatology to the New Testament Church.
Free-grace advocates, and probably even lordship salvation advocates, tend to view grace as associated with an age or dispensation. They would say we are living under grace and not under law. God's people under the old covenant were under the law. We are in the age of grace. But there is more to it than just an age. The age of grace (favor) is an age where grace is available to the believer.
Everyone views grace as God's mercy. But additionally, the New Wine System views grace as being filled with the Holy Spirit so that you cannot sin. Being filled with the Holy Spirit, the Spirit changes us on the inside, and that is grace. In other words, Christians can drift back and forth between being under the law and being under grace. We can simply drift in and out of God's grace, but not by God's choice. It's by our own choice as we fall into the temptations of sin.
When you are filled with the Holy Spirit, you cannot sin because God is in you and God cannot sin. Your purpose is God's purpose, which is not going to involve self-oriented motivations. All sins are related to self. Thus, when there is no self-motivation, there is no sin. Of course there are times when you drift back into self-motivation instead of the Father's purposes. The Holy Spirit leaves you, and you can yield to the temptation of sin. During these times, you are not under grace.
Being under the law is trying to obey the law for self-oriented reasons. Being under grace is obeying the law as a result of living for Christ and doing the good works that the Father has for us. In other words, being under grace is equivalent to discipleship/lordship/mastership. Being under grace means it's not you who live but Christ lives in you. Obviously, the free-grace advocates would object to this definition. But when grace is thought of in this way, when inheriting the kingdom is separated from salvation, and when salvation is seen as a journey, there is no conflict whatsoever between the words of Jesus and the words of Paul.
The journey, or "race" as Paul says, must be applied to our view of salvation by faith and through God's grace. God’s grace is the Holy Spirit changing us on the inside. In other words, we are on a journey of faith in Christ which results in doing the will of the Father. Doing the will of the Father is equivalent to the fruit of the Spirit. It matters not how much fruit one has at the moment, because the whole process is a journey that can continue even after death. If it's not completed in this age, it can be completed in the age to come.
One must get to the point of being filled with the Holy Spirit all the time, always being under God's grace, before the journey is complete. The journey can continue on the other side of the grave. Eventually everyone who has ever lived, or who will ever live, will complete their journey of righteousness, or they will harden their hearts against Christ to the point of forfeiting their salvation.
To understand law and grace better, we need to think about a few aspects of what is Israel. Also, remember that Gentiles are grafted into Israel. Israel is a theocracy. Israel is also a promise given to Abraham. So Israel is a promise of a theocracy. It has never been completely fulfilled. What little Old Testament fulfillment there was of that theocracy was just a shadow of the theocracy that will come. And Gentiles are grafted into that promise.
Romans 4:16-17 NIV Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham's offspring--not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. (17) As it is written: "I have made you a father of many nations." He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed--the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were.
Galatians 3:27-29 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. (28) There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (29) If you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed and heirs according to promise.
Back in sections 3.10 and 3.11, we learned that Christ is Israel because Christ is the King of Israel, which is a theocracy. In a kingdom, the king is not distinguished from the kingdom because the king's word is law. In this chapter of Galatians, Paul argues that the promise given to Abraham was a promise for one seed of Abraham, which is Christ. Thus, all who are in Christ are heirs to the promise given to Abraham.
Paul uses this argument to establish the fact that Gentiles are grafted into Israel if they are in the Messiah of Israel. However, Paul was not diminishing the fact that the promise given to Abraham was a promise for all of Israel. That's because there is no difference between the king and the kingdom, or between the Messiah and those who are in the Messiah. If you are in the Messiah, you are in the kingdom of Israel and heirs to the promise of Israel. But Israel itself is a promise. Israel is a promise of a theocracy that will rule over all the nations of the world. The Law of Moses is a shadow of that theocracy. The Word of the Messiah is the Law of that theocracy. One could even say that the Law of Moses is Christ's Word, a shadow of the kingdom that will come.
Hebrews 10:1a NIV The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming--not the realities themselves.
Does this mean that all the detailed ordinances of the law will be reinstated in the millennium? No, because the detailed ordinances of the law can change as times change. The Word of the Messiah, when he returns, will be a fulfillment and a continuation of the Law of Christ.
Matthew 5:17-18 ESV "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. (18) For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.
What does it mean to "fulfill" the Law? Remember, Israel is a promise of a theocracy which will come, and the Law is the Word of the Messiah as he reigns in that kingdom. The Law of Moses is a shadow of that future kingdom. The prophets foretold about this kingdom that will come. Christ did not come to abolish that kingdom. Christ came to fulfill, or bring about that kingdom, which is Israel. Christ will reign for a thousand years, until the heaven and the earth pass away by fire.
But before the literal earthly kingdom of heaven can come, the people of Israel must overcome all our sinful habits and become like Christ. Those who reign with Christ must do so without sin, just as Christ walks without sin. In order for that to happen, Christ had to die on the cross.
The wages of sin is death. But Jesus died for all our sins, past, present, and future. Thus, Jesus paid the price for our salvation. God no longer counts our sins against us. This is justification before God. It's called the great exchange.
2 Corinthians 5:21 For him who knew no sin he made to be sin on our behalf; so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Christ definitely became sin for us so that we "might" become righteous. Of course the word "might" can be argued to be the condition of our belief on Christ. But from the perspective of a journey of righteousness, I think Paul meant it as saying Christ paid the price for our resurrection, and paid the price for all our sins, so that we could have that journey. Then, we will be completely reconciled with God, no longer sinning, and all sins that were committed along the journey forgiven. We are saved from the grave. But in order to make this permanent, in order to inherit eternal life, we must complete the journey.
Titus 3:4-7 NIV But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, (5) he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, (6) whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, (7) so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirshaving the hope of eternal life.
So again, we have been saved (given resurrection from the grave) in order that we "might" become heirs and have the "hope" of eternal life. We must complete the journey, through God’s grace, in order to become an heir and inherit eternal life.
We have been justified BY his grace “through the washing of rebirth and the renewal by the Holy Spirit.” Grace literally means favor. In the Old Testament, those who were living in God's favor filled with the Holy Spirit and were doing the will, or works, of God. Justification by his grace is something that Christ did. Christ did a great work for the Father by dying on the cross. Christ did this because Christ was living in the Father's favor, or under the Father's grace. Therefore, since Christ did this huge work, through the Father's grace, we have the opportunity to live a journey of righteousness by living in the Father's grace.
What does it mean to live (or journey) in the Father's grace? When we are living in the Father's grace, we are living with the Holy Spirit inside us, doing the Father's will, so that we cannot sin. The Father's purpose becomes our purpose. We are consumed with the Father's purpose. There is no longer any room in our lives for sin. Thus, Christ is living in us, from the perspective that we are doing what Christ would be doing, if Christ were living our lives. It is no longer me who lives, but Christ lives in me; and Christ cannot sin.
This is the great exchange. Christ became sin because he was living in the Father's grace (favor). This allows us to live in the Father's grace (favor) by being filled with the Holy Spirit to do the Father's good works, which is the fruit of the Spirit. When we drift back out of the Father's will, into self-motivation, we are no longer acting under the Father's favor. So we are no longer under grace; we are either back under the law of self-righteousness, or simply back into sin.
But this is not salvation by works. Christ paid the price for our resurrection. And Christ paid the price for us to be able to live in the Father's favor. Christ paid the price for us be able to journey back to the Father by becoming righteous. And the only real way to continue in the Father's favor (grace) is to continue to do the will of the Father. Even the angels continue to do the works of the Father. It's not salvation by works.
2 Corinthians 4:15-18 ESV For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. (16) So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. (17) For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, (18) as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient , but the things that are unseen are eternal.
We are saved by faith in the Creator. Or as we learn more about God, we are saved by faith in Jesus Christ. If we truly have faith in the Father, then we do the will of the Father, as best as we know. Our faith is credited as righteousness. In other words, because of the blood of Christ, God treats us as righteousness as long as we are on the journey of righteousness back to the Father. God gives us credit for having completed that journey of righteousness because all our sins have been forgiven. Believers have God's grace because of Christ's sacrifice, yet during that journey, we can drift in and out of actually living in that grace.