The Novelty Of Free Grace Theology, Part 1 -- By: Kenneth W. Yates

Journal: Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society
Volume: JOTGES 27:52 (Spring 2014)
Article: The Novelty Of Free Grace Theology, Part 1
Author: Kenneth W. Yates

The Novelty Of Free Grace Theology, Part 1

Kenneth Yates

Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society
Columbia, SC

I. Introduction

One of the major objections against Free Grace Theology is the supposed novelty of teachings such as the Judgment Seat of Christ; that there will be rewards and loss of rewards for believers;1 that assurance is the essence of saving faith; and that true believers can commit and persist in sin. Opponents claim that if such doctrines were true, church history would record them.

Associated with these charges is the contrary assertion that the Lordship Salvation teaching about good works being necessary to obtain final salvation is an old view, and that this is attested by the early church. For example, Wayne Grudem says that, “It is misleading to brand ‘Lordship salvation’ as if it were some new doctrine.” He says that Lordship Salvation has always been the historic, orthodox, view of the Church.2

The historical objection against Free Grace views is neatly summarized by D. A. Carson’s remark on Zane Hodges’s understanding of Jas 2:14-17:

…not one significant interpreter of Scripture in the entire history of the church has held to Hodges’s interpretation of the passages he treats.

That does not mean that Hodges is wrong; but it certainly means he is probably wrong3

Is this a valid objection? Did the early church teach Lordship Salvation? Did anyone in the early church believe in Free Grace? In this article, I will look at how the early church looked at the Gospel, and attempt to show that the church fathers did not agree with either Free Grace theology or Lordship Salvation theology in important respects.

II. The Apostolic Fathers

Outside of the NT writings, the earliest record we have of doctrine in the Church is through the writings of the Apostolic Fathers. The dates of these men are a matter of some debate, but most say that they are a small group of writers who lived in the last part of the first century or in the early part of the second century. They obtained the title of Apostolic Fathers because they may have had contact with the original Apostles or heard them speak. They belong to a generation that links the Church with the original Twelve.

It is, of course, impossible for an article this size to discuss all that the Apostolic Fathers wr...

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