Monday, April 03, 2006

A Biblical Response To the Free Grace Movement-Part 2

This is Part Two of Phillip L. Simpson's article.

I have taken the liberty here of separating some of the Scripture entries in his lists for ease in reading.

God’s Definitive Work in Redemption

It is apparent, from the Scriptures, that God’s design in salvation is not just to bring people to heaven; His aim is to glorify Himself by calling a particular people to Himself, and sanctifying them so that they will be a light to the world. Though capable of failure (sometimes heinously, like David), these are momentary moral lapses rather than prolonged patterns of unrepentant rebellion. These next seven verses describe the fundamental change wrought by God in the heart of a man when He saves him. Note the definitive character of most of these statements: This is not what one may or may not do in response to God; it is what God effectively will do (and does) when saving a man:

Jeremiah 31:33--But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

Ezekiel 11:19-20--And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh: 20 That they may walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances, and do them: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God.

Ezekiel 36:26-27--And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

Acts 15:8-9--"So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, 9"and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith

.Romans 7:4--Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.

Titus 2:14--"who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works."

1 Peter 1:1,2--Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ"

Ephesians 2:10--"For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them."


Repentance is not a human work, but is a gift granted from God when He draws a person to Himself. Human repentance has no merit before God, for all human repentance is flawed; our most righteous acts are as filthy rags before a Holy God (Isaiah 64:6).

But repentance is an evidence of God’s working in a man’s heart to convert him. Repentance is not simply, as the "free grace" teachers define it, "changing one’s mind about God". This definition says nothing of the recognition of one’s own sin against God. Rather, repentance may be defined as that which is borne out of sorrow for sin (see 2 Cor 7:9, 10-- repentance is a change of mind, not only with respect to God, but also a change of mind regarding one’s sin: no longer loving it, but agreeing with God that it is wrong, and desiring to see the flesh overcome by God’s Spirit and the sin defeated). It is, as A.W. Pink has said, "me taking sides with God against myself". It is not the same as fruit or good deeds, though these logically are connected with and follow repentance (Matthew 3:8; Luke 3:8; Acts 26:19, 20; Revelation 16:11).

Luke 3:8--"Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance" (see also Matthew 3:8)Acts 26:19,20--"Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, 20"but declared first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance."2 Cor 7:9, 10--"Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. 10For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death."
The Westminster Shorter Catechism defines repentance in a helpful way: "Repentance unto life is a saving grace, whereby a sinner out of a true sense of his sin, and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, doth, with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God, with full purpose of, and endeavor after new obedience".

Study the verses below. Note how often the concept of repentance is presented in the verses below. Note the context of these verses, that they are not presented as an admonition to the church, but in the contexts of conversion and presenting the gospel. Contrary to "free grace" teaching, it should appear obvious that Scripture presents repentance as part of the gospel message.

Matthew 3:2--and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!"

Mark 1:14,15--"Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel."

Mark 1:4--"John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins."

Luke 5:32--""I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance."

Luke 13:3--"I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish."

Luke 15:7--"I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance."

Note Luke 24:47--"and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem." This is a "Great Commission" passage; if repentance was not part of the gospel message, then Christ would not have commanded us to preach it here. Since faith is not mentioned here and elsewhere {but repentance is}, and repentance is not mentioned in other passages such as John 3:16, repentance and faith must be mutually implied within one another; that is, the faith that saves is a repentant faith. It is the publican beating on his breast and saying, "Lord, have mercy on me, the sinner" (Luke 18:13). It is the prodigal saying, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and against You" (Luke 15:18). A man who responds to the gospel is not just intellectually convinced, but "cut to the heart" (Acts 2:37).

John Murray describes the relationship between faith and repentance this way:

The interdependence of faith and repentance can be readily seen when we remember that faith is faith in Christ for salvation from sin. But if faith is directed to salvation from sin, there must be hatred of sin and the desire to be saved from it. Such hatred of sin involves repentance which essentially consists in turning from sin unto God. Again, if we remember that repentance is turning from sin unto God, the turning to God implies faith in the mercy of God as revealed in Christ. It is impossible to disentangle faith and repentance. Saving faith is permeated with repentance and repentance is permeated with faith.(John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied, p.113)

Acts 2:38--Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Acts 3:19--"Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord"

Acts 17:30--"Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent"

Acts 20:21--"testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ."

Acts 26:17, 18--delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’

Romans 2:4--Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?

Hebrews 6:1--Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God,

2 Peter 3:9--The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

In short, there is a desperation in salvation. Scripture calls this having "fled to Christ for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us"

(Hebrews 6:18). Paul describes the salvation process as a response to the Word of God; this response is that of being convinced, being convicted, having the secrets of one’s heart revealed; this leads to one falling on his face (an expression of humility, brokenness, and contrition), and agreeing that God is with believers (1 Corinthians 14:24-25).

In Acts 2:37, those who heard the gospel preached by the apostles " were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’ ".

Note that, in Revelation 22:17, eternal life is offered freely, that is, "without price":

Revelation 22:17--The Spirit and the Bride say, "Come." And let the one who hears say, "Come." And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price."

According to this verse, the free gift of eternal life is not offered to those satisfied with their current situation; it is offered only to "the one who is thirsty", to "the one who desires". As A.W. Pink has said, "It is also true that salvation is a free gift, but an empty hand must receive it, and not a hand which still tightly grasps the world" ("Signs of the Times", Studies in the Scriptures, 16:373-375).

It should be noted that a common objection is that repentance is a human work, and therefore cannot be a part of the gospel message. This is referred to by "free grace" teachers as "front-loading the gospel". I find this incredible, given the above texts. But additional mention should be made of the fact that Scripture speaks of repentance, not as a human work to earn salvation, but as a gift granted by God:

Acts 5:31--"Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins."

Acts 11:18--When they heard these things they became silent; and they glorified God, saying, "Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life."

2 Tim 2:25--in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth...

God does something decisive when He saves someone. He gives them a new, soft heart; He opens the eyes of their understanding; He puts His law in their hearts (Jeremiah 31:33; Ezekiel 11:19-20; Ezekiel 36:26-27; Acts 16:14; 2 Corinthians 3:16; 2 Corinthians 4:6).

It has been argued that John does not use the word "repent" in his gospel, and never uses the term to apply to unbelievers. This is said to be significant because John’s gospel is the only gospel which states explicitly that it was written so that the reader may believe and have eternal life (John 20:31). However, the gospel message is not presented in John’s gospel only (it was in Luke 19:10 that Jesus said that the reason He had come was "to seek and save that which was lost"); besides, if we hold to the inerrancy of the Scriptures, we hold that what John teaches cannot contradict the other gospels. Further, it is clear that John described the concept of repentance in his gospel. For example, see how in John 8 Jesus confronts the Pharisees with their sins, such as lying and failing to love Him. He also confronts the Samaritan woman with immorality in John 4. It is also clear that John did use the term "repentance" in relation to non-Christians:

Revelation 2:20-22--"Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. "And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent. "Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds. (Note: To eliminate the dilemma posed by Christ demanding that a false teacher repent of deeds, "free grace" teachers like Zane Hodges have explained this passage by stating that this false prophetess was actually a true believer! {See Grace in Focus, Jul/Aug 98}. How unlike Jesus, who said specifically regarding false teachers that "You will know them by their fruits."!)

Revelation 9:20-21--But the rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, that they should not worship demons, and idols of gold, silver, brass, stone, and wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk. 21And they did not repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts.

Revelation 16:9, 11--And men were scorched with great heat, and they blasphemed the name of God who has power over these plagues; and they did not repent and give Him glory. They blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and did not repent of their deeds.


All Christians are disciples (i.e., followers and learners). In the New Testament, the term "disciples" is used synonymously with the term "believers". The book of Acts frequently refers to the activities of "the disciples". In fact, the term "disciples" is used 27 times in the book of Acts, whereas the term "believers" is used only once. When the twelve "summoned the multitude of the disciples" in Acts 6:2, it does not mean that they picked out the truly committed Christians and separated them from the uncommitted!

While not all "disciples" are following for the right reasons (see John 6:66 and Matthew 8:21-22), yet the New Testament knows nothing of a believer who does not, to some degree, follow and learn from Christ. One does not follow Christ in an effort to win His approval and earn eternal life; rather, the Christian, as a new creation, hears the voice of the Shepherd and follows Him (John 10:16, 27). This is not accepted by the "free grace" teacher, but should be obvious from the verses below:

Acts 11:26--"And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch." (Note: it is obvious from this verse that "disciples" and "Christians" are synonymous terms.)

John 10:4, 5, 16, 27--"And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice... "Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers... "And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd...."My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me."

John 18:37--Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.

The Inevitability of Spiritual Fruit in the Christian's Life

All Christians will evidence some spiritual fruit if they have truly been converted. This is because a regenerate person has actually become a "new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new" (2 Corinthians 5:17). The "free grace" teaching that denies the necessity of the new creation is refuted by the following passages, which clearly teach that the new creation will certainly demonstrate a new manner of living.
It should be noted that this manner of living ("fruit" or "works") is in no way the basis for our acceptance before God (see Ephesians 2:8,9, Titus 3:5, Romans 3:20,28, and Galatians 2:16); they are, however, the birth mark of any who are truly born again, as the verses below demonstrate:

Matthew 7:16-20--"You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? "Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. "A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. "Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. "Therefore by their fruits you will know them."
Matthew 12:33-35--"Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit. "Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. "A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things."
Luke 19:27--‘But bring here those enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, and slay them before me.’ (Note: In this parable, Jesus describes unbelievers as those "who do not want (Him) to reign over them".)
Romans 2:5-9--"But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who "will render to each one according to his deeds": eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek"
Romans 6:21--But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? The end of those things is death. (Note: A Christian, according to this verse, is one who is ashamed of the former works of darkness.)
Romans 8:1--"There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.
Romans 8:4--"in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
Romans 8:7--"For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.
Romans 8:13-14--For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.
2 Corinthians 3:18--But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord." (Note: Break this sentence down into its simplest Subject/Verb form, and it says, "All...are being transformed"!)
Hebrews 5:9-- "And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him"
Hebrews 6:4-8--For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame. For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing from God; but if it bears thorns and briars, it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned."
Hebrews 6:9-10--"But, beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you, yes, things that accompany salvation, though we speak in this manner. For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister" (Notice the implication: there is validity to the idea that there are certain things which accompany salvation, and the author of Hebrews mentions specifically "work" and "labor of love" as two of these salvation accompaniments.)
Hebrews 9:12-14--Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?"
Hebrews 10:14--For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified. (This verse teaches that all Christians are being sanctified.)
James 2:14, 17, 22, 24, 26--"What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? … Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead…You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!…Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?…You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only…For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
3 John 11--Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God.

A description of those without Christ is given in terms of their conduct; this conduct is referred to as previous behavior which no longer characterizes the children of God:

Matthew 3:10--"And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire" (see also Luke 3:9)
Matthew 7:23--"And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’
1 Corinthians 6:9-11--Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.
Ephesians 2:1-5--"And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. 4But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)"
Colossians 1:21-22--And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him...
Titus 3:3-5--"For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit."

Some charge that, by stating all Christians will inevitably show fruit in their lives, we are requiring works as a condition for salvation. The free grace teachers call this "backloading the gospel". However, as mentioned earlier, those who hold to the inevitable fruit position deny that these works are meritorious for salvation, only that they are evidential of it. Even our best works are as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). If any works are performed by the believer, they are only there because God Himself has done them through us:

Ephesians 2:10--For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Philippians 2:13--for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Hebrews 13:20-21--Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
On Wednesday, I'll be posting part 3, which picks up with special considerations on John's Gospel, which I understand have been discussed recently at Jonathan Moorhead's blog with relationship to the Free Grace Movement.

Stay Tuned!


  1. Thanks for posting this article. Very good stuff. This article is linked over at the Moor, so let's see if any FGers bite.

  2. How can a Christian know if he's repenting correctly? Is there a way to tell if one's repentance is "wordly" or "godly" sorrow? It is important to repent right, otherwise there is no forgiveness.

  3. Brother Gene,

    Great post. Worthy for all peddlers of cheap grace to read and hear.

    Villa Rica

  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  5. I've taken the bite ;)

    After carefully reading a hard copy of Mr. Simpson's "Biblical Response" I'm convinced he hasn't laid a hand on Free Grace arguments, but simply asserted that because we (Purists) are right they (FG) are wrong.

    What good is that? We all agree that our two models are mutually exclusive !!

    How about logically and contextually refuting FG arguments? That's what is needed.

    Jodie (HK FLynn)

  6. Excellent! Well-written, easy to understand, Biblically supported.
    Thanks very much for posting these three parts. I look forward to reading part 4.
    I do have a question, however.
    I posted this over at Moorhead's as well. But just in case Mr. Simpson or any Triablogue hosts are reading and have time to answer, here's my Q:
    Simpson quotes Hebrews 6:4-8:
    "For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame...."
    My first thought reading this was: Does this verse suggest that one can lose one's salvation?
    I don't believe one can based on other scripture (where Jesus says none that the Father gives Him will He cast away), but then I don't understand this Scripture.
    I also ask this because HK Flynn (Jodie) and I have been discussing a verse in Rev. 3 (I believe) wherein Jesus says that He will not blot out the faithfuls' names from the Book of Life, so I was wondering if there were in fact names He would blot out. I tend to think now that as Jodie suggested to me, it's hyperbole.
    Still, I'm perplexed by this verse in Hebrews you quoted. Can you elucidate it for me?