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Free Grace

Free Grace: A Powerful Resource for Disciple Making

Free Grace: A Powerful Resource for Disciple Making

For some, it might seem strange that a man whose title is Pastor of Training and Spiritual Growth would be as involved as I am in catalyzing people to reach the lost. After all, Grace Polaris has articulated the four purposes of our local church as Worship (upward), Community (inward), Training (forward), and Witness (outward). Those familiar with the evangelical approach to church might logically surmise that my role as point person in our Training purpose would lead me to focus on the edification of believers, while those assigned to our Witness purpose would mobilize believers for evangelism.

Some time ago, though, a counterintuitive realization hit me: Grace Polaris would never be successful in edifying believers if we couldn’t train them to reach the lost. The reason for this is simple enough. If we understand the Great Commission to be the believer’s primary directive, and the Great Commission includes both making converts (represented by “baptizing them” in Matt. 28:19) and helping those converts grow in Christlikeness (symbolized by “teaching them to observe” in Matt. 28:20), then if no new believers were coming into the fold, our efforts at edification would be artificial and listless. To put this another way, for us to try to train believers without winning new ones would be like training more and more lifeguards to work at a pool with a static or declining membership. Whom, exactly, would those new lifeguards protect, and how would they employ their newfound abilities if there weren’t enough swimmers to go around?

As a result of this realization, I work hard to help believers at Grace Polaris and beyond to understand the lifestyle of an effective disciple maker and the message he or she should share. This requires a degree of precision in the language we use in our training efforts. While we are certainly still in the refining process of this endeavor, I’m very grateful to build upon God’s free grace as we go forward.

Because the Free Grace understanding of the Gospel places so much emphasis on salvation as a free gift, it is uniquely powerful in appealing to those who hear it. Training believers necessarily entails equipping them to articulate the Gospel in such a way that both the lost and the saved recognize the good news as good news, since decent news is not compelling.  That God would offer salvation solely on the basis of Christ’s finished work, and not on the basis of our efforts or promises in response to Him—that is truly good news.

Furthermore, a Free Grace perspective offers a clean distinction between Christianity and other worldviews, all of which seem to assert at some level that it is a person’s responsibility to bridge the gap between himself and the divine. We emphasize the finished work of Christ alone and purposefully avoid presenting salvation as dependent in any way on human action. This differentiates the “product” that we are selling and minimizes the chance that the lost will syncretize Christ’s promise of eternal life with the works-based systems of the world.

Finally, articulating Christ’s free grace provides a Gospel-centered motivation toward good works and Christian mission. If a new convert even subtly understands his conversion as “cleaning his life up,” his service for Christ can become less of a response to Christ’s grace, carried out by a new Spirit-filled creation, and more of an attempt to stay in God’s grace. Make no mistake: fear does motivate. On the other hand, love motivates in a more powerful, happy way, and it is this power and happiness that we need if we are to appeal to those who are searching for hope.

Beau Stanley
Pastor of Training and Spiritual Growth,
Grace Polaris
Thinking Theologically

Thinking Theologically

Over the past 22 years of teaching theology at a seminary, there are always questions that get asked year after year. One of these perennial questions has to do with the connection and correlation of Free Grace Theology and the pre-tribulation rapture. It is demonstrable that many of those who hold to a free grace theology are also dispensational and those who are dispensational are almost always pre-tribulational to some degree. However, it is possible to be amillennial and still hold to free grace or to be Post-tribulational rapture and be free grace, although both of these are not the norm.

That said, I have had a number of seminary students that are post-trib or mid-tribulational or pre-wrath rapture in their views and who also hold tenaciously to free grace theology. The more natural and normal formation of those who are free grace results in a dispensational theology that includes a pre-tribulational rapture. However, there are many skilled exegetes and theologians who proclaim the glorious grace of God’s free grace while holding to a variety of eschatological views.

This week the 24th National Pre-Trib Study Center Conference is being held in Dallas, Texas. This ministry was founded by Dr. Tim LaHaye in 1991 and is directed by Dr. Tom Ice. The purpose of this theological think-tank is to provide the church with the best and latest research based on exegetical and theological studies to provide insight and evidence for a defense of the pre-tribulation rapture view. In many ways, this conference is similar to the Bible and prophecy conferences held in America and England in the late 19th and early 20th centuries that focused on dispensationalism and biblical prophecy. This year the keynote speaker is Joel Rosenberg, an evangelical Christian from an Orthodox Jewish heritage. He is the author of the best-seller Epicenter and many other books. He lives now in Jerusalem with his family.

Many who attend the Pre-Trib Conference are clearly free grace in their understanding of theology. Some are more reformed in their soteriology. However, the study center provides some wonderful resources for eschatological research. Visit their website to download some excellent papers on a variety of eschatological topics.

Always remember: the best theological system is the one that handles the most data with the fewest assumptions. The results will be a system that is consistent, congruent, cohesive, comprehensive and complete. It will also take some time to construct! If you happen to be going the conference, come see me at the Grace Theology Press booth.

Serving Him with you
Until He comes for us,
Fred Chay, PhD
Grace Theology Press
Managing Editor

A Great Day at FGA

A Great Day at FGA

Today is a great day for Grace Theology Press (GTP)! We are at the Free Grace Alliance (FGA) National Conference in Arlington, Texas, and I am very excited because we are introducing three new books we just published. I hope you will have a chance to visit our online bookstore and read about our authors. Many of our authors have been part of FGA since its inception, and a few of us have been on its leadership counsel. GTP and FGA have a shared vision in that we desire to make the gospel of grace clear to those who need to receive eternal life (justification) and encourage those who are seeking to faithfully follow Christ (sanctification). GTP seeks to accomplish this through the production of biblically accurate and theologically articulate books. The church has always needed resources to guide its people in forming theology and doing ministry. It was true in the ancient church that produced creeds and catechisms, and it is true today as we seek to keep the gospel of grace clear.It is true as the “Preacher” (Qoheleth) said: the writing of many books is endless, and excessive devotion to books is wearying to the body. (Eccl. 12:12)

However, it is important that we keep up on the theological issues of the day. A new release by Dr. Thomas Schreiner is worth a comment. It is entitled Faith Alone: The Doctrine of Justification (Zondervan 2015). The forward is by Dr. John Piper, and “The Sola Series” editor is Dr. Matthew Barrett. The three names just mentioned will inform you that this is to be a tour de force in Reformed Theology. However, there is much good to be gained by reading this book from both the historical and systematic theological viewpoints. But I mention this book to you because of the mention of the “Free Grace Movement” within its pages.

Although Dr. Schreiner is gracious in his comments about us, he is clear that we are in error concerning Free Grace Theology. In a section called “Mental Assent Isn’t Saving Faith,” he opines:

“Some in the movement known as the Free Grace movement claim that bare mental assent actually saves people. (Here he footnotes the late Dr. Earl Radmacher, his former teacher. ed.) They have come up with a novel interpretation of James 2, for they claim that the words “justify” (dikaioo) and “save” (sozo) do not refer to eschatological salvation. James, they claim, isn’t actually talking about end-time salvation, for that would contradict salvation by faith alone.

The motive behind this interpretation is commendable, for those who espouse it long to celebrate the grace of God. They want to eliminate any notion that human works qualify us to stand before God. They want to preserve in all its power and beauty the notion that salvation is sola fide. Still, the gambit fails for this is an example of desperate exegesis. It doesn’t work to provide new definitions for the words “justify” and “save,” definitions that aren’t found in the rest of the NT.”

The argument is standard fare for Evangelical Reformed Theology. As to who is engaging in “desperate exegesis,” you be the judge. The fact is this debate and all theological debates must be examined and explained at an exegetical level since we not only hold to Sola Fide, but also to Sola Scriptura.

And so the purpose of GTP is to provide you with resources that are biblically accurate, theologically astute, and spiritually affirming.

Serving Him with you
Until He comes for us,

Fred Chay, PhD
Managing Editor
Grace Theology Press