One of the essential questions in the Grace Debate is the requirement of love and other forms of obedience that are essential to prove that faith is genuine and salvific. Many authors provide a variety of lists that are essential to prove that the faith one demonstrates genuinely and actually saves. A new formulation of this is found in Matthew Bates’ work, Salvation By Allegiance Alone (see a previous blog where we have examined this book). His view is that ” embodied obedience” is what pistis (faith) means and hence if there is no love and acts of obedience, then there is no justification. He holds that not only is salvation to be understood in three phases—past, present and future—but he states that justification is a three-part activity that culminates in a final declaration at the Great White Throne that one is finally and fully justified. (See Romans 2:5-6.)
Others sensing the tension and subjectivity of such a theology simply say that ” some” works are necessary to prove that faith is genuine. (See Wayne Grudem’s, Free Grace Theology 5 Ways is Diminishes the Gospel.) Of course, it is never clarified how much ” some” includes nor what type of ” some” works are necessary.
Historically, in Reformed theology, “Love” has been the “true sign,” the ” shibboleth” in determining if a person is justified and saved eternally. Dr. John Hosler, a pastor and an articulate and longstanding defender of the free grace gospel asks the seminal question:
” Does being born again mean that a believer cannot resist practicing perfect love at all times? Faith Works by John MacArthur, p. 188: ” There is no such thing as a Christian who lacks this love….No-lordship theology ignores this vital truth….Jesus said, ‘if you love Me, you will keep my commandments.’ ‘He who has my commandments and keeps them, he is who loves me’ (Jn. 4:21). Conversely, ‘He who does not love Me does not keep My words’ (v. 24).”
“Included in the definition of love is keeping all the commandments of Christ, keeping the word of God, loving all brothers at all times, and walking in the light at all times. How then could the reformers, Roman Catholics and Puritans have hated the Anabaptists so vehemently? Why, then, was it necessary to tell the Romans to let love be without dissimulation (Rom. 12:9)? Why did the Corinthians have to be beseeched to confirm their love to a repenting brother (II Cor. 2:8)? Why did the Galatians have to be told to serve one another in love (Gal. 5:13)? Why did Paul have to pray for the Ephesians to be rooted and grounded in love (Eph. 3:17)? Why did Paul have to beseech the Ephesians to forbear one another in love (Eph. 4:1, 2)? Why did Paul have to tell Christian men to love their wives (Eph. 5:25)? And how could the Ephesian church, founded by Paul, have left its first love (Rev. 2:4)? Why did Paul need to tell the Thessalonians to put on the breastplate of love (I Thess. 5:8)? Why did he have to tell Timothy to follow after love (I Tim. 6:11; II Tim. 1:13)? Why do young Christian wives need to be taught to love their husbands (Titus 2:4)? Why do Christians need to provoke one another unto love (Heb. 10:24)? Why must Christians be told to let brotherly love continue (Heb. 13:1)? Why must Peter tell the saints to love one another as brethren (I Pet. 3:8)? Why does he tell Christians to be diligent to add charity and brotherly kindness to their faith (II Pet. 1:5-7)? Why must John tell the saints not to love the world (I Jn. 2:15)? Why was it necessary for him to tell the saints that they ought to love one another (I Jn. 4:11)? Why did Jude have to tell the beloved to keep themselves in the love of God (Jude 21)? Why? Because many saved believers can and do lack love, and thereby forfeit their fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ and will receive discipline. I Jn. 4:10, 11 says: Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. Love is an important and profitable attribute of a Christian, but it is God’s love and not our own that saves us and keeps us saved.”
Can I get an Amen!
Serving Him with you until He comes for us,
Fred Chay, PhD
Managing Editor, Grace Theology Press