Labor Day is a day we celebrate by ceasing from Labor. Many will enjoy a time or relaxation and a BBQ. For Christians, every day is the celebration of Labor day in that we celebrate that we have ceased from Labor in order to be saved. It is a free gift given by a love that can never be earned and a love that can never be lost. We call it Grace- Free Grace to be clear. We often forget that the fight for Free Grace and the free gift is not new. It was fought at the Jerusalem council in Acts 15, and Paul wrote of it in Romans 3-4 and Galatians 2. But the debate did not end with the ancient church.
Issues regarding Free Grace also came to the theological forefront during the time of Colonial America under the “Antinomian controversy”. A few pastors especially John Cotton, Politian Henry Vane, and laywomen Anne Hutchinson were at the forefront of the controversy. Again, the issue was the “freeness of grace” the lack of works in the role of assurance. Might I suggest if you are interested in a scholarly study of this theological topic, “Making Heretics: Militant Protestantism and Free Grace in Massachusetts. 1636-1641 ” by Michael P. Winship, (Princeton University press). I hope you caught the subtitle- “Free Grace”!
On another continent at the same time was the Marrow Controversy. Again, Free Grace was the issue. The book by John Saltmarsha, “Free Grace: Or the Flowing of Christ’s Blood Freely to Sinners”, published in 1645 testifies to the importance of clarifying that the grace and the free gift that flows from it is from Free Grace! The Marrow Controversy was a theological debate based on the book “The Marrow of Modern Divinity” which most believe was written by Edward Fisher, part one written in 1645 and part 2 written in 1648. The writer and his followers were accused of holding to antinomianism and universal redemption- unlimited atonement. “The Marrow Men” as they were called, feared that the church was holding to a form of legalism and preparationisim which required remorse in one’s heart and led to repentance from evil behavior, as a prerequisite to faith, which negated in some degree the freeness of the grace of God in redemption. A recent book by reformed theologian Sinclair B. Ferguson entitled “The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, & Gospel Assurance-Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters” ( Crossway Books) traces the theological debate over the freeness of the grace of God.
And so today we continue the dialogue and debate regarding the relationship of the free gift of eternal life and the grace of God and its relationship to assurance of salvation.
It appears that some things never change.
Serving Him with you until He comes for us,
Fred Chay, PhD
Managing Editor, Grace Theology Press