This page is dedicated to answering many questions regarding Free Grace Theology, as well as providing helpful resources and teachings.

Frequently Asked Questions

"Theological labels are a convenient way to summarize belief systems. Many labels have become an established part of theological dialogue, like Arminianism, Calvinism, amillennialism, or premillennialism. Many who hear the label "Free Grace Theology" wonder what it means. Here is a brief summation.

1. Free Grace teaches that the grace of salvation is absolutely free.
2. Free Grace means that the grace of salvation can be received only through faith.
3. Free Grace believes the object of faith is the Lord Jesus Christ.
4. Free Grace holds to the finished work of Christ.
5. Free grace provides the only basis for assurance of salvation.
6. Free Grace distinguishes between salvation and discipleship. 
7. Free Grace teaches that the Christian life is also by grace through faith.
8. Free Grace provides the best motivation for godly living.
9. Free Grace holds that the Christian is accountable
10. Free Grace is committed first to an accurate interpretation of the Bible

Conclusion

Free Grace theology begins with the plain and clear teaching of the Bible that grace is absolutely free. From this, the Bible's teachings about salvation, faith, security, assurance, the Christian life, and discipleship are viewed consistent with the unconditional nature of grace. The free grace of God should motivate Christians to worship, serve, and live godly for the "God of all grace" (1 Peter 5:10) who "first loved us" (1 John 4:19)."


excerpt from Grace Life ministries
(https://www.gracelife.org/resources/gracenotes/?id=67&lang=eng)

Recently, my wife and I were at a local shopping center and happened to walk by a jewelry store. As I waited for the anticipated question, I formulated my response. “Let’s go look” she said. “Why should we, we cannot afford anything in there!” was my reply. “But we can still look at all the beautiful jewelry” came her response. We ended up in the store looking into the glass cases filled with unattainable treasures. 

One of the “precious gems” in the Bible is God’s grace. Who can put a value on grace? 

Grace is an inexhaustible Biblical topic. Many books have been written on the amazing grace of God. Without grace, there would be no hope for humanity when confronted by the holiness of God. Our sinful condition results in a permanent separation from God. The Bible says in Ephesians 2:8-9 “for by grace are ye saved through faith”. So, without grace there is no salvation! How valuable is grace??? We know that grace is often defined as “unmerited favor” or, as we see in the Old Testament, the “lovingkindness” of the Lord. It is when God gives to man blessings and kindness that man does not deserve. Romans 3:23 tells us that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”. None of us deserve heaven and eternal life in the presence of God, but grace……wonderful, merciful, extravagant, forgiving, redeeming GRACE. Wow. How valuable is that? Can you afford it? Can you earn it? Do you have the credit limit to secure it? NO! Grace cannot be purchased or earned from God. It is a gift that he extends to all mankind. It is best revealed in the free gift of Jesus. He left heaven, became a man, lived a sinless life, became the Passover lamb for all of mankind, and secured victory over death and hell in his physical resurrection from the dead. Jesus offered the free gift of eternal life with God to the wealthy and religious like Nicodemus in John 3 and to the poor and outcast like the Samaritan woman in John 4. In both cases, Jesus says this eternal life can be received by simple belief or faith thru the grace of God. No strings attached. No demands of reform. No “guilt trip” service after the offer. Just simple faith in Jesus for eternal life is the offer. 

Today, many Bible teachers and pastors are “frontloading” or “backloading” this offer of grace unto eternal life. Frontloading demands you must do this or that before you can drink freely from the water of salvation. Backloaders tell us that we must perform certain actions or show some kind of fruit to “prove” we are genuinely saved. They put a price on grace. It’s a price that they cannot afford. None of us can afford it. Often, I have been accused of teaching “cheap grace” or “easy believism”. I guess that is as opposed to “expensive grace” or “hard believeism”. 

Consider this illustration. Often my wife will come home and tell me that she was out and saw a sign at her favorite store that said “everything on sale” or “75% off everything”. She proceeds to tell me how much money she saved me. She is so excited that she made some “great deals”. She knows what my response is going to be! “How much did you spend???” I do not care about percentages or sales. I care only how much money she has spent. No matter how much it was on sale, or how “cheap” it was, it took money to purchase it. 

So, when people ask me if I believe in “cheap” grace or “expensive” grace, I tell them there is no such thing. After the puzzled look, I explain that grace is a free gift and it does not matter if it was “cheap” or “expensive” because in both cases, it means grace cost SOMETHING and that it can be earned. And when you attach a price to grace it is no longer grace at all!! I don’t believe in cheap grace, I believe in free grace! So come into God’s jewelry store and see the huge gem of grace! No, you cannot afford it. Not at any price. But if you believe Gods Word that He will freely give it to you, all you have to do is come in and receive it!!

written by Ken Stodola, Senior Pastor of Open Door Baptist Church

God forbid! With a grace that is free, it should change the Christian's motivation of serving Jesus from a motiviation of obeying simply because God says so, to a motivation of obeying because of His great love for us. 

Many times, a person who rejects the teaching of Lordship Salvation is charged with antinomianism. Antinomianism comes from anti-, meaning “against” and nomos, meaning “law.” Therefore, the most literal interpretation simply means “against the law.” Used as one of a few different derogatory remarks towards one who doesn’t hold to the Lordship Salvation theology, it is said that this view teaches that since we are no longer under the era of Law but Grace, that there is no longer a need for the Law today. 

While I will admit some people hold to this teaching, it does not mean everyone does if they reject Lordship Salvation. I will even agree that those who hold to the position of antinomianism, do condone a form of sinful liberal sanctification, lifestyle, or hedonism. However, it is ignorant and unwarranted to say anyone who does not hold to Lordship Salvation espouses antinomianism, for this author rejects both as that is an logical fallacy known as the Hasty Generalization Fallacy.

That being said, what does Scripture say? Does God’s grace promote this view and lifestyle? If we are no longer under law, but under grace, what purpose does the Law serve then? First, understand that though we are no longer under the Law of Moses, we are under a new law, the Law of Messiah. Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum reveals this concept from Galatians 6:2, and Romans 8:2(18) and the fact that the Law of Moses was never meant to be permanent, but rather temporal, pending the coming of Messiah(19) who disannulled the Law of Moses and ushered in the Law of Messiah. Under this new Law, “the believer…is free from the necessity of keeping any commandment of that system. But on the other hand, he is also free to keep parts of the Law of Moses if he so desires.”(20) This truth can be seen in Paul’s accounts in the book of Acts, 18:18, 20:16, and 21:17-26.

Regarding the Law of Moses, which most people mean when they charge one with antinomianism, Paul addresses in Romans 6:1-2. Here he writes about two purposes of the Law, one for unbelievers and the other for believers. For the unbeliever, the Law is the “schoolmaster” which shows them the need for Christ (Galatians 3:23). It is the inability to please God in the fallen state which shows one their need for a redeemer. The Ten Commandments of Exodus 20 make up only 1.6% of the 613 total commandments of God. I surmise that everyone who have ever lived has broken all 10 commandments at one point in their life, and this is not factoring in the other 603 that re-main. As the Psalmist wrote in Psalm 14:3, “there is none that doeth good, no not one,” and as Paul penned in Romans 3:23, “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” 

As a parent with a child living within your home, you set the rules that they must obey; whether bed time, curfew, electronics, etc, it is your house, your rules. While your child is under your roof, your child will obey the rules of the home. The same holds true for the Creator of the universe, the only difference is that there is no other place to live other than under His roof, for He has created all. And since He has created all, to include you and me, He establishes the rules, and desires the relationship with all through obedience, trust, and faith

To the believer, the Law is the standard by which we are to live holy lives. The Law, for a believer, brings blessings and discipline. Advocating that works are required for salvation negates the very promises of God’s discipline towards His children. Hebrews 12:5-11 speaks of this fact, that there are times in a Christian’s life that God has to discipline one to bring them to correction. The same is true of any parent that loves their child. As a father of two children, I have seen my children disobey on numerous accounts; don’t get me wrong, they are excellent kids and we are blessed for how well-mannered and disciplined they are, but they still have their days. If I were to tell them to take care of a chore before I get home from work, and when I get home I see them doing anything but the chore I instructed them to do, they will be scolded. Now if I caught my children doing something that would cause them physical harm, there would be no scolding, but rather a more severe disciplining so they know the seriousness of the action they took that could harm them.

The same is true of God and us Christians, rebellion or disobedience brings the disciplining hand of our Creator. This is not because He is a tyrannical, egotistical God who requires constant obedience, rather, it is because He is a loving Father who desires the best for us. God’s disciplining hand reveals the inconsistency of Lordship Salvation.

Then there is the Judgment Seat of Christ, otherwise known as the Bema Seat Judgment, spoken of in 1 Corinthians 3:12-15. It is here that every believer will give an account of what they did with the gift of eternal life, this side of heaven. There will be a measurement of one’s good works (gold, silver, precious stone) and bad works (wood, hay, stubble), and they will be tested by the fire, or judged by Jesus Christ. This judgment will most likely consist of what works were, and weren’t done, along with the motive. It is specifically stated in verse 15 that there is the possibility of one’s bad works outnumbering the good, but the eternal destiny of that individual has already been sealed by the Holy Spirit, for they “shall be saved; yet so as by fire” (1 Corinthians 3:15).

So, as a believer, works are necessary to bring glory to God, remain in fellowship, and grow in sanctification. Works are not necessary for salvation but should be performed because of salvation.

18 Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, “The Law of Moses and the Law of Messiah,” A Messianic Bible Study from Ariel Ministries (San Antonio, TX: Ariel Ministries), 1985, 12.
19 Ibid, 9.
20 Ibid, 13.

this is an excerpt from “Investigating Lordship Salvation” by Daniel Weierbach, Associate Pastor of Open Door Baptist Church

In Luke 15, Jesus tells three of His most well-known parables/stories.  The parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son are examples of Jesus’ mastery use of stories designed to teach a truth or principle.  Many books have been written and sermons delivered using these timeless stories.  And certainly, there is much truth to be learned.  There is, however, much theological debate about what these parables teach.  Most Bible teachers would agree that the main thing that all three have in common is that something is lost in all of them.  But what does this “lostness” represent?  Most well-known Bible teachers of today will emphasize that the “lostness” is a representation of the unbeliever.  They will point out the absolute necessity of “repentance” as part of the salvation process.  While most of these same teachers will not readily admit this, they ultimately require works as part of salvation.  

We, who reject such faulty theology, usually respond with another viewpoint.  We point out that in all three stories, that which was “lost” was always part of the whole.  The lost sheep was always part of the flock; the lost coin was part of the whole of the headband; the lost son was always a son and his sonship is never in question.  Today in most evangelical churches, anytime the word “lost” is used, it is automatically a reference to the unsaved.  Bob Wilkin in his book “The Ten Most Misunderstood Words in the Bible” does a thorough examination of the term “lost” and shows that this term in the Old Testament, in the Gospels and in the Epistles is not used in reference to the unregenerate but instead is used overwhelmingly to describe actual things that are lost……like a sheep or a coin or relationally, like a son.  

Sometimes it would be enjoyable to provoke someone when they refer to a family member or friend for whom they are praying.  They might say to me, “Pastor, would you pray for my sister?  She is lost.”  Then I’d  ask, “Does your sister not know where she is?”  “Does she have her Find My iPhone turned on?”  “If she has her phone with her, we should be able to locate her.”  Can you imagine the looks I would receive?  I might want to follow up with the question, “Do you think God knows where she is?”  “How then, is she lost?”  At this point, it would be a great opportunity to discuss her real need….trusting in Jesus for everlasting life and how she may be able to be used of God to that end.  So, these three stories best fit the picture of the believer who has lost their way in their faith.  

However, there are many applications that could reasonably be made to conversion.  And so, the argument continues.  As I recently was teaching through Luke 15, it occurred to me what was really “lost” in this whole discussion and debate.  Context.  What has been lost in the discussion is context.  Luke 15:1-2 tells us the context in which these parables were given.  Jesus was being criticized for eating with sinners.  The Pharisees were thinking “if Jesus really was the Messiah, he’d never hang around with these people!”  According to Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum in “Life of Messiah”, the Pharisees of Jesus day were forbidden to eat with publicans and sinners as the food may not have been tithed upon.  They were forbidden to do any business with them.  They were even forbidden to discuss Mosaic Law concerning purification as they feared some of them may actually want to be declared clean.  The Pharisees taught that God rejoiced when one of these sinners died and “got what they deserved”. So Jesus does what He did early in his ministry with the Sermon on the Mount.  In that sermon, Jesus contrasted God’s view of Mosaic Law and righteousness and the Pharisees view of Mosaic Law and righteousness.  In Luke 15, Jesus is directly refuting Pharisaical doctrine concerning Gods attitude towards sinners.  

While the Pharisees taught a God of judgment and rejection, Jesus showed that God loves sinners who are “lost” or separated from Him….like a lost sheep.  God searches for “lost” sinners as He brings conviction and “light” to the soul…..like a lost coin.  God is full of compassion and runs to meet “lost” sinners to whom He offers restoration……like a lost son.  

So, the point of the stories IS NOT to teach all about the doctrine of soteriology, but to refute the Pharisees and teach God’s attitude towards sinners. God is trying to reach restoration with sinning saints and with unregenerate sinners! It amazes me how so many well-known authors use these stories to teach core doctrine of salvation and ignore John 3 and John 4 where the context IS clearly eternal life.  In John 3 and 4, simple faith in Jesus for eternal life is taught.  Apparently, many of these Bible teachers are “lost” when it comes to the context of Luke 15!

written by Ken Stodola, Senior Pastor of Open Door Baptist Church

Scripture calls salvation a gift many times.  John 4:10, Romans 5:15, Romans 6:23, 2 Cor. 9:15, Eph. 2:8.  A gift is implied in John 3:16 where it says that God "gave" His Son.  Romans 8:32 also mentions a "giving."

Therefore, salvation IS a GIFT.  As a gift it can be accepted or rejected and faith has nothing to do with that.   

For instance, my best friend in high school was Daniel S.  When he was dying of cancer I witnessed to him.  His response:  "I can believe but I will never accept a God who demands fear."  Daniel had "Invictus" read at his funeral. He rejected the "gift," wanting to have things his own way.   The thing about gifts is that they have to be received.  If one rejects the gift he does not have it. 

This applies to eternal life as well.  One can believe and choose to either want salvation or not.  One can want God or not.  It is a choice.  

While demons cannot receive salvation, they definitely "believe" in the Triune God.  They simply want nothing to do with him and fight Him.  The same can be true of humans.  Thus you can have humans who don't believe in God but you can also have humans who believe in everything the New Testament says about eternal life and want nothing to do with it.  

It is a choice that is not a work.  It doesn't take "work" to simply reach out and accept a gift or to keep your hand at your side and not take the gift.  The Bible is all about choosing.  As for me and my house, we choose the Lord!

written by Dr. Brock Miller

In Christianity today, it is unfortunate that many people espouse the idea that water baptism is required for salvation. However, we read in a couple key areas where it teaches baptism is a work and not required to obtain eternal life.

Phillip, one of the original deacons in the early church in Jerusalem, was having a highly successful mission’s trip in the area of Samaria. However, God’s plan was not for him to stay there, but rather to  meet up with a eunuch from the Meroe dynasty, most likely the eunuch to Queen Amanitore. Upon meeting this nameless eunuch, Phillip explains Isaiah 53 to him, along with the gospel, when the eunuch asks “what doth hinder me to be baptized?” Phillip’s response: “If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest” (Acts 8:37). Baptism was not a means to salvation, but rather the ability to be baptized was predicated upon one being saved. Note: while some dispute this passage being in Scripture, it was referenced as early as AD 258 by Cyprian of Carthage as well as John Chrysostom in AD 407.

In his first letter to the Corinthian church, Paul opens the letter addressing the divisions these believers had among each other. Some were wearing Peter’s jersey, others wearing Paul’s, and a few had Apollos’ jersey (1 Corinthians 1:12). Speaking against these immature Christians’ association with servants rather than God, Paul makes the statement in verse 14 “I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius”. What a bold statement to make for the apostle to the Gentiles! Just a few verses later Paul states his call from God was not to baptize, but to  reach the gospel (v17). One must ask the question, if baptism is a requirement for salvation, why is Paul glad he didn’t baptize many in the region? 

Paul states in Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Examining this text we find that God, through the apostle Paul, is teaching that a person is saved (receives eternal life) by the grace of God through faith in Christ, and that our salvation is not based upon any work that we can do. Paul states elsewhere that “to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness” (Romans 4:4-5). God, through Paul reiterates that if any man does a work, what that man receives is simply “reward” or the wages due to him. Thereby, if one receives baptism for salvation, then one is performing a work to merit salvation for himself, an act that God reveals will not merit the grace needed for salvation.

One must also ask the question “when does eternal life begin?” In Scripture, eternal life is mentioned as occurring at the  moment of salvation; from the moment one places faith in the redeeming work of Christ for their sins, thereby receiving the free gift of salvation, their eternal life begins. This is seen clearly in John 3:36 when Jesus tells Nicodemus “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life” (emphasis mine), and that according to Ephesians 1:13, the believer is “sealed with that holy Spirit of promise” at the moment of conversion. Repeated in Scripture, one is indwelt with, and sealed by, the Holy Spirit at the moment of conversion, not moments, days, months, or sometimes even years later once a baptism is performed. 

So, if baptism is not a requirement, or prerequisite to salvation, then why would one need to be baptized? It’s like this, when your favorite football team wins the big game, you are never shy of expressing your joy and association  with that team the next day at work, church, etc. In our church, there’s a division of Alabama (Roll Tide!) and Auburn (War Eagle!). You can always tell how each team fared on Saturday by the reaction of the fans on Sunday morning. In similar fashion, baptism is a public demonstration of our association with Jesus Christ and what he means to us. In the process of baptism by immersion, we associate with Jesus as our old self, our dying and being buried, and then the new life we receive from Christ’s sacrifice and the Holy Spirit’s indwelling. We proudly represent the team on whose side we belong to and the victory he’s accomplished! Baptism does not lead to salvation, but salvation should lead to baptism.

written by Daniel Weierbach, Associate Pastor of Open Door Baptist Church

The Lord’s statement in Matthew 7:19-20 has been misapplied by many due to bringing presuppositions to Scripture. Already presupposing that a “genuine” believer will have works seen through a litmus test, it is natural to interpret this passage as such; but is that what Jesus is trying to point out? Reading this passage by itself, “Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them,” does seem to point to the fact that a genuine Christian would be seen by their fruits. However, a diligent student would do well to determine the context of which our Lord is speaking.

Beginning in verse 15, Jesus offers a warning, “Beware of false prophets;” so it is apparent that he is about to speak regarding false prophets, or false teachers. Verse 15 through 23, there is the same thought and statement, only in verse 24 does Jesus sum up his entire sermon, seen by the conjunctive adverb “Therefore.” With this in mind, one must understand the passage in order to interpret the verse; as the old adage goes a text without context is a pretext.

But first, what does this passage not say. This passage does not teach that the Christian is the “good tree bringing forth good fruit” (Matthew 7:17a) and the unbeliever is the “corrupt tree bringing forth evil fruit” (Matthew 7:17b) for two specific reasons. First, in verse 18, Jesus says that a “good tree cannot bear evil fruit” [emphasis mine]; I would go out on a limb and say that at some point in time all Christians have borne “evil” fruit. Whether this “evil fruit” is lusting, lying, hating, or anything else that displeases God, we see, not only in personal experience, but in Scripture that this is evident in a believer’s life (Acts 5:1-11; 1 Corinthians 5:4-5). Additionally, the fact that a Christian can bear “evil fruit” is seen in Paul’s admonishment of ungodly living (1 Corinthians 3:3, 5:1-2; Galatians 5:16; Ephesians 4:31). As someone once said Christians “aren’t sinless, but sin less.”

What does this passage mean then? Again, the context of what Jesus is speaking about is regarding false prophets. What is a false prophet? Simply put, a false [Jesus] is specifically calling out the religious leaders of their day and their emphasis on a works-based salvation. A prophet is one that teaches (prophesies) a message that is not in accordance with God’s teaching, i.e. anything that is contrary to what Jesus is preaching. He is specifically calling out the religious leaders of their day and their emphasis on a works-based salvation.

These false prophets in verse 15 are the ones represented by the “corrupt tree” in verses 17 and 18. This is seen in verse 16 where Jesus states that you will “know them by their fruits;” with the subject being the false prophets, and their fruits identifying them. The tree represents a teacher who is either teaching the same message as Christ (good tree) or a message contrary to his teaching (corrupt tree). Therefore, a “good tree” (teacher) will always produce “good fruit,” for his teaching preaches the message of Christ, while the “corrupt tree” will always bear “evil fruit” for the false prophets preach a message contrary to Christ. The emphasis on the visible fruit is that one may know who the false prophet is (Matthew 7:16, 20), not the believer. 

Zane Hodges draws a comparison of the Lord’s rebuke here in Matthew 7 with that of Matthew 12:33-35:

“Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by [his] fruit. O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.”

Here Hodges shows the similarities between these two passages: of a tree and its fruit, with the tree in reference to the religious leaders who reject the Messiahship of Jesus, and the fruit, their false message, or teaching. In verse 34, Jesus makes the statement that these false teachers are speaking evil things, thereby identifying their fruit (teaching) as corrupt, and thereby making the tree (teachers) corrupt. Hodges states it as such: “A false prophet must be tested by his message. If he is inwardly corrupt and ravenous this will stand revealed by the character and quality of his communications.”1

Those in verses 21 and 22 that are denied entrance into heaven are not those believers who were not “genuine,” but rather those false teachers who presented a different Christ. This aligns perfectly with the aforementioned six preceding verses as they spoke of a salvation that was not of the biblical Jesus Christ. Those who claimed to prophesy and do works in the name of Jesus were teaching, and believing in a Jesus that does not save, a Jesus that is anything but the second Person of the Trinity, Emmanuel, God with us. These “false prophets” are similar to those seen in the book of Acts, the “seven sons of one Sceva” who, trying to cast out a demon, were beaten, and fled naked and wounded from the house (Acts 19:13-16). 

The question then remains, what is the “will of my Father” (in verse 21) that Jesus states that must be done for one to “enter into the kingdom of heaven?” Hodges, in “Grace in Eclipse,” points out that His will is for “them to trust His Son for eternal life.”2 John 6:40 clearly explains what Jesus meant regarding the Father’s will, “And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day” [emphasis mine]. The false prophets in this passage were trusting in their works to save them, when they needed to trust in the Savior.

In application, we may apply Matthew 7:15-23 to our lives today when we are listening to a preacher on the radio, television, or in the pulpit. If this individual is stating a message that is contrary to what Jesus Christ had taught, then by his words, message (i.e. “fruit”) we may know that he is a false teacher and to stop listening. This is commonly evident in the Mormon and Jehovah’s Witnesses cults who teach that Jesus is either the created spirit brother of Satan (Mormons), or the created Michael the Archangel (Jehovah’s Witnesses); by their fruit (teaching) you shall know them (false teachers).

1 Zane C. Hodges, Grace in Eclipse: A Study on Eternal Rewards (Denton TX, Grace Evangelical Society: 2016), 21.
2 Ibid, 23.


this is an excerpt from “Investigating Lordship Salvation”
by Daniel Weierbach, Associate Pastor of Open Door Baptist Church

The Parable of the Soils is a favorite of those who promote Lordship doctrine; it has been said to me, “if you want to determine one’s theological bent, see how they interpret the Parable of the Soils.” Within the Lordship camp, it is promoted that the fourth soil is the only true believer, seen in that soil producing fruits, “some hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty” (Matthew 13:23). They mention that this fourth soil is the only soil which is said to produce fruit. The second soil is typically said to not represent a genuine believer because they only persevere “for a while” (Matthew 13:21) and eventually fall away due to persecutions, while the third soil is not a genuine believer because it is “unfruitful” due to the “cares of the world and deceitfulness of riches” (Matthew 13:22). Let’s examine each of these claims.

Two significant things must be pointed out. First, it is of great importance when studying passages within the Gospel records, to determine if the same passage is mentioned by more than one Gospel writer. For one must get the entire picture to make the appropriate interpretation and subsequent application. Just as a police officer will attempt to get different witness accounts of a crime to piece together the entire situation, such is a similar case with the historical records of the Gospels. This parable is mentioned in Matthew 13:1-23, Mark 4:1-20, and Luke 8:4-15. 

Second, Mark records a very interesting statement from Jesus Christ, namely that one’s understanding of all other parables hinges upon their understanding of this one (Mark 4:13). So, biases and presuppositions must be placed aside, yet again, to seek a non-contradictory interpretation through systematic theology.

In regard to the Lordship interpretation of this parable, I must admit that I agree with the interpretation of the first soil, in which it does not represent a Christian. This is evident, as seen in Matthew 13:19 that this individual does not comprehend the Gospel message, and Satan takes away the message from his heart. Luke gives no misunderstanding when he records that the devil takes away the seed “lest they should believe and be saved” (Luke 8:12). But this is the only area of agreement I can lay claim to with Lordship advocates, for the following reasons. 

Concerning the second soil, Dr. Wilkin points out the fact that the same Greek word is used in Luke 8:12 and 13, for “believe;”1 the difference is that the first soil (Luke 8:12) did not believe while the second did. This is seen in the fact that Luke reveals that the result of the first soil not believing was that they did not get “saved” (Luke 8:12). It is quite logical to then reason that the second soil, due to their belief, was in fact saved. It is commonly taught in Scripture that “belief” is the only requirement for salvation, and Jesus stated that it is the only “work” that gives one eternal life (John 6:29). Regardless of the duration of belief, the moment of belief, eternal life is secured, which cannot be lost (John 6:37, 10:29; Ephesians 1:13). 

In Matthew and Mark’s account, after tribulation and persecutions arise due to their faith, this soil stumbles (Mark 4:17). This is the same Greek word Paul uses in 1 Corinthians 8:13 in which he limits his Christian liberty of eating meats offered to idols, so as to not cause a brother, who is weaker in the faith, to stumble; it brings the idea of tripping or failing to progress. In other words, in times of trials or persecution because of their faith, they cannot see God’s sovereign hand and they turn away from God, or they cease openly practicing their faith for fear of ridicule.

In Luke’s account there is a reference to this particular soil “falling away” (Luke 8:13). The Greek word used for falling away is the same Greek word, aphistēmi, used in 1 Timothy 4:1 “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;” [emphasis mine] in which Paul mentions of the coming apostasy. Only a Christian can become apostate, for one must have faith to fall away, or depart from; God declares stern warnings regarding the apostate Christian (Hebrews 6:4-6, 10:26-27). 

Therefore, the second soil hears the Gospel message, believes and receives the message, is persecuted and has tribulations because of their belief in the Gospel message, and withdraws. 

Continuing on to the third soil, the seed was planted among thorns, and when it sprung up, it was choked (Matthew 13:7). It is held that these false professors are suffocated by the “cares of this world” and the “deceitfulness of riches” (Matthew 13:22) and as such, produce no fruit, and prove not to be “genuine” Christians. Again, the emphasis is on perseverance and fruit, or lack thereof, as a litmus test of true conversion. But is that what Jesus says in this parable? That these soils produce no fruit and do not persevere?

We read in Matthew 13:22 and Mark 4:19 that this soil “becometh unfruitful;” know that in order to become unfruitful, one must have been fruitful in the past. Also, it is seen in Luke’s account, that it is not that this soil has never been fruitful, but that this soil does not produce mature fruit (Luke 8:14). This soil has produced fruit in the past, but it seemed to have stopped producing fruit, or stop producing mature fruit, due to the cares of life and deceit of money. 

Luke provides an interesting insight, this soil is seen to have gone “forth” (Luke 8:14), Greek word poreuō, a reference to following a way or path; the fact that upon salvation, this person begins on the process of sanctification, following the teachings of Jesus. Somewhere along the way, this individual loses progress due to cares and deceitfulness of the world. 

It must also be pointed out, regarding the second and third soils that each “received” the seed (Matthew 13:5, 7) and it “sprang up” (Luke 8:6- 8). Keeping with the agricultural illustration, as a gardener sows a seed in the soil, and the seed sprouts and begins to bud, regardless of how long the plant continues growing, or slowly withers and dies due to lack of nutrients or water, life was once there. This is the image we receive of the second and third soils. In this parable, the seed represents the Gospel, and the soil represents the hearer, the life springing up very well represents the reception of the Gospel message and conversion (1 Corinthians 3:5-7). 

Finally, Lordship advocates claim that the fourth soil is the only picture of a “genuine” Christian, seen by the fact that it produces fruit. Again, the focus is on “outward evidence of an inward change,” i.e. fruit; as already discussed, judging eternity based upon external proves to be inaccurate as seen in 2 Corinthians 11:13-15. Additionally, we see that there is no timeframe on how often fruits must be borne, nor is there a requirement of the frequency of bearing fruit (all subjective). I imagine that all Christians, at times, succumbed to stumbling at persecution or tribulations due to their faith (Matthew 13:21), as well as being overcome by the “cares of the world” and the “deceitfulness of riches” (Matthew 13:22). 

The fairer interpretation of this parable is that the first soil is the one who completely rejects the Gospel. The soil on stony ground (Matthew 13:5) represents the immature Christian that, upon persecution or trials because of their faith, no longer exhibits the faith they have for fear of being persecuted, judged, or ridiculed. The soil among the thorns (Matthew 13:7) represents the carnal Christian who, after salvation, becomes again entangled in the affairs of the world, and loses his focus on eternity and places it back on earthly.

This interpretation fits holistically with the much admonishment against immature and carnal Christians (1 Corinthians 3:3-4; 2 Corinthians 12:20; Galatians 5:16; James 4:1; Hebrews 5:13, etc). Therefore, soils two and three definitely represent genuine Christian, but the ones that are admonished or rebuked to change, grow, and produce more fruit. In misunderstanding this parable, Zane Hodges makes a striking remark: 

“A person who has believed in Jesus for eternal life, but isn’t living like a Christian, doesn’t need to be evangelized; he needs to be discipled. But when we keep evangelizing the saved, we end up confusing the born-again Christian who has believed and is saved. He begins to think he didn’t believe the right thing because it “didn’t take.” And so he keeps on trying to “get saved,” when what he really needs is to be discipled. Unfruitful believers need instruction on the Christian life.”2 

1 Zane C. Hodges, and Robert N. Wilkin, Tough Texts: Did Jesus Teach Salvation by Works? (Denton TX, Grace Evangelical Society: 1999), 107.
2 Ibid, 107-108

this is an excerpt from “Investigating Lordship Salvation” by Daniel Weierbach, Associate Pastor of Open Door Baptist Church

I have been told from one individual, who interpreted this passage as meaning a Christian “will bear fruit,” as the “orthodox” teaching. And due to its orthodoxy, the reason he holds to that interpretation. But does orthodoxy prove accuracy? For a long period of time before the Reformation Period, it was commonly held that baptism was a prerequisite for eternal life. Martin Luther, though admired for his works on rejecting the Catholic church, continued this belief set, even went as far as promoting the idea that

“the infant prior to baptism is possessed by the devil and a child of sin and wrath, while baptism delivers him from the devil, making him a child of God. Before the sacrament is administered the baptizer commands the unclean spirit to depart to make room for the Holy Spirit.”

So, while this was an orthodox teaching within the church, it is still found to be unbiblical teaching. This goes to show that interpretation is not necessarily correct, simply because it is orthodox. Therefore, orthodoxy does not indicate accuracy, but simply reveals what a commonly held view is…nothing more. 

It is a fallacy to believe a word means the same thing each time it is used, regardless of how many ways it may be defined. This is a common reason for misinterpretation of many passages. In every language, context must determine interpretation of a statement or thought. 

Suppose you found a letter, and as you were reading the author wrote “that was the largest trunk I’ve ever seen!” What image would you have in mind? Would you picture the trunk of a vehicle? A trunk that you store clothes or belongings inside? Maybe a tree trunk? How about an elephant’s trunk? You probably would have no idea what trunk was actually being referenced. You could make a guess, and remove the possibility of an elephant’s trunk, because it’s not every day one see’s an elephant, at least not in America! 

Now suppose that in the letter, you read that the author was explaining his trip to the zoo. Now you have a little more background as to what possibly could have been referenced; but it still could be either of the four. Now suppose you read that the author was explaining his discussion with an elephant trainer, who was explaining the purpose, function, and anatomy of Bilbo the Elephant’s trunk. 

Now you could understand that the trunk being referenced in the letter is in relation to Bilbo’s trunk. You were able to determine the proper meaning of the word because of the following context clues: 1) you determined all the possible meanings of the word trunk, and 2) you discovered the audience present within the letter, namely the elephant trainer. By determining the audience and the topic of discussion, you are able to correctly determine the appropriate meaning of the word trunk, in this particular instance. Context clues are vitally important in understanding the correct interpretation of a homonym. 

The above example is the same process necessary to appropriately exegete Scripture; however, many times one focuses on a single meaning of a word, regardless of the possible range of meanings, and applies that meaning in all uses of the word throughout Scripture. One of the most common misuses of homonyms in Scripture is the word “fire.” It is commonly misinterpreted as always in reference to hell, or the lake of fire. But a studying the word “fire,” it can carry other meanings, apart from hell, such as: God’s physical, destruction/judgment (Philippians 1:19; Isaiah 33:12; Joel 2:3; 1 Corinthians 3:13), or His purification process (Isaiah 43:2; Jeremiah 6:29; 1 Peter 4:12). 

Understanding the abovementioned principle of interpretation, let us examine John 15. The apostle John is the only one who records this account, so we have the full picture without having to reference another author. Let us paint the background of this scene: it is nighttime, after Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper (John 13), Judas Iscariot has departed to fulfill the sovereign work of God in betraying Jesus Christ (John 13:27-30), and then we see the conjunctive adverb “Therefore” (John 13:31). Once Judas departs, only the apostles (true believers) remain with Jesus Christ, Jesus remarks “Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him” (John 13:31). There is no doubt as to who Jesus is speaking to at this moment as he calls them “little children” (John 13:33), a common reference to the children of God (John 1:12). Jesus’ conversation with the apostles, begins in John 13:31, but does not end until John 18:1, when they depart for the garden of Gethsemane.

John 15:1 Jesus uses the physical world to make a spiritual application, specifically a grape vine. Before going into the illustration, he explains two of his symbols: Jesus is the vine, and the Father is the Gardener. The common Lordship view on this passage is that those branches that do not abide in Jesus Christ, seeing as they are burned in the fire, a euphemism for hell, were not saved. This is interpreted as such due to Jesus’ words in verse 6 that “If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.” Reasoning that Jesus is stating that an individual is cast into hell, i.e. “fire,” should they not abide in the vine, proving themselves as “false professors” who were never “genuinely” saved. This Lordship view is coupled with verse 16, when Jesus said “I have chosen you, and ordained you that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain.” 

Lordship advocates teach that if a believer is “genuinely” saved, then he has no choice but to continue to abide and do good works, proclaiming evidence of their salvation. So, the assurance is yet again placed upon the necessity of performing works by abiding in Jesus Christ, as a litmus test of true conversion through perseverance. 

This cannot be the proper interpretation of Jesus’ words for numerous reasons. As we have already identified, his audience is the apostles minus Judas Iscariot; he is speaking to believers. In verse 5, Jesus clearly points out that the branches he is speaking of in verse 6 are the apostles, “I am the vine, ye are the branches.” Should one interpret this passage as a branch that does not abide in Jesus Christ is cast off into hell, would promote the doctrine that one can lose their salvation, which is found nowhere in Scripture. 

What is the main point of this passage? Abiding in Jesus Christ; the word “abide” (Greek menō) is used 12 times in this passage (John 15:4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 16). Abiding brings the idea of dwelling with, fellowshipping, or communal relationship, and here Jesus is admonishing the apostles to dwell with, and maintain fellowship, and communal relationship with him. He ex[1]plains that if they are obedient to his commandments, they will abide in his love (v10). And that if they abide in him, they will “bringeth forth much fruit” (v5a). Jesus even goes so far to say that if the apostles do not abide in him, they can do nothing (v5b). Finally, unbelievers are never mentioned as being able to abide in Jesus without first having a saving faith. Unbelievers are unreconciled to God, and apart from His fellowship, standing as enemies (Romans 5:10; Colossians 1:21). 

Two verses must be dealt with to maintain a true interpretation, verses 2, “Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away,” and the aforementioned verse 6. What is interesting about verse 2 are four letters, two words “in me,”. It was determined that the branches Jesus is referring to are the believing, saved, apostles (v5), and there in verse 2 he says that it is possible for a believing apostle to be taken away. What does he mean by the phrase “taketh away?” Many unfortunately believe this phrase speaks of an individual that does not bear fruit, is cast off into hell, either not being able to work for salvation, or not producing the fruit as evidence of salvation. But, if Jesus is speaking to the eleven apostles, and has assured them they are clean, then that interpretation does not hold theological water. 

Another interpretation of “taketh away,” is actually to prop up; the Greek word used here, airō, means to “lift up, or elevate.” Dr. John Niemelä reveals this agricultural fact through written records of Pliny the Younger, who describes this common practice in the first centuries; that vinedressers would prop up “unfruitful branches onto stones to hold them above ground, so they would bear grapes the next year.”2 Applying to believers, Jesus’ phrase was assurance to them that when they needed support, had doubts, trials, and persecutions, that they would be elevated, propped up, assisted by God to be able to bear the fruit they have been called to bear. During these troublesome times, this was God’s message of mercy, not judgment. 

Finally, we arrive to verse 6, in reference to the branches being thrown “into the fire.” Going back to the illustration of the letter written about a visit to the zoo, we see that every word should be viewed through a contextual lens. For if we would argue that the fire is hell, and the branches being thrown there are people who have not borne fruit, then we wrestle with losing salvation, or maintaining our salvation by our works. However, when we see the other possible meanings for fire, we see that it may be in reference to God’s physical judgment upon an individual, or nation, not necessarily eternal. And in keeping with the viticulture illustration Jesus is using, it is reported that branches that have dried up, not able to remain in the vine, are taken down and cast into a fire, burned up because they were no longer useful. 

In similar analogy, this fits neatly with Scripture where believers are admonished to “be careful to maintain good works” (Titus 3:8), to abide in the vine so as to be able to produce fruit, or good works (John 15:4-5), and that our fruit bearing is to glorify our God in heaven (John 15:8). However, should a Christian continually not abide in Jesus Christ, not remain in fellowship and communion, and become the prodigal, God issues stern warnings about the life ahead (Hebrews 10:26-27; 1 John 5:16-17). 

So, this illustration has nothing to do with eternal life, or the perseverance of “genuine” faith, but everything to do with communion, fellowship with God (i.e. abiding). Jesus encourages the apostles, moments before his arrest in the garden of Gethsemane, of the way they can remain fruitful and joyful, in the midst of their upcoming persecution and loss. The principle of abiding brings peace to the Christian, that no matter what circumstance one is faced with, maintaining communion with Jesus Christ, will allow for joy and the process of fruit bearing; then people will be able to “see our good works and glorify our God in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). 

1 D. Patrick Ramsey, “Sola Fide Compromised? Martin Luther and the Doctrine of Baptism.” Themelios: An International Journal for Students of Theological and Religious Studies no. 2, vol 34, July 2009: 183.
2 John Niemela, Jesus Props Up Unfruitful Believers (Grace in Focus Articles: March 2014), https://faithalone.org/grace-in-focus-articles/unfruitful-believers/.


this is an excerpt from “Investigating Lordship Salvation” by Daniel Weierbach, Associate Pastor of Open Door Baptist Church

Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians is another passage used for a litmus test of genuine conversion “examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?” Lordship Salvation advocates commonly mention the requirement for a Christian to look inwardly to see if they are a true believer, bearing fruit and doing good works (again, subjective in quantity and frequency). 

One of the first rules of biblical interpretation is identifying the audience. In 2 Corinthians 13, looking at the immediate context, we see that Paul calls these people beloved (12:19) and brethren (13:11). highlighting the fact that he is writing to Christians, for these terms are not typically used in Scripture to refer to unbelievers. More proof of this is seen by Paul’s address in 1 Corinthians 2:5, 3:5, 15:2, 11, 14, 17, 16:13; 2 Corinthians 1:24, 10:15. Additionally, the very letter is addressed to “them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus” (1 Corinthians 1:2). 

Therefore, in verse 5, Paul is admonishing these believers to determine, not if they are in Christ, but whether they are in the faith; there is a difference. A believer is said to be “in Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:17, Galatians 3:28) upon salvation/conversion. However, this same believer can also be weak “in the faith” (Romans 4:19, 14:1), should stand “in the faith” (1 Corinthians 16:13), continue “in the faith” (Colossians 1:23), be established “in the faith” (Colossians 2:7), and be sound “in the faith” (Titus 1:13). Christians are not admonished to remain in Christ, but only in the faith, pointing to the fact that a Christian will always be in Christ, but they may not always be in the faith. 

The word “reprobate” used in verse 5 is an interesting word adokimos, and is the same Greek word that Paul uses in 1 Corinthians 9:27, about his not wanting to appear as a “castaway:” disapproved, or unfit, in his ministering. The antonym of this word is dokimos, found in 2 Timothy 2:15, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God”. This approval or disapproval will be visible at the Judgment Seat of Christ with either the reception or loss of rewards based upon faithful Christian service. Dr. Wilkin points out that Paul, who had no doubt of his assurance of salvation, was concerned with possibly being disapproved of God at times in his walk.1 

Regarding 2 Corinthians 13:5, Paul is admonishing the Corinthian Christians to look inwardly and see if they are living holy and godly lives (“in the faith”), bearing fruit for God’s honor and glory, or if they are living carnal (1 Corinthians 3:3-4) or immature (Hebrews 5:13) lives as Christians. It is the same idea that James tells the “brethren” (15 times in his epistle, speaking to Christians), that faith needs to be active and operative, a Christian should not have a dead, or lifeless (inactive) faith. 

Peter brings a similar point home that a Christian should be looking up for the return of Christ, and be diligent serving so we might “be found in him in peace, without spot, and blameless” (2 Peter 3:14), so we can hear “well done good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23) rather than rebuke and admonishment at the bema seat. And this is consistent with Paul’s epistles (Romans 14:10- 13; 1 Corinthians 3:10-15, 9:24-27; 2 Corinthians 5:9-10; Galatians 5:19-21, 6:7-9; Ephesians 5:5-7; Philippians 3:11-14; Colossians 1:21-23; 2 Timothy 2:12, 15).2 

A believer should regularly examine their walk with God, their relationship, similar to how one examines their relationship with their spouse, parents, or children (close, distant, hindered, fractured, etc). Blessings and fruit come from abiding in Christ, and abiding is a result of communion and proper relationship with God. But know that this examination is not to determine one’s standing in the family, but rather one’s relationship in the family.

1 Robert N. Wilkin, Confident in Christ: Living by Faith Really Works (Denton TX, Grace Evangelical Society: 1999), 66.
2 Ibid.

this is an excerpt from “Investigating Lordship Salvation” by Daniel Weierbach, Associate Pastor of Open Door Baptist Church

Listen to Free Grace Teachings

Free Grace Books & Magazines

Free Downloads!

Slideshow image

Other Free Grace Ministries