There is no such thing as “free”. Someone, somewhere paid for it.
Free grace is a phrase used by those who want to emphasize that the penalty for our sin was paid in full by Christ on the cross. Free grace denies that we, by our good works, can earn grace from God. That is a truth taught by Scripture and agreed upon by every Protestant since the Reformation, and every gospel preacher before the Reformation.
The problem lies in that champions of free grace go further to say that good works—anything that pleases God—are irrelevant to saving faith. In other words, say a mob boss professes faith in Christ, but continues in unreservedly in his mob bossing. According to some, his behavior should not trigger any doubts as to his salvation—because grace is free; it requires nothing but faith in Christ. That may be an extreme example, but it makes the point.
Grace is free, some say, because not only can you not earn it by your good works, but neither does it require anything from you. To say otherwise, according to this view, is to establish a works-based salvation.
Here is the problem with that: What Jesus said.
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. . . So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26-33).
No one would argue that grace is “free” in that it cost Jesus everything to give it to us, and it costs us nothing to earn it. Where Jesus would take issue is grace places certain demands on us. We cannot earn it, but the payment Jesus made did more than set us free from sin. Jesus did not die to free us from the master of sin only to become our own master. No, He freed us from sin so that He would be our Master. Grace not only free us, it purchases us to be His own possession. As such, as Jesus said above, everything we own, including our relationships is secondary to Him.
But that’s not all. Jesus goes a step further.
“For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:25; Mark 8:35; Luke 9:24).
Not only must we be willing to sacrifice our most valued relationships and all our possessions, but our very lives as well.
That explains why demons aren’t rescued from hell and forgiven. You see, if grace was free on the basis of faith, every demon would be a Christian. Demons have more accurate theology than the most astute theologian (James 2:19). They believe the gospel. They really do. And yet they’re not saved. Why?
Because though they know that Jesus is Savior, they refuse to repent.
What separates the faith of a demon and the faith of a Christian is that demons do not submit to Christ as Lord. They refuse to change the course of their lives and follow Him. They love their brother, Lucifer, more than Christ. They refuse to renounce their dark ways and walk in the light. They have all the right theology, but they are rebels, not slaves of Christ.
Grace is not free, and it certainly isn’t cheap. It cost Jesus everything—including His life. And to receive it, it costs us everything—including our lives.
No one can disparage the desire to see as many people come to faith as possible. But many have maximum numbers of converts as their goal rather than disciples. If you read the Gospels, it is vividly clear that Jesus was not at all interested in crowds. He wasn’t looking for votes in a political campaign against Rome, or soldiers for an army, or trying to reach Facebook’s maximum friend count. No, He was looking for disciples who would give up everything—even their own lives—to follow Him.
We are living in a time when churches have three options. First, they can deny the faith and be friends with the world. Second, they can seek friendship with the world by altering everything about their faith the world doesn’t like, and thus become enemies of God. Third, they can forsake the world, the flesh, and the devil, be subject to mockery, isolation, persecution, or even death, but be friends with God who gives eternal life.
As time passes you will begin to see your family, friends, and leaders make one of those three options. The question is, which will you choose?