The question often arises, “Is so-and-so Free Grace?”
I understand the desire to ask the question, but the answer isn’t always a simple one. Of course, the bigger issue is, “Are they biblical?” Someone might understand justification, but be off in different areas. Such differences can range on a scale between something minor (what should be a difference of opinion or difference of interpretation in non-essential topics) to heretical. And often, the two that disagree on the topic or passage may well disagree on where the difference lies on that scale!
However, given that the question is, “Is so-and-so Free Grace,” I start by checking so-and-so’s soteriology: What do they say is the condition for salvation and what do they teach about works and/or “fruit production”? We need to then evaluate the answer to that question based on what is meant by “Free Grace” (FG). My broad definition is, “Salvation (justification) is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone with no strings attached.” “No strings” simply means nothing is necessary to earn, keep, or prove salvation. Notice that I do not include here what one must know about the person and work of Jesus. The greater FG camp has debated this for the last several decades with no resolution in sight, and I’m not going to address it here. It is an important issue, and I do have convictions about it, but that’s a discussion for another day. From my perspective, if someone holds to the above definition, they are, in a broad sense, Free Grace – at least in their view of justification. But that is insufficient to recommend someone’s teaching or ministry. Often, there are other issues.
Someone asked, can you be FG and not dispensational? I would say such people hold a FG view of justification but hold different views on dispensationalism. Someone else asked, “Can someone be FG if they hold to a flat earth?” (Yes, there are some out there who profess this combination!) In a similar fashion, I would say they seem to hold a FG view of justification, but they hold different – and I believe seriously flawed - views on other important topics. Yet another asked, “is Joseph Prince FG?” (I’m only using his name because it has popped up a number of times). He, too, seems to lean towards a FG view of justification, but holds different views than me on a number of other issues. I say he “leans toward a FG view” because he does emphasize grace but his “salvation prayer,” as recorded in Destined to Reign is fuzzy, although he specifically uses the phrase “justification by faith” three times in the book. Personally, I cannot recommend him or his writings because of significant issues with many of his other views (but this, too, is a discussion for another day).
So, when the question pops up, investigate the soteriology of so-and-so. And don’t lump other issues under the FG umbrella, and say they are not FG because of what may be significant errors in other doctrines. Instead, acknowledge that they may hold a FG view of justification but are off – and maybe even seriously off – in other areas. Be honest and say “I can’t recommend this person or his ministry because of _____, even if he seems to get justification by faith correct!”
“Is so-and-so FG?” Not always a simple yes/no question!