"But [Carlstadt's] most remarkable position [in 1520]...[was] the word of Paul is not to be put on a level with Christ." Beard Luther (1899)

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Costless Salvation: What Early Evangelicals Saw

Early in the reformation, Thomas Manton saw that cheap-grace was a coming shadow to undermine the correct view that Jesus taught more than faith was necessary for salvation: Jesus taught repentance and obedience were also necessary. (Matt 18:6-9; Mark 9:42-47.)

What Manton foresaw is now a reality. Presently, Jesus' salvation doctrine is routinely rejected in Protestantism -- in reliance upon Paul. For example, in Jonathan Gerstner’s article “Legalism and Antinomianism: Two Deadly Paths Off the Narrow Road,” in Trust and Obey: Faith and Obedience (1996) at 151, we read:

Any whose ground for claiming Christ is ... a faith that is coupled with works as a necessary prerequisite to gaining eternal life will be lost eternally. 

Foreseeing this, Thomas Manton, D.D. (Doctor of Divinity) -- an English Puritan clergyman (1620-1677) -- wrote about Jesus' message to the young rich man who asked how to have eternal life. Jesus told the young man to sell all he had and then he would have treasures in heaven. Mark 10:21. (The Complete Works of Thomas Manton (J. Nisbet & Co., 1874) Vol. 17 at 124.) Manton then cites Matthew 16:24 that Jesus says we must sacrifice all to follow Christ -- "take up your cross and follow me." Id.

Then quoting a well-known saying of the mature Luther, Manton says "a religion that costs you nothing is worth nothing." Id., at 125.

Here is a complete excerpt of this section where Manton says "most men love a cheap gospel":

 

Manton thus was following in the footsteps of the mature Luther, Melancthon and Major. They had corrected their earlier error which advanced 'faith alone' saved a believer who sins. (See our Jesus' Words on Salvation, Preface.)

Another similar pastor was Joel Hawes. The Rev. Joel Hawes, a Doctor of Divinity (D.D.) was the tenth pastor of the First Church, Hartford, Conn. See this biography: Edgard Alexander Lawrence,  The Rev. Joel Hawes, D.D. (1881).

Hawes writes in Sermons Experimental and Practical: An Offering to Home Missionaries (Carter, 1867) at page 41:

A costless religion is a worthless religion. It does no good to him who possesses it, nor to those who witness it. Its only influence is to deceive, to stupefy and destroy. There is no such thing known as a costless religion in the Bible. The religion that is there described as essential to salvation, is a religion of conviction and conversion, of self denial and watchfulness, and coming out from the world; of hungering and thirsting after righteousness; of running with perservance the Christian race. This is the religion of the Bible. 

The greater context reads:

 

 

Thus, in this view, the reason sinners do not come to repentance is just as Jesus depicted --  it costs too much. Hawes meant the reason for rejecting the gospel is not because, as Pauline pastors repeat like a mantra, that most lost people believe salvation by works is true and anything else is a 'too good to be true' format of faith alone. The Pauline pastors want us to believe people reject 'true' Christianity because it COSTS TOO LITTLE!

Of course, this means that people are attracted to Pauline teaching because it costs nothing at all. That is sold as its primary virtue, and the necessary view or otherwise you are lost. You are actually told you are lost if you believe what Jesus said was true that the cost of heaven is either you go there "maimed" (of the body parts ensnaring you in sin) or you go to hell whole. (Matt 18:6; Mark 9:42-47.)


 

Study Notes

Paul's contentions are self-contradictory.

Paul elsewhere states that if you confess Christ as Lord and that He rose from the dead (Romans 10:8), then you are saved, in the past tense. However, Gerstner reveals the contradictory idea that Paul has in Galatians 2 that you could correctly confess Jesus is Lord and believe in the resurrection but be lost because you believe you also must do certain works (more particularly works of charity that Jesus mandated in the parable of the Sheep and the Goats, which James summarizes in James 2:14 et seq.)

If a wrong belief can cause the loss of salvation to a Christian, which indeed Paul says to those “disconnected” from Christ by turning back to circumcision and sabbath, then Paul clearly means you must ‘maintain’ your salvation by having a correct belief about salvation. Paul (or Paulinists) have made a different work necessary to salvation: perseverance in the belief that faith alone saves.

If you ever dare weaken on this point, you are supposedly lost.

Let's apply this to James. Dare we say that James knew Jesus rose from the dead by personal witness and knew Jesus was Lord by personal encounter, and thus could make Paul’s Romans 10:8 confession and be saved.

Yet, when James uttered his teaching that you can be saved by “works and not by faith alone,” Paul would have to say James was ‘disconnected’ and lost. Thus, there is something you must persevere in to be saved in a Pauline sense. That is, you must unwaveringly adhere to faith alone saves. To do this, however, takes work to maintain your doctrinal purity. Hence, the teaching ends in a self-contradiction.

To avoid the contradiction, Paulinists claim Paul means the Galatians who are turning back to the law were never saved. Yet, that is not true. Paul says that they are “severed” from Christ, using a word to mean they were disconnected from whom they were previously connected.