Posted on 20 April 2021
Free Grace is the belief that a your faith is guided by living experience rather than written words.
Historically, Free Grace, formally known as Antinomianism, is defined as “a person who believes that Christians (or other faiths) are released by grace from the obligation of observing the moral law.” In mid 17th century England, when the Quakers first formed, the moral law was enforced by Church of England (CofE) and their interpretation of the Bible.
However, one of the ideas of the earlier Reformation, was that a belief that obedience to the law is motivated by an internal principle flowing from belief rather than from any external compulsion. In other words, what you believe should come from your own inward conviction rather than what words on a page say. 17th century advocates of Free Grace quoted Ephesians 2:9 as its justification:
“For it is by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not from yourselves; it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast.”Ephesians 2:9
Whereas Universal Love is the belief that the Spirit’s love is equal and there are no preferences for who is and isn’t loved, Free Grace encompasses the belief that the Spirit’s love is unconditional – it doesn’t matter what ‘works’ you do, you are loved by the it regardless.
The Letter Killeth, But The Spirit Giveth Life
For the First Generation Friends, who created the concept of the Inner Light, Free Grace fitted into their beliefs hand in glove. However, the religious authorities resented it as it took away control from the CofE who wanted rules and conditions for their ‘forced worship’.
Despite Free Grace being controversial, an epistle written in 1656 by Friends of Balby Meeting, Doncaster, declared:
“Dearly beloved Friends, these things we do not lay upon you as a rule or form to walk by, but that all, with the measure of light which is pure and holy, may be guided; and so in the light walking and abiding, these may be fulfilled in the Spirit, not from the letter, for the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life.”Balby Meeting
For more on the history of Free Grace see Ann Hutchinson And The Antinomian Controversy
Image from gracelife.org/