June 25, 2007

Wrapping the Series on Zane Hodges

To All:

Zane Hodges is a major figure in the Lordship Salvation debate. Hodges is probably as prominent and well known a figure in the debate from the Free Grace perspective as John MacArthur is for the Lordship Salvation perspective.

In this series it has not been my desire to take anything away from the helpful contributions Zane Hodges has made to the Lordship debate. There are, however, serious concerns I have with some of the polarizing statements he has made in various books and publications, such as the kind I have noted earlier and will reiterate and expand on below.

When the Lordship Salvation controversy broke out following the release of John MacArthur’s The Gospel According to Jesus (1988) the Grace Evangelical Society (GES) was formed. Zane Hodges, Mike Cocoris, and to a lesser extent Dr. Charles Ryrie responded to the Lordship position. Dr. Ryrie’s book So Great Salvation is among the most reliable answers to the Lordship interpretation of the gospel from that period, and I cite it a number of times in the pages of my book.

Hodges rightly identifies reformed theology as the root of Lordship Salvation. There is, however, a serious problem in that Hodges eliminates repentance from the conversion experience. In his book Harmony With God Hodges takes the position that the process of repentance may be a preparatory step in coming to salvation, and should be evident in the life of a believer, but a lost man can be born again without repentance. Hodges also said he no longer holds to the “change of mind” view of repentance. For example:

“Many very fine grace people have held that the view the apostle John, at least in his Gospel, regarded repentance as a 'change of mind' that turned one from unbelief to faith in Christ. However, it is impossible to find such a doctrine of repentance anywhere in John’s writings.” (Harmony With God, p. 21)

“Thank God there is only one answer to the question, ‘What must I do to be saved?’ That, of course, is the answer not only of Paul and all the apostles, but of Jesus Himself. The answer is: ‘believe!’ Repentance is not part of that answer. It never has been and never will be.” (Harmony With God, p. 123.)

Another area for concern is that while Hodges believes the death (cross) burial and resurrection should be part of a gospel message, he also teaches it is not necessary for lost men to believe Jesus died for their sins in order to be born again. The core objective of Hodges’ gospel is for the sinner to believe Jesus grants eternal life, and this alone results in salvation from sin, death and Hell. According to Hodges, all a sinner needs to do is trust Christ for eternal life and he is born again. This teaching is found in an article by Hodges available through the GES website titled, How to Lead People to Christ, Part 1 & 2 (see links below). For example Hodges states,

“People are not saved by believing that Jesus died on the cross; they are saved by believing in Jesus for eternal life . . . Let us always point men to Christ Himself as the object of faith, rather than to some concept that must be theologically clarified before it can really be understood…. You see, as we noted previously, the facts surrounding the gospel message–such as the death and resurrection of Christ-are important facts for what they tell us about the reasons for trusting Christ. But believing these facts doesn’t save anyone. People are only saved when they believe that Jesus gives them eternal life the moment they believe in Him for that. The simple truth is that Jesus can be believed for eternal salvation apart from any detailed knowledge of what He did to provide it.” (Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society 14:1, Spring 2001.)

This teaching of a cross-less gospel by Hodges made a number of men in the GES very uncomfortable. A response was written by Pastor Gregory P. Sapaugh and appears in the Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society, A Response to Hodges: How To Lead A Person To Christ, Parts 1 and 2..

This passage is arguably the clearest definition of what constitutes the gospel of Jesus Christ. “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures,” (1 Cor. 15:3-4).

In the thread under The Teaching of Zane Hodges I am interacting with Antonio da Rosa. Antonio is passionately committed to Free Grace theology especially as it is presented by Zane Hodges.

Antonio wrote:
“Yes, I believe that a man can be born again who has not come to an understanding that Jesus died (was crucified) to pay the penalty for their sin.”
My reply is:
In that case you have a problem with Romans 10:9-10, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”

You are teaching a "cross-less" gospel message. You believe and preach the cross, but find it not at all necessary for a lost man to believe this in order to be saved. Based on Roman 10:9 I have to conclude this is wrong!

1 Corinthians 15:3-4 defines the gospel. Romans 10:9-10 states believing these facts (defined in 1 Cor. 15:3-4) are conditional to be born again. Presenting these facts is essential, but to render them unimportant for the sinner to acknowledge and believe undermines the gospel.

I want to encourage you to read Dr. Kevin Bauder’s article at Sharper Iron titled, Thinking About the Gospel, Part 1. In the article Dr. Bauder addresses 1 Cor. 15:3-4 in a compelling way.

Zane Hodges takes what some, even in the GES camp, view as an extreme view of the Free Grace position. Hodges advocates that position, which insists a person, can profess Christ, but demonstrate absolutely no evidence of a new life in Christ, and still be counted as among those who are truly saved. His books, which present this position, are The Bible Knowledge Commentary, The Hungry Inherit, The Gospel Under Siege, Grace in Eclipse, and The Epistles of John, pp. 111-112,145.

Recently I discovered a paper titled, Sanctification Confused: Understanding the Controversy Being Created by the Free Grace Movement by Mr. Lenny Demers. The article cites Hodges from numerous sources that substantiate much of what I have been sharing of late in regard to the teaching of Zane Hodges.

[In the opening page of Brother Demer's article you will notice he refers to Dr. Charles Baker. Dr. Baker has made some very good contributions to the Lordship debate and I cite him in my book.]

Many have appreciated some of the helpful contributions Zane Hodges has made to the Lordship debate. There are, however, some polarizing statements and positions by Hodges, such as the kind I have noted above, that leave many disappointed and frustrated.

Hodges is very close to the heart of the Lordship debate, and I am not as comfortable with him as I'd like to be on several key points of doctrine. Because of the concerns I had and continue to have with Zane Hodges I decided it would be in the best interest of accomplishing my goals for In Defense of the Gospel to make only a brief mention of Hodges, with a caution to my readers about the direction the he has taken on certain key elements of the gospel.

I would like encourage good people on both side of the Lordship/Free Grace controversy to feel free to post some comments here on this short series on the teaching of Zane Hodges. I would be especially interested to hear from those of you in the Lordship camp. Or if you prefer, please write me via e-mail. Just click on the e-mail icon, which appears just above the Links section.

God bless you,


For additional reading on doctrinal concerns with Zane Hodges, Joseph Dillow, Bob Wilkin of the Grace Evangelical Society please visit George Zeller’s site.

For additional reading on the theology of Zane Hodges choose from the following links.
How to Lead People to Christ, Part 1:
The Content of Our Message

How to Lead People to Christ, Part 2:
Our Invitation to Respond

Harmony With God, Part 1

Harmony With God, Part 2

Harmony With God, Part 3


  1. Dear Lou,

    Almost everyone who professes any form of Christianity (except liberals!) believes that Jesus was raised from the dead. Does that make them saved? I doubt that you or I would say so. It seems obvious that this is Pauline shorthand for justification truth as indicated in earlier chapters.

    Rom 4:23-25
    23 Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him, 24 but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, 25 who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.

    Paul does not mean to say that simple belief in the resurrection saves, and this is confirmed by the obvious reference to justification in 10a ("believes unto rigtheousness"). Thus to believe that God raised Christ from the dead really means here, for Paul, to believe in Him as the one who is the grounds for our justification before God.
    This is functionally equivalent to believing that Jesus guarantees eternal life to the believer as presented in John.

    Unless a person holds that everyone who believes that God raised Jesus from the dead is eternally saved, the meaning that I have proposed here is the one suggested in the immediate, as well as broader, context.

    But please remember a point of logic: Even if everyone who believes in the resurrection is saved, it does not follow that the one who just believes that Jesus provides eternal life is not. The positive affirmation only entails a negative if Paul says: ONLY THOSE WHO BELIEVE IN THE RESSURECTION ARE SAVED. On any reading he does not say this.


  2. Antonio:

    I have not missed your note here. I am in a very busy end-of-month time. I do plan to reply ASAP.


  3. Lou, it seems to me that you have time to answer everyone else's comments in other threads, but you do not discuss my comments here. I wonder why that is so?

    I haven not finished the 6 questions comments that you gave. I intend to finish them.

    You are being very evasive to my argumentation and basing the whole of your position, to live or die, on the mountain of Romans 10:9, 10.

    It is also apparant that Glenn's view is differing then your own, for he seems to me to be saying that there are multiple ways of being regenerate.

    He stipulates that faith in Christ for eternal life is sufficient, but also says that one may believe in the resurrection and be saved.


  4. Antonio:

    If you come to me with accusations of being "evasive," we are not going to go far.

    I appreciate your tone, thus far, but you have been banned from other sites for getting, what I might call, "steamed" and "harsh."

    Part of the problem is that we have not centralized where we can hash this out, if we are going to. It is like hunt & peck to figure out where to interact. Yours, mine, somewhere else?

    Another part is that I am in a business that makes the last days of a month very busy.

    You refer to Romans 10: 9-10 as a "mountain." That it is! IMO you are dismissing its meaning and intent.

    Romans 10:9-10 is crucial to our discussion because it appears to me that this is going to be the dividing line: Is the death and resurrection of Christ part of the gospel to be believed for salvation?

    Not having to be understood as a mature believer might, but "believed" as the Bible says.


  5. Antonio:

    I have been reading Hodges and your posts. I am left to conclude you men have fallen into major doctrinal error, and I do not say that lightly.

    The “Crossless” gospel is a departure from orthodoxy. Your position is as extreme and out-of-balance as I have seen from the Free Grace camp as I have seen in the opposite direction from the Lordship Salvation camp, and I reject both LS and the “Crossless” gospel.

    Your insistence that belief in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ is to “ADD FURTHER CONDITIONS” to the Gospel for salvation and eternal life is just plain ol’ out of touch with the Scriptures.

    You have come to a “Crossless” gospel position, and it appears you are using the Bible (much like Rick Warren as Saddleback) to legitimize the position you seek to advocate.

    To dismiss the plain teaching of 1 Cor. 1:18; 2: 1-2; 15:3-4 & Romans 10:9-10 indicates to me you are out-of-balance!

    I am going to post more on the “Crossless” gospel at my site tomorrow. I am hopeful you will one day realize you have erred and can be recovered from the dangerous teaching by Hodges of a “Crossless” gospel.

    I am going to check out of this discussion.

    Kind regards,


  6. Romans 10:9-10 if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord" (or "the Lord Jesus"), and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth one confesses, resulting in salvation.

    Many in the free grace movement have explained how this is a Hebrew chiasm (what I like to call "sandwich parallelism") in which the inner lines go together and the outer lines as well. Hence the inner lines refer to justification, and the outer lines to progressive sanctification:

    S -> if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord,"
    J - - > and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead
    - - -> you will be saved.
    J - -> For with the heart one believes, resulting in righteousness (or "justification"),
    S -> and with the mouth one confesses, resulting in salvation.

    The inner lines say that we need to believe in our heart that God raised Him from the dead ... for with the heart one believes resulting in justification.

    The faith here is belief that God raised Christ from the dead -> which results in justification. But what does one believe, resulting in justification? ...that God raised Christ from the dead.

    You can find articles in GES which explains this. Is Bob no longer supporting such a view? Curious.



  7. Lou,

    Read Lenny Demers' article. Unfortunately, I have a big problem with it. Most who are and have been involved in the grace movement have always held that in the parable of the sower that only the 1st soil represented an unsaved person. Lenny Demers characterizes it as if only the 4th soil is a saved person. In doing so he essentially expresses a Lordship kind of gospel: faith is not enough, works must follow. That IS Lordship salvation. He does not represent the free grace camp, but a common view of Reformed soteriology. Real faith is characterized by fruit and by works. That is lordship salvation to the core, is it not?

    He characterizes Hodges' version of free grace as saying that there need be no change in the person when he is regenerated at all. That is not my position. I have spoken to Zane about this, and I am confident that this is not his position either, though it certainly is less clear in recent years.

    Sure, Zane will absolutely insist that we should share the gospel in a manner that requires faith alone, no works. That is what free grace has always advocated, "faith alone in Christ alone." From the very beginning the leaders in the movement have all been insistent that we cannot require works after trusting in Christ - that they follow. It has been referred to as bringing works in the back door. That need not and should not change - it is absolutely crucial that it not change, and it has been a cornerstone of the movement from day one. It is not new.

    It is one thing to say that when one believes in Christ that he IS changed (2 Cor. 5:17) and that there IS a change in their heart. Zane affirms this (perhaps I should say that he used to). But it is quite another to insist that we, as people, can see those changes in terms of manifest works. Free grace insists that "salvation is by faith alone in Christ alone," while the LS camp says "we are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is not alone." Demers position sure sounds like the latter.

    This division is more serious than I thought, for it is pushing those who oppose Hodges direction, and I certainly understand why, such that they are moving over into the Lordship camp. Amazing.

    Again, I would characterize Lenny Demers article as Lordship in essence. It was inconsistent, but too much of it was what we hear from the Lordship camp. Scary.

    I deplore the removal of the cross from the gospel message. But this is ridiculous.


  8. Lou,

    Sorry - one final post for this thread. I read and really like the article by Gregory P. Sapaugh. Below are some quotes which I think well describe the issue here:

    I agree that the message of the gospel should not be loaded up with extraneous content as the Lordship Salvation position does. ... My difference with the articles concerns the issue of progressive revelation and the centrality of the work of Christ on the cross for salvation.


    I believe the "bottom line" of the gospel message is the substitutionary sacrifice for sin by Christ on the cross. From the very beginning, death has always been the payment for sin.

    and lastly:

    I appreciate the effort of Hodges to refine and clarify the doctrine of salvation. I share this goal. But I take issue with his conclusions regarding the basic presentation of the gospel. When I read "How to Lead a Person to Christ, Parts 1 and 2," I conclude that Hodges does not think the cross is essential to the presentation of the gospel. According to him, the substitutionary death of Christ on behalf of a person is not a core element of the gospel.

    In reply, I believe Hodges has ignored the progress of revelation, which has further led him to dismiss the foundational issue that death has always been the required payment for sin. By doing so he has artificially bifurcated the person and work of Christ. For sure, I believe that salvation is through faith alone in Christ alone. But my faith is in the Christ who died in my place, paying the penalty for my sin.

    The issue is that I am trusting in the death of Christ - relying upon what He did in my place, as a substitute - to pay the penalty for my sin. How clearly must that be understood by the seeker? I'm not sure. But we cannot remove the cross from the gospel.

    Hodges and others have stepped away from that position. The issue is NOT the place of works in the gospel - whether such works are represented by "confession," or "repentance" or "works that must follow the gospel." Each of those have always represented the Lordship position. The issue is the cross. The other concerns are such as are often expressed by LS adherents. Let's not throw out the baby with the bath-water!



  9. FA:

    Send me an e-mail. I want to discuss a private matter with you. Nothing bad, just a possible opportunity.


  10. I understand the secondary importance of personal experience compared to scripture, but here goes!

    I was drawn to Jesus Christ as One who loved me; me, who felt totally unlovely to myself and others.

    I knew zip about His finished work or even his resurrection, except in the most peripheral way. As you may suppose, I was very confused in how to follow this manifestation of love to me.

    Frankly, I could have been easily led into a cult if I was misled into believing that was the proper response to God’s love. Instead, I decided to read the bible and focus on what Christ said about Himself.

    His words on eternal life often reassured me that I was secure in Him; they comforted my heart.

    Later, by the grace of God, I came into contact with John R. Rice and the Sword of the Lord. It was from that source that I learned to value the Word of God and to understand the rules of proper scriptural interpretation.

    My conclusion is that as soon as Jesus Christ became real to me, I was saved forever, even though I had little scriptural knowledge of the momentous thing that had happened to me.

    Yet, I was now equipped to receive the scriptural truths that some insist must be front-loaded into the Gospel. Frankly, I see many examples in the Gospels of people saved by Christ who had no idea (disciples included) of the meaning and significance of His death until later in their experience with Him.

    They didn’t even believe in His resurrection when he foretold it! He had to convince them that He was really alive. And these were the believers!

    I think it safe to say that they were entranced with Him as a Person first and then taught by Him His truth.

    Those who insist that one must pass a theological litmus test in order to be REALLY saved perhaps should consider the frailty of man and the grace of God in Christ Jesus.

    I hope this is a helpful contribution to this discussion.

    Dennis Clough, saved by grace alone.

  11. Hello Dennis:

    Sorry it took a few days to post your comment, I was away on a ski trip.

    I appreciate your comments here. You probably realized by the dating of this article that much more has transpired in the debate over the “Crossless” gospel of Hodges and Wilkin.

    Just a few thoughts for now.

    You wrote, “I knew zip about His finished work or even his resurrection, except in the most peripheral way.”

    Do you mean to say that through the time leading up to your being born again you were never made aware of the Lord’s death for your sins and His resurrection?

    I can’t imagine a scenario where no soul winner, or gospel tract you might have read, did not include a reference to the Lord’s substitutionary death.

    You wrote, “Later, by the grace of God, I came into contact with John R. Rice and the Sword of the Lord.”

    I am very familiar with the SOTL and the Rices. I worked in cooperation with John R’s two nephew’s Evangelists Bill III & Pete. I am still in contact with them.

    I’ll wait to hear back from you, than I’ll go further into your comment above.

    Kind regards,