Following is the first in the series on The False Paradigms of the “Crossless” Gospel. Greg is going to be active in threads. Feel free to comment on his work and interact with him.
False Paradigm #1:
The content of faith required for salvation has never changed. People in Old Testament times were saved without believing in Christ's death and resurrection. Therefore, people living today are also saved without believing in Christ's death and resurrection.
This false paradigm appears in arguments like this:
“The question was asked, ‘Can a lost man be born again without understanding Christ's death for sins?’ I have proven that he can. How have I proven that, you ask? Old Testament saints were born again without understanding Christ's death for sins, as in the instance of Saul. New Testament saints were born again apart from understanding Christ's death for sins. In other words, the 11 disciples were born again before understanding the cross and its significance…”
Crossless gospel advocates claim that people of all past dispensations, since the time of Adam and Eve, could only be saved by specifically believing in the coming Messiah for everlasting life. Yet, crossless gospel advocates admit they have no direct Scriptural support for this view. In reference to people living prior to the cross, Bob Bryant asks, “So how did they know how to be saved?” Carefully note Bryant’s answer:
“There can be only one answer. Before the OT was written, God gave verbal revelation that eternal salvation is received through faith alone in Christ alone.” 
In other words, this teaching is not found in Scripture, yet we can dogmatically say it must have been taught via tradition! Quite frankly, this is essentially the same unaccountable reasoning Roman Catholics employ to support their idolatrous doctrines of Mary!
So one of the major arguments for the crossless gospel position is the supposed content of faith required in prior ages. But what is the basis for defining the content of faith for prior ages? The basis is Bryant’s preconceived notion that the content of faith before the cross is the same as what he thinks it is now.
But wait a minute!! That’s circular reasoning because crossless proponents argue what it was prior to the cross proves what it is now. And what is the underlying proof for this position? Well, it’s not in the Bible so we are to believe Bryant’s required content of faith was taught verbally in Jewish tradition! This elusive message of salvation during Old Testament times, supported by no Scriptural proof, supposedly proves the required content of faith has not changed. This shoddy reasoning supposedly allows us to divest the essential, saving gospel message of the Lord Jesus Christ from the message of the cross. Woe!
Next, crossless gospel advocates argue that people were saved during the earthly ministry of Christ by believing in the name “Jesus” for everlasting life. They point out the fact the Disciples of Christ were saved before they believed in His death and resurrection. We can agree to this fact, but when were the eleven disciples saved? For all we know, they may have been saved before hearing about or believing in Jesus. The Bible does not specify when they were saved. With the false assumption that people of all time periods were required to believe the exact same thing for salvation, crossless gospel advocates then argue people living today are not required to believe in the death, resurrection, deity, or humanity of Jesus Christ in order to receive everlasting life.
The Two-Edged Sword:
The underlying paradigm is that people of all time periods must have believed exactly the same thing to be saved. Crossless gospel advocates apparently have not considered how their own adaptation of progressive revelation contradicts this very paradigm. Crossless gospel advocates insist a person living since some point during the earthly life of Jesus Christ must believe in the name “Jesus” for everlasting life. According to the leading advocate for the crossless gospel, Zane Hodges:
“Without the name of Jesus there is no salvation for anyone anywhere in our world. But the flip side of the coin is this: Everyone who believes in that name for eternal salvation is saved, regardless of the blank spots or the flaws in their theology in other respects.”
However, they admit people in past ages before the coming of Christ did not need to believe in the name “Jesus” for everlasting life. Although they may think requiring belief in the name “Jesus” is a small change compared with a big change of requiring belief in His death, resurrection, deity, and humanity, it is a change nevertheless. And no matter what the size of the change, the fact there is a change contradicts their paradigm. As long as crossless gospel advocates include the name “Jesus” as a necessary part of the content of faith for salvation today, they cannot argue that the required content of faith has not changed.
Furthermore, if people before the cross were to believe in the coming Messiah for everlasting life and the content of faith has not changed, today you could also believe the coming Messiah will provide everlasting life. Along with Israel who rejects Jesus is the Messiah; you could await the coming Messiah. Yet if you believed this coming Messiah would guarantee everlasting life, you would be saved. That would be the logical conclusion if the required content of faith has not changed. Obviously, it must have changed.
Thus, crossless gospel advocates cannot honestly claim the lack of belief in Christ's death and resurrection in prior ages is proof it is not required now. If they were consistent with this assumption, belief in the name “Jesus” would not be required either.
The Biblical Answer:
What does the Bible say about the required content of faith in Old Testament times?
First, there is not one single verse, such as John 6:47, tied to “Messiah” in the Old Testament where people were told to believe in the coming Messiah for everlasting life. Dispensationalists of the past have pointed out that people of all dispensations were saved on the basis of grace, on the grounds of Christ's redemptive work, through the means of faith. However, the required content of faith for salvation has indeed changed throughout periods of time as God has given people varying degrees of revelation throughout time. There are predictions of the coming Messiah and allusions to the coming Messiah in the Old Testament, but strenuous elaboration is required to conclude from any of these references that a) the original audience was told to believe specifically on the coming Messiah specifically for everlasting life; b) that the common people of God during this time had any conception that the Messiah would be the guarantor everlasting life via faith alone in Him; and c) that faith specifically in the coming Messiah specifically for everlasting life was ever mandated as the requirement for salvation during the time of these writings.
Second, there are examples of salvation from previous dispensations where belief in the coming Messiah for everlasting life is simply not found in the context of what the person believed. For example, in Luke 18:9-14, Christ tells about the salvation of one of two men who came to the Temple to pray. Notice that He spoke this parable to “those who trusted in themselves, that they were righteous” (18:9). As we will see, it was necessary for the Publican and Pharisee to recognize their unrighteousness in order to trust in God to save on account of His righteousness.
In this narrative, the Publican rather than the Pharisee received salvation and “went home justified” (18:14). Conspicuously absent is any direct reference to “Messiah,” much less any hint that the Publican consciously believed in the coming Messiah for everlasting life. The Publican believed he was “a sinner” before a righteous God to whom he was accountable. As opposed to those who “trusted in themselves, that they were righteous,” the Publican clearly believed he was unrighteous before a righteous God. His recognition of his own sin is further reflected in that he “would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast...” His content of faith is reflected in his words that follow, “God be propitiated toward me, a sinner.” The Publican was saved neither by prayer nor sorrow for sin, but his words reflect what the Publican believed. He believed in God to provide propitiation: “God be propitiated…” that would reconcile him to God: “toward me, a sinner.”
Lewis Sperry Chafer's comments on this passage are helpful:
“It is essential to note that the publican—a Jew of the Old Testament order and praying in the temple according to the requirements of a Jew in the temple—did not use the world merciful—which word is properly associated with the idea of kindness, bigheartedness, leniency, and generosity. According to the original text, which in the Authorized Version is too freely translated, the publican said, ‘God be propitiated to me the sinner.’ The word hilaskomai [Greek], which means ‘to make propitiation,’ appears in the text...By the use of the word propitiation—if comprehended at all—the impression is conveyed that the publican asked God to cover his sins in such a way as to dispose of them, yet, at the same time, to do this in a way that would protect His own holiness from complicity with his sins. If the publican did as Jews were accustomed to do in his day when they went into the temple to pray, he left a sacrifice at the altar... What he prayed was strictly proper for a Jew of his time to pray under those circumstances. However, his prayer would be most unfitting on this side of the cross. God cannot be merciful to sin in the sense that He treats it lightly, whether it be in one age or another. But with reference to the word propitiation and its implications, that word was justified in the age before Christ died and when sin was covered by sacrifices which the sinner provided. It was suitable for the publican, having provided his own sacrifice, to ask that his sacrifice be accepted and himself absolved. However, on this side of the cross when Christ has died and secured propitiation [satisfaction] and it is established perfectly forever, nothing could be more an outraging of that priceless truth upon which the gospel rests than to implore God to be propitious [satisfied].”
The point of citing this passage is not to prove the content of faith for all people of all ages. Rather, it's just one example that counters the claim people living prior to Christ's incarnation were required to believe a promise of everlasting life specifically guaranteed by the coming Messiah in order to be saved. While the Publican did not believe specifically in the Messiah for eternal life, there are elements of his content of his faith that are similar to our own. If crossless gospel advocates are truly so adamant about learning principles from the content of faith in past dispensations, then let them consider several truths from the Publican’s example.
First, the Publican's plea was based upon recognition that he was a sinner. That does not mean hamartiology is his object of faith for salvation. Rather, recognition that he is unrighteous was a necessary presupposition to his content of faith because he specifically believed in God to provide the solution to his sin problem. Yet crossless gospel advocates claim we change the object of faith by requiring belief in Christ’s work, which ultimately solved the sin problem.
Second, the Publican's object of faith was God. Crossless gospel advocates, however, deny that a person needs any concept of God to be saved. A person can believe in a guy named “Jesus” for an eternal godless existence, as long as the person believes it is good. However, if the object of faith for Old Testament saints can be found in Scripture, that object of faith is certainly what they consciously knew as the Lord God.
In Isaiah 45:21-23a we read: “...and there is no God else beside Me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me. Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.” This principle is repeated in other passages too: “I, even I, am the LORD; and beside Me there is no Savior.” (Isaiah 43:11; cf. Hos. 13:4). According to these verses, people in Old Testament times were commanded not to look to some personage they knew as less than God for salvation. That would be idolatry. They were called to believe in the one true God and no other. This is exemplified in the example of the Publican. Today, our object of faith for salvation is further specified to be “the Lord Jesus Christ,” but He must be known as nothing less than the Lord God.
Third, the Publican believed in God to reconcile him to Himself rather than judge him for his sin. This same principle is repeated as Church Age saints are to implore the lost on Christ's behalf, “Be reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:20). This concept of salvation as a reconciliation to God even fits the Gospel of John's presentation of eternal life. It is not just eternal existence, the opposite of annihilation, or some sort of well-being apart from God. Rather, John presents “eternal life” as the life of Christ (5:26; 6:47-48; 11:25; 14:6), which involves a new relationship to God (John 1:12-13; 17:3) instead of God's judgment (e.g. John 3:14, 15, 16, 18, 36; 5:22-24, 26-29; 8:24; 12:47-50). Just like “Jesus” cannot be separated from a concept of God; neither can “eternal life”.
Finally, the Publican believed in God to reconcile him based upon His provided satisfaction for sin. God is righteous and must be satisfied in regard to sin. Though the Publican living before the death of Christ did not understand how God would provide the propitiation, Church Age saints today are to plead with the lost, “Be reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:20) on this basis: “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Christ’s death for our sins and resurrection has shed infinitely more light on this issue than the Publican had. Now that Christ has paid for our sins, we cannot go back to Old Testament times and act like nothing happened in 32 AD!
The point is, crossless gospel advocates have not only misrepresented what people must believe for salvation today, but they have also misrepresented what people in past ages believed in order to be saved. While the basis of salvation has always been grace, the grounds of it is Christ's redemptive work, and the means of it faith, God has indeed offered varying levels of revelation to people living in different periods of time and changed the required content of faith accordingly. Unless crossless gospel advocates are willing to drop the name “Jesus” as an essential element to the content of faith, even they must agree.
Today, the lost must believe the single message identified as the gospel of grace (cf. Acts 15:7-9; 20:24; Rom. 1:16; 1 Cor. 1:17-21; 4:15; 15:1-4; 2 Cor. 4:3-4; Gal. 1:6-9; Eph. 1:13; Col. 1:5; 2Thes. 1:8). Such passages prove there is an identifiable, definable message called “the gospel” that must be believed as a matter of salvation from Hell. Notice all of the verses cited were written after Christ’s resurrection. Only after Christ’s resurrection does Scripture mandate the lost must believe this “gospel” in order to be saved from Hell.
This is a conspicuous and significant Scriptural fact that crossless advocates discard. Should it be any surprise that this unique mandate to believe “the gospel” as an essential condition to salvation involves believing a message that shines upon the Person and work of Jesus Christ more clearly than the required content of faith for prior generations?
Please continue to False Paradigms, Part 2.
 Antonia da Rosa (aka, Sock Puppet fg me), “Must One Understand Christ’s Death for Sin to be Born Again?” Note comment #6, posted June 23, 2007 4:05 PM
 Bob Bryant, “How Were People Saved Before Jesus Came?” Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society (Spring 2003).
In similar fashion to Roman Catholics, Bryant’s dogma without Scriptural support equals an appeal to verbal tradition outside the Bible. We quote again Bryant: “So how did [people in OT times] know how to be saved? There can be only one answer. Before the OT was written, God gave verbal revelation that eternal salvation is received through faith alone in Christ alone.” Bryant also concludes what this verbal revelation must have been.
Compare Bryant’s quote with this Catholic apologetic for the Assumption of Mary: “Still, fundamentalists ask, where is the proof from Scripture [regarding the assumption of Mary]? Strictly, there is none. It was the Catholic Church that was commissioned by Christ to teach all nations and to teach them infallibly. The mere fact that the Church teaches the doctrine of the Assumption as definitely true is a guarantee that it is true.” See: Karl Keating, Catholicism and Fundamentalism (San Francisco: Ignatius, 1988), p. 275.
Thus, “Crossless” gospel advocates and Roman Catholics are both compelled by their presuppositions to appeal to some extra-biblical, unproven, undocumented tradition as the proof for their doctrines.
 Zane Hodges, “How to Lead People to Christ, Pt.1,” Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society (Autumn 2000).
 See Tom Stegall, “The Tragedy of the Crossless Gospel, Pt. 2,” Grace Family Journal (Summer 2007).
 One can brace for such fanciful elaborations as Bob Bryant sets out to prove this proposition after claiming, “It would have been exceedingly difficult for someone to find the way of salvation in an unfinished OT since it is exceedingly difficult to find the way of salvation in the completed OT.” See endnote 6.
 Lewis Sperry Chafer, “The Terms of Salvation,” Bibliotheca Sacra, Vol. 107 (Oct.-Dec. 1950). Republished in the Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society (Autumn, 1988).