October 3, 2007

Excerpts from The Tragedy of the “Crossless” Gospel, Pt. 3

Selected excerpts from Tom Stegall’s The Tragedy of the Crossless Gospel, Part 3

A second reason for the new crossless gospel comes from the unique meaning now being assigned to the phrase “the Christ, the Son of God” in John’s Gospel. No longer does this phrase mean what it has traditionally been understood to mean. The phrase “the Son of God” has normally been interpreted to mean that Jesus is equal in deity with the Father, being God the “Son.” For the lost to believe in Jesus as the “Son of God,” as John 20:31 plainly requires, would seem to indicate that belief in Jesus’ deity is essential for eternal life. But this is not their view.

However, a segment of people in the Free Grace movement are following Hodges’s teaching that the combined phrase “the Christ, the Son of God” means only that Jesus is the guarantor of eternal life.

Specifically, what they (Hodges/Wilkin/GES) are denying is that unbelievers must believe in the deity of Jesus and His death and resurrection in order to truly “believe in Him” and receive eternal life. They are claiming, however, that believing in Jesus as “the Christ” simply means to believe that He alone can guarantee eternal life on the sole condition of belief in Him. When someone believes that Jesus is the One who guarantees eternal life, they receive eternal life and are eternally secure from that point on—whether they ever know, understand, or believe in His deity, work on the cross, or resurrection from the dead. Though they admit a lost person normally comes to believe in Christ’s deity, death for sin, and resurrection first, they also teach that these truths are not necessary to believe for eternal life.

While it is certainly true that the phrase “the Christ, the Son of God” establishes that Jesus is the guarantor of eternal life, the crossless interpretation of this key phrase seriously errs by reducing it to that meaning alone.

Would the average reader of John’s Gospel, with his or her eternal destiny riding on the line, even make such a tenuous connection, a connection which has eluded even genuine believers for two millennia until the advent of the Grace Evangelical Society?

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