October 12, 2007

Special Edition of the Grace Family Journal


This morning a Special Edition of the Grace Family Journal has been posted at the Duluth Bible Church web site.

The special edition is devotedly solely to the “Crossless” gospel and contains just two articles. This special edition is part 4 & 5 in the series by Pastor Tom Stegall titled, The Tragedy of the Crossless Gospel.

These articles tie-in rather well with the missions theme of my Gold Mine of Souls article.

The first special edition article deals with Zane Hodges's scenario of the man stranded on the deserted island and the problem with just a John 6:47 approach. It also addresses the accuracy of the “Crossless” label.

The second article is all about what it means biblically to “believe in His name” and the deficiency of the Zane Hodges, Bob Wilkin, GES view.

May the Lord use them both for the glory of Jesus Christ and the furtherance of the one true Gospel that stands apart from all minimalist or addition misinterpretations.

Visit the Grace Family Journal and download in PDF form the special editions of The Tragedy of the Crossless Gospel.



  1. Just got finished with Mr. Stegall’s first article in the special edition of the GFJ and it is a slam dunk. Once again he proves that GES is indeed preaching a crossless gospel. The fact that they preach a crossless gospel is not new information but the proof he presents is mouth-gapingly astonishing.

    Terrifyingly, they are aggressively using their writing and speaking to delete the CROSS and RESURRECTION from being Gospel CONTENT wherever they can. The best that they can concede is that the cross may be helpful information but they are equally quick to add that it is “not the Gospel”.

    Tragically, the deity of Christ, the cross and resurrection are superfluous details to the non-believer. Use it if you want, but never present it as part of the saving message that must be believed!

    By their definition and distinctions we who preach Christ crucified for sins and resurrected as THE Gospel to be preached and believed upon by the sinner are preaching “ANOTHER GOSPEL. Yes, no matter which way you dice it up, when our messages are juxtaposed, one of us has and preaches “another gospel”.

    One of our messages has to bring “anathema” by biblical standards. There is no biblical squirm-room on this matter because they are undeniably different messages.

    GES has left us no room for doubting which one they would believe deserves anathema (as being “another gospel”). To my knowledge they have not said this, but by all implications, this has to be true. Think about this carefully. The message that contains, faith in Our Precious and Exalted God and Savior, Jesus Christ’s death for our sins and His glorious resurrection is the message, that by their definition of the gospel produces ANATHEMA. This message is totally different from their message. Unimaginably, the message that exalts Jesus Christ and His Finished Work on Calvary is the message that by their definition of the gospel has to bring anathema. Can you stomach that?

  2. Bret:

    Thanks for the review. I am looking forward to the reading myself.

    You wrote, “GES has left us no room for doubting which one they would believe deserves anathema (as being “another gospel”). To my knowledge they have not said this, but by all implications, this has to be true. Think about this carefully. The message that contains, faith in Our Precious and Exalted God and Savior, Jesus Christ’s death for our sins and His glorious resurrection is the message, that by their definition of the gospel produces ANATHEMA.”

    Earlier this year in one of the threads I do recall one of the “Crossless” men writing in such away that his nenaing was hat any who do not preach ther interpretation is preaching “another gospel.”

    I asked him if that was his meaning, but as is their custom, he woud not answer the question.

    Thanks for this encouraging review of Tom Stegall's article.

    Please post a review of the second once you have read it.


  3. Actually, Bob Wilkin has stated more than once that his version of the gospel is the only one, and all others are false (either that or his is false, but of course he doesn't think his is false). Wilkin debated Dr. Darrell Bock (Dallas Seminary professor) several years ago, here is the transcript: http://www.faithalone.org/resources/debate.pdf

    On page 30 a questioner from the audience specifically asks him if "his gospel" is "the exclusive gospel". He responds in the affirmative. The person presses him further, asking, "So therefore any one who is not adhering to the free grace gospel, in your opinion, would fall under the anathema of Galatians 1?" Now, obviously this person is asking about "free grace" in general, but in context he is referring to whatever Wilkin believes is "the gospel". In Wilkin's opening statement of this debate he indicated that the statement "faith alone saves but the faith that saves is not alone" is not the gospel. So this question references Wilkin's specific take on "the gospel".

    Wilkin's answer: "Yes. In terms of the anathema of Galatians 1, my view is, any one who is proclaiming a false gospel … a person hypothetically could believe a false gospel and not proclaim it. But if they’re proclaiming a false gospel, they fall under the curse, which I take it is the curse of God which falls upon the life of someone here and now. It’s not like the NIV translates it, “let him be eternally condemned.” That’s not a translation; that’s an interpretation. It simply says anathema -- let him be under the curse of God. And so I take it what that means is if I know someone that’s proclaiming a false gospel, I don’t send money into their ministry, I don’t pray for God to bless their ministry. Instead I pray for God to bring them back to the true gospel."

    Also, the following statement from a journal article written by Wilkin is pretty clear:

    "Jesus made it clear that the only condition [for salvation] is being convinced that He guarantees eternal life to all who believe in Him. Add anything to that and you have a different gospel." (http://www.faithalone.org/journal/1998ii/J21-98d.htm Wilkin, JOTGES Autumn 1998)


  4. Rachel:

    Thanks for posting this important information and documentation to substantiate it.

    I may post this as a headline at my blog and at additional sites in the Christian blogosphere.


  5. Rachel,

    Is your point that Wilkin would say the anathema of Gal. 1:6-9 applies to those of us who claim Christ's death and resurrection are part of the essential saving message?

    -- Greg

  6. Greg:

    I noted this before, but I distinctly remember one of the "Crossless" advocates stating that adding anything more than belief in the promise of eternal life for salvation, is to "add to the Gospel."

    When I asked if they meant Galatians 1 would apply to those of us who believe His death and resurrection are essential; no answer.


  7. Interestingly, we are using terms in a way no longer accepted by GES/Wilkin.

    Wilkin recently announced a change of his views concerning "the gospel" at a recent conference. He stated that he believes the term "the gospel" is never [!] used for the message the lost must believe to be saved!
    Funny thing. With this view, there never would have been a book by Zane Hodges called "The Gospel Under Siege".

    So Gal. 1:6-9, according to crossless advocates is irrelevant to the topic of salvation. Perversions to "the gospel" only mean perversions to the message of sanctification, not salvation. A person never needs to believe the true gospel to get saved, so long as he simply "believes in Jesus for eternal life" according to GES.

    -- Greg

    PS. Not only does Wilkin have a "a different gospel" but he also seems to have a "different Bible" because the one I have clearly predicates salvation from hell upon believing the gospel:

    2 Thessalonians 1:6-9 Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; 7 And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, 8 In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: 9 Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power

    Also see:

    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

  8. Greg,

    Yes, that is my point. I'm not sure what else could be meant by the last quote from Wilkin in my post, especially combined with what he said in the debate. If he thinks that adding the cross to the required content of saving faith is "a different gospel", then it must also be a false gospel, thus falling under Gal. 1. I'm quite sure he is aware of the power behind the phrase "a different gospel". But as he explains in the quote I gave from his debate, he doesn't see the Gal. 1 curse as eternal, but temporary, and something that could/would be reversed whenever the person/ministry with the "false gospel" changes to the "true gospel".

  9. Rachel,

    I agree that GES teaches we have seriously erred on the message of salvation. There is no ground for fellowship with crossless advocates when we disagree over this important issue.

    In an earlier article, I pointed out that GES apologist Antonio da Rosa claimed we were teaching "multiple objects of faith". Since Christ must be the only object of faith for salvation, the conclusion seemed to be that we are preaching a false object of faith through which the lost cannot be saved by virtue of the fact we include Christ's deity, death, and resurrection. However, when I made this point, no crossless advocate, except Jon Lee, admitted it. A blogger named Danny said he personally talked with da Rosa who claimed a person can be saved if they believe in Christ's death and resurrection for salvation (but how does that square with this constituting "mutiple objects of faith"?). According to the crossless gospel, can someone get saved by believing in Christ's death and resurrection for salvation? At best, the crossless advocates have been inconsistent on this point.

    Another important point Rachel raised is the hypocrisy of crossless advocates on the polarity of this issue. They often complain that we are overly critical and divisive in this debate. Yet, in their own writings, they claim we are presenting "multiple objects of faith" and "adding provisos" to the message of salvation and "adding to the required content of faith". Hodges also said the Free Grace community should be "embarrassed" by this tendency to change the content of faith required for salvation. Obviously, they have made some very critical and polarizing statements. Should not we also respond clearly and boldly to the departure of GES from the gospel?

    -- Greg

    P.S. I agree with Wilkin that Darrel Bock's "soft Lordship salvation" is "another gospel" that comes under the curse of Gal. 1:6-9. I also agree with Wilkin that the "anathema" is not eternal. Actually, I think the imperative verb "esto" is directed to the Galatians. They are to let the false teacher be accursed, similar to the imperative of Matthew 18:17. Otherwise, it was theoretically possible for a saved apostle to come under eternal condemnation (Gal. 1:8). I believe Scripture is usually very technical and consistent in statements like this. It isn't a general statement that false teachers will go to hell (which, in general, is true). It is a specific command. Many preachers of false gospels have been recovered to the truth and are not headed for hell.

  10. I appreciate your frank comments Greg. I've read only a portion of the Bock/Wilkin debate as I've been traveling a bit lately and haven't had the time to do much more than skim for the last couple of weeks.

    I'm new to the formal discussion of Lordship vs. Free Grace. I haven't explicitly studied Lordship in any way except such as I've come across in my study of Wilkin in the confusing aftermath of his visit to our church in June. I believe I fall within classic Free Grace as espoused by Charles Ryrie. "Hard" LS seems as wrong as I accuse Wilkin of being but what little I've read of "Soft" LS seems more acceptable and, from little I know, more of a semantics argument between Free Grace. Keep in mind that I openly confess only a fledgling knowledge of these specific topics and, since Lou's site and book are primarily for the purpose of answering Lordship, I fully expect that you have specific arguments about why the views of even Soft LS are more than semantic.

    I assure you my wife (the "anonymous" Rachel who posted earlier in this topic) and I are honest students of the Bible who desire nothing but to have our minds shaped and renewed by the scripture God provided us. Thus, I claim no formal allegiance to either and write all this to let you know my heart. Now that I've been exposed to the general arguments I'm afraid there's no turning back for me now. :-) In order to stand against Wilkin, or other false gospels, it has become apparent that I must decide exactly what I believe the Bible says about this central issue and be willing to lay aside all my prejudices and assumptions. A decision must come and I'm happy to have the input and accountability of you, Lou, and others here... hopefully some LS supporters as well, as I work through the specifics of this vital doctrine of God's specific gospel to save mankind.

    The saying "Faith alone saves but the faith that saves is not alone" has always seemed very reasonable to me, only recently have I come to question if some of the specific implications I've attached to that are correct.

    I'm not the brightest man on the planet but I believe I'm honest and write this to expose my heart to those here as my study of Wilkin's errors have challenged some of my own conclusions as well.

    This is long enough, more later. Thanks

  11. Knet, I posted two replies that I removed because I was trying to talk about too many things at once.

    First, let me explain the problem with Dr. Bock's view on the gospel. The main problem is that he sees the message of progressive sanctification an actual part of the gospel that must be accepted by the lost. In his view, the lost must somehow accept truth about sanctification to be saved.

    He says this in his debate with Wilkin when he repeatedly claims that Rom. 1-8 constitute the gospel the lost must believe to be saved.

    Dr. Bock asks, "Is not Romans 1:16-17 a summary statement for the entire message of the theological unit of Romans dealing with individual salvation? Does it not cover Romans 1 to 8?"

    My response would be that Rom. 1:16 definitely does not summarize the teaching in Romans 6-8. Let me give you two reasons why it cannot:

    1) Rom. 6-8 is applicable only to those who have been "baptized [placed] into Christ" (Rom. 6:2), not to the lost. There is no evidence that this teaching on how to live a victorious Christian life must be preached to the lost.

    2) The phrase "first to the Jew, and also to the Greek" describes the evangelism of the lost, not Christian life teaching to the saved! In fact, it is completely antithetical to talk of Christian life teaching during this Church Age as "first to the Jew".

    Remember Rom. 6-8 is written regarding whose who have been "baptized [placed] into Christ" (Rom. 6:2). This act phrase occurs in Gal. 3:27 where Paul says:

    For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

    It also refers to the same positional, Spirit baptism as 1Cor. 12:13:

    For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one bodywhether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or freeand have all been made to drink into one Spirit.

    If the teaching of Rom. 6-8 concerns a group of people "in Christ where there is neither Jew or Greek", how could Rom. 1:16 be summarizing this teaching?

    There is a better way to understand Rom. 1:16 as it relates to the rest of the book. In Rom. 1:1-4, Paul's summary of "the gospel" shows it is the same as his description of it in 1Cor. 15:1, 3-4. The message of Christ's death for our sins and resurrection.

    The gospel is foundational to what Paul eventually teaches in Rom. 6-8, but Rom. 6-8 do not constitute "the gospel which is...first to the Jew, then to the Greek." The fact that Christians have been "baptized into His death" (Rom. 6:2) and "died with Christ" (Rom. 6:8) is grounded upon the objective truths of the gospel, but does not comprise the message given to the lost.

    Dr. Bock also stated, "It is my fundamental contention that you cannot respond to the gospel
    only on the basis of seeking forgiveness of sins."

    What does that mean? And why not?

    -- Greg

  12. Greg, thanks for the thorough and provoking response. I'm mulling it over and will compare your thoughts to scripture. As I said, I only skimmed the debate transcript and was even then focused on Wilkin. You have clearly brought to light a non-semantic distinction.

    I agree completely with you about 1 Cor 15:1,3-4. Why isn't v5 included as part of the gospel? It seems that the distinction is that v3,4 stand out with the phrase "according to the scriptures" and also that the content of v5 is nowhere else reiterated that I know of. I realize the content of v5 wouldn't make sense but since it's part of the same sentence I'm simply anticipating the tactic as a possible way to attempt to invalidate the passage as intending to summarize the req'd content of saving faith.

    Dr. Bock also stated, "It is my fundamental contention that you cannot respond to the gospel
    only on the basis of seeking forgiveness of sins."

    I'm not sure exactly what he means by this, I'll search it out in the transcript later tonight, but my fundamental contention is that sin is what separated me from God in the first place... so I am not sure how "seeking forgiveness of sins" could be an insufficient response.

    My disagreement with Wilkin is a twist on roughly the same issue. My eyes first began to really open when I realized he had removed acknowledgment of sin from the saving equation. His answer was "I believe everyone on earth knows they are sinners (John 16:7-11)". That may be technically accurate but misses the point of the passage, esp v8 where "convict" (Elegcho) is used -- it means more than merely "knowing" I'm a sinner. I won't go so far as to say it means an actual turning from sin either, but it's more than MAO.

  13. This comment has been removed by the author.

  14. Knet,

    You asked about "the gospel" in 1Cor. 15 and why v. 5 isn't part of the gospel. I understand you are asking in anticipation of the objections from CLG (Cross-Less Gospel) advocates. In fact, they often repeat this as an objection.

    Verses 3-5 can be structured like this:

    - that Christ died for our sins
    ---- prophetic proof: according to the Scriptures
    ---- historical proof: and that He was buried

    - and that He rose again (the third day)
    ---- prophetic proof: according to the Scriptures
    ---- historical proof: and that He was seen by Cephas, ect.

    The essential truths mentioned by Paul are Christ's death for our sins and His historical resurrection. The supplementary information attests to the truth of these statements. Christ's death for our sins "is according to the Scriptures" and His burial is historical proof that He truly died. Christ's resurrection is also "according to the Scriptures" and the witness of Cephas and others attests to this.

    This is the message "first delivered" (15:3) to the Corinthians, which they "believed" (15:1; 12), through which they were "begotten", i.e., born again, (1Cor. 4:15). This also corresponds with Paul's description of "the gospel" as "the message of the cross" which is the single message by which it pleases God to save those who believe (1Cor. 1:17-23).

    You made an important point that the only "hoti" (that...) statements modified by "according to the Scriptures" are: 1) "that Christ died for our sins" and 2) "that He arose again". According to Rom. 1:1-2, the truths of the gospel were "promised before by His holy prophets in the Scriptures". And so, it is significant that 1Cor. 15:3-4 is used to modify the two clauses that: a) were actually foretold in OT Scriptures (e.g. Isaiah 53:5-11; Psalm 16:10) and b) essential to the gospel. It's also notable that OT Scriptures do not specifically say on what day He would be raised. The essential point that Paul made is that He was raised.

    Interestingly, crossless gospel advocates argue that "the gospel" here in 1Cor. 15 is needed for sanctification but not salvation. Certainly it is needed for sanctification (15:2) because everything in the Christian life is founded upon the truths of "the gospel" we first believed at the time we were born again. Let me make a common-sense observation. The CLG advocates argue: 1) "the gospel" here is required for salvation; and 2) "the gospel" here includes every statement from vv. 3-8 (and possibly beyond). The conclusion to what they are saying is that in order to grow in sanctification, every believer must know "that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.

    Does anybody believe that a new believer must know these details in order to grow? You see, CLG advocates use some common sense when applying the truth of this passage to the sanctification of believers in their local churches yet somehow neglect the same reasoning when talking about the CLG.

    -- Greg

  15. Above where I said "The CLG advocates argue: 1) "the gospel" here is required for salvation...", it should rather read:

    "The CLG advocates argue: 1) "the gospel" here is required for progressive sanctification..."

    -- Greg

  16. Knet,

    I wanted to respond to your comment:

    The saying "Faith alone saves but the faith that saves is not alone" has always seemed very reasonable to me, only recently have I come to question if some of the specific implications I've attached to that are correct.

    I'm happy you've recently come to question some of the implications associated with that cliche.

    I've heard this statement hundreds of times, but neither I nor anybody else knows what that means. Whatever somebody means by saying this is purely subjective.

    Let me point out some problems with it:

    1) To defend the proposition that the "faith that saves is never alone" would put one into a conundrum where he would somehow have to subjectively quantity the level of works that are necessarily expected. Every person would have to answer this differently and subjectively because Scripture never guarantees a certain, definable level of good works that will necessarily be present in the life of a saint. There is no guaranteed "spiritual batting average". There is no guaranteed "good works per month" quota. There is no guaranteed percentage of time spent in the Spirit rather than the flesh. There is no guaranteed percentage of times we will confess Christ rather than deny Him during opportunities in our life. There is no guaranteed quantification of a "changed life". Instead of guaranteeing a measurable, definable result, Scripture guarantees the absolute potential for the believer, who was once unsaved and unable to please God (Rom. 8:8) to now please God when he walks in the Spirit (Rom. 6:1-14; 8:2-4).

    There is much to say about the provisions given to the believer to please God. Positionally, he is a new creation with the potential to please God (cf. Eph. 2:10; 2Cor. 5:17). In addition to his sin nature, he receives a new nature with the desire to please God. The Holy Spirit indwells and leads him (Rom. 8:14; 1Cor. 6:19; Gal. 5:18, 25). He is blessed with everything pertaining to life and godliness (2Pet. 1:3). Yet, the Scriptures clearly teach that neither spirituality nor growth are automatic. In light of the provisions granted to the Christian by God, it requires his choice to positively respond to the Lord and walk by faith. He may respond positively or negatively (e.g. Rom. 6:11-13; 12:1-2; Gal. 5:15-16; Heb. 3:7-8, ect.). Therefore, good works that are to accompany the Christian life are not guaranteed by faith at the moment of salvation but rather depend on subsequent decisions to trust the Lord, in light of His provisions, to do His will through you. How often will the saint respond positively? We simply cannot say.

    2) As a matter of fact, we find it is possible for saints to habitually "walk as mere [unsaved] men" (1Cor. 3:1-4) or even worse than unbelievers (e.g. 1Cor. 5:1; 1Tim. 5:8). If you agree that it is possible for a saint to be carnal at times, how can you say his faith is "not alone"? In fact, James says that it is possible for saints (James 1:2, 18, 19; 2:1, 5, 7, 14, 16) to have "dead" faith (cf. James 2:14-17).

    3) The cliche implies "saving faith" is a continual process. However, Salvation from hell is a definite event in time (for example, see John 5:24; 6:37-40; Rom. 5:1, 9, 10, 11; Eph. 1:13; 2:4-5, 8). Positional salvation is not received through a life-long process of faith or faithful living, but rather, it is received at a point of time at the very moment of faith in the gospel. This salvation is secured by the work of Christ, not by the continuation of faith. This is important to see because if I see my continuation in faith as indespensible to salvation, I'm actually trusting my own continuation in faith -- not Jesus Christ.

    In actuality, it is possible for a believer to stop believing. Paul wrote the letter to the Galatians because they had stopped believing the true gospel and adopted a false gospel (cf. Gal. 1:6-9; 3:1; 4:9). Many passages of Scripture teach that it is possible for saints to be "faithless" or "unbelieving" (e.g. Heb. 3:12; 4:11; 5:11-6:4; 2Tim. 2:13, 18, ect.) Therefore, when we talk about "saving faith", we are actually talking about the faith a believer exercised at the time he was saved, not the faith that should continue in his life thereafter.

    4) It is a contradiction to say "salvation is by faith alone" but that "faith is not alone". This is simply an attempt to redefine faith in such a way that includes works.

    5) Paul said, "to the one who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness" (Rom. 4:5). How could this make sense if it actually meant, "to the one who does not work, but believes [which includes works] on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith [which does not count as a 'true faith' if it have not works] is coutned for righteousness".

    6) The cliche definitely opens the door to denying the gospel truth of justification by faith alone apart from works. Did you know that even Roman Catholics are comfortable saying "salvation is by faith, but the faith that saves is never alone?" If by "faith alone" we simply mean: that we are saved through a working faith, good works must sprout from faith, and that we cannot be saved on the meritorious grounds of human works apart from a faith-relationship with God, we are literally saying nothing different than Roman Catholics. In this sense, Roman Catholics doe believe in salvation by "faith alone". It is called "fides formata", i.e., faith formed [by love]. To develop this doctrine, the Scholastics used Galatians 5:6, which says "in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love."

    We might say that a different philosophy underlies the Roman Catholic position of fides formata and the modern-Calvinistic sola fide which is tied to "perseverance of the saints". But, in actual fact, that would not be entirely accurate. Sometimes people mistakenly assume that Roman Catholicism officially adopts the same position as Arminianism on election/perseverance. But that is not true. Official Roman Catholic doctrine leaves open the issue of election and perseverance. In fact, "Calvinism" as we call it, which includes "unconditional election" and "perseverance of the saints" did not come from John Calvin but from Roman Catholic father Augustine. I say this because most Protestants can recongize that Roman Catholicism teaches works salvation. But the same philosophy as Calvinism -- that those who faithfully endure to the end do so not of their own merit but as result of the unconditional election of God -- is an acceptable philosophy in Roman Catholicism. This philosophy simply does not circumvent works salvation.

    The bottom line is that the cliche "the faith that saves is never alone", this is so oriented to works salvation that even the most obvious works salvationists can agree with such a weak and perverted articulation of "sola fide". More importantly, it is clearly contradicted by Scripture.