November 24, 2007

What is the Defining Question for the Free Grace Movement & the FGA?

Dear Guests:

In an earlier article I laid out, in concise form, exactly how the advocates of the *Refined/Crossless” gospel view the death, resurrection and deity of Christ. You can read from their own published statements what it is they believe. See my article: What is the “Crossless” advocates “Stance” on the Cross, Resurrection & Deity of Christ?

The answer to the following question is the crux of ongoing controversy in the Free Grace community.

“In this dispensation, must a lost man believe in the death and resurrection of Christ to be born again?”

The advocates of the “Refined/Crossless” gospel relentlessly try to steer the discussion away from what the lost man must believe for the reception of eternal life. Time and again at my site, Pursuit of Truth and/or other sites, Jeremy Myers, Antonio da Rosa and Jim Johnson have unsuccessfully tried to steer the discussion to what they might present to the lost man in an evangelistic setting.

From the recording of the Free Grace Alliance (FGA) panel discussion I noted how every participant, with the exception of Pastor Tom Stegall, focused their comments almost exclusively on what they personally believe or would tell a lost man in an evangelistic setting. The issue, however, revolves around what the lost man must believe to be born again. The Grace Evangelical Society (GES) “Refined/Crossless” position states that a lost man does not have to know, understand or believe anything about who Jesus is and what He did to provide salvation. They go further to declare that a lost man can consciously reject the deity of Christ, but still be born again.

The “Refined/Crossless” advocates attempt to focus the debate on what Free Grace men personally believe because that is where they find common ground. They steer clear of discussions over what the lost man must know, understand or believe for the reception of eternal life because that is where the debate and controversy over their peculiar theology lays. They do this because what a lost man must believe for the reception of eternal life is the defining issue and the answer to that question is what will ultimately decide the direction of the FGA and Free Grace movement in general.

The teachings of Zane Hodges have permeated the GES, its leadership (Bob Wilkin, Jeremy Myers) and most of its remaining membership. Consequently, the GES has eliminated itself from any meaningful contribution to the debate over Lordship Salvation. The Hodges elimination of repentance for conversion, his assault on the titles of Jesus Christ, and the reductionist, non-saving evangelism of the “Refined/Crossless” gospel have rendered the GES, and any man who holds to these extremes, counterproductive in the battle against Lordship Salvation.

The FGA has an opportunity to become a meaningful, effective voice for the FG community in the battle to preserve the Gospel of Grace and effectively resist the ongoing spread of Lordship Salvation. The FGA, however, will never become that voice as long as it allows for advocates of the “Refined/Crossless” gospel to hold positions of leadership and to swell the ranks of its membership. The theology of the “Refined/Crossless” gospel weakens and undermines what might otherwise become a credible and effective voice in the battle against Lordship Salvation’s assault on the Gospel of Grace.

Division” and “Offences” of the “Crossless” Gospel
The teaching of Zane Hodges and the GES, which has come to be known as the “Refined/Crossless” gospel, has introduced “division” and “offences” (Rom. 16:17) to the body of believers in the FG community.

In the Aftermath: Heart to Heart thread a guest wrote,
“Regarding Romans 16:17-18... I find it odd that there are some who accuse US of being the ones causing division even though all we’re doing is ‘contend[ing] for the faith once delivered.’ Though, as pointed out in 1 Cor. 11:19, divisions are practically necessary when bad doctrine infiltrates the church because those who are true will openly reject the false, a worthy division.”

It is not at all “odd” or unusual for the teachers of false doctrine to claim that those who oppose their doctrinal errors and biblically contend for the faith are the ones causing division.

“Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple,” (Rom. 16:17-18).
What has become a political strategy of the “Refined/Crossless” gospel advocates is to claim those who reject “Refined/Crossless” teaching are causing “division.” This tactic shows a blatant disregard for the plain teaching of Romans 16:17. The intentional reversal of meaning from Romans 16:17 is common place among New Evangelicals who bristle at any suggestion of separation from unbelievers, apostasy or disobedient brethren. The “Refined/Crossless” men have begun to utilize the same New Evangelical misinterpretation of Romans 16:17 in an attempt to distract observers from the controversy that is swirling around their errors on the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His Deity.

I published the Heart to Heart series to show from the Bible what our mandated response must be to the teachers of doctrinal error who are the cause of “division” and “offences in the body of Christ. The “Refined/Crossless” gospel and its advocates: Hodges, Wilkin, Myers, the GES, and da Rosa are the men who have introduced “contrary” (false) doctrine into Free Grace community churches. It is, therefore, the teachers of the “Refined/Crossless” gospel who have brought “division” and “offences” (scandal) to the body of Christ.

This quote appears in my book and the Heart series,
It is not authentic teaching that creates the divisions; it is the contrary teaching that creates the division. They have got it just backwards. . . . Those who teach contrary to the body of revealed truth . . . are the ones who create the divisions and create the stumbling blocks.”
The advocates of the “Refined/Crossless” gospel have created “division” and the “stumbling blocks.” They are teaching that which is, “contrary to the body of revealed truth.”

Ironically, Hodges, Wilkin and Myers are hiding from any open discussion of the very doctrinal issue that has brought “division” and “offences” in to the body of Christ. For the most part all they have left is this new misrepresentation of Scripture, specifically Romans 16:17 and futile attempts to demonize those who are not going to grow weary of “contending for the faith once delivered” (Jude 3).

Dr. Charles Ryrie Answers the Defining Question:
I am not aware of anyone in the Free Grace community who would reject the suggestion that Dr. Charles Ryrie is among the most notable and prolific contributors to the Free Grace movement. His defense of the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to my knowledge, is virtually unquestioned in the Free Grace community.

His books on various subjects are in the personal library of very possibly every evangelical pastor in America. This is the defining question around which the controversy in the FG community revolves, “In this dispensation, must a lost man believe in the death and resurrection of Christ to be born again?”

In his classic answer to the Lordship interpretation of the Gospel, So Great Salvation, Dr. Charles Ryrie answers our defining question. Dr. Ryrie wrote,
“The issue is, How can my sins be forgiven? . . . Through faith I receive Him and His forgiveness. Then the sin problem is solved, and I can be fully assured of going to heaven. I do not need to believe in Christ’s second coming in order to be saved. . . . But I do need to believe that He died for my sins and rose triumphant over sin and death.” (So Great Salvation, p. 40.)

If the Free Grace community and the FGA are to have any chance of becoming a meaningful voice with the blessing and power of God, FG leadership and members alike must obey the Word of God. The advocates and teaching of the “Refined/Crossless” gospel must be biblically marked for the purpose of warning believers, avoiding them, and for the restoration of doctrinal purity to Free Grace local churches that have been caught up in the egregious errors of the “Crossless” gospel.

I am encouraging and praying for the FGA leadership and Free Grace pastors, who recognize the inherent dangers of the “Crossless” gospel, to obey the mandated course of action found in the Bible (Romans 16:17; Titus 1:9; 2 Thess. 3:6, 14-15) in regard to the teachers of the “Crossless” gospel.

Your answer to this question will guide your course of action:

Where does my first loyalty lie, to God and His Word, or to my friends and fellowships?


*You may have recognized that for this article I have almost exclusively used the label “Refined/Crossless” to define the interpretation of the Gospel coming from Hodges, Wilkin, Myers, GES and da Rosa. I want to share an important notation about that.

My purpose today is to alert readers so that when they read the “Crossless” advocates use of “Refined Free Grace” theology, it is in fact a new name for the same errors originally and commonly known as the “Crossless” gospel. It would be appropriate to say by definition that the Hodges interpretation of the Gospel has been “Refined” (down to a) “Crossless” Gospel.

I for one will never accept or agree to refer to the “Crossless” gospel as “Refined Free Grace” theology. This article will be the first and ONLY time the word “Refined” will appear in regard to the “Crossless” gospel.

The Devil always finds a label to make more palatable what he has soured. Abortion becomes Pro-Choice; Liberal becomes Moderate. The “Crossless” gospel is a false gospel! The “Crossless” gospel is a totally new creation that originated with Zane Hodges. The “Crossless” gospel might also be name, Abandoned Free Grace (AFG) theology.


  1. I am very new to the TFG vs RFG "Crossless" debate. But today Jonathan Perreault was good enough to explain the issue.

    Until he cited some of the statements about non-necessity of belief in Christ's deity, I didn't think anyone who espoused salvation "by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone" would make such statements. Shocking!

    From my understanding of Scripture, though, it appears that one of the difficulties here is that the wrong question is being debated. You have defined this debate thus: "what a lost man must believe for the reception of eternal life is the defining issue". From Jonathan's explanation as well as some reading on Antonio da Rosa's blog, that appears a fair expression of the TFG/RFG debate.

    But "what" is not really the issue of belief. It's not the "content of saving faith" as someone on one of the blogs expressed it.

    It is "Who" must I believe, and "how deeply"?

    That the "Who" is Jesus Christ, God the risen Son, is not being debated. But what does it mean to "believe" in a Biblical sense -- the sense that attracts God's unmerited favor?

    I believe the answer is most clearly expressed in I John. It’s best to read that entire epistle in a single sitting, but I’ll quote from chapter 5:

    “1 Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: … 18 We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not;”

    Believe so thoroughly that you are kept from sin. This, brethren, is full salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone!

  2. Daniel:

    Thanks for checking in.

    I am with family now for some "game" time. I will get back to you no later than tonight or tomorrow.


  3. Daniel:

    You wrote, "Until he (Jon P) cited some of the statements about non-necessity of belief in Christ's deity, I didn't think anyone who espoused salvation 'by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone' would make such statements. Shocking!"

    Yes, it is, "shocking," but that is the view of the "Crossless" gospel advocates. However, they go beyond "non-necessity of belief."

    Antonio da Rosa has written articles in which he plainly states that a lost man can openly, consciously reject and deny the deity of Christ and still be born again.

    Antonio, who is representative all the "Crossless" advocates says that rejection of the deity of Christ should be treated as a "misconception" and "put on the back burner" as if it it no hinderance to being born again.

    All of this originated with Zane Hodges. And you are right, no one has espoused this kind of teaching, that is until Zane Hodges introduced, and sadly some men believed it.

    More later on the "Defining Question," and why I feel it is.


  4. Hi Daniel,

    You said,

    "But 'what' is not really the issue of belief. It's not the 'content of saving faith' as someone on one of the blogs expressed it.

    It is 'Who' must I believe, and 'how deeply'?

    That the 'Who' is Jesus Christ, God the risen Son, is not being debated."

    Perhaps the most important emphasis is what you have mentioned. Nevertheless, the most fundamental aspect of the gospel is what exactly "the gospel" is. I greatly wish that we could be focusing here on "how deeply". Unfortunately, the fundamental errors of the GES and its proponents have forced us to debate and clarify this most basic, vital issue.

    You are right, we are not debating that the "who" is "Jesus Christ, God the risen Son". What we are debating is if the lost need to know that the "who" is "Jesus Christ, God the risen Son". If someone does not believe they are a sinner, or has not been told that Jesus is God and that He died on the cross to pay for their sins, our position here is that they cannot be saved. GES and others advocate that not only CAN such a one be saved, it is in fact the ONLY way that person can be saved. Both sides agree on "who" Jesus is. The current debate centers on whether the lost also need to know "who" Jesus is, or if they only need to simply believe that one named Jesus can give you eternal life w/o knowing WHY you need it or HOW he has provided it. A lost person could believe very deeply that Jesus gives them eternal life, but if they don't know of or outright deny His deity, they simply aren't saved. Strength or deepness of belief is not what saves, rather it is the object (Christ) of our belief that saves. But if you do not have or believe enough information to properly identify the object (Christ), then you cannot properly (i.e. savingly) believe in Him.

  5. Not to re-state what I said at a similar discussion ...

    But, maybe I'll restate some of it here ...

    The key issue is Christ's deity. The more we understand about him, the more His deity implies and requires of us.

    He has given plenty of signs. Any of John's first 7 should be sufficient to convince us of His deity. Certainly the greatest sign, that of His resurrection is more than enough reason to believe Christ's deity.

    (Without necessarily endorsing every single statement JP made in his paper on the Resurrection signs, he did a good job showing the importance and primacy of the Resurrection as a sign of Christ's deity.)

    People say they believe in many things. I say I believe in exercise, but I'm overweight. Others say they believe in the American form of government but don't vote. Still others say they believe Jesus is God, but don't treat Him like God. Some really couldn't care less what Jesus says.

    Those who really believe in exercise do it. Those who really believe in voting do so.

    And those who really believe Jesus is God do what He says -- just as though He actually were the omnipotent Creator to Whom they expect one day to give an account.

  6. Quite!

    God, in His grace, will count faith for righteousness and will pardon the one who believes. We, deserving unimaginable punishment for the enormity of our crimes, will receive full pardon if we will believe Jesus, God the risen Son! And to as many as believe He gives power to become His sons. Hallelujah!

  7. Since I mentioned Romans 4:5, I will also mention the other bookend of the Christian's earthly life, that of 1 Corinthians 3:15.

  8. Jonathan, I'm not sure precisely the point you're making with that reference.

    You study the Scripture enough that you probably understand the context here, but most folks miss the "building" metaphor of those several verses, so I'll go over it.

    "9 For we [apostles and teachers] are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building."

    Notice the plural form of "you", "ye". Check the Greek if you doubt me here ... but the KJV lets us in on the number of the second-person pronoun when used as a subject, not an object. "You" in the singular would have been rendered "thou", not "ye". (Unfortunately Elizabethan English does not give us the distinction when the word is used as an object. Southern English gives us "y'all", but King James' translators were ignorant of that fine word.)

    The plurality of those at Corinth who would read/hear the epistle were God's husbandry (farm/garden), God's building, God's temple (verse 16). That is, the visible church at Corinth -- no doubt elsewhere as well -- is that which the "labourers together with God" were building. Christ is the foundation of the church (v 11) and others build the church upon Him.

    If anyone's building of the church survives "the day" when "fire shall try" it, he is rewarded. If his building of the church does not, "he shall suffer loss", but is not lost eternally because of it. Now those who would defile / destroy God's church, God will defile / destroy (v 17). (KJV uses "defile" once & "destroy" later in that verse bu it is the same Greek word both times.)

    That, I think, you will agree is the contextual teaching devoid of theological coloring.

    What lessons would I draw ... possibly colored by my own theology?

    * Be careful in our work for God that we are making true disciples, not professing converts who will not continue. Jesus made a practice of thinning His crowds of followers down to those who would really follow, not just hang on to see the next miracle.

    * The teacher who does build a shallow church, even one full of false professors, is not necessarily lost himself, but he will "suffer loss".

    * Those who actively draw people away -- now those will be judged most severely. "Destroy" is a particularly fearful word when God is the one so doing!

    But what do verses 9 - 17 teach us about the person who calls himself "Christian" but who does nothing for the Lord? Nothing. For that we would need to go to a passage that addressed the topic.

  9. Daniel,

    I agree with you on your interpretation of the 1 Cor. 3 passage. In Bible college I took a class on 1 Corinthians, the professor was also the Greek prof for the college and seminary. Anyway, he challenged us on the standard interp. of that passage, and it was the first time I had ever heard anything BUT the normal, Christian-loses-his-rewards-but-not-his-salvation version. Looking at the context, I was fairly convinced that that passage is actually dealing with people who build the church, not Christians and their works in general. In addition, there doesn't seem to be any other place in Scripture where such an idea is expressed, that a Christian could potentially have NO good works upon entrance to eternity. On the contrary, we have many passage that indicate otherwise, especially in Hebrews...

  10. >>In addition, there doesn't seem to be any other place in Scripture where such an idea is expressed, that a Christian could potentially have NO good works upon entrance to eternity. On the contrary, we have many passage that indicate otherwise, especially in Hebrews...


  11. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  12. Anonymous:

    What you have posted here is an exact duplicate of what Antonio posted at his blog this afternoon in the comment thread under his article on the Judgment Seat of Christ.

    So, we have an anonymous person plagiarizing Antonio, which is sinful and wrong.

    The notes have nothing to do with the subject of this article. I’ll leave the comment up for now, but will delete shortly.


  13. Daniel,

    According to your understanding, could you explain the passage (of 1 Corinthians chapters 3 and even 4) more fully in terms of it's context, and address the supposed individual emphasis of 1 Corinthians 3:4,8,10b,12, 13,14,15, and 18. Also, what (in your opinion) specific "day" is being referred to in 1 Corinthians 3:13?

  14. Wow, no one's ever asked me to post a commentary on the book of 1 Corinthians before! :-)

    I'll try to explain further in the near future ... right now I'm too buried with work to answer at that length.

    The "day" ... debating eschatology is seldom profitable as only God knows for sure how the details of it will go.

    This much I will say:
    * It is a day of judgment.
    * At this judgment at least three outcomes are possible: reward, loss, and destruction -- whatever precisely each means.
    * Quickness to label a particular judgment a mere awards ceremony too often becomes a plea for Christian mediocrity. Let us take seriously God's approval and disapproval.
    * Whether there is one judgment for all who have lived at all time, 3 judgments, 7 judgments, or a judgment for each individual in turn I am not sure if Scripture reveals. Details of the pictures given of judgment vary enough each time it is pictured, that we have to understand they include some metaphorical aspects. For example, I don't believe in a judgment dividing literal sheep with wool from literal goats with horns.
    * What is certain is that we will all give an account to God for the deeds done in the mortal body and that those who have patiently continued in well-doing will be ushered into heaven while those who have been disobedient will be cast into hell. (Romans 2:5-11) That certainty should guide our daily lives. Whether that is at the same time or separately from receiving additional reward does not affect the way we live, so if God has not made it abundantly clear, I'm comfortable admitting that I don't know.

  15. Daniel,

    Thank you for responding in part to my questions. I understand that you are busy and am willing to continue this discussion at your convenience.

    I just wanted to clarify one this you said:

    "Wow, no one's ever asked me to post a commentary on the book of 1 Corinthians before! :-)"

    I think you were jesting in part, but as I said: "According to your understanding, could you explain the passage (of 1 Corinthians chapters 3 and even 4) more fully in terms of it's context", and I go on. So to clarify, I'm not asking about "the book of 1 Corinthians", but only chapter 3 (and even 4).

  16. >>I'm not asking about "the book of 1 Corinthians",


    Full explanation of chapter 3 requires reaching back at least to chapter 2 and ahead to chapter 6. I'll try to put together a good answer in the next few days, but I expect it to run to 2-3 pages. I've been averaging 11-hour days at the office for quite a while now, so don't have as much time as I would like to devote here.