August 30, 2007

Response from Bob Wilkin: A Journal

To All:

I have had a few inquiries into whether or not Bob Wilkin responded to my question on the deity of Christ as Kyle Kaumeyer assured me he would.

Bob Wilkin sent me an e-mail yesterday, (Wednesday, (8/29/07). He told me whether or not he will answer the question on the deity of Christ. For the moment I am withholding his answer.

On Wednesday afternoon I sent a response to Bob (via e-mail) with an additional thought for his consideration. I am awaiting his reply, which I believe should be today (Thursday). Once I have Bob's response I will post an update.

Late last night (Thursday) still no reply from Wilkin. Therefore, I sent another e-mail to Bob asking if I might expect to hear from him by the weekend. Jeremy Myers was sent a carbon of that e-mail.

Today, (Friday) I sent another e-mail to Bob Wilkin with a carbon to Jeremy. I made a proposal to Bob with a solution to the desire he has expressed to settle the debate over the "Crossless" gospel.

Last night (Saturday) I sent another e-mail to Wilkin with a carbon to Jeremy Myers. Here is a portion of the e-mail.

"I have been awaiting a reply from you to my last three e-mails, two of which I sent a carbon to Jeremy as I have with this. If you are out-of-town then Jeremy would, of course, be able to inform me of this. In that absence I have to believe you are in receipt of my e-mail(s) and have to date chosen to delay or not respond at all. May I reasonably expect to hear back from you within the next day or two?"

Thus far, still no reply from Bob. I have given him the benefit of the doubt in the hope and expectation that he will extend the courtesy of a reply to my gracious notes to him.

Incidentally, I expanded my proposal to help him realize the open forum/debate he has been calling for on the "Crossless" gospel. I asked if he is still eager to go ahead with a debate if a man from the opposing view can be found who would agree to publicly debate him.

This is, of course, been a sore spot with Bob. His GES blog has his version of how he sought, but failed to organize the debate with Pastor Dennis Rokser. I trust Bob is willing to go ahead when and if a man will agree to meet him in this open debate format he is pressing for.


Lou

August 24, 2007

OPEN QUESTION to Bob Wilkin at the Grace Evangelical Society

What could be more vital than the Deity of Christ when we talk about the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

This morning at the Grace Evangelical Society (GES) blog site I posted the Deity of Christ question to Bob Wilkin.

At the GES blog, GES staff member Jeremy Myers has twice dodged the question with redirects and double-speak. For a trained pastor to evade a question, that any first year Bible college student could easily understand and respond to, is unconscionable.

Following is my open question to Bob Wilkin at the GES blog site


Brother Bob:

I have a simple question that I am directing to you personally.

You are the Founder & Executive Director of the GES. I am hopeful that a man of your character, reputation and desire to seek truth will respond with an honest, transparent answer to this simple to understand, direct question.

Can a lost man be born again, while consciously denying the deity of Christ, if he believes in Jesus for eternal life?

Thanking you in anticipation of your reply.


LM


Kyle Kaumeyer, of the GES, posted this note to me at the GES’s official blog site.

“Bob is out of town at a conference and will not be back in the office until Tuesday. Once he is back in the saddle he will have time to respond to your question.”

August 21, 2007

False Paradigms of the “Crossless” Gospel, #2

False Paradigm #2:
The true object of faith is preached only when we require the lost to believe the literal name “Jesus” for everlasting life. If you require belief in truths about "Jesus" in addition to His name for salvation, you distort the object of faith by changing the object of faith from the name “Jesus” to theological facts about Jesus.

This article is going to begin addressing the question, “What does it mean to believe in Jesus alone for salvation?” Does the gospel truth that salvation is offered by faith in Jesus Christ alone mean that a person does not need to believe any truths about Jesus aside from His name and promise? That is what some advocates of the “Crossless” gospel now claim. I want to address this claim as a way to lead into the topic of the next article on whether it is possible to believe in a “false Jesus.”

This false paradigm is succinctly articulated by Grace Evangelical Society(GES) advocate Antonio da Rosa:

“The ‘doctrinal checklist’ advocates' position on saving faith consists of believing in a death, and a resurrection, along with other, what they would consider orthodox, information. They make doctrine the object of faith and not Christ alone.”[1]

A recent internet article stated,
“The 'Majority' position states that one must believe A, B, C, D, E, and F to be saved. If one is required to believe these things, firstly, they are multiple conditions. How many theologically required conditions are there to be saved? Furthermore, if one is told that he must believe these things, they necessarily become objects of faith. This conclusion cannot be escaped and is mere common sense. The majority position requires that these things be believed. If they are believed, they are objects of faith. And if they are required, then they become co-conditions to ‘believing in Christ’.”[2]

To date, I am not aware of Zane Hodges or Bob Wilkin making this claim so explicitly. However, da Rosa’s argument seems to be the logical next step to the “Crossless” gospel. GES staff member Jeremy Myers agrees with da Rosa’s label of those who reject their teaching as “doctrinal checklist advocates.” He takes it a step further with the label “doctrinal legalist.”[3] Hodges has claimed we are “adding to the gospel,” which he compares to “the efforts made by Lordship people to add provisos to the message of faith in Christ.”[4]

These are serious accusations. To point the lost to a false object of faith is tantamount to preaching a false gospel. A person cannot be saved through an exercise of faith in the wrong object!! If we are telling people to put their faith in the wrong object, woe is us!

Before proceeding, I am compelled to briefly explain our view that the “Crossless” gospel camp condemns. As reconciled people, we are given “the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:18). That obviously involves carrying forward a message that involves reconciliation to God (Luke 24:46-47; 1 Cor. 1:17-23; 2 Cor. 5:20).

In conjunction with this message, Jesus promised the Holy Spirit would “convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (John 16:8). Why would this be important? To understand “the gospel” that Jesus Christ “died for our sins” to reconcile us to God requires the necessary presupposition that one is a sinner before a righteous God who will execute judgment. “The gospel” the lost must believe is good news in light of this truth.The gospel” explains that Christ “died for our sins” and “rose again” (1 Cor. 1:17-23; 15:1-4). The simple phrase “Christ died for our sins” is meaningful, yet simple. It means Christ’s death paid for our sin. We agree that the lost must believe in Jesus Christ alone in order to be saved. If a person truly believes Christ’s death was the payment for his sins, he would not attempt to resolve the sin issue by his works or reformation. Not only did Christ die, but He also rose. His resurrection declared He is the Son of God, with the power to save everyone who believes in Him in light of His completed work.

To summarize, in order to trust the true Jesus Christ and receive salvation, a person must believe: He is God and Man (John 6:32-35, 51; 8:23-24, 1 John 4:3) who died for our sins and rose again to reconcile us to God by faith in Him alone (John 3:14-15; 6:32-35; 50-51; 1 Cor. 1:17-21; Rom. 1:4, 16; 4:23-25; 10:9; John 6:35-58; Rom. 1:4, 16; 4:23-25; 9:30-10:10, 16). This is the Scriptural view that has consistently been taught by grace-oriented brethren throughout the ages.[5]

Why do some “Crossless” gospel advocates say we have changed the object of faith? It is because we believe the lost must believe He is God who came in the flesh to die for our sins and rise again. Some readers may wonder, “How can someone get saved without believing these truths?” Da Rosa supports his view with arguments like this:

“My daughter believes in me as her ‘Dad’. As her dad I work at a Costco warehouse where I am a merchandiser. She doesn't know what I do there. She doesn't understand. She may even believe that I own the whole store and run it myself! My daughter believes in me as her ‘Dad’, as the one who provides for her, feeds her, clothes her, shelters her, etc. When she believes in me, she is believing in a man who is a merchant at a Costco, whether or not she knows what I do, have done, or has wild misconceptions about me. She has trusted me as her dad and I provide for her. The means by which I can provide for her is not the issue. The issue is whether or not she is going to trust me as her dad, trust me for her well-being, and I will provide for her, or is she going to doubt in me, and worry, and be anxious about where she is going to find her well-being.”[6]

The Two-Edged Sword:
Young children depend on their parents without knowing their names or promises. If this is how we are going to determine truth, this analogy could argue just as strongly against GES’s own checklist that the lost need to believe Jesus’ name and promise of eternal life by faith alone. A child apprehends his parents by sensory experience, not by belief of their names or truths about them. Christ is apprehended as the object of one’s faith only by the essential truths that identify Him.

Even a child recognizes certain features about her dad that identify him, like his appearance and voice. For example, let's say a man with dark slicked-back hair and a ponytail driving a Lamborghini approaches Antonio da Rosa’s daughter. On the license plate is the name “Antonio.” He promises to guarantee her well-being if she will get in the car. She does not realize he is actually Antonio Banderas, the cunning Hollywood actor who played Zorro. Would she get in his car? Of course not. The one thing she knows for sure is that this "Antonio" is not her dad.

When “Crossless” gospel advocates say we preach a false object of faith because we believe the lost must believe certain essential features that identify Jesus Christ, I wonder about the practical effect to their own evangelism. To date, most “Crossless” gospel advocates claim to preach Jesus Christ’s death for our sins, resurrection, deity, and humanity along with the promise of salvation. They say this helps to lay the foundation for the “saving proposition.” But I wonder, do they make a practical caveat to avoid preaching a false object of faith like we are accused of doing? Do they caption their presentation of “the gospel” with the explanation:
“I’m going to tell you about this Cross issue, but before I do that, I must warn you that this truth is non-essential. You must not believe in Jesus and His death for your sins for salvation. Instead, you must consciously separate Christ’s work on the cross and His promise of eternal life. You must believe in Jesus through His promise alone, not His death”?[7]

It seems their paradigm would demand this. Despite everything “Crossless” gospel advocates say to sound orthodox, the logical conclusion of their view is that the presentation of Christ’s death and the truths of the gospel could hazard men’s souls because men might be tempted to involve Christ’s death, resurrection, and deity as essential elements to the object of their faith.


The Biblical Answer:
Da Rosa wants to make it sound as though we have complicated the saving message to the preclusion of simple, child-like faith. However, the argument da Rosa articulated is not faithful to the analogy Jesus used when he said "whoever does not receive the kingdom as a little child will by no means enter it..." (Luke 18:16). Christ's point was not about a child's lack of knowledge about his parents but rather his trust upon his parents. But again, a baby apprehends his parents by sensory experience, while we apprehend Christ by faith in the essential truths that identify him.

That does not mean the saving message is complicated. That does not mean we cannot exercise child-like faith in Jesus Christ. Da Rosa misrepresents the issue when he says young children cannot articulate “how Jesus can be both God and God's Son at the same time.”[8] The issue is not articulating how Jesus can be both God and God’s Son, nor is it articulating how Jesus can be both God and man. Jesus never said, “You must believe how I am God.” He said:

"…I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I AM, you will die in your sins" (John 8:24)

"…When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I AM…” (John 8:28)

Frankly, I do not know how. All I know that it is true. And I know five-year old children who believe that it is true. And when I was a young child, I believed it was true. I remember wondering if I would be able to understand how this worked when I grew up. So far, the answer is no. I do not understand that any better than I did when I was five or six. All I know is what I knew then—that it is true. Neither a child nor an adult needs to articulate how Jesus can be both God and man. They only must believe that He is God and man.

Crossless” gospel advocates put an emphasis on believing “in Jesus’ name”. This is a Scriptural phrase (e.g. John 1:12). According to “Crossless” gospel advocates, that means to believe the literal name “Jesus” for everlasting life, without necessarily having any other information about who He is. But what does it mean to believe in Jesus’ name?

For one thing, even the Greek name behind “Jesus” conveyed a meaning to its original hearers that the English transliteration does not. It means “God-Savior” or “God’s Savior” and implies Christ’s deity and unique role as mediator between man and God. His very name conveys the idea of salvation or eternal life as reconciliation to God, not just some sort of eternal, godless well-being. I wonder if “Crossless” gospel advocates would allow for the lost to believe in the translation of Christ’s name (“God’s Savior”) for everlasting life rather than the transliteration (“Jesus”). How do we know it must be the transliteration rather than the translation? And if it must be the transliteration, why not insist the lost must know the Greek pronunciation? The fact is, the English word “Jesus” was not what He was called in Greek or Aramaic. It is doubtful that Greek-speakers in His day would have even connected the English “Jesus” with what they spelled and pronounced much differently.

But does believing in Jesus’ name mean to simply believe His name is "Jesus"? Even a casual perusal of the Gospel of John or other books of the Bible will show otherwise. When Jesus prayed, "I have manifested Your name to the men You have given Me..." (17:6), He meant that He manifested the Person and authority signified by the name. The word "name" is used hundreds of times in this sense in Scripture. It would be superfluous to cite verses. A search for the exact term "name of the Lord" in an online Bible will show over 100 results that confirm this point.

But “Crossless” gospel advocates actually admit this. Da Rosa stated,
“Christ's ‘name’ is everything who He actually is. This ‘name’ represents everything who He TRULY is.”[9]

After this statement, da Rosa continues with an unexplained leap of logic as if believing the literal name “Jesus” is some magical door where only the name “Jesus” is seen on the human side but all true Christology is seen on the divine side:
“When we believe in the ‘name’ of Jesus Christ for eternal life through the persuasion of the content of the gospel message we are believing in Him in who He truly is in all capacities, whether or not we understand them or not.”[10]

Obviously, the lost do not need to know everything about Jesus in order to be saved, but they do need to know the essential truths that identify Him. The fact we are to "believe in His name" indicates first of all that we are to believe in a Person. In fact, when the Gospel of John speaks of believing in reference to salvation, it uses two common prepositions: “in” and “that”. The preposition “in” is directional and indicates what our faith looks upon, and it always refers to His Person: "in His name" (1:12); "in the Son" (3:36); "in the Son of God" (9:35). Likewise, the preposition “that” points to some essential truth about His Person, often emphasizing His deity: "that I AM" (8:24, 28); "that the Father is in Me, and I in Him" (10:38); "that I came out from God" (16:27); "that You did send Me" (17:8, 21); "that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God" (20:31). The fact we are called to "believe in His name" harmonizes completely with the fact that Scripture outlines essential truths the lost must believe about Jesus to be saved.

Contrary to this, both da Rosa and Hodges have added the phrase “REGARDLESS OF BLANK SPOTS...” when referring to believing in Jesus’ name for salvation.[11] They say you can be saved when you believe in “Jesus” for everlasting life regardless of blind spots you may have about Jesus Christ. This is like a blank check. For example, you can take away His deity, His humanity, His work on the cross, His resurrection, and the fact that He ever came to earth--and you will be saved. Or you can add anything. You could believe “Jesus” is the former Branch Dividian leader David Koresh, as long as you believe in “Jesus” for eternal life. You can believe “Jesus” is an occultist wizard master that grants eternal access into some sort of pleasurable, ethereal realm of the occult. You can believe Jesus is a sinner who guarantees eternal life. If you live in the Tribulation, you can mistake the Antichrist for “Jesus” as long as you believe he guarantees eternal life.

Finally, da Rosa confuses essentials truths about Jesus as individual objects of faith. He says,
“The ‘Majority’ position states that one must believe A, B, C, D, E, and F to be saved…The majority position requires that these things be believed. If they are believed, they are objects of faith. And if they are required, then they become co-conditions to ‘believing in Christ’.”

It is not clear how da Rosa avoids his own accusation. In his book Secure and Sure, Bob Wilkin has a section titled “Three Essentials”. He says Jesus “routinely communicated three things. We, too, must share those three elements. They are: 1. believing 2. in Jesus 3. for eternal life.” Notice how Wilkin enumerates these three essentials exactly as da Rosa enumerated the essentials of our view. If we have five objects of faith, then by his own definition, da Rosa has three objects of faith. Da Rosa may argue his three essentials can be put into one sentence or one proposition, but so what? So can ours.

But how can we respond to the accusation that we tell the lost to put their faith in different objects? Does the need for a person to believe he is a sinner constitute an object of faith? No, in fact, the Holy Spirit’s pre-evangelistic work involves convicting “the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (John 16:8). That does not mean He wants people to put their faith in their sin. Rather, a person must accept the presupposition that he is a sinner in order to understand “Christ died for our sins” (1 Cor. 15:3) or even in order to understand and respond to the gospel appeal, “Be ye reconciled to God!” (2 Cor. 5:20).

Are essential truths about Jesus individual objects of faith or are they essential parts to the one true object of faith? Jesus Christ Himself, in an evangelistic appeal, presents Himself as the “Bread of Life” (John 6:32, 33, 35, 41, 48, 50, 51, 58). This involves His deity: “For the bread of God is He which comes down from heaven…” (6:33; cf. 32, 41, 50, 51, 58). This involves His incarnation and death: “He which comes down from heaven”; “the bread that I will give is my flesh” (6:51); “except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood…” (6:53). And by implication, it involves His resurrection: “I am the living bread” (6:51); “Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” (6:54). Did Jesus present multiple objects of faith when He described Himself as the “Bread of Life”? No, these truths were all wrapped into His very identity as the “Bread of Life.” And when Jesus calls the lost to believe on Him as the “Bread of Life,” He is not mandating that people must believe on the literal term “Bread of Life,” but rather the truths signified by it. This example demonstrates how the person and work of Jesus are wrapped into His identity. That is why He is called the “Lamb of God”. That is why the “Jesus” that Paul preached is “Christ crucified” (1 Cor. 1:23; 2:2).

When Jesus is divested of His deity, humanity, death for sins, and resurrection, what are we left with? A guy named “Jesus” who guarantees eternal life. Is this the true Jesus of the Bible we are called to believe in? In the next article, we will see the shocking false paradigm that allows “Crossless” gospel advocates to answer “Yes!”


GS

[1] Antonio da Rosa, "Checklist Evangelists."

[2] Antonio da Rosa, "Free Grace Theology-Majority/Minority Views."

[3] See "Welcome & Where We're Headed" [Note comment #1 in the thread posted by Jeremy Myers on August 3, 2007 @ 4:15pm.]

[4] Zane Hodges, “How To Lead people to Christ, Pt. 1.” Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society, (Autumn 2000).

[5] For example, see Tom Stegall, “The Tragedy of the Crossless Gospel, Pt. 1,” pp. 6-11. Grace Family Journal (Spring 2007).

[6] Antonio da Rosa, “How Much Information is Really Needed?

[7] Notice, this is exactly what da Rosa is concerned about:

“But we must not confuse the evidence (i.e. a gospel message) which supports and undergirds the promise of eternal life, with the content of saving faith itself. This would cloud the essential issue between God and men! When we ought to be pointing men and women to simple faith in Christ through His promise which unequivocally offers eternal life to the one who takes Him at His word for it…”
See: Antonio da Rosa, “Will the REAL Jesus Please Stand Up?

The phrase “through His promise” is a favorite phrase of da Rosa who uses it no less than eight times on blog entries on the subject of what the lost must believe to be saved.

[8]Antonio da Rosa, "Major Problems With Checklist Evangelism," (July 26, 2007 blog entry).

[9] Antonio da Rosa, "Checklist Evangelists."

[10] Ibid.

[11]E.g. “Everyone who believes in that name for eternal salvation is saved, regardless of the blank spots…” Zane Hodges, “How to Lead People to Christ, Pt.1,” Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society (Autumn 2000).

August 18, 2007

The Deity of Christ: A Defining Question to the Grace Evangelical Society

The defining question below is directed to Zane Hodges, Bob Wilkin, Jeremy Myers, Antonio da Rosa and any advocate of the position on the Gospel coming from the Grace Evangelical Society.

In the thread under the blog entry, How Much Information Is Really Needed, Antonio posted this statement,

“When you believe in the name of Jesus, you believe on One who is God, who has died and rose again, who was born of a virgin, who did walk on water, who ascended into heaven bodily, etc. EVEN IF YOU ARE NOT AWARE, UNDERSTAND, OR BELIEVE THESE THINGS.”
Antonio your interpretation of the Gospel is identical with Hodges, Wilkin, & Myers. This question is, therefore, directed to each of you men.

Can a lost man be born again while
consciously denying the Deity of Jesus Christ
if he believes in Jesus for eternal life?


LM

Greg Schliesmann's Paradigm #2 will be posted early next week.

August 12, 2007

False Paradigms of the “Crossless” Gospel #1

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…[1]

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.” [2]

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![3]

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.”[4]

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.[5] 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.[6]

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].”[7]

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?


GS

Please continue to False Paradigms, Part 2.

[1] 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

[2] Bob Bryant, “How Were People Saved Before Jesus Came?Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society (Spring 2003).

[3]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.

[4] Zane Hodges, “How to Lead People to Christ, Pt.1,” Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society (Autumn 2000).

[5] See Tom Stegall, “The Tragedy of the Crossless Gospel, Pt. 2,” Grace Family Journal (Summer 2007).

[6] 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.

[7] 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).

August 10, 2007

Introduction to the False Paradigms of the “Crossless” Gospel

Greetings to All:

You may have read some or all of my recent articles that address the “Crossless”gospel. You can review them by visiting this Series on The “Crossless” Gospel.

This week I posted the OPEN LETTER to the Free Grace Community by Pastor Tom Stegall. That letter's primary goal was to address an issue about the channels of communication between Pastors Stegall & Rokser and the leadership of the GES, primarily Bob Wilkin. I trust you have read that important letter.

A new multi-part series that addresses the “Crossless” interpretation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is about to begin. The topic and subject matter will be: The False Paradigms of the “Crossless” Gospel. The contributing writer is Mr. Greg Schliesmann.

Mr. Greg Schliesmann attends Word of Grace Bible Church in Waukesha, WI. Greg has been involved in the “Crossless” gospel debate for several months and I have appreciated his contribution. A short time ago Greg contacted me about a desire he had to do a short series on the “Crossless” gospel. He asked if he might be able to post his series on my blog. After hearing Greg’s description of the nature and direction of his proposed series I whole-heartedly agreed to post his series. Greg will be available to interact with any who desire to do so in the discussion threads that follow each of his articles.

Following is an introductory statement by Greg. Shortly afterward is Greg's opening statement to his series addressing the “False Paradigms” inherent in the argumentation of the advocates of the “Crossless” gospel.

The Lord used the writings of Zane Hodges to recover me from the Lordship Salvation interpretation of the gospel. For his early work in response to the Lordship controversy I will always be grateful. Today I am certain of salvation based upon the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross and the corresponding promises of God.

In recent months, however, I am have come to the point where I am convinced that grave doctrinal errors are being made by men in leadership at the Grace Evangelical Society (GES), Zane Hodges in particular. Most disconcerting is removing the necessity of the crosswork, and the deity-humanity of Christ as essential truths to the saving gospel.

In spite of every controversy I have witnessed about the gospel, I believe the Word of God is clear about the Gospel of our salvation (John 3:14-18; Rom. 3:19-26; 4:1-5, 23-25; 1 Cor. 1:17-23). By His grace, I hope to humbly heed the plain meaning of His word with grace-oriented brethren rather than to re-interpret it based upon false paradigms and the reasoning of men.

With Greg's opening remarks complete I now turn this discussion over to his introduction of The False Paradigms of the “Crossless” Gospel.


Anybody who has perused “free grace” blogs in the past few weeks has witnessed a clash of views regarding the critical question of what the lost must believe to receive eternal life. Men associated with the Grace Evangelical Society (GES) have developed a relatively new view that denies the lost must believe in Christ's death for sins, resurrection, deity, or humanity in order to be saved. Instead, they claim there are only three essentials:
1) The name “Jesus”
2) Guarantees “everlasting life”
3) Upon believing this.

The GES view says that a lost sinner will be saved upon believing these three items even while that person remains in ignorance and unbelief about Christ’s deity, humanity, death for our sins, and His resurrection.

We must note that the current advocates of this view personally believe and teach the death and resurrection of Christ, and they say these truths are often helpful in preparing the hearts of the lost. However, they sharply oppose those of us who claim the lost must believe Christ’s deity-humanity, death for our sins, and resurrection as essential truths of the message of salvation. In fact, they claim those of us holding to the classical free grace view are complicating the message of salvation by “adding extra theological information to the gospel”.[1] Some even claim we have changed and distorted the true object of faith for salvation by requiring belief in these truths.[2] For this reason, proponents of the GES view have been termed “crossless gospel advocates” in a new article series The Tragedy of the “Crossless Gospel by Pastor Tom Stegall which has sparked the discussion about this issue on various free grace blogs.

The discussions on these blog sites have exemplified a principle that generally underlies doctrinal disagreements. Differing beliefs are built upon differing paradigms. The word "paradigm" is defined as,
“A set of assumptions, concepts, values, and practices that constitutes a way of viewing reality for the community that shares them.”[3]

It is obvious the proponents of the “Crossless” gospel have adopted a different set of paradigms that either led to their new view or that have developed to support their view. For example, some “Crossless” gospel advocates now deny the term “THE GOSPEL” is ever used in Scripture to refer to the specific message the lost need to believe in order to be saved.[4]

This was not one of the original paradigms that led to this view, but it is a claim recently developed to support the “Crossless” message. With this clash of beliefs, it is important that we follow the instruction found in 1 John 4:1, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but try the spirits, whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.”

While this introduction and the series to follow will not thoroughly address every issue raised by “Crossless” gospel advocates, I believe this brief survey of some of their arguments will reveal that “Crossless” gospel advocates have adopted several false paradigms that collapse under even a small amount of Biblical scrutiny.


GS


[1] See Zane C. Hodges, “How to Lead People to Christ, Pt.1,” Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society (Autumn 2000) and “How to Lead People to Christ, Pt.2,” Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society (Spring 2001). Available online: http://www.faithalone.org/journal/index.html. See section “Adding to the Gospel” in Pt. 1.

[2] See Antonio da Rosa, “Checklist Evangelists,” (July 12, 2007 blog entry). Antonio claims, “They make doctrine the object of faith and not Christ alone.” This is a serious charge tantamount to saying we preach a false gospel with a false object of faith that cannot save a sinner. If this is represents the position of GES leaders, it seems candor would demand GES require all members to agree with their view of the required content of faith for salvation.

[3] The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition (Houghton Mifflin Company, 2005).

[4] See Jeremy D. Myers, “The Gospel is More than Faith Alone in Christ Alone,” Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society 19 (Autumn 2006). Also Jeremy D. Myers, “Just the Gospel Facts P’s” and “Gospel Word Study Chart” Also Jeremy D. Myers, “How I Evangelize” (July 13, 2007 blog entry).


***The first in the Series on The False Paradigms of the “Crossless” Gospel will appear early next week.

August 6, 2007

An OPEN LETTER to the Free Grace Community from Pastor Tom Stegall

Sincerest greetings to all Free Grace readers in the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ who, "loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood” (Rev. 1:5).

As many of you know by now, I have recently begun writing a series of articles for the Grace Family Journal from the Duluth Bible Church titled “The Tragedy of the Crossless Gospel.” The purpose of this series has been initially to alert believers to the problem of the “crossless” gospel being propagated today by a few key teachers and leaders in the Free Grace movement, principally through the Grace Evangelical Society . A second primary objective of this series (especially as it relates to future articles) is to provide believers with a Scriptural and exegetical basis to discern the true gospel of Christ from this recent false form of the gospel.

The response to the two articles thus far has been overwhelming. I have been encouraged that so many Free Grace brethren have come forward and personally expressed support for the doctrinal position that the Grace Family Journal and I have taken on this subject. While the majority of responses we've received thus far have been very much in favor of our doctrinal position and the objectives stated above, a few believers have questioned whether we adequately addressed this problem on a private, personal level with those who hold to the new “crossless” gospel before we went public with the articles. In one instance, on an Internet blogsite, one of the authors whom I cited in the first article even expresses doubt as to whether we actually did attempt to address this privately with those advocating the “crossless” gospel position, as we stated in the Summer 2007 edition of the Grace Family Journal. (See The Tragedy of the “Crossless” Gospel, Pt. 2 . [Note comment #28 in the thread posted by Jeremy Myers on July 11 @ 3:55PM.] Also see How I Evangelize at Till He Comes, which is Jeremy Myer's blogsite. [Note comment #7 in the thread posted by Jeremy on July 14 @ 3:12PM])

It is in response to these concerns, and particularly the doubts caused by posts on public Internet sites, that I am now constrained before the Lord to offer the following clarification of our actions.

Though many Free Grace believers will not need the following explanation, I trust the following account of the facts will be sufficient for those who now have doubts about the veracity of our published statements. It will be helpful to know first of all that attempts WERE made to initially address this on a personal level; and secondly, it will be helpful to know the chronology of how we proceeded before the articles were published.

In the fifteen years or so that I was a member of the Grace Evangelical Society, I and a number of other believers and fellow pastors (with whom I was in discussion) became increasingly concerned at the number and magnitude of doctrinal departures taking place within the organization. Increasingly, we felt uncomfortable aligning ourselves with G.E.S. We also began to see how these doctrines were increasingly stumbling believers and even causing divisions among Free Grace brethren. After observing these things and discussing them privately for several years, Pastor Dennis Rokser (the editor of the Grace Family Journal) and I began discussing the possibility of writing something publicly to address these doctrinal problems. We are convinced that this growing burden was, and still is, the leading of the Holy Spirit to publish these crucial articles on the gospel. These specific discussions with Dennis Rokser about addressing this publicly began in early June of 2005.

As we discussed the possibility of publishing some articles about these doctrinal problems in the Grace Family Journal, we agreed that the best course of action before the Lord would be to FIRST contact the Executive Director of the Grace Evangelical Society, Bob Wilkin, in order to express our concerns on an individual level and hopefully resolve them. What followed was then a three-month attempt, from July-September of 2005, to address my concerns. My personal interactions with Wilkin consisted of an initial phone call, one face-to-face meeting at a conference in Chicago at the end of July, and a three month email exchange, mostly on the subject of the “crossless” gospel. Dennis Rokser joined our email correspondence at Wilkin’s invitation in the months of August-September of 2005.

After determining that Wilkin was unwilling to change his mind about his “crossless” gospel but instead offered repeated correction of mine, my interactions with Wilkin reached an impasse and I decided to end my correspondence with him in early September of 05, though he and Rokser continued briefly thereafter to no avail. It was also at the end of our correspondence that I formally resigned as a member of G.E.S. and asked Wilkin to have our church removed from the G.E.S. church-tracker list to any further association with G.E.S., which he agreed to do. From our perspective, Wilkin was unreceptive to biblical correction from the start. After expressing to Wilkin in my initial email to him that G.E.S.’s doctrines had even caused some problems within the local church I shepherd, Wilkin in his first reply in early July offered to visit our church and have an “open forum” and even “debate” on the subject of the gospel. I assured him in my reply (only my second email to him) that I had no desire to do this.

In addition to all of this, I disclosed to Wilkin in the summer of 2005 that there was the distinct possibility of me writing some articles on this subject to appear in future editions of the Grace Family Journal. He was also informed that I was planning to go forward with plans to teach two workshop sessions on the subject of the “crossless” gospel at the 2005 Fall Bible Conference at Duluth Bible Church, barring any repentance on his part. I share all of this at this point lest some in the Free Grace community be led to believe that somehow the Grace Evangelical Society was unfairly caught off guard by the recent articles in the Grace Family Journal. Here at Brother Martuneac's site readers were given a misleading impression by a comment stating that Bob Wilkin and Zane Hodges "have had no contact with either of these men [Tom Stegall and Dennis Rokser] within the last two years." (See The Tragedy of the “Crossless” Gospel, Pt. 2 . [Note comment #28 in the thread posted by Jeremy Myers on July 11 @ 3:55PM.])

In addition to my correspondence with Wilkin, my efforts to address the “crossless” gospel on a private level included writing an email to Dr. John Niemela, expressing my concerns over the content of his theological journal articles. Initially, Niemela responded back by saying that my concerns seemed genuine to him and worthy of a reply with more Scriptural substance, which he would provide within a couple of weeks when he had more time. However, I received no further emails from him. After two follow-up requests to him, I still received no further reply. I do not know what Dr. Niemela's reasons were for not responding. There may have been perfectly valid reasons for this that are unknown to me. I mention this only to show that genuine efforts were made to interact with prominent men who hold to the new, “crossless” gospel.

I did not try contacting any other representatives of the “crossless” gospel position to address this subject with them. In the meantime, as Dennis Rokser and I prayed and waited upon the Lord for His timing and leading, we intentionally decided to hold off and not go forward with the publication of any articles on the “crossless” gospel until just recently in the Spring 2007 edition of the Grace Family Journal. For various reasons, we did not believe it was the Lord's perfect timing to address this matter in written form. Now, in hindsight, we see that the timing of these articles being released in late May of 2007 was providential and that they are addressing a critical need that exists within the Body of Christ (as many emails and positive conversations have indicated).

Between the fall of 2005 and the release of the first article in late May of 2007, we observed that the problem of the “crossless” gospel was growing rather than waning. It was being taught at a variety of different conferences around the country and appearing in newsletters and theological journal articles. Still, we waited. We heard over time about others who tried interacting with Free Grace men who held the “crossless” position and how deeply rooted their convictions about the “crossless” gospel had become. In one instance, at a conference in the Fall of 2006, three men from Minnesota discussed the subject of the “crossless” gospel at length with a staff member of G.E.S., Jeremy Myers. (I and Dennis Rokser are very closely associated with these three men, one of which is the pastor of a sister church, and the other two men are part of Duluth Bible Church, with one of them being an elder at D.B.C.) Though this was not an "official" meeting with Myers and the conversation was cordial and pleasant, Myers nevertheless expressed that he and Bob Wilkin had both listened to my two workshop sessions on the “crossless” gospel from the previous Fall 2005 Conference in Duluth. They concluded that though I was wrong in my doctrinal conclusions about the gospel, they also expressed that they at G.E.S. needed to do a better job of clarifying their views. After Myers had listened to over two hours of my own teaching on the subject, as well as interacted with these three men for a couple more hours on the “crossless” gospel, Myers clearly was undeterred in his beliefs. This is just one example of other conversations with prominent “crossless” gospel teachers, which I was informed of.

What then followed was decisive in determining the timing of publishing the series on “The Tragedy of the Crossless Gospel” in the Grace Family Journal. In the Fall 2006 edition of the Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society, which came out in the winter of 2007, Myers had an article titled, “The Gospel is More Than Faith Alone in Christ Alone.” In it, he stated that "the gospel" contains upwards of 50 different items found in the New Testament, including water baptism (#5) and the Lord Jesus baptizing the world with fire (#9)! What was most bothersome was his overall doctrinal conclusion that "You do not have to believe the gospel to receive everlasting life, you only have to believe in Jesus for everlasting life." With doctrines such as this being published in the Free Grace movement's oldest and most widely read theological journal, we perceived that things were further progressing from bad to worse with G.E.S.'s understanding of the gospel; and the time had arrived to finally go to print.

I have shared all of this in order that people would understand that we did not approach the publication of these articles lightly, hastily, or ungraciously.

In addition, I must make one final point in order to give biblical balance to what I've written above. It is my understanding from Scripture that when people have publicly taught error, then they must be publicly held accountable. In the case of those teaching the “crossless” gospel, they have been teaching their views in their books, theological journals, and at conferences around the country for several years now—virtually unabated! The example of Paul publicly confronting Peter, Barnabas, and the men from James (Gal. 2:11-14), which I referenced in my second article, is certainly appropriate for the situation we currently find ourselves in today.

Though I agree that it is preferential as a courtesy to address matters privately first, this is not what Paul did with Peter in Antioch of Syria according to Galatians 2:11-14. Nor is this required anywhere by Scripture. In the case of private sins committed against an individual, I believe that Scripturally the offended party (the "victim") should go to that person who sinned and privately address the problem (Matt. 18:15). But that is a separate matter entirely from the problem of the public teaching of the “crossless” gospel occurring with G.E.S. today.

No doubt some in the Free Grace movement will still believe that I do not have the right to publicly critique in my articles the doctrines of fellow Free Grace men until I have gone to each of them individually and attempted to resolve our differences privately. This expectation is neither Scriptural nor practical. Furthermore, this is not the approach that Free Grace men themselves have taken with proponents of Lordship Salvation over the years. I am not aware of any Free Grace author, who has been expected by his fellow Free Grace brethren, to first go to MacArthur, Reisinger, Sproul, Stott, Piper, Belcher, Gentry, Horton, Boice, Crenshaw, et al, before they can critique their doctrines!

I wish to conclude this clarification with just a few more essential points. First, I want to reiterate the same point that I already stated in my past two Grace Family Journal articles. I truly do desire unity within the Free Grace camp. I had hoped that my articles critiquing the “crossless” gospel would not even be necessary. Now, for true unity's sake, I am convinced that they are necessary. Genuine spiritual unity must be based upon the truth of God's Word; otherwise we will have a false, pretentious unity that is displeasing to the Lord. The unity that God desires is the kind in which we are all preaching the same gospel (Gal. 1:6-10).

Secondly, I wish to say in closing that I did not want to write this clarification anymore than I wanted to go ahead with publishing my articles in the Grace Family Journal; and yet I felt constrained to do so in order to clarify the truth. It would be tragic if our disagreements over the “crossless” gospel degenerated into personal attacks against each others’ motives and characters, instead of objectively (though still passionately) interacting on a doctrinal and Scriptural level. I do not question the motives of those men who hold to, and teach, what others and I have come to identify as a “crossless” gospel. For that matter, I believe their motives are sincere, as they are sincerely seeking to clarify and defend the gospel of grace. However, someone can still be sincerely wrong.

Finally, it is not my desire or intention to address the subject of our pre-publication actions any further. To continue doing so only unnecessarily distracts us from the serious issue at hand of defining, defending, and preaching the one true gospel of Christ to a lost and dying world.

Sincerely in the Lord Jesus,


Tom Stegall

Pastor Tom Stegall Word of Grace Bible Church in Milwaukee, Wisconsin is originally from Minneapolis, MN. He was raised as a Roman Catholic and following high school attended seminary with a desire to become a priest. However, upon reading the Bible and through the testimony of a few saved friends, he came to place his faith in Christ alone for his eternal salvation and was born again by God's grace in 1987. He was actively involved in the Duluth Bible Church. from 1988 until 1998, where he became equipped through the accurate teaching of God's Word and the faithful shepherding of his pastor, Dennis Rokser. At D.B.C. he met his wife Debbie, a native of Duluth, and they were married in 1997. The Lord has blessed them with three children. Pastor Stegall attributes his primary preparation for pastoral ministry in Milwaukee to his decade of personal involvement in his local church in Duluth. He was further prepared for ministry by completing a five-year course of study through the Grace Institute of Biblical Studies, a ministry of the Duluth Bible Church; and he is also a graduate of the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago and the University of Minnesota.

For more complete information on the position that has come to be known as the “Crossless” gospel read from the series, The Teaching of Zane Hodges.