November 27, 2007

Perverse Things Draw Away Disciples

False teaching can and does come from men within the body of Christ, His church. In the Book of Acts, Paul warns the elders of Ephesus that false teaching will come from both without and within the church:

Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears,” (Acts 20:28-31).
Zane Hodges is a modern day example of what the Apostle Paul, “with tears,” warned believers to “take heed” and be wary of. Over the years, from within the body of Christ, Hodges has risen and drifted into increasingly deeper and more extreme doctrinal errors. His views on repentance, the Gospel, and the Judgment Seat of Christ are striking examples of a radical departure from orthodoxy. Hodges has been teaching “perverse things” (diastrepho- distorts, twists) and consequently his teaching has drawn away disciples to him. Among the disciples who have been drawn away are: Bob Wilkin, Jeremy Myers, Joseph Dillow and Antonio da Rosa.

The distortion, twisting, redefining or dismissal of numerous clear passages of Scripture has been the hallmark of Hodges’ “
Crossless” gospel. His errors on the Gospel, repentance and the Judgment Seat of Christ are organized in such a way that they undermine the Word of God and arrest the development of young believers. Young men have been enticed and deceived by the teaching of Zane Hodges.
That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive,” (Eph. 4:14).
Men like Tim Nichols, Jim Reitman, Jim Johnson, Jeremy Myers and Antonio da Rosa were at one time feeding and growing on the milk of the Word of God. Somewhere along the way, however, elements from the teaching of Zane Hodges were introduced, and the milk was soured. Regrettably, it appears no one took these men aside, like Aquila and Priscilla took Apollos aside and, “expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly” (Acts 18:24-28). Instead Bob Wilkin, who also succumbed to the teaching of Zane Hodges, hastened the slide of these men into error.

Doctrinal growth was checked, sidetracked and redirected toward the egregious errors of Hodges’ Crossless gospel. Today, we are witnessing the devastating effects that the teaching of Hodges has had on these men. These are the ones we know who have been drawn away, but there may be many more.

What we have been witnessing in recent months should serve as a wake up call to men in the Free Grace community. How many more of our young men have to be deceived and fall into the errors of Zane Hodges and Bob Wilkin before you will follow the biblical mandate to “
contend for the faith once delivered” (Jude 3)? While many stand idly by Hodges and Wilkin are doing all they can to introduce the “Crossless” gospel to unsuspecting believers in the Free Grace community.
In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth,” (2 Timothy 2:25).
I am grateful for men like George Zeller, Tom Stegall, Dennis Rokser and Greg Schliesmann who have defended the faith and body of Christ against the “perverse” teachings of Zane Hodges. There are others who are doing what they can from blogs and other venues to refute and rebuke the teachings of Zane Hodges.

The teaching of Zane Hodges has not only drawn away some of our younger men, it has crippled and marginalized the Free Grace movement. Make no mistake about it, the Free Grace movement is moving, but is, in my opinion, come to rest at the cross roads. If good men, who know the issue, what is at stake and have the answer, but do nothing, the Free Grace movement will begin to move once again. That move will, however, be in the direction of the trap and pitfalls of the teachings of Zane Hodges.
“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).

Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers,” (Titus 1:9).

Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us. . . . And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother,” (2 Thess. 3:6, 14-15).

I’ll close with the same question I asked in the previous challenge to men in the Free Grace Alliance and Free Grace community at large.

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


LM



For a thorough review of the "perverse” teachings of Zane Hodges, please visit George Zeller's The Troubling Teachings of Zane Hodges, Joseph Dillow and Robert Wilkin (GES)

Also read Watch & Remember…

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.)

Conclusion:
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?

LM

*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.

November 22, 2007

All These Evil Things Come From Within

Dear Guests:

The Bible says,

“And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man,” (Mark 7:20-23).

With some reluctance I am going to briefly address an issue of concern in the “Crossless” gospel debate.

Many are aware of a new blog that has been opened that has some of the most vile, unchristian like content imaginable. For what will be obvious reasons to some, I will not name or link to it. I was first encouraged to visit the new blog by an anonymous person who goes by the handle, “Flavio.” Mr. Flavio inserted a link to the new blog in a thread here at my blog, which I immediately deleted. Oddly, Mr. Flavio objected to my deletion of his comment in which he linked to the new blog

The author of the articles (who I will refer to as Mr. Crossless) is obviously educated, articulate, and familiar with the doctrinal controversy. Furthermore, when not penning filth, he is speaking in support of the GES and advocates of the “Crossless” gospel. That said, anyone could recognize the author’s conscience has been seared and his gifts have come under control of the flesh and Devil. To him I offer this:
“But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace,” (James 3:14-18).

“But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God.
Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you,” (James 4:6-8).

On November 11th Mr. Crossless posted two comments at Antonio da Rosa’s blog. See the thread under the article Question & Answer with a TFG

Until today (Thursday, 11/22) Antonio left those comments in tact. This morning Antonio deleted one of them, which contained some remarks and expletives that should not appear on any Christian based web or blog site. Only today, after ten days of his retaining that comment with a link to the new blog, why did Antonio finally express his displeasure and remove the one (of two) comments by Mr. Crossless?

Antonio has been very active in his and other blogs throughout the previous ten days, and therefore was aware of the offensive comments in his thread. A third party (Jon Perrault) encouraged Antonio to delete those comments, but that plea fell on deaf ears. Ten days after the fact, Antonio decided that the post and link to the new blog should be removed.

Antonio has, however, kept one of the comments up in his thread. Furthermore, Antonio leaves an open invitation for Mr. Crossless to return to his (Antonio’s blog) and post at will with only one caveat. Antonio wrote to Mr. Crossless,
I do not mind you leaving your comments here as long as you do not link to your blog or use any crudity here.”
Anyone who has spent any amount of time in the blogs is well aware that clicking on the name at the head of a comment will link to that author’s blog, if he/she has one. Therefore, allowing Mr. Crossless to have access to his (da Rosa’s site) will allow for continued linking to the blog Antonio claims is “vile and not Christ honoring.”

In my opinion, if Antonio was sincerely offended by the content of Mr. Crossless’ blog and does not want any linking to it from his FGT blog, he would ban Mr. Crossless from posting at his blog. Objective readers have seen Antonio delete comments for what he must surely consider far less offensive material than what he retained at his blog from Mr. Crossless for ten days .

Since Antonio does not respond to private e-mails I will close with two Open Questions to Antonio:
1) After your being aware of the offensive comments and the link by Mr. Crossless at your blog; Why did you leave it up for ten days?

2) During your Friday, Nov 17th meeting with Dr. Bing and Dr. Hixson did either of them ask you if you have any knowledge of this blog? If they did; why did it take you another five days to act on the vile…not Christ honoring remarks at your blog?


LM


I may keep this article up only briefly so that it does not distract from the more important task of contending for the faith against the teachings and advocates of the “Crossless” gospel.

November 19, 2007

Aftermath: Heart to Heart Series

To All:

A few days ago I received a comment from KnetKnight (a regular guest and one of the administrators of the Pursuit of Truth blog). His comment appeared in the Introduction to the Heart to Heart series.


Lou, I really appreciate this article. You know this touches close to home for me and you’ve articulated the biblical need for a firm stance one way or the other, especially from leadership but even laymen should weigh it. This is not an issue to agree to disagree about or to straddle the fence on. This isn't a doctrine leadership can just say “hmm, I don’t know” and leave it at that. Pastors, leaders, I implore you -- figure out what you believe and take a clear stand one way or the other.

1 Tim 4:16 “Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.”

Thanks Lou for your tireless efforts, even in the face of baseless personal attacks that I’ve seen, on GES’ own blog and I’m sure elsewhere. They claim you are “just a troublemaker” but what I sense from the GES leadership’s vague, ambiguous, or outright avoidance of clear doctrinal questions is fear - fear their doctrine will no longer be able to sneak in the back door of previously unwary churches that would refuse them if they really knew what was afoot.

Knet’s remarks prompted some thoughts that I posted back to him in the thread. I decided that I’d like to post my reaction now at the conclusion of my Heart to Heart series. Following my reply to KnetKnight I will have some updated comments.


I appreciate the remarks above.

Glad you caught the idea that, although I wrote this series (from my book) primarily for pastors, the timeless truths of Scripture apply to ever believer. IMO, even the qualifications/instructions for the pastor/deacon in 1 Tim. 3 belong to every believer.

As you noted this is no small matter, it is not an issue that we can agree to disagree over. The “Crossless” advocates would like for it to be reduced to a doubtable issue, not worth getting in serious debate over. That is not possible if we want to be true to the biblical commands to contend for faith, especially when vital truth such as the Gospel and Deity of Christ are under assault.

I pay little attention to the personal attacks. I am not going to be deterred from defending the faith once delivered (Jude 3). The “trouble” I have brought to the discussion is for the GES men who have been teaching their false, reductionist interpretation of the Gospel with impunity. Now, unsuspecting believers are getting a better picture of what these men have been teaching through subtlety. No longer will the buzzwords and catch phrases fly over heads of the unsuspecting or under the radar of concerned pastors. The advocates of the "Crossless" gospel will have to precisely explain their terms and meaning in detail, and that, as we have seen, is exactly what they do not want to do.

Pastors, believers, churches and fellowships are becoming better informed as to exactly what Wilkin, Hodges, Myers, Johnson, da Rosa and the rest have been and are trying to bring into Free Grace community churches. The number of venues that once opened their doors to Wilkin is shrinking rapidly and that is a good sign.

Knet: You are right about why Wilkin, Myers, da Rosa, Johnson, Alvin and the rest will not engage certain specific unambiguous questions. Their answers, if they would be transparent, reveal what they truly believe, and they do not want that kind of full disclosure.

Zane Hodges and Bob Wilkin are very silent; I do, however, expect something coming from them in journal form eventually.

Many of us remember the debacle that Bob Wilkin created at his original GES blog. The two articles, the sudden deletion of both and their comment threads. Wilkins’s posting of private e-mails between himself and Ron Shea was unconscionable, and IMO, one of the prime reasons he suddenly pulled down the articles.

In my opinion it would be na├»ve to think that Hodges has not been active behind the scenes in the current debate. More than once da Rosa has referenced personal conversations with Hodges. Another “Crossless” advocate is quoting Hodges frequently. Hodges is not going to expose himself to open discussion such as these no more than MacArthur will expose himself to direct questions.

Remember, it is Zane Hodges who is the originator of and driving force behind what has come to be known as the “Crossless” gospel. Furthermore Hodges introduced teaching, which the “Crossless” advocates have also adopted, that says repentance is not necessary for the reception of eternal life. Hodges originated the idea that the Lord’s titles “the Christ” and “Son of God” do not mean or infer His deity. Hodges based that on assumption only, which Greg Schliesmann in his two part series The Christ Under Siege irrefutably revealed.

Make no mistake about it, the debate over the teaching of Zane Hodges commonly known as the “Crossless” gospel is not going away. Vital, foundational doctrines are under assault by the advocates of the “Crossless” gospel! To treat this as though it is non-vital would be surrendering the moral and biblical high ground to men who have corrupted the Gospel of Jesus Christ and forced division and offence (Rom. 16:17) into the body of Christ, particularly in the Free Grace community.


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,” (Romans 16:17-18).

Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints,” (Jude 3).

The Apostle Paul wrote, “And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed,” (2 Thessalonians 3:14).

Reiterating from Spurgeon’s The Drift of the Times,

“Fellowship with known and vital error is participation in sin. . . . To pursue union at the price of truth is treason to the Lord Jesus.”

The teaching and advocates of the “Crossless” gospel must be biblically resisted for the sake of unity in the body of Christ and doctrinal purity of local churches.

Whether it be the teaching of Lordship Salvation or the “Crossless” gospel, both are antithetical to Scripture and an assault on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I am determined to continue to do all that I can In Defense of the Gospel.


LM

November 15, 2007

Should Doctrinal Deviations Be Dismissed?

Dear Guests:

This is the final installment of my Heart to Heart series. I may post a follow up article later.


We live in a day of confusion and deception over several vital doctrines. The Gospel is under assault today just as it has been since the first century. It is, therefore, crucial that men of God, called by God to the ministry, declare God’s Word and resist assaults on the truth of God’s Word.

It is foolish to dismiss doctrinal deviation simply because its source is a previously trusted friend, fellowship, or institution. Fidelity to biblical truth is the greatest expression of love. When a man’s doctrine is brought into question and that question is based on published statements he has made, is it unreasonable to ask that man to clarify his doctrine and expect a clear, unvarnished answer? Is it unreasonable to search the Scriptures to determine the soundness of a man’s theological position?

The teaching of the “Crossless” gospel cannot be ignored. Even for those who have personal friendships at stake, fidelity to the Word of God must take precedence. The Psalmist wrote, “I am a companion of all them that fear thee, and of them that keep thy precepts,” (Psalm 119:63).


The Apostle Paul wrote, “And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed,” (2 Thessalonians 3:14).

The Bible plainly teaches that we are not to keep company with those who do not keep the Word of God.

What If You Have Been Wrong?
You may be an individual who has already adopted the teaching of the “Crossless” gospel. You may be on the fence about the issue. It is possible that after having read various articles at this blog you may feel that you made a mistake, or are about to make a mistake in regard to the “Crossless” interpretation of the Gospel.

It is my hope and prayer that if you are having reservations about the “Crossless” gospel, if you are having doubts about what you have been exposed to, you will take it before the Lord and search the Scriptures once again. Can a gospel message that eliminates the need for a lost man to believe in the finished work of Christ be the Gospel? Can a gospel message that strips the Lord’s titles (“the Christ” & “Son of God”) of their Deity be the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

Admitting you were wrong on a particular doctrine is one of the hardest things for a believer to do. It takes a high measure of belt-tightening and swallowing of pride to make an admission like that, but it is a sign of genuine character. It shows a teachable, humble spirit, and demonstrates your loyalty to Scripture. Christians who genuinely love and care for you will rally to your side and appreciate your candor and humility.


LM


Please proceed to the final part in the series, Aftermath: Heart to Heart Series.


No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means---electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or otherwise--without the prior written permission of the author or the publisher, with the exception of brief excerpts in magazine articles and/or reviews.

November 14, 2007

What About Spurgeon’s Stand for Doctrinal Purity?


Dear Guests:

Following is a continuation of my Heart to Heart series on Romans 16:17. I have taken this from a chapter in my book In Defense of the Gospel and revised it for use in the “Crossless” gospel controversy we find the Free Grace community engaged in.


Compromising the fundamentals of our faith in order to be accepted by and retain fellowship with our peers is wrong. In his day, Charles H. Spurgeon valiantly fought against false teaching and the compromise of major fundamental doctrines in order to maintain unity. Many believe that this struggle led to his premature death. Although the majority of Spurgeon’s Baptist contemporaries agreed with his doctrinal stand,

They preferred unity above the maintenance of doctrinal purity. He attacked the position by saying, ‘first pure, then peaceable; if only one is attainable, choose the former. Fellowship with known and vital error is participation in sin. . . . To pursue union at the price of truth is treason to the Lord Jesus’.” 1

Following are excerpts from an article written by Charles Haddon Spurgeon in 1888. Spurgeon wrote this article to explain why he had separated from the London Baptist Association. From Spurgeon’s article, we learn that we must be willing to separate from those institutions and persons who have strayed from the major tenets of our faith, especially the Gospel.


The Drift of the Times Sound the Alarm!
Separation Not Alone Our Privilege But Our Duty


As soon as I saw, or thought I saw, that error had become firmly established, I did not deliberate but quitted the body at once. Since then my counsel has been, “Come ye out from among them.” If I have rejoiced in the loyalty to Christ's truth which has been shown in other courses of action, yet I have felt that no protest could be equal to that of distinct separation from known evil.


The Brethren in the Middle

The brethren in the middle are the source of this clinging together of discordant elements. These who are for peace at any price, who persuade themselves that there is very little wrong, who care chiefly to maintain existing institutions, these are the good people who induce the weary combatants to repeat the futile attempt at a coalition which, in the nature of things, must break down. If both sides could be unfaithful to conscience, or if the glorious gospel could be thrust altogether out of the question, there might be a league of amity established; but as neither of these things can be, there would seem to be no reason for persevering in the attempt to maintain a confederacy for which there is no justification in fact and from which there can be no worthy result, seeing it does not embody a living truth. A desire for unity is commendable. Blessed are they who can promote it and preserve it! But there are other matters to be considered as well as unity, and sometimes these may even demand the first place.


Separation A Duty

Numbers of good brethren in different ways remain in fellowship with those who are undermining the Gospel; and they talk of their conduct as though it were a loving course of action which the Lord will approve of in the day of His appearing. We cannot understand them. The bounden duty of a true believer towards men who profess to be Christians and yet . . . reject the fundamentals of the Gospel is to come out from among them. . . . Complicity with error will take from the best of men the power to enter any successful protest against it. If any body of believers had errorists among them but were resolute to deal with them in the name of the Lord, all might come right; but confederacies founded upon the principle that all may enter, whatever views they hold, are based upon disloyalty to the truth of God. If truth is optional, error is justifiable.


The Army of Intermediates Should Cease Being Politic

There are now two parties in the religious world, and a great mixed multitude who from various causes decline to be ranked with either of them. In this army of intermediates are many who have no right to be there; but we spare them. The day will come, however, when they will have to reckon with their consciences. When the light is taken out of its place, they may too mourn that they were not willing to trim the lamp nor even to notice that the flame grew dim.

Our present sorrowful protest is not a matter of this man or that, this error or that, but of principle. There is either something essential to a true faith--some truth which is to be believed--or else everything is left to each man's taste. We believe in the first of these opinions, and hence cannot dream of religious associations with those who might on the second theory be acceptable. Those who are of our mind should, at all costs, act upon it.


Separation, The Only Complete Protest

At any rate, cost what it may, to separate ourselves from those who separate themselves from the truth of God is not alone our liberty but our duty. I have raised my protest in the only complete way by coming forth, and I shall be content to abide alone until the day when the Lord shall judge the secrets of all hearts; but it will not seem to me a strange thing if others are found faithful and if others judge that for them also there is no path but that which is painfully apart from the beaten track. 2

Spurgeon’s sermon in print above is a penetrating reminder that there are doctrinal truths worth contending (Jude 3) over, and if need be making the difficult decision to “mark, avoid” and “withdraw” from brethren (Romans 16:17; 2 Thess. 3:4-6; 14-15).

The current debate over the “Crossless” gospel is one of those truths that meets the criteria for the biblical mandates to “contend” and/or “withdraw.”

To reiterate from Spurgeon, Fellowship with known and vital error is participation in sin. . . . To pursue union at the price of truth is treason to the Lord Jesus’”


LM

1. E. Wayne Thompson, This Day in Baptist History, p. 529.
2. Sword of the Lord, September 9, 1994.


Please proceed to Part 5 of the series, Should Doctrinal Deviations be Dismissed?


No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means---electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or otherwise--without the prior written permission of the author or the publisher, with the exception of brief excerpts in magazine articles and/or reviews.

November 10, 2007

What Is The “Crossless” Advocates “Stance” on the Cross, Resurrection & Deity of Christ?

Dear Guests:

*Jim Johnson, a former apologist for the “Crossless” gospel and its advocates, posted the following at the Grace Evangelical Society’s blog. He wrote,

...the minute you identify yourself as being sympathetic to a faith alone position of Zane or Bob - no matter what your stance on the cross and resurrection and deity of Christ, you are attacked ”1
Did the late Zane Hodges and today does Bob Wilkin teach a “faith alone position” on the Gospel? The initial reply would be, Yes, they do. What we have been primarily concerned with, however, is what these men insist is unnecessary for the lost man to believe for the reception of eternal life. What the lost man must be convinced of and believe that will result in his being born again is the crux of the debate and concern among many in evangelical circles.

We begin by noting there is a missing element in Johnson’s quote above. The missing element is that Zane Hodges and Bob Wilkin do have a specificstance on the cross and resurrection and deity of Christ.” Their position is that a lost man can be saved apart from knowledge, understanding or belief in the death, resurrection or deity of Christ.

In recent weeks we have been learning a great deal about what the advocates of the “Crossless” gospel consider false, unnecessary additions to what a lost man must believe for the reception of eternal life. We have learned exactly what the stance is of Zane Hodges, Bob Wilkin, Jeremy Myers and Antonio da Rosa.

For example, consider these statements by Zane Hodges:
You see, as we noted previously, the facts surrounding the gospel message—such as the death and resurrection of Christ—are important facts for what they tell us about the reasons for trusting Christ. But believing these facts doesn’t save anyone. People are only saved when they believe that Jesus gives them eternal life the moment they believe in Him for that.” 2

Neither explicitly nor implicitly does the Gospel of John teach that a person must understand the cross to be saved. It just does not teach this.” 3

In recent years I have become aware of a way of presenting the gospel invitation that troubles me. I believe I have heard it from my earliest years, and I admit it didn’t really bother me for a long time. Now it does. I have heard people say this: ‘In order to be saved you must believe that Jesus died on the cross.’ In the context of our present discussion, I mean that this is their summary of the requirement of faith. It is not just one item, among others, to be believed. Whenever I hear that nowadays, I get extremely uncomfortable.” 4

The simple truth is that Jesus can be believed for eternal salvation apart from any detailed knowledge of what He did to provide it.” 5
How does Bob Wilkin define his “stance on the cross and resurrection and deity of Christ?”
What they fail to understand is that biblical faith in Jesus is not faith that He existed, nor faith in His deity, nor even faith that He died for our sins and rose again. In the Bible, to believe in Jesus is to be convinced that He who died and rose again guarantees eternal life to all who simply believe in Him.” 6
At first glance Wilkins's statement seems reasonable. Then, however, we have the following statement, which negates what might have been considered orthodox in the previous.
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.” 7
Wilkin views telling the lost man that for salvation he must believe Jesus died for his sin and rose from the dead, (the finished work of Christ) as additions to the Gospel. Wilkin considers the finished work of Christ and His resurrection a “different gospel.” His meaning and intent is clear. In his opinion, to preach the necessity of belief in the death and resurrection of Christ is to preach a false Gospel through unnecessary additions.

How does Jeremy Myers (former GES staff member) define his “stance on cross and resurrection and deity of Christ?” Jeremy Myers recently articulated that stance. Jeremy verified his personal position on the cross and resurrection when, at the Pursuit of Truth blog he wrote,
I have a view that one does not have to believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus to be born again.” 8
How does Antonio da Rosa define his “stance on the cross and resurrection and deity of Christ?” At the Pursuit of Truth blog he wrote,
Theologically speaking, ‘explicit belief in Jesus’ death and resurrection’ is not soteriologically necessary for the reception of eternal life.” (emphasis his) 9
Antonio has made one of the clearest statements on belief in the “deity of Christ” as being unnecessary for the reception of eternal life. At his Crossless gospel blog Antonio wrote,
If a JW hears me speak of Christ’s deity and asks me about it, I will say, ‘Let us agree to disagree about this subject…’ I would consider such a one saved, REGARDLESS of their varied misconcetions (sic) and beliefs about Jesus.” 10 (caps his)
da Rosa continued,
If someone asks me point blank, do I believe (sic) that one must believe that Jesus is God in order to go to heaven, I would say “NO!” 11 (caps his)
The position being articulated by da Rosa and the “Crossless” gospel advocates includes the belief that a lost man can openly reject and deny the deity of Christ and yet be saved by believing in nothing more than a promise of eternal life.  Some have come to define this view from GES as the “Promise-Only Gospel.”

Johnson’s analogy of persons being “attacked” for agreeing with another man’s doctrine is a facade. Johnson seeks to portray an important doctrinal controversy as though it is a personality clash. The questions and concerns are raised because, in the opinion of pastors and teachers, the “stance” the advocates of the “Crossless” gospel take is antithetical to Scripture.

Jim Johnson has written that Zane and Bob hold to a “faith alone,” position. It must be noted, however, that if it is faith alone that Zane and Bob teach, it is “faith alone,” but apart from faith believing in the “cross, resurrection and deity of Christ.” This is a reductionist assault on the content of saving faith and a serious departure from a balanced, biblical view of God’s redemptive plan for mankind.

The teachers and advocates of the “Crossless” gospel have departed from, “the faith which was once delivered,” (Jude 3). I intend to do what I can to, “earnestly contend for the faith.”


LM

*In early 2008 Jim Johnson was caught in numerous acts of massive plagiarism. Furthermore, Johnson manipulated some of the plagiarirzed material to make it appear to support his views, when some in fact did not. See- Jim Johnson’s Plagiarism... To this day Johnson is not just unrepentant, but has brazenly attacked any who have called him to repentance. In any event, since his plagiarism was identified he deleted the plagiarized articles he once posted and has refrained from posting any new comments on the debate.

1] Not unexpectedly the GES is blocking and deleting comments at its blog. Many of you likely remember the sudden and unexplained disappearance of two articles and threads at the original GES blog. I felt I had a reasonable, brief response to Jim's post. It was, however, blocked. This article is my reply to Johnson's note.

2] Zane Hodges, How to Lead People to Christ, Pt.2, JOTGES 14 (Spring 2001)‏.

3] Zane Hodges, How to Lead People to Christ, Pt.1. JOTGES 13 (Autumn 2000)‏

Reading quotes such as the previous by Zane Hodges sufficiently demonstrates why the interpretation of the Gospel coming from Hodges, Wilkin and the GES has come to be known as the “Crossless Gospel.”

4] Zane Hodges, How to Lead People to Christ, Pt.2, JOTGES 14 (Spring 2001)‏.

5] Ibid.
For more examples of the teaching of Zane Hodges see, The Unusual and Troubling Teachings of Zane Hodges by Pastor George Zeller.

6] Bob Wilkin: Secure and Sure

7] Bob Wilkin: JOTGES Autumn 1998)‏

8] Jeremy Myers: Pursuit of Truth See post on 06 Nov 2007 at 2:13 am.

9] Antonio da Rosa: Pursuit of Truth See post on 31 Oct 2007 at 11:39 pm.

10] Antonio da Rosa: Believe Christ’s Promise and You are Saved, No Matter What Misconceptions You Hold

11] Ibid.


Next week I will return to my Heart to Heart series.

November 9, 2007

How Do I Address False Teaching From the Brethren?

As we noted above, false teachers come from within the church as well as from without. Some men feel that the Bible does not teach separation from Christian brothers. The Bible does, however, command separation from professing believers:

“Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us. . . . And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother,” (2 Thess. 3:6, 14-15).

You will see in verse 14 that Paul says to “note that man.” To “note” (semeioo) that man is to mark, to distinguish by marking, to mark or note for one's self. The verse goes on to say, “have no company with him.” Dr. Fred Moritz writes,

“An objective study of the New Testament leads first to the conclusion that the New Testament teaches that there are times when local churches and believers must reluctantly take the action of separating themselves from other believers. The purpose of such separation is purity. The local church is to take the extreme action of separation from a disobedient brother when necessary in order to preserve its purity of life and testimony. The second conclusion is that the New Testament also sets clear standards for that separation when it must be made. Those standards include the following . . .The heretical brother--Heresy, or deviant doctrine, that is promoted out of self-willed divisiveness (Titus 3:10).”1
For an excellent and extended treatment of the principle of separation from brethren see Dr. Ernest Pickering's booklet; Should We Ever Separate from Christian Brethren? His answer is an emphatic, “Yes!” Dr. Pickering’s conclusions are based on clear principles found in the Bible. This book is available from Baptist World Mission, Box 2149, Decatur, AL. 35602

To separate from another Christian brother is probably the most unpleasant thing a pastor or any Christian ever has to do. Separation will cost you friends; you may be misjudged and possibly labeled as being divisive. But if you are going to be loyal first to Jesus Christ and the Word of God, you must practice biblical separation from men who take a position that is a deviation from a major doctrine of the Bible. The “Crossless Gospel” is one of those major deviations.

We have no option but to obey the Lord Jesus Christ in the matter of separating from disobedient brethren.

“The situation with which we are dealing…is a time when professing Christians are consistently violating a command on some point. Furthermore, having been confronted about that activity, they refuse to repent. The Scripture offers clear teaching on this point. Even then, the goal of separation is not only the purity of the church but also restoration of the brother. . . . Separation from disobedient brethren can involve personal separation (a brother refusing to forsake some form of worldliness) or ecclesiastical separation (refusing to forsake some form of false teaching or unscriptural practice).”2
If we are going to live for and please God, we must obey Him.

“And we have confidence in the Lord touching you, that ye both do and will do the things which we command you. And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ. Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us,” (2 Thess. 3:4-6).

Look back at 2 Thessalonians 3:4 and see that Paul was confident that the believers of the Thessalonian church would do that which they were commanded of him. In verse six Paul makes plain that it is the command of the Lord Jesus Christ to “withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly,” and he fully expected them to obey this command. Commenting on 2 Thessalonians 3:6, Dr. Leon Morris writes,

“He commands, he does not simply advise. Moreover, he speaks 'in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.' This is at once a reminder of the very real authority that Paul exercised, and of the seriousness of any refusal to obey. Paul was not giving some private ideas of his own when he spoke 'in the name.' The substance of his command is that they 'withdraw' from the erring. In view of verse 15. . . it stands for the withholding of intimate fellowship. The verb has the idea of retreating within oneself (cf. its use of furling sails). Such a line of conduct is meant as would impress on the offenders that they had opened up a gap between themselves and the rest.”3
There are cases in which God commands separation from Christian brethren.

“And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother,” (2 Thessalonians 3:14-15).

In 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15 Paul not only reiterates the command found in verse six, but he also gives practical instruction on how the command is to be obeyed.
“Do not have fellowship with those who will not listen to the Word of God. Paul is claiming for his epistle that it is the Word of God and to be heeded as a command of God. Have your fellowship with those who are in obedience to the Word of God and who are living according to its standards.”4

“Paul is telling the church members what action they should take, not asking for an opportunity of taking action himself. “Note that man” means more than simply “notice” him. It means “mark him out,”. . . . The treatment of such a person is withdrawal of fellowship. The treatment is primarily intended to bring him back to his rightful position. At the same time it is punishment.

It is noteworthy that Paul puts the injunction not to treat him as an enemy before that to admonish him. He is eager to protect the brother's standing, and to see to it that what is done to him is from the best of motives, and that it secures the desired result.”5

“A brother who causes divisions in the church must also come under discipline. The word heresy meant in New Testament times a division, and the Bible condemns schisms. The local assembly must, therefore, deal with any Christian who by his conduct or teaching disrupts the unity of the church.”6

In 1980 the Bob Jones University (BJU) Bible faculty produced a pamphlet that addressed several facets of separation. Section III dealt with separation from disobedient brothers. The incident that Paul addressed in 1 Corinthians 5:1-13 is not specifically applicable to our treatment of brothers going off in their doctrine, but the pamphlet includes a helpful principle drawn from the passage.

“The disobedient brother is not to be allowed to continue his downward course but rather is to be admonished and corrected that he may be turned from his ruinous pathway. Until he repents, believers are not to have fellowship with him.”7
In the same pamphlet commenting on 2 Thessalonians 3:6, 14-15, the BJU Bible faculty wrote, “If any brother’s practice or teaching does not agree with the teaching of Scripture, believers are to withdraw from him.” Separation from a Christian brother is difficult to accept, but the Scriptures are clear. Later in the BJU pamphlet an application of this truth is made:

“Believers are not yet all that they should be or will be. In the present everyday life of the church, therefore, it is sometimes necessary to break fellowship with a Christian brother. . . . If a brother becomes enamored with some false teacher of a false doctrine, lends support to him, and gives him Christian recognition, then he is “partaking of his evil deeds” and may thereby deceive and lead astray other Christians. He must, therefore, be dealt
with.”8
If you know a brother whom you suspect holds to the “Crossless Gospel,” give him the benefit of the doubt, but do make every effort to get a clarification from him personally. If and when you have proof positive from that man that he holds to the “Crossless Gospel,” that he will not receive your instruction, will not repent nor move to an orthodox position, then do what is right.

“In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth,” (2 Timothy 2:25).

“Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers,” (Titus 1:9).

You ought to make a sincere and genuine effort to retrieve an erring brother from doctrinal error. That is your responsibility. If your effort fails, your only recourse is to separate from him lest you be in violation of the biblical principle of separation.

Men are becoming reluctant to address the issue of whether the Bible mandates separation from “every brother that walketh disorderly” (2 Thess. 3:6). All too often the guiding factor seems to be “what are the ramifications of dealing with the issue,” rather than “what is the Scriptural thing to do?”

One of the recurring themes of the Bible is that God blesses obedience to Him and His Word, but He judges disobedience.

“Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse; A blessing, if ye obey the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you this day: And a curse, if ye will not obey the commandments of the LORD your God,” (Deuteronomy 11:26-28).

“If ye will fear the LORD, and serve him, and obey his voice, and not rebel against the commandment of the LORD, then shall both ye and also the king that reigneth over you continue following the LORD your God: But if ye will not obey the voice of the LORD, but rebel against the commandment of the LORD, then shall the hand of the LORD be against you, as it was against your fathers,” (1 Samuel 12:14-15).

“If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land: But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it,” (Isaiah. 1:19-20).

Dr. Ernest Pickering in his classic book Biblical Separation wrote:

“When our brethren do things that are wrong--caused by an incomplete knowledge of or deliberate disobedience to some teaching of Scripture--we should not merely continue fellowship with them as those who have done nothing wrong, but we should warn them, remonstrate with them and seek to recover them to a Biblical position. . . . If one should ask, Does 2 Thessalonians 3 teach secondary separation?--then the response would have to be given, It depends on what you mean by secondary separation. . . . It is the principle of refusing to condone, honor or utilize persons who continually and knowingly are following a course of action which is harmful to other believers and to the welfare of the churches.”9
Next we will review how Charles H. Spurgeon addressed standing for doctrinal purity. Please proceed to Part 4 of the series, What About Spurgeon’s Stand for Doctrinal Purity?


LM

1. Fred Moritz, Be Ye Holy: The Call to Christian Separation, pp. 82-83.
2. Mark Sidwell, The Dividing Line: Understanding and Applying Biblical Separation, pp. 55-56.
3. Leon Morris, The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The First and Second Epistles to the Thessalonians, p. 251.
4. John F. Walvoord, The Thessalonian Epistles, p. 156.
5. The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The First and Second Epistles to the Thessalonians, p. 258-259.
6. Mark Sidwell, The Dividing Line: Understanding and Applying Biblical Separation, p. 63.
7. Biblical Separation, p. 11.
8. Ibid., pp. 13-14.
9. Ernest Pickering, Biblical Separation: The Struggle for a Pure Church, pp. 221-222.



No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means---electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or otherwise--without the prior written permission of the author or the publisher, with the exception of brief excerpts in magazine articles and/or reviews.

November 7, 2007

Heart to Heart: How Do I Respond to the “Crossless” Gospel? Part 2

In the previous article we took a brief look at the word “mark” as it appears in our theme passage Romans 16:17. In Philippians 3:17 the same word “mark” appears, but in an entirely different context.

Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an example,” (Philippians 3:17).

In the Philippians passage Paul instructs believers to be “followers” of those who set the proper example. Paul instructs the believers to “mark” those who by their life demonstrate what biblical Christianity is and then to imitate those persons. In this usage of the word, “mark” believers are to scrutinize spiritual men and women and imitate them. This is the positive side of marking for the purpose of identifying and imitating the pattern of godly men and women. Paul could set the kind of example to imitate, not many can today. In Philippians 3:17 Paul refers to more than just himself. From other passages we might conclude that Paul had in mind Timothy and Epaphroditus who also set that pattern to be imitated.

In Romans 16:17, however, the usage of “mark” indicates that believers are to scrutinize doctrine and “avoid” those who are found to be teaching “contrary” doctrine. Therefore, there is a positive and negative side when we are commanded to “mark.” The positive side is for identifying and imitating the pattern of godly Christians. The negative side is for avoiding those who cause “divisions” and “offences” through the teaching of “contrary” doctrine.

Dr. Mark Minnick continues on the imperative of dealing with doctrinal error, which leads to divisions among believers:

“When people are converted and receive a love of the truth, they are baptized into a body that has an inherent organic unity. Jesus Christ prayed in John 17 for a unity that came to pass at Pentecost. And every person who is baptized into Christ is in union. The unity is God and Spirit created. There is no unity to be created, the unity is there. It is only a unity that is to be maintained. Those who teach contrary to the body of revealed truth that is the center of this unity, they are the ones who create the divisions and create the stumbling blocks.”1
Crossless Gospel” advocates use orthodox terms to teach as truth that which is antithetical to Scripture. Although in many areas of doctrine those who hold to the “Crossless Gospel” are fundamental and orthodox, but error is error, and the “Crossless Gospel” is “contrary” to the biblical doctrine of the Gospel.

The issue becomes what our biblical obligation is, in fidelity to God's Word, toward any teacher of false doctrine. The Scriptures instruct and mandate how we are to respond to those who teach contrary doctrine: admonish a brother, and expose the one who brings the false doctrine.

“Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother,” (2 Thessalonians 3:15).

We must realize that there are consequences to contradicting the Bible’s clear commands. Difficult as it may be to “mark” and “avoid” the teachers of false doctrine, ignoring the biblical command because of a personal friendship or cost involved will result in consequences. In other words, ignoring those who teach false doctrine opens the door for divisions to be created in the church, maybe even in your church. Such divisions damage the natural unity of the church.

Many pastors are teetering on the brink of the “agree to disagree” philosophy when it comes to the tough choices regarding those who teach the “Crossless Gospel.” The following appeared in the Calvary Contender:

“Doctrinal differences necessitate division. However, it is not those who separate who cause the division, but those whose doctrine or behavior necessitates the separation (2/00 FrontLine). The Fundamentalist (who, by definition, practices Biblical separation) does not cause division between believers. Divisions are caused by the brother who does not hold to sound doctrine (e.g., separation), and the Lord requires separation from that errant brother (2/00 Foundation). The Fundamentalist thus is forced to choose between the fellowship of light (obey God, I John 1:7) and the fellowship of darkness (disobey God, Eph. 5:11). It is not unloving for the Fundamentalist to choose light over darkness, God over a disobedient brother. The disobedient brother by not practicing separation (abiding in light) is the one who is unloving (1 John 2:10) and the one who causes division. If he loved his Fundamentalist brother he would abide in the light.”2
Many a Christian has made a shipwreck of his walk with God for not having turned aside from false teachers. Once you make friendship and personality the test of orthodoxy and fellowship, you have set foot on the slippery slope of compromise. Growing numbers of Christians are willing to minimize the importance of doctrine for the sake of unity. When a man betrays the Scriptures for the sake of friendship and unity, he is no friend of the Bible or believers. Separating from and marking the teachers of false, “contrary” doctrine, i.e. the “Crossless Gospel,” sets a proper example of true Bible Christianity for believers who have been raised in an atmosphere that is not easily discriminated from the type of compromise found in political circles.

I would like to offer this expanded translation of Romans 16:17: “Now brethren, I strongly urge you to look at, to fix your eyes upon those who produce and author divisions and stumbling blocks contrary to the doctrine which you have learned; and I command you to continually shun, avoid, turn aside, and deviate from them.”

Avoiding a man is synonymous with separating from him.

“Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,” (2 Corinthians 6:17).

The word separate in 2 Corinthians 6:17 is (aphorizo). It means “to mark off from others by boundaries, to limit, to separate.” In the negative sense, to separate is to depart from and exclude. In the positive sense, it is to appoint or set apart for some purpose. In the negative, a man is avoided and separated from to set him apart so that others will also avoid him. In the positive sense it is an act of dedication to God. We set ourselves apart from the man so that we will not be turned aside or stumble over the false teaching.

In the next article we will look further into the biblical mandate in regard to brethren who are teaching “contrary” doctrine commonly known as the “Crossless Gospel.”


LM

1. Mark Minnick, The Scriptural Response To Teachers of Doctrinal Error, a sermon recorded November, 1997 at the Mid-America Conference on Preaching.
2. Calvary Contender, March 1, 2000.


Please proceed to Part 3 of the series, How Do I Address False Teaching From the Brethren?


No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means---electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or otherwise--without the prior written permission of the author or the publisher, with the exception of brief excerpts in magazine articles and/or reviews.

November 6, 2007

A Heart to Heart: How Do I Respond to the “Crossless” Gospel? Part 1

In Romans 16:17-20, Paul delineates the Christian’s responsibility toward the teachers of doctrinal error. Beginning in verse 17 and continuing through verse 20, Paul admonishes believers about their duty to God and the church as well as their response toward those who teach false doctrine and cause divisions.


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. For your obedience is come abroad unto all men. I am glad therefore on your behalf: but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil. And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.

In Romans 16:17, the Bible instructs believers to “mark” false teachers; that is, to keep their eyes open, to scrutinize, to look at, to observe, and to stay fixed so that they can guard against false doctrine. Pastors must keep a sharp eye out for false teaching. They stand as sentries always on guard to protect their flocks. In Paul's day, the Judaizers and Gnostics were making their influence felt in the new church, both in doctrine and practice. In our day, many more are working to infiltrate the church of God with false teaching.

Because of the danger from false teaching, Paul uses the word “beseech” (parakaleo). Parakaleo means “to admonish, exhort, to beg.” Consequently, the instruction to mark false teachers is an urgent matter.

To “mark” means to identify. It is the translation of (skopeo). Thayer defines the term as follows:

“. . . to look at, observe, contemplate. To mark . . . to fix one's eyes upon, direct one's attention to, any one: Ro. xvi.17 . . . skopeo is more pointed than blepein; often i.q. to scrutinize, observe. When the physical sense recedes, i.e. to fix one's (mind's) eye on, direct one's attention to, a thing in order to get it, or owing to interest in it, or a duty towards it.”1

Skopeo in this verse is a present infinitive functioning as the object of the present tense admonition to beseech. (Technically, you and mark are both objects of beseech. In Greek syntax, this construction is known as the double accusative of the person and thing.) An expanded literal translation could read, “Now brethren, I am admonishing and begging you to continually scrutinize the ones causing divisions and offences.” That is, we are to take note of, and point out for others, those referred to in Romans 16: 17-20 as the ones who “cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned.”

“What is this paragraph talking about? If you would look at verse 17 you will see that it is a paragraph dealing with people who are teaching contrary doctrine. . . . These are people who are teaching as truth doctrine that actually is alongside orthodoxy. They are teaching what is a contradiction to, what is the opposite of, what is antithetical to, the doctrines that are taught in the Scripture.”2

Those who through false teaching cause divisions are to be marked. It is biblical to personally identify false teachers and point them out so that others may avoid them. Paul uses the word cause (poieo), meaning produce, construct, form, or fashion in reference to those who are the authors of division through their false teaching.

“For the sake of those whom he is leading astray or who might be led astray by him if not properly warned from the Scripture, a faithful minister of Christ must warn against that man even though he pretends to, and perhaps to an extent does, preach the gospel. At best, this is a situation in which a disobedient Christian is behaving like a false teacher. . . . But when some man is the prime instigator, promoter, and advocate of an unbiblical position, we must expose that man as we denounce the sin he is promoting.”3

It is somewhat ironic that if you identify a brother who is promoting a false gospel and biblically mark him, he will likely accuse you of being divisive. We have certainly seen this complaint from several men in the “Crossless Gospel” camp. You must remember, however, that it is that man’s false doctrine, which is really causing the division among believers.


“It is often said that the divided condition of Christendom is an evil, and so it is. But the evil consists in the existence of the errors which cause divisions and not at all in the recognition of those errors when once they exist.”4

“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.”5

Those who teach the “Crossless Gospel” cause “offences” (skandalon). We get our English word scandal from this Greek word. “Offences” means a trap, snare, or any impediment placed in the way and causing one to stumble or fall. The “Crossless Gospel” is a stumbling block for the lost and a dangerous theology for the redeemed. To be in fidelity with God’s Word, to protect the saints, you must “mark” the men whose “Crossless” doctrine causes “offences.”

Paul admonishes believers to “avoid,” (ekklino) those whom we have marked. The form of this verb would indicate that it is a present imperative, which simply indicates that this avoidance is neither a suggestion nor advice, but, in fact, a command. We are commanded by God to continually avoid the person who has been marked! Thayer's lexicon lists several possible translations for the word, but indicates that in this text, it is best translated “to shun.” We are to shun those who create scandal through their false teaching.

In referring to the terms beseech, mark, and avoid in verse 17, Dr. Mark Minnick said,

“If you take those terms and you ponder them for just a moment, what becomes apparent is this: that our response in the first place is mandated. We have no subjective decision to make. The decision has already been made and the mandate is objective; it is in print! It has been in print for centuries! I exhort you, “mark” them and “avoid” them. . . . The response that we are given is a mandated response! We are obligated to obey what is here.”6
To be continued...


LM

1. Joseph Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, p. 579.
2. Mark Minnick, The Scriptural Response To Teachers of Doctrinal Error, a sermon recorded November, 1997 at the Mid-America Conference on Preaching.
3. Mark Sidwell, The Dividing Line: Understanding and Applying Biblical Separation, p. 65.
4. J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism, p. 50.
5. Mark Minnick, The Scriptural Response to Teachers of Doctrinal Error. A sermon recorded November, 1997.
6. Ibid.


Please proceed to Part 2 of the series


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November 5, 2007

A Heart to Heart: Introduction

It is a sad day when well-meaning Pastors and Christian leaders, for the sake of maintaining a friendship, or a fellowship, will avoid studying an issue because it may lead him to question a friend's doctrine.

Preachers and Christian leaders, you are not doing your duty before God if your chief desire is to avoid controversy. You have a scriptural responsibility to know what the Bible teaches. You need to study the new interpretation of the Gospel commonly known as the“Crossless Gospel” so that you can say one of the following with conviction:
  • It is simply a different way of saying the same thing.
  • It is an acceptable variation on the doctrine of the Gospel, or
  • It is a departure from the faith once delivered (Jude 3) through its subtraction.

What account will you give before God if you avoid a doctrinal controversy because of a personal friendship or fellowship? What if you allowed a man into your pulpit who then brought a false interpretation of the Gospel to your membership? Where does your first loyalty lie; to the Word of God and your flock or to a personal friend?

Believers in our churches and fellowships need to be warned about false doctrine, and shifting tides in the church. A pastor must teach in such a way that he edifies the believers, and exposes false doctrine lest his flock be deceived and lead astray. The God ordained duty of every pastor is to both feed and defend the flock of God. The personal example and subsequent final charge of Paul to the Ephesian elders rings as loud and clear today as it did in the first century church.


“For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood,” (Acts 20:27-28).

How can the minister protect his people if he cannot recognize false doctrine himself? Granted, we cannot set out to learn and understand every false doctrine and cultic teaching in today's confused world. However, men who are part of the evangelical community have promoted the “Crossless Gospel” for several years, and it has made inroads into some churches and Bible colleges. How can you protect those whom God has given you the oversight of if you cannot recognize the danger at your doorstep? Heaven help the church whose pastor allows a man into his pulpit who preaches the “Crossless Gospel,” and the host pastor does not even recognize it. The damage is done, and if the pastor does not recognize what has been done, how can he set out to repair the damage?

The word “doctrine” appears forty-four times in the New Testament, sixteen times in the Pastoral Epistles (First & Second Timothy and Titus) alone. In the original text of the Pastoral Epistles, there are thirty-two references to “doctrine,” “teach,” “teacher,” “teaches,” and “teaching.”

First and Second Timothy and Titus are called Pastoral Epistles because they were written to pastors and outlined for them their pastoral duties. Since the Pastoral Epistles are primarily directed to ministers of the Word of God, ministers had better take heed to doctrine and teaching. Large portions of these epistles are dedicated to instructing Timothy and Titus to defend sound doctrine and resist false teaching. In First Timothy, Paul tells Timothy to stay at Ephesus and command certain men not to teach false doctrine.

“As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine,” (1 Timothy 1:3).

The Word of God warns that false teaching can come into the church through unbelievers or believers. Paul warned the Ephesian elders to “watch” (gregoreo) and be vigilant. The metaphor is to give strict attention, to be cautious, to be on guard. For the sake of their flocks, the pastors must be ever watchful! The Apostle Paul warned the men in his day; the written Word of God warns preachers today.

“For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears,” (Acts 20:29-31).

We must take the threat of false teaching seriously! You have a responsibility to determine for yourself whether the “Crossless Gospel” is orthodox, or if it is a false, non-saving interpretation of the Gospel. If you believe the “Crossless Gospel” is the correct view, then come out openly for it. If the “Crossless Gospel” is a departure from the biblical plan of salvation then do not hesitate to come out openly against it. You, however, cannot make that determination unless you study the issue for yourself.

Do not allow personal friendships to guide or alter your pursuit and study of the Word of God. The Gospel is too important and the only hope for this lost and dying world for you to stand idly by while men propagate a message that has been reduced to a non-saving mental assent to a promise without belief in and/or a conscience rejection of the finished work and Deity of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Next in the series will be: How Do I Respond to the “Crossless” Gospel?


LM

Please proceed to Part 1 of the series.

No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means---electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or otherwise--without the prior written permission of the author or the publisher, with the exception of brief excerpts in magazine articles and/or reviews.