Zane C. Hodges, in his article How to Lead People to Christ: Part 1 The Content of Our Message presents “The Deserted Island Scenario” to make his case that a lost person does not need to know about the Deity of Christ, His death on the cross for their sins, or His resurrection in order to be saved. In part 2 of his article Hodges calls these doctrines “excess baggage.”
By inference then, he actually means one could be presented with and then consciously deny these truths and still be saved, for what does “excess baggage” of any kind have to do with one getting saved? After all, no part of the Gospel message could legitimately be called “excess baggage,” could it?
The Grace Evangelical Society (GES) led by Bob Wilkin has officially adopted Hodges’ redefinition of the Gospel, for the articles referenced above are published on their website. It also means that GES officially considers the doctrines of the Deity of Christ, His substitutionary death on the cross, and resurrection, as “excess baggage” as well.
Antonio da Rosa, who posts frequently at GES, has written on his personal blog that if he were witnessing to someone that objected to the Deity of Christ, he would put this issue “on the back-burner.” What da Rosa means by this is that he believes one could get saved while at the same time denying that Christ is God in the flesh. How do I know this is what he means? Look at this quote from his article below, How I Might Do Evangelism...
“As long as the listener is interested in continuing a conversation with me, I will point them to faith in Christ through His promise which guarantees eternal life to the believer. Being persuaded that Jesus is God is not the only psychological route that one can go by to become persuaded that Jesus guarantees their eternal destiny.” (emphasis mine)
Listen, one who denies that Jesus is God in the flesh is an antichrist! (See I John 2:22; I John 4:3; II John 1:7) To deny Christ’s Deity is to deny the very essence of who He is as the Word that became flesh and dwelt among us. (See John 1:1,14) A lost person that denies who Christ claims to be, remains lost:
“I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins,” (John 8:24).
The fact that Bob Wilkin has not publicly corrected or rebuked da Rosa (who posts links to his personal blog on the GES blog), means by default that da Rosa’s quote above is indeed the official doctrinal position of the Grace Evangelical Society, namely, that one can be saved while maintaining a deliberate denial of the Deity of Christ. Pure unadulterated heresy!
According to Hodges article above, one needs only to believe in Jesus as the One who guarantees eternal life in order to become eternally saved. While it is true that this is all a person needs to do, this is not a limiter (as Hodges asserts) on what one needs to believe concerning Jesus. When the Philippian jailer asked Paul and Silas, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved”? (Acts 16:30, emphasis mine), they replied to him, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house,” (Acts 16:31).
Notice that the jailer did not ask what he needed to believe, but what he needed to do. All one needs to do to be saved is to believe in Jesus Christ. Paul and Silas then spoke the Word of God to the jailer and his household concerning what they must believe concerning Jesus:
“And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house,” (Acts 16:32)
What do you suppose the word was which they spoke to the jailer and his household? Could it be the same word they spoke in the synagogue in Antioch recorded just three chapters earlier in Acts 13, namely, the Deity of Christ, His death on the cross, burial, resurrection, and the forgiveness of sins for those who believe these things?
What Hodges has done is to redefine believing in Jesus in such a narrow way that it makes a mockery out of the Biblical truth of what it means to believe in Him. In Hodges’ deserted island scenario he pieced together the first part of John 6:43 with John 6:47 as follows: “But the only readable portions are: ‘Jesus therefore answered and said to them’ (v 43) and ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life,’” (v 47).
Hodges wants us to believe that the unsaved man alone on the island who had never heard anything of Christianity could be saved by reading this portion of the Bible alone. What a gross mishandling of God’s Word and misrepresentation of the Gospel! His article treats the name “Jesus” like a talisman. Just know and believe in the name and you won't be disappointed, regardless of not knowing who He is and what He has done to secure our eternal salvation.
What if in his island scenario the ink was blurred at the beginning of John 6:43 so that the name looked like “Josus”? Would Hodges still insist this man could be saved by trusting in Josus? Surely God would not let a little ink blur keep that poor soul out of Heaven, would He? Of course, Hodges would probably say that if God had sent that Scripture to the lost man, He would have kept the name intact. This really begs the question, for if God sends someone Scripture for the purpose of bringing them to a saving knowledge of Christ, He would have included the Gospel message preached by Paul and the other Apostles.
To believe in Jesus’ name is not to only know His name, it is to believe in who He is, for one’s name is the representation of one’s person. For Christ, this includes who He is and what He has done for us! If Hodges was intellectually honest here, he’d have to conclude that the lost man on the deserted island would really need to know the name “Yeshua,” for that is what He was really called.
To believe in Jesus as the granter of eternal life is to have the confidence in Him as God in the flesh who died for our sins on the cross, was buried, and rose from the dead. To believe in a Jesus any less than this is, such as the hollow one in Hodges’ deserted island example, is to have an object of faith that cannot save. Hodges does grievous violence to Christ by divorcing Christ’s person from His work, for what Christ has done for us is forever tied to who He is. Note how John the Baptist identifies Him: “The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.,” (John 1:29).
In Revelation 13:8 the Apostle John refers to Jesus as the “Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” Hodges tries to justify himself by pointing to the following verse: “For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead,” (John 20:9).
Hodges wants us to believe that since the eleven disciples at that time (pre-Church Age) did not yet see clearly things they would later come to experience, that God holds us to that same standard today even though we are now in the Church Age. It is true that the Apostle John wrote his Gospel account for evangelical purposes as he stated in chapter 20: “But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name,” (John 20:31).
However, one must understand that the Gospel of John was written after the Apostles had received power from on high from the indwelling Holy Spirit and had ushered in the Church Age. They had already been preaching for years the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, and the belief in Him for forgiveness of sins. Just because John makes reference in 20:9 back to a time when the Apostles’ understanding was less than what it later became, does not mean that our responsibility to believe what God has revealed in these last days can be retrograded back to that time in the past John was referring to. To state otherwise is nothing less than foolishness. Mankind’s responsibility is to heed the completed revelation of the Son. This is how God deals with us now, not through the filter of the 11 disciples’ understanding before they had seen our risen Lord!
Here is our standard: “Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds,” (Heb. 1:2).
Ironically John 20:31, a verse Hodges quotes in part 1 of his article, includes one of the necessary beliefs that Hodges calls “excess baggage,” namely, the Deity of Christ! The phrase “Son of God” means that Christ has the same nature as God. Surely this is what the Apostle John has in mind if you remember that this same John also wrote John 1:1,14. To state otherwise is to lack a basic understanding of what a Jew meant at that time when they called someone a “son of,” as well as what the Apostle John meant. Otherwise, why would the unbelieving Jews think that Jesus blasphemed when He called Himself the Son of God? (See John 10:36)
Also, note what came just three verses before John 20:31: “And Thomas answered and said unto him, My LORD and my God,” (John 20:28, emphasis mine).
What did Jesus reply to him? “Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed,” (John 20:29, emphasis mine).
What was Thomas believing? He was believing in his crucified and resurrected Lord as God in the flesh!
It’s unbelievable that Hodges asserts in his article that the Gospel of John does not make it clear that one must believe in the substitutionary death of Christ for us. Concerning John 20:30-31 he writes:
“This statement does not affirm the necessity of believing in our Lord’s substitutionary atonement. If by the time of the writing of John’s Gospel, it was actually necessary to believe this, then it would have been not only simple, but essential, to say so.”
Actually, early in the Gospel of John, Jesus did say so: “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life,” (John 3:14,15).
At Kadesh Barnea those who were bitten by the snakes survived if they took one look at the bronze serpent on the pole. Likewise, one look of faith at the Lord Jesus Christ crucified and risen again is what saves. To deny that the substitutionary death of Christ is needed to be believed in order to be saved, is to teach that one can be saved without looking!
The Deity of Christ and His substitutionary death, burial, and resurrection is not merely the basis of the Gospel as taught by GES, it is the Gospel! To believe in Jesus is to trust in Him as the One who accomplished the work of salvation on our behalf, to trust that He is the One who paid the price for our sins and rose from the dead. To deny these fundamental truths is to call the Old Testament prophets, Jesus, the Father, and the Apostles liars.
No one can come to Christ unless he is drawn by the Father. When a person hears the Word of God and comes under the conviction of the Holy Spirit, if they then maintain a denial of the nature of Christ and His work of salvation via the cross and resurrection, they are also calling the Holy Spirit a liar. Do you suppose the Holy Spirit will then indwell that person and save them, thereby legitimizing their unbelief of the only work that can save them? Of course not! According to John 14:17, the Holy Spirit is called the “Spirit of truth.” He will not lend any credence to the rejection of God’s work of salvation, for the cross is the only manner in which God bestows His mercy and grace.
To reject the cross of Christ is to reject God’s salvation. Such rejection is tantamount to rebuking (or mocking) the Holy Spirit, and is not merely a misconception as taught by Hodges, Wilkin, and da Rosa. I guarantee you that as long as a lost person does this they will remain lost. GES’s dismissal of the necessity to believe that Christ paid for our sins on the cross makes it unnecessary for GES’s followers to confront the cultists who teach lies such as the death of Christ is not sufficient to save from sins, or that his death was merely to provide universal resurrection as Mormon doctrine teaches.
GES makes a mockery of the following Scripture: “For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him,” (II Cor. 11:4, emphasis mine).
The following quote is from Antonio da Rosa’s (He posts links to his blog on the GES blog, so his views are the views of GES as long as GES does not rebuke him) article titled “Will the REAL Jesus Please Stand Up” posted August 6, 2007.
“If one unique reference is all that it takes to limit that reference to a specific person, why is it that we say that Mormons refer to a wholly ‘different Jesus’ when they make reference to Him in (at least) 20 unique and distinct areas of agreement with evangelicals?
We all have or had misunderstandings and misconceptions about Jesus. How many misconceptions about Jesus does it take to make Him another Jesus? Can a simple misunderstanding preclude me from refering to the historical Jesus Christ? What if all I had was the gospel of John and I was misinformed and believed that Jesus Christ was born in Jerusalem, not Bethlehem. Yet I have read the gospel of John and make reference to Him from there. Am I necessarily referring to a ‘different’ Jesus because of this misconception?”
First of all, the Gospel of John gives the correct birthplace of Christ: “Hath not the scripture said, That Christ cometh of the seed of David, and out of the town of Bethlehem, where David was,” (John 7:42)?
But the issue at hand is that the Jesus of any cult, whether Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, LDS, or any other is not preaching another Jesus according to GES, as long as the cult can give at least one identifier that points to the correct historical Jesus. According to GES, anything else such as denying the Deity of Christ like the Watchtower, or claiming that Jesus is just another god among many, and is the “spirit brother” of Satan as in LDS doctrine is merely a “misconception.” Unbelievable!
Look at the context of II Cor. 11:4. It’s about another spirit, another gospel! It isn’t about someone introducing a different historical figure who also happened to be named Jesus.
To blind the minds of people, what tactic do you think Satan would use – introduce an altogether different historic person but call him by the same name “Jesus” that brings false doctrines, or would he point to the same historical Jesus while twisting the truth of who Jesus is? In the first instance, Satan would have no credibility at all. What would be the point? In the second, he would have a grain of truth in that he would be outwardly pointing to the same historic Jesus, but at the same time denying the true nature of who Jesus really is. Obviously, Satan will use the tactic that gets the most results, as well as misrepresenting the nature of the particular historical Jesus that he hates the most. Without a doubt Satan has truly blinded GES concerning the Gospel!
My brother and sisters in Christ, Hodges, Wilkin, da Rosa and GES pervert the Gospel of Christ by gutting it of the power of its saving message, and are leading others into grave error. Their false gospel will have lost people believing they are saved when they are not, and will have those of you that are carried away with them losing your eternal reward. I have written this in the name of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, with God being my witness that I write the truth.
It grieved me to write this article, as I have profited from Hodges’ biblically based teachings of the past, though I have not always agreed with him on every point, but now he has assaulted and undermined the very Gospel itself. Do not let the sophistry of Hodges and GES deceive you. Pray for the recovery of Hodges, Wilkin, da Rosa and those they’ve lead astray, but you stay true to the Gospel! I forever shall!
Phillip M. Evans © 2007
*Brother Evans in the midst of writing a book, but will be looking in on the thread and will reply to comments as time permits.