December 13, 2008

The Issue of Incongruity – Actual or Artificial? Pt. 2

Greetings again in the name of our wonderful Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

In my first article in this series, I drew attention to the sad reality that there are those who are claiming to PREACH the person and finished work of Christ as part of the Gospel of salvation but amazingly espouse that a sinner NEED NOT BELIEVE in these cardinal truths to have eternal life and security. This is the issue of incongruity that I am addressing.

*The critical question I want to focus upon boils down to the following,

Does the Bible allow for an incongruity or difference between the CONTENT OF THE GOSPEL message which is to be faithfully PREACHED and the content of SAVING FAITH post-Calvary which must be BELIEVED in order to have eternal life today?”
In seeking to search the New Testament Scriptures regarding this issue of incongruity, I propose that this artificial dichotomy be buried and this straw man be burned forever by hammering 12 nails in the coffin of incongruity.

So I invite you to examine with me in this series 12 passages of Scripture that should nail the coffin shut on this matter.

Nail #1: 1 Corinthians 15:1-2

Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you -- unless you believed in vain.
I would ask that you follow along with me as I draw out several principles from each of these passages.

1. The Gospel is a DEFINITIVE message of GOOD NEWS which was PREACHED evangelistically to the Corinthians. (15:1a)

There are several observations in these verses worth noting.

First of all, Paul makes it clear in verse 1 that he is declaring (present, active, indicative of gnorizo) in this passage “the Gospel.” The definite article (“the”/ to) preceding euangelion (“Gospel” – good news, normally from God to man about salvation) indicates that Paul has a very specific and definite message in mind that he is making known. This message was not the contents of the entire Bible, nor was it the entire New Testament as some erroneously purport today. It was a definitive message of good news that will be developed later in this passage.

Secondly, this message of “the Gospel” was not new to these Corinthian believers in Christ because this is the very same message Paul had previously preached evangelistically to them when he was at Corinth (“which I preached to you”) before they had been saved from sin’s penalty. The word “preached” is an aorist, middle, indicative of “euangelizo,” in which we derive our English word “evangelize.” Thus, Paul is declaring to these believers in this section of this epistle the same Gospel message that he had literally “gospeled” prior to them coming to saving faith. Greek scholar of yesteryear, W.E. Vine states,
He was not simply giving them a reminder of the gospel facts, he was beginning again and stating the foundational truths he had ministered to them at the first.” [1]
2. The Gospel which Paul was going to “declare” in this passage was the very same message he had previously PREACHED and which had been previously RECEIVED by the Corinthians. (15:1b)

It is interesting to note that Paul not only “PREACHED” (aorist, indicative) THE GOSPEL, but also this message of salvation was “RECEIVED” by them. The word “received” (paralambano) is an aorist (completed action at a point of time in their past), active (they chose to receive the Gospel), indicative (the mood of fact) verb that highlights the reality of the Corinthians’ positive response and reception of the Gospel which had been preached to them.

But how had these believers “received” the Gospel? The end of verse 2 tells us, “unless you believed in vain.” The verb “believed ” (pisteuo – to believe, trust) corresponds EXACTLY in its tense (aorist), voice (active) and mood (indicative) as “received.” These individuals had made a decisive decision in the past to choose to receive/believe the Gospel that was preached by Paul.

Note that THERE IS NO INCONGRUITY BETWEEN THE GOSPEL that was PREACHED by Paul and THE GOSPEL which was BELIEVED by the Corinthians! There was no MAXIMUM preached and MINIMUM believed!

3. The Gospel was the very message upon which these believers were willing to STAND, and so should you. (15:1c)

Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand...
In which” refers back to THE GOSPEL which had been PREACHED by Paul and had been RECEIVED by these Corinthians. They had chosen in the past and continued in the present (perfect tense) to take a definite stand for the Gospel against those who would twist it, pervert it, undermine it, or reject it.

Dear friends, if there is any message we must not compromise, and for which we must stand without compromise and apology– even against fellow-believers if necessary, it is the Gospel of the grace of God. Amen?
I say this because some in the Free Grace movement want to focus on promoting the movement, instead of standing for the clarity of the Gospel and guarding its purity – leaving the results with the Lord. Others are finding it difficult to stand because of friends who are advocates of the crossless gospel, or due to fear from the negative fallout their ministry plans and agendas may receive. As I stated before in my article titled “Two Clarifications” in the 2007 Summer edition of the Grace Family Journal,
The modern Free Grace movement, of which I am glad to be a small part, began in the mid-1980s because there were those who stood for the Gospel of Grace in opposition to the false teachings of Lordship Salvation. Its design was not to start a movement but to proclaim and guard the purity and contents of the glorious Gospel of salvation. So why should we not continue to stand for that same Gospel, even though there are those in our camp who have shifted from the Gospel that they once preached and proclaimed when the movement began? For God has not asked us to seek to create unity or a movement, as He alone must do that if He so chooses. And if God does so in human history, it will be based on sound doctrine, never at the expense of it, starting with the foundation of the Gospel of Grace.
Will you concentrate on preaching the message and standing for its purity or focus on promoting the movement? Let’s be faithful to the former and trust the Lord with the latter!

4. The Gospel, if held fast, can have a SAVING/SANCTIFYING effect upon believers. (15:2)

by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you -- unless you believed in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:2)
By which” once again refers back to the Gospel Paul PREACHED, the Gospel the Corinthians RECEIVED, and the same Gospel in which they were STANDING. Notice that there is NO INCONGRUITY in any form occurring in this passage!

The phrase “by which also you are saved” (present, passive, indicative of sozo) appears to be best understood to refer to the present tense or second phase of spiritual salvation which we theologically call “progressive sanctification.” Unlike justification before God which occurs at a point of time when a helpless, hopeless, Hell-bound sinner trusts in Jesus Christ and His finished work to save him (Romans 3:19-28), progressive sanctification in time is to be an ongoing process involving among other things, fidelity to the Gospel.

Therefore, it has been commonly held in the past by those who rightly divide the word of truth that God’s plan of salvation for mankind involves 3 phases or tenses. Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer comments regarding this in his classic book titled, “Salvation,” can be found in a subsection titled, The Three Tenses of Salvation. [2]
1. The past tense of salvation is revealed in certain passages which, when speaking of salvation, refer to it as being wholly past, or completed for the one who has believed (Luke 7:50; 1 Cor. 1:18; 2 Cor. 2:15; Eph. 2:5, 8). So perfect is this divine work that the saved one is said to be safe forever (John 5:24; 10:28, 29; Rom. 8:1).

2. The present tense of salvation, which will be the theme of the next chapter, has to do with present salvation from the reigning power of sin (Rom. 6:14; 8:2; 2 Cor. 3:18; Gal. 2:19-20; Phil. 1:19; 2:12-13; 2 Thess. 2:13).

3. The future tense of salvation contemplates that the believer will yet be saved into full conformity to Christ (Rom. 8:29; 13:11; 1 Pet. 1:5; 1 John 3:2). The fact that some aspects of salvation are yet to be accomplished for the one who believes does not imply that there is ground for doubt as to its ultimate completion; for it is nowhere taught that any feature of salvation depends upon the faithfulness of man. God is faithful and, having begun a good work, will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:6)
In anticipation of the doctrinal problem that Paul will begin addressing in verse 12, “Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?”, the apostle of grace then reminds these believers that salvation from sin’s power practically in their lives will not properly occur if they deviate from the Gospel he preached. Thus, “if you hold fast that word (the Gospel –vs.1) which I preached to you” is designed to encourage these saints to remain doctrinally faithful to the Gospel of grace. Why is this reminder needed? For the very reason that even genuine believers in Christ who knew, believed, and stood for the Gospel in the past MAY shift or be led astray from the Gospel they once embraced by faith. Has this become true of you?

Furthermore, “unless you believed in vain” (eike) carries the idea of that which has not resulted in reaching its entire purpose. This clarifies for us that while these Christians had believed the Gospel resulting in justification before God and eternal life – changing their eternal destinies, God also desired for them to enjoy salvation from sin’s power and spiritual growth – changing their lives. This again would be based or built upon the very same message they heard evangelistically – the Gospel.

So when advocates of the crossless gospel like Bob Wilkin seek to relegate this important passage on the Gospel to being irrelevant to this debate stating that it is a sanctification passage for believers and not a justification passage for the unsaved, he has stated a half-truth. For these believers ongoing sanctification was dependent upon the very same Gospel that was PREACHED to them EVANGELISTICALLY before they trusted the Savior, which they have RECEIVED/BELIEVED in the past, and which they STOOD FOR in the present, and needed to HOLD FAST or FIRMLY to in the future.

Can you hear the hammer hitting the nail of 1 Corinthians 15:1-2 as it sounds out loud and clear … NO INCONGRUITY!

Pastor Dennis Rokser

Please continue to Part 3 of Pastor Rokser’s The Issue of Incongruity.

[1] W.E.Vine, THE FIRST EPISTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS, Gospel Tract Publishers, 196.
[2] Chafer/Walvoord, MAJOR BIBLE THEMES, Zondervan Publishing Co., 184.

*This article was first published on May 8, 2008.


  1. In this installment Pastor Rokser has touched on one of the most difficult challenges that face any believer. What should I do when a friend has fallen into and become a propagator of a heretical view of the Gospel?

    Unfortunately, many men are prepared to put their friendship and fellowships ahead of fidelity to the Word of God. This is a New Evangelical mindset that prefers unity at the expense of doctrine.

    I recently wrote an article that touched on this, not knowing it was going to be mentioned in Brother Rokser’s series. Please read, Is There a Spirit of Compromise?

    Earlier I posted a series that dealt with the subject. Please read this installment, How Do I Address False Teaching From the Brethren?

    Ps. Rokser, thank you for the timely and biblical challenge.


  2. All:

    Concerning points 1 and 2 under Nail #1, I like to draw attention to Acts 18. Here, the apostle Paul is in Corinth on his second missionary journey (about 5 years before he wrote 1 Corinthians), and he is "solemnly testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ" (18:1-5). This testimony expressly included Christ's finished work (see Acts 17:2-3). As a result, many Corinthians turned from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God: "And Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, believed in the Lord with all his household, and many of the Corinthians when they heard were believing and being baptized" (Acts 18:8).


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  4. Lou/all

    I really appreciate it that Pastor Rokser points out that our maximum practical sanctification (2nd tense salvation) depends on keeping the saving message intact. (v2 …unless you believed in vain…)

    For indeed is this not what happened in the Galatian province? Paul starts out the book of Galatians with a statement of 2nd tense salvation (sanctification) even though the problem with the Galatians was a first tense addition to the saving message (circumcision).

    Note Galatians 1:3-5: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be the glory forevermore. Amen.

    In other word, not only will botching the gospel not save the lost, but moving away from the historical gospel will keep the saved from being sanctified. Move from the clarity of the gospel and you move from true sanctification. Brethren, there’s a lot at stake…


  5. Bret:

    There is certainly a great deal at stake as you pointedly explained.

    If the lost are given a botched gospel, they will never even have a chance at sanctification.



  6. JP/All:

    The biblical evidence is abundantly clear and easily understood. Paul preached a message that is identified as “the Gospel,” and belief in that Gospel message (the death and resurrection of Christ) brought the lost to a saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

    I have been dealing with the teachings of the Crossless gospel advocates for two years. I have come to conclude that many of its advocates have been seared in their conscience. If they do not ignore or negate any Scripture that does not support their Crossless & Deityless gospel they force into or extract from the Bible whatever they must to float their reductionist assaults on the content of saving faith.

    They come to the Scriptures with Hodges’s & Wilkin’s Crossless presuppositions and an eye to twist and redefine any passages that run counter to those presuppositions.

    My concern is that, there are some who may not agree with the egregious errors of the Crossless gospel, but seem prepared to embrace men who teach what is antithetical to Scripture for the sake of an appearance of doctrinal unity.

    There can NEVER be unity with the men who hold to this Crossless heresy unless one is willing to run rough-shod over the biblical mandates in which God forbids that kind of unholy alliance.


    (Revised version of a previous comment from May 2008.)