December 30, 2008

The Best of 2008

Dear Guests:

Well, the year has wound down and I am going end with a listing of my favorite blog articles of 2008. The list will be compiled from my blog and select others. I will choose articles, with a brief excerpt from most, that I believe made a significant contribution to the defense of the Gospel. This is not an exhaustive list, just a few of many more that deserve inclusion.

Without further delay, apart from a drum roll and in no particular order, here are: The Best of 2008.

The Grace Evangelical Society’s Reductionist Affirmation of Belief

The revisions to the GES Affirmation were made with purpose. In the new version, the relative clause is parenthetical. When the GES says, ‘faith alone in the Lord Jesus Christ who died...’ they do NOT mean that the lost person needs to understand and believe Jesus died and rose again. They simply mean a lost man must believe in the name ‘Jesus’ as the Giver of eternal life.

Summary of Lordship Salvation From a Single Page
What we have in this single page (250) of The Gospel According to Jesus is the Lordship’s classic error of failing to distinguish between the doctrines of salvation and discipleship. Lordship Salvation frontloads faith with commitment to the “good works” (Eph. 2:10) one would expect of a mature born again Christian

The Tragedy of the “Crossless” Gospel a multi-part and on-going series from the Grace Family Journal.

Clearing the Haze of “Always” at The Land of Reason by Stephen Stark (aka- KnetKnight)
GES/Crossless advocates have long fussed over how we should ease up on’ em because they ‘always’ present the same information in their evangelistic presentations that we do, namely Jesus’ deity, atoning sacrifice, and resurrection. Thus, we are told that our concerns are ‘theoretical.’ Well, a fellow blogger (Dave of Free Grace Believer) pointed out the following article on GES’ site which proves that crossless advocates, if they are logically consistent with their view, in fact do NOT always present those facts.”

Salve for Itching Ears: Rick Warren & Saddleback. This article contains links to several more thoroughly documented articles on the methods and philosophy of Warren’s Purpose Driven methodology.
Saddleback in NOT a New Testament church! Do not listen to the voices or printed words of compromise and betrayal. Reject and refute any attempts by the apologists for Rick Warren to legitimize the methods and ministry of his (Warren’s) Purpose Driven philosophy.”

Submit to the Lordship of Christ to be Saved? from Kev at his blog On My Walk.
John MacArthur has done some very good work over the years as a teacher of the Church. He has a sharp mind and is very well versed in Scripture. However, he teaches a false gospel. I wish it were not so. I share in his call to holiness, and submission to the Lordship of Christ. But these are not requirements for salvation at all. These are works of the Holy Spirit in the saved believer after they have been saved.”

Really Consistent? at The Land of Reason by Stephen Stark.
There is a relatively new movement in Free Grace that distinguishes itself from historical Free Grace. It’s become commonly known as; the Crossless gospel, the Promise-only gospel, or Redefined Free Grace. Understandably, not liking such labels, some in this movement have suggested that one of their preferred labels is ‘Consistent Free Grace’ (CFG). The goal of this article is to set forth just one of several reasons why I believe ‘consistent’ does not belong in a label for this movement at all by simple demonstration of a glaring inconsistency in the CFG view vs CFG practice.”

Heresy of the Crossless Gospel: Verified & Affirmed
Until now, I have been reluctant to claim that Antonio da Rosa and most (not all) Crossless gospel advocates insist the lost man can be saved even if he does not even ‘know’ or is not ‘aware of’ of the Lord’s deity. I feel no further restraint because Antonio clearly stated that he believes the unsaved do not even need to be ‘aware’ of the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ, but can still be born again.

Therefore, there is no room for any doubt about the heresy of the views expressed by da Rosa. He insists, just as he wrote in the statements at the beginning of the article, a lost man can be saved no matter what misconceptions or unbelief he has about the Lord, including being unaware of and/or consciously rejecting His deity
.”

Lordship’s “Turn from Sin” for Salvation
There has been an on-going pattern of a certain few Lordship Salvation (LS) apologists demonstrating that they/he do not recognize or understand how Dr. MacArthur is writing and is teaching on the Lordship Salvation interpretation of the Gospel. This time the mistake is on MacArthur’s view of repentance.”

Is “REDEFINED” Free Grace Theology- Free Grace Theology?
In recent weeks I have been viewing various blogs on both sides of the Lordship Salvation & Crossless Gospel debates. One item that has stood out in my reading is the unfortunate misconception that the Grace Evangelical Society (GES) is largely perceived as the voice of the Free Grace movement at large. The problem is that there are many men in the FG movement that reject and have separated from the GES over the very teachings that have come to be associated with all men in the FG camp. I have been interacting at these various blogs to correct and dispel that misunderstanding.

Reviews and Critiques of the late
Zane Hodges’s “The Hydra’s Other Head: Theological Legalism”
By his definition of ‘theological legalism,’ Hodges condemns every single Free Grace champion of the past such as C.I Scofield, Lewis Sperry Chafer, John Walvoord and every Free Grace leader of the present including J.B. Hixson, Charlie Bing, Robert Lightner, Roy Zuck, Dennis Rokser, and James Scudder. Only those closely aligned with the new direction of the Grace Evangelical Society (such as Zane Hodges, Bob Wilkin, John Niemela, and Bob Bryant) are exempt from the charge.

Therefore, one must not mistake a criticism of Hodges as a criticism of Free Grace. Many Free Grace proponents now condemned by Hodges have esteemed him as a teacher, mentor, scholar, or professor.
It is challenging to admit such a person has become a heretic. So I appeal to supporters of Zane Hodges, that you be ‘swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath’ (James 1:19) as the Free Grace community responds to Hodges’s new path.”

Can the Biblical Jesus and Mormon Jesus be: “One and the Same?”
Antonio da Rosa wrote, ‘The Mormon Jesus and the Evangelical Jesus are one and the same.’ This is among the most egregious and dangerous statements to date coming from Antonio da Rosa or any advocate of the ‘Crossless’ gospel. The Mormon Jesus is believed to be a spirit (or half) brother of the Devil. To equate the Mormon view of Jesus with the biblical Jesus is as abominable a heresy as can possibly be uttered about Him.

Reasoning on Rose: We Just Can’t Know? by Stephen Stark.
IMO, saying Rose is crossless is truly not a correct label to saddle her with... her actual position is, IMO, worse than crossless in that it is couched in comfy post-modern terms -- ala ‘we just can’t know.’ Rose may think she is a harbinger of peace and reason with such a position, but she is, probably unwittingly, chipping away at the idea of objective knowable truth. No wonder she is on the fence so often in this regard; she seems to think ‘the fence’ is a reasonable position, at least in regard to this topic. This kind of lukewarm view of objective truth is central to what I have read in J. B. Hixson’s book Getting the Gospel Wrong. My heart breaks with compassion for Rose and those like her who have bitten the apple of post-modernism’s uncertainty.

The Hollow “Gospel” of the Grace Evangelical Society by Phillip M. Evans of the Eternal Security Proved blog.
What (Zane) 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.

The Holy Spirit at Odds with ReDefined Free Grace Theology by Stephen Stark.
Redefined Free Grace would have us be appeased that they always present these facts (Christ crucified) in their presentations of ‘the saving message’ because they are powerful and persuasive reasons for the lost to believe in Jesus. Though in some cases that may be true, the obvious problem with this thinly veiled attempt to appease is that it fails to address why Paul, or anyone else, would/should include these items when it is known that they are in fact obstacles to saving faith. To be consistent, the adherents of Redefined Free Grace would have to ultimately conclude that it is completely acceptable to entirely leave out any known stumbling block as part of ‘the saving message’. It is inconsistent for Redefined Free Grace to claim that there is anything that needs to ‘always be said’ in a presentation of ‘the saving message’ save whatever is necessary to convince the lost to believe what they see as the only belief that ultimately matters -- that ‘Jesus guarantees Everlasting Life to all who simply believe in him for it’.
Well, that is my list, as is stands. Please, in the thread,  feel free to nominate additional articles for consideration.


LM

December 17, 2008

The Issue of Incongruity – Actual or Artificial? Pt. 3

Warmest greetings again in the name of the Lord of lords and King of kings.

*If you have not read my previous two articles, I would recommend that you do so first in order to sufficiently grasp the issue I am addressing. Please refer to Part 1 & Part 2 of this series. But in a nutshell it is this:

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?”
The second nail that hammers shut the coffin of incongruity is…


Nail #2: 1 Corinthians 15:3-11

For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time. For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. Therefore, whether it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.
I would like to draw out and develop some more key principles from this passage.


1. The Gospel which Paul received and preached is of PRIMARY IMPORTANCE. (1 Corinthians 15:3a)

For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received…
Delivered” indicates that Paul’s teaching was authoritatively presented. He didn’t design it but he did deliver it. He was not the manufacturer of his message; he was the distributer. But how did Paul obtain his message?

Paul “received” the essentials of the Gospel from Jesus Christ personally (Galatians 1:11-12), while some of the evidences of the Gospel (such as some of his post-resurrection appearances mentioned in this passage) he perhaps received from the apostles, etc. (Gal.2 visit).

The phrase “first of all” (en protois) communicates that the Gospel was “of primary importance; first and foremost.” While the doctrine of creation is foundational, the Gospel is of primary importance. And if understanding the biblical doctrine of creationism does not ultimately lead someone to the Gospel of salvation, does it ultimately matter whether one goes to Hell as a creationist or as an evolutionist?

While prophecy is interesting and needful, the Gospel is the first and foremost message that Paul preached to the Corinthians. Is the Gospel the emphasis of our preaching and teaching? Is the Gospel of first and primary importance? It was with Paul!

The message of the Gospel is no secondary issue, but is of primary importance (“first of all”) to God. As this passage indicates, the Gospel that Paul is explaining in these verses was of primary importance in order for these Corinthians to FIRST become justified before God so that he preached it evangelistically to them (15:1), as well as being of primary importance for these believers to THEN become practically sanctified in time (15:2). Thus, should the Gospel of grace not be of primary importance to you?

In writing to someone recently regarding the issue of the “Crossless” gospel (which I believe is an accurate description of this aberrant teaching as I still hold to the normative theological usage of the word “Gospel” being equivalent to the content of saving faith), I stated…

It seems like you were hoping to relegate this discussion to some ‘5 Views’ book for academic discussion hidden away in some seminary library, hoping it would go away. Can you imagine the apostle Paul proposing a 5 view book to the Galatian Christians to resolve the issues they were facing related to the Gospel?”
Dear reader, the Gospel needs to be of primary importance in our thinking, in our teaching, and in our churches. And Paul practiced what he preached! This is why when addressing the problem of legalism that was plaguing the churches of Galatia, what did Paul do? He re-focused them on the Person and Work of Jesus Christ that he initially preached to them on his first missionary journey as the antidote for legalism.

O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? (Galatians 3:1)
The Gospel is of primary importance, and we should all be willing to proclaim it in clarity, as well as guard its purity.

The downward path of the compromising believer:
recognizes error …
excuses error …
defends error …
condones error …
embraces error.


2. The Gospel centers in the PERSON, WORK, and ACCOMPLISHMENT of JESUS CHRIST.
…that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures,” (1 Cor. 15:3-4).
First of all, the Gospel of salvation centers in a specific PERSON: JESUS CHRIST... “how that CHRIST...” This is significant because of WHO Jesus Christ is.
For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus,” (1 Timothy 2:5).

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me,” (John 14:6).
In the Gospel of John, the Holy Spirit directed the apostle to devote the prologue (1:1-18) to answering the question, “Who is Jesus Christ?” The answer:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,” (John 1:1)

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth,” (John 1:14).
In accomplishing this objective and developing this necessary frame-of-reference, the numerous salvation verses contained in this primarily evangelistic book (John 20:30-31), [1] would not be read or understood in a historical or doctrinal vacuum but with the recognition that Jesus Christ is the unique God–man, the “Son of God.”

Paul, the apostle, lays the same frame-of-reference groundwork in the tremendous doctrinal treatise of the book of Romans.

Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead,” (Romans 1:1-4)
According to these verses, an integral part of the Gospel Paul preached was the recognition of the person of Jesus Christ—God in human flesh.

Why is this the case? For being the unique God-man, Jesus Christ alone qualified to be our Redeemer as He was born and lived outside the slavemarket of sin. Furthermore, being deity assures us that His work on the cross is a perfect work. In addition, being born as a man, Jesus Christ then could not only reveal God to man (John 1:18), but could “die” in full payment for the sins of the entire world. (Heb.2:9, 14-15)

We must remember when preaching the Gospel, that we are not preaching a church (as no church can save); nor are we declaring a ritual to be performed (as no works are needed). Furthermore, we are not proclaiming an experience (as the Gospel involves historical facts). WE are heralding first all, a PERSON- the unique and eternal Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, the one and only Savior of the World.

Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins,” (John 8:24).
Secondly, the Gospel of salvation centers in a specific WORK: “how that Christ DIED… and that He ROSE AGAIN...

The word “died” underscores that Christ’s death is a completed past event (aorist tense) that He voluntarily chose (active voice). It is a fact of history, not some religious myth (indicative mood).

Jesus had to die to provide salvation for mankind, as the penalty for our sin is “death” (Gen. 2:17; Rom. 5:12; 6:23). Furthermore, “without shedding of blood is no remission of sin.” (Heb. 9:22)

Thus, Christ’s sinless life, amazing miracles, flawless example, deep compassion, divine teaching, and royal birth line clearly indicated that He was nothing less than God manifested in the flesh and the rightful heir to the throne of David. Yet, it was only His death that could pay for our sins.
And what is the proof of His death? “…and that he was buried.”

So when Paul came to Corinth to evangelize these lost pagans, he not only heralded the person of Christ but also His finished work as part of the Gospel.

For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God,” (1 Cor. 1:17-18).

And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified,” (1 Corinthians 2:1-2).
The second aspect of Christ’s work is that He “rose again.” This underscores for us the importance of Christ's bodily resurrection. The phrase “He rose again” (egegertai) is a perfect tense verb indicating past completed action with abiding present results. Jesus Christ was raised from the dead on the third day and He remains alive to this very day. He is a living Savior who got out of death and the grave alive!

The passive voice of “rose again” indicates that God the Father raised Jesus Christ from the dead. This is the canceled check that Christ’s death satisfied every holy demand of God relative to our sins so that He raised Jesus Christ from the dead (Rom. 4:25; 1 John 2:2, 4:10). The indicative mood again portrays Christ’s resurrection as a historical fact, not a religious fable. And what is the proof that Christ was raised from the dead? “…and He was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve…” (1 Corinthians 15:5). [2] Thus, the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ was an integral part of Paul’s evangelistic Gospel–preaching. This amazing biblical truth caused him to conclude in light of certain deniers at Corinth…

And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise,” (1 Cor. 15:14-15). [3]


Thirdly, the Gospel centers in a specific ACCOMPLISHMENT...Christ died FOR OUR SINS....” Why is this significant? First of all, because it indicates a SUBSTITUTIONARY SACRIFICE. The Greek word “for” (huper) is one of three Greek prepositions that underscore the concept of substitution (huper; anti; peri?). “Huper” communicates how Christ died ON BEHALF OF our sins.

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just FOR the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit. (1 Peter 3:18)

The second reason “for our sins” is significant is because it reveals Christ's death as a COMPLETED SACRIFICE. Note how “for our sins” is only attached to Christ’s death. Why? Because when He cried, “IT IS FINISHED” (John 19:30), the sins of all mankind for all time were PAID IN FULL on the cross. Jesus Christ was not “buried” for our sins or “raised” for our sins as His death fully accomplished the paying of our sin debt to God.

By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified. (Hebrews 10:10-14)

What does all of this mean? It means that no mass, no fires of purgatory, no sacraments, no amount of good works, no personal suffering, no indulgences, etc. can atone for our sins. “IT IS FINISHED!”

This means that regardless of the nature or amount of sins that we have committed, God, by His grace, is willing and wanting to save us. And without compromising his holy character, God will save every sinner who places his/her faith in Jesus Christ and His finished work alone, since Christ died for all of their sins and rose again.


Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood…,” (Romans 3:24-25a)

Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness,” (Romans 4:4-5).

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast,” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
No wonder the Gospel is called GOOD NEWS!

But you might be wondering, “But is the Gospel of Jesus Christ credible and verifiable?” Paul gave us three evidences from 1 Corinthians 15 to affirm its fruitfulness.

a. Proof #1: The Gospel is “ACCORDING TO THE SCRIPTURES.”

According to the Scriptures” is underscored for us twice, once in verse 3 connected with Christ’s death, and once in verse 4 attached to His resurrection. The person, work and accomplishment of the Lord Jesus Christ was predicted in the Old Testament Scriptures hundreds of years before these events actually happened. Over 100 specific prophecies were fulfilled in Christ’s first coming, including the prediction of His death on the cross and His bodily resurrection. (Psalm 22, Isaiah 53, Zechariah 12:10)

b. Proof #2: The Gospel is HISTORICALLY CREDIBLE and VERIFIABLE.

And that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time,” (1 Cor. 15:5-8)
Jesus Christ, after His bodily resurrection, made various appearances to actual people. One could call to the witness stand numerous individuals to testify that they saw the risen Christ. Those specifically mentioned here are…

• Peter (vs. 5), who was the chief apostle and previous thrice-denier of Jesus Christ.

• The Twelve (vs. 5), who were the chief authorities of the early church and who previously deserted Jesus Christ.

• 500 believers (vs. 6), who saw the risen Christ at one time. Now that is a lot of witnesses! Ask any trial lawyer.

• James (vs. 7), the half-brother of Jesus, who had been an unbeliever prior to Christ’s resurrection. (John 7:5)

• All the apostles (vs. 7), which included Thomas, the chief doubter. (John 20:26-31)

• Paul (vs. 8), who previously had been the chief persecutor of Christians. (Acts 8:3)
This is quite a large and valid group of eyewitnesses, wouldn’t you say?

c. Proof #3: The Gospel is PERSONALLY TRANSFORMING.

For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. Therefore, whether it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed,” (1 Corinthians 15:9-11).
How does one explain the conversion of Saul of Tarsus into the apostle Paul apart from the destiny-changing, life-transforming message of the Gospel?

“And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.

And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.

However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen
,” (1 Timothy 1:12-17).
Notice carefully that the Gospel of salvation is not the virgin birth of Christ, nor is it His present intercessory work in Heaven, nor is it the blessed hope of His coming again. If we are going to preach the Gospel of salvation accurately in our day, [4] we (like Paul) must be certain to teach the PERSON, WORK, and ACCOMPLISHMENT of JESUS CHRIST. And depending on the prior knowledge and beliefs of the person we are evangelizing, these Gospel truths need to be covered to a greater or lesser extent. As we do this, we can be assured that our message is ACCORDING TO THE SCRIPTURES, HISTORICALLY CREDIBLE and VERIFIABLE, and has the power to be PERSONALLY TRANSFORMING in the lives of those who keep responding to it. And through preaching the Gospel, lost sinners will come to personally understand the amazing grace of God in truth. For though we deserve the judgment of God in Hell, God will forgive all of our sins and give us eternal life as a gift because of who God is and because of what Jesus Christ has done for us. Now that’s grace!

3. The Gospel demands a specific response: to BELIEVE it alone for one’s eternal destiny. (1 Corinthians 15:11)

Therefore, whether it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.”
What does God require and how had the Corinthians responded to the Gospel that was preached to them? They simply BELIEVED it! Our word translated “believed ” (pisteuo) means “to rely on, to trust in, to depend on, to believe.” Being in the aorist tense (in verses 2 and 11) does not indicate a required on-going action (present tense), but a definite decision at a point in time. The active voice indicates that they chose of their own volition to believe the Gospel. The indicative mood reveals the reality of their decision to trust in Christ alone.

And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty,” (1 Corinthians 15:14)

For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins,” (1 Corinthians 15:16-17)!
Now all of this exegesis and exposition prepares us to raise the all important question:

WAS THERE ANY INCONGRUITY OR DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE GOSPEL WHICH WAS PREACHED EVANGELISTICALLY AND WHAT THESE CORINTHIANS HAD BELIEVED FOR THEIR ETERNAL SALVATION?

The answer: NO! NEVER!

Listen to it again: Therefore, whether it was I or they, so we preach (What? “the Gospel”- vs.1), and so you believed (what? “the Gospel” - vs.1). NO INCONGRUITY!

I have heard in response to this the explanation that this passage (1 Corinthians 15) does not spell out justification by faith, and that even a Roman Catholic can believe 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 and not be saved. As an ex-Roman Catholic who was saved at the age of 18, I can assure you that while a Roman Catholic may say they believe that Christ died for our sins and rose again, he/she normally does not understand the significance of the finished work of Christ. Thus his/her faith normally is still in Christ PLUS and not in Christ PERIOD. Thus, he/she does not yet truly grasp the CONTENT of the Gospel which must be BELIEVED to be saved!

Ironically, the Crossless gospel advocates, with their mantra of John 6:47, oftentimes gut the Gospel of the very essentials (the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ and victorious resurrection) that are the crucial and critical truths that can open a sinner’s eyes to the reason why salvation is by grace alone in Christ alone and His work alone. For it’s one thing to know that Christ’s death was NECESSARY to pay for our sins to save us; it’s another to believe that it is ENOUGH!


Can you hear the hammer hitting the nail of 1 Corinthians 15:3-11 as it sounds out loud and clear … NO INCONGRUITY!


Dennis Rokser




Please continue to Part 4 of this compelling series.

[1] The exception to this evangelistic thrust in the book of John is the Upper Room Discourse of John 13-17, which is devoted toward those who were already believers.

[2] Though the burial of Christ’s body, as well as His being seen by others after His resurrection, are not integral components of the Gospel (as “according the Scriptures” are not attached to these statements), they do act as historical proofs of the reality of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection.

[3] The bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead was a major theme in the preaching of the Gospel by the Apostles in the book of Acts.

[4] While God’s first promise of a Redeemer from sin and Satan was announced in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:15), and though certain pieces of God’s redemptive plan unfold in the Old Testament, it is not until the New Testament that the details of the Gospel are expanded and clarified due to progressive revelation. Thus, the Holy Spirit directs Paul in defining the content of the Gospel as the person, finished work, and accomplishment of Jesus Christ which demands a response of simple faith alone apart from one’s works in order to be eternally saved.

*This article was first published May 19, 2008.

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.

December 10, 2008

The Issue of Incongruity – Actual or Artificial? Pt.1

Greetings in the name of the Lord:

This is the first of the series of articles (
originally published May 5, 2008) that I am planning on writing on the latest issue that seems to have surfaced regarding the “Crossless” gospel controversy, namely the issue of incongruity.

I think that we can all agree that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the greatest message a voice could ever proclaim and a heart could ever believe. Yet there are those in the Free Grace camp that are:

1) Denying that the Gospel has a technical meaning anywhere in the New Testament, and claiming that it never is used in reference to the message of eternal salvation.

What if the word ‘gospel’ doesn’t ever mean the saving message? Now hang with me here. I gave this same message, but I didn’t say quite this, a little over a month ago in Omaha at a Regional we had there. And what I suggested is that the term ‘gospel’ rarely, if ever, means, ‘What must I believe to have eternal life? What must I believe to be saved? What must I do to have, to go to heaven, to be sure I’ll be in the kingdom?’ But in the intervening time as I’ve been reflecting on it etcetera, I realized that we should go further than saying, ‘It’s rare that this term refers to the saving message.’ I’m now of the opinion it never refers specifically to ‘What must I believe to have eternal life’?”[1]
2) Gutting the Gospel of the necessary components of Jesus Christ’s deity, substitutionary death, bodily resurrection, etc.
“In Jewish prophecy and theology the promised Christ was also the Son of God—that is, He was to be a divine person. Recall the words of Isaiah: ‘For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given…and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace’ (9:6-7). But in Samaritan theology, the Messiah was thought of as a prophet and the woman at the well is led to faith through our Lord’s prophetic ability to know her life. Her words, ‘Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet’ (4:19) are a first step in the direction of recognizing Him as the Christ. There is no evidence that she or the other Samaritans understood the deity of our Lord. But they did believe that he was the Christ. And John tells us in his first epistle that “whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God” (5:1)! A full theology of His person is not necessary to salvation. If we believe that Jesus is the One who guarantees our eternal destiny, we have believed all we absolutely have to believe in order to be saved. [2]
3) Claiming to preach the person and finished work of Jesus Christ as part of the Gospel, but are not convinced that this is necessary to be believed in order to possess eternal life/salvation.
John keeps the signs distinct from the message of life, so evangelicals must not confuse them either. John does not set forth the sign of the cross-and-resurrection as the message that one must believe in order to receive eternal life.” [3]
So the real question then is not "How much of the gospel do you have to believe?" but rather "What do you have to believe to receive everlasting life?" If we want to know what a person must believe to receive everlasting life, we should not ask the question, "What is the gospel?" but rather, "What is the message of life?" When asked that way, the answer becomes crystal clear. The Gospel of John, which does not contain the word gospel, tells us over and over what people must do to receive everlasting life: believe in Jesus for everlasting life (John 3:16; 5:24; 6:47; etc.) You do not have to believe the gospel to receive everlasting life, you only have to believe in Jesus for everlasting life. [4]
Thus, it has been Tom Stegall’s and my contention from the outset of our public exposure of this aberrant teaching of the Crossless gospel (2007 Spring edition of the Grace Family Journal) that the issue is not merely what must be PREACHED to the unsaved, but what must be BELIEVED to receive eternal life. This is critical and crucial to remember as believers grapple with this new Crossless gospel (*also referred to now as “the promise-only gospel” and/or “a crossless faith that saves”).

I mention this as there are those within the Free Grace camp that have heralded, “
Let’s preach the MAXIMUM but remember that God accepts the MINIMUM.” This dichotomy and tension was reflected in the recent Free Grace Alliance (FGA) **Executive Council’s statement from early March, 2008.

I appreciate the first half of their statement,
The FGA’s mission is always and everywhere to proclaim the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ when we preach the gospel. We encourage every member of the FGA to be fervent and faithful to preach that message.”
This is a step in the right direction to which I can say a hearty AMEN. But unfortunately right on its heels they go on to state,
Within the membership of the FGA there has been discussion about the minimum one must understand to be saved. Regardless of a person’s convictions, believers are called to preach the gospel, not the minimum.”
This statement alludes to an apparent difference between “the Gospel” and “the minimum” one must understand (and believe)to be saved. This is confusing at best, and falls right into the hands of the Crossless crowd at worst. What I find amazing is how cross-less advocates remain in the FGA requiring either semantical gymnastics or a lack of personal integrity in light of the organization’s short doctrinal covenant which clearly reads,
We affirm the following:
1. The Grace of God in justification is an unconditional free gift.

2. The sole means of receiving the free gift of eternal life is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, whose substitutionary death on the cross fully satisfied the requirement for our justification.

3. Faith is a personal response, apart from our works, whereby we are persuaded that the finished work of Jesus Christ has delivered us from condemnation and guaranteed our eternal life.

4. Justification is the act of God to declare us righteous when we believe in Jesus Christ alone.

5. Assurance of justification is the birthright of every believer from the moment of faith in Jesus Christ, and is founded upon the testimony of God in His written Word.

6. Spiritual growth, which is distinct from justification, is God’s expectation for every believer; this growth, however, is not necessarily manifested uniformly in every believer.

7. The Gospel of Grace should always be presented with such clarity and simplicity that no impression is left that justification requires any step, response, or action in addition to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Since point 3 clarifies point 2, and is addressing justification before God and not progressive sanctification in time (which isn’t addressed till point 6), I am mystified how some in good conscience before God can remain in the FGA (which I also am a member of).

But all this serves to highlight the bottom-line issue of what not only needs to be PREACHED regarding the Gospel of salvation but what also needs to be BELIEVED in order for a hopeless, helpless, Hell-bound sinner to be eternally saved.
Does the Bible allow for an INCONGRUITY between the Gospel preached and the content of saving faith? I will begin addressing 12 scriptural nails in the coffin of incongruity in my next article.

For those who can’t wait and would like to hear 2 audio recent messages that address the subject, “
WHAT MUST I BELIEVE TO BE SAVED,?” you may hear them at the Duluth Bible Church web site.

All by God’s grace and to His glory for the furtherance of the Gospel,


Dennis Rokser
Pastor/Teacher at Duluth Bible Church


Please continue to Part 2 of Pastor Rokser’s The Issues of Incongruity.

[1] Bob Wilkin, Gospel Means Good News, Grace Evangelical Society Southern California Regional Conference, August 24, 2007.

[
2] Zane C. Hodges, “How to Lead People to Christ, Part 1: The Content of Our Message,” Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society 13 (Autumn 2000): 5 (bold replaces original italics).

[
3] John Niemelä, “The Message of Life in the Gospel of John,” CTSJ 7 (July-Sept. 2001): 18.

[4] Jeremy D. Myers, The Gospel is More Than “Faith Alone in Christ Alone,” JOTGES 19 [Autumn 2006]: 44.

*Some advocates of the Crossless gospel have been referring to their new and inconsistent interpretation of the Gospel as “Refined Free Grace Theology.” Stephen (KnetKnight) was the first to coin what would be the more appropriate label, which is: “REDEFINED” Free Grace Theology.

**For discussion of the FGA’s statement, including several comments by FGA VP Fred Lybrand, please read, FGA Executive Counsel’s Official Statement.

December 8, 2008

The Issue of Incongruity: Actual or Artificial (ReDUX)

Dear Guests:

For the balance on the Christmas season I am going to reproduce the compelling series by Pastor Dennis Rokser titled,
The Issue of Incongruity: Actual or Artificial.

The series first ran May through June of this year (2008). In my opinion, this article is one of the most convincing Bible based polemics in the debate over the
Crossless & Deityless interpretation of the Gospel that was originated by professor Zane Hodges (1932-2008).

The bottom line question addressed in series by Pastor Rokser articles is:

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?”
The Issue of Incongruity: Actual or Artificial removes any doubt as to the indefensibility of what is the Grace Evangelical Society’s reductionist interpretation of the content of saving faith.

Pastor Rokser’s series will begin with the introduction tomorrow afternoon. Come back and see how Pastor Rokser hammers shut the coffin of incongruity and burns this straw man.


LM