February 17, 2009

Christ’s Resurrection: Part of the Saving Message?

Dear Guests of IDOTG:

What follows is the first in the new series by Phillip M. Evans. I am grateful to Brother Evans for addressing the latest assault on the content of saving faith that in this latest example comes from the Grace Evangelical Society’s Executive Director Bob Wilkin.

My Brothers and Sisters in Christ, I’ll begin my article with the answer to my title’s question. Absolutely!” I affirm that unless one has believed that Christ has risen from the dead, then whatever other belief that person may have concerning Him is not a saving belief. To state it even more explicitly, if a person dies having never accepted the Lord Jesus as their risen Savior, then they are forever lost!

I Cor. 15:1-4, the Apostle Paul defined the Gospel as the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. He goes on to state in verse 17, “And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.” To someone denying the resurrection of Christ, it is just the same to them as if Christ is still dead. Therefore, that person is yet in their sins (lost).

Bob Wilkin, the founder of Grace Evangelical Society (GES), posted an article Feb. 5th, 2009 on the GES blog titled
Believing in the Risen Christ.

Wilkin wrote his article to apologize for and change the following statement that appeared in one of the pre-pages of his GES Journal under the title “
Statement of Faith”:
Any person who, in simple faith, trusts in the risen Christ as his or her only hope of heaven, refusing to trust in anything else, receives the gift of eternal life which, once granted, can never be lost.”
According to Wilkin, this statement is “flawed for several reasons.” He then goes on to list four reasons, with his fourth being a direct assault on the truth of the Gospel.

First, Wilkin expresses concern with the word “trust.”

Though he admits that “
trust” can be a synonym for “faith,” he doesn’t like to use “trust” because to him, it “conveys a sense of doubt.” In an attempt to prove his point, he uses the illustration of someone saying, “I’m trusting him to do what he said he’d do. I sure hope he does.”

Using this illogical reasoning, any positive word at all must contain within itself the idea of its negative! Were he to be consistent, Wilkin could not even use the word “believe” that he prefers to use, since one could also offer the illustration of someone saying, “I believe he spoke the truth, and I sure hope he did.”

The greater reason Wilkin doesn't like the word “
trust,” is because to him it conveys a sense of commitment, and therefore smacks of Lordship Salvation, a doctrine that I also oppose.

However, let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater. It is true that the Gospel message is not about committing to or promising to God to stop sinning and serve Him in order to be saved, for that would be to erroneously change grace into works. It is equally true that there is indeed a simple commitment involved in a lost person getting saved. This commitment is not in addition to faith, but is synonymous with faith. It is simply the commitment defined as humbly acknowledging that Christ is the only One who can save you, and desiring of God to be saved, while believing the facts of Christ's Deity, His payment for our sins on cross, and His bodily resurrection. In short, it is to commit the safety of one's soul exclusively to Christ, believing the Scriptures concerning who He is and what He did for us, plus or minus nothing.

Second, Wilkin has a problem with the word “hope” in the phrase “only hope of heaven”.

While many have watered down words like trust, believe, and hope, this is not a compelling reason not to employ such words under the expectation that their true meanings should be understood. “
Only hope of heaven” is a wonderful phrase, for it underscores the blessed truth that Christ is the only One (Acts 4:12) who can save us.

Third, concerning the use of the word “heaven,” Wilkin states:
...heaven is a bit misleading. The believer’s future home is the New Earth (Revelation 21-22), not heaven. While believers who die do indeed go to heaven, that is not where we will spend eternity. We will spend eternity with the Lord Jesus on the New Earth.
While at first glance this appears to be technically correct, it fails to differentiate between the Holy City of New Jerusalem and the New Earth. New Jerusalem may or may not actually set ground on the New Earth, it may in fact hover over it. Being that New Jerusalem is a distinct and more special creation than the New Earth, and the place where God's throne will be located in eternity, many Christians, myself included, view the future appearance of New Jerusalem as Heaven come down to Earth. Since the faithful among the saved look forward to reward in Heaven (Matt. 5:12; Luke 6:23), which is reserved (1 Pet. 1:4) for them there, it is reasonable to expect that they will enjoy their reward throughout eternity therein, in addition to inheriting the New Earth.

Please continue to- Christ’s Resurrection: Part of the Saving Message, Part 2

In part two of this series Brother Evans will comprehensively address the fourth and most troubling point of Wilkin’s apology for the GES Statement of Faith. Here is a sample:
In an attempt to make his point concerning the aforementioned modifiers for Christ (sinless, virgin-born, risen, etc...), Wilkin states, “The main modifier linked with Jesus that we see in Scripture is ‘the Lord Jesus’ as in Acts 16:31.”

Yes, Jesus is the Lord, but He would not be if those other things about Him were untrue. Since He is the Lord, He is also sinless, risen from the dead, and God in the flesh. For a lost person to claim to believe that Christ is Lord, while disbelieving who He claimed to be, what He did for us on the cross, and subsequent resurrection, is for that lost person to believe in “
another Jesus”...and remain lost!


  1. Though he admits that “trust” can be a synonym for “faith,” he doesn’t like to use “trust” because to him, it “conveys a sense of doubt.” In an attempt to prove his point, he uses the illustration of someone saying, “I’m trusting him to do what he said he’d do. I sure hope he does.”

    Good grief! What word would he like to use instead?!

    And all of this is supposed to make the gospel simpler???

    Is it just me or does Wilkin seem to be making up excuses not to share the real gospel?

    This would be funny if it wasn't so tragic.


  2. Hi Jan:

    You just can't make these things up. This is why I sometimes refer to what is coming from Wilkin & GES the most egregious form of reductionist soteriology ever introduced to the NT church by one of its own, namely Zane Hodges.

    Just wait until you see what Phil exposes in part 2 tomorrow.


  3. I finally read Wilkin's article, and Phil's response here, like Phil, I find the following statement logically unsupported.

    bw: "While trust can be a synonym for faith, it often conveys a sense of doubt that is not inherit in the English word faith"

    This is Wilkin's opinion, but it's far from fact. But he states it as flatly true and moves on without actually supporting his claim. Personally, I see it just the opposite. "Trust" conveys much less negative to me than "faith". In fact, Rachel and I frequently debate/discuss with skeptics and they love to rip apart "faith" since, in their view, faith = "hope in spite of the evidence." Now, I'll be the first to agree that their view of faith is not the biblical one, but that's actually what works against Wilkin's claim: If I am to be clear in my presentation of the Gospel it's not meaningful to speak to unbelievers of "faith in Christ" when I'm using a different meaning of "faith" than what they're likely to have in mind. I agree that they are the ones whose view is skewed, but that skewed view is nevertheless where I must meet them lest I be just a clanging cymbal -- I can't presume upon them to use Christian terms when they aren't yet even Christians. "Faith", in the view of the lost to whom I am witnessing, is often a very nebulous and wishy-washy term. Consider these definitions from dictionary.com.

    1. confidence or trust in a person or thing: faith in another's ability.
    2. belief that is not based on proof: He had faith that the hypothesis would be substantiated by fact. (emphasis added)

    Christians, and I believe rightly, should see "faith" more as def #1. The world however, in our experience, sees "faith" as almost exclusively the realm of def #2, particularly when discussing religion.

    Trust, on the other hand, seems much less wishy-washy; I've not seen it treated negatively nearly so readily as I've seen "faith" twisted into a negative.