July 29, 2009

Free Grace Theology: What Every Advocate of Lordship Salvation Should Know, Part 2

Dear Guests of IDOTG:

We continue with the second installment of Brother Bob Nyberg’s series, The Free Grace Fracture. See- Part 1 of the series.

In 2000, Zane Hodges wrote an article entitled, “How to Lead a Person to Christ, Part 1: The Content of our Message.”6 The article appeared in the Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society. In this article Zane presents a “Deserted Island Scenario.” He wrote:

Let me begin with a strange scenario. Try to imagine an unsaved person marooned on a tiny, uninhabited island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. He has never heard about Christianity in his life. One day a wave washes a fragment of paper up onto the beach. It is wet but still partly readable.

On that paper are the words of John 6:43-47. 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).

Now suppose that our unsaved man somehow becomes convinced that this person called Jesus can guarantee his eternal future, since He promises everlasting life. In other words, he believes Jesus’ words in John 6:47. Is he saved?

I suspect that there are some grace people who would say that this man is not saved because he doesn’t know enough. For example, he doesn’t know that Jesus died for his sins on the cross and rose again the third day. Needless to say, there is a lot more he doesn’t know either, such as the doctrine of the Trinity, the eternal Sonship of Jesus or the doctrine of the virgin birth.

But why is he not saved if he believes the promise of Jesus’ words? It is precisely the ability of Jesus to guarantee eternal life that makes Him the Christ in the Johannine sense of that term.
Is it necessary to believe in Christ’s work on the cross in order to be saved? Zane says, “no!” He continues:
The Gospel of John is the only book in our New Testament canon that explicitly declares its purpose to be evangelistic. Of course, I am thinking of the famous theme statement found in John 20:30-31, where we read: “And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”

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….

Neither explicitly nor implicitly does the Gospel of John teach that a person must understand the cross to be saved. It just does not teach this. If we say that it does, we are reading something into the text and not reading something out of it!

What is my point? That we should not preach the cross of Christ to men? Not at all.… Instead, I am arguing that we need to focus on the core issue in bringing men and women to faith and eternal life. What is that core issue?

Very simply it is this: We want people to believe that Jesus guarantees their eternal destiny. Of course, we would like them to believe a lot more than this, but this at least must be believed. Our failure to clearly define our goal in evangelism can have a negative or impeding effect on our efforts to lead people to simple faith in Christ.
According to Zane, the core issue is not the substitutionary death of Christ on the cross for sin. The core issue is that mankind lacks eternal life and they need to believe that Jesus guarantees their eternal destiny.

Remember that repentance is not a requirement for salvation in Hodges view. But Ryrie and Lightner insist that the lost sinner needs to change their mind about sin, and their own ability to deal with the sin problem. The issue is the fact that I cannot save myself and therefore I need to have a Savior. I need to place my trust in Christ’s substitutionary death on the cross. But according to Hodges, sin is not the issue and repentance is not required. The core issue, to Hodges, is not lack of a right standing before a holy God. Instead the core issue is that lost mankind needs eternal life.

Hodges goes on to explain:
In the final analysis, therefore, salvation is the result of believing in Jesus to provide it. Salvation is not the result of assenting to a detailed creed. Salvation does not even require an understanding of how it was provided for or made possible. All it requires is that the sinner understand the sufficiency of the name of Jesus to guarantee the eternal well-being of every believer.
Does that mean that we should not preach the message of the cross? Absolutely not! Hodges maintains that we should indeed preach the cross of Christ. He explains:
In the light of what we have just said, should we preach the cross of Christ? The answer to that is emphatically yes. And the most obvious reason for doing so is that this is what Paul and the other Apostles did.

Why should men trust Christ for eternal life? The gospel gives us the wonderful answer. They should do so because Jesus has bought their salvation at the cost of His own precious blood….

The preaching of the cross greatly facilitates the process of bringing men to faith in God’s Son.
Why preach the cross? Because it helps to bring men to faith. According to Hodges, preaching the cross demonstrates that Christ is trustworthy. However, (according to Hodges & GES) it is not faith in Christ’s work on the cross that saves. It’s only faith in the Christ who promised eternal life that saves.

In Hodge’s view, preaching the cross is helpful, but it is not absolutely essential since a person can be saved without believing in Christ’s substitutionary death.

When you buy a car, some equipment is optional like a sun roof. Some equipment comes standard like the engine. In my opinion, the minimalist view of the gospel treats the cross as optional equipment. It’s helpful, but not absolutely necessary. In the traditional view of free grace theology, the cross is standard equipment. The package just won’t work without the centrality of the cross as being the heart of the gospel message. The cross is the engine that gives power to the message. Or as Paul wrote, the gospel of Christ (which includes the message of the cross) is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes. Paul also wrote:
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. For it is written: ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.” Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified…’” (1 Cor. 1:17-23).
Hodges began with the idea that repentance is not necessary for salvation. If sin is not an issue, or barrier to being saved, then what is? It’s the fact that mortal man does not possess eternal life. Zane simply followed his own reasoning to a so-called “logical end.”

As you explore the differences between free grace theologians, many more contrasts begin to stand out. It’s not simply an issue of whether or not repentance is a requirement for salvation.

6) http://www.faithalone.org/journal/2000ii/Hodges.htm

Please continue to Part 3 of this series. You will find there a chart that compares and contrasts the Ryrie/Lighter Free Grace theology over against the Hodges, Wilkin, GES “ReDefined” reductionist interpretation of the content of saving faith.


  1. The Bible says in James 2:19; "Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble." If all that is necessary for salvation is to believe - then the devils can be be saved.

  2. The point that James is making is that the monotheism is insufficient for salvation. For instance, Islam is based on monotheism. But Moslems (though they believe in only one god) are not saved, because they have the wrong object of faith. Devils are also monotheists, but they are not saved because they have the wrong object of faith. James is NOT saying that something more than faith is required in order to be saved. He is also NOT saying that a certain type of faith is necessary for salvation.

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

    This is just the sort of thing that drives me crazy. He had just gotten through saying that the gospel of John was the be all and end all of evangelistic books. Then he brings up John 6:43-47. And then he COMPLETELY DISREGARDS 48-58 by saying the gospel of John DOES NOT teach that a person must understand the cross to be saved!! What in the world does he think "If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world." means??? What does he intend us to do with "unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you."? What in the world does he think this pertains to if not Christ crucified?? It does not say, "unless you believe Jesus gives eternal life you have no life in you."

    Good grief!


  4. Jan:

    Bottom-line is that Hodges, Wilkin GES have gone to the Scriptures and have forced into or extracted what ever they must to float their assault on the content of saving faith.

    It is shocking how they have twisted the Scriptures to bolster their aberrant theology. They have consistently undermined and/or redefined the plain teaching of Scripture to float their Crossless gospel.

    When I read the excerpts Bob provided from the Hodges article I once again felt righteous indignation rising within me. How a man can fall so far into reductionist heresy astounds me, not to mention the shrinking cell of GES members who still cling to this false gospel in spite of the biblical evidence against it.


    Join me in thinking of “clear blue waters.


  5. Right!

    Clear blue waters...clear blue waters....



  6. Joshua:

    There is no question that the demons also believe that Jesus died for the sin of the world exactly as we do. The question is ...WHEN DID THEY BELIEVE?

    The demons are angels that followed Lucifer when he said in his heart, "I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God, I will sit also upon the mount of congregation....." (Isaiah 14:13,14). In verse 15 God says, "Yet thou shalt be brought down to Hell, to the sides of the pit".

    In Mt. 25:41 we are told God created the everlasting fire for the devil and his angels (now demons). Their sentence is already passed. Do they believe it? Absolutely! Remember, some of the most wicked demons are chained in a place called "Tartarus" awaiting their final destiny in everlasting fire (II Peter 2:4 and Jude 6).

    Here's the point: The demons that are not chained know this and believe. They also believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God (Mk. 5)..BUT THEY BELIEVED TOO LATE. A good example of this is given in Luke 16.

    Far from James 2:19 teaching what Bob N. suggests, its basic message is DO NOT WAIT UNTIL IT'S TOO LATE (death) to repent and believe the gospel.

    Blessings in Christ,