Dear Guests of IDOTG:
Earlier this month I had the privilege of introducing the new book by Pastor Tom Stegall, The Gospel of the Christ: A Biblical response to the Crossless Gospel Regarding the Contents of Saving Faith.
In Tom Stegall’s introduction of his book he noted:
“My objective in writing the book was to provide a biblical response to the controversy within the Free Grace community over the subject of the ‘crossless gospel’ and the contents of saving faith. Part I of the book lays the groundwork by introducing the problem of the crossless/promise-only/Grace Evangelical Society (GES) gospel and its associated doctrines. The remainder of the book still interacts with the new GES theology but it is primarily an exegetical synthesis of dozens of key passages involving the terms ‘gospel’ and ‘Christ’.”
Today is our fifth in the series comprised of excerpts from Stegall’s book. The selections I am publishing (with permission) provide a balanced cross section of issues related to the Gospel.
Evangelizing the Way Jesus Did
Secondly, regarding the objection that the lost are still hearing the truth of Christ’s person and work, crossless gospel proponents must acknowledge that there has been a noticeable de-emphasis in the last decade or so in their teaching when it comes to the subjects of Christ’s deity, death on the cross for our sins, and resurrection. This is true, despite their repeated protests to the contrary, as was documented in chapter 1. This was the inevitable result of relegating belief in Christ’s deity, death, and resurrection for eternal life from the status of being absolutely necessary to simply being important. It was the inevitable result of shifting their whole focus and emphasis from the person and work of Christ in the gospel to the provision of Christ—eternal life.
In the midst of the controversy over the contents of saving faith, it has been common to hear proponents of a crossless faith adamantly insist, “But we always make it a point to preach Christ’s death and resurrection in our evangelism, even if it’s not required by God. So, this whole debate is all a moot point!” While it is certainly true that the crux of this controversy is not over what is presented to the lost but what is divinely required by God according to His Word, we must still question their claim to consistently preach Christ crucified and risen. The logic of the doctrinal position undergirding their claim to always preach the death and resurrection is anything but consistent, which renders it suspect.
We are repeatedly told that we ought to evangelize the lost today simply by following the example of the Lord Jesus’ evangelism in the Gospel of John. Specifically, we are told that “we should evangelize the way our Lord did. And we know how Jesus evangelized because the apostle John gave us an entire book, the fourth Gospel, which gives the way of the Master (John 20:30-31).”1 But in the same breath, advocates of a crossless saving faith also inform us that, in John’s Gospel, “he has many nutshell statements on how to pass from death to life. What may surprise us is the strange absence of Christ’s cross and resurrection from John’s message-in-a-nutshell verses for unbelievers.”2 We are told that such verses include the classic evangelistic passages of John 3:16, 36; 4:5-26; 5:24; 6:47; 11:25-27; and 20:31.3 Most of these are the words of Christ Himself in various evangelistic settings.
But if we are to evangelize the way Jesus did, and yet the cross and resurrection were supposedly “absent” in most instances of the Lord’s own evangelism, why should crossless advocates bother to “always include” the cross and resurrection in their gospel preaching? Shouldn’t they be evangelizing the way Jesus did by barely mentioning the cross and resurrection? And how can we even take their contention seriously when they insist that “the cross and resurrection have a vital role in John’s Gospel and in our message to the unbeliever”4 and that Christ’s redeeming work is even the “greatest apologetic”5 for the lost to believe in Jesus for eternal life? What we believe about the contents of faith required by God for salvation definitely has an impact upon the way we do evangelism, as our practice inevitably stems from our personal doctrinal convictions.
1 Bob Wilkin, “The Way of the Master,” Grace in Focus 22 (July/August 2007): 4. See also, Bob Wilkin, “Is the Evangelistic Message That Jesus Preached a Sufficient Evangelistic Message Today?” Grace Evangelical Society Conference, Fort Worth, TX, March 5, 2008; idem, “We Believe Jesus is Lord,” Grace in Focus 23 (March/April 2008): 2.
2 John Niemelä, “The Cross in John’s Gospel,” JOTGES 16 (Spring 2003): 17, 18, 27 (bold added). See also, John Niemelä, “The Message of Life in the Gospel of John,” CTSJ 7 (July-September 2001): 2, 9, 18.
3 Niemelä, “The Cross in John’s Gospel,” 17-18; idem, “The Message of Life in the Gospel of John,” 2, 9, 18; Wilkin, “Is the Evangelistic Message That Jesus Preached a Sufficient Evangelistic Message Today?”; idem, “The Way of the Master,” 4.
4 Niemelä, “The Cross in John’s Gospel,” 19.
5 Niemelä, “Objects of Faith in John: A Matter of Person AND Content.”
Please continue to Excerpt 6
Editor’s Note: The Crossless Gospel was originated by the late Zane Hodges. This is the most egregious form of reductionist heresy ever introduced to the New Testament church by one of its own. No one in Christian circles outside the membership and friends of the Grace Evangelical Society (Bob Wilkin, Executive Director) believes in and/or advocates this assault on the necessary content of saving faith. For related reading and discussion see these articles.
The Gospel Under Siege by the Very Man Who Wrote the Book On It
GES Reductionist Affirmation of Faith
Is the “Crossless” Label the Right Label?
Believing the Gospel, “May Indeed Frustrate Grace.”
The Hollow “Gospel” of the Grace Evangelical Society
Zane Hodges: Drifting Far Off the Marker
Can the Biblical Jesus & Mormon Jesus be, “One and the Same?”
Free Grace Theology: What Every Advocate of Lordship Salvation Should Know