September 23, 2009

The Gospel of The Christ: Evangelizing the Way Jesus Did


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



6 comments:

  1. Lou,

    Some thoughts on Pastor Stegall's excellent response to the GES position.

    1. As to the claim of evangelizing the way "of the Master" did by presenting only "John's message-in-a-nutshell verses for unbelievers". The verses they quote may well be the "message-in-a-nut-shell" BUT it is NOT a "message-in-isolation" from its context. The people to whom Jesus was speaking were steeped in the OT Scriptures and in a culture of redeeming sacrifice for sins all of which pointed to Messiah as the Lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world. All of John the Baptist's and Jesus's listeners understood that to take away sins a lamb must die. The assertion that we ought to follow the Lord's example in using only "nut-shell" statements exposes a fatally flawed hermeneutic.

    2. It ignores the work and message of the Holy Spirit in the inspiration of the Epistles as the exposition and application of Christ crucified/resurrected to people in a primarily Gentile culture. The Spirit of God Himself inspired the Apostle's declaration and explanation of the Gospel as centered on the Cross work of Christ followed by His resurrection from the dead as the result of His completion/perfection of that work on behalf of sinners. This seems so self evident that even the most obtuse reader of the Acts and Epistles should be able to realize it. We have a local "country" saying here that seems to fit;"Even a blind hog finds an acorn every once in a while".

    3. As to WHY CG advocates so inconsistently insist on including the cross and resurrection in their preaching("even if it is not required by God" as they claim).If I may dare make a suggestion in the form of a question. Why does a hunter don camouflage? If that's too harsh, I sorry, but Scripture warns of this very thing. Another reason could be to avoid the "offense of the Cross" (Gal.5:11) which made Christ "A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense"(1Peter 2:8) to those remaining disobedient to God.

    More could be added, but this is already gone too long. Thank you again, Lou, for continuing to "earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints". I thank God, too, for the many others out there who take their stand for the TRUTH. May their tribe increase bountifully!

    In Christ, Tim V.P.

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  2. Tim:

    Thanks for this second comment in two days. You’re on a roll.

    You have taken Stegall’s polemic then further laid bare and explained a great deal that will greatly help those who may be unclear on just how anti-biblical the GES Crossless gospel is. Your commentary on Stegall’s excerpt will help other readers to get their arms around the tragedy of the Crossless gospel.

    As for my efforts in defense of the Gospel: It does not help me win any popularity contest among those who propagate and/or sympathize with Lordship Salvation or the Crossless gospel. My desire, however, is to defend truth and protect the unsuspecting from falling into the trap of either one of these non-saving messages.

    Thanks again,


    Lou

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  3. Tim:

    Thanks for this second comment in two days. You’re on a roll.


    If I may slightly amend-

    Tim:

    Thanks for this second excellent comment in two days. You're on a roll.


    I especially appreciate point #1.

    JanH

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  4. Hey Lou, Tom, Tim, Jan, err anyone else reading too!

    I think a telling statement is this;

    "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."

    That is exactly the problem... our practice, and our convictions should inevitably stem from Scripture.

    Kev

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  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  6. Kev:

    You wrote, “…our practice, and our convictions should inevitably stem from Scripture.”

    Full agreement from here. What I have observed from the GES Crossless gospel people is a consistent pattern of forcing into or extracting from the Scriptures whatever they must to float the Zane Hodges reductionist assault on the contents of saving faith.

    Instead of allowing the Scriptures to say what they say, the GES people ReDefine the terms and thereby corrupt the Gospel.

    See- Is “RE-DEFINED” Free Grace Theology- Free Grace Theology?


    Lou

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