September 18, 2009

The Gospel of the Christ: One is Baffled...

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 the third in the series comprised of excerpts from Stegall’s book. Previously we have considered Excerpt 1 & Excerpt 2. The selections I am publishing (with permission) provide a balanced cross section of issues related to the Gospel. The balance of this series will be excerpted from chapter five.

One is Baffled as to How the Preaching of the Cross Can Seriously be Considered “Essential.”

So how should we view their (GES) evangelistic message? First of all, we should admit that while they fervently deny that the lost must believe in Christ’s deity, substitutionary death, and resurrection to receive the gift of eternal life, they also insist that these truths should still be proclaimed to the lost. John Niemelä calls these truths the “greatest apologetic” for the unbeliever becoming convinced of the promise of eternal life.1 Hodges has even said, “The preaching of the cross greatly facilitates the process of bringing men to faith in God’s Son.”2 Hodges added that “we should” preach the cross of Christ,3 even saying that we “emphatically” should do so,4 because it is “so important,”5 and that it “greatly facilitates” and “clarifies” the message of eternal life,6 even being a “powerful argument” for it.7 Those who are espousing the new view of the gospel are NOT out telling people that they shouldn’t preach the cross! They are NOT saying, “Down with the cross-work of Jesus Christ! Let’s stop preaching the gospel.” On the contrary, they are saying we should preach the cross. In fact, at one point, Hodges even went so far as to pronounce that the preaching of the cross is “essential” in reaching the average unsaved American. He (Zane Hodges) wrote:
To be sure, trust in Christ can occur without a knowledge of the cross, but more often than not it doesn’t. The message of the cross clarifies God’s way of salvation. On a very practical level, when I am dealing with an unsaved person, I find that if I simply tell him he only needs to believe in Christ, this usually doesn’t make sense to him. Why should it be so easy? Why are not works required? To the unregenerate American mind, it doesn’t sound reasonable. So I find it not only useful, but indeed essential, to explain that the Lord Jesus Christ bought our way to heaven by paying for all our sins.8 (bold added, italics his)
After reading all that Hodges wrote previous to this statement, one is baffled as to how the preaching of the cross can seriously be considered “essential.” After the (Free) Grace camp has been berated for its “tendency9 of “adding to the gospel10 in a manner similar to the “lordship11 camp who “add provisos12 to the condition for salvation—a “tendency” for which we are “guilty13 and should be “embarrassed14 since this is a “flawed15 gospel that conflicts with God’s Word in the Gospel of John—after reading all that, we must seriously wonder how “essential” the preaching of the cross actually is! It is apparent that Hodges deemed it only practically necessary for reaching American audiences, not scripturally necessary before God Himself. In spite of all the positive statements from crossless gospel advocates about the unsurpassed value and potency of the cross in our evangelism, there is still something conspicuously absent in all their writings and teachings. It is the positive affirmation that God Himself requires the lost to believe in Christ’s deity, humanity, substitutionary death, and resurrection. Not only are such affirmations lacking, but there are repeated, explicit denials that these truths are divinely required.

At this point, the objection might be raised,
Well, if they’re still preaching that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who died for our sins and rose again, then what’s the problem? Aren’t the unsaved still hearing the truth about Christ’s person and work? Though I don’t agree with their doctrinal idiosyncrasies here, what’s the harm in tolerating this new view?”
*Several points must be made in response to this objection.

Please continue to Excerpt 4, The Problem of Muslim Evangelism

1 John Niemelä, “Objects of Faith in John: A Matter of Person AND Content,” Grace Evangelical Society Grace Conference, Dallas, TX, February 28, 2006.
2 Zane C. Hodges, “How to Lead People to Christ, Part 1: The Content of Our Message,” JOTGES 13 (Autumn 2000): 11.
3-15, Ibid.

*Each of the points in response by Ps. Stegall will be posted in coming days. They include: The Dilemma of Muslim Evangelism; Evangelizing the Way Jesus Did; Apologetic Aid or Spiritual Alp?; Preach the Maximum, Require the Minimum; Should We Continue Using the Phrase “Crossless Gospel”?; Is the Gospel Still the “Saving Message”?; The Language of Accommodation or Correction?; Biblical Terminology for False Teaching; The “Lordship Salvation” Label; and The “No Lordship” Counter-Claim.

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

Can the Biblical Jesus & Mormon Jesus be, “One and the Same?”

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

Men Consistently “Saw the Light” of Hodges’s Reasoning.


  1. To All:

    Jody Dillow has come out to affirm that the Gospel for salvation MUST include the finished work of Christ and His deity. See Dillow's letter at Fred Lybrand blog.

    This even further isolates the GES into its extremist corner. Lord willing the GES will one day cease to exist as its loses more support and membership as believers become increasingly aware that GES has corrupted, through reductionism, the Gospel of Jesus Christ.


    *Jody Dillow is author of the book, The Reign of the Servant Kings. This book (depending on whose review you read) promotes Millennial Exclusion, which I have grave concerns over. I link to the open letter by Dillow because it is highly significant in and to the Free Grace community.

  2. To All:

    Following is a portion of an extended comment by Dr. Fred Lybrand (President, Free Grace Alliance) from his blog.

    I think the GES Gospel debate is basically over. Let's face it...GES isn't going to persuade anyone that it is possible to wind up in heaven and be surprised to discover that Jesus died on a cross. That may be an overstatement, but I don't think so. Frankly, I love Bob Wilkin (and loved Zane Hodges), but that doesn't change the fact that I believe they are teaching something aberrant-and-never-before-taught-in-recorded-history

    The Free Grace community is not going to come alongside and endorse a view of the gospel that contradicts the essential understanding of our 'fathers' in the movement...besides the fact that the Free Grace community doesn't believe the GES Gospel.

    It's just hasn't been realized in the immediate moment yet...but it will in time. My greatest hope is that GES will just wake up and listen to all of us who love them and are encouraging them to return to the essentials of the gospel.

    Additionally, Tom Stegall’s book [The Gospel of The Christ] is going to turn out to be devastating. People won’t like that it isn’t ‘unifying, but that is irrelevant since the argument itself is overwhelming.