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’.”
Let’s continue with the powerful series of excerpts from Tom Stegall’s book.
Biblical Terminology for False Teaching
This leads to a third important consideration for the use of the phrase “crossless gospel.” It is contrary to the biblical pattern to allow those who are in doctrinal error to dictate a more pleasant-sounding, appealing label for their views. This is why the Lord Jesus Himself did not consult with the Pharisees first in order to find a mutually agreeable, less offensive, moniker for their doctrine than the spiritually charged label of “leaven” (Matt. 16:12). Do you think the Pharisees viewed their own doctrine as “leaven”? Couldn’t a less offensive label for their doctrine be chosen than one which every Israelite would have immediately associated with the presence of sin and evil? If the Bible itself repeatedly uses very unflattering language for doctrinal error, how can we refuse to do likewise or somehow consider it wrong to do so in the midst of this current gospel controversy?
Consider further the example of the apostle Paul. Was he required out of “grace” to check with Hymenaeus and Philetus before identifying their doctrine in 2 Timothy 2:17 as “gangrene” (gangraina)? Or was it actually the loving thing to do to warn other susceptible believers of the gravity of their false eschatological doctrines by employing such a potent and pejorative image as “gangrene”?
To be sure, “crossless gospel” has an unpleasant ring to it; but false doctrine itself is unpleasant, and it should make us feel uncomfortable. Besides, the phrase “crossless gospel” is even milder than likening the new Free Grace gospel to “gangrene,” or calling it something like “the gangrenous gospel.”Now let’s move from the false eschatological doctrine of Hymenaeus and Philetus to the realm of today’s *redefined Free Grace soteriology. Let’s ask, which is the more serious error, to teach that the resurrection is past already or to teach that you don’t even have to believe the gospel to go to heaven? Which has far greater eternal ramifications, to teach believers that the resurrection is past already and thus overthrow the faith of some who are already saved, or to teach that the lost don’t even have to believe in a Christ who is God, who died for our sins and who is alive from the dead? If the apostle Paul deemed a false eschatology worthy of the repulsive analogy of “gangrene,” can you imagine what he would say about today’s reductionist saving message? At times, serious departure from the truth calls for an equally serious censure of that error, especially when people’s eternal destinies are on the line. Webster’s defines the noun “censure” to mean, “strong disapproval; condemnation.” When used as a verb, it means, “to condemn as wrong.”1 There is no question that the phrase “crossless gospel” is meant to express “strong disapproval” of this new error and “to condemn [it] as wrong.” Make no mistake about it; those who have chosen to use this phrase (including this author) have chosen to do so deliberately as an expression of reproof and rebuke, which is also biblical (2 Tim. 4:2).
Again, when the apostle Paul wanted to warn the believers in Philippi about the dangerous teaching of the legalizers who added law-keeping to faith alone in Christ as the requirement for justification, he wrote to them to “beware of the concision” (Phil. 3:2, KJV) or “mutilation” (NKJV). Was this really a fair way to characterize the teaching of those who believed in law-keeping for justification? Was Paul mischaracterizing their doctrinal views by using such a powerful and pejorative expression? Though they obviously believed in more aspects of law-keeping than just circumcision, he still used the abbreviated expression “concision” or “mutilation.” Was this depiction of the legalists’ doctrine open to misinterpretation by those who heard it or read it? Possibly. But it was also a powerful deterrent. In the same way, the phrase “crossless gospel” is not intended to express all that its proponents believe; but it is still fitting. In addition, when Paul wrote to the Philippians, there was nothing wrong with circumcision in itself; but Paul chose to refer to the false teachers’ views on circumcision in a negative, pejorative manner by characterizing them as a botched circumcision—a “mutilation” (katatomēn). Was this ungracious of the apostle Paul?
Indeed, some today have mutilated the saving message by removing what they consider to be excess, unnecessary content, which is actually the heart and soul of the gospel—the person and work of Christ.Some Grace people may object that the preceding biblical examples are not a fair and equal comparison to today’s Free Grace teachers of a reductionist “message of life.” Some may protest that today’s teachers are regenerated men, whereas “the concision” of Paul’s day were unbelievers. Therefore, such charged language is unfit for fellow brothers in Christ with whom we are in doctrinal disagreement. But is it really true that the legalists that Paul had in mind were all unbelievers? Certainly some were (Gal. 2:4). Perhaps even most were. But it would be hard to maintain that all were unbelievers in light of Acts 15:5 and Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians where he viewed the Galatians as regenerate (Gal. 4:6-7) but also as having fallen prey to the false gospel of the legalists (Gal. 1:6-7; 5:1-4). In conclusion, we must consider the case of Hymenaeus and Philetus one more time. These men were most likely genuine, but disobedient, believers.2 In spite of the fact that they were fellow believers, Paul was still compelled to liken their doctrine to “gangrene.”
Please continue to- The “Lordship Salvation” Label
*See- Is “RE-DEFINED” Free Grace Theology- Free Grace Theology?
1) Webster’s New World Dictionary, ed. Victoria Neufeldt (New York: Warner Books, 1990), 98.
2) Joseph C. Dillow, The Reign of the Servant Kings: A Study of Eternal Security and the Final Significance of Man (Miami Springs, FL: Schoettle Publishing, 1992), 334-336; Thomas L. Stegall, “Must Faith Endure for Salvation to be Sure?
Next week the concluding excerpts will post under the following titles, The “Lordship Salvation” Label & The “No Lordship” Counter Claim
Editor’s Note: For related reading and discussion see these articles.
GES Reductionist Affirmation of Faith
The Hollow “Gospel” of the Grace Evangelical Society
The “Christ” Under Siege: The New Assault From the Grace Evangelical Society
Believing the Gospel: “May Indeed Frustrate God's Grace?”
Zane Hodges: Drifting Far Off the Marker
Free Grace Theology: What Every Advocate of Lordship Salvation Should Know