We have arrived at the conclusion of the multipart series of excerpts from Tom Stegall’s new book. The series began with his Introduction followed by the first in the series, The Sinlessness of Christ. You might expect that a series of excerpts like we have enjoyed from Tom Stegall’s new book would have begun with the foreword as it is in the book. To finalize the series by way of review I am closing it as it might have begun. Please enjoy the review/foreword of The Gospel of the Christ by *Pastor Dennis Rokser.
We have been printing a series of articles in the Grace Family Journal titled: **The Tragedy of the Crossless Gospel, that have been addressing the issues surrounding the controversy of the contents of saving faith, and what has been called the Crossless Gospel. The author of these articles has recently completed an 800 plus page book titled, THE GOSPEL OF THE CHRIST — A Biblical Response to the Crossless Gospel Regarding the Contents of Saving Faith.
Though the backdrop of this book is the Crossless Gospel of the Grace Evangelical Society, the contents far surpass this issue as it acts as a definitive explanation and defense for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
When I was 18 years old, I understood for the first time (through the witness of some friends) God’s wonderful plan of salvation by grace. Though I was raised in a religious, God-fearing home, I was under the satanic deception (through my religion) that eternal salvation was a reward for good people and good works, instead of being a free gift for sinners paid for completely through the sacrifice of Christ and offered to me by God’s love (Rom. 5:8; Eph. 2:8-9). While I believed the Bible to be the Word of God, I really had no clue what was written in it as I followed the traditions of men instead of the truth of God (Matt. 15:6-8). And though I believed several important facts about Jesus Christ and knew the stories of Christmas and Easter, my faith was in Christ PLUS, not in Christ alone PERIOD (John 3:16).
What made the difference in my thinking and opened my eyes to the truth of the Gospel of grace? It was the words of the Lord Jesus Christ upon the cross when He triumphantly declared, IT IS FINISHED! (John 19:30). For though I had believed that Christ’s death was NECESSARY to go to Heaven, I finally understood that Christ’s finished work was ENOUGH to be saved forever. He alone had died for all my sins past, present and future and rose from the dead to give me eternal life freely and forever. My sins had been PAID IN FULL by Jesus Christ at Calvary and there was nothing left for me to do but to simply put my faith alone in the crucified and risen Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 16:31). Then I finally possessed a KNOW-SO salvation instead of a HOPE-SO one (1 John 5:9-13). Finally I had a personal relationship with God by His grace through divine accomplishment instead of a religious system of meritorious performance through human achievement (Rom. 4:4-5). Now I could understand and fully agree with the words of the apostle Paul when he wrote, “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 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” (1 Cor. 1:18, 21). It was an understanding of the work of the cross of Christ, not the elimination or downplaying of this that made the difference for me, like so many others.
Since the early days of my Christian life, I read in the Scriptures and heard preached from the pulpit both the crucial necessity of proclaiming accurately the message of the Gospel (Rom. 1:16) but also the critical importance of guarding its purity (1 Tim. 6:20-21) and contending for its contents (Jude 3). The words of Galatians 1:8-9 were burned like a hot iron into my conscience, “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed”. The Gospel must never be garbled or gutted but fearlessly guarded. Thus, even in a prison cell for preaching the Gospel, Paul penned that he was “set for the defense of the Gospel” (Phil. 1:17). What a contrast and source of conviction in our postmodern times that rejects moral absolute truth, and where even the evangelical church compromises the truth of the Gospel as it pragmatically practices the ends-justifies-the-means for the sake of attracting bodies into a building under the guise of church growth. May God be merciful to us.
Thus, the Gospel of grace is sacred ground. It is non-negotiable truth. It is the bottom-line that distinguishes Christianity from all the religions of the world. Remove the Gospel of grace from Christianity, and it becomes merely a system of meritorious salvation and ethical behavior without the power of God. So should it surprise us that Satan’s attacks against the Gospel are endless like the waves of the sea beating upon the shore? Yet, what is so unfortunate about the necessity of this book is that the recent attack upon the Gospel is not from foes of the Free Grace movement but from its friends—those who have stood shoulder to shoulder in withstanding the false gospel of Lordship Salvation.
Dear reader, it is helpful to remember that controversy is not new to the Church. It’s like what one old sage wrote, “The church is a lot like Noah’s ark. If it wasn’t for the judgment on the outside, you could never stand the smell on the inside.” And though Satan seeks to use controversy to divide and conquer, God seeks to use it to refine our understanding of the Scriptures and to purify His Church. Thus, while I do not relish the controversy of the crossless gospel, it was foisted upon us and requires a biblical response and defense of the Gospel. Tom has done this admirably in this book by God’s grace through “speaking the truth in love.”
Therefore, I am grateful for this scripturally-sound, exegetically-based volume by my dear friend, Thomas Stegall. While this book is not light weight for the casual late-night reader, it is loaded with scriptural insights that emerge from the biblical text by recognizing its context, observing its content, and then comparing Scripture with Scripture in order to arrive at a biblical and balanced conclusion. In doing so, Tom has not been afraid to tackle a number of difficult passages and unscriptural defenses in targeting the faulty conclusions of the crossless adherents, while surfacing the correct interpretation of the Scriptures.
Frankly, I know of nothing in writing from the Free Grace perspective that interacts and intersects biblically like this book does regarding all of the following issues in one volume, such as…
• the false teaching of the crossless gospel
• the nature and content of saving faith
• the comparison of the evangelistic message of John as it relates to the Synoptic Gospels, Acts, and the Epistles
• the name of Jesus Christ referring to His person and work
• the reality of progressive revelation as it relates to the Gospel
• the distinction between the various forms of good news
• the problem passages in the Book of Acts
• the necessity of repentance for salvation
• the supposed wrath of God upon disobedient believers in Christ
• the issue of judicial forgiveness versus fellowship forgiveness
• the distinguishing of eternal and temporal salvation
• the relationship of various doctrines like the Virgin Birth to our redemption and the contents of the Gospel
May God be pleased to use His Word as set forth in this book to expound the truth of the Gospel and expose the error of the crossless gospel so “that the truth of the gospel might continue with you” (Gal. 2:5).
Dennis M. Rokser
December 26, 2008
*Dennis Rokser is senior pastor of the Duluth Bible Church. At this blog he authored the series, The Issue of Incongruity: Actual or Artificial?
**See the complete series under the GFJ 2007 & 2008
The Gospel of the Christ is available now at Amazon.