September 30, 2009

The Gospel of the Christ: Should We Continue Using the Phrase “Crossless Gospel?”


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 eighth in the series of excerpts from Tom Stegall’s book.

Should We Continue Using the Phrase “Crossless Gospel?”

In spite of the ample documentation demonstrating the accuracy of the phrase, “crossless gospel,” some advocates of this view still insist it is an inappropriate and misleading description of their position. Though the phrase “crossless gospel” is certainly not needed in order to defend the biblical veracity of the “traditional” Free Grace gospel that is espoused in this book, a word of clarification about the legitimacy of its use is in order here due to the vehement protests of some crossless proponents that this phrase should be stricken from use.

It must be recognized that the leaders of the new gospel have not given their doctrine their own self-descriptive title or label. They prefer to continue bearing the mantle, “Free Grace,” believing that their view represents the embodiment of the most biblically consistent and accurate doctrine of salvation among Free Grace people. Some vocal proponents of the crossless position, who are not necessarily the leading teachers and formulators of it, have begun using the designations, “Consistent Free Grace” and “Refined Free Grace” to distinguish their position. They are convinced that their position is more biblically consistent and thus a refinement rather than an abandonment of the Free Grace position. They prefer to call the position defended in this book the “Traditional Free Grace” view, portraying the current controversy as a choice between either biblical refinement or theological “tradition.” Which sounds more appealing to you? Of course, we all want to be more biblically consistent and not follow “the tradition of men” (Col. 2:8).

But are such designations truly accurate and appropriate? Should Grace people begin using this kind of phraseology? Should the Free Grace community even use the expressions “crossless” or “crossless gospel” to designate this new form of the saving message? What designations or labels should we use, if any, now that a major doctrinal shift has taken place within our own theological camp?

Let’s face it; few of us like the labels that are assigned by those who oppose our beliefs. We would much prefer to create our own designations in order to present our beliefs in the most favorable and acceptable light. But the real question with any label is not whether people like it, but whether it is accurate, appropriate, and able to be used honestly in the sight of God. I am convinced that the phrase “crossless gospel” meets each of these criteria. It is biblically accurate and can be applied with integrity to the current controversy, even while admitting the possibility that other theological labels may be used for the new, aberrant Free Grace position that may prove more fitting and may eventually replace the phrase “crossless gospel.”


Please continue to- Is the Gospel Still the “Saving Message?”

For a companion article see- Is the “Crossless” Label the Right Label?

Editor’s Note: The Crossless Gospel was originated by the late Zane Hodges. This is the most egregious form of reductionist soteriology 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 reductionist assault on the Gospel, i.e. 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

The Hollow “Gospel” of the Grace Evangelical Society

Zane Hodges: Drifting Far Off the Marker

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

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


September 28, 2009

The Gospel of the Christ: Preach the Maximum, Require the Minimum


Dear Guests of IDOTG:

I have 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.

Preach the Maximum, Require the Minimum

It is inherently inconsistent for proponents of a crossless saving faith to claim that when it comes to evangelism, “The more information the better, of course; and the more we know, the easier it is to believe.”1 We often hear proponents of the G.E.S. gospel defend their position by claiming that although they believe that the minimum content of saving faith consists of (1) the name “Jesus” (2) believing and (3) the promise of eternal life, they still preach the maximum of Christ’s deity, humanity, substitutionary death, and bodily resurrection. But from a pragmatic standpoint, how will preaching the maximum make it “easier . . . to believe” and be “better” when at the same time these very truths are regarded as spiritual mountains or “Alps” that stand in the way of faith in Christ for eternal life? How will more information make it easier to be persuaded that Christ guarantees eternal life if the lost are potentially stumbled by each successive “peripheral” issue or mountain peak of truth about the Savior? When the cross of Christ is preached and the lost reject it in unbelief, and this is followed by a presentation of His resurrection that is also rejected in disbelief, and this is further followed by teaching on His deity with still more unbelief, won’t the end result be that a person actually has less confidence in Christ as the guarantor of eternal life? Won’t presenting these truths to the lost give them more to potentially reject and stumble over? According to the logic of the crossless position, it would be better to not even put a stumblingblock in the path of the unbeliever. Therefore, why not simply omit discussion of the Savior’s person and work altogether?

Of course, the only reason for continuing to preach a known stumblingblock such as the message of the cross (1 Cor. 1:23) to an unbeliever is if this is a truth that must be believed for eternal life. If Paul removed all unnecessary, potential stumblingblocks from his own life in an all-out effort to see the lost get saved (1 Cor. 9:22; 10:33), and yet he continued preaching the cross knowing full-well that it was a major stumblingblock to the world (1 Cor. 1:17-23), then the only logical conclusion is that the cross is a necessary stumblingblock from the Lord’s perspective. According to Scripture, it is the message of the cross that forms the universal dividing line between the perishing and the saved (1 Cor. 1:18). The soteriological line of demarcation is not the message of eternal life regardless of the cross—it is the message of the cross! However, according to the logic of the crossless gospel, there is no real impetus for continuing to preach a message that knowingly stumbles the lost. While the practice of crossless gospel proponents may be inconsistent with their doctrine as they practically “always” preach a known stumbling block to faith in Jesus for eternal life, it is likely that given the passage of time their practice will harmonize with the tenets of their doctrine and they will eventually evangelize only with a crossless saving message—the way Jesus supposedly did. Our deeds always follow close behind our doctrine.


To be continued...

1 Lon Gregg, “Alp upon Alp,” 4.

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.

GES Reductionist Affirmation of Faith

Is the “Crossless” Label the Right Label?

The Hollow “Gospel” of the Grace Evangelical Society

Zane Hodges: Drifting Far Off the Marker

The “Christ” Under Siege

The “Christ” Under Siege: The New Assault From the Grace Evangelical Society

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



September 25, 2009

The Gospel of the Christ: Apologetic Aid or Spiritual Alp?


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 sixth 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.

Apologetic Aid or Spiritual Alp?

The rationale that stands behind the crossless claim to always present the person and work of the Savior in evangelism is seen to be illogical on another count. Oftentimes crossless proponents express sentiments that appear to contradict their claim to value the preaching of the cross. In personal correspondence with one teacher of the crossless view I was reproved for suggesting that our evangelism is more effective when starting with a presentation of the person and work of the Savior, rather than the promise of eternal life, since His person and work form the very basis for possessing eternal life. After stipulating that a lost person must believe in the Savior’s deity for eternal life, I was told that according to my evangelistic approach, the “poor soul” who heard my gospel would end up being “subjected to a course on Christology” before he could be saved. This claim was made despite the fact that John begins his Gospel with an unequivocal declaration of Christ’s deity (John 1:1) and a prologue that is among the most highly Christological portions in the entire Word of God (John 1:1-18). But such sentiments clearly reveal the perspective of some crossless proponents that the doctrines of Christ’s person and work are actually more of an obstacle than an aid to receiving eternal life.

This inconsistency in the crossless position is reflected in an article that appeared in the G.E.S. publication, Grace in Focus, which was written by a man who does mountain climbing as a hobby. In the article titled, “Alp upon Alp,” the writer compared the experience of a lost person who is presented with the requirement to believe in Christ’s person and work to the discouragement that a mountain climber faces at the prospect of having to scale a series of mountain peaks. He writes:
I’ve many times experienced the heartache of Alp upon Alp. Just when I think I’m cresting the summit ridge and I’ve reached my goal, my heart sinks to see another difficult ridge (or two!) remaining to ascend before reaching the top. Tragically, thoughtless evangelism can also place Alps between people inquiring after Jesus Christ and the goal of eternal life. When someone draws near to Christ and wants to know what he must do to be saved, some presentations require agreement with long lists of Biblical truths along the way as a necessary precondition for attaining to that life. But these Alps, thrown up no doubt with good intentions, may instead have the effect of prohibiting all but the hardiest seeker from ever believing Jesus’ promise.1
In spite of the continual refrain coming from crossless gospel proponents that they always present the cross and resurrection in their evangelism, sentiments such as the previous one stand directly opposed to that claim. Why should we present the person and work of Christ if it has a deflating and defeating effect upon the lost that actually discourages them from receiving the promise of eternal life? How can the cross-work of Christ really play a “vital role”2 in evangelism and be the “greatest apologetic”3 for believing that Christ guarantees eternal life when in fact it is viewed as an obstacle to obtaining that goal? With reasoning like this, it is not too surprising to discover that sometimes the importance of Christ’s person and work are diminished by crossless proponents when they evangelize the lost. This is done so that the unbeliever, ostensibly, may accept more readily the promise of eternal life. Thus, the same writer goes on to propose a “promise-only” gospel in the place of the doctrinal “Alps” of Christ’s deity, humanity, substitutionary death, and bodily resurrection that stand between the unbeliever and eternal life:
Likewise, for eternal life, Christ need be known only as its Giver, no matter how that conviction arises, no matter how ignorant the believer may be of the underpinnings of the promise, and no matter even if he may hold to errors about Christ at the same time. The only Alp that stands before any person hungry for eternal life is the persuasion that Jesus’ promise of it is true.

In short, as we tell our inquiring friends at the Denver Rescue Mission, you’re believing in the right Jesus if, whatever you may know—or not know—about Him, you’re convinced He gives you eternal life when you believe Him for it. The more information the better, of course; the more we know, the easier it is to believe. But if we never rise to the level of full orthodoxy about the bodily resurrected, substitutionally offered, fully divine, fully and perfectly human, virginally conceived Son of God, thank God the simple promise of eternal salvation He made to us is true for the taking, now and forever!
4
Note carefully that this writer assures his unsaved inquirers that they have faith “in the right Jesus” even if they don’t accept Christ’s person and work. Does this not diminish the value of believing the gospel? How can we avoid the conclusion that in essence the crossless approach to evangelism amounts to telling the lost that the deity, humanity, death, and resurrection of Christ do not ultimately matter when it comes to believing in Jesus for eternal life? If this new teaching of a crossless gospel persists and gains a following, it will have devastating consequences upon the practical evangelization of lost souls as they are given the false assurance that they have “the right Jesus” even though they may believe in a Jesus who was not God the Son who became incarnate to die a substitutionary death for our sins and rise from the dead.

The radical and harmful effects of such a doctrine are demonstrated in the statements of one vocal internet promoter of a crossless, deityless saving faith, *Antonio da Rosa. On his website, “Free Grace Theology,” he affirms the salvation of Jehovah Witnesses and Mormons who believe the “promise-only gospel.” In an article that is aptly titled, “Believe Christ’s Promise and You are Saved, No Matter What Misconceptions You Hold,” Antonio da Rosa writes:
Yet, I will not get into debates concerning things peripheral to the reception of eternal life. If a JW hears me speak of Christ's deity and asks me about it, I will say, “Let us agree to disagree about this subject.” I will discuss with him Jesus’ ability to impart eternal life by faith alone apart from works. This is where I want to zero in with the JW or the Mormon. They believe that salvation comes by faith AND works, and LOTS of works (not unsimilar to the Traditionalist religion). At the moment that a JW or a Mormon is convinced that Jesus Christ has given to them unrevokable eternal life when they believed on Him for it, I would consider such a one saved, REGARDLESS of their varied misconcetions and beliefs about Jesus. Both the Mormons and the JWs will say that Jesus IS “the son of God.” Yet they will provide some other import other than monotheistic deity into it. For John, the “Son of God” and “the Christ” have the import “the one who promises (guarantees) eternal life to the believer in Him for it.” I would never say you don't have to believe that Jesus is the Son of God. This has the import of the gospel proposition which makes it salvific! If someone asks me point blank, do I believe that one must believe that Jesus is God in order to go to heaven, I would say “NO!”5
Though it is certainly appropriate and necessary when witnessing to address the meritorious, works-based salvation that characterizes both the Jehovah Witnesses and the Mormons, this provides no biblical justification for giving members of each cult the false assurance that they possess eternal life. Furthermore, da Rosa provides another clear example where the truths of the Savior’s person and work are not viewed as great apologetic aids to belief in Christ as the guarantor of eternal life. When a cultist hears da Rosa speaking of Christ’s deity, instead of using the occasion and the subject of deity to apologetically underscore the truth that Christ can guarantee eternal life precisely because He is God, we are told that this is a “peripheral” issue that shouldn’t be pressed but instead put on the backburner as we simply “agree to disagree” over it.


Please continue to Excerpt 7: Preach the Maximum, Require the Minimum

1 Lon Gregg, “Alp upon Alp,” Grace in Focus 24 (January/February 2009): 1.
2 Niemelä, “The Cross in John’s Gospel,” 19.
3 Niemelä, “Objects of Faith in John: A Matter of Person AND Content.”
4 Gregg, “Alp upon Alp,” 4.
5 See the article titled, “Believe Christ’s Promise and You are Saved, No Matter What Misconceptions You Hold,” dated May 25, 2006 (accessed August 20, 2007).


*Antonio da Rosa has been a featured speaker at GES regional and national conferences. He has articulated some of the most extreme and anti-biblical views stemming from the Zane Hodges inspired Crossless gospel. He has, furthermore, behaved in some of the most unethical ways one could imagine finding in Christian circles. Nevertheless, from April 2008 at Fred Lybrand’s (President, FGA) blog when asked, da Rosa stated,
…that one could deny the death and resurrection of Christ and still at that moment place His sole faith and reliance upon Jesus to guarantee his eternal destiny?”

Additional examples of da Rosa’s reductionist doctrine include:

Believing the Gospel, “May Indeed Frustrate God’s Grace

Heresy of the “Crossless” Gospel: Verified & Confirmed

The Mormon Jesus and Evangelical Jesus are, “One and the Same.”


For related reading and discussion of the GES Crossless gospel 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?

The Hollow “Gospel” of the Grace Evangelical Society


Zane Hodges: Drifting Far Off the Marker

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

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



September 21, 2009

The Gospel of the Christ: The Dilemma of Muslim Evangelism

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 fourth in the series comprised of excerpts from Stegall’s book. You can begin reading this series from the start at, The Gospel of the Christ: The Sinlessness of Christ. The selections I am publishing (with permission) provide a balanced cross section of issues related to the Gospel.

The Dilemma of Muslim Evangelism

First, the problem of the new, (GES) aberrant form of the gospel is not merely theoretical and harmless. Some proponents of this new gospel, when confronted with the possibility that their gospel allows a person to deny the deity of Christ and still receive eternal life, have averred that the problem is all just “hypothetical” and inconsequential, since they also believe and proclaim Christ’s deity, death for sin, resurrection, etc. However, this defense will not suffice for one moment.

Imagine that an advocate of crossless saving faith is evangelizing a Muslim with his abbreviated, John 6:47 version of the saving message. He tells the Muslim that Jesus can guarantee him everlasting life if he just believes in Him for it. Then the crossless gospel advocate dutifully proceeds to inform the Muslim that Jesus is also God’s Son, who died on the cross for his sins and who rose from the dead. Then, at this juncture in the conversation, the crossless evangelist is met with an arresting question from the Muslim, who asserts the following:
Well I don’t believe that Jesus is God’s Son, since the Qur’an repeatedly calls it a monstrous falsehood to believe that God has any equals. Jesus—blessed be his name—was a man and a great prophet; but my tradition also tells me in the Hadith that he is coming back again before judgment day. Perhaps that will be in my lifetime; so I can conceivably see and believe that he can guarantee me everlasting life somehow. However, I must also reject your claim that he died on the cross, since the Qur’an also rejects this in Sura 4:157. And therefore I must also deny that Jesus—peace be upon him—rose from the dead, since he never died, as Sura 4:158 states, “they did not slay him for certain; God lifted him up to Him.” However, dear Christian, you said before that if I simply believe in him as the only one who can guarantee me eternal life, then I can receive eternal life on that basis, right? Well, I believe in Jesus—blessed be his name—as my guarantor of eternal life, though I reject your claim to his deity, and his death for my sins, and his resurrection.
Now what will the crossless gospel advocate say in response? Will he warn this Muslim that he has a false assurance and that he is still dead in his trespasses and sins until he believes in the Jesus of the Bible? But how can he warn him, since the Muslim is just consistently following the logic of the new crossless gospel? The same scenario could be replayed countless times simply by *substituting members of other cults and world religions in the place of the deceived Muslim. Clearly, this is not just a “hypothetical”19 problem with no eternal consequences.


Please continue to Excerpt 5, Evangelizing the Way Jesus Did

19 Brandon Wallace, “Free Grace Theology for Beginners,” Grace Evangelical Society Conference, Dallas, TX, February 27, 2006.

*The following exemplifies Stegall’s contention above. This statement was made by GES member, Antonio da Rosa, who has been a featured speaker at GES national and regional conferences.
At the moment that a JW or a Mormon is convinced that Jesus Christ has given to them unrevokable (sic) eternal life when they believed on Him for it, I would consider such a one saved, REGARDLESS of their varied misconcetions (sic) and beliefs about Jesus.” (Believe Christ’s Promise and You are Saved, No Matter What Misconceptions You Hold)
For additional study on the tragedy of the Grace Evangelical Society’s Crossless gospel see the following 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.

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.

September 16, 2009

The Gospel of the Christ: A Double Standard?

Dear Guests of IDOTG:

Last week 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 I am continuing with the second in a series comprised of excerpts from Stegall’s book. For the first in this series see- Selected Excerpt (1). The selections I am publishing (with permission) provide a balanced cross section of issues related to the Gospel. The following is the second selection from chapter 14. The balance of the series will be from chapter 5. I trust you will find each of the excerpts as edifying as I have.

A Double Standard?

With respect to Christ’s deity, humanity, and sinlessness, we need to address another relevant question at this point. Do these elements of the person of Christ have to be known and affirmed in order to receive eternal life? Or, do they simply not have to be denied? I have occasionally heard this distinction proposed in the midst of this controversy over the contents of saving faith, but it is a false distinction that is unbiblical and that will only further obscure the issue rather than clarify it. To claim, for instance, that “Some truths do not need to be known in order to be saved, they just cannot be denied” actually leads to serious doctrinal and practical error.

First, it leads to the unbiblical conclusion that God requires at least two different conditions for salvation and two different contents of saving faith in this dispensation. In one case, God would require a person to cognitively affirm some minimal information about Christ after being presented with it (such as through a missionary), but the Lord would then require a second person (who was unreached with the gospel and ignorant of these truths) merely to not deny this additional information about Christ, such as His deity, humanity, sinlessness, etc. This would set up two different contents of saving faith: contents with Christ’s deity, humanity, and sinlessness versus contents without these elements. This would also result in two different conditions for salvation: the condition of having to agree with certain truths once they become known versus not denying these truths due to ignorance. In either case, whether it is due to ignorance or impudent denial, the result is the same—unbelief.

I have even heard the scenario proposed that someone could be informed of Christ’s person and work but undecided about these truths and so still be saved because they have not out-rightly rejected such truths. It is claimed that such a person is “safe” because he or she is supposedly “neutral” on the matter of Christ’s person and work. But this is patently unbiblical. If a person is not yet persuaded of the truth of the gospel of Christ, they are not “neutral” towards God; they are still in unbelief and the wrath of God continually abides on them (John 3:36). Unbelief in Christ, regardless of the cause or causes, does not result in the reception of everlasting life (John 3:18).

If God permitted two contrasting contents of saving faith and conditions for salvation, this would be neither biblical nor just. In fact, it would be, in essence, the same error as inclusivism. The false doctrine of inclusivism teaches that the unevangelized in foreign lands who have never heard about Jesus Christ do not need to hear and believe the gospel; but they can be saved merely by a sincere reception of whatever revelation they do have, which may only be the light of conscience and creation (Rom. 1:19-20). But, if that same person hears about Christ and then rejects Him, that person cannot be saved. The folly of such a doctrine is evident. It logically and practically leads to the absurd notion that minimal knowledge of Christ is actually preferable to a saving knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4). The false dichotomy between merely not knowing certain truths versus not denying them ultimately leads to the mortifying conclusion that it is better not to inform the lost of Christ’s person and work lest we jeopardize their eternal destinies. God forbid!

In conclusion regarding the person of “Christ,” the promise-only gospel allows for the possibility of a genuine saving belief in a non-divine, even sinful, “Christ.” In the process of supporting their doctrinal position, they have not only redefined the gospel but also the key Christological titles of “Christ” and “Son of God.” By their refusal to acknowledge the biblical meaning of “the Christ” and “the gospel,” they have, with alarming alacrity, opened up a spiritual Pandora’s Box of theological errors and unbiblical contradictions.

(bold added)


To be continued…

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.

September 14, 2009

The Gospel of the Christ: The Sinlessness of Christ

Dear Guests of IDOTG:

Last week 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 I am beginning a new 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. The first two are from chapter 14. The balance will be from chapter 5. I trust you will find each of the excerpts as edifying as I have.

The Sinlessness of Christ
One final point should be made about the person of Christ in 1 Corinthians 15. It is sometimes claimed by the proponents of a crossless gospel that in addition to our Lord’s deity and humanity being absent from this passage, the text also says nothing about His sinlessness. Thus, Wilkin writes regarding 1 Corinthians 15:3-11,
Note that Paul didn’t say here, as he did in 2 Cor 5:21, that Jesus never sinned. A person could believe all of what Paul says here and yet believe that Jesus was a sinner just like us. Whether that is an essential truth that must be believed for one to be born again is open to question. But, if it is, then clearly this passage isn’t giving us all the essential truths that must be believed.”1
Yet, Wilkin’s doctrine seems to be a transparent rejection of what is clearly revealed in the passage as an implicit truth. A person CANNOT “believe all of what Paul says here and yet believe that Jesus was a sinner just like us.” If the passage says that Christ “died for our sins” then He obviously didn’t die for His own sin. The implication of the passage is clear: if Christ had any personal sins of His own then He Himself would have needed a substitute. The fact that He died for “our” sins, according to the passage, clearly communicates to any objective reader without a preconceived theological agenda that He was a sinless substitute. While this is only implicit in the passage, it is nevertheless present by virtue of being inherent in the substitutionary death of Christ as expressed by the phrase, “Christ died for our sins.” Furthermore, the passage cited by Wilkin in 2 Corinthians 5:21 clearly teaches the sinlessness of Christ, and it, like 2 Corinthians 4:5, is a representative summarization of Paul’s evangelistic preaching to the lost, the kind of evangelism that these Corinthians would have already heard from Paul when he traveled to Corinth with the very same message (Acts 18:4-5; 1 Cor. 15:1). This means that in the historical context of 1 Corinthians 15 the Corinthian readers would have already understood and accepted this truth about Christ. In addition, if it is conceded that the term “Christ” inherently refers to the deity and humanity of the incarnate Son of God then, of necessity, Christ would be sinless by virtue of being God. When someone believes that Jesus Christ is God-incarnate, it is assumed and implied that He is sinless and therefore able to be our satisfactory sacrificial substitute.

At this point we need to stop and consider the biblical implications if the preceding conclusions are incorrect. If Wilkin and those who are promoting the G.E.S. gospel are teaching that Christ’s deity and sinlessness are not conveyed in this passage, then what are they really saying about Him? Regarding the sinlessness of Christ, are they actually teaching that someone can believe in “a sinful Savior” and still receive eternal life? While to date they have not yet explicitly affirmed this possibility in their public writing and speaking, they have come awfully close.2 When someone believes that Christ is God-incarnate and believes every word of 1 Corinthians 15 and yet comes away believing “that Jesus is a sinner just like us,” isn’t that really implying that someone can also be saved who believes that God is a sinner? The issue of Christ’s potential sinfulness goes right to heart of theology proper, the attributes of God, and to the fundamental question of what it means to even believe in “God.” It is likely that the next logical step in the tragic devolution of G.E.S. theology will be the denial that a person must even believe in “God” in order to be saved, for that too involves the recognition of His righteous nature or character.3

1) Wilkin, “Another Look at 1 Corinthians 15:3-11,” 1 (italics added).
2) Bob Wilkin, “Essential Truths About Our Savior,” Grace in Focus 23 (November/December 2008): 2n5.
3) Ibid., 1.



Please continue to: Excerpt 2

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.

September 8, 2009

The Gospel of the Christ: A Biblical Response to the “Crossless” Gospel...

Dear Readers of IDOTG,

Greetings in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, our wonderful and all-sufficient Savior who loved us and gave Himself for us (Gal. 2:20). I am pleased to announce that, by God’s sustaining grace, the book I’ve been working on for the last few years is finally available. It is titled, The Gospel of the Christ, and subtitled, A Biblical Response to the Crossless Gospel Regarding the Contents of Saving Faith.

The host of this site, Lou Martuneac, has kindly offered to post sample sections from Part I of the book in forthcoming articles. In light of this, permit me to introduce this series by sharing a few words about my purpose and goals for the book.

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.”

The longest section of the book, Part II, clarifies the meaning and content of “the gospel,” while Part III examines the meaning of Jesus being “the Christ.” In this respect, the book goes far beyond simply providing an answer to the position of the Grace Evangelical Society on the contents of saving faith since it addresses many soteriologically significant passages and theological topics from a distinctively non-Lordship Salvation/Free Grace perspective. For this reason, I trust that the book will serve as a helpful resource on the doctrine of salvation for members of Christ’s Body who are seeking clear, biblical answers.

It has also been my prayer all along that the Lord would use this book to bring clarity, resolution, and unity where confusion and doctrinal discord have existed for too long in the Free Grace camp. May the God of all grace now be pleased to use the book to this end and even to edify each of you as you endeavor to serve our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, and to spread the gospel of His matchless grace.

Your fellow bondservant in Christ,


Tom Stegall


Editor's Note: This is Pastor Tom Stegall’s introduction to a new series in which I will be featuring excerpts from his new book. Please proceed to excerpt one from The Gospel of the Christ: The Sinlessness of Christ, which will link you in succession to each excerpt in the series.

Some of you will recognize Pastor Stegall from his multi-part series, The Tragedy of the Crossless Gospel, which can be downloaded from the Grace Family Journal (see Recommended Sites).


LM