October 25, 2009

The Gospel & Separation: A Series by Dr. Dave Doran

Dear Guests of IDOTG:

I am reading a new multi-part on line series by *Dr. Dave Doran. It is titled The Gospel and Separation and appears at Dr. Doran’s personal blog, Glory & Grace. The series is prefaced by two introductory articles, but begins in earnest with The Gospel and Separation I and to date has four installments.

The following four excerpts from Part 3 are IMO of particular interest.

Preaching the gospel also means announcing His exaltation, Lordship, and coming Kingdom (Acts 2:36; 2 Cor 4:5; Acts 8:12; cf. 14:22).”

Gospel preaching offers the promise of final salvation through Him (Acts 13:38-39; cf. 1 Ths 1:10 ‘to wait for His Son from heaven…who rescues us from the wrath to come’).”

Any doctrinal threat to the person and work of Jesus Christ cuts at the heart of biblical Christianity. Because it attacks a fundamental of the faith, the gospel is at stake. Paul warned about people who might preach ‘another Jesus’ than the one that Paul had preached (2 Cor 11:4). The only Jesus who saves is the one revealed to us in the Scriptures. Any so-called gospel that rejects or distorts what the Scriptures teach about Jesus Christ is no gospel at all.”

This means there is no ‘gospel lite’—either you have the biblical gospel in its fullness or you don’t have the gospel at all.”
There are several portions I highlighted for consideration, but there is one I would like to focus on for this article, which is: “final salvation, through Him?” What is “final salvation?” It has a man-made ring to it, which I first read in John Piper’s What Jesus Demands From the World, (p. 160).
There is no doubt that Jesus saw a measure of real, lived-out obedience to the will of God as necessary for final salvation.”
Is this the “final salvation” Dr. Doran speaks of; “...lived-out obedience to the will of God?” Could that be the ground Dr. Doran is staking out as the Gospel, the saving message? What is UNfinal about salvation, receiving the gift of eternal life, once a man is born again by grace through faith in Christ (Eph. 2:8-9)?

One would expect the genuine believer in Christ to “grow in the grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Lord Jesus Christ,” (2 Peter 3:18). What, however, is left for him to do for “final salvation?” It is my hope and prayer that as his series continues Dr. Doran will clarify his meaning and repudiate the works based salvation such as Piper articulates above. I hope he will stake out the biblical high-ground for the Gospel of grace.

If, on the other hand, Brother Doran is going to drive a stake in the ground for the Lordship Salvation interpretation of the Gospel, then by all means I trust he won’t be vague about it. If he is going to make acceptance of the Lordship gospel the test for fellowship, I trust he won’t begin by making the mistake of equating the reductionist Crossless Gospel heresy of Zane Hodges, Bob Wilkin and GES as the view of every non-Lordship Salvation person. Separation from the GES men has long since taken place.
If Dave Doran believes Lordship Salvation is the Gospel, then in his series I am hopeful he will say so in unvarnished terms. If he believes submission to the Lordship of Christ is necessary for the reception of the gift of eternal life then may he say so. If Doran, like Piper, considers “…real, lived-out obedience to the will of God as necessary for final salvation,” then I am hopeful he will say so in such a way there is no mistake about it or repudiate Piper’s statement.
IMO, the true crux of the Gospel controversy in the Independent Fundamental Baptist (IFB) community is over the requirement to become a Christian, i.e. how to be born again, much more so than what should be the natural result of a genuine conversion.
The message of faith only and the message of faith plus commitment of life cannot both be the gospel; therefore, one of them is a false gospel and comes under the curse of perverting the gospel or preaching another gospel (Gal. 1:6-9), and this is a very serious matter.” (Dr. Charles Ryrie: Balancing the Christian Life, p. 170.)
If we come to find Dave Doran believes Lordship Salvation is the Gospel will he call for “separation” from Independent Fundamental Baptists who reject the Lordship interpretation of the Gospel?

It is no secret that among the Calvinists in IFB circles there is a growing affinity for closing ranks with the so-called “conservative” evangelicalism- its stars and fellowships. IFB men who are Calvinistic in their theology have increasingly moved toward and are embracing the “conservative” evangelicals. They are primarily rallying around a common bond, which is Calvinism and Lordship Salvation. Is it possible Dave Doran’s series signals the time has come when Reformed IFB men will make the leap; separate from IFB men who reject Calvinistic soteriology and/or Lordship Salvation and fully embrace the “conservative” evangelicals?

Brother Doran’s series The Gospel & Separation is not yet complete. We will continue to read the series with great interest to see how he defines his terms makes the application and what impact, if any, the series will have on the IFB community.


LM

*David M. Doran, D.Min. is Senior Pastor of Inter-City Baptist Church; President, Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary; Professor of Pastoral Theology.

UPDATE (10/29/09):
In the thread below one guest remarked, “I do think a direct question to Dr. Doran would result in a clarification.”

 My reply follows.

That would be the ideal, but Dr. Doran does not allow for questions or comments at his blog where his series appears. 

Yesterday, however, Dr. Doran posted a new article at his blog. It is his reaction to the legitimate questions he has read here raised by myself and select others.

When we are going to discuss the Gospel we need to be biblically precise in our terms. I am gratified Dr. Doran has felt the need to apply more biblical precision to some of his statements from Part 3 of his series, which I quote…above. Later I will have some reaction, most likely in a new main page article, to the clarifying article by Dr. Doran.

Please continue to- The Gospel & Separation: Interim Discussion and Primer for the Balance

October 20, 2009

The Gospel of the Christ: The FOREWORD

Dear Guests of IDOTG:

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.


THE GOSPEL OF THE CHRIST
A Biblical Response to the Crossless Gospel
Regarding the Contents of Saving Faith


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.


FOREWORD

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.

October 15, 2009

The Gospel of the Christ: The “No Lordship” Counter-Claim

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.

The “No Lordship” Counter-claim

In spite of past precedent and practice, those aligned with the Grace Evangelical Society and its view of the gospel may still claim that it is unfair to label their teaching as “crossless.” They may point out the fact that they each individually hold to faith in Christ’s cross-work and that they often do include the preaching of the cross in their evangelism. They may even claim that they do require belief in Christ’s cross-work in one respect, namely for sanctification and spiritual growth in the Christian life. So in light of these facts how can their view justly and rightly be called “crossless”? They may even try to draw a parallel to the way their view is being labeled “crossless” and the way Lordship Salvationists refer to the Free Grace position as the “no-lordship” view.1 G.E.S. proponents may object that since Free Grace people do believe in the Lordship of Christ, it is unfair and inaccurate to refer to our view as the “no-lordship” view; and in just the same way, since they do believe in the cross-work of Christ and have a place for it, it is unfair and inaccurate to refer to their view as “crossless.” So, is applying the phrase “crossless gospel” to the G.E.S. doctrine on the contents of saving faith really no different than the phrase “no-lordship” being applied unfairly to the Free Grace position?

There is at least one significant reason why this is not an equal or valid comparison. When Lordship Salvation proponents refer to the Free Grace position as the “no-lordship” view, they are specifically referring to the subject of eternal salvation, not sanctification in the Christian life per se. They are referring to our view as the “no-lordship salvation” view. As this applies to the Free Grace movement historically, “no-lordship salvation” would not be an accurate or appropriate designation since Free Grace advocates have traditionally viewed belief in the Lord Jesus Christ as a requirement for eternal salvation or justification, just as Acts 16:30-31 and Romans 10:9-10 teach. While Lordship Salvationists have traditionally understood believing in Christ as “Lord” to include the inherent component of submission of one’s life in service to Christ, Free Grace proponents have traditionally understood belief in Christ as “Lord” to mean belief in His deity due to His divine attribute and position of sovereignty.2 In this respect, to claim that Free Grace people promote a “no-lordship salvation” is an inaccurate and misleading description of our position, since we have historically required belief in Jesus as “Lord” in the deistic sense specifically for justification and eternal salvation and not only for sanctification in the Christian life. However, the same can no longer be said of the Free Grace movement as a whole due to the advent of the new G.E.S. view of the gospel that doesn’t even require belief in Christ’s cross-work or His deity for eternal life.3
For this reason, the charge of a “no-lordship” salvation has tragically become true and fitting right now for the G.E.S. faction of the Free Grace movement.
In light of these considerations, it would be neither inappropriate, nor contrary to historical precedent, to use the designation “crossless gospel” for the current theological controversy in the Free Grace camp. Yet, if we choose to do so, we must also be ready and willing to qualify what exactly we mean by the phrase. No label is perfect or immune from misinterpretation; and “crossless gospel” is no exception. Undoubtedly some evangelicals who are uninformed of the current controversy will interpret the phrase to mean that some Free Grace people are no longer even preaching the cross. Though the cross has been a glaring omission or de-emphasis in the evangelism of some Free Grace leaders in recent years, this is not the primary implication of the phrase “crossless gospel.”

Our use of the phrase is simply in keeping with the way in which 99% of evangelical and fundamental Christendom understands the term “gospel.” There is a consensus among evangelicals, whether Lordship or Free Grace, that the gospel is the message which people must believe in order to become a Christian and belong to Jesus Christ. Beyond that, opinions on the gospel diverge drastically. But it is highly doubtful that the rest of the evangelical world will pick up the nuance that certain crossless teachers are now putting on the term “gospel.”
Probably less than 1% of evangelicals interpret the word “gospel” in the manner that these crossless proponents are now using it, as being a Christian-life message that is only necessary to believe for sanctification and spiritual growth rather than for regeneration.
For these reasons, the phrase “crossless gospel” is still appropriate, even though some may dislike it or even despise it. Other Free Grace people who are opposed to the new crossless saving message have recently proposed and begun using other labels, such as the “G.E.S. gospel,” the “promise-only gospel,” and the “crossless faith” view. These are also accurate and appropriate designations that may eventually become the standard phraseology. If that happens, I personally would have no objections to changing my own terminology since the doctrinal position defended in this book is in no way dependent upon the use of a particular phrase. “Crossless gospel” is largely a convention used throughout this book and throughout the current controversy to abbreviate the new doctrinal error of our day. It is much easier to say “crossless gospel” than “the crossless content of saving faith.” The latter expression is not nearly as recognizable to the average Christian and often requires further explanation. But regardless of what labels are used, it is virtually guaranteed that those on the so-called “Refined” side will not accept any label or descriptive phrase that we on the so-called “Traditional” side come up with unless it portrays their doctrine favorably, which is something we simply cannot do because we regard the crossless gospel to be utterly contrary to the Word of God.


Please continue to- The Gospel of the Christ: The FOREWORD

1) Bob Wilkin, “We Believe Jesus Is Lord,” Grace in Focus 23 (March/April 2008): 1-2.

2) Charles C. Bing,
Lordship Salvation: A Biblical Evaluation and Response, GraceLife Edition (Burleson, TX: GraceLife Ministries, 1992), 104; Thomas R. Edgar, “What Is the Gospel?” in Basic Theology: Applied, ed. Wesley and Elaine Willis & John and Janet Master (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1995), 158; J. B. Hixson, “Getting the Gospel Wrong: Case Studies in American Evangelical Soteriological Method in the Postmodern Era” (Ph.D. dissertation, Baptist Bible Seminary, 2007), 77-78; Robert P. Lightner, Sin, the Savior, and Salvation: The Theology of Everlasting Life (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1991), 204; Lou Martuneac, In Defense of the Gospel: Biblical Answers to Lordship Salvation (n.p.: Xulon Press, 2006), 170-75; Charles C. Ryrie, So Great Salvation: What It Means to Believe In Jesus Christ (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1989), 69-70.

3) Hodges, “How to Lead People to Christ, Part 1,” 5; López,
Romans Unlocked, 216; Niemelä, “Objects of Faith in John: A Matter of Person AND Content”; Wilkin, Confident in Christ, 10.

For additional study see-
Summary of Lordship Salvation From a Single Page

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

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


October 12, 2009

The Gospel of the Christ: The “Lordship Salvation” Label

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.

The “Lordship Salvation” Label

Finally, the origin of the phrases “Free Grace” and “Lordship Salvation” is worth recollecting for a moment. Both designations resulted from the salvation controversy that peaked in American Evangelicalism in the 1980s. The Grace position coined the phrase “Lordship Salvation” for the opposing viewpoint, and like it or not, the label stuck. Initially, this designation was meant to convey the idea that something more was being added to the sole condition of faith in Christ for salvation. A commitment or submission to the Lordship of Christ over one’s life was also being required by many evangelicals. Thus the phrase, “Lordship Salvation,” was originally meant to convey a negative idea, conjuring up the impression in most people’s minds of a works-oriented salvation that is contrary to God’s grace. This was clearly how those on the Lordship side perceived it as well. That is why John MacArthur, the leading spokesman for the Lordship view, stated in 1988:
I don’t like the term “lordship salvation.” It was coined by those who want to eliminate the idea of submission to Christ from the call to saving faith, and it implies that Jesus’ lordship is a false addition to the gospel. As we shall see, however, “lordship salvation” is simply the biblical and historic doctrine of soteriology. I use the term in this volume only for the sake of argument.1
Clearly, MacArthur did not initially appreciate the designation and the negative associations it left in people’s minds. Five years later, this was still smoldering in his thinking, as he reiterated the same point in his second book:
I don’t like the term lordship salvation. I reject the connotation intended by those who coined the phrase. It insinuates that a submissive heart is extraneous or supplementary to saving faith. Although I have reluctantly used the term to describe my views, it is a concession to popular usage. . . . Those who criticize lordship salvation like to level the charge that we teach a system of works-based righteousness. Nothing could be further from the truth. Although I labored to make this as plain as possible in The Gospel According to Jesus, some critics continue to hurl that allegation.2
Yet, in spite of the fact that MacArthur and many others voiced their objections to the “Lordship Salvation” label, and even felt it was a misrepresentation of their doctrinal position, those on the Grace side continued to use it based on their personal, biblical conviction that MacArthur and others really were advocating a works-gospel. That is why the crossless teachers of today’s Free Grace movement have themselves routinely used the rather pejorative designation, “Lordship gospel,” to summarize the message of MacArthur and others on the Lordship side. 3 There is not much difference between referring to the Lordship view as the “Lordship gospel” and referring to the crossless saving faith view as the “Crossless gospel.”


Please continue to- The “No Lordship” Counter-Claim

1) John F. MacArthur Jr., The Gospel According to Jesus: What Does Jesus Mean When He Says, “Follow Me”? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1988), 28-29n20.

2) John F. MacArthur, Jr.,
Faith Works: The Gospel According to the Apostles (Dallas: Word Publishing, 1993), 23 (ellipsis added).

3) “Similarly, if the Lordship gospel is correct, then Free Grace theology is not” (Bob Wilkin, “Lordship Salvation for Dummies,” Grace in Focus 21 [September-October 2006]: 2). “It follows from what I have just said that nobody ever got saved by believing the Lordship gospel. Of course some people do believe that gospel who are already saved. I am not talking about that. I just mean that on the terms of the Lordship gospel alone, no one can get saved, since this form of doctrine garbles the gospel so badly that assurance of salvation is not available. And if some people do find assurance in a Lordship gospel, that assurance is a delusion since it is not founded on biblical truth.” (Zane C. Hodges, “Assurance: Of the Essence of Saving Faith,” in
JOTGES 10 [Spring 1997]: 4).

For additional study on the “Lordship Salvation” interpretation of the Gospel I invite you to read:

October 8, 2009

The Gospel of the Christ: Biblical Terminology for False Teaching

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

October 5, 2009

The Gospel of the Christ: The Language of Accommodation or Correction?

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.

The Language of Accommodation or Correction?

Furthermore, whether (Bob) Wilkin and (Jeremy) Myers would accept it or not, from the Lord’s perspective, the Word of God still uses the term “gospel” to refer to the “saving message” that the lost must believe in order to go to heaven. Simply because Wilkin and Myers no longer view the term “gospel” accurately does not mean that the rest of the Free Grace community must start using language that accommodates their doctrinal error. I have even noticed with some Free Grace people who are not crossless a new reluctance and apprehension to speak of “the gospel” as synonymous with, and equivalent to, the saving message. My fear is that some well-intentioned Grace people may be overly concerned about paying a courtesy to those in grave doctrinal error on the meaning of “the gospel,” rather than showing a greater courtesy and respect to God who equates “the gospel” with the “saving message” in His Word (Rom. 1:16; 1 Cor. 1:17-21; 4:15; Eph. 1:13; 2 Thess. 1:8-10). By conceding to the wishes of those who no longer teach that “the gospel” is God’s saving message, are we not subtly accommodating error by adjusting our speech accordingly? Thus, any message that purports to be “saving,” and yet is crossless, must still be regarded as a “crossless gospel” if we wish to continue speaking from a biblical standpoint.

If we concede to drop the term “gospel” from the phrase “crossless gospel,” this will have the effect of legitimizing this false, unbiblical distinction between “the gospel” and “the saving message.” Even if we concede to the wishes of Wilkin and others who share his doctrine by refraining from the use of the phrase “crossless gospel” while still personally and privately maintaining the correct, biblical view, will this not contribute towards the further establishment of unbiblical speech within the Free Grace community? Will this not establish an unbiblical precedent that others will be expected to follow as the distinct impression is given that it is actually wrong or somehow ungracious to portray the false doctrine held by some of our Grace brethren in a negative light?


Please continue to- The Gospel of the Christ: Biblical Terminology for False Teaching

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.

GES Reductionist Affirmation of Faith

The Hollow “Gospel” of the Grace Evangelical Society

Believing the Gospel: “May Indeed Frustrate God's Grace?”

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


October 2, 2009

The Gospel of the Christ: Is the Gospel Still the “Saving Message”?


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’.

This is our ninth in the series of excerpts from Stegall’s book. The selections I am publishing (with permission) provide a balanced cross section of issues related to the Gospel.

Is the Gospel Still the “Saving Message”?

Grace people on both sides of this issue may raise the objection that the phrase “crossless gospel” is no longer an accurate designation, since in the last year or so, a significant new development has occurred within the crossless camp with respect to the term “gospel.” It should be noted that the “crossless gospel” quotations provided on the preceding pages now need to be amended with a postscript such as this, since at least one major teacher of this view has changed his position on the meaning of the term “gospel.” Approximately 18 months before the publication of this book, Bob Wilkin taught publicly for the first time that the lost do not have to believe “the gospel” to go to heaven. He stated:
What if the word “gospel” doesn’t ever mean the saving message? Now hang with me hear. I gave this same message, but I didn’t say quite this, a little over a month ago in Omaha at a Regional we had there. And what I suggested is that the term “gospel” rarely, if ever, means, “What must I believe to have eternal life? What must I believe to be saved? What must I do to have, to go to heaven, to be sure I’ll be in the kingdom?” But in the intervening time as I’ve been reflecting on it etcetera, I realized that we should go further than saying, “It’s rare that this term refers to the saving message.” I’m now of the opinion it never refers specifically to “What must I believe to have eternal life?”1
Wilkin now teaches that the gospel message of Christ’s substitutionary death for sin and bodily resurrection is not the message that the lost must believe for their regeneration, rather it is only the message that the saved must believe for their on-going sanctification and spiritual growth. On the basis of this new position on the “gospel,” some in the Free Grace community may feel that it would be more appropriate to drop the term “gospel” from the phrase “crossless gospel.” They might object that the designation “crossless gospel” no longer accurately defines Wilkin’s doctrine as he himself articulates it; and so to continue using it would unfairly mischaracterize Wilkin’s own position. However, there are several reasons why such deference to the crossless position is inadvisable.

First, the crossless doctrine on this point is still developing, and it is not certain whether a significant percentage of those in the crossless camp will follow Wilkin in this distinctive. Based on precedent, however, it is likely that the majority of crossless proponents will follow suit; but this remains to be seen. The current crossless position is hardly monolithic on this particular point of doctrine. Even Zane Hodges used the term “gospel” as a synonym for the “saving message”2 until recently. Just a few months prior to the publication of this book, Hodges wrote that requiring belief in Christ’s death and resurrection is not only “theological legalism,” it also subverts “the biblical gospel.”3 While Wilkin has openly changed positions on the meaning of the term “gospel,” Zane Hodges continued using it as a reference to the content of saving faith. To date, only one other proponent of the crossless view, Jeremy Myers, has publicly articulated the same position as Wilkin.4 It may be premature, therefore, to characterize the entire crossless position by the recent views of Wilkin and Myers on the term “gospel.”


Please continue to, The Language of Accommodation or Correction?

1) Bob Wilkin, “Gospel Means Good News” Grace Evangelical Society Southern California Regional Conference, August 24, 2007.
2) In the context of explaining the nature of belief in Christ for eternal life, Hodges said, “I am convinced that some committed grace people are still a little scared by the simplicity of believing in Christ. They are eager to avoid the charge that we teach mere intellectual assent. It is hard for people like this to agree that faith and salvation occur when the core message of the Gospel is simply accepted as true.” Zane C. Hodges, “The Spirit of the Antichrist: Decoupling Jesus from the Christ,” JOTGES 20 (Autumn 2007): 39 (italics added).
3) Hodges, “The Hyrda’s Other Head: Theological Legalism,” 3.
4) Jeremy D. Myers, “The Gospel is More Than ‘Faith Alone in Christ Alone’,” JOTGES 19 (Autumn 2006): 33-56.

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