May 4, 2010

Vigilance Regarding the Truth of the Gospel: Reengaging the Heresy of the GES “Crossless” Gospel, Part 1

In the interests of remaining vigilant regarding the truth of the gospel, the following report is issued. It is grieving, and yet absolutely necessary, to provide an update about the crossless, promise-only gospel. Despite the sincere prayers and efforts of many Free Grace believers over the last few years, there are presently no signs that the leading promoters of this view have any intention of repenting of this false doctrine. They appear resolved to forge ahead.

A few recent cases in point bear this out. For example, the leading organization promoting the crossless view today, the Grace Evangelical Society, is still in denial about its error. It is continuing to defend and justify its position rather than repent of it. The recently concluded national GES conference in Fort Worth, TX, April 19-22, sponsored a session taught by Don Reiher titled, “
25 Reasons Why GES Is Not Promoting a Crossless Gospel.”1

In addition, in the March-April edition of the GES publication,
Grace in Focus, executive director Bob Wilkin has an article titled, “Five Current Confusions Concerning the Gospel.” While the article by Wilkin contains many gross distortions and confusions of the truth that would merit a much lengthier review, I would like to call attention to the article’s main point and its most egregious error. In the article,

Wilkin unequivocally concludes that the lost do not have to believe the gospel to be born again; they simply need to believe in the supposedly crossless, promise-only “saving message.”

Yes, you read that correctly! The very organization that has “
Evangelical” as its middle name is now unashamedly avowing that the evangel is not necessary to believe in order to go to heaven!

It is being taught that “
the gospel” is a very broad message about any and all good news related to Jesus Christ. This is consistent with Wilkin’s declaration two years ago at the national GES conference that,
In one sense everything from creation to the New Earth is part of the good news.”2
Based on such a sweeping definition of “the gospel,” it would be utterly legalistic, they reason, to require the lost to believe the entire gospel in order to go to heaven. This unbiblical rationale explains why the cross-work of Christ and His resurrection can be dispensed with as essential elements in the contents of saving faith.

Based on the March-April issue of
Grace in Focus, here is Wilkin’s own redefinition of the gospel and his false dichotomy between the gospel and the so-called “saving message”:
“In popular usage, however, the word gospel is understood as what a person must believe to be born again. While there is some biblical evidence that the term gospel does include that message (cf. Gal 2:14-16), that is not the way the term is normally used in the N.T. In recent years I’ve tried to use the expression the gospel to refer to the good news concerning Jesus Christ, His birth, death, burial, appearances, ascension, resurrection, and return. And I’ve tried to use the expression the saving message to refer to what one must believe to be born again.” (Wilkin, pg.1)

“Nowhere in the entire Bible are we told that the person who believes
the gospel has everlasting life, is saved, is justified, will never die spiritually, or anything of the kind.” (Wilkin, pg.2)

“The gospel should lead people to faith in Christ. But believing the gospel is not the same as believing in Jesus Christ.” (
Wilkin, pg.2)
It is evident that Wilkin’s rending of “the saving message” from “the gospel” cannot be correct since the Bible nowhere speaks Wilkin’s language. Where does the Word of God draw a distinction between “the saving message” and “the gospel?” Such a division is foreign to Scripture.

It is theologically contrived and not exegetically derived.

Many passages in the New Testament use the term “
gospel” as the equivalent of God’s saving message. For example, 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10 is quite clear that those who do not “obey the gospel” (1:8) by believing it (1:10) will suffer “everlasting destruction” (1:9). The gospel that the Thessalonian believers initially heard from Paul for their eternal life was the same message as the one recorded in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4. This was a message of faith in Christ’s substitutionary death for sin and His bodily resurrection from the dead, which were “according to the Scriptures.” In Acts 17:2-3 we are given the content of Paul’s evangelism to the Thessalonians. It is stated that he “reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead.” The Thessalonians were born again when they became “persuaded” (Acts 17:4) about this message of Jesus being “the Christ.”3

This simple comparison of 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10 with Acts 17:1-5 is just one of many scriptural evidences that sufficiently demonstrates that believing the gospel is synonymous with believing that Jesus is the Christ (John 20:31). There is no dichotomy in the Word of God between believing in
the person of Christ and believing in the gospel message, as if the former is the saving message but the latter is not. It is a tragedy that such a false, unbiblical distinction has evolved within the Free Grace movement.

Continued in Part Two of this series.

1) For abundant evidence showing clearly that the GES does promote a “crossless gospel,” see the chapter titled “Is the New Gospel Truly Crossless?” in Thomas L. Stegall, The Gospel of the Christ: A Biblical Response to the Crossless Gospel Regarding the Contents of Saving Faith (Milwaukee: Grace Gospel Press, 2009), 99-128.

2) Bob Wilkin, “Gospel Means Good News,” paper delivered at the GES national conference, Fort Worth, TX, March 6, 2008, p. 8.

3) For further exegesis and exposition of this passage and the content of the Thessalonian’s faith, see
The Gospel of the Christ, pp. 381-94.

Pastor Tom Stegall is author of The Gospel of the Christ: A Biblical Response to the Crossless Gospel Regarding the Contents of Saving Faith

Please refer back to Vigilance Regarding the Truth of the Gospel, Introduction for prior and additional commentary on the GES Crossless gospel.


  1. No repentance! No backing off!
    Such a sad commentary but at least they (The GES) are showing their true colors in full peacock-array.
    Originally, they danced around trying to keep a tight hand on what they really believed (i.e., that faith in the finished work of Christ on the Cross was not necessary to be believed for salvation). I guess it’s hard to keep your feathers tight when your nature is to unfurl them and stiffen.
    It was audacious to say you love the Cross and “use” it to help people believe in Jesus while at the same time saying it is unnecessary baggage and not part of the saving message.
    The truth is they have circumcised the Gospel and the Cross was the part that had to go from their “saving message”. Obviously by their preaching and writing they are still seeking to circumcise the Cross, from the saving message, from as many believers as they can reach with their articles and conferences. I guess that’s good, as they’re being more intellectually consistent, and it causes the true colors of their GES gospel to show its iridescence.
    Like the Galatians, they believe it is necessary to practice circumcision for there to be “real” salvation.
    Listen to Paul’s exasperation with circumcision mixed in the Gospel. I share it! It seems he saw what happens when you add to the gospel “by taking something away”.
    Those who desire to make a good showing in the flesh try to compel you to be circumcised, simply so that they WILL NOT BE PERSECUTED for the CROSS OF CHRIST. Galatians 6:12
    Amazingly today, we who hold to the traditional Free Grace Gospel are being persecuted FOR… hum… none other than THE PREACHING OF THE CROSS OF CHRIST.
    I can guarantee you that if you embrace the new GES gospel you will never be accused of THAT!
    That alone tells me their wrong!

  2. Naz:

    There is a great deal I appreciate about your commentary above. It did prompt me to remember and I’d like to remind readers in general that the GES is NOT representative and does NOT speak for the broader Free Grace community. As I noted in the introduction to this series- the GES is a shrinking cell of theological extremists far outside any balanced interpretation of the saving message.

    The GES “Crossless” gospel is as antithetical to the Scriptures from its reductionist side of the pendulum swing as Lordship Salvation is from the works based side of that swing.

    Finally, for all readers, to get a better grip on the distinction of theology in the Free Grace community please read-

    FGT: What Every Advocate of LS Should Know

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