May 6, 2010

Vigilance Regarding the Truth of the Gospel: Reengaging the Heresy of the GES “Crossless” Gospel, Part 2

Dear Guest of IDOTG:

Earlier we began this series with the Introduction and Part One by Pastor Tom Stegall. If you missed this initial article please follow the links back and then return to this second and final installment.

Rene Lopez and his Scripture Unlocked Ministries represents another recent case of how crossless gospel leaders are continuing undeterred and unrepentant in their error. In the Spring 2010 edition of the publication, Scripture Unlocked, Lopez has an article titled, “The Use and Abuse of 1 Corinthians 15:1-11.” In it he concludes, just like Bob Wilkin, GES, and Zane Hodges before him, that the substitutionary death and bodily resurrection of Christ in the gospel are not necessary to believe for eternal life.1 We are told that using 1 Corinthians 15 evangelistically to show what God requires the lost to believe is actually an “abuse” of this classic passage. Lopez, Wilkin, and other proponents of the promise-only view are continuing to perpetuate the lie that the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15 is only necessary for the Christian to believe for progressive sanctification.

Regarding 1 Corinthians 15, Lopez also falsely dichotomizes the gospel from the saving message of eternal life saying,
“Although this passage may be used to help persuade unbelievers that Christ rose physically (if that’s a barrier that prevents them to believe in Him for eternal life), it is wrong to assert that Paul wrote 1 Cor. 15:1-11 with that intent or to evangelize the lost.” (Lopez, p.4, endnote 4).

Lopez concludes, “Thus, let’s not override Paul’s intent for writing 1 Cor 15:1-11 by abusing a passage meant for sanctification to evangelize the lost.” (
Lopez, pg.4)
But this presents a false antithesis for 1 Corinthians 15:1-11. While Lopez correctly explains that this passage was originally written to challenge the Corinthian believers who were subtly shifting on the gospel and that this was negatively affecting their sanctification, this does not preclude the fact that this passage also sets forth the required contents of saving faith or “the saving message.”

In 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, Paul recounts the evangelism message that he initially preached to the Corinthians when they first became believers and were eternally saved. Now as believers, the Corinthians were to continue in that very same gospel that they initially heard from Paul when they were unbelievers. A failure to continue in this one message would negatively impact their progressive sanctification. Conversely, by holding fast to this gospel they would be “
saved” (15:2) in the sense of progressive sanctification from the damaging effects of sin and false teaching in their Christian lives. Hence, the one and only gospel/saving message is necessary to believe both for eternal salvation (justification and glorification) and for present salvation (sanctification).

There is nothing too difficult about this interpretation. It does not require a seminary education to grasp. Lopez is a highly educated Bible-teacher and yet he
conspicuously ignores this interpretative possibility and provides no explanation for why it must be incorrect. He simply frames the issue in such a way as to omit any discussion of this correct interpretation while incredibly pronouncing the evangelistic use of this passage to be “abuse.”2

tragedy of the crossless gospel continues in our day as the leading promoters of this new doctrine remain unrepentant and undeterred in their errors.

The recent articles of Wilkin and Lopez ought to shock slumbering believers within the Free Grace community right out of their spiritual stupor.

Imagine if the Grace Evangelical Society had begun in the 1980’s by openly touting its current teaching that the lost do not need to believe the gospel to go to heaven and that using 1 Corinthians 15 to set forth necessary evangelistic content is an “
abuse” of this passage. If such were the case, the GES would have never survived its infancy.

Such blatantly false teaching would have immediately been identified by Free Grace believers as obvious and repugnant error.

But the leaven and gangrene of this false doctrine have had their permeating effect over time. Today, there are still too many GES loyalists who have grown accustomed to hearing the error of the crossless gospel and are now comfortable with it. It has become tolerable to some and even barely detectable to others. This is normally how false doctrine works. It is like entering a barn; initially the odor overwhelms you. But as any farmer knows, the longer you stay in that barn
the more tolerable the smell becomes, until eventually it seems normal.

The Free Grace movement today needs to “
be watchful, and strengthen the things that remain” (Rev. 3:2). We must continue to pray for the Lord in His infinite mercy to open the eyes of those who are still blind to this destructive doctrine. And in the meantime, we must personally hold fast to the gospel ourselves lest we be led astray (1 Cor. 15:2). We must remain vigilant and discerning and be like the Bereans of old (Acts 17:11) who closely examined what was being taught by comparing it to the only objective, infallible, and authoritative standard of truth—the Word of God.

Our loyalty must be first of all with the Lord Jesus Christ and the truth of His Word, not any man, organization, or movement.

Pastor Tom Stegall

1) See Zane C. Hodges, “The Hydra’s New Head: Theological Legalism,” Grace in Focus 23 (September/October 2008), 2-3. In this last article that Hodges ever published, he makes it perfectly clear that the one who insists that 1 Cor. 15 requires the cross and resurrection for saving faith is a “legalist” and that such a view is “theological legalism.” The followers of Hodges’s interpretation of 1 Cor. 15, such as Lopez and Wilkin, have neither corrected his error nor distanced themselves from it but are actually still perpetuating it.

2) 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 is such a definitive and highly debated passage on the required contents of saving faith that it merits the most extensive treatment of any one passage in my book. See
The Gospel of the Christ, pp. 479-589.

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


  1. Have they totally missed verse two of 1 Corinthians 15? 1 Corinthians 15:1-2 plainly says, "Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; BY WHICH ALSO YE ARE SAVED, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain." (Emphasis Added)

    We are SAVED by believing the gospel; the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Their claim that the work of Christ is not necessary to know to be saved is just an utter denial of the Word of God. Being misinformed or confused is one thing, but denying God's Word and creating false doctrines is totally different. I pray earnestly that these people will be ashamed of their teachings and will accept the truth as what the Bible says it is.

    "Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: REPENT ye, and BELIEVE THE GOSPEL." Emphasis Added.

    In Christ,


  2. SoG:

    Their claim that the work of Christ is not necessary to know to be saved is just an utter denial of the Word of God. Being misinformed or confused is one thing, but denying God's Word and creating false doctrines is totally different. I pray earnestly that these people will be ashamed of their teachings and will accept the truth as what the Bible says it is.

    Agree with you completely. The GES Crossless advocates are hardened in their error. Much of their problem is absolute loyalty to their departed leader, Zane Hodges, who formulated this reductionist heresy.

    Lord willing some may one day be delivered from the bondage of their error.


  3. Hi,

    I came across this reductionist view on another blog and can't say that I agree with it. I was a bit confused however on Paul's definition of the gospel in 1 Cor 15. Why do people stop at verse 4 and the resurrection when discussing what needs to be believed but not include 5-8 which details Jesus' appearing to different individuals? It looked to me that they were all meant to be connected. Would you be able to clear this up for me? Thanks for your time.

    1. Justin: I will forward your question here to the author of this article for his attention. Can;t erode he will reply, but I will make him aware of it. I will, however, add the following personal comment.

      That you have Jeremy Myers in your Google circle of friends is very disconcerting on a doctrinal level. Jeremy, an advocate of the heretical "Crossless" gospel, was on staff at GES, and was fired by Bob Wilkin for doctrinal reasons. I advise serious caution if you're listening to his teaching. See, GES Dismisses Jeremy Myers, for the specifics.

      Finally, from your avatar you appear to be in or were military. I salute you for your service on behalf of our nation. Two of my sons are military: 1) Peter is a Cpl. USMC decorated for valor and heroism in battle against Taliban fighters in Afghanistan. 2) Jonathan is a MM3 ("Nuke") in the US Navy on board the USS Topeka- a LA class fast attack sub.


    2. Thanks for the response. I can't say I agree with Jeremy's views on this subject but I do enjoy a lot of what he has to say on many others and can interact with agreements and disagreements. I was able to scan a good bit of one of Tom Stegall's books (not sure which) and he had a lot of good points and was also gracious towards the other side which I thought was good as well. Of course everything must be tested against the word so that is where I will always go for authority.

      And thank you for your support and your sons for their service. I am currently a commissioned Army Infantry Officer awaiting my basic training course this coming January.

    3. Also if you don't mind me asking, I noticed that Tom Stegall did make statements in The Gospel of the Christ (that's the one I was looking for) that those who held to the Crossless Gospel were genuine fellow born-again believers and brothers in Christ who were in need of repentance. Would you say that many of those who are defending against the reductionist view agree with this? I was honestly getting tired of all the "You're going to hell!" responses between differing sides concerning nearly every Christian topic discussion on the internet and it was refreshing to hear Tom say otherwise.

    4. Like Pastor Stegall I believe that the advocates of the Crossless are genuinely born again, but because of the reductionist teaching of the late Zane Hodges they have gone horribly wrong in their understanding of the gospel of grace. They sorely need to be delivered from their errors and repent of them.


    5. Thank you for your gracious work on this issue. It is refreshing to see.

  4. Justin,
    That's a good question about why the saving gospel ends at 1 Cor. 15:4 and doesn't continue into vv.5-8. On pages 555-89 of my book I give several reasons for this conclusion with exegetical support. You can download the book as a free PDF at:

    If you still have questions after reading that section of the book, I'd be happy to discuss this further with you.

    In the Crucified, Risen Savior,
    Tom S.

    1. I actually found your answer and many other answers while looking over The Gospel of the Christ online. Very well written and biblically sound! Thank you for your gracious work on this issue.