May 26, 2010

Clearing Up Repentance: A Refutation of Lordship Salvation, Part 3

Dear Guests of IDOTG:

Last week I welcomed back Phillip Evans with this new multi-part series. Please refer to Part One and Part 2 for the previous installments of this series. Phillip the is author of
Eternal Security Proved. Excerpts from this article are drawn from his book. For additional articles by Brother Evans see below.

This morning we continue with the third installment of Brother Phillip Evans’s new series.


What is the currency that buys our pardon, the blood of Christ, or our efforts at non-continuing in sin? Does the free will of a saint only function some of the time, or all of the time? No saint will forever continue in sin regardless, for thank God our salvation also has a future-tense element. For we will one day shed these mortal bodies that will be made anew and glorified, and we will no longer have this “body of death.” We will be free from the very presence of sin, something that we are not free from now.

Has Christ truly set us free? Yes, but we will not experience the full fruit of such freedom until then. Hence, the exhortations to the saints in Scripture to live holy in this life, for freedom from the authority of sin does not automatically guarantee that we will do so. Do children automatically obey their parents? Likewise with God’s children.

Lest anyone think that I’m giving a hell-bound sinner false assurance and echoing the serpent’s hiss, “you shall not surely die” (as one LS advocate cautioned me), I don’t offer assurance of salvation to anyone unless they know that they have trusted Christ as the crucified and risen Savior. Surely people of a sufficient mental capacity as to be accountable for their sins also possess the faculties to know whom they have placed their trust in for eternal life. Unlike LS advocates that don’t believe a person can be absolutely certain they are born-again until they step into the Throne Room, I rather like to claim the promise of First John 5:13.

LS advocates misuse Scripture such as Matthew 10:22, “And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.” It should be obvious that the world does not hate its own, but it hates those who belong to the Lord! It would behoove the student of Scripture to then consider that Christ was referring to something here other than being saved from hell, especially since He was directly addressing eternally saved men. Also, the lost don’t have faith and are not enduring presently, much less to the end.

Similarly such admonitions as “stand fast” and “examine yourselves whether ye be in the faith.” These also apply only to those who are already saved. For born-again children of God to understand these as not applying to them does them a great disservice, for these are exhortations to hold fast lest they be chastised, and ultimately lose their eternal reward in God’s Kingdom if they don't recover themselves. Notwithstanding, they are still eternally children of God who will never perish. All Christians are hid in Christ (Col 3:3), but not all will partake (be a fellow sharer with) of Him and His glory in the sense of reward (ruling and reigning with Him).

Another misused verse is Heb. 6:9. Don't misunderstand the word “salvation” here to refer to being saved from hell. Look at the context. It’s about working diligently to inherit the promises, which is the reward of faithfulness. Don’t be deceived my brothers and sisters in Christ, only those who are faithful to the end receive the promises (reward). This is the same salvation Jesus referred to in Matthew 10:22. For even if the saints were to be killed during persecution, if they endured to the end, everything they lost and much more would be restored to them.

What about 2 Cor. 13:5 that LS view as a test to see if one is truly saved?

Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified.” (2 Cor. 13:5, NKJV)

Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you--unless indeed you fail the test?” (2 Cor. 13:5, NASB)
I’ve included two different translations to help better show what Paul is talking about. Many people misunderstand this verse as meaning that Christians should examine themselves to see if they are really saved or not. They then reason that since our ability to self-examine ourselves is not absolutely perfect, that we could not be absolutely sure that we are truly born again. To believe this is to believe that a child of God must always have at least a small amount of doubt that God is their Heavenly Father! Ask yourself: Is this what God truly desires for His children? I certainly have no desire that my son have any doubt at all concerning the fact that he is my child! Does God love us any less?

Back up two verses and you’ll see that the Corinthians were doubting whether Paul was speaking the words of Christ. This is not a case of them doubting whether he was saved! If Paul was speaking the truth in Christ, it would have indicated that he was approved by Christ as walking properly in the faith. Paul was urging the Corinthians to examine themselves to see if they were thusly approved (in the faith). If they could know that they were, then by default they would also know that Paul was approved. They would then not challenge his authority.

This is not a test to see if they had ever placed their faith in Christ and been saved, but whether they were living according to the faith. If they were living according to the faith, they would recognize that Christ is in them. If they were not living according to the faith, they would be spiritually sleepy and not recognize that Christ is in them. Their failure to recognize Christ in them certainly would not mean that Christ had left! If my son falls asleep next to me and no longer recognizes that I am there, it does not mean that I am no longer next to him.

LS advocates will protest that the Apostle Paul himself discussed a concern that after he had preached to others he could become disqualified / disapproved, i.e. lost. Nothing could be further from the truth. Look at what he wrote: “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it.” (1 Cor. 9:24)

Obviously, the unsaved do not run in this race. They have not qualified for it by faith. Once you do qualify to run it, you should run as any dedicated competitor out to win the prize (eternal reward). Just three verses later, the Apostle Paul himself showed concern that he might not possibly win the prize. However, he was not concerned with whether he might become lost and no longer be a child of God!

The only way anyone enters the Kingdom of Heaven is by grace through faith. Entrance there is not a prize or reward that anyone can say that they’ve won because of their worthiness or faithfulness. However, faithfulness will grant you an abundant entrance (2 Peter 1:11) into the Kingdom of Heaven. You will not merely enter there, but will enter there as an honored member who will rule and reign with your Savior.

LS doctrine undermines personal assurance of salvation, for how does one know that they will “endure to the end?” Hold forth 1 John 5:13 to an LS advocate, and they’ll shoot over to 1 John 2:3 in defense, as if one cannot know Christ as Savior unless they are continuing to keep His commandments.

Following the Memorial Day holiday weekend I’ll answer this in the next and final installment.


Site Publisher’s Note:
There is a good discussion underway in the thread under the first installment of this series. You may want to look in.

Phillip Evans has contributed several articles to IDOTG including:
The Hollow Gospel of the GES

Christ's Resurrection: Part of the Saving Message?

Out on a Limb to Protest Too Much

May 24, 2010

Clearing Up Repentance: A Refutation of Lordship Salvation, Part 2

Dear Guests of IDOTG:

Last week I welcomed back Phillip Evans with this new multi-part series. Please refer to Part One for the introductory installment of this series. Phillip the is author of
Eternal Security Proved. Excerpts from this article are drawn from his book. For additional articles by Brother Evans see below.

This morning we continue with the second installment of Brother Phillip Evans’s new series.


If all truly born-again saints recover themselves out of sin before they die, as some LS teachers state or strongly imply, then why the existence of such chastisement that leads to physical death? Lest anyone attempt to argue that Ananias and Saphira were not truly saved, why would fear fall on the early Church if such punishment only happened to the lost? Or perhaps Ananias and Saphira were merely one-time exceptions in the LS paradigm?

Or the example of Simon the Sorcerer? Right after getting truly born again, he desired to purchase the power of the Holy Spirit with money, no doubt to make an even better profit off the people than he had done before with his sorcery. Or certain people who believed in Jesus, but were *afraid to publicly commit to him, for they desired the praise from men more than from God?

The LS advocate will protest that I oppose the truth that Christ sets us free from sin. I don’t oppose that truth at all. Look at the Apostle Paul’s struggles against the power of sin in his flesh in Romans. Do you think he saw himself completely free from the power of sin? If so, then why the heartache about the struggle? Does Christ set us completely free from sin or not? Yes, of course He does. But let’s not get things tangled up here.

First of all, at the moment of conversion from lost to saved, we are instantly and eternally set free from the penalty of sin (past tense element of salvation), but while still in our mortal bodies we are in the process of being saved from the power of sin as we yield ourselves in obedience to God (present tense element of salvation). Failure to do such yielding will not nullify our eternal salvation that has already been sealed, but will rob us of peace and joy in this life, and ultimately, eternal reward in God’s Kingdom if we do not repent. Even in this life sin’s authority is broken, and it is not possible for it to enslave us, unless we use our will to choose to be its slave.

So you see, being free from sin’s authority does not mean that a saint could not choose to become enslaved again. For if a saint can sin even though the authority of sin is nullified, that is proof that the saints still possess their free will to make choices to serve God or not. This is Paul’s message in Romans 6 and 7. The encouragement in Romans 6 and 7 to live holy lest we be enslaved is not to the lost, for they are natural slaves to sin’s authority. But it’s to the saints, who can only be enslaved by yielding themselves to their former master.

Paul called the power of sin that is still in our mortal flesh the “body of death.” He looked forward to when he would no longer have to contend with this body of death, for it severely burdened him. He was alluding to a practice of the Romans, who would sometimes tie a dead body to a person as punishment for a crime, and they would have to carry it wherever they went. Truly a gruesome weight!

Everyone that has trusted Christ as Savior ought to depart from iniquity and live holy, but not all do. Recall Jesus’ healing of the ten lepers, but only one returned thanks. Many born-again, likewise truly healed people today are among the nine instead of the one. It is a fact that saints can continue in sin, and still be saved. Scripture is clear that some saints harden themselves and let their faith become shipwrecked.

What is the currency that buys our pardon, the blood of Christ, or our efforts at non-continuing in sin?


To be continued…

*Site Publisher’s Addendum:
During my extended interaction in 2006 at
Pulpit Magazine with Nathan Busenitz (John MacArthur’s personal assistant) he wrote this,

But Lordship (Salvation) sees repentance as more than just a change in dependence. It is also a change of allegiance.”
At least twice I left the following passage, companion comment and question for Nathan’s attention.
Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God,” (Jn. 12:42-43).

The Bible says they were not open about, and would not confess a “
change of allegiance.”

Did they biblically repent; were they believers?
Nathan never responded to the passage or question. All advocates of Lordship Salvation are welcome to answer the question in the thread?

Originally posted under, A Question Left Unanswered on Dec. 28, 2006. A fuller discussion of this issue appears in the revised and expanded edition of In Defense of the Gospel, pp. 127-128.

Site Publisher’s Note:
There is a good discussion underway in the thread under the first installment of this series. You may want to look in.

Phillip Evans has contributed several articles to IDOTG including:
The Hollow Gospel of the GES

Christ's Resurrection: Part of the Saving Message?

Out on a Limb to Protest Too Much

May 20, 2010

Clearing Up Repentance: A Refutation of Lordship Salvation

Dear Guests of IDOTG:

Today I am welcoming back Phillip Evans with a new multi-part series. Phillip is author of
Eternal Security Proved! Excerpts from this article are drawn from his book. For additional articles by Brother Evans see below.

Let’s begin with part one of Clearing Up Repentance: A Refutation of Lordship Salvation.


In the context of a lost person becoming saved, is the object of repentance the same as it is for a saved person?

We know that a born-again Christian should repent (change their minds) in regard to their daily sins, i.e. determine not to do them again. That is, turn from them and seek the path of righteousness ever more diligently.

Lordship Salvation (LS) advocates require the same of the lost person as well, for doesn't Scripture require of the lost person to repent in order to be saved? You've heard the phrases “turn from your sins” and “repent of your sins” in order to be saved. Notwithstanding there is not a single Scripture reference that uses either of these phrases in regards to the salvation of a lost person. While LS advocates give lip service to that fact that eternal life is a free gift, their doctrine is actually a works salvation, for they require the lost to do something that only the saved have the power to do. To try and wiggle out of it, they back-peddle by sometimes stating that a lost person must only be “willing” to turn from their sins. Ironically, a hard-line LS person might call that “easy Believism!” The hardliner would say, “Man, you either turn from your sins or you don’t!”

To help bolster their case, LS advocates point out the examples of King David and Zaccheus. Their reasoning is flawed, for in the example of King David crying out to God for forgiveness in the Psalms, he had already been saved for many years. His repentance and cry to God for forgiveness was familial in nature (a child asking a parent for forgiveness), and not judicial (a condemned criminal asking for a pardon). The familial applies to children of God, the judicial applies to the lost. The ignorance of many in the body of Christ of the concepts of familial and judicial forgiveness is why many see I John 1:9 as a salvation verse for the lost, when in fact the context clearly shows application to the saints.

Even Zaccheus cannot be used to support the LS use of the term “repentance.” The fruit and the root of repentance are not the same thing. The root of Zaccheus' repentance was recognizing his sinful condition, that he could not save himself, and by turning from his own works or religiosity as a remedy, he placed his trust solely in Christ. Now, as a saved man, he produced the fruit from that repentance, namely, the repayment of money to anyone he had previously defrauded.

LS advocates will state that if visible fruit does not exist, then the root doesn’t exist either. However, God sees the heart. Some people do get saved and are content to be non-growing Christians. Some grow, but then fall back into living like the world again. Another name for them is carnal Christians. Evidence for their existence is clear in Scripture.

By denying the existence of truly born-again saints that are carnal, the LS crowd conveniently gives itself great leeway to self-righteously judge those who are not living right, as having never been saved. This is their corrupt fruit that grows from the corrupt root of their false doctrine.

The LS advocate may protest that he is also opposed to self-righteous judgment. However, look at which theological persuasion better accommodates viewing others as lost, based on a subjective judgment that one could make as to the Christian quality of the other person's lifestyle, notwithstanding the lack of ability to see what transpired in their heart at some point in their past. “Lordship Salvation” or Free Grace?

What of the LS individual observing a person claiming to believe in Christ and serving God faithfully for twenty years. The LS advocate would claim in a heartbeat that they are observing a truly saved person. Now when that person falls into sin, and then dies without being recovered back into Christian living, what will the LS individual state then, that the person was never truly saved? Such convenience in order to maintain a theological position! Not to mention arrogance.

Another fruit of this doctrine is the shaking of the faith of weak and immature saints, making it difficult for them to recover, since they now are led to doubt their salvation because they haven’t been “committed” enough.
The LS advocate will ask the question: “Could Zaccheus have truly repented in his heart, and not returned the defrauded money?”

Zaccheus indeed could have sincerely repented in his heart by recognizing his sinful and lost condition, turn from his own way of salvation, and place his trust in Christ alone for mercy. Then, once born-again he could have used what all saints still possess (their free will), and made choices that would lead to his failure to follow through on his promises he made after becoming saved. His repentance as a lost person was to reject what could not save (his own works), reject his unbelief, and accept the only one who can save: Christ. This forever wiped away the judicial penalty of his sins, regardless of what may follow later in his life. Once he was saved, his obedience then allowed the fruit of his repentance to mature, which led to his follow-through on his promise to repay his ill-gotten gain obtained while he was lost.

What about those who truly were saved, but did not allow their repentance to mature to lasting fruit? Does Scripture give any examples? Did not our brother and sister Ananias and Saphira not follow the Lord in holy living after they were saved, witnessed by their shenanigans with their land sale? Their love of money and willingness to lie to the Holy Spirit led to the chastisement of an early grave.

To be continued…

Phil has contributed several articles to IDOTG including:
The Hollow Gospel of the GES

Christ's Resurrection: Part of the Saving Message?

Out on a Limb to Protest Too Much

May 17, 2010

*ReDux- Is There a Second Definition for “Separation” in Academic Contexts?

Dear Guests of IDOTG:

Do the Scriptures allow for two sets of standards for the definition and application of biblical separatism? Is there one standard for the God ordained mandates for believers in a local church and a different, moderated, redefined standard for believers in a ministry under the auspices of a local church?

We have just such a question to address from an article published by Pastor Dave Doran at his blog Glory & Grace. The article I refer to is titled, Separation in Academic Contexts.1

I am going to discuss the article in light of the following statement that appears at the Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary (DBTS) web site:

Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary has faithfully prepared men for the gospel ministry since its founding in 1976. As a ministry of the Inter-City Baptist Church in Allen Park, Michigan, it provides graduate level training with a balance between strong academics and a heart for local church ministry. Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary is-

•Baptist in Heritage
•Fundamental in Position
•Dispensational in Approach
•Local Church in Ideology 2
As we consider Separation in Academic Contexts we will keep a keen focus on the fact that DBTS is a ministry of a local church, that being Inter-City Baptist Church (ICBC). Dr. Doran wrote,
Since the local church is the pillar and support of the truth, guarding the gospel through biblical separation is primarily at the level of relationships between churches, ministries that serve churches, and those who are recognized as ministers among the churches
Should men be any less militant about “guarding the gospel through biblical separation” in the ministry of a local church than guarding the church itself?

The desire to have scholarship presented and/or accepted by others in your field has the potential to pull one away from the local church and toward an institutional focus. My concern is that this completely opposed to the biblical focus, which centers on the church’s role in maintaining sound doctrine and separation from error or disobedient brethren. I am not anti-scholarship. I believe in and support the pursuit of academic excellence! It should, however, play a subordinate role to the mission of the church. Unfortunately, there can exist a natural tendency in the institutional setting to make scholarship preeminent, creating an ongoing temptation toward tolerance of error in the pursuit of credentials, academia and recognition.

Whether Pastor Doran sees it this way or not, having conservative evangelical speakers, lecturers, etc., into the seminary is tantamount to having them come to Inter-City Baptist Church. If ICBC is the parenting agency and DBTS is a ministry of the church - it’s tough to reconcile the “academic freedom” his article seems to be seeking.

In his reaction to Kevin Bauder’s Let’s Get Clear on This Dr. Gerald Priest noted, “Kevin has been quite lavish in his praise of conservative evangelicals while castigating so-called fundamentalists.” Dr. Priest went on to make a statement that was quite direct on the danger of opening the gates to conservative evangelicalism’s Trojan horse. I feel it is thoroughly applicable to Dr. Doran’s new definition of separation for a local church academic setting to the kind of conservative evangelicals such as Bauder was, “quite lavish in his praise of.” Dr. Priest wrote,
What I fear is that we may be allowing a Trojan horse into the fundamentalist camp. And after a while, if we keep going down this track, any significant difference between conservative evangelical and the fundamentalist institutions may disappear.”3
Separation from believers who are disobedient is a loving response to their disobedience. It is a demonstration of our love for the Lord (John 14:15) and it is a demonstration of our love for the disobedient. It is through separation that the wayward one learns to hunger for communion with committed Christians and is both made “ashamed” (2 Thess. 3:14-15) and perhaps even attacked by Satan in the body that the Spirit may be saved (1 Cor. 5:5-7).

Pastor Doran says that “gospel separation is primarily at the level of relationships between churches, ministries that serve churches, and those who are recognized as ministers among the churches.” Doran leaves the door open to violate his own premise when he allows for a broadening of fellowship in order to allow some form of academic freedom or scholarly exposure.

The Premise is Violated in Three Ways:
•DBTS is a ministry of ICBC,
•DBTS is a ministry to serve local churches,
•Dave Doran is a recognized minister in and among the churches.
Remember, it’s one thing to read a book critically. It’s another thing entirely to tacitly extend the hand of fellowship because a person is a “scholar.”

Exposing impressionable students to compromised Christian leaders and scholars is not only dangerous it is an act of disobedience.

Such actions fail to show love to the wayward brother now brought in as a teacher and fails to recognize that students, regardless of their age, are “impressionable” by nature or they are really not qualified to be called “students.” Paul gave recognition to “Alexander the Coppersmith” when writing to Timothy (2 Tim. 4:14). It does not appear that Paul was ready to have Alexander come as a guest lecturer at the School of one Tyrannus (Acts 19:9) any time soon.

Influencing Others Toward the Loosening Standard:
If DBTS were quietly going about the business of opening its doors and exposing its own impressionable students to dangerous influences, it would be of little or no concern whatsoever outside the ministry of ICBC. The principles of soul liberty and the autonomy of the local church would be the guiding principles. Dave Doran has, however, published his new definition for separation to accommodate conservative evangelicals in academic or conference settings in a public forum, his blog. His influence, furthermore, is given wider attention from Sharper Iron, which is dedicated to the advancement of conservative evangelicalism, its star personalities and conferences. Doran’s message, therefore, has the potential to influence and encourage others outside his own local church ministry to consider and adopt the same loosening standard of what was once consistent **militant separatism. Bible believing Christians need and deserve to be forewarned of this influence and growing trend away from the God-given mandates for separatism and reminded of the biblical obligations to heed what God has said.

Conclusion:
I am challenging our friends, our brothers in Christ, to resist the movement toward embracing the so-called “conservative” evangelicals. To refrain from exposing impressionable students to men who identify with a movement that disregards the “biblical obligations” for Gospel-Driven separation.

Growing numbers of men in Baptist circles who identify themselves as biblical separatists are becoming desensitized to the egregious errors and disconcerting practices of the conservative evangelicals. Self described separatists are desensitized to the point of tolerating, excusing and allowing for aberrant theology, ecumenical compromises and/or worldly methods of ministry of conservative evangelicals that would thus far not be tolerated in their own ministry.

I am calling on brethren, who claim a heritage in and allegiance to the principles of biblical separatism, to live in absolute fidelity to those principles. To obey the God-given mandates whether they speak to unbelievers or our brethren.
Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,” (2 Cor. 6:14-17).

And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them,” (Eph. 5:11)

Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son, If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.” (2 John 9-11)

Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us…. And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother,” (2 Thess. 3:6, 14-15)

Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple,” (Rom 16:17-18).
Brethren, where does your first loyalty lie; to friends, fellowships and academic pursuits or to the Lord and His commands?


LM

*This article first appeared on April 22, 2010. Because of scheduling issues and breaking events this article did not hold the lead position at the head of this blog as long as I had first intended. Because of the importance and implications of what is being discussed I offer once more this expanded article for consideration and review.

**See comment thread for an important
Appendix entry.

Please also continue to
Appendix 'B' for a discussion of patterns of life, real or potential.

1)
Separation in Academic Contexts, February 24, 2010 (accessed 4/20/10).

2)
Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary (emphasis added)

3) Dr. Gerald Priest from an extended thread comment posted at the
pseudo- fundamentalist Sharper Iron blog, (accessed, 3/28/10).

May 12, 2010

AVAILABLE NOW: What to Expect, 4

Dear Guests of IDOTG:

The Revised & Expanded Edition of In Defense of the Gospel is now available for order. Most will order through Amazon. At Amazon, however, the original book cover design and description still appear. The new image, title and description can take up to two weeks to be updated at Amazon to reflect the new cover, description and title. The publisher assures me that any orders placed through Amazon will be filled with the new edition. Click on the book cover image to the left and you will be directed to Amazon for ordering information.

The church purchased by Jesus Christ must have a clear understanding of salvation by grace through faith. It is the very heart of the gospel message. Some have turned the grace of our God into lasciviousness or unbridled lust (Jude 4), thinking that since they are saved and going to heaven they can live any way they please. Others, rightly concerned about rampant carnality in the church, have distorted the simple gospel message and have burdened the sinner with additional requirements that extend well beyond simple faith in the crucified and risen One. The unsaved person is told that if he does not turn from sin, surrender, have a willingness to obey, fulfill the demands of discipleship, etc., then he cannot be saved. Sadly, the focus is turned away from the all sufficient, finished work of Christ which is the sinner’s only resting place. Lou Martuneac has presented the biblical balance between these two erroneous and extreme positions. In this confused theological climate, his book is like a breath of fresh air and deserves a wide reading.

Pastor George Zeller

A Note From the Author
What is more important than a proper understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ? Serious-minded Christians understand that the stewardship of the gospel is a great responsibility, and that the presentation of the gospel to the unsaved man must be based on a precise understanding of the biblical doctrine of salvation. History repeatedly demonstrates the tendency of well-intentioned men and women to react to false doctrine by embracing an equally heretical belief at the opposite end of the theological pendulum swing. First year Bible college students are taught to keep a balance in their theology, because once they lose their balance they will go off into extremes.

This is not a question of a weak gospel verses a strong gospel, but of the one true gospel standing apart from all other false gospels. If the weak gospel erred by omission, the strong gospel equally errs by addition. All witnesses for Christ desire true conversions. In my zeal to secure more genuine conversions, however, I do not have the liberty to alter the terms of the gospel. Any alteration of the gospel either by omission or addition must be rejected. In the evangelical community there are two polar opposites in the debate over what constitutes the gospel message that leads to eternal salvation. These extremes are commonly known or referred to as “Easy-Believism” and “Lordship Salvation.”

Many have been alarmed at the increasingly meaningless presentation of a gospel that seems to ignore the person of Christ, the sinfulness of man, the finished work of Christ and the pending judgment of God. This gospel calls men to salvation when they have been given only a vague idea of just what they need to be saved from, who Christ is and what He did to provide salvation. This is a reductionist interpretation of the gospel, i.e. the content of saving faith with which I strongly disagree. This is the so-called “Easy-Believism” gospel, which in one of its most extreme forms is propagated by the Grace Evangelical Society (GES) Dr. Bob Wilkin, Executive Director. The GES gospel is commonly known as the “Crossless” or “Promise-ONLY” gospel, which was originated by Prof. Zane Hodges (1932-2008). Later we will take a closer look at the teaching of Zane Hodges and Bob Wilkin.

While I do not hold to any reductionist approach to evangelism and would admonish those who seek quick uninformed decisions for Christ to repent of their error, this document has been produced to address the opposite extreme, Lordship Salvation. (IDOTG: Revised & Expanded Edition, pp. xiii, xiv.)

Errors in Off-Setting Pairs
The Grace Evangelical Society’s Crossless gospel and Lordship Salvation are two sides of the same counterfeit coin. From their respective ends of the soteriology pendulum swing, both deny the complete perfection and sufficiency of Christ’s work on the cross, demonstrated by His resurrection. The Crossless gospel excludes the Person of Christ, His finished work on the cross and bodily resurrection from the necessary content of saving faith. Lordship Salvation undermines the sufficiency of His cross and resurrection by front-loading faith in Christ’s atoning work with a commitment to what is expected of a disciple.

These doctrinal errors seem to always come in offsetting pairs. It is one of the Devil’s devices, which has the effect of throwing God’s children off balance in their understanding of the one true gospel of Jesus Christ. Of the two, however, Lordship Salvation is the more dangerous, as it is more subtle, not as easily recognized and more widespread. (IDOTG: Revised & Expanded Edition, p. 256.)

For additional endorsements and excerpts see the following links:

Very Soon Now, Dr. Robert Lightner

Very Soon Now: What to Expect, 1, Dr. Ron Comfort & Dr. Charlie Bing

Very Soon Now: What to Expect, 2, Evangelist John R. Van Gelderen

Very Soon Now: What to Expect, 3, Dr. Chris Shepler

May 10, 2010

AVAILABLE NOW: What to Expect, 3

Dear Guests of IDOTG:

The Revised & Expanded Edition of In Defense of the Gospel is now available for order. Most will order through Amazon. At Amazon, however, the original book cover design and description still appear. The new image, title and description can take up to two weeks to be updated at Amazon to reflect the new cover, description and title. The publisher assures me that any orders placed through Amazon will be filled with the new edition. Click on the book cover image to the left and you will be directed to Amazon for ordering information.

Lou Martuneac’s book In Defense of the Gospel is urgently needed because many pulpits today are inundated with erroneous teaching concerning the Gospel of Jesus Christ—the Lordship Salvation advocates have perverted the Gospel by issuing requirements for salvation that God never issued! Yet the Gospel is the major theme of all of Holy Scripture; it must be preached from the pulpit in order for any church to say or claim it is a gospel-preaching church. “What is the Gospel?” and “What must one do to be saved?” are two questions every born again believer in our churches should be able to answer doctrinally from the Scripture without hesitation. If you are concerned lest our churches lose the Gospel of Jesus Christ and leave the only message that can save a lost sinner, then this fair-minded, objective, and biblical book must be read with prayerful consideration!
Dr. Chris Shepler, Pastor

The first edition of IDOTG (pictured left) was published in Spring 2006. In the new revised and expanded edition you will find several new sections. Following is an excerpt from-
IDOTG: Biblical Answers to Lordship Salvation, [Revised & Expanded Edition], pp. 128-129.

Classic Lordship Salvation contends that repentance is turning from sin(s) or the resolve to turn from sins. Repentance is viewed as a commitment to discipleship and fruit bearing. Scripture has a better answer. The Bible teaches that the Savior saves “the ungodly” (Rom. 5:6) in their sin, and believers from the power of sin (Rom. 6:1-ff; Gal. 5:16). Jurist theologian Ron Shea (Th.M., J.D.) explains that Lordship’s front-loading of the gospel is fundamentally a bilateral contract at law.
In this view, eternal salvation is not dependent on the performance of a work, but only the promise of future works. In the minds of those determined to adhere to salvation by works, this distinction supposedly allows the works of the law to be somehow added to the equation of salvation without annulling the doctrine of grace. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans would disagree. “For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise is of none effect.” The…expression of “saving repentance” is nothing more than a specific form or expression of Bilateral Contract Salvation . . . “a promise for a promise.” The lost sinner “promises” future obedience in exchange for God’s “promise” of eternal life. This errant understanding of the term “repentance” is the most common and pervasive form of “Lordship Salvation” taught within Christendom throughout the world.

For additional endorsements and excerpts see the following links:

Very Soon Now, Dr. Robert Lightner

Very Soon Now: What to Expect, 1, Dr. Ron Comfort & Dr. Charlie Bing

Very Soon Now: What to Expect, 2, Evangelist John R. Van Gelderen

May 7, 2010

The Breakdown of Fidelity Toward the God-Given Mandates for Separatism

Dear Guests of IDOTG:

Today I am linking you to an important article that discusses the current craze among some in Fundamental circles for fellowship with “
conservative” evangelicals. A growing affinity for that fellowship in spite of various forms of aberrant theology, dangerous ecumenical compromises and worldly methods of ministry among conservative evangelicals. I refer to the article,

Considerations Concerning the Proclamation of a Post-Fundamentalism Era and the Foundations for Paleo-Evangelicalism, Part 8

This new installment in Brother Gordon Phillips’s series is a powerful commentary on the growing passion of certain self described
biblical separatists (in or formerly among Fundamentalist ranks) for fellowship with the so-called “conservative” evangelicals and certain new evangelicals erroneously counted among the conservatives.

Brother Gordon at the outset notes that his article,

…will seek to answer the question of whether the historical lines of separation for Fundamentalists should be scrapped in favor of fresh approaches meant to allow fellowship and cooperation with Conservative Evangelicals.
The article contains quotes such as,
A neglect of the doctrine of separation from brethren will eventually lead to a softer attitude toward ecclesiastical separation in general, and that is an ill wind that does not bode well for the next generation of would-be Fundamentalists.”
The author of the excerpt above is Dr. Rolland McCune, faculty member at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary (DBTS). IMO Dr. McCune's extended comment is especially noteworthy in light of DBTS president *Dave Doran redefining biblical separatism to accommodate and host conservative evangelicals at DBTS, a ministry of Inter-City Baptist Church.

Another remarkable aspect of Dr. McCune’s commentary from 1994 is its striking similarity to recent remarks by DBTS’s Dr. Gerald Priest who, at the pseudo- fundamentalist Sharper Iron site, wrote in reaction to Kevin Bauder’s Let’s Get Clear on This,
Kevin has been quite lavish in his praise of conservative evangelicals while castigating so-called fundamentalists…. What I fear is that we may be allowing a Trojan horse into the fundamentalist camp. And after a while, if we keep going down this track, any significant difference between conservative evangelical and the fundamentalist institutions may disappear.”
Considerations Concerning... is an important contribution to a discussion of the ongoing breakdown of fidelity toward the God-given mandates for separatism. (2 Cor. 6:14-17; Eph. 5:11; 2 John 9-11; 2 Thess. 3:6, 14-15; Romans 16:17) The article, furthermore, identifies some of the leading contributors to this break down.

Again, I encourage all guests of
IDOTG to link to, read and reflect upon Brother Gordon’s essay, Considerations Concerning the Proclamation of a Post-Fundamentalism Era and the Foundations for Paleo-Evangelicalism, Part 8


LM

UPDATE:
Brother Phillips’s has informed me he will publish a new installment in his series Considerations Concerning the Proclamation of a Post-Fundamentalism Era…. Following is a sample.
In the face of such revelations, Fundamentalist organizations and their leaders in particular cannot continue to pretend that nothing is happening. Could it be that some of what we are witnessing are the actions of certain men specifically designed to implement a revolution in Fundamentalism? Are these critics perhaps awaiting another self-created flash point to come along again like what was attempted prior to the 2009 FBFI annual meeting in hopes of finally rising the ire of the dissatisfied masses of YF's to a point that they would demand wholesale changes in Fundamentalist organizations and institutions?
See comment thread for an appendix entry by Dr. Ernest Pickering from his classic Biblical Separation: The Struggle for a Pure Church.

Recent articles at
IDOTG that address the breakdown of biblical separatism include:

*Is There a Second Definition for “Separation” in Academic Contexts? Exposing impressionable students to compromised Christian leaders and scholars is not only dangerous it is an act of disobedience.”

Al Mohler Signs The Manhattan Declaration: Was This a First Time Foray Toward Ecumenism?

Let’s Get “CRYSTAL” Clear on This: A Response to Kevin Bauder’s “Cannonball” Cogitations

John Piper, “I'm Going to Need Help to Know Why I Should Feel Bad About This Decision” to Feature Rick Warren at Desiring God


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

The
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

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.