Archival Series- Vigilance Regarding the Truth of the Gospel: Reengaging the Heresy of the GES “Crossless” Gospel, Final
Earlier we began this two part series with Vigilance Regarding the Truth of the Gospel: Reengaging the Heresy of the GES “Crossless” Gospel, Part 1 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).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.”
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)
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.
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.
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.
Pastor Tom Stegall
Originally appeared: May 6, 2010
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