October 30, 2007

Pursuit of Truth Blog

Dear Guests:

Recently, I have visited a blog that I find helpful and a friend in the efforts to refute the teaching of Bob Wilkins’s “Crossless” gospel. That blog is Pursuit of Truth.

Two Pursuit of Truth administrators regularly visit and comment here at my blog. Last week I noticed that two of the “Crossless” theology advocates visited Pursuit of Truth. This motivated me to make a few comments in the thread under the article titled, Free Grace Alliance Sponsors a Panel…

Following is an edited except from two of my posts at Pursuit of Truth. Please excuse some redundancy. I put two separate comments together and want leave them prey much as they appeared at Pursuit of Truth.

The “Crossless” theology that originated with Zane Hodges, and is antithetical to Scripture, is being propagated primarily by Bob Wilkin and Jeremy Myers. Jim Johnson, an “Instructor” at the Rocky Mt. Bible College, however, just entered the “Crossless” debate at Pursuit of Truth.

What Does the Bible Say?

Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them,” (Rom. 16:17).

What has been irrefutably shown from the numerous articles (primarily by Greg Schliesmann) at my blog, and especially in the continuing series by Tom Stegall at the Grace Family Journal is that “Crossless” gospel theology is “contrary doctrine” and the “cause (of) divisions and offenses” in the Free Grace community.

In referring to the terms beseech, mark, and avoid in verse 17, Dr. Mark Minnick, which I cited in my book on Lordship Salvation, said what is very appropriate for the “Crossless gospel controversy. He wrote:
If you take those terms and you ponder them for just a moment, what becomes apparent is this: That our response in the first place is mandated. We have no subjective decision to make. The decision has already been made and the mandate is objective; it is in print! It has been in print for centuries! I exhort you, ‘mark’ them and ‘avoid’ them. The response that we are given is a mandated response. We are obligated to obey what is here.”

The following note from Dr. Charles Ryrie also appears in my book on Lordship Salvation:
“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.” (Balancing the Christian Life, p. 170.)

With a slight adjustment, Ryrie’s statement can be applied to the “Crossless” gospel controversy today.
“The message of faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ and the message of faith apart from any knowledge or belief in the finished work of Jesus Christ 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.”

There is no middle ground, no ground to give when the Gospel, the Cross, the Resurrection of Christ and His Deity are under assault, as it plainly is by “Crossless” theology and its advocates.

It is crucial to remember this: It is not the presentation of these truths that are the crux of debate as the “Crossless” men would have people believe. The debate is over what a lost man must know, understand or believe for salvation. It is there that these men have departed from the faith once delivered (Jude 3).

The “Crossless” theology advocates have repeatedly reminded us that they are personally persuaded of the truths of the Gospel. The crux of the debate, however, which they are determined to avoid discussing in unvarnished terms, is what the lost man must believe for salvation.

In my debates with the LS men they did not want to discuss what they believe are the requirements for salvation. They constantly drifted to the results of salvation. The advocates of “Crossless” theology are doing the exact same thing.

They want to keep repeating with unwavering regularity, “we believe the same things you do.” That has been recognized. However, they do not want to state in unvarnished terms that they reject the position that a lost man must believe these to truths to be born again, saved, receive the gift of eternal life and justified.

To reiterate: The question for these men is not whether they personally believe in Christ’s work as the grounds for salvation. The question is whether the “Crossless” gopsel advocates like Hodges, Wilkin, Myers and Johnson believe the lost man must believe in Christ’s finished work for salvation.

It is that question they do not want to answer without first twisting and redefining the Scriptures, like we saw Jeremy demonstrate at Pursuit of Truth. The answer, has however, been made clear from their previous writing.

Their position, which originated with Zane Hodges, is that it is not necessary for the lost person to know, understand or believe in the Deity, or the finished work of Christ as a condition for salvation.


October 29, 2007

Scared Stiff Skiing


A friend sent me an e-mail this evening. Among other things he referred to my skiing story below and encouraged me to be careful. Well I thought I’d be transparent and tell two related skiing stories. I have been skiing since 1960 and have been scared only twice.

A Picture From the Young & Fearless Years

The first scare came was when I was 14. My dad took me to ski in the mountains of southern Spain. One day he hired a ski guide to take me around the mountain for some “special” skiing. Mind you, at 14 I was an accomplished skier, for a 14 year old. Anyway, this guide took down some very nice and scenic runs. One was an Olympic downhill practice course, that was fairly extreme, but a blast. After lunch, however, he took me to some virgin terrain. Toward the end of the day we came to what I recall being a gorge. I can’t quite relate just how steep it was, but I was terrified. There was no other way to get down the mountain, so off we go about 400 yards of sheer terror. I made it down without falling, but I was scared stiff.

Second Incident: I had scary moment coming down the crevice at Copper Mountain that I describe in the previous article. Similar situation as I just described from my trip to Spain. I was skiing with a professional guide named Doug. Doug and I skied together last year and we were back together again this year. We skied great terrain, very challenging and fun.

Just before Noon we went to the Spaulding Bowl, the bowl in the picture below. We had skied it before. It is steep, there are some rocks, but it is primarily wide open as you can see. When I say, “steep,” that means you have to get the first 12-18” of your skies over the edge before you can actually see the slope you are about to go down. When you ski those double-black diamond bowls you have to make either the perfect turn or a recovery. There is much room to maneuver, but you can’t make a mistake. Most people that try those bowls are usually just trying to survive it.

On this trip to the Spaulding Bowl Doug took me way around to the left of where we usually went, which in the picture is to the far right, and well above the tree line. On the way around the top I did notice there were no ski tracks from earlier in the day. Seemed odd at the moment. The area had been open for three hours and no had been over this way yet. Oh well.

So, we come to a gap, the sign says, “So Fine.” We start down a gentle grade, and then, all at once, a sheer drop.

Like I said in the previous article, about 30 yards wide and rock walls on both sides. My first two turns were OK, but the third was a little too good. What I mean by “too good,” is that I set a sharp edge, which makes you carve harder and accelerate. This is fine for more gentle terrain, but not good for the steeps. So, when I set this edge I began to accelerate toward the rocks. In this situation that was not the perfect turn so its recovery or crash time.

Will I stop short of the rocks; or will I become a rock-art mural? We'll find out, but first, my free ski tip of the week.

One of the best and safest ways to slow down and recover is to ski back up the hill. You are using reverse gravity to get under control. That way you slow down quickly and come to a gentle stop, or slow down, get under control and begin your next turn.

Now, back to the action: So, I was trying to ski back up the steep, which I did, and stopped about 14” inches from the rocks. While I was headed for the rocks, with all sincerity, I can tell you that all I was thinking about was that I did not want to wreck my skies. That was my primary motive for stopping short of the rocks.

Now that I had come to a stop I have to inch back slowly because it is too steep to turn and go or even simply get turned around. Once I got back to where I can straighten out, turn and go I looked at Doug and said,
I'm not sure this was a good idea.”
Doug was great! He said,
Lou, look down this crevice. Do you see any rocks down the middle? No? OK, so if you fall you won’t hit anything, you’ll just slide to the bottom.”

Well, with that reassuring thought from my guide we got vertical and cruised down the crevice. No problems from there. Doug took the picture of me, once we got down and out of the Spaulding Bowl.

Doug also told me that 1) He knew I could handle it, and 2) only the professional instructors and guides know about and ski that crevice. So, I found out why there were no other ski tracks on that side of the bowl.

This picture is not me, but is representative of what the bowl skiing is like I described above.

For all you folks who ski, please note in the earlier picture I am wearing a helmet. If I had hit the rocks my head would have been safe. Most of the rest of me might have been mangled, but at least I’d still have my sense of humor.


October 27, 2007

Personal Notes & Update

1) Temperatures are dropping. It is snowing in the Rockies. I am getting myself in shape for another season of skiing. I can hardly wait!

The picture is of me (01/07) at Copper Mountain , Colorado. Behind me is the Spaulding Powder Bowl. That day I was with a professional guide. The picture was taken by my guide right after we plummeted down a crevice that was 30 yards wide, lined with rocks on both sides, and almost as steep as your living room walls.

My skiing motto is: “If it’s too steep; you’re too old.” I am about a year or two away from being “too old” for crevice skiing like I did last year.

2) Recently I was asked to write a series of articles on the “Crossless” gospel for another Fundamental web site. Once they begin posting them I will link you to the site. It is encouraging to see how many more are coming to realize the danger of and just how far askew of the biblical plan of salvation Zane Hodges, Bob Wilkin and the Grace Evangelical Society have drifted.

3) This week I began developing a new article on one of the most controversial issues in the Lordship Salvation debate. A few years ago one of the leading apologists for Lordship Salvation wrote a brief statement that immediately became a lightning rod for debate. My intention is to review that controversial statement, compare it to similar statements and then test it against the Word of God.

4) Last week one of my children just underwent a major surgery. All went well, and a full recovery is expected. We thank God for His grace and mercy.

5) The revised and expanded version of In Defense of the Gospel is in progress and nearing completion. It is a project I devote the time I have available to as I am able. In recent weeks I have been reading and/or interacting with several men I trust and appreciate. I have received numerous requests for the release date. For now, I can tell you that we are looking at early in 2008. The study, meditation on Scripture and prayer that goes into this work has been a blessing.

Yours faithfully,


October 24, 2007

Watch & Remember: I Ceased Not To Warn…

Dear Guests:

In the Tom Stegall…FGA thread Kevl made this observation,

At any other time in Church History movements and changes like this would likely go un-noticed by the rank and file Christians who would only ever feel the results of it after the fact years later from the men standing at pulpits giving messages based on what they had been trained in.”

Over the centuries the doctrinal and practical instruction has and should come from the pulpit every time the man of God stands in it and opens the Word of God. If you were to stand in the pulpit at the church I attend you would notice a small plaque that was inset in the upper right hand corner, so that only the preacher can see it while he preaches. This is the inscription on that plaque,

Sir, we would see Jesus.”

Preachers, the folks God has given you to shepherd need and deserve to see the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ.

We live in the information age. The Internet has brought new trials and temptations, but it has also brought help and blessing. During the week Christians are surfing the Internet and it is there that many of them are having their theology shaped. In a typical week Christian men and women may hear one or more sermons from the pastor of their church. During the year they may attend special evangelistic meetings, or Missions and Bible conferences. There is a definite lopsided balance in favor of the Internet.

In the theological realm the Internet has given Christians access to many tools and references, which may aid them in their study and walk with God. Conversely, it can open avenues to error and heresy that they might otherwise never have been exposed to. If we are realistic many in our churches likely spend at least twice as much time on the Internet reading about and interacting with primarily strangers on any number of doctrinal topics than they do in their local church. I am always concerned that some Christians who expose themselves to error, more out of curiosity than anything else, may wind up adopting the error as their own position.

Through the Internet literally thousands of concerned believers are being advised of and forewarned about the unscriptural doctrine known as the “Crossless” gospel. If it were not for the Internet method of instantaneous communication we would not be hearing of these disconcerting doctrines coming from Zane Hodges, Bob Wilkin and the Grace Evangelical Society (GES) with the speed we do today. In regard to the current discussion and debate over what is known at the “Crossless” gospel the Internet has been very effective and helpful in exposing and refuting this error on the Gospel.

Thanks to the good articles by Tom Stegall, Dennis Rokser and Greg Schliesmann, Christians will not be so na├»ve or unsuspecting when they are faced with what Zane Hodges and Bob Wilkin have been teaching, for the most part, with impunity until recent months. Believers will no longer be easily caught off guard. They will hear and be able to recognize the warning signs from the men to teach and promote the “Crossless” gospel. And that goes for Lordship Salvation too!

In the one year my blog has been up there have been over 28,000 hits (45,000+ May 2008).Many have written in the threads, and at least as many have sent private e-mails expressing appreciation for having been informed and warned of the inherent dangers in the “Crossless” gospel and Lordship Salvation. Both are wrong, both are departures from a balanced biblical position on the Gospel. Lordship Salvation and the “Crossless” gospel are as far to the left and right of the biblical plan of salvation as they respectively can be.
Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears,” (Acts 20:28-31).
From the historical perspective, to learn what can happen if we let our guard down, one has only to look at Lordship Salvation. The Lordship interpretation of the Gospel has been with us longer than the “Crossless” gospel. Initially it did not have the broad base of support it enjoys today. Lordship Salvation, however, was given a great deal more impetus when, in 1988, it was presented by arguably one of the best known and most influential evangelicals in that day, Dr. John MacArthur. There were 4,000 at the 2007 Shepherd’s Conference. That indicates the spread of Lordship Salvation has been essentially unchecked. It also shows us that we must not ignore or give up on writing to counteract the errors of the works-based message of the Lordship advocates.

On the other hand, at the recent GES conference in Washington State reports from an attendee are there were only about 20* delegates in attendance. It is an encouraging sign that the GES’s departure from orthodoxy is being recognized and its advocates avoided by discerning pastors and leaders. This does not mean we can let our guard down or feel like the job is done. The Apostle Paul warned the pastors and leaders of his day to “watch” the horizon for error lest it creep in among the believers under their care.

Zane Hodges, Bob Wilkin and the GES are determined to continue the spread of their “Crossless/Deityless” interpretation of the Gospel. Blogs that are sympathetic to the GES are vehicles through which the false teaching is being delivered. If men like Pastor Tom Stegall decided that enough has been done to counteract the assault on the Gospel and Deity of Christ he might have discontinued his series at the Grace Family Journal with just one entry. I believe that would allow for the “Crossless” gospel to over time regain momentum and cause more Christians to fall into the trap of their egregious errors.

If we do not “watch” and take care to keep this “Crossless” teaching identified and exposed it could one day gain great momentum and thereby deceive many unsuspecting Christians. What a tragedy it would be for the “Crossless” interpretation of the Gospel grow to the point where its leadership were to host 4,000 delegates at a convention.


*One individual suggested there were as many as 60 at this GES conference.

October 21, 2007

Dennis Rokser on the FGA Panel Discussion

The following is from Pastor Dennis Rokser. He is pastor of the Duluth Bible Church in Duluth, MN. Pastor Rokser also hosts the Grace Family Journal

Greetings everyone in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ:

I also attended the Free Grace Alliance (FGA) conference and am thankful for their desire to stand for the grace of God.

Dr. Charlie Bing made it clear in his plenary session that while we must be gracious in our manner, the FGA stands behind their covenant/statement of faith:

The Grace of God in justification is an unconditional free gift. The sole means of receiving the free gift of eternal life is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, whose substitutionary death on the cross fully satisfied the requirement for our justification. Faith is a personal response, apart from our works, whereby we are persuaded that the finished work of Jesus Christ has delivered us from condemnation and guaranteed our eternal life.”

Dr. Bing then proceeded to clarify that that “finished work” involves the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and that those who cannot agree with that statement should not be in the FGA.

Also, I heard a number of comments after the panel discussion from a variety of people in attendance that they greatly appreciated Tom Stegall's use of the Scriptures to defend his position as well as his humble & gracious manner. I thought his biblical defense was outstanding for the time allotted.

I was encouraged with the basic doctrine and direction of the FGA leadership, and they will be in my prayers, especially their new executive director, J.B. Hixson, whom I respect.

As any start-up organization, they have some loose ends to tie up and issues to address, and may God give them the courage to stand for the Gospel and the truths of grace, leaving the results with the Lord, and to not practice the “ends justify the means” mentality of human viewpoint so prevalent in evangelical circles today.

We were assured by FGA leadership that they are going to continue to discuss and resolve the issue of the Crossless gospel in the near future. Please pray for them.

The atmosphere was relaxed; the fellowship was encouraging; the panel discussions were informative (though they needed a couple more hours on the crossless issue).

I'm glad that I attended. It was also great to meet new folks and fellowship with those I've met in the past.

Dennis Rokser

October 18, 2007

Tom Stegall on the FGA Panel Discussion

Following is the report I received this afternoon from Pastor Tom Stegall.

Dear Lou:

Greetings in the Lord. I’ve now arrived home from a profitable last few days at the Free Grace Alliance Conference in Dallas. It was a great opportunity to see many other fellow believers from around the country who are committed to proclaiming and living by God's all-sufficient grace. It was also a chance to meet many new people and establish relationships in the Lord that I trust will continue to grow over the years.

As you and your readers know, there was a panel discussion on the subject of whether explicit knowledge of Christ’s death and resurrection is necessary in order to receive eternal life. I was privileged to be asked to be on the panel and to represent the affirmative view. This was not intended to be a “debate” but a panel discussion. This distinction is important, since a panel discussion of five people tends to reduce the level of rancor and the polarizing hostility that a two-person debate often generates. A panel discussion also lends itself to a greater focus on the issues themselves without turning the event into a public spectacle. So I appreciated the FGA leadership’s wisdom in setting up this kind of format.

I think the panel discussion was spiritually profitable and productive for those in attendance since they were able to hear directly from each participant what they believed. I represented the view that the term “gospel,” though it simply means “good news,” still has a technical usage and meaning in the New Testament where it refers to the particular message of Christ’s death for our sins and resurrection from the dead for our eternal salvation, and thus God requires the unregenerate to believe it.

Others on the panel, who represented the view that explicit knowledge of Christ’s death and resurrection is not required for eternal life, repeatedly emphasized that the whole question is “irrelevant” and a moot point since we all preach the cross and resurrection in our practical, everyday evangelism. *In contrast, I tried to emphasize that it is the requirement for the lost to believe the gospel truth of Christ’s death and resurrection that is the issue, not whether these gospel truth’s are merely presented to the lost. If it is merely presented to the lost but we do not tell them that God Himself requires belief in the gospel truth of His Son’s death and resurrection, then the lost can walk away with a false assurance that they possess eternal life all the while believing in “another Jesus.”

I also tried to underscore that this question of the lost knowing about, and believing in, Christ’s death and resurrection is relevant because GOD says it is in the Bible. It is not a matter of whether WE think it is or isn’t, since God has clearly spoken on this question already in the Bible. He has already made the gospel of Christ’s death and resurrection necessary to believe in order to be saved from eternal destruction, as stated in Acts 13:41, 2 Th. 1:8-10, 1 Cor. 1:17-23, 2:2, 4:15 and many other passages.

In addition, I also tried to emphasize with my limited time that the requirement in the Gospel of John to “believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God,” is not a message of lesser content than the “gospel” of Christ. This is born out through understanding progressive revelation and a correct interpretation of the Gospel of John, which recognizes that the book thematically sets forth a consummate view of the Christ by the time it reaches its evangelistic appeal in 20:30-31.

There were so many passages yet to be covered by us as a panel, especially about the “gospel” and the Gospel of John, that in my opinion, we barely even scratched the surface of this crucial topic. Many more passages and points need to be addressed than could possibly be covered in a 1.5 hour panel discussion. I remain convinced of the necessity to continue writing and printing articles on this subject, which Free Grace believers can look for in future editions of the Grace Family Journal . I am also grateful for the opportunity to have presented what I believe is the biblical position in order for people to see a clear difference; and I trust the Lord will use what was presented to bring biblical clarity among Free Grace believers and most importantly to bring glory to our common Savior, Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4:6).

All of the sessions from the conference were recorded, including the particular panel discussion on the cross and resurrection, and they were made available for purchase at the end of the conference to those in attendance. I’m not certain, however, if this means that the FGA has decided to make these recordings available to the public for purchase. People will have to check with them on that question.

On a personal note, it was encouraging to meet the leadership of the organization and to know that there are some very good men providing guidance and direction to the organization who are sincerely committed to the gospel. Please keep the FGA in your prayers as they continue seeking to be vessels of God’s grace in our generation.

Sincerely in Christ and for His glory,

Tom Stegall

* It is vital to grasp the important distinction that Pastor Stegall draws out in this paragraph. The advocates of the “Crossless” gospel frequently attempt to steer discussions toward what they personally believe about the Gospel, and away from what a lost man must believe for the reception of eternal life. When you discuss the issue with a man who holds to the “Crossless” interpretation of the Gospel make sure you focus your questions, in regard to their position, on what they believe a lost man must know, understand or believe for salvation. That is the crux of the debate, and around which the controversy revolves.

October 17, 2007

FGA Panel Discussion Update

Late Wednesday night Pastor Stegall contacted me. As early as today (Thursday) we will have some notes from him in regard to the panel discussion.

This morning I received a call from Pastor Stegall. He is in transit back to Milwaukee and was, therefore, able to give me only a brief synopsis of the panel discussion. There were many who met for fellowship and discussions after the evening's activities, which is why he was unable to call me last night.

Once Pastor Stegall is back home a follow-up report will be forthcoming.

Lord willing the errors of the “Crossless” gospel were fully revealed. This way there can be a skimming off and removal of the errors that have crept into the fellowship of Free Grace believers. It is my hope and prayer that once Ps. Stegall finished his teaching from the Scriptures no one in attendance had any lingering doubt about whether or not the Hodges/Wilkin message is a departure from the faith once delivered (Jude 3).

Lord willing this discussion will have galvanized men in the FGA to take action that no more would be confused and deceived by the teachings of Zane Hodges and Bob Wilkin.


October 16, 2007

Free Grace Alliance Sponsors Panel Discussion on the “Crossless” Gospel


This week (Oct. 15-17) the Free Grace Alliance is conducting their national meeting. Among the various workshops is a special panel discussion to be held this evening. The discussion is being billed as an Academic Forum. Following is the question for discussion “Is explicit belief in Jesus’ death and resurrection necessary for salvation?”

For the Grace Evangelical Society’s “Crossless” gospel Jeremy Myers and Tim Nichols will take the platform. Tom Stegall and Ken Wilson will represent the Free Grace community position.

I might have suggested the Forum question be postulated this way, “In this dispensation, Is explicit belief in Jesus’ death and resurrection necessary for salvation?”

One element that, in my opinion, should be included is the GES view that the Lord’s titles, “the Christ” and “Son of God” do mean or infer his Deity.

In the Open Question to Bob Wilkin thread Jeremy Myers stated that neither the titles the Christ” nor “the Son of God” involve Deity. In fact, he typed Christ’s title “son of God” (lowercase). If the title “the Son of God” does not refer to Christ’s unique relationship with the Father in which He is equal in Deity, what is the meaning of the term, “the Son of God?”

The “Crossless” advocates go way beyond claiming a lost man does not need to believe in the death and resurrection of Christ for salvation. They teach and allow for a lost man to have any kind of “misconception” about, and/or including a conscious rejection of the Lord’s Deity, death and resurrection and still claim he can be born again.

The corruption of the Gospel by Zane Hodges, Bob Wilkin and the GES has done serious damage to the cause of Christ. Many of us are thankful that over the last few months the egregious errors, of Hodges, Wilkin including their abuse of the Lord’s titles, have come to light. It appears they will no longer have open and free reign to spread this crossless/deityless teaching, which is antithetical to Scripture.

There several of us who are praying that the errors of “Crossless” gospel and its inherent dangers be made clear tonight. We are praying that men in leadership within the FGA will not simply recognize the dangers of the “Crossless” gospel, but take a proactive stance against it so that others in the FG community are not swept into its errors.

We are praying specifically for Jeremy Myers. It is our hope and prayer that he can be recovered to an orthodox position. At his blog Jeremy posted an article titled, Who Is The Christ? Jeremy stated,

By way of full disclosure, I do not yet know where this study will lead… Many people today teach that the terms “Christ” and “Son of God” refer to the divinity of Jesus…However, if in my study, I find that this traditional view best fits Scripture, I will believe and teach it to the best of my ability.”
We are hopeful he is sincere in his claim to be open to what the Scriptures teach.

Twice I have written Jeremy to tell him that I am praying for his recovery to a balanced position on the Gospel and Deity of Christ. I am praying for Jeremy to be sensitive to the ministry of the Holy Spirit, that his heart and conscience will be pricked as he (Myers) hears the Scriptures opened to him this evening.

Pray that the truth of the Gospel be proclaimed and defended this evening. Pray that the Spirit of God reveal truth from the Word of God for the recovery of those who have been lead into error. Pray for others who are teetering on the fence and may be about to fall into the errors of the “Crossless” gospel.

Later this evening I hope to have a report from the FGA conference on the discussion.

In Defense of the Gospel,


Please see the following articles for reaction to the Panel Discussion.

Dennis Rokser on the FGA Panel Discussion

Tom Stegall on the FGA Panel Discussion

October 14, 2007

William Carey Refutes the “Crossless” Gospel

The following is taken from: Terry G. Carter, The Journal and Selected Letters of William Carey (Macon, GA: Smyth & Helwys Publishing, 2000), 148-49. The {bracketed statements} were inserted by the publisher and copied here verbatim from the book.

William Carey’s Letter to Andrew Fuller, November 1800

{Carey had a conversation with three Hindus about the Gospel.}

You will laugh, but I am totally unable to recollect so much of the conversation as to write any thing connected about it, so must leave it, as this is the case with so many disputes, conversations, and conferences held with the Hindus. They appear important while they last and I trust are really so but sometimes the sameness of one to another, renders them unimportant when written in English. Often the apparently little quibbles, tho really important in our situation don’t appear sufficiently so to send to England. We know nothing of the disputes which you in Europe are engaged in; ours bear a nearer resemblance to those of the Protestants with the Papists at the Reformation but a nearer still to those of the old Fathers, with the Heathen, and Gnosticks, such as you will find in Justin Martyr, and Irenaeus.

{Carey and Bro. Brunsdon went to the villages about 3 or 4 miles from town and encountered an old Brahman. Carey had asked if anyone knew how sins could be pardoned. The people referred him to an old Brahman who was wise. He replied that “profound meditation and acts of Holiness would answer the purpose.” Carey shared the Gospel. Here is a sample of the great missionary in action.}

You and I, and all of us are Sinners, and we are in a helpless state but I have good things to tell you. God in the riches of His Mercy became incarnate, in the form of Man. He lived more than thirty years on the earth without Sin and was employed in doing good. He gave sight to the Blind, healed the Sick, the lame, the Deaf and the Dumb—and after all died in the stead of Sinners. We deserved the wrath of God, but he endured it. We could make no sufficient atonement for our guilt but he compleatly made an end of Sin and now he has sent us to tell you that the Work is done and to call you to faith in, and dependence on the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, leave you vain customs, and false gods, and lay hold of eternal Life through him. After much discourse of this sort we presented him with a copy of Matthew’s Gospel and three more to three other persons. He promised to read and make himself well acquainted with its Contents and then to converse more about it. It was now dark. I, therefore, prayed with them and we returned home.

Nov. 2. This has been a good Day on the whole. In the morning I went out, and after several efforts to collect a few People together, I got a greater number than I expected….The people are so moveable, some going, and others coming that often the Congregation is quite changed before we have done. I think it desirable that all should hear of the incarnation, and death of Xt (Christ) and the reasons thereof, but as that account am often obliged to repeat those circumstances several times even at one standing that all may hear the Gospel.

{Mr. Thomas and Carey went to Calcutta and visited Mr. Wilcox}

There were a great number of Merchants, Sailors, &ct. perhaps thirty or more at his house. I entered into a conversation with one of them, a Man of great wealth and respectability. The others listened after a few preliminary questions and answers, I sensibly got into a preaching mood, and discoursed with them upon the Way of the Life by Christ, and the insufficiency of all other Ways. They objected to the Death of Christ saying that God could not die. I told them twas true God as the divine nature could not die, but God incarnate could and that he was incarnate for that very purpose, “made lower than the Angels for the suffering of Death.” They acquiesced and wondered. The great man to whom I principally directed myself at first told me that he had that day or the day before received a Gospel by Matthew. We have dispersed near 500 copies of Matthew’s which are read by many.

This week there is a team of “Crossless” gospel advocates in Carey’s India. These “Crossless” advocates teach and believe any “misconception” about, even open rejection of, Jesus Christ’s Deity, Death and Resurrection should be put on the “back burner,” if the lost man objects to any of these vital truths.

Following are some observations on Carey’s comments above. Consider these observations in light of the Hodges, Wilkin, Myers, da Rosa, GES reductionist “Crossless/Deityless” interpretation of the Gospel.

1) Carey translated and distributed the Gospel of Matthew first, not John’s Gospel. Apparently, Carey had not come to the GES conclusion that the Gospel of John “is the only evangelistic book in the Bible!”

2) Carey’s disputes and conversations with Hindus more closely resembled those of early church history, revolving around the Person of Christ (deity, humanity, “the Heathen, and Gnostics”), and then also of the Reformation era, dealing with the Work of Christ!

3) When dealing with the Brahman, he made the problem of how sin can be forgiven the central issue, not just eternal life. He prefaced that by teaching the Deity of Christ; the Son of God was God in the flesh “God in the riches of His Mercy became incarnate”

4) He, like the apostle Paul, preached and emphasized to the lost Christ crucified and the sufficiency of His work on their behalf.

5) William Carey did not treat their “vain customs and false gods” as harmless additions to the “saving message” of Christ as the guarantor of eternal life. He did not put their “misconceptions” on the “back-burner.” Carey viewed them as hindrances to “faith in, and dependence on the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Clearly in the context, what Carey means by “leave your vain customs, and false gods, and lay hold of eternal Life through him” is to reject faith and dependence upon empty, worthless, and false objects of faith and transfer their faith/dependence/trust to the only worthy of object—the Lord Jesus Christ.

6) When objections were raised about the death of Christ, His deity, and the incarnation, Carey, unlike the “Crossless” advocates, did not say, “Let’s agree to disagree on that for now, the real issue is the simply the guarantee of eternal life.”

The teachers of the “Crossless” gospel who are in India today are not preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They are sowing seeds of false doctrine and discord among the brethren. Their “contrary doctrine” has caused “divisions and offences” (Romans 16:17-18). The only thing more tragic than the division and offense they have brought to the body of Christ is the spread of this reductionist non-saving message to the lost.

May God help us continue to stand in defense of the Gospel. With God’s help the teaching of the “Crossless” gospel will continue to be exposed and refuted, the deceived recovered and its advocates identified so that the unsuspecting may be forewarned.


October 12, 2007

Special Edition of the Grace Family Journal


This morning a Special Edition of the Grace Family Journal has been posted at the Duluth Bible Church web site.

The special edition is devotedly solely to the “Crossless” gospel and contains just two articles. This special edition is part 4 & 5 in the series by Pastor Tom Stegall titled, The Tragedy of the Crossless Gospel.

These articles tie-in rather well with the missions theme of my Gold Mine of Souls article.

The first special edition article deals with Zane Hodges's scenario of the man stranded on the deserted island and the problem with just a John 6:47 approach. It also addresses the accuracy of the “Crossless” label.

The second article is all about what it means biblically to “believe in His name” and the deficiency of the Zane Hodges, Bob Wilkin, GES view.

May the Lord use them both for the glory of Jesus Christ and the furtherance of the one true Gospel that stands apart from all minimalist or addition misinterpretations.

Visit the Grace Family Journal and download in PDF form the special editions of The Tragedy of the Crossless Gospel.


October 9, 2007

The Tragedy of a “Crossless” Gospel in William Carey's Gold Mine of Souls


In his article, The “Christ” Under Siege, Greg Schliesmann wrote,

Let us think of a practical example. Do Jehovah's Witnesses ‘not believe’ or ‘deny’ the significance of Jesus as ‘the only begotten Son of God?’ Both! If the individual JW accepts the teaching of his denomination, he too is guilty of denying that Jesus is ‘the only begotten Son of God.’”

It has been noted and Greg reiterated that the advocates of the “Crossless” gospel have been very reluctant to address questions on the Deity of the Lord Jesus Christ. They were asked, but *refused to answer this question:

Can a lost man be born again, while consciously denying the Deity of the Lord Jesus Christ, if he believes in Jesus for eternal life?

The Jehovah's Witness (JW) scenario, however, is a practical example of a contemporary situation that cannot be so easily dismissed. This is, in part, why Jeremy Myers “refused to answer” and checked out of the discussion he was having with Greg Schliesmann in the thread under An Open Question to Bob Wilkin at the Grace Evangelical Society.

What we do learn from one GES apologist, however, reveals just how antithetical to Scripture these men have gone in their theology and practice of evangelism. In May 2006 **Antonio da Rosa wrote,

“If a JW hears me speak of Christ’s Deity and asks me about it, I will say, ‘Let us agree to disagree about this subject,’...At the moment that a JW or a Mormon is convinced that Jesus Christ has given to them unrevokable (sic) eternal life when they believed on Him for it, I would consider such a one saved, REGARDLESS of their varied misconcetions (sic) and beliefs about Jesus.” [1]

Crossless” gospel teaching leads to an inevitable, disturbing and unscriptural conclusion: Lost men, who cling to heretical beliefs about the Lord Jesus Christ, can be born again by believing in His name even while they consciously reject His Deity. The JW and Mormon rejects Christ's Deity, yet according to the “Crossless” message they can still be born again.

Imagine missionary efforts 200 hundred years ago in the, “Gold Mine of Souls.”

If ***William Carey took the “Crossless” interpretation of the Gospel to the Hindu of India he would have, in his first year, seen results that would have surpassed Pentecost or any revival campaign the world has ever seen. The evangelistic ministry of a GES “Crossless” missionary would have eclipsed the evangelistic achievements of Adoniram Judson, David Livingstone, Jonathan Goforth, and J. Hudson Taylor.

Picture, if you will, a GES “Crossless/Deityless” gospel preaching missionary in India. That missionary would tell the Hindu that (in spite of his worship of many gods) “if you will believe in the name Jesus as the giver of eternal life, whomever you think Jesus is, even if you just add this Jesus to your list of many gods, you will receive eternal life.” The missionary would realize a stampede of new believers in the name Jesus, but not one genuine conversion.

What does the Bible say?

1 John 2:22-23 Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son. Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also.

2 John 9 Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God.

John 17:1-3 These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.

1 Tim. 2:5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.

The evangelism of the “Crossless/Deityless” preacher is fixated on belief in a promise, which for them must be the sinner's object of faith. Contrary to the false teaching of these men, any man who believes in a promise of eternal life while consciously rejecting Christ’s Deity has not been saved.

Today Antonio da Rosa announced he would be traveling to William Carey's Gold Mine of Souls, India. Antonio is taking this “Crossless/Deityless” message to those who are in spiritual darkness and worship many gods. When da Rosa encounters a Hindu who will view Jesus as just another god among his many gods, what will da Rosa's message be? Drawing from da Rosa’s article this is how he would evangelize the Hindu,

“Let us agree to disagree about this subject...don't worry about your misconceptions...it does not matter how many gods you believe in or worship...just believe in Christ's promise, no matter who you think He is, and you will have eternal life.”

Now, think about the Bible-believing missionary (or a seminary trained national pastor/evangelist) who comes to that town after the heretical “Crossless/Deityless” gospel was introduced to these poor unsuspecting lost people. He will have the double difficulty of preaching the unsearchable riches of the Lord Jesus Christ to men, women and children whose minds remain blinded (2 Cor. 4: 3-6), but have also have been told they are born again, and already possess the gift of eternal life.

What is the “Crossless” advocates approach to evangelism when a lost man openly objects to and rejects the Deity of the Lord Jesus Christ? Again, we have the answer from da Rosa,

“But if such a one continued to express doubts or objections to this, I would say politely, ‘Let us for the time being put this issue on the back-burner.’” [2]

The doctrine of the “Crossless” gospel advocates has never been so fully exposed. The recent revelation of their downgrading of the Lord titles, “Christ” & “Son of God” has IMO, given an ever increasing number of believers good reason and cause to step back giving the GES, Bob Wilkin and Zane Hodges a very wide berth.

When I first reviewed the “Crossless” gospel, I was disturbed by its reductionist message that has almost nothing that resembles the biblical Gospel of Jesus Christ. Then in our debates at my blog with these men we learned from them what they have done to the Lord’s titles, “Christ” and “Son of God.” This may not be a trampling, but it is no less than a dumbing down of His titles to keep a position on the Gospel, that is antithetical to Scripture, glued together.

IMO, the GES did not want so full a disclosure of their beliefs on the Gospel and Deity of Christ to get such wide spread attention. The teachers of the “Crossless” gospel are now in the unenviable position of explaining their reductionist interpretation of the Gospel, including the total dismissal of Christ’s Deity from what the sinner must have some knowledge of and belief in order to be born again (John 20:31; Romans 10:9-10).

I am hopeful that many across a broad spectrum of evangelical circles are coming to see what these men have done to the Gospel, and the titles of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Many have recoiled from the teachings of Zane Hodges, Bob Wilkin, Jeremy Myers and the GES over this reductionist Gospel and misinterpretation of the Lord’s titles .

In the thread that followed the original version of this article one man posted the following comment,

“Great posts lately on the crossless, antichrist gospel, especially regarding missions. There would be no golden harvest of souls (in India) with this gospel, just fool's gold!”

Lord willing those, who have been drawn into the teachings of the “Crossless/Deityless” gospel advocates, can be recovered from these egregious errors and restored to a biblically balanced position on the Gospel.


Please continue to William Carey Refutes the “Crossless” Gospel.

[1] See Believe Christ's Promise and You are Saved, No Matter What Misconceptions You Hold

[2] See How I Might Do Evangelism With A Jewish Man

* See articles Defining Question & Open Question

**Antonio da Rosa is not on staff at the GES. He is, however, arguably the most vocal and passionate apologist for the GES and especially for all things Zane Hodges. In September 2007, for a series of inappropriate behavior issues, da Rosa forfeited the privilege to participate at my blog.

***For an inspiring biographical sketch of William Carey visit: The Baptist Page

This article has been expanded from it's original form that first appeared on September 12, 2007.

October 7, 2007

Is There Such A Thing As Repentance in the “Crossless” Gospel?

Dear Guests:

Just before I post my series on, The Tragedy of a “Crossless” Gospel in the Gold Mine of Souls I want to touch on a related issue.

In recent weeks there has been much written about repentance from the advocates of the “Crossless/Deityless” gospel. For the most part the writing has consisted primarily of inflammatory and harsh rhetoric. The casual reader may not be aware of the “Crossless” (Hodges, Wilkin, Myers, Grace Evangelical Society) position on repentance.

Both sides in the Lordship/Free Grace debate agree repentance has a role in salvation. They disagree sharply on the role and definition of repentance, but agree repentance is involved with the salvation experience.

The “Crossless” gospel advocates, however, are a glaring exception to this general consensus on repentance. The teaching of the Grace Evangelical Society, (which no longer represents the majority of those in the Free Grace community) and GES apologists entirely eliminates repentance toward God from salvation and conversion. They believe repentance is not a condition of salvation. Therefore, they do not believe a lost man needs to have any kind of “change of mind” toward God. Furthermore, Zane Hodges rejects the, “change of mind” definition of repentance. This teaching can be found in Zane Hodges’ books Absolutely Free and Harmony With God.

This is one reason why advocates of the “Crossless” gospel will allow for a lost man to consciously reject the Deity of Christ and still insist he can be born again by believing a promise of eternal life.

Hodges, Wilkin, Myers and the GES apologists insist the titles, “Christ” and “Son of God” do not infer or imply the Deity of the Lord Jesus Christ. They personally believe in the Deity of Christ, but when they deal with lost men, they personally assume a position of practical deniability of the Lord’s Deity in their approach to the evangelistic setting.

They consider a lost man’s rejection of Christ’s Deity a simple, “misconception,” that should be put on the “back burner,” and addressed only if and after the lost man becomes a believer.

Becomes a Believer? Believer in what; believer in whom? The “Crossless” gospel does not encourage the lost man to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Instead he is told to believe in a promise from any kind of Jesus, that in his mind will give him eternal life.

Jesus said, “I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am He, ye shall die in your sins,” (John 8:24).

Is there such a thing as repentance in the “Crossless” gospel? Zane Hodges for the GES answers the question.

Thank God there is only one answer to the question, ‘What must I do to be saved?’ That, of course, is the answer not only of Paul and all the apostles, but of Jesus Himself. The answer is: ‘believe!’ Repentance is not part of that answer. It never has been and never will be…” (Harmony With God)
Bob Wilkin wrote,
In order to proclaim the gospel clearly we must be exceedingly careful what we say, if anything, about repentance. The simplest course would be to say nothing about repentance.” (“Preaching and Teaching About Repentance,” Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society, 4/1 [Spring, 1991]).


October 4, 2007

Excerpt From: Examining Lordship Salvation, Part 2

At the Grace Family Jounal (GFJ) Pastor Dennis Rokser posted the second in his series on Lordship Salvation. Here are two excerpts:

From the section, Is This Issue of LS Secondary or Semantic?

While engaging in numerous conversations regarding LS over the years, including with various pastors, it has not been uncommon to hear responses such as the following:

“The Teaching of Lordship Salvation is no big deal.” (But it is!)

“Both sides are basically saying the same thing.” (No, they are not!)

“It is not worth arguing about.” (Tell that to the Jerusalem council of Acts 15 who had a knock-down-drag-out session discussing the issue of the condition of salvation.)

I propose we move the importance of this doctrinal issue outside of the realm of any one’s human opinion with its tendency toward ignorance and arrogance, and let God weigh in on the necessity an importance of a clear and accurate presentation of the Gospel.

From the section, How Does the Teaching of Lordship Salvation Line Up With Scripture?
Does the Gospel of Grace demand our surrender, submission and sacrifice for eternal salvation? Or does it declare the surrender, submission and sacrifice of Jesus Christ?

My experience with responses from many Lordship advocates over the years is the same as what Pastor Rokser describes in the first excerpt above. Some, but very few, will define their position in unvarnished terms. Others, however, seek to evade any frank disclosure of exactly what they truly believe are the requirements for salvation. These will use the kinds of responses that Pastor Rokser cited above. Some become defensive and/or down right angry if you question their position on the Gospel.

These reactions from Lordship advocates prepared me for the same kinds of responses we have encountered with “Crossless” gospel advocates such as Bob Wilkin and Jeremy Myers of the Grace Evangelical Society.

In the original manuscript of my book I had a small chapter titled, Is It Just A Matter of Semantics? I did not leave it in the final published version of my book. That chapter touches on what Pastor Rokser describes above. I will see about posting that chapter here over the weekend.

Visit the Grace Family Journal. You can download all GFJ articles in PDF form.


October 3, 2007

Excerpts from The Tragedy of the “Crossless” Gospel, Pt. 3

Selected excerpts from Tom Stegall’s The Tragedy of the Crossless Gospel, Part 3

A second reason for the new crossless gospel comes from the unique meaning now being assigned to the phrase “the Christ, the Son of God” in John’s Gospel. No longer does this phrase mean what it has traditionally been understood to mean. The phrase “the Son of God” has normally been interpreted to mean that Jesus is equal in deity with the Father, being God the “Son.” For the lost to believe in Jesus as the “Son of God,” as John 20:31 plainly requires, would seem to indicate that belief in Jesus’ deity is essential for eternal life. But this is not their view.

However, a segment of people in the Free Grace movement are following Hodges’s teaching that the combined phrase “the Christ, the Son of God” means only that Jesus is the guarantor of eternal life.

Specifically, what they (Hodges/Wilkin/GES) are denying is that unbelievers must believe in the deity of Jesus and His death and resurrection in order to truly “believe in Him” and receive eternal life. They are claiming, however, that believing in Jesus as “the Christ” simply means to believe that He alone can guarantee eternal life on the sole condition of belief in Him. When someone believes that Jesus is the One who guarantees eternal life, they receive eternal life and are eternally secure from that point on—whether they ever know, understand, or believe in His deity, work on the cross, or resurrection from the dead. Though they admit a lost person normally comes to believe in Christ’s deity, death for sin, and resurrection first, they also teach that these truths are not necessary to believe for eternal life.

While it is certainly true that the phrase “the Christ, the Son of God” establishes that Jesus is the guarantor of eternal life, the crossless interpretation of this key phrase seriously errs by reducing it to that meaning alone.

Would the average reader of John’s Gospel, with his or her eternal destiny riding on the line, even make such a tenuous connection, a connection which has eluded even genuine believers for two millennia until the advent of the Grace Evangelical Society?

Visit the Grace Family Journal

October 1, 2007

The “Christ” Under Siege: The New Assault from the Grace Evangelical Society

In my first article in this series I discussed the attempt of Zane Hodges and the Grace Evangelical Society (GES) to remove Deity from the Biblical concept of Jesus as “the Christ.” Hodges’s fraudulent arguments regarding the Samaritans in John 4 were exposed.

The purpose of this article is to show the Biblical concept of “the Christ” involves Deity, and that this is necessary for salvation. Future articles will show the truths of His death and resurrection are equally important truths of the gospel necessary for salvation today.

I. The New Assault From the GES

In recent days I have become aware of new arguments from GES regarding the Lord’s titles, “the Christ, the Son of God” that are troubling to many fellow believers in the Free Grace community. The latest round of attacks claims neither “the Christ” nor “the Son of God” is a title that involves His Deity.

Readers of my previous article will recall Hodges argued the lost must only believe in Jesus as “the Christ” but not “the Son of God” in his article “How to Lead a Person to Christ” [1]. In it, he defined “the Christ” as “the Guarantor of eternal life to all believers.” Hodges conceded that “the Son of God” is a title that involves the Lord’s Deity but denied the lost must believe it (contrary to John 20:31).

The GES recently added a new twist. This new GES approach admits, in accordance with John 20:31, that the lost must believe in Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of God” but suggests that neither title involves His Deity. They argue the words “anointed” (from which we get “Christ”) and “sons of God” were applied to other people in the Old Testament so we cannot insist on a unique meaning in reference to the Lord.

Let us observe the arguments of GES editor Jeremy Myers. In a recent blog post to Myers, I countered Hodges's prior argument that divorced “the Christ” from “the Son of God” in John 20:31. I pointed out “the Son of God” is appositional (it gives explanation) to “the Christ” throughout Scripture. Myers responded:

Regarding the biblical usage of the term “Christ” I did not get this from some “GES Mantra” but from the lexicons and word study tools that are available in any Bible college or Seminary. Even without the Lexicons and word study tools (since they sometimes make mistakes) a word study that can be done by anybody will reveal that since Cyrus is called the Messiah in Isa. 45 (check the Hebrew), the term cannot and does not inherently refer to deity. Extrabiblical literature confirms this as well.

Regarding the term “Son of God” the Biblical usage doesn’t fit your claim either. After all, we have the “sons of God” in Genesis 6, as well as the statement in Hos. 1:10 that Israelites were sons of God. Even from the mouth of Jesus, we are told that we will be sons of God (Mat. 5:9). The argument that these are plurals and when used of Jesus it is singular won't work due to the most basic of grammatical rules that plurals are used when referring to groups, and singulars are used when referring to a single entity.

You are right that in John, the terms “Christ” and “son of God” are in apposition, but if neither "Christ" nor "Son of God" inherently refer to deity, then it is quite likely that in the days of Jesus, someone could believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God, and NOT understand, know, or believe that He is divine.

Myers noted in a second response:

Carson has an excellent discussion of the word “Messiah” as well, in which he points out that not only is Cyrus called a Messiah in Isa 45:1, but also the king of Israel (1 Sa 16:6; 2 Sa 1:14), the high priest (Lev 4:3), and the patriarchs (Ps 105:15). (Carson, p. 155-156). The term Messiah (or Christ) therefore, cannot inherently mean “God.” Again, nearly all the commentaries state this. [3]

Does Myers not realize his argument is self-refuting? If we cannot identify an essential concept of “the Christ” that is different from Cyrus, high priests, prophets, and patriarchs, then neither could we accept the GES definition of “the Christ.” Apparently, I do not have access to any of “the lexicons and word study tools that are available in any Bible college or Seminary” because I cannot find one that gives the GES definition of “the Guarantor of everlasting life to all believers.”

Myers’s error is alarmingly elementary. He confuses the lexical meaning of words with theological concepts that come to be technically described by certain terms.

This is a simple matter of recognizing the difference between a broad meaning and technical usage of a word. For example, the word “Bible” comes from a word meaning “book”. The Greek word “biblion” (transliteration) is used for any book. Even in English we sometimes use the word “bible” as an idiom for an authoritative book. For example, we could refer to the “Engineer’s bible” or the “the bible of Italian cooking”. These usages would not convey Divine inspiration. However, it is also possible for us to refer to “the Bible”, and any Christian will know exactly what we are talking about. Although the “Divine inspiration” is not necessarily inherent to the word “bible”, the true concept of “the Bible” certainly involves Divine inspiration.

In seeking whether “the Christ” is a concept that involves Deity, we would not look in a lexicon as Myers suggested. A lexicon will tell us that “Messiah” or “Christ” means “anointed” but it is simply not the job of a lexicon to explain theological concepts that can be signified by the technical application of a term. And contrary to Myer’s argument, every Biblical lexicon notes there is a technical usage of the term “the Messiah” or “the Christ” that applies to a single promised figure unique from any other person to whom the term is applied. The lexicographer leaves it to the theologian or Bible student to search the Scriptures to find “what is the essential concept of this particular, unique person called ‘the Christ’?”

I would like to suggest a passage that will help answer this question:

II . “What think ye of the Christ?”

Matthew 22:41-46
While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, 42 saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose Son is He?” They said to Him, “The Son of David.” 43 He said to them, “How then does David in the Spirit call Him ‘LORD,’” saying: 44 ‘THE LORD SAID TO MY LORD, "SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND, TILL I MAKE YOUR ENEMIES YOUR FOOTSTOOL’?” 45 “If David then calls Him ‘LORD,’ how is He his Son?” 46 And no one was able to answer Him a word, nor from that day on did anyone dare question Him anymore.

This passage is especially appropriate for several reasons. There is no way to read this passage without concluding there is a single figure called “the Christ” who is uniquely set apart from any other “anointed” person or thing. The Lord Jesus talks about the concept of “the Christ” without speaking of Himself directly. This clearly distinguishes this passage as one that speaks of the essential concept of “the Christ.” His question will expose the deficient concept of “the Christ” held by the Pharisees and also lead to the true concept of “the Christ.” His teaching also confirms the Deity of “the Christ” has been taught since this term was first applied to Him in Scripture.

In regards to the context of the passage, this discussion took place after the Lord Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and second cleansing of the Temple. The Pharisees responded by plotting “how they might entangle him in his talk” (22:15). After a series of questions from the Pharisees (22:15), Sadducees (22:23), and Scribes and Pharisees (22:34), the Lord Jesus asks His own question unrelated to any of their own. In fact, it is the only preemptive question we know the Lord asked to a group of religious leaders, as if to suggest they neglected the most important question of all, “what think ye of the Christ” when plotting their own questions. However, this discussion did not take place in the midst of religious leaders alone but “all the people” at the Temple (cf. Luke 20:45), so that “the common people heard Him gladly” (cf. Mark 12:37). It is likely that His connection of “the Christ” and “whose Son is He?” relates to the charge of the High Priest shortly thereafter, “tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God.” (Mt. 26:63).

Several points about this passage can be made in regards to the efforts of GES proponents to divest Deity from the essential understanding of “the Christ”. These points will center around three questions.

Question 1: Is there a unique Biblical concept “the Christ” distinguished from other “anointed ones?”

Myers argued that Deity “cannot” be conveyed by the concept of “the Christ” because the Hebrew word for “anointed” is also applied to others. But if the answer to the question above is “yes,” Myers’s arguments are irrelevant. If so, we can then move on to the next question: does the Biblical concept of “the Christ” convey Deity?

Notice the Pharisees clearly understood there was a single figure called “the Christ.” These Pharisees did not respond, “which king, prince, prophet, priest, table, lampstand, pillar, wafer, burnt offering, shield, or thing are you talking about? There are many anointed ones.” They understood the term referred uniquely to one individual. This simple point refutes Myer's misguided argument.

Furthermore, the Lord’s question, “What think ye of...” implies there is an essential concept of “the Christ”. The Lord did not expect the Pharisees to respond, “Well, sir, ‘christ’ means anointed.” That went without saying. The Lord was not asking the Pharisees to look in lexicons available at Bible colleges for the lexical definition of the term. He asked about the Biblical concept of “the Christ.”

Now let’s consider the next question:

Question 2: Does the Biblical concept of “the Christ” involve Deity?

In light of this passage, the obvious answer to this question is “yes”. The Lord quoted Psalm 110:1 for the fact that it conveys the Deity of the Christ. The Pharisees were unable to answer His question because they were unwilling to admit “the Christ” is not just the Son of David but also the eternal Son of God. His question, "whose Son is He?" cannot be answered apart from His Deity. This is clear from the Lord's follow up question: "How then doth David in spirit call him Lord?" Since crossless gospel proponents tend to blunt statements that refer to Christ's Deity, several points will prove this quotation of David conveys Christ's Deity:

1. David called the Christ “my Lord.” The fact He is David's Lord/Master while also David’s distant descendent puts Him in a unique category that requires His Deity. The Hebrew commentator Delitzsch remarked:

“The inference which is left for the Pharisees to draw rests upon two premises, which are granted, that [Psalm 110] is Davidic, and that it is prophetico-Messianic, i.e., that in it the future Messiah stands objectively before the mind of David...Since the prophetico-Messianic character of the Psalm was acknowledged at that time...the conclusion to be drawn from this Psalm must have been felt by the Pharisees themselves, that the Messiah, because the Son of David and the Lord at the same time, was of human and at the same time superhuman nature; that it was therefore in accordance with Scripture if this Jesus, who represented Himself to be the predicted Christ, should as such profess to be the Son of God and of divine nature.” [4]

2. David called the Christ “my Lord” a thousand years before Christ's arrival. This implies His eternal existence. As Micah foretold, “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting,” (Micah 5:2).

Barnes commented:
“If he was then David's lord if he was his superior--if he had an existence at that time how could he be descended from him? [The Pharisees] could not answer him. Nor is there any way of answering the question but by the admission that the Messiah was divine as well as human; that he had an existence at the time of David, and was his lord and master, his God and king, and that as man he was descended from him.” [5]

3. Other NT passages apply this Psalm to Christ’s Deity. In Hebrews 1:8-13, the author sets forth Christ’s Deity from Pslams 45:6-7; 102:25; and 110. It is likewise applied to His deity in Acts 2:34-36 where Peter calls Jesus “Lord and Christ.” Also, Psalms and other OT prophecies clearly refer to the Deity of the Christ (e.g. Psalm 2:2-12; 45:6-7, 11; 72:17). Why insist on a meaning here that is less?

4. The phrase “Sit thou at My right hand” is used throughout Scripture to refer to Christ’s unique heavenly reign with the Father from within the Godhead during the time between His ascension and second advent (cf. Ps. 110; Mt. 26:64; Lk. 22:69; Acts 2:33-36; 5:30-31; 7:55-58; Heb. 1:3, 13). In fact, this claim was part of the basis for the High Priest and the Sanhedrin to call for Christ's death sentence on account of blasphemy (Mt. 26:63-66).

If Jesus was NOT pointing out the Deity of “the Christ,” then what was He describing? The Pharisees already knew “the Christ” would be sent from God. They already knew “the Christ” would have the highest authority of any man. They already knew He would have a unique relationship with God. Yet, if that was a sufficient understanding of His Sonship, why did He challenge them?

Question 3: Is the Deity of the Christ, as the Lord taught in Matthew 22:42-45, essential to the issue of salvation?

Crossless gospel proponents are likely to argue that while Deity may be part of the true concept of “the Christ,” it is just one of many truths about “the Christ” that are not essential for salvation. They attempt to separate the “evangelistic” meaning of “the Christ” in the Gospel of John from the meaning in other Gospels.[6]

Well, the Gospel of John also proves one must know “the Christ” as God in order to receive eternal life. I focused on Matthew 22:41-46 in this article because it is helpful for dealing with the new GES arguments regarding the terms “the Christ” and “the Son of God” together. Several observations demonstrate the relevance of the Lord’s point in this passage to the issue of salvation:

General Observations:

First, the Lord is certainly speaking to lost people in this passage about “the Christ.” Not only does He speak to the Scribes and Pharisees, but His audience includes “all the people” at the Temple (Luke 20:45), so that “the common people heard Him gladly” (Mark 12:37). In order to prepare them to recognize Himself as “the Christ”, it is important they have the right concept of “the Christ.”

It is significant the very first issue He brings up relates to the nature and Deity of Christ. Notice the Lord did not first ask, “what think ye of the Christ? what does He guarantee by faith alone?” Although the true concept of “the Christ” actually does involve His work and role as Savior, the very first matter that arises is His nature as the Son of God: “what think ye of the Christ? Whose son is He?”

How contrary to the stated practice of a crossless gospel advocate who criticized me for leading a Jew “away from eternal life” due solely to the fact that I shared verses on the Deity of the Christ when I gave the gospel to him! [7] Apparently, the Lord Jesus Himself was unaware of the pitfall of teaching Christ’s Deity to lost Jews when He spoke the words of Matthew 22:42-45!

The Lord’s words clearly show the true concept of “the Christ” includes truth about His nature. Jeremy Myer's non-Deity definition of “the Son of God” still does not escape the fact that this speaks of His relationship to God. Even this exceeds the three-point “saving message” checklist of GES. If Myer’s non-Deity definition were true, the title “the Son of God” would still convey Christ’s unique relationship to God. How could this title square with the crossless gospel proponents’ denial that it is essential for the lost to believe there is one God in order to be saved?

Lastly, some general observations can be made about the question “whose Son is He?”

It is notable that the term “the Son of God” was not specifically applied to the Messiah in rabbinical literature prior to the time of Christ. Oscar Cullman noted,
“The difficulty lies in the fact that no known ancient text definitely calls the Messiah ‘Son of God’.” [8]
The reluctance of the Pharisees to admit the Christ is the Son of God (Mat. 22:41-46) and the condemnation of Jesus for His claim to be the Son of God (Mat. 26:63-65; Mk. 14:61-64; Lk. 22:67-71; John 19:7) evidence the emphatic teaching of John the Baptist and the Lord Jesus, that the Christ is the Son of God. If the concept “the Son of God” only conveyed the significance given to it by Myers, i.e., that the Christ would have a unique relationship to God or serve some unique function, the Pharisees would have had no problem agreeing the Christ is the Son of God in Matthew 22:41-46.

The Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of John parallel each other in demonstrating the significance of “the Son of God” in the narratives. Matthew records both a negative (unbelieving) and positive (believing) response to this title. A short time after this discussion with the Pharisees took place, the High Priest charged Jesus at His trial before the Sanhedrin, “Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God!” (Matthew 26:63). When He answers affirmatively, He is charged with “blasphemy!” Positively, His identity as “the Son of God” means that He is worthy of worship: “Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him, saying, ‘Truly You are the Son of God.’” (Matthew 14:33). Jews were strictly taught that only God was worthy of worship. Worship of any other would be idolatry. Matthew certainly expects us to see that “the Son of God” is a Divine title.

This is paralleled in the Gospel of John. There is an antagonistic response to His claim to being “the Son of God”: “the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He…also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God” (John 5:18). To Pontius Pilate the Jews exclaimed, “We have a law, and according to our law He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God.” On the other hand, there is a believing response to His identity as the Son of God: “Jesus…said unto him, ‘Dost thou believe on the Son of God?’ He answered and said, ‘“Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him?’ And Jesus said unto him, ‘Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee.’ And he said, ‘Lord, I believe.’ And he worshipped him.” Both the negative and positive responses show “the Son of God” signified Deity. Matthew and John totally agree on the significance of this term. In light of this, the Gospel of John’s requirement to believe in Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of God” (John 20:31) specifically highlights the necessity of believing in His Deity.

The Relationship of This Passage to Salvation Texts:

Myers argued neither term “the Christ” nor “the Son of God” refers to Deity. In fact, he argued the singular “the Son of God” cannot legitimately be taken differently than the plural “sons of God.” But Jesus Christ Himself referred to the Deity of the Christ to explain “whose Son” He is. He explained the Christ is the Son of God by quoting David in Psalm 110:1, “The Lord said unto my Lord...” He quoted this to prove He is more than just the son of David--He is the eternal Son of God. The Lord's point may be represented like this:

A. Question: what think ye of the Christ? whose Son is He? (v. 42 asked)
B. Premise: David spoke of “the Christ” in Psalm 110:1 (v. 43)
B. Premise: David calls Him “my Lord”, i.e., He is Divine (v. 44)
A. True answer: the Christ is the Son of God, i.e, He is Divine (v. 42 answered)

The Lord Jesus’ explanation of Christ’s Deity by the quotation of Psalm 110:1 is appositional to the question, “whose Son is He” which is appositional to the first question, “what think ye of Christ?” The only true conclusion one can reach, given the Lord’s premise, is that “the Christ” is “the Son” of God and that this specifically speaks of His Deity.

It is no wonder that He put together the questions, “What think ye of the Christ? Whose Son is He?” This appositional relationship of “Son” to “the Christ” does not only appear in the question form of this passage. The title “the Son of God” is appositional to “the Christ” throughout Scripture including the salvation text of John 20:31:

“...You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:18)

“…I put You under oath by the living God: Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God!” (Matthew 26:63)

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. (Mark 1:1)

Again the high priest asked Him, saying to Him, “Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” (Mark 14:61)

And demons also came out of many, crying out and saying, “You are the Christ, the Son of God!” (Luke 4:41)

“Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (John 6:69)

“Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” (John 11:27)

“...these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:31)

We could go on (e.g. Acts 8:37; 9:20; 2Cor. 1:19; Gal. 2:20; Heb. 3:6; 5:5; 1John 2:22; 5:20; 2John 3, 9).

Dozens of passages describe Him as “the Christ, the Son of God” or interchange the terms “Christ” and “Son.” Several passages indicate the lost must believe on “the Son” or “the only begotten Son of God” (See John 3:15, 16, 18, 36, 5:23-25; Acts 13:33-39; Rom. 1:4, 16; 1John 4:14; 5:5, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 20).

The relationship between these terms is further reflected in 1John 5:1 and 5:5. in 1John 5:1, we read: “whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God....” while in 5:5 we read: “Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” It is not as though the content of v.1 one summarizes one message to salvation while v. 5 summarizes a different route. As we have already seen, believing that Jesus is “the Christ” (v. 1) necessarily involves believing He is “the Son of God” (v. 5).

This title certainly emphasizes His Deity, just as Christ did when He used Psalm 110:1 to explain “whose Son” He is. The Apostle John wrote, “But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name” (John 20:31).

The Lord Jesus showed the true concept of “the Christ” involves Deity. Though the Pharisees could not argue with the Lord’s premise, they still refused to reach the same conclusion in Matthew 22:41-46.

I plead with “Crossless” gospel advocates to change their minds and avoid the same hard-hearted response of the Pharisees.

Greg Schliesmann


[1] Zane Hodges, “How To Lead people to Christ, Pt. 1.” Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society, (Autumn 2000).

[2] See Jeremy Myer’s comments on OPEN QUESTION to Bob Wilkin at the Grace Evangelical Society. Blog comments posted 8/28/2007 2:29 PM.

[3] See Jeremy Myer’s comments on When Simple Faith is Not Enough (August 29, 2007). Blog comments posted 9/03/07 1:39 PM.

[4] C.F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament in Ten Volumes (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, Reprinted 1978), Volume 5, Psalms, by F. Delitzsch, Psalm CX, pp. 184-185.

[5] Albert Barnes, Notes on the Bible (Electronic version). Notes on Matthew 22:45.

[6] E.g. “It is precisely the ability of Jesus to guarantee eternal life that makes Him the Christ in the Johannine sense of that term.” See Zane Hodges, “How To Lead people to Christ, Pt. 1.” Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society, (Autumn 2000), p. 4.

[7] In a thread at the blog site of GES that was removed by GES without explanation, I stated: “Three days ago I witnessed to an Orthodox Jew in the parking lot of a grocery store. He told me that in Jewish theology, it is impossible for someone to be God and a man. The first verse I showed him was Micah 5:2. He looked at [it] for a minute quietly before responding...”

Due to this statement, GES apologist Antonio da Rosa replied, “It is a fact that you may have turned such a one away from eternal life.”

[8] Oscar Cullmann, The Christology of the New Testament, trans. Shirley Guthrie and Charles Hall, rev. ed. (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1963), 274. He also notes, “The passages in II (4) Esd. (7:28f., 13:32; 37–52; 14:9) can hardly be considered as examples, because they point to the pais in the sense of the ebed Yahweh and do not refer directly to the sonship.” Cited by Kenneth W. Wilson, “Is Belief in Christ’s Deity Required for Eternal Life in John’s Gospel?” Chafer Theological Journal (Fall, 2006).

Originally appeared September 27, 2007