Grace Evangelical Society (GES) Controversy

The GES Gospel: (a/k/a) Crossless Gospel, Promise-only Gospel

elephant-in-the-room
 Looking back, “
The elephant in the room” first appeared in print in the Grace Focus Magazine (June 1990). 
 
1990
 

Tough Questions About Saving Faith

Grace In Focus Magazine (June 1990)

by Bob Wilkin

Recently I received a letter from a reader (GS) in Hibbing Minnesota who asked a number of excellent questions regarding saving faith. They included the following: Was Peter saved without seeing the need for Jesus Christ to die on the Cross (Matt 16:21-23)? Were the disciples saved without believing in the resurrection of Christ? Has the content of saving faith changed from before Christ to after Christ?

The GES doctrinal statement does not address these questions. Thus GES has no official position on them. What follows are my thoughts on these issues.

The Death of Christ

John 2:11 indicates Peter and the other disciples believed in Jesus Christ at the very beginning of His ministry. Thus when Peter rebuked the Lord for predicting His death on the Cross (Matt 16:21-23), he was already a believer.

How can this be? The Scriptures nowhere indicate that one must understand all aspects of the atonement to exercise saving faith. A person can place his or her trust in Jesus Christ and Him alone without understanding precisely how He takes away his sins. This was the case with Peter and the disciples. They trusted Him completely for eternal life. Yet it probably wasn’t until after His resurrection that they understood the need for and purpose of His death on the Cross.

The Resurrection of Christ

It is clear from the Gospel of John that it is possible to believe savingly in Christ without understanding the reality of His resurrection. A number of verses clearly show that when Jesus died the disciples—who were already believers as noted above—had not yet come to believe that He would rise from the dead (e.g., Luke 24:10-11; John 20:9). They thought that all hope was lost. Only after His post-resurrection appearances did they come to believe in His resurrection.

As could also be said about the death of Christ, unless a person questions the relevancy of the many Johannine statements calling people to faith in Christ before His death and resurrection had occurred and had been understood, they must admit that an understanding of His resurrection is not strictly necessary to saving faith.

While the Gospel of John deals with people prior to the Cross and resurrection, it was written after those events for post-Cross and post-resurrection people. There is therefore no reason to suggest that the terms of salvation have changed. The Gospel of John is not a mere historical record of how people were saved prior to the Cross. It also tells how people are saved now, in the church age. To put it another way: the gospel Jesus preached is still the gospel!

Obviously the resurrection is preached in the New Testament and an understanding of it encourages faith in the person of Christ. That is different than saying, however, that it is essential to believe in the resurrection to be saved.

A person can trust in the Lord Jesus to take away all of his sins and yet not understand or know about His resurrection from the dead.

Many would point, however, to 1 Cor 15:1-11 and say that it teaches that belief in Jesus’ bodily resurrection is a condition of salvation. Others would point to Rom 10:9 where Paul gives a shorthand version of the content of saving faith as believing in one’s heart that God raised Jesus Christ from the dead.

The term gospel may be used to describe the plan of salvation in its fullest form. We could in proclaiming the gospel mention Jesus’ eternality, His leaving His heavenly throne, being born of a virgin, performing miracles which authenticated His message, living a sinless life, dying on the Cross, rising again, and our need to place our trust in Him alone.

The term gospel may also be used to describe the plan of salvation in its barest form. It is possible to present only the core truth of the gospel: namely, that whoever believes in Jesus Christ has eternal life. That too is the gospel—albeit the gospel in a nutshell.

If, for example, in sharing the gospel we were to fail to mention Jesus’ virgin birth, we would not necessarily be failing to explain it clearly. We would, however, necessarily be sharing it less fully.

The problem with concluding that 1 Cor 15:1-11 is the only way the gospel can be presented is that it leaves no flexibility in the way the gospel can be shared—a view not born out by Scripture or experience.

I have sometimes shared the gospel with people in just a few minutes. On other occasions I have taken thirty or more minutes to share it. It goes without saying that I could not share the gospel as fully in a few minutes as I could in thirty. Yet in both cases I could clearly proclaim the gospel.

Conclusion

I realize that not all GES News readers and GES members will necessarily agree with me on these questions. That’s fine. As I said, GES has no official position on these questions. However, I hope that you will think about what I have suggested. As I see it, part of the ministry of GES is to help us all think more deeply and clearly about tough gospel questions such as these.

 

Observations…

 

The article, “Tough Questions About Saving Faith” made it clear that “GES had no official position” on the questions asked by “(GS) in Hibbing Minnesota in June 1990.

  (1). Was Peter saved without seeing the need for Jesus Christ to die on the Cross (Matt 16:21-23)?

  (2). Were the disciples saved without believing in the resurrection of Christ?

  (3). Has the content of saving faith changed from before Christ to after Christ?
 
Also, notice how the word, gospel was described in 1990.   What does GES teach about the word, gospel today?  Does gospel mean the same thing as the “saving message?”  

 

10 Years Later… 2000

 

The first of Two Articles by Zane C. Hodges Affirming His Belief that…

How to Lead People to Christ: Part 1

The Content of Our Message

 Autumn 2000 – Vol. 13:25

How to Lead People to Christ: Part 2

Our Invitation To Respond

Spring 2001 – Vol. 14:26

Source:  Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society

A Response to Zane Hodges & The GES Gospel

(a/k/a- The Crossless Gospel / Promise-Only Gospel)
 
Overview:While the phrase “crossless gospel” may not be pleasant, it is accurate and appropriate to use in identifying the message of eternal life that is being spread today that doesn’t require belief in Christ’s deity, death for sin, or resurrection from the dead. The crux of the controversy over the contents of saving faith is not merely about whether people preach the cross but whether God requires belief in Christ’s work for eternal life. In this respect, it can be thoroughly documented that a segment of Free Grace evangelicals associated with the Grace Evangelical Society have indeed been teaching in recent years that the “gospel” is God’s saving message and also that this saving message doesn’t require belief in Christ’s person and
work. The result is a “gospel” that is “crossless.” The use of the phrase “crossless gospel” is consistent with the manner in which Scripture itself speaks of false doctrine and its damaging effects; and it is in keeping with the way Free Grace 
people themselves have historically used the phrase “Lordship Salvation.”  (Stegall, The Gospel of Christ, 99)
___________________________________________________________________
 Thomas L. Stegall:
2007-2008
Grace Family Journal
Vol. 10, No.47 Spring…
J.B. Hixson:
2008
Revised Edition, 2013
Getting the Gospel Wrong 2 ed
Getting the Gospel Wrong: The Evangelical Crisis No One is Talking About
Grace Gospel Press
Thomas L. Stegall: 2009
A Biblical Response to the Crossless Gospel Regarding the Content of Saving Faith
Grace Gospel Press
Free Grace Alliance / Fred Lybrand: 4/14/2009
 
 
What’s happened since the GES Gospel Open Letter?
It’s been 6 years…
Edited by J.B. Hixson, Rick Whitmire, and Roy  B. Zuck
2012
Freely By His Grace - Classical Grace Theology - Cover
Free By His Grace: Classical Grace Theology 
Grace Gospel Press
     Contributors:
David R. Anderson, Charles R. Anderson, Lewis Sperry Chafer, Michael D. Halsey, J.B. Hixson, Thomas D. Ice, Fred R. Lybrand, George E. Meisinger, Bret W. Nazworth, Dennis M. Rokser, Richard A. Seymour, Michael D. Stallard, Thomas L. Stegal, Kurt Witzig
 
 
The Free Grace Gospel – Clarifying the Issues by Bob Nyberg
 
 
Remember Dr. Wilkin’s statement “The GES doctrinal statement does not address these questions from the article, Tough Questions About Saving Faith?
 

Notice the Changes in 2005:

1988

The Original Statement of Faith

Journal of the

Grace Evangelical Society

Autumn 1988 – Volume 1:1

Affirmation of Belief 1

Salvation

       The sole condition for receiving eternal salvation from hell is faith (trust) in the Lord Jesus Christ, Who died a substitutionary death on the cross for man’s sin and rose from the dead.2  Repentance, rightly defined as a change of mind, is an integral part of this saving faith.3  No act of obedience, preceding or following faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, such as commitment to obey, sorrow for sin, turning from one’s sin, baptism, or submission to the Lordship of Christ, may be added to, or considered as a part of, faith as a condition for receiving eternal salvation.4 This saving transaction between God and the sinner is simply the giving and receiving of a free gift.5                                                            

(John 3:16-18; 6:47; Acts 16:31)

 

Assurance

The assurance of eternal salvation is based only on the promises God makes in His Word that everyone who trusts in Jesus Christ alone possesses eternal life (John 5:24; I John 5:9-13). Good works, which can and should follow regeneration, are not necessary to a firm assurance of eternal life even though they may have a secondary, confirmatory value(Eph. 2:10; Titus 3:8).

2005

The New Statement of Faith

Revised 2005

Affirmation of Belief

Salvation

The sole condition for receiving everlasting life is faith alone in the Lord Jesus Christ, who died a substitutionary death on the cross for man’s sin and rose bodily from the dead (John 3:16-18; 6:47; Acts 16:31).

Faith is the conviction that something is true. To believe in Jesus (“he who believes in Me has everlasting life”) is to be convinced that He guarantees everlasting life to all who simply believe in Him for it (John 4:14; 5:24; 6:47; 11:26; 1 Tim 1:16).

No act of obedience, preceding or following faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, such as commitment to obey, sorrow for sin, turning from one’s sin, baptism or submission to the Lordship of Christ, may be added to, or considered part of, faith as a condition for receiving everlasting life (Rom 4:5; Gal 2:16; Titus 3:5). This saving transaction between God and the sinner is simply the giving and receiving of a free gift (Eph 2:8-9; John 4:10 ; Rev 22:17 ).

Assurance

Assurance of everlasting life is certainty that one is eternally secure simply by faith in Jesus. Assurance of everlasting life is based only on the promise God makes in His Word that everyone who believes in Jesus Christ alone possesses everlasting life (John 5:24; 1 John 5:9-13). Good works, which can and should follow regeneration, are not necessary for a person to have assurance of everlasting life (Eph 2:10 ; Titus 3:8).

Assurance is of the essence of believing in Jesus for everlasting life. That is, as long as a person believes in Jesus for everlasting life, he knows he has everlasting life (John 5:24 ; 6:35 , 47; 11:27 ; 1 John 5:9-13).

Observations & Comments
GES before the Redefining of the Gospel…

Other Changes:                         

 
 

1988

The Original Statement of Faith

Journal of the

Grace Evangelical Society

Autumn 1988 – Volume 1:1

 

Jesus Christ, God incarnate, paid the full penalty for man’s sin when He died on the cross of Calvary. Any person who, in simple faith, trusts in the risen Christ as their only hope of heaven, refusing to trust in anything else, receives the gift of eternal life which, once granted, can never be lost.

Source:  Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society

@ www.faithalone.org/journal/1988ii/Farstad.html

 

February 2009

Here’s Bob Wilkin explanation for removing this statement 

“Believing in the Risen Christ” by Bob Wilkin

Recently several people have emailed me asking about a sentence that appears in one of the prepages of our Journal. Under the title, “Statement of Faith,” this sentence appears:

“Any person who, in simple faith, trusts in the risen Christ as his or her only hope of heaven, refusing to trust in anything else, receives the gift of eternal life which, once granted, can never be lost.”

That sentence was written about 20 years ago and is flawed for several reasons. As a result, it will be changed in the next issue of the journal, Autumn 2008, which is soon to go to the printer. (Sorry it is late. However, we hope to catch up fairly quickly. We hope to have the Spring 09 journal to the printer in April and in the mail in June.)

First, the sentence should speak of believing, not trusting. While trust can be a synonym for faith, it often conveys a sense of doubt that is not inherit in the English word faith (”I’m trusting him to do what he said he’d do. I sure hope he does.”) and it often conveys a sense of commitment (as evidenced by many who use the chair or tightrope illustrations to say that it isn’t enough to believe the facts, but you must sit down in the chair or get in the wheelbarrow).

Second, Jesus isn’t our hope of heaven. He is our guarantee of our eternal destiny with Him.

Third, heaven is a bit misleading. The believer’s future home is the New Earth (Revelation 21-22), not heaven. While believers who die do indeed go to heaven, that is not where we will spend eternity. We will spend eternity with the Lord Jesus on the New Earth.

Fourth, the term “risen Christ,” though accurate, has caused some to wonder if we are saying that to be born again person must believe that Jesus rose from the dead.

Actually, the least problematic part of that sentence is the statement that anyone who trusts in the “risen Christ” has everlasting life. That is who He is. The statement doesn’t say one must believe that to be born again. We could also put “the Lord Jesus,” “the Savior Jesus,” “Christ the soon returning King,” “the virgin-born Christ,” “the sinless Jesus,” etc.  Of course, we don’t see all those adjectives used of Jesus in Scripture. The main modifier linked with Jesus that we see in Scripture is “the Lord Jesus” as in Acts 16:31.

I’m sorry if we have confused anyone with that sentence. It will be revised in the next journal so that it more clearly reflects the message that the Lord Jesus gave us (cf. John 3:16; 4:10-14; 5:24; 6:35, 47; 11:25-27)

 

 

Posted by: Bob_Wilkin  @ the GES Blog  Feb. 5, 2009 @ http://www.faithalone.org/wordpress/?p=157

Observations & Comments

OTHER PROPONENTS OF THE CROSSLESS / PROMISE-ONLY GOSPEL

 

Grace Seminary of the Northwest & Rocky Mountain Bible College and Seminary

Grace Seminary of the Northwest

     Dr. Earl D. Radmacher, Presiden

Original Doctrinal Statement:

We Affirm

  1. The Grace of God in justification is a free gift.
  2. 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, and resurrection, is the only basis for our justification.
  3. 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.
  4. Justification is the act of God to declare us righteous when we believe in Jesus Christ alone.
  5. Assurance of justification is the birthright of every believer from the moment of faith in Jesus Christ, and is founded upon the testimony of God in His written Word.
  6. Spiritual growth, which is distinct from justification, is God’s expectation for every believer; this growth, however, is not necessarily manifested uniformly in every believer.
  7. The Gospel of Grace should always be presented with such clarity and simplicity that no impression is left that justification requires any step, response, or action in addition to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
  8. Believers in Jesus Christ will be individually rewarded according to their faithfulness.
 
No. 3 was changed to:
Faith is a personal response, apart from our works, whereby we are persuaded by “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor. 4:4), that Jesus is the Christ (Messiah), the Son of God, and that based on His death and resurrection He delivers from condemnation and guarantees everlasting life to everyone who believes in Him (Jn. 1:1, 3:16, 5:24, 6:47, 11:25-26, 20:30-31, Acts 16:31, 1Tim. 1:16).

 

 Grace Seminary of the Northwest

Dr. Earl D. Radmacher, Presiden

Original Doctrinal Statement:

We Affirm

  1. The Grace of God in justification is a free gift.
  2. 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, and resurrection, is the only basis for our justification.
  3. 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.
  4. Justification is the act of God to declare us righteous when we believe in Jesus Christ alone.
  5. Assurance of justification is the birthright of every believer from the moment of faith in Jesus Christ, and is founded upon the testimony of God in His written Word.
  6. Spiritual growth, which is distinct from justification, is God’s expectation for every believer; this growth, however, is not necessarily manifested uniformly in every believer.
  7. The Gospel of Grace should always be presented with such clarity and simplicity that no impression is left that justification requires any step, response, or action in addition to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
  8. Believers in Jesus Christ will be individually rewarded according to their faithfulness.
 
No. 3 was changed to:
Faith is a personal response, apart from our works, whereby we are persuaded by “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor. 4:4), that Jesus is the Christ (Messiah), the Son of God, and that based on His death and resurrection He delivers from condemnation and guarantees everlasting life to everyone who believes in Him (Jn. 1:1, 3:16, 5:24, 6:47, 11:25-26, 20:30-31, Acts 16:31, 1Tim. 1:16).

 

 

Rocky Mountain Bible College & Seminary (Dr.

The Original Doctrinal Statement

Old Doctrinal Statement (Sept. 25, 2009)

V. SALVATION

  • All of mankind are sinners, and declared dead in Adam.
  • God’s justice was satisfied solely by the death and bodily resurrection from the dead of Jesus Christ in our place.
  • Jesus Christ was made to be sin and was made a curse for us, dying in our place.
  • There is nothing a person can do or needs to do to add to or improve upon what Christ did on our behalf.
  • The Grace of God in Justification is an unconditional free gift.
  • God made the only way for all men to receive His free gift is through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone.
  • Faith (believe) is a personal response, apart from works, whereby one is persuaded that the finished work of Jesus Christ has delivered him/her from condemnation and guaranteed their everlasting life.
  • When an unbelieving person believes (faith) in Jesus Christ, he passes immediately out of spiritual death into spiritual life and from the old creation into the new.
  • A believer is justified (declared righteous), and immediately accepted before the Father just as Jesus Christ is accepted, and loved as Jesus Christ is loved.
  • As soon as one is saved, he/she is in possession of every spiritual blessing and absolutely complete in Christ.
  • Once a person has everlasting life, he/she is saved forever.
  • God’s eternal purpose towards mankind includes His freedom to exercise grace toward those who do not deserve it.
  • God is a holy and righteous Father who does not overlook the sins of His children, but disciplines them and corrects them in infinite love.
  • God will keep believers forever, and He will in the very end present every one of them faultless and conformed to the image of His Son.
  • Assurance is not founded upon any personal worthiness. Assurance of everlasting salvation is based only on the promise God Makes in His Word that everyone who trust (believes) in Jesus Christ alone possesses everlasting life. Good works, which can and should follow regeneration, are not necessary for a person to have assurance of everlasting life even though they may have a secondary, confirmatory value.
Catalog for Academic Years 2008-2010
 
 
 
Faith (believe) is a personal response, apart from works, whereby one is persuaded that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that He gives everlasting life (that cannot be lost) to all who believe in Him for that life because of His death and resurrection.
 
 
 

www.rmbc.edu/documents/RMBCRMSCatalog20082010_000.pdf

 

 

 

Current Issues Concerning The Free Grace Gospel (Part 1 & 2)

By Stephen R. Lewis, Ph.D

Trustee

Florida Bible College

Introduction

There appears to be much confusion surrounding the debates among those within the Free “Grace” Movement.  Part of the problem may be that most are arguing at cross-purposes (pun intended).   It is commonly assumed that “gospel” means the message to the unbeliever, and debates over the question “What is the gospel?” are often conducted on that basis.  In fact, Scripture uses the word “gospel” in a number of different ways.  This makes it very easy for people to get confused and begin talking past each other.  I believe something similar is happening in this discussion.  Many of those involved seem to treat the questions below as synonymous, and proceed on that basis.  Perhaps we need to back up and be sure we understand the questions correctly before we begin anathematizing each other over how we answer them.

The apostle Paul said for us to “examine all things; hold fast to what is good.” (1 Thessalonians 5:21)  John recorded Jesus’ praise to the Church in Ephesus, “You have even put to the test those who refer to themselves as apostles (but are not), and have discovered that they are false.”  (Revelation 2:2)  Then there is the example of the Bereans in Acts 17.  There are some other premier passages that bear on this process as in Acts 15 and others; which I will try to place in the current context by use of the scripture interpreted using exegesis and hermeneutics as a guide.[1]

Here are some of the various questions proposed:

“What must I do to be saved?” Is this the same as “what must I do to have everlasting life?”

What do we mean when we use the words believe/faith/trust? (Is it believe “in?” “about?,” “unto?”)  Does believe/faith/trust involve our volition/will? Or is it a passive believe/faith/trust (being persuaded)?  What actually happens when we believe?  Define belief as appropriated in Scripture.

Do we need to Confess?  (Confess what?)

Must we Repent? (Repent from what? To what?—what are the contexts?)

What do we mean by “saved?” Saved from what?  Saved to what?

[1] We also need to understand why these articles are causing division in the greater (local and non-local) church and why the division is spreading.  This is beyond the scope of this paper.  I would posit one reason up front, biblically uneducated men and women are joining the fray and although they claim to support their churches and are making truth “claims,” they instead end up flinging theological mud in the flesh.  This is a direct result of the publishing of these articles without a proper hearing by a third party or any arbitration in private (Again I would refer the reader to Acts 15).  This is the most egregious error that these articles are guilty of (and by extension the writing of others have committed).

For what do I believe Jesus Christ?

Do I need to believe in Jesus Christ for . . .

  • Everlasting life? (If I have believed in Jesus Christ for it am I not therefore assured of it?)
  • Forgiveness of sin(s)?
  • Entrance into heaven?
  • To be declared righteous?

Where did we get the phrase—“How do I get to heaven?” What do we mean by that?

What is the Gospel that I must believe?

How many different ways is “Gospel” used in the NT?  Are they all the same thing, only worded differently? If different, must they all be believed in order to . . .?

Do I need to believe in Jesus Christ and His Works? Where does it say explicitly that a person must believe in/place their trust in/have faith in the “death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ” in order to have everlasting life?

Which works must be included or must we include all of them (do we know all of them)?

  • Deity?
  • Humanity?
  • Christophonies?
  • Death?
  • Resurrection?
  • Death and Resurrection?
  • His Miracles?

How will, if at all, the Holy Spirit be involved before, during, and after justification if a time line can even be conceptualized/realized…Biblical?  Or does it all run together and work differently for different people?

To what are we Elect/Chosen/Predestined?   What does the Bible say?  Why evangelize?  Do the elect have the knowledge of Christ already and just need to be told of the saving/abundant knowledge that accompanies?

To ask it other ways . . .

  • What must one do to be Justified?
  • What must one do to have my sins forgiven?
  • What is the requirement for entrance into heaven?
  • What must one believe in order to have everlasting life?

Are all of these asking the same thing?  If so, how does the Scripture use them? In other words, show us the TEXT(S).

Do we all agree that the “means” is always “faith/believe/trust” alone? Or is it faith/believe/trust plus . . .?

Do we all agree that the basis of offer of salvation/justification/everlasting life/heaven bound/sins forgiven/etc. is the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ as recorded in the Scriptures?

Is anyone saying that the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ is not the basis for . . . ?

Because of the variety of terms and the confusion over which questions mean what, the debate has gotten very broad, abstract and diffused intellectually, while at the same time growing very intense emotionally.  I suggest we return the discussion to the concrete, practical matter where it all began: When I’m talking to an unbeliever, what all do I need to tell him?  And what is the goal of that conversation? On what biblical grounds do I justify my answer to these two questions?

I am of the persuasion that if we can all get on the same page concerning terminology then we can begin to make progress.  But this is a huge task.  What we are running into is the inevitable process of communication.  If we could all understand this concept then we might make progress.

  Cultural Grid of Worldview

Might I suggest two practical courses of action: (1) private discussions among the pastors and scholars who are primary parties to the debate, and (2) if necessary, public formal debates between different positions.

(1) Private discussion: Initially, it would be a good idea to keep the discussions out of the public eye and out of blogs.  Let’s meet as brothers and discuss the issues.  Let’s agree to a narrow agenda ahead of time, and stick to it until we come to agreement.  If we can do so—and we certainly should—then that will be the end of it.  If we can’t come to agreement, then let us at least come to a set of well-defined positions, and a clear understanding of the differences.  In this case, the debate is certainly going to go public, but let’s do our best to see that we take it public “in an orderly way.”   If we won’t agree as brothers, then at least let us disagree as brothers.

(2) Public formal debate: If there are two well-defined positions, then that lends itself to a variety of venues.  For more than two positions, the “Five Views on…” series suggests a useful format.  The debates could be conducted in person, or for a more reflective discussion, online in a strictly moderated discussion, following conventions similar to the “Five Views” series.

Some have suggested that the issue within the Free Grace Movement is merely one of semantics. We are all just saying the same thing, but using different words.  If this is the case then we are all correct.  Correct?  One group is saying one thing that appears to upset another group—there is not enough emphasis on the Works of Jesus Christ (His Death and Resurrection in particular).  On the other hand, some are upset with another group because they believe that they are too narrow in what they believe in Jesus Christ for (is it maybe more of a multiple choice issue?).  Many surrounding these issues are upset because they believe that when others have defended the free grace gospel over these many years that they should have been “kinder/gentler” to those who hold to other beliefs.

Finally, I would also like to stress that I do not know of anyone in the Free Grace Movement who would deny or dismiss the clear teaching of the New Testament that the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ is the sure foundation upon which our hope of everlasting salvation/life is based. Without the person and work of Jesus Christ, the gift of eternal life could never be offered to anyone who has faith alone in Jesus Christ alone for it. Furthermore, while their teaching has sometimes been controversial, I am thankful for leaders who will risk teaching something controversial because they strongly believe it to be true. Also, in my opinion, their teaching has not been demanding, but inviting those of us who hear them to check it out for ourselves. Who wants leaders who do not have the courage of their convictions? As many of us will attest, in most instances, it is clear they have done their homework, and are providing insights into the truth of God.  We are a very small minority within orthodox Christianity as it is.  Let’s not marginalize ourselves any further.  Let’s encourage, connect, lead and equip instead.

How does the New Testament Use the Term “Gospel?”[2] or Does a Person Need to Believe/Trust in the Person of Jesus Christ Alone (Based on His Death and Resurrection) or Must a Person Believe in the Person of Jesus Christ and/or in His Works for Everlasting Life?

“Must a person believe in the person of Jesus Christ (who died and rose again) alone or must a person believe in the person of Jesus Christ and His death and resurrection in order to be saved?” Note that while the death and resurrection of Jesus was prerequisite for justification, belief in the death and resurrection of Jesus does not grant everlasting life. A person must simply believe in Jesus Christ (John 3:16; 6:47) for the free gift of everlasting life (based upon the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ) to be given it by God. Certainly, the death and resurrection of Jesus are central to the Gospel, but since so much Biblical information is part of the Gospel, justification does not require believing the entire Gospel. There is a difference between the mechanism of justification (the death and resurrection of Jesus, along with many other things) and the message of everlasting life (believe in Jesus Christ for it). In other words, Gospel information differs from Gospel invitation.

Consider all that one could call “gospel.” The word “gospel” after all, means “good news.” It derives from the Anglo-Saxon word godspel, which means “good story” or “good news.” So from a technically literal sense, any good news to a person is gospel truth, whether it’s about one’s finances, family, physical health, or ___. It’s all good news. It’s all gospel truth.

[2] Based on a work by Jeremy Myers, entitled, The Gospel is More than “Faith Alone in Christ Alone”

Even so, the Bible uses the word gospel more restrictively. The Bible, especially the NT, reserves “gospel” for a more specific kind of good news.

And in Christianity today, there is a lot of dissention on what exactly the gospel is. Even grace circles have ongoing debates about what the gospel should or should not include.

Let’s say one tells his neighbor, that salvation requires believing the gospel (as some often do). The unchurched neighbor does not know the lingo nor what the “gospel” is.  So they ask, “What’s the gospel?”

How would one define the gospel? What would one include in the presentation?

Some say, “The Gospel is that Jesus gives the free gift of everlasting life to anyone who believes in Him for it.” Or to put it another way, “The Gospel is faith alone in Jesus Christ alone for everlasting life.”

Is that the gospel? Is that all the gospel?

Some add one’s own sinfulness, the deity of Jesus Christ, the virgin birth, the humanity of Jesus Christ, the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, His ascension, and maybe a few other things.

It doesn’t matter how people define the gospel, but the concern should be is how the Bible defines it. The question should not be “What should a gospel presentation include?” but rather “What do Biblical

One should look at the biblical words for the “gospel” and the context of each use to see what the Bible includes or excludes. One of two Greek words behind the word “gospel” in the English text is a verb. The Greek words are euangelion and euangelizo. How does Scripture use these words and what elements, facts, teachings and ideas Scripture includes in the gospel?

Incidentally, those things mentioned above, the deity of Christ, the humanity of Christ, the sinlessness of Christ, and the virgin birth are all defined in various places in the NT as elements of the gospel. If a gospel presentation includes everything the NT includes, one would almost have to include the entire NT.

So what is the “gospel”? Scripture defines the gospel as more than faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. The gospel includes truths for unbelievers and for believers; truths for Jews and Gentiles; and elements of the kingdom of God on earth. It includes facts about justification, sanctification, glorification, security in heaven, satisfaction and contentment on earth, and millennial rewards. The gospel includes all of these.

So the real question is, “If that’s the gospel, must one believe the entire gospel to receive the free gift of everlasting life?” The answer is “No!

The gospel is more than faith alone in Jesus Christ alone, but, at the same time, the entire gospel does not require believing the free gift of everlasting life! Only one element of the gospel must be believed to receive everlasting life.

The message of everlasting life, the justifying message, as found in John, Romans and Galatians, is that anyone who believes in Jesus Christ for the free gift of everlasting life, has it. That truth is part of the bigger gospel-package, but is only a part, though it is the central tenet, or main truth of the gospel.

But one does not have to know, understand or believe the entire gospel to receive everlasting life. To receive everlasting life, one must simply and only believe in Jesus Christ for it (John 3:16; 6:47).  Having said that, leading a person to believe in Jesus Christ, probably involves sharing a lot more of the gospel. This is probably why some people speak of sharing different gospels to different people.

What is the gospel? It is good news for everybody, whether Jew or Gentile, believer or unbeliever, regarding the benefits and blessings which come to us from the person and work of Jesus Christ.

Believing in Jesus Christ for everlasting life is the only single thing a person must believe in order to receive everlasting life. That is the central tenet of the gospel, but it is not the entire gospel. As soon as someone starts adding elements of the gospel that must be believed before one can be regenerate, there is no logical place to stop.

All teaching, preaching or evangelizing must include one element of the “gospel.” This one element has three parts. A person must

1.Believe

2.In Jesus

3.For the free gift of everlasting life

How much of the rest of the “gospel” one shares depends on the hearer’s questions and issues the hearer may have, and how much time one has to share. The “gospel” message may truly be different every time one shares it. And that’s okay, because one adjusts to the person before them, and to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

But whatever one flexes on, never leave out the central tenet of the “gospel.” Receiving the free gift of everlasting life requires believing in Jesus Christ alone (based upon/because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ).  The following illustrates.

Inconsistencies in Doctrinal Statements Concerning the Gospel of Jesus Christ

Today there appears to be a great deal of inconsistency in the issue of the Gospel (How much? What parts?) and what of it must be believed in order to have everlasting life.  Here are some examples of how many schools, individuals and ministries define the content of “faith.”  I would divide them into Four Groups:

1.Salvation only requires believing in Jesus Christ alone and that offer is based upon the finished work (death [cross] and resurrection) of Jesus Christ

2.Salvation requires believing in Jesus Christ and in the works of Jesus Christ.

3.Salvation requires believing in Jesus Christ alone, but alone does not mean alone and will change or add to that statement later to include that one must also believe/trust in the works of Jesus Christ in order to be saved

4.Some do not address the issue of the “person and works;” while some state unclearly requirements for salvation.
 
This First Group has doctrinal statements/beliefs stating clearly that salvation only requires believing in Jesus Christ alone.   That offer is based upon the finished work (death [cross] and resurrection) of Jesus Christ.  Note the use of the relative pronouns “who,” “whose,” and the phrases “made possible by,” “on the basis of,” “based solely on” and “on the grounds of.”  These pronouns and phrases indicate that salvation does not require believing in the person and works of Jesus Christ in order to be saved. The death and resurrection of Jesus underlies the offer of everlasting life.
 

Grace School of Theology (David Anderson): Doctrinal Statement—Salvation

We believe that God saves by grace alone, apart from works, those who put their faith in Christ alone, imputing His righteousness to them and keeping them secure eternally. We believe a person can and should have assurance of their Eternal Life the moment he receives Christ based on the promises of God.
 

Grace Evangelical Society:  GES Affirmations of Belief—Salvation

The sole condition for receiving everlasting life is faith alone in the Lord Jesus Christ, who died a substitutionary death on the cross for man’s sin and rose bodily from the dead (John 3:16-18; 6:47; Acts 16:31).

Faith is the conviction that something is true. To believe in Jesus (“he who believes in Me has everlasting life”) is to be convinced that He guarantees everlasting life to all who simply believe in Him for it (John 4:14; 5:24; 6:47; 11:26; 1 Tim 1:16).

Chafer Theological Seminary:  CTS (Dr. George Meisinger)—Means of Salvation.

We believe salvation is the gift of God brought to mankind by grace and received by personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, whose precious blood was shed for the forgiveness of our sins. God neither overrules nor implants mankind’s volition in accepting or rejecting His provision of salvation. A human being appropriates salvation by the sole means of faith alone in Jesus Christ alone, whose death and resurrection are the ground of man’s salvation. The means of salvation is to be properly correlated with and distinguished from issues related to discipleship (Acts 16:31; 4:12; John 1:12; 3:16, 18; 20:31; Ephesians 1:7; 2:8–10; 1 Peter 1:18–19; 2 Peter 3:9; 1 John 5:11–12).

GraceLife (Dr. Charlie Bing): Statement of Faith

We believe that man was created in the image of God, but because of sin was alienated from God. We believe in the gospel of grace, that by simply and only believing in Jesus Christ alone for the eternal salvation made possible by His death and resurrection that our alienation can be removed and eternal life received. We believe that once saved, the believer can never lose that salvation, and that it is therefore the privilege of everyone who believes to have assurance of salvation, which is not based on works but on the promises of God’s Word.

Dean Bible Ministries (Dr. Robert Dean): Doctrinal Statement—Christ Our Spiritual Substitute

The work for our reconciliation was completed. The door was open for anyone to believe in Him and gain eternal life for He died for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2). He paid for our sins while still physically alive. He then dismissed His own spirit to the Father (John 10:17–18; Luke 23:46) and died physically. When the soldiers came to break His legs they found Him dead. His spiritual work on the cross paid for the sins of the world and there is no work that mankind can do to add to His work or take away from it. All that we have to do is believe in Him as our personal Savior to receive eternal life (Romans 5:9; 1 Peter 1:18–19).

Duluth Bible Church (Dennis Rokser): Doctrinal Statement

We believe that on the basis of the efficacy of the death of our Lord Jesus Christ for all mankind, the sinner who has trusted Christ is freed from the penalty, the power, and one day the very presence of sin; and that he is declared righteous, given eternal life, and adopted into the family of God (Romans 3:25, 5:8-9; 2 Corinthians 5:14-15; 1 Peter 2:24, 3:18).

Palmcroft Baptist Church (Jim Bull):  Our Beliefs

We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ died as a substitutionary atonement for our sins and that all who believe in Him are justified on the grounds of His shed blood. Exodus 12:5-13; Leviticus 17:11; John 3:14-19; Acts 13:38-39; Romans 5 (especially vs. 8); II Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 9:12-14; I Peter 2:22-24

Grace Line Ministries (Fred Chay):  Doctrinal Statement

We believe that salvation is by God’s grace accepted and appropriated by faith alone in Christ alone. It does not entail or demand any works as a condition to gain eternal life. (Acts 16:31, Eph. 2:8-9) The assurance of salvation and our eternal security is based on the words of Jesus in that if you believe, you have passed from death to life and will never come into judgment. (John 5:24 I John 5:13)

IFCA:  Articles of Biblical Faith

Salvation – We believe that salvation is the gift of God brought to man by grace and received by personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, whose precious blood was shed on Calvary for the forgiveness of our sins (Ephesians 2:8-10; John 1:12; Ephesians 1:7; 1 Peter 1:18-19).

West Houston Bible Church (Dr. Robert Dean):  Doctrinal Statement

We believe that a person gains eternal salvation through faith alone in Christ alone. Acts 4:12

Grace Community Church (Dr. John MacArthur):  What We Teach—SALVATION

We teach that salvation is wholly of God by grace on the basis of the redemption of Jesus Christ, the merit of His shed blood, and not on the basis of human merit or works (John 1:12; Ephesians 1:7; 2:8-10; 1 Peter 1:18-19).

Baptist Bible College & Seminary:  Confession of Faith—We Believe .

We believe that the Triune God saves sinners by grace alone through faith in Christ alone. God secures their eternal salvation, having sovereignly elected them to be willing recipients of His grace in Christ, whose blood was shed for the remission of sins. We believe that salvation is demonstrated through good works that are part of a holy life. We believe that every Christian has the joyous responsibility of evangelizing sinners in obedience to Christ’s Great Commission.

 

Berachah Church (Robert B. Thieme, III):  Doctrine and Tenets—Statement of Doctrine

We believe that salvation in every dispensation is the gift of God brought to man by grace and received by personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, whose efficacious death on the Cross provided man’s reconciliation to God (Ephesians 1:7; 2:8-10; John 1:12).

Veritas Evangelical Seminary: Doctrinal Statement—Salvation

Salvation is initiated, attained, and procured by God through the death of Christ on the cross for our sins and His resurrection from the dead. The salvation Christ offers is available to all, and is received freely by grace alone and through faith in Christ alone, apart from good works, thereby, justifying and sealing the believer once and for all.

Spokane Bible Church (Dr. Tod Kennedy):  What We Believe—Salvation (Faith Alone in Christ Alone):

The sole condition for receiving eternal salvation from hell is faith (trust) in the Lord Jesus Christ, Who died a substitutionary death on the cross for man’s sin and rose from the dead (John 3:16-18; John 6:47; Acts 16:31).

Antioch Bible Church: Doctrinal Statement—What We Believe—Salvation

We believe that salvation is the gift of God brought to man by grace and received by personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, whose precious blood was shed on Calvary for the forgiveness of our sins (Ephesians 2:8-10; John 1:12; Ephesians 1:7; I Peter 1:18,19). Eternal Security and Assurance of Believers

Free Grace Seminary (Dr. Mike Halsey):  Doctrinal Statement—Salvation

We believe salvation is the gift of God brought to mankind by grace and received by personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, whose precious blood was shed for the forgiveness of our sins. Faith is a personal response, whereby we are persuaded that the finished work of Jesus Christ has delivered us from condemnation and guaranteed our eternal life. God neither overrules nor implants mankind’s volition in accepting or rejecting His provision of salvation. A human being appropriates salvation by the sole means of faith alone in Jesus Christ alone, whose death and resurrection are the ground of man’s salvation. The means of salvation is to be properly correlated with and distinguished from issues related to discipleship (Acts 16:31 ; 4:12; John 1:12; 3:16, 18; 20:31; Ephesians 1:7; 2:8–10; 1 Peter 1:18–19; 2 Peter 3:9 ; 1 John 5:11–12).
 
 

The Second Group are those whose doctrinal statements/beliefs state clearly that salvation requires believing in Jesus Christ and in the works of Jesus Christ in order to be saved. The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ underlies the offer of everlasting life.

Front Range Bible Church (Mark Perkins):  Doctrinal Statement—Salvation

Faith in the work of Jesus Christ on the cross is the only means of salvation for mankind. Those who refuse the work of Jesus Christ are left in just condemnation to an eternity in the Lake of Fire (John 3:16-18, 36; Rev. 20:15).
 

Scofield Memorial Church:  Abridged Doctrinal Statement

We believe that salvation from God’s judgment is only possible by appropriating the work of Jesus Christ on the cross by faith. We receive this salvation when we believe on the Lord Jesus and trust fully in His atoning sacrifice and blood.

The Third Group have doctrinal statements/beliefs stating clearly that salvation requires believing in Jesus Christ alone and yet will change or add to that statement later to include that one must also believe/trust in the works of Jesus Christ in order to be saved. The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ underlies the offer of everlasting life.
 

Free Grace Alliance:  FGA Covenant—We affirm the following:

  • 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.

 

Word of Grace Bible Church—Tom Stegall—SOLE CONDITION FOR SALVATION

We believe the only correct response toward God that saves a soul from Hell is faith alone in Christ alone, whereby a lost sinner believes the gospel, that as “the Christ, the Son of God,” Jesus is God-incarnate who died for all our sins and rose from the dead to provide salvation by grace through faith in Him (John 3:13-18; 5:24; 6:32-53; 8:24, 28; 20:30-31; Acts 16:30-31; 1 Cor. 1:17-21; 15:1-4; Eph. 2:8-9; 2 Thess. 1:6-10).

We believe such faith is properly understood to be trust or reliance upon Jesus Christ and His work alone as the only basis of one’s acceptance before God, and that no works may be added to, or even considered to be part of, genuine faith (Rom. 3:27-28, 4:4-5; Gal. 2:16; Eph. 2:8-9; Ti. 3:5). We do not believe good works in the Christian’s life are the necessary result of genuine, initial faith in Christ for eternal salvation; rather they are the necessary result of a genuine walk of faith in the Christian’s life (2 Cor. 5:7-10; Col. 2:6; Jam. 2:14-26).

We believe that repentance is necessary for salvation (Lk. 5:30-32, 24:47; Acts 3:14-19, 17:30; 2 Pt. 3:9), but only as it is properly understood to be that vital change of mind inherent to faith in Christ (Mt. 4:17 cf. Mk. 1:14-15; Acts 10:43-48 cf. 11:17-18, 19:4, 20:21). We furthermore reject as unscriptural the teachings of Lordship Salvation, believing them to be inconsistent with the sole condition for salvation and the nature of God’s saving grace based solely on the work of Christ. We similarly reject the many contemporary phrases that are often given as necessary responses or conditions to be saved, such as: make a commitment to Christ, give your life to Christ, believe and be baptized, believe and keep the Ten Commandments, submit to Christ’s lordship in your life, repent of or confess your sins, pray the sinner’s prayer, come forward, ask Jesus into your heart, etc.

 

 

The Fourth Group have doctrinal statements/beliefs that do not address the “person and works issue;” while some state unclear requirements for salvation.

Southern Evangelical Seminary (Dr. Norm Geisler):  Doctrinal Statement—Salvation

We believe that only those who receive the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior on the condition of faith alone, apart from all good works, are thereby born again of the Holy Spirit, are justified once and for all, and have become children of God.
 

Auburn Avenue Presbyterian Church:  What We Believe—Our Hope

We believe that all men are by nature rebellious against God. This is called sin and separates us from our Creator. Because all men have sinned, all men are under the condemnation due to sin, death. Only by turning from our sins and by trusting Jesus Christ as Savior are we forgiven and brought into fellowship with God.
 

Phoenix Seminary:  Doctrinal Statement—Our Beliefs

We believe that all human beings are lost and sinful by nature. For their salvation, regeneration by the Holy Spirit and (for all who have the mental capacity) personal faith in Jesus Christ are absolutely essential. Salvation is a gift from God, it is not earned.

Conclusion

If this paper evidences one thing, it is the absence of consistency (much less a consensus [and you know my opinion about “consensus”]) when presenting what many believe the Bible states as to what the “Gospel” is and what portion of it brings everlasting life.  This is very sad and alarming at the same time.  Most listed hold to the doctrines of inspiration and inerrancy with regard to the 66 books of the Bible.  Why are so many differing on what would seem to be a basic level of biblical understanding? The Covenant of the Free Grace Alliance statement which reads “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,” may actually be a form of relativism/existentialism (it is true when it becomes true for you) or universalism because the death and resurrection Jesus Christ dealt with all sin—past, present and future (1 John 2:2), and this alone gives everlasting life.  If believers are incapable or unwilling to discern what the Bible actually states, why even read it?  I believe a simple approach to the message that brings everlasting life exists—it is that by believing/trusting/having faith in the person of Jesus Christ as presented in the entire Bible and it is on the basis of His vicarious death (burial) and resurrection.  It is all about Him!

The Gospel–The Greatest Message that Gives Life (also, see chart on last page)

N.B.: When we  share the Gospel/the Message that Gives Everlasting Life remember these three things: 1) It (the Message) is always about Him (not about us); 2) It must always be simple enough for a child to understand; and 3) It must be consistent from Genesis through Revelation.

When Adam and Eve ate of fruit from the forbidden tree in the Garden, God did not declare them “sinners” (although they were and we are); God declared them “DEAD.”  The result is that every human being is estranged from God–“alienated from the life of God.” Ephesians 4:18. Therefore, what man has needed since that time is not only their sins forgiven, but more importantly, they have needed “LIFE–Everlasting Life.” In fact, the reason anyone is cast into the lake of Fire is because their name is not written in the Lamb’s Book of Life[1] (Revelation 20:15)

The remedy for that death sentence was given by God as recorded in Genesis 3:15, where the “Seed” Promise was given.  This Seed of the woman would “crush” the seed of the serpent.  From that declaration on, the Scriptures add more and more detailed information concerning that “Seed,”[2] the one who would come and give Life (everlasting life) instead of the Death (everlasting death) sentence all mankind is under.   By the time we get to the New Testament we find that “Promised Seed/Messiah” as Immanuel = God with us.

At the cross the righteous justice of God was satisfied for all humanity (2 Corinthians 5:19; 1 Timothy 2:5-6; 1 Peter 2:24).  Jesus Christ is the Propitiation for the Sins of the Whole World (2 Corinthians 5:19; 1 John 2:2).  It is by Grace alone, through Faith/Believe/Trust alone, in Jesus Christ (based on His Death and Resurrection) alone that we receive the free gift of everlasting life (the remedy for everlasting Death).

Therefore, the person comes to God through believing in Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ in His role as Mediator bestows everlasting life on the believer, thus introducing him/her to God.  God in response accepts the believing person and pronounces him/her justified. So, when God says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.”[3] “He does not mean to just believe Christ existed. Neither does He mean for us to only believe certain doctrines about Christ, e.g. that He was born of a virgin, that He was God in the flesh, that He died for the sins of the world, or that He is coming again. Believing about Christ is one thing… believing in Him is another. To believe in Him is to trust Him alone for our salvation [everlasting life] … it is to depend upon Him to get us to Heaven …it is to believe Him, that He will do what He promised to do—give us everlasting life.”[4]

——————————————————————————–

[1] Unbelief is the cause for the unsaved not having Everlasting Life.  Not having Everlasting Life is the reason they are condemned to the Lake of Fire.

[2] E.g., Genesis 3:15; 4:1; 12; Isaiah 9:6; 52:13—53:12; John 1:1—16.

[3] Paul’s response to the Philippian Jailer as recorded in Acts 16:23—31.

[4] Richard Seymour – The Gift of God, Grace Publishing, 1971, Page 5.

 

Source: http://www.floridabiblecollege.com/blog/post.cfm/current-issues-concerning-the-free-grace-gospel-part-1 (9/16/2013)

Observations & Comments
Most of the doctrinal statements that are stated in this article were not written to identify or not to identify with the GES gospel.
 
The GES gospel is a message unique to Zane Hodges, Bob Wilkin and the Grace Evangelical Society.
 

A Response to Zane Hodges & Bob Wilkin/Grace Evangelical Society

 
Repentance:
 
Gospel Presenation:
 
 
The GES Gospel to be believed has to also change other truths once believed:

1. The Gospel of John

2. The word Trust

3. The word Gospel

4. I Cor 15   

5. Gal 1: 8-9
 
6. John 3:16
7.John 20: 31
 
 
Progressive Revelation: John 20:8-9