by Antonio da Rosa
The following is an exchange between a sincere church-goer and a pastor that my friend Trent posted over at the Grace Evangelical Society discussion board. I trust you will find it interesting...
Sent: Thursday, September 27, 2007 6:39 AM
Dear Pastor XXXX,
I know you don’t know me, but for a while now, I have been interested in finding out more about your church. I have heard about your church from others on the internet and I have heard that your doctrine is “free grace.” It also sounds like your church, in the past, has been very clear on the gospel and perhaps this is because of your previous association with members of the Grace Evangelical Society.
I would like to know if you take a stance against Lordship Salvation in your preaching (as taught by John MacArthur) and also your stance on what has been labeled the “Crossless Gospel” which is circulating among free grace believers these days. If you haven’t heard about the “Crossless Gospel” but you want to know what it is, the Crossless gospel articles can be found at www.duluthbible.org
I ask these questions because we have an interest in visiting your church, but we would like to know your doctrinal stance on these issues beforehand. If you are willing to share your thoughts on these issues, I would appreciate it.
Sincerely in Christ
Sent: Thursday, September 27, 2007 11:05 AM
Subject: RE: question
Thank you for your email.
You heard correctly that our church teaches a free grace message of justification. We believe that a person is justified simply by believing in Jesus for eternal life. In view of our position, we clearly find ourselves at odds with proponents of Lordship Salvation. Though differing from them, we dearly love and care for those who have been misguided by Lordship teaching. I do not belittle or ridicule Lordship teaching (or teachers) in my sermons. Instead, I take a more proactive approach – emphasizing the truth of the gospel of grace, rather than spend all my time deconstructing what I believe to be false teaching. I may, from time to time, address the fallacy of Lordship theology, but I will inevitably spend more time addressing how simple and true if the message of justification by ‘faith’.
>>I would like to know… your stance on what has been labeled the “Crossless Gospel” which is circulating among free grace believers these days. If you haven’t heard about the “Crossless Gospel” but you want to know what it is, the Crossless gospel articles can be found at www.duluthbible.org
By the web link you offered, I assume you accept Duluth’s position on the aforementioned issue. Personally, I find the term “crossless gospel” to be particularly misleading in this recent debate. By its use, people instinctively conclude that whoever teaches a “crossless gospel” either:
Does not believe that Jesus died on the cross
Devalues the significance of Jesus’ death on the cross
May I begin by saying clearly that neither A nor B is true of those who are supposedly labeled “crossless gospel” teachers.
The issue at hand is ‘what must be believed to be justified.’ In answering this question, I turn to the Gospel of John – the only biblical book with the express purpose of leading people to saving faith in Christ.
John 20:30 - 21:1 30 And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but 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.
All Scripture is inspired and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. But only the book of John definitely states that it was written for the purpose of leading people to faith in Christ. And so, when someone asks me ‘How can I be saved?’ – I turn them to the Gospel of John.
I might show any number of passages in John that emphasize what a person must do in order to be saved:
John 3:16 16 "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
John 3:36 36 "He who believes in the Son has everlasting life ; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him."
John 6:47 47 "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life.
John 11:25-27 25 Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 "And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?" 27 She said to Him, "Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world."
In all of these, I find great commonality. To be saved (justified), according to the words of Jesus Himself, one must believe in Him for everlasting life. It is truly that simple.
What I do not find in the Gospel of John (or any other biblical book for that matter), is any Scripture that declares that belief in the cross event is necessary to be justified. Let me rephrase to be clear. There is not one text in all of Scripture that teaches that unregenerate people must believe in Jesus’ death on the cross in order to be saved. Might I add that anyone can do a simple search of the term ‘cross’ in the Bible and they will quickly find this to be true.
Now what does all of this mean? Does this mean we should not teach the message of the cross. Of course not! Paul says:
Galatians 6:14 14 But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
It is by the cross event that Jesus removed the sin of the world as the legal basis of condemnation (2 Cor. 5:19). It is only because of the cross that men and women can now simply believe in Christ and receive everlasting life with God. And so the cross event takes a special place of significance in the life of the church and of every believer.
But note carefully that the Bible does not teach that we must believe in the cross event of Christ in order to be saved. Instead, the Bible teaches we must believe in Christ for everlasting life. To be clear, I’m simply speaking about justification. I’m simply speaking of how a person can become a child of God. They become a child of God by believing in Jesus for eternal life.
Prior or subsequent to their faith, a person may learn a great many things about Jesus Christ:
born of a virgin
baptized by John the Baptist
called 12 disciples
healed the sick
cleansed the temple
prayed and sweat blood in Gethsemane
died on the cross
resurrected on the 3rd day
I would hope that any believer would soon be aware of these significant events in Jesus’ life. But surely I would never tell someone that unless they believed items 1-8, they could not be saved. That would be absurd. Should all 8 items be known by Christians? Most certainly. Must they be known? Most certainly not. What must be known to be saved is that Jesus Christ gives eternal life to those who believe in Him for it.
Those who have been facetiously labeled “crossless gospel” teachers are nothing more than people who are trying to let the Bible speak for itself on what must be believed in order to be saved. I am one of them. Yet I would not ever use that term to describe such people, because I know how much I (and they) value the cross of Christ. Without it, I would never have the opportunity to be reconciled to God. Praise God for the cross!
There is much more that could be said on this issue, including some excellent scholarly work on the matter that I could refer you to if you are interested. I commend you for seeking answers to these delicate matters. I trust the Spirit will guide you as you study the Word to see if these things are so.
I invite you to visit our ########### Church family anytime. We meet Sundays at 10 AM.
Blessings in Christ,