[We are] not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. (Romans 1:16)

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Interview with a 'Crossless' Pastor

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...



From: xxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Sent: Thursday, September 27, 2007 6:39 AM
To: pastor@xxxxxxxxxxx.org
Subject: question
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

XXXXXXXXXXXX


__________________

From: XXXXXXXXXXXX
Sent: Thursday, September 27, 2007 11:05 AM
To: XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
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,

Pastor ####

10 Comments:

  • I, too, am tired of the pejorative label of crossless. Myers has dispelled that myth in his paper on the gospel. This pastor's answer was straightforward and gracious.

    By Blogger Free Grace Guy, at Tuesday, October 02, 2007 8:07:00 PM  

  • Good stuff.

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Wednesday, October 03, 2007 6:05:00 AM  

  • Antonio,

    I know this pastor, and somehow received this e-mail as well...I'm not sure how. What a way to graciously handle these questions! Praise God for pastors who teach grace graciously.

    Thanks for posting this.

    By Anonymous Jeremy Myers, at Wednesday, October 03, 2007 11:02:00 AM  

  • an email is not scripture.

    "For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God"
    1 Corinthians 1:18

    ...the power of God.

    ....the power of God.

    ...the power of God.

    Thus sayeth the Lord.

    Never seem to be giving place to the denial of the power of God. The penetrating pierce of the power of the cross leads men to an understanding of Gods justice which leads men to understand the God of grace.

    By Blogger Only Look, at Wednesday, October 03, 2007 7:34:00 PM  

  • "....But unto us which are saved it is the power of God"

    which ARE saved
    which ARE saved
    which ARE saved

    Thus saith the Lord, truely.

    I do not think anyone is denying the power of the cross.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wednesday, October 03, 2007 8:00:00 PM  

  • Hey anon,

    you really took the words right out of my mouth.

    Antonio

    By Blogger Antonio, at Wednesday, October 03, 2007 8:10:00 PM  

  • >I do not think <

    I 'know' I don't want those words in my mouth. The word 'think' does not hold much water when it comes to the power of the cross.

    Hear the word of the Lord. Stop rationalizing and whittling away at thus sayeth the Lord. What you are doing here should be greatly challenged, but this is my last input on this.

    By Blogger Bhedr, at Thursday, October 04, 2007 4:42:00 PM  

  • As for the anonymous mockingbird...Amen on the 'Saved' part. Amen.

    By Blogger Bhedr, at Thursday, October 04, 2007 4:45:00 PM  

  • Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

    Suppose someone meets Jesus while He physically walked on earth, believes in Him for eternal life, and dies the next day. This person did not have knowledge of the happenings at Calvary, but believed in Jesus' promise of salvation by faith alone. The question at hand appears to be, "Would this person be saved?"

    Unequivocally, yes! Brothers and sisters, we have the privilege of being on the "other side" of Calvary; that is, Calvary is a past event for us although a present reality. Knowledge of Christ's sacrifice and the assurance we have from the Scriptures written post crucifixion is a blessing that we have because the cross is a past event.

    Friends, pray that the Holy Spirit will reveal God's graceful truths to those who resist His promptings.

    S.James

    By Blogger Stephen James, at Tuesday, October 09, 2007 5:48:00 PM  

  • Steven,

    You said>Suppose<

    We cannot anchor a soul for eternity on this word suppose or on human sympathies. We must anchor them to the word of God and the whole Bible points to the Cross and tells us that this is where we meet Jesus to find life.

    We must do the same and call men to accept the truth and that awakens the soul to understand his grace. Our sympathies do not hold much water. We are flesh and blood that pass away but Gods word stands forever and he spent much time opening up our understanding to our need of the cross and made it simple so that we now can call all men to look there and to call on the name of the Lord.

    By Blogger Only Look, at Wednesday, October 10, 2007 5:32:00 PM  

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