Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life. (John 4:13-14)

Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Use and Abuse of the Gospel Message

Those who believe in a 'saving faith of maximum information" have yet to make a case and prove that the "gospel message" (viz. the information of 1 Cor 15:3ff) is the conscious and necessary object or added content of saving faith in addition to trusting Jesus for eternal life. This is a premise that they have presupposed and taken for granted. They should no longer be allowed this luxury.

As seen in a large segment of Christianity, the term "gospel" has been ossified into theological technical speak for "what needs to be believed for eternal life".

It is apparent to me and others that the gospel can be believed and one remain unsaved. Such has been the matter throughout Christian history.

How is this the case? One may believe that Jesus Christ "died for our sins according to the Scriptures" and "rose again the third day according to the Scriptures" (1 Cor 15:3-4) and still not believe that Jesus is the Guarantor of eternal life to the one who merely takes Him at His word in His promise to do so. That one believes that Jesus died for the sins of the world and rose again from the dead does not necessarily and inevitably lead to the conclusion that He guarantees one's eternal well-being by simple faith into Him through His promise.

I submit: the gospel message (as defined by most) is not the content or object of saving faith.

Paul and John are not competitive. Paul preached the same SINGLE content to saving faith as John did.

1 Timothy 1:16
16 However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life.
NKJV

In other words, they preached faith alone into Jesus Christ for eternal life.

The context to which they couched this single requirement was also the same, viz., a gospel message.

What's the deal then?

The proclamation of a gospel message is what gives lost men and women the background to and support for the single term of receiving eternal life, believing Jesus as the Resurrection and the Life, in other words, the Person who guarantees resurrection and eternal life to the believer in Him. It is the proclamation that shows Christ to be the authoratative and sufficient Guarantor of eternal life.

For instance, let me make an illustration:

Let us suppose that I said to you, "I have made you debt free."

I doubt that this statement alone would convince you that you were now debt free.

But let us say that I couched this assertion within this narrative:

"I am a multi-millionaire, and have become a philanthropist. I have made everyone in your church debt-free. Furthermore, here is the testimony of some members of your church who have become debt free by virtue of my dealings."

The narrative explaining the provision of your debt-free state is strong evidence given in order to convince you of the proposition, "I have made you debt free."

This narrative has served functionally the same purpose as the gospel message. The facts included in a gospel message are proclaimed so that one can be persuaded of Christ's promise and offer of eternal life to the believer in Him for it. It gives us the reasons why we can trust Christ.

Certainly much other evidence can help, too. Such as His miracles, His claims to deity, etc.

But we must not confuse the evidence (i.e. a gospel message) which supports and undergirds the promise of eternal life, with the content of saving faith itself. This would cloud the essential issue between God and men! When we ought to be pointing men and women to simple faith in Christ through His promise which unequivocally offers eternal life to the one who takes Him at His word for it, we have often made saving faith a step-by-step endeavor, leading people through the doctrines of hamartiology and Christology, subjecting them to a complexity that in the end can cause a failure to precisely present the terms of everlasting life to the lost sinner.

Our evangelism should be targeted. Anything that we say to the unsaved in the context of evangelism should be so tailored as to point to simple faith in Christ for the purpose of receiving eternal life. In the gospel of John, the author presents 7 miraculous signs that were performed by the Lord Jesus Christ to authenticate the claims of Jesus Christ, whereby He solemnly guarantees eternal life to any and all who merely trust in Him to do so. His supernatural works support His claims to be the unique dispenser of eternal life.

Let us herald far and wide Christ's divinity, His death for sins and the resurrection. Let us proclaim Jesus' miraculous wonders, sinless life, virgin birth, and absolute righteous teachings. Let us boldly declare His holiness, power, and authority.

But let these powerful and grand undercarriages perform their duty and not impose upon them that which their proclamation is not intended to do. The evidences given in our gospel messages are used in the hands of the Holy Spirit to convince the hearers of the claims of Christ in His gratuitous promise to impart eternal life to all who simply trust in Him to do so.

Preach the gospel? By all means! But use if for its intended purpose: to show the authority, ability, and sufficiency of Christ to impart irrevocable eternal life to the believer in Him for it.

11 Comments:

Blogger Lou Martuneac said...

Antonio:

You wrote, “…make a case and prove that the ‘gospel message’ (viz. the information of 1 Cor. 15:3ff)is the conscious and necessary object of saving faith…

What we have above is a Straw Man argument. So, there is no misunderstanding I am providing a definition of the Straw man argument from Wikpedia:

A straw man argument is an informal fallacy based on misrepresentation of an opponent's position. To "set up a straw man" or "set up a straw-man argument" is to create a position that is easy to refute, and then attribute that position to the opponent. A straw-man argument can be a successful rhetorical technique (that is, it may succeed in persuading people) but it is in fact a misleading fallacy, because the opponent's actual argument has not been refuted.

1) Present a misrepresentation of the opponent's position, refute it, and pretend that the opponent's actual position has been refuted.

2) Quote an opponent's words out of context -- i.e., choose quotations that are not representative of the opponent's actual intentions.


Antonio:

Show me with a verbatim quote where I have stated “more information is the object of saving faith?”

Somewhere in the two different sites (Unasahamed and your site) I believe I stated clearly that Jesus is the object of faith.

I have this statement in my book, “Jesus Christ must be the object of man’s faith. This makes all the difference. If Jesus is not the object of faith then there has been no saving faith.”

IMO, you have lost your balance in the doctrine of salvation.

If, you are going to argue for your position then you need to do so without putting words or beliefs into the argument that do not belong to those with whom you disagree.

I’d like to give you the benefit of the doubt in that you may have unintentionally created a Straw Man. If, however, you attribute what you wrote above to me one more time, I am going to drop out of this discussion, and deal with your position from the third person elsewhere.


LM

PS: Why don’t you decide at which site you are going to post and discuss this. It is has been like a shell game trying to figure out where you are going to show up next. Here, your site, or post a comment at my site, and come back to one of these sites.

July 01, 2007 4:05 AM  
Blogger Antonio said...

Lou,

if you read closely my article, you see that I have stated that "the more information" crowd adds to either the object OR content of saving faith.

The argument stands and is solid.

It is abundantly clear, Lou, that to simple trust in Christ for eternal life you ADD FURTHER CONDITIONS:

1) Belief that one is a sinner
2) Belief that Jesus died on the cross for our sins
3) Belief that Jesus rose again from the dead

This is a fact about your position, please correct me if I am wrong.

Is it not your position that if someone does not understand the cross of Christ for sins that they cannot be saved?

This is aptly described as a "more information" position. You are ADDING content to saving faith, and in the process, pointing men and women to doctrine rather than to Christ through His promise to impart eternal life to any who believe in Him for it.

Call my posts a straw man all you like.

Are you going to deny that you add more information to the content of saving faith? In other words, are you going to deny that you point men to the cross and the resurrection as the necessary and concious objects of saving faith? In other words, there is no salvation apart from their understanding?

Furthermore, you have been about for some time heralding Romans 10:9, 10.

What does that verse say?

"and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead..."

If understood the way you have used this verse, this would make the resurrection a conscious and necessary object of saving faith.

Let us make a simple pronouncement here, Lou.

If Jesus Christ alone is the object of saving faith, as you are here stating, then there is no need for further debate?

Why? This has been my position all along.

Saving faith is simply believing into Jesus Christ through His gratuitous promise to impart eternal life to all who merely take Him at His word.

But that isn't your position, Lou. You need to be frank with it.

Your position is that one must:

1) Believe he is a sinner
2) Believe he is on his way to hell
3) Believe that Jesus is God
4) Believe that Jesus died on the cross for the sins of the world, taking the punishment
5) Believe that Jesus rose from the dead
6) Pray to receive Christ

This is the 6 steps to saving faith, in your position. Correct me PLEASE if I am wrong!

It is abundantly clear to me that someone could perform all 6 steps and still remain unsaved.

Why?

The one and only term of receiveing eternal life has not been met:

Believing Jesus in His promise.

This is enough, but you insist to add information heaped upon information.

Someone can follow all 6 of your steps and STILL not be trusting Jesus Christ alone for eternal life. It does not necessarily follow!

Numbers 1 - 5 in the list I just made can be taken out of ANY GOOD CREDAL STATEMENT.

Are we to trust in the doctrines of a credal statement or trust in Jesus, the Christ, who is the Guarantor of eternal life to all who simply take Him at His word in His promise to do so?

Antonio

July 01, 2007 8:04 AM  
Blogger Lou Martuneac said...

Antonio:

I have been reading Hodges and your posts. I am left to conclude you men have fallen into major doctrinal error, and I do not say that lightly.

The “Crossless” gospel is a departure from orthodoxy. Your position is as extreme and out-of-balance as I have seen from the Free Grace camp as I have seen in the opposite direction from the Lordship Salvation camp, and I reject both LS and the “Crossless” gospel.

Your insistence that belief in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ is to “ADD FURTHER CONDITIONS” to the Gospel for salvation and eternal life is just plain ol’ out of touch with the Scriptures.

You have come to a “Crossless” gospel position, and it appears you are using the Bible (much like Rick Warren as Saddleback) to legitimize the position you seek to advocate.

To dismiss the plain teaching of 1 Cor. 1:18; 2: 1-2; 15:3-4 & Romans 10:9-10 indicates to me you are out-of-balance!

I am going to post more on the “Crossless” gospel at my site tomorrow. I am hopeful you will one day realize you have erred and can be recovered from the dangerous teaching by Hodges of a “Crossless” gospel.

I am going to check out of this discussion.

Kind regards,



LM

July 01, 2007 2:49 PM  
Blogger Antonio said...

Lou,

Who is constructing the "straw man" now?

I preach a cross-less gospel? Maybe you didn't read this in my post:

----------
Let us herald far and wide Christ's divinity, His death for sins and the resurrection. Let us proclaim Jesus' miraculous wonders, sinless life, virgin birth, and absolute righteous teachings. Let us boldly declare His holiness, power, and authority.

But let these powerful and grand undercarriages perform their duty and not impose upon them that which their proclamation is not intended to do. The evidences given in our gospel messages are used in the hands of the Holy Spirit to convince the hearers of the claims of Christ in His gratuitous promise to impart eternal life to all who simply trust in Him to do so.

Preach the gospel? By all means! But use if for its intended purpose: to show the authority, ability, and sufficiency of Christ to impart irrevocable eternal life to the believer in Him for it.
----------
The gospel that I preach is far from being a cross-less gospel.

The thing is, though, Lou. For you, saving faith comes by assent to a multitude of information, that, in fact, you will not even consider one saved unless they initial it on your checklist.

You say that object of saving faith in your system is the Lord Jesus Christ himself. But with your position you seem to deny that assertion.

You see, a gospel message that contains the information you deem necessary (not taken from a single passage, but from a patchwork biblical quilt) becomes the object of saving faith. Your creed has been granted saving efficacy, and whoever assents to it is saved, whether or not they entrust their eternal destiny to Jesus Christ, as long as they have "prayed a prayer to receive Him".

This is not biblical. No one is saved by mental assent to doctrine to which is added a prayer to invite Christ into one's life.

Men and women are saved when they are convinced that Christ's promise to them is true. People are eternally secure when they entrust their eternal destiny to Jesus Christ through faith in Him in His promise.

You have yet to describe for us why what we teach is "dangerous", Lou. You are getting into an area here that you are making serious allegations. Why is it dangerous, Lou? I have gone into great detail why someone could adhere to your position, in other words the 6 step program to saving faith, AND STILL REMAIN UNSAVED, for someone could follow all 6 of your steps and still not have believed in Jesus as the Guarantor of eternal life to the believer in Him for it.

You have been proven wrong that the gospel message of Free Grace theology is "cross-less". On the contrary, the cross and the resurrection are the center-pieces of our evangelistic presentations.

But we contend that the object of saving faith is the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, through His promise as found in John 1:12; 3:16; 4:10-14; 5:24; 6:35-40; 6:47; 11:25-27, etc.

And the sad thing is, that not one of these verses would be sufficient to bring one to saving faith, for not a single one requires an understanding of the cross or the resurrection in order to receive the absolutely free gift of eternal life.

It is my hope and prayer that someday you will present Jesus Christ in His promise as the sole sufficient dispenser of irrevocable eternal life to the believer in him for it.

It is in this consideration that the only book in the whole of the bible with the express, written purpose of evangelism presents Him.

Antonio

July 01, 2007 4:36 PM  
Blogger Lou Martuneac said...

Antonio:

This is what you wrote, "And if anyone believes Christ eternally saves them based upon His promise to do so to the believer in Him for it, I consider them saved, despite what they do or do not understand concerning Christ's person or work."

You have gutted the gospel for salvation of its most significant biblical mandates. Your position is one that a lost man does not need to believe in Christ’s substitutionary death, His resurrection or His deity to be born again.

What does the Bible say?

1 Cor. 15:3-4 “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.”

Romans 10:9-10 "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

I have acknowledged elsewhere you/Hodges will preach the cross, but you considerate it unnecessary for the lost man to “believe that God hath raised Him from the dead.”

But you go even further. In reference to the cross and resurrection of Christ you stated that these, “ADD FURTHER CONDITIONSADDING content to saving faith, and in the process, pointing men and women to doctrine rather than to Christ…” What you are doing here is suggesting that requiring a lost person to believe Jesus died and rose again is creating “another gospel” (Gal. 1:8-9).

There is no No Straw Man, because while you will speak of the cross and resurrection you eliminate its importance for the lost man to acknowledge and believe these things as Romans 10:9-10 mandates. You, therefore, preach a “crossless” gospel.

Frankly, I have wondered why you even bother with mentioning the cross and resurrection, if as you have repeatedly stated, it is not needed for conversion and for you it is adding further conditions, thereby creating “another gospel.”

For the record I take nothing away from John’s gospel. I do not minimize, trump with other passages, or negate one “jot or tittle” of John’s Gospel.

You are out-of-balance because you have come to the point where you appear to view John’s Gospel as trumping the rest of Scripture on salvation. Your “Crossless” gospel is a radical departure from Scripture.

End of discussion for me! Your site, so you have the last word.


LM

July 01, 2007 6:45 PM  
Blogger Antonio said...

Your last answer says it all, Lou.

Your saving faith consists of believing in a death, and a resurrection. You make doctrine the object of faith and not Christ alone.

All Christians except liberals believe these things, but we do not consider them all saved.

I point men to Christ, you point men to a doctrinal checklist and ask them to "pray a prayer".

I have gutted the gospel of its most significant biblical mandates?

The only mandate that I can find concerning the salvation of man in the whole of the Bible is:

"Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved" (Acts 16:30, 31).

I have written extensively on 1 Cor 15:3ff to which you have not replied to my arguments in the least.

The Difference Between a Gospel Presentation and the Offer (Promise) of Eternal Life

The Use and Abuse of the Gospel Message

Another Look at 1 Cor 15:3ff / The Pauline Gospel

I have written about Romans 10:9, 10 to which you still have not answered to my arguments or questions:

Does Romans 10:9, 10 Teach the One Must Understand the Resurrection for Eternal Life?

I have proven that the disciples, the Samaratans, and others in the Gospel of John were saved apart from understanding Christ's death on the cross and apart from believing in His resurrection (they even flatly denied it!) and have shown that John wrote his gospel to show that men and women today get saved the same way those in his narrative did!. His gospel was one of the last two books written in the canon. Did he forget to include your essential biblical mandates when he expressly, precisely, and clearly presented the terms of receiveing eternal life in his gospel?

Must One Understand Christ's Death for Sin to Be Born Again?

Lou,

I have spent countless hours developing a very strong argument on many different fronts. I have spent time in the text of Scripture and in exegesis. I have been in the Greek and have carefully made my case.

You on the other hand have asserted much, proof-texted, and have yet to present a case for your position.

Your charges keep evolving. They started with:

"Are you saying that someone can be born again apart from understanding the cross of Christ for sin?"

I showed that this was the case with OT saints, with those whom Christ ministered to in the gospels, and the disciples themselves.

Then you made it hinge on two other scriptures: 1 Cor 15:3ff and Romans 10:9, 10. I have written extensively on them. I have answered to everyone of your assertions and questions, but you have not shown the same consideration.

You assert much but haven't laid out a single argument.

You quote Scripture as if it alone contradicts my position, yet you do so without an exegetical argument ensuing from the scripture.

As if the mere referencing of a text proves anything, my friend.

Next you charge that I preach a cross-less gospel, which is a straw-man par excellence.

We have shown that to be untrue.

The gospel I preach heralds passionately the deity of Christ, the death and resurrection of Christ, and numerous other details as well.

But your real contention is that I don't offer as the content of saving faith a series of doctrinal (hamartiology and Christology) affirmations. I don't present a pile of information that must be believed in order for one to be truly born again.

I preach the gospel. THEN I present the promise of Jesus Christ to give irrevocable eternal life to all who simply believe in Him to do so.

You call this a radical departure from scripture? I trow not.

You say you frankly wonder why I preach the gospel. I am on record in all the aforementioned posts that I linked to above why I do. The elements in a gospel presentation present Christ as trustworthy, able, authoratative, and sufficient as the sole Guarantor of eternal life to the believer in Him for it. He is worthy of our faith, He is qualified as our Savior, He is able to make good on His promise, and He is trustworthy so that we can entrust our eternal destiny to Him.

Imagine the final judgment, Lou. If you are right, here is a possible scenario before Jesus Christ.

A man is standing before Jesus Christ who did not understand Christ's death on the cross for sins or His resurrection. But having read the gospel of John and hearing Jesus' promise, he entrusted his eternal destiny to Christ by believing into Jesus through His promise to guarantee eternal life to all who believe in Him for it.

When he stands before Christ, He will say to this man:

You entrusted your eternal destiny to Me. You regarded me as the authoratative, sufficient, and unique Personage who dispenses eternal life to all who believed in Me for it. You believed into me as the Resurrection and the Life.

But because you did not understand the payment I made for sins, or how my Resurrection substantiated my substitutionary sacrifice, I must now send you to hell.

You did not follow all the steps and biblical mandates that I gave in order for you to go to heaven. Yes, you believed in Me for eternal life. But you lacked ADDITIONAL faith and understanding in my Person and Work. You must now go to hell.

This is the reductio ad absurdem of your position, Lou.

Imagine someone trusting in the name of Jesus Christ but Christ letting him down!

"...and that believing ye might have life through his name" (John 20:31)

Christ's "name" is everything who He actually is. This "name" represents everything who He TRULY is. Fill in ALL true Christology here: Everything that the Bible reveals Jesus to truly be and have done and everything that Jesus truly is that is not revealed in the Bible (including His substitionary death and resurrection)

It is by virtue of His "name" (everything that He truly is and has done) that we can have eternal life. It is who He is and what He has done that has qualified Him as the Guarantor of eternal life to the believer in Him for it. It is His name that gives Him the authority and the ability to dispense eternal life.

Jesus is uniquely qualified to dispense eternal life by virtue of His name. On this authority He may dispense it to whomever He wishes. It is through His wisdom and council with God the Father that they have decided to dispense eternal life to those and only those who believe in Jesus for this gift.

John 1:12
But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name

Acts 4:12
Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.

1 John 3:23
And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ

Matt 12:21
And in His name Gentiles will trust.

John 3:18
He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God

Acts 10:43
To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.

When we believe in the "name" of Jesus Christ for eternal life through the persuasion of the content of the gospel message, we are believing in Him in who He truly is in all capacities, whether or not we understand them or not.

Antonio

July 01, 2007 8:38 PM  
Blogger andrew said...

hey guys. pardon the interruption, from an outsider, no less.

Christ alone is object of saving faith?

OR

Christ "through his promise" is the object of saving faith?

The latter is a theological amplification of the former. If Antonio is free to so amplify the meaning of "Christ alone," why is not LM likewise free to amplify the meaning of this catchphrase?

Neither amplifications are strict additions; they simply unpack what is implicit in the "good news" (e.g., John 6.47). I think that LM does a better job unpacking what is there (i.e., in the Gospel of John, which is the context of several of Antonio's favorite passages (proof texts?)).

I rather suspect that Antonio amplifies Christ by "his promise" and narrows down the necessary propositional "content" to that "promise" in order to avoid some unpleasent implications for his theological position.

Also, "Gospel" is not merely background information or table-setting for St. Paul. It is "the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first and also to the Greek."

July 02, 2007 1:38 PM  
Blogger Paul G said...

You guys do a great job.
Antonio; I like your presentation of the argument, perhaps a more simple explanation is; That a man is dead in his sins and trespasses or plainly spiritually dead, like Lazarus in the tomb, then Jesus comes and calls him, and gives him life (born again) after that he believes and does everything the Scripture says and fulfills all your explanations.

July 02, 2007 2:41 PM  
Blogger H K Flynn said...

Great Antonio,

I very crisp argument!

It's as if the gospel is a mighty framework while the offer of EL is the central I-beam!

I love this:
This narrative has served functionally the same purpose as the gospel message. The facts included in a gospel message are proclaimed so that one can be persuaded of Christ's promise and offer of eternal life to the believer in Him for it. It gives us the reasons why we can trust Christ.

I would say the gospel proclamation has other vital purposes to like spurring us to get busy finishing the Father's works. And I think this is the purpose of the 1 Cor 15 passage.

July 02, 2007 6:57 PM  
Blogger Antonio said...

Jodie,

I love your term "crisp"

I really love it!

As for the further purposes for it, I would love to hear you expound on them.

It is good to see you around!

Antonio

July 02, 2007 10:11 PM  
Blogger Paul G said...

Lou martuneac;
I read the Duluth Bible Church link.
It seams to me that all of them put the cart before the Horse so to speak!
Salvation by condition or something the sinner must do or have knowledge to be saved.

In fact the sinner is saved by grace alone.
However, if Jesus Christ is preached and proclaimed, the Holy Spirit will draw the elect sinner to Jesus. The dead shall hear His voice and live, Jesus gives him a new life (born again) a babe in Christ after that he will learn and believe all the doctrines of Christ as the Holy Spirit leads him into all the truth.

July 03, 2007 4:01 AM  

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