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)

Monday, October 29, 2007

Are We Robbed of John 3:16? -- What does "believing in" Jesus really mean?

What does it mean to “believe in” Jesus in its Johannine, soteriological sense? Is the answer simple or complex? Can it be arrived at easily, or does one have to do hours of research and write a series of journal articles to reach an answer? Will it be a response of common sense, or will the solution require a dissertation? Will it be sufficient to view one verse in context, or must we paste together a plethora of loosely associated verses and considerations?

Preliminary Considerations
When we use the colloquial expression "I believe in [somebody or something]" or "I trust [somebody or something]" it is shorthand for a much more precise and specific articulation. If I said, "I believe in the airline pilot" or equally it could be stated, "I trust the airline pilot," the intended meaning is clear: "I believe that the airline pilot is qualified and will get me from point a to point b safely." Or it could equally be articulated as, "I trust the airline pilot is qualified and will get me to my destination safely." In all of this it is important to note that each time we use the phrases, "I believe in _______," and "I trust ________," we have a specific content in mind, in other words, we are believing and trusting in someone/something for something specific and precise.

Now I really do want to emphasize the aforementioned (it cannot be overemphasized!) and I wish to discuss in the comment thread your objections to what I have stated. If you object, please give me an example that makes an exception to the above rule.

If I said the expression, "I trust the babysitter" it does not mean that I trust her in everything! I would not entrust her with my taxes or rely upon her for medical diagnosis. Nor does it imply that I know everything (or even the most major things!) about her that makes her qualified. It simply means that I have (through whatever communication or consideration) been persuaded that she is trustworthy. Obviously what is intended by this somewhat general sounding expression is in reality something very specific and precise: "I believe that the babysitter is well-qualified and able to sufficiently care for my children in a mature, responsible, and safe manner." We cannot take this any other way! These types of phrases are not used in any other way. These somewhat general sounding phrases are colloquial and in actuality convey implied, specific content based upon the context of the situation in which they are expressed and/or the named object(s) itself/themselves.

Contextual Consideration
Dr. J.B. Hixson, Executive Director of the Free Grace Alliance, states, “Many texts clearly explain the Christian gospel (John 1:12; 3:16, 36; 5:24; 6:47; etc.).” Taken from, “What is the Gospel?” (http://www.hixson.org/docs/Soteriology/What%20is%20the%20Gospel.pdf) Therefore, I wish to choose one of those texts that, according to Dr. Hixson, “clearly explains the Christian gospel.” Let us look at the ever famous John 3:16:

Jesus of Nazareth, who is the Christ, Son of God, the King of Israel, said, “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 3:16 (NKJV)

What is “believing in” Jesus shorthand for? What is the specific content of that belief? In a nutshell, according to the context, "believing in Jesus" means believing that Jesus gives me eternal life and I will not perish, or equally, trusting in Jesus for eternal life and deliverance from perishing. Essentially, “believing in Jesus” is entrusting one’s eternal destiny to Him; it is certain reliance upon Him for the promised result. It really is this simple, and as such lies unencumbered by any additional caveats or qualifications.

Much like:
  • Believing in the babysitter
  • = trusting the welfare of your children into the hands of the babysitter, and
  • Believing in the airline pilot
  • = trusting your own welfare into the hands of the airline pilot

  • Believing in Jesus
  • = trusting your eternal welfare into the hands of Jesus

    This is not complicated and it is not rocket science. Jesus states that anyone who simply and certainly relies upon Him for his eternal welfare is eternally secure.

    Facilitation of “believing in” Jesus
    This brings us to the question: Why would anyone become persuaded that Jesus could be relied upon for one’s eternal well-being? In a nutshell, understanding that Jesus is authorized, qualified, able, and willing to impart eternal life to all who simply “believe in” Him for it can persuade someone to believe in Jesus in the manner as we have so described above. No one can (or will) put their faith in Jesus unless they are first convinced that what He has promised He can and will indeed perform. Therefore, those who are the objects of our evangelistic conversations must be apprised of information that substantiates Jesus’ ability to impart eternal life to all who entrust themselves to Him. Pragmatically speaking, there may be a wide range of things that are absolutely necessary for the objects of our evangelism to understand and assent to in order to come to faith in Jesus. Therefore it behooves us to be liberal with information.

    Let me make a simple illustration.

    Imagine that I am in need of a reliable, qualified, and appropriate nanny. The simple testimony of a friend’s firsthand experiences with a particular person may be sufficient to persuade me to trust that specific nanny, but then again, it may not. I may need to see lists of educational credentials and employment references, and hold a few interviews with the candidate before I entrust my little ones to this person. Such will depend on my psychological makeup, the subjective factors of my personality, and other variables. But as soon as I am convinced of the qualifications of this nanny, I will believe in her, in other words, trust her.

    A single doubt about this person has the potential to preclude me from trusting her. Several doubts will make it even harder. If I don’t believe that she actually graduated with a child development degree from Harvard, as her resume states, trust in the person is precluded.

    The same goes with believing in Jesus for eternal life. Men and women will need to be persuaded and assent to a varying number of preliminary and supportive facts about Jesus and themselves before they will become convinced that Jesus’ promise is sure. The amount of information psychologically needed to become persuaded of Christ’s authority and ability to execute His promise is different with everyone. But just as someone can become convinced of the reliability of a nanny with the simple testimony of a friend, so it is possible that there are people out there who can become convinced of Christ’s reliability based upon a small amount of evidence, though we can confidently say that this is not the norm.

    An illustration of such a thing is found in John 4:

    “And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, ‘He told me all that I ever did.’” – John 4:39 (NKJV)

    Many of the Samaritans of Sychar “believed in” (pisteuw eis) Jesus based solely on the testimony of the immoral and adulterous woman, who stated, “Can this be the Christ?” and said, “He told me all that I ever did.” I admit, again, that this is not a normal occurrence, and that an average person will need to necessarily understand and assent to a varying number of preliminary considerations, in other words, psychological requirements.

    There are several things that I personally do not fail to share with those whom I have evangelistic conversations with. These elements will be the subject of an upcoming post.

    Final Question
    John 3:16 was stated by Jesus around three years before His essential, substitutionary death on the cross for the sins of mankind. He stated to His audience that anyone at that time who “believed in” Him had everlasting life and would not perish. In other words, anyone who entrusted their eternal destiny to Him would have everlasting life and never perish. This was His promise. This is the most used evangelistic verse in the whole Bible. Does this promise still apply to the present time? If it does not, then those of the Traditional Free Grace position necessarily, in some sense, misuse it (if they use it at all), for in line with their position, it is necessarily an inadequate passage relating to lost man the core consideration in the reception of eternal life*. How is it misused? When the statement was given by Jesus, it was a sufficient summary and promise providing for Nicodemus the unadulterated condition for receiving eternal life. Since, for the TFG saving faith includes many more conditions than simply “believing in” Jesus as articulated above, they cannot apply John 3:16 with its intended meaning and usage in context. They necessarily would need to supplement it with a variety of other additional information not contained therein.

    If asked the question:

    Is John 3:16 a sufficient invitation, summarizing the core appeal to men for the reception of eternal life?

    The TFG necessarily have to answer: No.
    But Refined Free Grace theology uncomplicatedly answers: Yes.

    The bottom line in the ongoing debate between the branches of Free Grace theology is not an issue of what needs to be presented to the lost in the way of information which lifts Jesus up as the authoritative, qualified, and able Guarantor of eternal life to the believer in Him – as I would certainly agree with all Free Grace people that it should include the many elements that they require as objects and/or contents of saving faith. The crucial issue is the meaning of “believing in” Jesus in a soteriological sense. Does “believing in” Jesus in the soteriological sense (you know, faith alone in Christ alone) have the same meaning now as it did in each usage in the Gospel of John?

    Let us observe some pertinent points:

    1) The Gospel of John was written, by most evangelical scholars’ estimations, in the 90s, which makes it one of the last two books written in our canon. If by the time it was written, “believing in” Jesus meant something different than articulated in the book, it would have behooved John to clearly and unambiguously said so (it would have been quite simple for him!).
    2) The Gospel of John is the only book in the canon that has the express written purpose of being evangelistic
    3) The Gospel of John does not qualify its examples of pre-cross evangelism in its post-cross conclusion
    4) “The simple fact is that the whole Fourth Gospel is designed to show that its readers can get saved in the same way as the people who got saved in John’s narrative. To say anything other than this is to accept a fallacy. It is to mistakenly suppose that the Fourth Gospel presents the terms of salvation incompletely and inadequately. I sincerely hope no grace person would want to be stuck with a position like that.” (Zane Hodges, “How to Lead People to Christ, Part 1”)

    The bottom line is not information, as we will all basically agree on what information should be told to the objects of our evangelism. The bottom line is clarity in our evangelistic appeals/invitations. Can we legitimately use verses such as John 3:16; 6:47; 11:25-26, etc. as our simple appeal to faith after lifting up Jesus by our evangelistic conversations? Refined Free Grace says, “yes!” TFG cannot, for they esentially rob it of its sufficient and authoratative decree. It simply is not complete as an evangelistic invitation in their position.

    * As a matter of fact, there is not even one verse or passage that clearly articulates a statement providing all that is necessary to be saved in the view of TFG, this necessarily including John 3:16 and Acts 16:31. There is no verse that states, for example, “Believe that Jesus was man, that Jesus was God, that Jesus died a substitutionary death on the cross, that Jesus rose bodily from the dead, and believe in Jesus’ works then you have 1) eternal life, 2) eternal salvation or 3) eternal justification"

    Friday, October 26, 2007

    Dialogues with the Free Grace Alliance

    I recently have had the opportunity to talk to Charlie Bing, president of the Free Grace Alliance, twice over the past month on the phone. They were great conversations.

    The first opportunity I had was October 2nd, the day after I posted 'Whoever [simply] believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God' (1 John 5:1). Do you believe this?. He called me to talk about this article.

    He was pleased that the tone of the post was gracious and apart from the vitriole and rhetoric that has been plaguing both sides of the current debate in the Free Grace world. He also stated that, although he does not always agree with my posts, that he believed that they had strong arguments, especially the aforementioned one. For over 30 minutes we discussed some of the issues involved in the debate, doing so with great understanding and interest. His wisdom and graciousness was a testimony to His heart for the Lord Jesus Christ.

    I had a wonderful opportunity to discuss with him concerns that I had in the debate. I expressed my sadness over the way that those on the opposing side have misrepresented the Refined Free Grace position, and are continuing to poison the well with their journal articles, blog posts, and emails. We discussed the use of the pejorative, innaccurate, and misleading label that some of the more outspoken advocates of a traditional Free Grace understanding have attached to the position I hold. He, too, was concerned over the same things, and told me that he had been meeting and talking with the players on the other side. Charlie stated that he does not agree with the usage of their coined label. I admitted that in the past I had been caught up in the heat of the moment, and allowed the works of the flesh to manifest themselves in my public remarks, and at the time of the phone call I had already done business with God and repented of such. The funny thing is, that I was informed by a friend that it has been floating around that Charlie called to “rebuke” me. There did not contain in the whole of the phone call a single rebuke or admonition, only encouragement and pleasant sentiments. (Shame on those who continue to poison the well and proliferate innaccurate information!)

    I was thoroughly encouraged and inspired by our conversation. Free Grace theology is not a monolithic theology, but has many varying views. There is discussion over various things such as: the content of saving faith, eternal security’s role in saving faith, rapture positions, punitive aspects of the bema, millennial exclusion, aspects of overcomer reward theology, and many others. I am pleased to hear that the FGA is hosting healthy dialogues in these areas.

    I also talked to Charlie Bing yesterday for about 40 minutes on the phone. This time I requested his phone call to discuss concerns that I had over comments made by Dennis Rokser on Lou Martuneac’s blog, and questions I had concerning the future of the FGA in relation to those who hold my position. Not wanting to offend anyone, Charlie stated that Dennis’ comments on Lou’s blog need to be tempered with the whole of what he stated in his address (which had 1 Cor 13, the love chapter, as its text). He affirmed the FGA welcome to all flavors of Free Grace theology, and stated that there are four different reasons to join the FGA, one of being which to participate in the discussion of those issues within Free Grace theology itself. I was very happy with these encouraging words.

    I furthermore stated my concerns about those who continue to poison the well and throw around the charges of heresy and false gospel, and who email others, spreading their ad hominems. He, too, was disturbed by these things. Some of those who are not so actuated by principles of Christian love in regards to those who take my theological position are not even a part of the FGA, so we could only lament and pray for such people. Others who are a part of the FGA, Charlie has committed to continue to discuss these issues with in order for them to temper their actions and remarks.

    But in the end, Charlie is the president and does not have much control over things people either in or out of the FGA say or do. He is, however, a model of temperance, patience, charity, graciousness, and Christian love. He is balanced, cautious, and deliberate in his seeking of the truth, and stated that he does not fully agree with either side. We would all do well to follow his example. I rejoice that he is the president of the FGA and I am optimistic with where his leadership will take it.

    Charlie stated that he is coming to San Diego in November to attend and present a paper at the Evangelical Theological Society’s meeting (which will have a theme of discipleship in the 21st century). He graciously proposed that we meet during that time to discuss theology, promote understanding within the greater umbrella of Free Grace theology, share vision, and talk about concerns. I humbly accepted his invitation and look forward with great anticipation to speaking with him face to face.

    Last year, during John MacArthur and Nathan Busenitz’s series on Lordship Salvation, Charlie Bing stated this in one of the comment threads:

    “I believe that a person is saved when they believe in Jesus’ promise to give them eternal life.” (Pulpit Blog Comments)

    This is exactly how I would state things – exactly. This is the type of language that others in the more traditional Free Grace position criticize. I brought this quote of his back to his attention on the phone and he responded that he indeed believes such, but that the quote itself is provided within a context of Christ’s cross work being understood. I responded back to him that I believe that it is precisely the understanding of the cross work of Christ that facilitates one being persuaded of “Jesus’ promise to give [him] eternal life.” I was encouraged to hear that he did not distance himself from his comment, but rather embraced it. I was able to see many areas of agreement with Charlie, and some where future dialogue will be necessary to facilitate greater understanding on all sides of this debate (traditional, refined, middle-of-the-road, and undecided Free Gracers). I believe that I have much I can learn from Charlie, in many areas, and look forward to picking his brain even further. I also desire the opportunity to clearly articulate my deep theological convictions to him, first-hand. I have tired of reading all the mis-information about my position in both journal and electronic media.

    All in all, my conversations with Charlie Bing were both profitable and encouraging!

    I also have spoken on the phone with J.B. Hixson, the new Executive Director of the Free Grace Alliance. I wanted to bring my concerns and questions to him as well, wondering what his vision for the future of the FGA looked like. He welcomed my membership and stated that he was interested in continuing to dialogue with those who hold to my theological position. We spoke for quite sometime, and I found him knowledgeable and gracious. By the end of the conversation I was thoroughly pleased and encouraged with his sense of direction and focus. In his last email correspondence, he wrote, “I appreciate you and your passion for free grace. Let's keep getting the message out. And I look forward to some stimulating theological repartee in the near future.” Charlie Bing mentioned to me that J.B. would also be joining him in San Diego and suggested we all get together during that time. I am thrilled to meet both of them.

    Lastly, I have spoken with Dr. Stephen R. Lewis, President of Rocky Mountain Bible College and Seminary, who is also the Secretary of the FGA. I first talked to him years ago when I stumbled upon an endnote in Rene’ Lopez’s commentary on Romans that referenced a book of essays by various authors given in honor of Zane C. Hodges (which he was the editor of). I initially called him to find out the details of this publishing. He thought that it would be out in the following year. Well it didn’t surface and I called him about a month ago to see what the status of it was. He stated that the Grace Evangelical Society was going to publish the book. GES is in the process of getting several books out now, but that sometime next year the essay book ought to be out. I also had the pleasure of talking to him about the current debate in Free Grace theology. He is unapologetically resigned to the Refined Free Grace theology position, and has spoken to the FGA about it, asking if it would be a problem. They assured him that it would not be, to which I am thoroughly glad and encouraged. I was very pleased that someone of my theological persuasion is on the Leadership council of the FGA.

    So much poisoning of the well is happening around the blogosphere, journal articles, and emails. Charges of heresy and false gospel have been fashioned to pre-empt a mature discussion of the issues by those who, I am persuaded, have felt their traditions challenged. It is most unfortunate that there has been a tireless and emotional effort, by some, to bring the GES, Bob Wilkin, and Zane Hodges into disrepute. Theological convictions can produce many emotive behaviors. The sides in this debate must become dispassionate and civil, discussing these issues in a mature and charitable way, speaking and operating in the Spirit and with love.

    I have an optimism about the discussions within the Free Grace Alliance. I only hope that they can help temper those who have done much to stir the pot and emotionally turn away people from intellectually and biblically considering the various positions. We must have a mature dialogue, and a prayerful and considerate appeal to the Bible as we flesh out the differences of position within blessed Free Grace Theology.

    Tuesday, October 09, 2007

    Evangelism and Free Grace Theology in India

    Dear Readers of Free Grace Theology Blog:

    Tomorrow I set off on a journey that has been in the making for over a year. The Lord has seen fit to orchestrate a missions endeavor in the great country of India for me and 17 other individuals. During this trip, the Lord willing and providing, the glory of the Lord will be proclaimed, freedom will be preached to the captives, consolation and compassion will be shown to the broken-hearted, and the good news of eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ will be offered.

    If I am one whom you consider a brother in the Lord, and I have found grace in your eyes, please bring this whole trip to the Lord in thoughtful prayer. I appreciate every petition offered on our behalf.

    The spiritual warfare that has been waged against me during the course of the last few weeks has been intense and increasing as each day moves nearer our purposes.

    I consider myself insufficient to rise to this task. I am humbling myself under the mighty hand of our God, and in faith, seeking His strength. May I decrease that Christ may increase.

    As tomorrow draws closer, my mind wanders on those things in life which are most important to me. As I picked up my daughter this afternoon from school, she wouldn't let go of my arm, and said, "I don't want you to go to India, Daddy!" It took every ounce of strength I could muster to keep myself from tears. I love my family very much, and although, the Lord directing, I will only be gone 11 days, the thought of separation from the one's I love pierces right through me.

    Of course, I have explained the purposes and objectives of this trip to my daughter. She knows that people are slipping away into eternity apart from the message of life. She considers herself to be my partner, here on the homefront. I am so proud of my kids and their prayers. They understand that such activities are a matter of life and death. As I think about the magnitude and scope of such responsibility, I cringe and feel shame that I have spent so much time lately debating theology on the internet, and have failed to a significant degree, to apply myself to the saving message of Jesus Christ and to those whom he died for.

    Yes, I will miss my family!

    At this time, I am reminded of a passage I heard on my CD bible in the car today:

    Luke 18:29-30

    So He said to them, "Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or parents or brothers or wife or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who shall not receive many times more in this present time, and in the age to come eternal life."

    This will be the 4th time I have been to India, and the third time I have travelled to this part. I have family there! And many more brothers and sisters who will be born in the family of God. My heart does ache to see those whom I love over there. I wish to encourage them, and, if perchance the Lord will use me, impart unto them some spiritual blessing. I desire to share in fellowship with them, pray with them, and embrace them.

    May the sufficiency be of God and not myself. May the glory be to the one who loved me, and gave His life or me. May I not fail to do the work that God has prepared for me.

    John 4:34-38

    Jesus said to them, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work. Do you not say, 'There are still four months and then comes the harvest'? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest! And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. For in this the saying is true:'One sows and another reaps.' I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labors."

    My desire is to plant and reap on this trip. I want to eat of the heavenly food which the Lord has for me. Would you enter into this labor with me? Your labor will receive wages! Fast and pray for this endeavor.

    My brothers and sisters in the Lord: I love you, and I await the day that we will recline at the Lord's table together in the kingdom of God.

    Press on! Press on! Looking unto Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross and despised the shame!

    Let us run the race that is set before us with endurance!

    your humbled fellow slave,


    PS: Please check my blog out at:

    India Campaign Journal

    daily to see prayer requests and updates from the field.

    Monday, October 01, 2007

    'Whoever [simply] believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God' (1 John 5:1). Do you believe this?


    The Apostle John has stated that anyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born again (1 John 5:1). Question: If one fulfills the condition of simply believing that Jesus is the Christ, will he be born again? For the epistle writer John, such belief is saving faith, so yes, John teaches that if one believes that Jesus is the Christ he is born again! But would those of traditional Free Grace theology and Duluthian proponents (let alone Lordship advocates) consider it a truism that whoever simply believes that Jesus is the Christ is born again? We shall see.

    The Position of Traditional Free Grace
    According to traditional Free Grace people (from now on TFG), saving faith consists of at least 5 conditions:

    1) Believe that Jesus is God
    2) Believe that Jesus is man
    3) Believe that Jesus died a substitutionary death on the cross
    4) Believe that Jesus rose again from the dead
    5) Trust in Jesus’ work for eternal salvation

    For the TFG, believing that Jesus is the God-man, who died a substitutionary death on the cross and rose again from the dead, is not enough. You must furthermore personally appropriate and trust these elements and Jesus’ work for eternal salvation. Usually this is called the “two-step”. Belief in the gospel facts is not enough (they do not want to be accused of intellectual assent). According to TFG, one must choose to trust these facts (Christ’s attributes) and Jesus’ work as additional steps.

    We have already discussed in prior posts the confusion that this kind of approach may spawn. To briefly summarize, such a position can engender confusion on many different levels.

    Trust and faith is the same thing. To distinguish between them, as many TFG do, can create confusion. Believing is not mere mental assent while trust is personal appropriation. Neither are the exercising of 'trust'/'faith' acts of the will, as most TFG teach. ‘Trust’ and ‘faith’ are nothing more than understanding certain propositions to be true; it is the passive result of being convinced that something is true. If I were to say, “I trust the babysitter,” this would be equivalent (and shorthand for) “I believe that the babysitter will perform her duties to my satisfaction.” We must beware making distinctions between trust and faith, as TFG often does.

    TFG make saving faith complex. It is multi-conditional. Such complexity can net uncertainty and confusion. Saving faith, for TFG, cannot be contained in a simple proposition, like “faith alone in Christ alone”. TFG teaches that there are a number of conditions and at least two steps to saving faith. A misunderstanding or omission of any of these will invalidate the beliefs in the rest.

    The understanding of saving faith by the TFG is technically and biblically inaccurate. If a lost man were to ask them were in the Bible does it give these conditions for eternal salvation, they could not turn to any single passage to show them. They would need to hop around the Bible, stringing a multitude of passages together. In the end, not a single passage they would turn to clearly states that the conditions that the TFG offer for the reception of eternal life do indeed appropriate salvation. This, itself, is a most major problem. They do not have any concrete biblical support, but base their position on a series of implications, allusions, and conjectures. No passage can be turned to that clearly states that upon the fulfillment of the TFG’s conditions one receives eternal salvation.

    The TFG require lost men and women to be at a level of theological astuteness that nullifies the simplicity of Jesus Christ in His promise. The assent to doctrine, and this in its correct and minute forms, has become a co-condition to uncomplicated reliance upon Jesus for everlasting life. Children and common people could be precluded from saving faith. The Spirit states, “Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely” (Rev 22:17). Eternal life is there for the simple taking, but the TFG significantly qualify this offer by insisting that the one who desires the water of life check off on a series of theological statements before he is allowed to approach the Fountain.

    Assurance of salvation becomes confusing and frustrated. If a person is evangelized with the TFG method, where can he later turn to in the bible if he loses assurance of his salvation? No scriptures will be found that will line up with his evangelistic experience. We are to find certain and complete assurance in the objective word of God. But there is no verse or passage in the whole of Scripture that states, “Believe that Jesus is the God-man, who died a substitutionary death on a cross, rose again from the dead, and trust His works, and you will be eternally saved.” Since the TFG has to make his evangelistic appeal and invitation a conglomerate of many passages, how is the one struggling with assurance going to come to the understanding that he has fulfilled all the conditions? Suppose that there may be more in the Bible that the evangelist didn’t find or relay. Aren’t there 27 books in the New Testament? The evangelist only turned to a few!

    These are only a cursory consideration with the problems of the TFG understanding. Much more can be said.

    Do Traditional Free Grace People Believe that Whoever Believes that Jesus is the Christ is Born Again?
    By virtue of their position, it is impossible for a TFG, genuinely and without qualification, to answer this question in the affirmative. It is just not possible.

    We all are aware of Lordship Salvation’s importation of works into the concept of saving faith. This is well documented. I call this approach “kitchen sink” theology. Lordship proponents have evacuated the simple concept of faith and its theological shell has been loaded with such ideas as repentance, submission, obedience, and contrition by those who deem that apathy in our churches ought to be fought with the inclusion of works on the front end of the gospel offer.

    In order for the TFG to, without qualification, state that “whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God” (1 John 5:1) they would have to import into the concept of “Christ” their smorgasborg of doctrines, conditions, and steps that they impose upon the objects of their evangelistic endeavors, prove to them that these considerations are essential soteric information contained within the understaning of the title "the Christ," and make sure that the lost are consciously aware of this specific import. Such a task, in reality, could not legitimately be done.

    Why can't this endeavor be honestly accomplished? The TFG position could be falsified with a very simple argument. The TFG attempt to connect the death and resurrection (2 out of their 5 conditions for saving faith) with the concept of Christ as necessary soteric understanding and then require the lost to be consciously aware of this specific import based upon their mere linking of this information to the concept of "the Christ" fails when one realizes that men and women who were the objects of Jesus' evangelism in the Gospel of John were born again by believing that Jesus was the Christ apart from the perceived affirming of such considerations.

    It can be proved from the gospels that people believed that Jesus was the Christ without the conscious understanding of such import. In other words, the disciples and the common folks believed that Jesus was the Christ (and thus were born of God according to 1 John 5:1) not understanding, assenting to, or even knowing about Christ’s substitutionary atonement and resurrection (not to mention His deity).

    A few instances should suffice:

    Andrew and most likely the Apostle John believed that Jesus is the Christ (John 1:40-42), and according to the writer of this gospel, whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God and has eternal life (John 20:31; 1 John 5:1). It should be of great note that this occurence happened very early in Jesus' ministry. Phillip and Nathanael affirmed His messiahship very soon afterward (John 1:43-49). Following these events, Jesus started attracting disciples. His disciples are shown to have believed into Him at the time of His first sign miracle (John 2:11).

    Another example would be the Samaritans of Sychar. The woman at the well first believed that Jesus was the Christ (John 4:29), based solely upon Jesus' prophetic statements about her life. This woman went into the village and told the inhabitants about Jesus. As an interesting side note, she states, "Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?" (John 4:29). This does not indicate that she affirmed or was consciously aware of Christ's deity. Next, many of the people of the village believed into Jesus as the Christ. Of great note is John's statement, "And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, 'He told me all that I ever did'" (John 4:39). Based solely on this immoral woman's testimony of Jesus' prophetic gift, "many of the Samaritans" believed in His messiahship. Please note that this woman's testimony did not include an explanation of the hypostatic union of Jesus and the substitutionary death and physical resurrection. These Samaritans heard, through a severely tarnished vessel, a simple attestation to Jesus' ability, which supported His claim that He was able to guarantee their eternal well-being. As a result of the evangelistic edeavors of Jesus, many Samaritans believed that Jesus was the Christ (John 4:42).

    These events happened within the first year of Jesus' ministry. This is an important consideration because Jesus did not reveal to anyone His death and resurrection until His third year of ministry (Matt 16:21; Mk 8:31; Lu 9:22). It is important to note here that even after giving them this information that they did not believe such would be the case, evidenced by Peter's reaction to Jesus' statements: "Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!" (Matt 16:22).

    It is important to note further that after Jesus had died (thus fulfilling part of His prophetic foretelling in Matt 16:21) that the disciples did not believe in Christ's resurrection, even after it was reported to them by two different sources! A short quotation is in order:

    Mark 16:10-15
    She [Mary Magdalene] went and told those who had been with Him, as they mourned and wept. And when they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe. After that, He appeared in another form to two of them as they walked and went into the country. And they went and told it to the rest, but they did not believe them either. Later He appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table; and He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen.

    What can we make of this information? We must certainly conclude that the disciples and the common folks of Jesus' time believed into Him as the Christ, and thus were born of God (1 John 5:1), having no conscious understanding or knowledge of any import of Christ's substitutionary death or resurrection. Furthermore, what makes this information so much stronger is the fact that the disciples, in actuality, consciously and verbally denied TFGs import of soteric information into the title, "the Christ". The disciples wilfully contradicted Jesus' statements concerning His death and resurrection! These particulars cannot be overemphasized. The disciples consciously disclaimed this information yet still believed that Jesus was the Christ [and according to John's simple assertion, "Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God" (1 John 5:1)].

    In John 20:9 we read, "For as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead." This is an important verse that needs to be brought to our attention. What we see here is that the disciples believed that Jesus was the Christ apart from understanding all the concepts that are connected to and associated with the title, "the Christ".

    In a personal correspondence with Zane Hodges, he wrote:
    "The fundamental error [of Traditional Free Grace theology]... is the assumption that one must know everything about a person to be able to believe who he is. That is illogical and wrong. Do I have to understand the President's powers, or his personality, to believe he is the President and trust Him for something?"

    The common folks and the disciples believed that Jesus was the Christ. The import that they gave to the title, "the Christ" was obviously and verifiably not the doctrines that TFG regards as required soteric information. Thus the death and resurrection are not a/the soteric import of the title, "the Christ" which makes believing that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ salvific.

    1) John says in 1 John 5:1, "Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God"
    2) The disciples of Jesus and many common folks believed that Jesus was the Christ (and therefore according to premise number 1, were born of God) apart from any understanding of His death and resurrection (even consciously and wilfully denying such!)

    3) The understanding that Jesus died a substitutionary death and rose bodily from the dead is not the specific, soteric import of the title, "the Christ".
    4) Men and women can believe that Jesus is the Christ [and thus be born again (1 John 5:1)] apart from understanding or consciously affirming the death and resurrection of Christ.

    Zane Hodges, in his journal article, "How to Lead People to Christ: Part 1" (www.faithalone.org) states:

    [John 20:30-31] does not affirm the necessity of believing in our Lord’s substitutionary atonement. If by the time of the writing of John’s Gospel, it was actually necessary to believe this, then it would have been not only simple, but essential, to say so.

    Inasmuch as the key figures in John’s narrative did believe in Jesus before they understood His atoning death and resurrection, it would have been even more essential for John to state that the content of faith had changed. But of course he does not do this. The simple fact is that the whole Fourth Gospel is designed to show that its readers can get saved in the same way as the people who got saved in John’s narrative. To say anything other than this is to accept a fallacy. It is to mistakenly suppose that the Fourth Gospel presents the terms of salvation incompletely and inadequately. I sincerely hope no grace person would want to be stuck with a position like that.

    Let me repeat. Neither explicitly nor implicitly does the Gospel of John teach that a person must understand the cross to be saved. It just does not teach this. If we say that it does, we are reading something into the text and not reading something out of it!

    The gospel of John shows how Jesus, Himself, evangelized. He did so through communication and miracles. By these things He showed Himself to be the Christ that was to come. When anyone believed Him to be the Christ, they were born again. John is explicit in both his purpose statement for his gospel and in his epistle that anyone who simply believes that Jesus is the Christ is born again (John 20:30-31; 1 John 5:1). Jesus did not require anyone to assent to His propitiatory work or His resurrection as a requirement for understanding Him to be the Christ! The gospel writer John did not require this either. John taught that through Jesus Christ's words and miracles we are to believe Him to be the Christ in order to therefore have eternal life. John asserts that, like those in his narrative who believed that Jesus is the Christ and were thus assured of eternal life, we too must believe that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ.

    Logically, if Christ’s death and resurrection are not the specific notions in the term “the Christ” which makes the belief that “Jesus is the Christ” soteric, TFG people cannot, without reservation and qualification, agree that anyone who simply believes that Jesus is the Christ is born again. Why? Because it has been abundantly shown that people can come to that conclusion apart from a conscious understanding of those things!

    If the disciples were born again, apart from any knowledge, understanding, or assent to Jesus’ propitiatory death and physical resurrection (they were even in conscious and wilful denial of them!), by believing that Jesus is the Christ, how is it that the TFG require such understandings as components of saving faith (rather than viewing them as valuable instrumental material used to bring people to faith in Jesus)? The more accurate answer by a TFG would be that they, in fact, do not believe that 'whoever' simply believes that Jesus is the Christ is born again. At least such an answer would be forthcoming and honest!

    What is the import of “the Christ” that makes it salvific?
    There seems to be a lot of importing and connecting of various theological ideas (in)to the term “the Christ” (and whether valid or not would be the determination of much study we will not do here). The Jews of Jesus’ time were looking for the Christ (Hebrew: Messiah) who would be a Savior, restoring to Israel its prominent position among the nations. The Christ was to be the seed of Abraham, from the line of Judah and the son of David. He was to be born in Bethlehem. ‘The Christ’ literally means ‘The Annointed One’. The ideas of teacher and king have been associated with “the Christ”. Other’s have stated that deity is an imperatival characteristic of the title “the Christ”. What is permissiable or impermissable to import into the term “the Christ”? Yet, a better question is:

    If there are so many ideas, associations, and information connected with the term, “the Christ,” how is one to decide which items must be consciously understood and assented to in order for one to exercise saving faith, in other words, to believe that Jesus is the Christ and therefore be born again?

    Who is the objective arbiter of such a consideration?

    The TFG people have been attempting to link components of their soteric doctrinal checklists to the term, “the Christ” so that they may state that such is required, necessary content to saving faith (in other words, what it means to believe that Jesus is the Christ in a soteric sense). By such argumentation, they are attempting to state that merely because there is an association of certain ideas with the title, “the Christ,” that a conscious acknowledgment of such is necessary for eternal salvation. Their argument basically says that because they can link certain considerations to the title "the Christ," that they must be affirmed if one is to believe that Jesus is the Christ and thus be born again. But if this is the case, why are they not insisting that all such associations be consciously assented to for eternal life? This would be the consistent position! The TFG reasoning has obvious flaws.

    In a personal corresondence with Zane Hodges, he stated:
    "...the promised Messiah... was also the King of Israel (note John 1:49). There was no such person as a Messiah who was not Israel's King. Must one believe that, too? In fact it can be argued that in Nathaniel's statement, 'Son of God' is defined AS "King of Israel." [AdR: Note the apposition] The Messianic sonship was the sonship promised to David's kingly descendants in 2 Samuel 7:14, it is the sonship the writer of Hebrews has in mind in Hebrews 1:5 which cites 2 Samuel. Psalm 2:7 shows that THIS sonship was not eternal. If a person does not believe all this, he even misunderstands the title "Son of God" in its Messianic sense. Is he saved???"

    Yes, many things have been associated with the term “the Christ,” and I am not at this point willing to do such a through study as to exhaust them all. I am sure that there are many legitimate associations, connections, and possible importations into the term “the Christ”. Why does the TFG not require them all?

    Let us have an experiment
    Let us take some of the things that have been associated with the title, "The Christ" and put them into proposed 'saving propositions'. Will they work?

    Would you consider the beliefs that Jesus was the seed of Abraham, from the line of Judah, the son of David, and born in Bethlehem to be saving faith?

    Would you consider the belief that Jesus is the King of Israel to be saving faith?

    Would you consider the simple belief that Jesus is God to be saving faith?

    None of these, by themselves or taken collectively, can be considered the content of saving faith. Why you ask? Roman Catholics, Lordship Salvationists, and rank Arminians all believe these things, but they are not all saved! So what to make of this? Either these considerations are not at all involved in saving faith (the soteric import of the title, “the Christ”), or there needs to be the addition of more import and information into the term “the Christ”, that when added to these affirmations would equal saving faith.

    Since it can be proven that people believed that Jesus was the Christ and were thus born again apart from any understanding or knowledge of Christ’s substitutionary death and His subsequent physical resurrection (as well as His deity), we must state firmly, that no such considerations as these can legitimately be considered the soteric content of the term “the Christ”. Therefore, the TFG’s full laundry list of doctrines is not necessarily affirmed by merely believing that Jesus is the Christ.

    This cannot be overemphasized. The TFG cannot honestly assert and agree with the Apostle John that “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God” (1 John 5:1). To them, if they are being black and white honest, this is not enough soteric information! For the TFG, there must be included, in any consideration of saving faith, Christ’s death, substitutionally, for sins, and His subsequent, bodily resurrection. Since many believed that Jesus was the Christ apart from such knowledge and were thus born of God, we can certainly conclude that this information cannot be the soteric content of the title, “the Christ”.

    What then is the specific import of the title, “the Christ” which makes believing that Jesus is the Christ salvific?

    The gospel writer John imports specific, objective soteric content into the term as evidenced by John 11:25-27. In John 11:25-26, Jesus asserts to the be the Guarantor of eternal life and resurrection to all who simply believe in Him. He asks Martha if she believes this. In vs 27, Martha answers that question with "Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God..." mirroring the purpose statement in John 20:30, 31. John persuasively shows that to believe that Jesus is the Christ, is to believe that He is the Guarantor of eternal life and resurrection to the believer in Him.

    Therefore, to believe that Jesus is the Christ, in its Johannine, soteric sense, is to believe that Jesus guarantees you eternal life simply by faith alone in Him.

    The TFG position is identifiably inconsistent and doctrinally legalistic. As inconsistent, it subjectively regards it’s particular associations with the title, “the Christ” as necessary, conscious saving faith content, while arbitrarily dismissing other and stronger imports and connections. As legalistic, it is biblically impossible for the TFG to require an understanding all of their theological baggage that they have imported into the trunk of “the Christ”. Their understanding of saving faith precludes them from affirming the apostle John’s simple, yet profound statement that “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God”. Furthermore, to take their position to its logical conclusion, they would have to deny that the common folks and the disciples, whom Jesus evangelized, had everlasting life when they believed that Jesus was the Christ!

    The refined Free Grace theology position has much going for it. In light of so many proposed links and associations with the title, “the Christ,” found within Christendom, this position has objectively and convincingly shown, by biblical support, that the author who penned 1 John 5:1 has given a simple and specific soteric content to this title. We are not left wondering how, exactly, believing that Jesus is the Christ can receive eternal life. For John, what makes believing that Jesus is he Christ salvific is that as the Christ, Jesus dispenses eternal life to all who simply believe in Him to do so.

    There is a simplicity to the notion that all who believe that Jesus is the Christ is born of God. There is a purity to the idea that whoever desires may take the water of life freely. It is a shame that such unadulterated virtue, as these convictions are, can be so woefully misrepresented because of one’s traditions.

    In a personal correspondence with Zane Hodges, he stated:

    Some people seem to believe in salvation by correct theology rather than salvation by faith in Jesus. A tragic error! But the simple fact remains that no one has ever believed in Jesus of Nazareth for the gift of eternal life, who did not get it! Thank God for that!