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, March 31, 2008

So you're born again... but will you walk with Jesus in white? Part 4

Part 1 -- Part 2 -- Part 3

The Tragedy of Complacency and Laxity in Doctrine and Practice
I want to start off this post with the ending statement from the last post in this series. It is an important thought that is germane to the study of rewards and accountability.

Jody Dillow has stated: In the Traditionalist “view, all who are Christians will be rewarded, and some more than others. Thus, they have created a version of Christianity where complete commitment is optional and not necessary. All that can be lost is a higher degree of blessedness, but all will be blessed. Could it be that this happy ending has lulled many into thinking they can continue their lukewarmness with no eternal consequences to pay?” (The Reign of the Servant Kings, pg 23).

I am aware of the traditional understandings of the kingdom ages to come that have all true Christians reigning with Jesus Christ and no real accountability for unfaithfulness. In my many conversations with pastor and laymen alike there is the universal belief that heaven will be basically the same for everyone. What a tragedy of incomparable proportions!

For Jesus, their was no glory, authority, and rule without enduring the suffering of the cross. Such is the same for those who desire to be His companions in the Kingdom of God. Jesus was capacitated and prepared for His glory. Are you following His lead?

The writer of the book of Hebrews was addressing Christian Jews who were tempted to return to the old ways of Judaism. But doing so would be tantamount to apostasy: leaving Christ, and failing to persevere until the end. To this group of people the writer issues this stern warning:

Hebrews 3:12-15
Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called "Today," lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers [companions / Greek = metachoi] of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end, while it is said:

"Today, if you will hear His voice,
Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion."

These were true Christians the writer was talking to. They had been “enlightened” and “tasted the heavenly gift” and were “partakers of the Holy Spirit,” having “tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come” (Heb 6:4-5). Because of their Christian testimony they had “endured a great struggle with sufferings,” being “made… spectacle[s]” while “joyfully accept[ing] the plundering of [their] goods” (Heb 10:32-34). But now they were in jeopardy of forfeiting their co-heirship with Christ! In this often neglected (even more so, highly misinterpreted) warning, we find that only those who persevere until the end are the companions with Jesus in the coming age.

Addressing "brethren," the writer to the Hebrews warns against hardening one's heart through sin and separating oneself from fellowship with God. To do so is to forfeit intimate companionship with Christ.

What we have learned thus far in this series of articles is that it takes hard work, consecration, discipline, and endurance in order to walk with Jesus in white. Walking with Jesus, as we have already noted, is the superlative experience of intimate fellowship with Him. And being arrayed in white is sharing in His glory, the exclusive glory He merited through His righteousness, faithfulness, and suffering.

Do not harden your hearts!

This consideration of practical theology is for every Christian. There is the unparalleled opportunity, set before each child of God, to share in Christ’s glory and rule over the universe in the coming ages, and the sober possibility of failure, resulting in undesirable punitive consequences. Christians are robbed of God’s greatest motivations unto consecration when they are told the anti-Scriptural pronouncement that all Christians will reign with Christ.

Hear His voice!

As you will note from the first article, the topic at hand is walking with Jesus in white. Our first consideration was the parable of the Wedding Feast (Mt 22:1-14) where we met the poor soul who lacked a "wedding garment" and was excluded from participating in the festivities for the son and his companions. The conclusion made in Part 1 stated that the "wedding garment" is not the imputed righteousness of Christ, but the righteous acts and deeds of each individual participant in the banquet.

Over the course of the next two articles we presented evidence, from the book of Revelation (and others), supporting the idea that the garment is indeed representative of the experiential righteousness of the one wearing it. We also noted the possibility of failing to do that which is required in order to be honored in wearing such a garment.

This article is the last of the series, and in it, we will be adducing more evidence for our conclusions.

The Proclamation of a Heavenly Voice Concerning Overcoming Saints (Rev 12:11)
Satan has busied himself employing his evil devices in order to destroy the saints. At the future time that Satan will be cast out forever from his access to heaven, an angelic voice will announce the victory of those saints who have defeated him and his ploys in this manner:

Rev 12:11
And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.

The triumph of these overcoming saints is here revealed. They achieved their victory over Satan by the blood of the Lamb, the word of their testimony, and by the fact that they did not love their lives unto death.

Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death is what makes every spiritual victory possible. We read that through Christ’s cross work He “disarmed principalities and powers… ma[king] a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it” (Col 2:15). It is only through appropriating the power of Christ that we can overcome Satan. He has won the victory, we are to operate within the sphere of it.

In living in light of Christ’s triumph over Satan, we can “hold” our “confidence steadfast” (Heb 3:14) in the “word of [our] testimony” (Rev 12:11). This word of the saints’ testimony “opposes the deceiving work of Satan in that the preaching of the gospel is the power of God unto salvation” (Walvoord, op. cit., p 193). The gospel tells us how we are to be sanctified, mortify sin, and overcome temptation. It is good news for the believer! (see my article Preaching the Gospel to the Saved for more information on this concept). It is through open confession and identification with the name of Jesus that both temporal and eventual eschatological salvation (in other words, salvation, or triumph and victory, at the Judgment Seat of Christ) is experienced. There is no glory and honor on the Day of Jesus Christ for secret saints.

Lastly, the saints overcame Satan by not loving their lives until the end. It takes dedication to faithfulness in order to win the glories of the age to come. The words of John Walvoord are here instructive. “Though they do not foolishly seek a martyr’s death, they do not regard their own lives (literally ‘souls’; Gr., psyche) as precious. They follow the instruction given to the church of Smyrna (2:10) of being faithful unto death as well as the example of the Saviour who laid down His life for the sheep (John 10:11, 15; c.f. Matt. 16:25)” (Walvoord, op. cit., p 193).

Remember the admonition and encouragement to the church of Smyrna:

Rev 2:10
Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.

Satan can level against us every machination at his disposal, but he can never achieve victory against the faithful saint. Here it is manifestly shown that the significant reward of the “crown of life” is contingent upon endurance until the end in faithfulness. Christians cannot achieve overcomer status unless they rise to the challenge to become co-heirs with the King and to enter abundantly into His joy and glory.

Reader, have you received the free gift of God, everlasting life, by simply believing in Jesus for it?
Do you publicly identify yourself with Jesus Christ and seek to bring Him glory through your testimony?
Do you consider your identity in Christ to be more precious then your very life?

If you answer ‘yes’ to these questions, you are on your way to receiving the crown of life, and being worthy honor and glory at the manifestation of the Son of God. You are on your way to walking with Jesus in white!

Jesus Christ’s Beatitude and Warning (Rev 16:15)
We observed in our first article that the king in the parable of the wedding feast observed that the sub-coming (or non-overcoming) saint was not properly attired for the festive celebration he was giving in honor of his son. This man was not prepared for the joys that the king intended for his son and son’s companions. The man without the wedding gown was found in shame, evidenced by the fact that he was “speechless”. Yet just as much as this man was held in contempt for failure in his responsibilities, so those worthy of sharing in the regalement of the son were greatly rewarded by the surpassing delights afforded by the king.

Note the words of Jesus saying the same thing:

"Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame."

In this verse we have one of seven Beatitudes given in the text of the Apocalypse. In a study of each of these we find that the pronouncement of blessing is always contingent upon works. This beatitude is no different. The benediction is conditioned upon 1) watching and 2) keeping one’s garments. This hearkens us back to the message to the Church of Sardis: “You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy…” (Rev 3:4). Blessed, happy, and joyful is the man who watches for Jesus Christ and keeps his garments undefiled!

The first condition of this blessing is to watch for the advent of Jesus. This is a command with attached blessing expounded upon in great detail elsewhere in Scripture (Mt 24:42; 25:13; Mk 13:33-37; Lk 12:37-40; 21:34-36). The reader would do well to look up those references!

We find this from the pen of the Apostle Paul shortly before his death:

2 Tim 4:7-8
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.

Do you recognize the weight of this import? Those who love Christ’s appearing (and thus will watch for Him) are to receive the crown of righteousness from the Lord when He comes in His glory! We must be watchful, prepared for His coming, and living in light of that day. Oh what honor we shall receive from Him in front of the Father and the holy angels!

Christian stay true! Christian watch! Christian prepare for that day!

When one is born again, he is “cleansed from his old sins” (2 Pet 1:9), and has a new beginning; he has been made white as snow. At that point one should strive to remain unspotted before the world (Jas 1:27) and thus keep his garment. Yet there is the sad possibility that one may be characterized by barrenness and unfruitfulness (2 Pet 1:8), and unrighteousness (1 Cor 6:8) and thus experience loss and shame at the judgment seat of Christ.

Note how thorough of an investigation will take place before Christ! Note the possibility of two different outcomes, as one is recompensed for what he has done in the body, whether it be good or bad!

Luke 8:16-18
No one, when he has lit a lamp, covers it with a vessel or puts it under a bed, but sets it on a lampstand, that those who enter may see the light. For nothing is secret that will not be revealed, nor anything hidden that will not be known and come to light. Therefore take heed how you hear. For whoever has, to him more will be given; and whoever does not have, even what he seems to have will be taken from him.

There are those who seem unspotted and undefiled but in all reality it is by pretense alone. Everything secret and hidden will be revealed, made known, and come to light! And in the case of the pretender, “even what he seems to have will be taken from him.”

The one who does not “keep his garment” will appear before Christ “naked” and in “shame”! The same writer of the Apocalypse wrote this moving appeal: “And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming” (1 Jn 2:28). We must remain committed to Christ, persisting in steadfastness until the end; watchful for His appearing and keeping our garments undefiled.

Walvoord notes, “The symbolism of preservation of the garments is… the righteousness of the saints… as expressed in their life and testimony (c.f. 19:8)” (op. cit., p 238). There is a distinct possibility that saints may be found spiritually naked (not having a garment consisting of good works, thus being unprepared for the glories of the ages to come). We therefore must be watchful and proactive in righteousness, both in deed and in truth!

Watch and keep your garments so that you may walk with Jesus in white!

The Garment of the Wife of Christ (Rev 19:7-8)
One of the images that Jesus chose to use in describing the loss of the significant and peculiar joy provided by God the Father for His Son and companions is that of a man being discovered shamefully unprepared for an exclusive wedding banquet (the Parable of the Wedding Feast). In this parable a man was found, by the observation of the king, unready for this regal and festive event. His lack of preparation is described in “not hav[ing] on a wedding garment” (Mt 22:11). In part one of this article we noted that the wedding gown signified “the preparation [of oneself] for conditional, superlative eternal glories, consisting of a faithful and consecrated life, steadfast until the end”. This garment represents a life of sanctification and fidelity that manifests itself in righteous deeds. Jesus Christ, as our example, won His peculiar messianic glory to be displayed unto the age of the ages, by such a life. Unto God’s “firstborn”(see Heb 1:6), Jesus the Christ, He says:

Heb 1:8-9
"Your throne, O God, is forever and ever;
A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom.
You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness;
Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You
With the oil of gladness more than Your companions.

Because Jesus has loved righteousness and hated lawlessness, God has anointed Him with an exceedingly great joy that His companions (Gk: metachoi) will share in. Jesus prepared Himself and was capacitated for His glory. We too must follow in Jesus’ example!

In Part 1 of this series, we asked these questions concerning our exposition of the Parable of the Wedding Feast (Mt 22:1-14): Is there any corroborating evidence to this interpretation of the wedding garment? Can it be maintained that the wedding garment in this parable corresponds to the preparations that one takes in this life for the contingent glories of the next? Furthermore, let us ask: will unfaithful Christians, who have not loved righteousness and hated lawlessness, share in Christ’s glory, being co-heirs with Him? In Parts 2, 3 and now 4, the final article in this series, we have been attempting to lend support to the interpretation of this parable which was given in Part 1. This last reference we will examine truly lends the greatest support for this interpretation and furthermore gives us another inducement to holiness:

Rev 19:6-8
“Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.” And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.

The term “wife” here is a collective identification for those saints who have made themselves ready by their righteous acts. This "wife" of Christ is portrayed for us as being given the right to wear “fine linen, clean and bright” because of the merit of those who make up this particular group (Christ’s companions). This is clearly shown in the fact that the linen itself “is the righteous acts of the saints”. This body of saints, Christ’s intimate band of co-heirs (symbolized by the word “wife"), made themselves ready through loving righteousness and hating lawlessness; through their purposeful, determinate, and intentional practical acts of righteousness.

What is significant here is that the picture is of a wedding celebration, where overcoming saints, who are characterized by experiential righteousness, are joined to Christ in a very intimate way. This body of saints made themselves ready, in other words, prepared themselves for the privilege that is here described! Because of this assembly's preparation, they wore fine linen, which is told to us is their righteous acts!

The parallels of this passage to the Parable of the Wedding Feast are striking! Those participants in the wedding feast needed to come in proper attire. The man observed without a wedding garment was excluded from the joy within. He did not come prepared! He lacked making himself ready! Those so described as the “wife” in this scene (Rev 19:7-9) called “the marriage of the Lamb” made themselves ready, in other words, prepared themselves for the superlative experience of this great intimacy with Christ symbolized by marriage.

Both discuss a wedding feast, a garment, being prepared (or lack thereof) for the festive occasion, and opportunity for intimate, and grand fellowship with Christ. They are strikingly parallel. The passage found here in Rev 19:7-8 adduces very strong support for the interpretation that the wedding garment in Matt 22:1-14 is indeed the preparation of the life for the glories to come consisting in experiential righteousness.

Conclusion of the matter
Most people in Christendom today regard the wedding garment of the man in the parable of the Wedding Feast (Mt 22:1-14) as the righteousness of Christ. But the greatest weight of evidence supports the truth that what he really lacked was practical righteousness, “righteous deeds”.

Reader, it is my desire that you take the time to seriously consider this biblical and logical position as expounded in many places all over the New Testament. This life is a testing ground which will determine our roles in the coming ages. It is a time for preparation and capacitating for the glories, honors, and authority of the Kingdom of God. The view expressed in these articles best accounts for all the biblical data. Test it. As you read the Bible, try to understand the many conditional structures that you once considered as discussing the Perseverance of the Saints as conditions for the abundant entrance into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Pt 1:11). You may very well find "exegetical gold"!

“Take heed how you hear!” Jesus says, because, “whoever has, to him more will be given; and whoever does not have, even what he seems to have will be taken from him"! (Lk 8:18).

Will you walk with Jesus in white? Such will not be the outcome for every child of God.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Could John MacArthur Sign the FGA Covenant in 'Good Faith'?

Could John MacArthur sign the Covenant of the Free Grace Alliance in good conscience? I believe that he can. (Now would he? That is a different story!)

I do not believe that John MacArthur is an insincere man. I am left with the impression that this man believes everything he writes. But that would mean that he believes all of his contradictions. To him, the dissonance that it must create is probably compartmentalized in some fashion that allows him to talk out of two sides of his mouth.

With each one of the affirmations in the FGA’s covenant, I have included quotes from John MacArthur that either explicitly or implicitly shows that he could assent to the enumerated affirmation.

Does he say things that are contradictory to these statements? Of course he does. But the quotes that I provide from him, I am convinced that he believes. He holds opposing and contradictory doctrines which in someway in his mind are compatible and non-contradictory.

Again. Could John MacArthur sign on to the FGA’s Covenant? I believe that in all good conscience he could.

Page numbers, unless noted, are from “The Gospel According to Jesus, Revised and Expanded”

BTW, as you read these covenants, could YOU with all good conscience sign on to them? There can be made a case that Lou Martuneac CANNOT in all good conscience sign on to all of them. In all of the writings of Lou, it is apparent that he could not sign on to #7, for Lou demands repentance IN ADDITION to faith and other steps (totaling at least 18 things). Lou, why do you feign to be able to sign the FGA covenant? You cannot do so with a good conscience!

Why do I provide this study? For one reason, I believe that the FGA's statements are too ambiguous and not clear enough; they are too broad and could allow many evangelicals to sign on who are not Free Grace. Neither is anything in its affirmations distinctly Free Grace. The wording falls much too short of anything specifically and distinguishably Free Grace.

I believe that the Covenant needs to be re-written as to preclude people who are not really Free Grace from being able to join. I have spoken to Bob Wilkin personally about the FGA. He told me that the sole reason he wouldn't sign on is that the covenant is much to broad of a statement that could allow people who are not Free Grace to join. It isn't an issue that he can't sign it. It is an issue that he believes it is seriously inadequate.

I am a part of the FGA and have signed the covenant in good faith and conscience. Yet I believe, as Bob does, that it is insufficient to delineate and distinguish true Free Grace advocates from those who may only have a problem with some aspects of Lordship Salvation.


On with the exercise:

1. The Grace of God in justification is an unconditional free gift.

“Salvation is a gift…” (pg 38)

“In 1:17-18 James affirmed that salvation is a gift bestowed according to the sovereign will of God.” (Q&A with John MacArthur found here: http://www.biblebb.com/files/macqa/IA-james2.htm)

“salvation is a blessed gift from God” (pg 95)

“Eternal life is not a wage, but a gift. You cannot earn eternal life because it is a free gift. It can't be earned by good works, church attendance, philanthropy, or religious rituals.” (Article entitled, “Freedom from Sin” found here: http://www.biblebb.com/files/mac/sg45-49.htm)

2. The sole means of receiving the free gift of eternal life is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, whose substitutionary death on the cross fully satisfied the requirement for our justification.

“Salvation is solely by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8).” (pg 37)

“Christ atoned for our sins; God is therefore propitiated… The enmity has been removed. The full price was paid, so God can receive believing sinners with no taint on his own righteousness.” (pg 200)

3. Faith is a personal response, apart from our works, whereby we are persuaded that the finished work of Jesus Christ has delivered us from condemnation and guaranteed our eternal life

“You are made righteous only when you've put your faith in Jesus Christ, accepting His death on your behalf…” (Article entitled, “The Convicting Ministry of the Holy Spirit”, found here: http://www.biblebb.com/files/MAC/sg1559.htm)

“God graciously saved people by reckoning his righteousness to them because of their faith. No one has ever been saved through the merit system – salvation has been available only by grace through faith ever since our first parents fell.” (pg 196)

"Human effort cannot bring salvation. We are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. When we relinquish all hope except faith in Christ and His finished work on our behalf, we are acting by the faith that God in His grace supplies.” (pg 69, Faith Works)

“Justification is a past reality. It was accomplished the moment we trusted in Christ. That particular act of faith need never be repeated because we are secure in our Father's hands, and no one can snatch us from there (John 10:28-29). We are forever saved from condemnation (Romans 8:1).” (Article entitled, “The Believer’s Armor” found here: http://www.gty.org/Resources/Positions/2168)

“[our faith and assurance is in] the finished work of Christ on our behalf, including the promises of Scripture that have their yea and amen in Him (2 Cor. 1:20)" (p. 164, Faith Works).

4. Justification is the act of God to declare us righteous when we believe in Jesus Christ alone.

“Justification may be defined as an act of God whereby he imputes to a believing sinner the full and perfect righteousness of Christ, forgiving the sinner of all unrighteousness, declaring him or her perfectly righteous in God’s sight, thus delivering the believer from all condemnation.” (pg 197)

“[Justification] is owing to no good thing in us… Justification is possible exclusively through the imputed righteousness of Christ: ‘To the one who does not work, but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness.’” (pg 199)

“…a one time legal transaction – justification -- … moves us into a new relationship with God… brings peace with God in place of enmity… makes us heirs according to the hope of eternal life… [and] is the very heart of the gospel according to Jesus.” (pg 202)

5. Assurance of justification is the birthright of every believer from the moment of faith in Jesus Christ, and is founded upon the testimony of God in His written Word.

“I do believe that there is an immediate aspect to assurance, grounded in the promises of the gospel…. We find many promises in Scripture that assure believers of their eternal destiny (eg., John 3:16; 1 John 5:1). Those promises offer objective assurance… Even a brand-new believer can look to such promises and find a measure of assurance.” (pg 273)

6. Spiritual growth, which is distinct from justification, is God’s expectation for every believer; this growth, however, is not necessarily manifested uniformly in every believer.

“There are two serious errors to avoid in the matter of justification. First, do not confuse justification with sanctification… Sanctification is a practical reality, not simply a legal declaration… By including sanctification as an aspect of justification, Catholic theology renders instantaneous justification impossible.” (pg 198)

Justification is distinct from sanctification because in justification God does not make the sinner righteous; He declares that person righteous (Romans 3:28; Galatians 2:16). Notice how justification and sanctification are distinct from one another:
· Justification imputes Christ's righteousness to the sinner's account (Romans 4:11b); sanctification imparts righteousness to the sinner personally and practically (Romans 6:1-7; 8:11-14). •
· Justification takes place outside sinners and changes their standing (Romans 5:1-2, sanctification is internal and changes the believer's state (Romans 6:19). •
· Justification is an event, sanctification a process.
Those two must be distinguished…”

----(Article entitled, "Justification by Faith” found at http://www.oneplace.com/ministries/Grace_to_You/Article.asp?article_id=955)

“Obviously even in Scripture we see that believers sometimes sinned grievously and over long periods of time… believers do not lose their salvation when they sin but [they] forfeit… the joy of their salvation (Ps. 51:12).” (pg 274)

“Christians can be carnal… they can behave in carnal ways.” (pg 280)

“Certainly true believers can ‘backslide’…” (pg 281)

“…true believers are said to backslide (Jer. 14:7) All believers go through times when they do not grow or are set back in their growth by sin – they seem to be sliding backwards like a calf on a muddy slope (cf. Hos. 4:16 KJV).” (pg 281)

7. The Gospel of Grace should always be presented with such clarity and simplicity that no impression is left that justification requires any step, response, or action in addition to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

“Now, listen. Salvation then is by grace completely apart from works.” (Article entitled, “The Salvation of Babies who Die” found here: http://www.ondoctrine.com/2mac0142.htm)

“What is the gospel? That question fuels the passion that has driven me all the years of my ministry. It is not merely an academic quest. I want to know what God’s Word teaches so that I can proclaim it with accuracy and clarity.” (pg xx)

“Let me say as clearly as possible right now that salvation is by God’s sovereign grace and grace alone. Nothing a lost, degenerate, spiritually dead sinner can do will in any way contribute to salvation… I have never taught that some presalvation works of righteousness are necessary to or part of salvation.” (pg xvi)

“Most critical is this truth: Salvation has always been by grace through faith, not by works of the law (Gal. 2:16). Clearly, even Old Testament saints… were saved by grace through faith.” (pg 32, emphasis his)

“Salvation is solely by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8). That truth is the biblical watershed for all we teach.” (pg 37)

“Salvation is by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8). That is the consistent and unambiguous teaching of Scripture.” (pg 94)

“Eternal life is not a wage, but a gift. You cannot earn eternal life because it is a free gift. It can't be earned by good works, church attendance, philanthropy, or religious rituals… There is nothing else to say to the world other than to offer them the gift of salvation in Jesus Christ.” (Article entitled, “Freedom from Sin” found here: http://www.biblebb.com/files/mac/sg45-49.htm)

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Open Letter to the Free Grace Alliance

This is an open letter from Antonio da Rosa, member of the Free Grace Alliance.

I want to bring to your attention that Lou Martuneac, who is not a member of the FGA that I am aware of, has opened a comment thread on his blog about the new FGA statement concerning the gospel, where he (and other non FGA members) has been critical of it. Fred Lybrand, the founding director of the FGA, wrote in an irenic spirit concerning the new FGA statement under this same blog article thread (although I am under the impression that he has some misunderstandings about what some in the FGA has dubbed "the Promise-Only gospel"). Several people who are not in the FGA, and who do not even consider themselves Free Grace (Lou Martuneac does not consider himself Free Grace, and he is on record in various places saying so) are being critical of the statement. Yes it is true that Lou Martuneac is arguing as if he has a vested interest in the FGA, which he does not, but this does not prompt my writing.

The reason for this open letter to you all is the comments made from Ron Shea that Lou Martuneac posted on his blog, which seems to be an email to Lou Martuneac from Shea. In this disclosure of Lou Martuneac from Ron Shea, there is this material:

5) In addition to their theology, there are three Ph.D.’s and/or former professors who claim the mantle of this movement. Professor Zane Hodges is, by every appearance, the author of the Crossless gospel. Then Bob Wilkin (GES) and John Niemela.

Frankly, I do regard this movement as evil, not only in its theology, but in the leaders, at least two thirds of whom I find to be not simply sinners (as we all are), but who have systematically, cunningly, and grievously sinned to promote their heresy.
(emphasis was mine)

Ron Shea is a member of the FGA and is actively seeking to bring members of the Free Grace community into disrepute by accusing them of willful, systematic, deceptive, and grievous sins.

I am looking for a remark from the FGA executive committee distancing themselves from the hateful, irresponsible, and reprehensible comments of Ron Shea. It is one thing to disagree with the position of another. It is quite another thing to condemn those of the other viewpoint of evil and sin.

Will the FGA condemn the statements made by one of its members, Ron Shea, thus distancing themselves from them?

The comment thread of this post is found here, which contains comments by Fred Lybrand and Ron Shea.

Comment Thread of Lou Martuneac

I have found it shocking already that some in the FGA have condemned the position on the gospel that I hold to as the 'post-modern Promise-only false gospel'. This is the type of rhetoric that we should avoid.

Are we not all preaching the cross in evangelism?
Sure we are.

Are we not all preaching the bodily resurrection of Jesus in evangelism?
Of course we are.

Are we not all preaching eternal life by grace through faith in Jesus Christ apart from works?
Most assuredly we are.

We may be differing a bit on what the exact content of saving faith is, but one thing is for sure that we all agree on:

Saving faith is simple and sole reliance upon Jesus Christ of Nazareth for eternal life, for spiritual salvation. It is believing in Jesus for eternal life. It is trust in Jesus Christ alone. It is faith alone in Christ alone.

I am pleased with the new statement from the FGA. The good news about Jesus Christ which contains the essential preaching of the substitutionary nature of Christ's death on the cross for sin and his bodily resurrection needs to be heralded far and wide. It is essential that we preach Christ crucified and risen again.

Thank you all for your time.

I look forward to a statement from the FGA one way or another in this concern.

Your comments and reactions to this will be greatly appreciated and kept confidential at your request.


Antonio da Rosa

Saturday, March 08, 2008

GES Conference Overview

The GES National Grace Conference was a great time of fellowship, teaching, meeting new friends, and book-buying.

The conference was held at the Southern Baptist Southwestern Seminary. What beautiful facilities met us at this venue. On the first two days the attendance was between 200-220. The last day it dropped off significantly due to crazy weather (freezing rain, sleet, and snow).

The first evening I got in at 9:30 pm to Dallas Love Field airport. Rene Lopez and his friend Lamont picked me up. We went by Denny's on the way to his house so I could pick up some food (I had a flight from San Diego at 2:40 that had an hour and a half layover in Albuquerque, and there was no food on either flight).

Right away Rene and I started talking theology and discussing various issues dealing with Free Grace Theology. Rene is very sharp. We had talked on the phone before my trip a few times, one being over 3 hours, discussing different doctrines. I had read Rene's commentary on Romans, Romans Unlocked: Power to Deliver for a second time in order that I might discuss items I had more questions on, or disagreed with him on. I highly recommend Rene's commentary, as it truly unlocks that book's theme.

The next morning we had to wake up very early, as the Southwest campus is about an hour away from Rene's home, and Rene had to set up a table for his new book on the Jesus Family Tomb (foreward by Darrel Bock). He had a couple of manuscripts there and a a sheet for pre-buying as the book was currently being published.

There were good displays there, but my favorites were the ICR table and the Schoettle Publishing table. ICR (Institute for Creation Research) used to be headquartererd in El Cajon (just 5 minutes from my house), where they were for over 30 years. I have had the pleasure of having much interaction with ICR material in the past, both in Bible College and in pleasure reading. I have also been able to take a few classes from ICR authors for Flood geology, Noah's Ark feasibility, and the book of Genesis. One of my friends became involved and employed with ICR and moved to Dallas, where they are now headquartered. It was good to see him manning the booth of ICR. Lewis Schoettle had many tables of new books and 3 huge moveable shelving units (with books on both sides) of used books. What a great time perusing all those books! I just love books. I bought books authored by G.H. Lang, A. Edwin Wilson, Robert Govett, and one by Nancy Missler (Chuck Missler's wife). I also got a free-bie from Lew Schoettle authored by Arlen Chitwood on the book of Jude.

The GES table was full of good deals that they reserved only for the conference. I was able to pick up 5 James Commentaries by Zane Hodges, 3 Grace in Eclipse by Zane Hodges, and another Absolutely Free! by Zane Hodges, so that I may give them out to friends. I also picked up a book called Setting the Stage for Eternity, a book on rewards and the judgment seat of Christ, by Dr. Harlan Betz. This book has a foreward by Howard Hendricks, and endorsements by Dr. Stanley Toussaint, Dr. Norman Geisler, Dr. Thomas Constable, Dr. Earl Radmacher, and Zane Hodges. The material so far in the book is highly encouraging and motivating for the Chistian life. As a side, the books written on rewards by reputable authors are very motivating to live for Christ. I would recommend buying an assortment. Please ask me to make some referrals for you if you don't know where to start.

The first day had 4 plenary sessions and 3 chances for workshops:

Plenary #1 was Bob Wilkin, "Searching the Scriptures to Find the Truth: Remember the Bereans (Acts 17:11)!" Talking about being diligent to study the Scriptures, finding our doctrines there and not holding them by mere tradition. A favorite line that Bob used in this session went something like this, "Evangelicals and Fundamentalists, for the most part, believe the same things. But the difference is that Evangelicals know why they believe what they do while Fundamentalists hold fast to their tradition."

Plenary #2 was Zane Hodges, "In the Upper Room with Jesus the Christ (John 13-17)" which described how the Last Discourse (AKA the Upper Room Discourse) fits within John's purpose for his gospel.

Plenary #3 was Nathan Holsteen, "A Topography of Grace" that distinguished two Reformer's views on "faith": Robert Rollock and John Calvin.

Plenary #4 was Ken Yates, "The Complexity of the Doctrine of the Deity of Christ" which showed all the confusion that thinkers and clergy had developing the doctrine of Christ's deity over the first 4 centuries A.D.

The workshops I attended on day 1 were, "Faith in the NT" by Fred Chay, "Scientific Evidence for a Young Earth" by Frank Sherwin, and "Perseverance in Perspective" by Jody Dillow.

For lunch I went to the Southwestern cafeteria and shared the meal with a friend, Charlie Bing, and a few of his friends that ministered in India with him. What great conversations about India, which I love.

In the evening I was able to go out to dinner with a friend of mine who went to India with me last October, Mr. Jon Case. We went to a great little Texan eatery where I had fried green tomatoes, lobster bisque, and porkchops with wood roasted vegetables. I ended with an oreo crusted key-lime pie.

Day two likewise had 4 plenary and 3 workshop times:

Plenary #5 was Jody Dillow, "Did Jesus Teach Salvation by Works?" which examined what he called "neo-nomianism" (aka Federal Vision, Auburn Ave Theology, and Norman Shepherdism), that unambiguosly states that works are necessary for final salvation.

Plenary #6 was Zane Hodges, "Miraculous Signs and Literary Structure in the Fourth Gospel", that beautifully interwove John chapters 13-19 into the consideration of the purpose statement (Jn 20:30-31) based on literary evidence.

Plenary #7 was William Dembsky, "Life on Earth is the Result of Intelligent Design", that used philosophy and empirical science to argue that the universe came to be by intelligent design.

Plenary #8 was Bob Wilkin, "Is the Evangelistic Message Jesus Preached a Sufficient Message for Today?" which argued that Jesus' words from the Gospel of John are the saving message for today, in other words, are the bullseye and call to everlasting life that we are to give the unsaved today.

I attended on day two these workshops, "Salvation of the Psyche" by Patillo, "Falls from Grace in Church History" by Sterling, and "Full Assurance?" by none other than
Bud Brown (Dr. L.E. Brown), remember him?

I ate lunch at What-a-Burger with Jon Case and yet another one of the friends I went to India with, Trent. What-a-burger is not even a shadow of our lovely In-and-Out Burger here in California. What-a-burger was lame.

This evening I was able to have face time with Zane Hodges, where we ate dinner at Steak and Ale. What a great time! We discussed his bio, Dallas Seminary, theology, soteriology, books, and my current studies. What a humble, gracious, and patient man of God! I had salad bar, lobster bisque, and a medium rare ribeye and baked potato with the works.

The last day, again, had 4 plenary and 3 workshops:

Plenary #9 was John Niemela, "Jesus Gives Believers Everlasting Life: Will Unbelievers Live Forever?" that discussed the idea that life is only for believers, and distinguished between existence and life as taught by the Apostle John.

Plenary #10 was Bob Wilkin, "The Gospel is Good News about the Lord Jesus" which argued that the words for "gospel", "preach the gospel" and "evangelist" never have an import of a technical expression denoting solely what one must believe to have everlasting life, never!

Plenary #11 was Bob Bryant, "The Search for the Saving Message Outside of the Gospel of John" that argued that there is not a single expression outside of the gospel of John that gives the saving message, not even one!

Plenary #12 was Dan Hauge, "Practical Implications of the High Priestly Ministry of Christ" which taught that studying who Christ is and what He has done has tremendous practical use.

The workshops I attended were, "Introducing FG theology to Resistant Friends" by Swihart, "The Person of Christ in the Prologue of Hebrews" by Yates, and "Holy, Blameless, Beyond Reproach" by Leach.

Today I had lunch at Chick-Filet, my first time. It was nothing really to write home about. A good chicken sandwich. The rain was freezing!!!!!

The weather was so harsh on this last day that all of the flights going out of Dallas/Fort Worth were cancelled. I had plans to go out with Jeremy Myers, his wife and family to go out to dinner, but decided against it because of the extra travel and weather conditions. The Dallas/Fort Worth area is huge. I ended up taking Rene Lopez and his wife out for dinner at a Cuban restaurant a few blocks from his house (Rene and his wife are Cuban). I had shrimp, crab, ceviche, and lightly fried plantain chips with a garlic oil spread on the top (so good!) for appetizers and a Cuban soda. Next I had a fried pork dinner with rice, black beans, yucca root, and plantains. For desert I had flan.

My plane got out of there on time yesterday (Friday), and here I am.

If ya'll have any questions about anything, please feel free to leave a comment. I will try to get to some of the sessions in the days following to give some assessments of the plenary sessions.


Sunday, March 02, 2008

Grace Evangelical Society's National Conference

Dear Patrons of Free Grace Theology Blog,

I am still here. As you know I have been posting some on my group blog, Unashamed of Grace and have neglected the postings here. I have several series that I need to finish. In the meantime, I am off to the Dallas/Fort Worth area tomorrow to attend the Grace Evangelical Society's annual national conference. I will be staying with fellow Free Gracer Rene Lopez, who has graciously allowed me to crash at his house.

For a schedule of the speakers and topics at this year's conference, you may link here: Conference Schedule. Seems like there will be some really great topics and speakers.

While I am there, I will do my best to try to live blog some of it. I am not sure what kind of access I will have to the internet, but we will see. I am excited about this conference. What a great time to connect with friends and meet new ones. The Lord willing, I will be having dinner with Prof. Zane Hodges on Wednesday night, for an intimate time of fellowship and lively discussion. I also have an appointment for dinner with Jeremy Myers and his wife and children. Jeremy and his wife Wendy have become endeared to me over the last few years. It will be great to finally meet them in person.

The gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is of greatest importance to me. I am privileged to be able to study and proclaim it in its entirety. At the heart of this gospel message is 1) the guarantee of eternal life to all who simply believe in Jesus and 2) justification by faith alone. These tenets are being compromised by many groups within Christendom. This blog and I stand for the freeness of the offer of eternal life.

Thank you all for your patronage and history. I look forward to many more years of theological dialogue.

Your Free Grace theology host,

Antonio G. da Rosa

(and the G does not stand for "Gerald", Rose)