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)

Friday, March 30, 2012

Zane Hodges Comments on the Practice of Requiring the Doctrinal Assent to Christ's Deity as a Condition of Eternal Life

The following email transcription contains a reply from Zane Hodges to my request that he comment on the whole idea of Free Grace people (let alone other brands of theology) requiring the lost to believe in the deity of Christ before they can be saved. His answer is as sharp today as it was 4+ years ago when he gave it.

Note: I have included the scriptures to the references he makes in his comment. Also, I added some italics and bold for emphasis, but the uppercase emphasis is all his.

Before we get to the post, I want to issue a challenge:

To any who is convinced that God requires the lost to assent to the deity of Christ as a condition to receive everlasting life:

Please forward to me your scriptural apologetic arguing from the text of the Bible, or send me a link to something or the reference of a book that that makes the case for you. I will post whatever you give me (1 per person) and we will examine it together and see if the evidence fits your conclusion. You can find my email address on my blogger profile.

Email Correspondence of Antonio da Rosa with Zane C. Hodges

-----Original Message-----
From: Antonio da Rosa
Sent: Sep 30, 2007 7:49 PM
To: Zane Hodges
Subject: Believing that Jesus is the Christ

Dear Zane, I pray that all is going well with you. You are constantly in my prayers for your strength, endurance, health, and wisdom for interpretation and writing.

In your two part talk and paper at the Grace Evangelical Society, How to Lead People to Christ (Part 1 and Part 2), you illustrated the tenet that God only requires faith in Jesus for eternal life; there are no doctrinal stipulations and pre-qualifications to simply receiving the free gift of God through faith in Christ.

As much as you would care, would you comment, please, on those who seek to front-load the saving message with their “God-mandated” requirement that one assent to the divinity of Christ?

BTW, please pray for me as I am leaving October 10 for India. I will be doing evangelism for 5 days and having a conference with 100 Indian pastors, whereby I am going to give them a crash course on Free Grace theology.

I am praying for you!


From: Zane Hodges
Sent: Oct 2, 2007 10:28 AM
To: Antonio da Rosa
Subject: Re: Believing that Jesus is the Christ

Hi Antonio,

People who speak about believing in the "divinity" of Christ to be saved rarely seem to define what they mean by that. Must one have a Trinitarian theology to be saved (=Jesus is the second Person of the Godhead)?

Did the disciples themselves understand His deity? Note John 14:5-9; Matt. 8:27, etc.?

[Thomas said to Him, "Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?" Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him." Philip said to Him, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us." Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, 'Show us the Father'?” (Jn 14:5-9)]

[So the men marveled, saying, "Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?" (Mt 8:27)]

The fundamental error here, however, 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?

Of course, the promised Messiah WAS divine, but He was also the King of Israel (note John 1:49).

Nathanael answered and said to Him, "Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!" (Jn 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." The Messianic sonship was the sonship promised to David's kingly descendants in 2 Samuel 7:14

[I will be his Father, and he shall be My son. (2 Sam 7:14)]

…it is the sonship the writer of Hebrews has in mind in Hebrews 1:5

[For to which of the angels did He ever say: "You are My Son, today I have begotten You"? And again: “"I will be to Him a Father, and He shall be to Me a Son"? (Heb 1:5)]

…which cites 2 Samuel. Psalm 2:7

[I will declare the decree: the Lord has said to Me, “You are My Son, today I have begotten You.” (Ps 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???

The illogical beginning assumption leads inevitably into a logical quagmire and produces absurd conclusions. There is so much sloppy thinking out there it is appalling. Some people seem to believe in salvation by correct theology rather than salvation by faith in Jesus (Rom. 3:26).

[[God is] the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Rom 3:26)]

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!

I'll pray for your trip to India. Have a good week,


Saturday, March 24, 2012

Question and Answer Panel with a 5-point Calvinist, Classic Dispensationalist, and a Grace Evangelical Society Supporter: The Atonement of Christ

****New content as of 1:45pm PST, March 28, 2012****

Question and Answer Panel with a 5-point Calvinist, Classic Dispensationalist, and a Free Grace Theology Advocate: The Atonement of Christ

Followed by

A Treatise on the Error of Importing a Theological Construct into Scripture

Introduction by the Author

Clear statements of Scripture are often made to bear the burdens of theological systems. When this happens, the plain, literal sense of these passages is lost in a sea of assumptions and necessary qualifications.

This is the mode of Christian interpretation in our day due to the glorification of systematic theology over accurate biblical theology. Aggressive and permeating doctrinal consistency is preferred over precise and nuanced theological articulations arrived at through careful exegesis. The sacred creeds of our respective doctrinal affiliations have become the grid through which all Scripture must conform. These creeds alone remain the arbiters of proper biblical understanding; and apart from the assenting nod of their highly-esteemed divines, any conclusion independently arrived at must be considered illegitimate.

The transcription that is to follow is offered as evidence of this unfortunate tendency in Christianity. It consists of a question and answer time at a local church considering passages relating to the Atonement of Christ. The questioners are to first reference a Scripture and then ask a question relating to it. On our esteemed panel is a 5-point Calvinist, a Classic Dispensationalist, and a Free Grace Theology Advocate. Let us now listen in:

Questioner #1:

The Prophet Isaiah, speaking of the Lord Jesus Christ, said:

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. (Is 53:6)

Question: If God the Father laid upon Jesus the “iniquity of us all,” why would anyone have to go to hell as a punitive consequence for their sins?

Calvinist: The word “all” in this passage does not refer indiscriminately to everyone who has or will ever live. It does not signify everyone in the world, but to God’s elect alone. Only the sins of those who God has chosen for eternal salvation were laid on Jesus Christ.

[Objection to this answer by the questioner: The designation “all we” is the antecedent of “us all”. Everyone in the world has gone astray, and consequently the iniquity of the “all we” has been “laid on Him.”]

Classic Dispensationalist: The “iniquity of us all” was not actually laid upon Jesus. If it were, no one would wind up in hell for the simple reason that the people consigned to hell are paying the penalty for their sins. No actual transfer of our sin to Jesus occurred. Jesus only potentially took our sins. Our sins will only be laid upon Him under the provision that we meet the conditions of eternal salvation. Otherwise, He couldn't have borne the sins of those who don’t have salvation. They will be going to hell to bear their own sins.

[Objection to this answer by questioner: The “iniquity of us all” was “laid on Him”. The terminology used here cannot be escaped. As clear as words can say it, our iniquity, the sin possessed by “us” has been transferred to Jesus. This is an actuality that cannot be explained by your provisional scheme, which has Jesus’ death doing absolutely nothing until it is actuated by the believer.]

Free Grace Theology Advocate: I will make no qualified statement addressing this verse. I will submit to you the same assertion that Isaiah does: the Father laid upon Jesus the iniquity of every person in the world. Therefore, it follows that people do not go to hell as a punitive consequence for their sins. Damage to plain interpretation would be done if we qualified this statement in any way, as the two previous gentlemen have done. The sense is crystal clear. Christ bore the iniquity of us all.

{{{{{Attention participants! Due to the limited time we have at this forum tonight, no more objections will be heard to the Panel’s answers. Thank you in advance. That is all. You may continue.}}}}}

Questioner #2:

Peter the Apostle, speaking of the Lord Jesus Christ, said:

…who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree. (1 Pet 2:24)

Question: For what reason are the unregenerate consigned to hell to bear the penalty for their sins if Jesus Christ is described here as already having “bore” them?

Calvinist: The “our” in this context cannot be indicative of all the people in the world, as a proper study of the rest of the Bible will conclude. This ministry pertains to none other than the elect only.

Classic Dispensationalist: Jesus Christ's death was sufficient to bear the sins of the entire world; but it is only efficient, becoming an actuality, in those who meet God's provisions. This benefit of Christ's death does not apply to anyone until they obtain eternal salvation. Otherwise, the unregenerate will bear the penalty for their sins in hell.

Free Grace Theology Advocate: We must conclude, because of the clear passages produced thus far, that those who will be relegated to hell will not be bearing their own sins. As is declared in this verse using no uncertain language, Christ fully bore our sins and theirs in His own body on the tree. The people bound to experience hell are simply reaping the natural consequences of their actions. In their earthly life, they sowed to their flesh; therefore they will, of the flesh, reap corruption (Gal 6:8). Much like a gangster, suffering death in a drive-by shooting, reaps the natural consequence of his behaviors and actions, so, too, the unregenerate sinner, suffering the second-death, reaps what he has sown.

Questioner #3:

The Apostle Paul, speaking of the Lord Jesus Christ, said:

For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Cor 5:21)

Question: If the Father made Jesus Christ to be sin for us, wouldn’t it be double payment for the unsaved to suffer hell as judicial payment for their sins?

Calvinist: Quite frankly, there can be no legitimate charge of double payment precisely for the reason that Christ was not made to be sin on behalf of the non-elect.

Classic Dispensationalist: Christ wasn’t, in actuality, made to be sin for anyone in particular. In His death there resides the awesome potential to be made sin on behalf of the world. If the lost don’t fulfill God’s provisions, where the benefit of Christ's cross is applied, then we must be clear. Jesus could not have been made sin for them, or else you would be right. It would be a double-payment.

Free Grace Theology Advocate: Double payment is the only way that a situation could be characterized where two people paid the penalty for the same sins. According to this verse, Jesus was actually made to be sin for all of us. There is no qualification in Paul’s declaration. His statement remains clear. We, therefore, must conclude that hell is not the judicial consequence for an unbeliever’s sins.

Questioner #4:

John the Baptist, speaking of the Lord Jesus Christ, said:

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jn 1:29)

Question: If Jesus was the Lamb of God, the sacrifice of God, taking away the sin of the world, why do Christians maintain that sin still remains the barrier eternally separating man from God?

Calvinist: The term “world” here is a euphemism for “the elect.” If Jesus would have taken the sin of the whole world away, then everyone would be going to heaven… and according to the Bible everyone isn’t.

Classical Dispensationalist: Christ’s sacrifice as the Lamb of God didn’t take away the sin of the world. His sacrifice only made it possible for the whole world to have its sins taken away if they meet the provisions stipulated by God.

Free Grace Theology Advocate: Quite frankly, in response to your question, it is erroneous for them to assert that, my friend. This passage directly contradicts the notion! The meaning of this text is no different than precisely how it is stated. Jesus has taken sin out of the way by His sacrifice. Accordingly, sin must no longer be proclaimed to be the eternal issue between God and man. The only legitimate issue between God and man in the matter of one's eternal destiny is the question of life. Only those who possess God’s divinely imparted life, made available through the death of Christ, and received through faith in His name, are uniquely prepared, and possess the right and privilege to live with God forever.

Questioner #5:

The Apostle John, speaking of the Lord Jesus Christ, said:

And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world. (1 Jn 2:2)

Question: Why do you suppose that it is the common understanding in Christianity that God convicts the unregenerate of their sins and consigns them to hell as their just penalty if what this verse is saying is true? I do not believe that we can extract ourselves from the plain and simple sense being offered here. Apparently, in whatever sense that Jesus is the Propitiation for the sins of Christians, He is the Propitiation for the sins of the world!

Calvinist: Jesus is not the Propitiation for the sins of the world, according to this verse. In whatever sense Jesus is the Propitiation for the sins of John’s regenerate readers, Jesus is the propitiation for the sins of like-regenerate Christians of the world. He is only the Propitiation for the sins of the elect.

Classic Dispensationalist: Jesus is not the Propitiation for the sins of the entire world. There can be no real case made for it. His ministry as the Propitiation for sins is applied only to those who follow to His provisions for salvation. It does not extend its benefits to the unregenerate. This standing of Christ only possesses the potential to satisfy God’s just demands for the sins of the world.

Free Grace Theology Advocate: I believe the reason for the common misunderstanding you so articulated is due to the wide-spread depreciation of the efficiency of Christ’s death. In most doctrinal schemes, the benefits of the cross of Christ are either limited to a small few, or are withheld until provisions are individually met. In either case, the Cross of Jesus Christ has absolutely neither benefit nor effect in the largest majority of the world’s population. I believe that these understandings do great harm to the Scriptures thus far provided by our questioners this evening. As far as your understanding of this verse goes, I believe that you are right on. According to John’s grammar and syntax, Jesus is the Propitiation for the sins of the world precisely in the same way Jesus is for his regenerate readers.

{{{{{Well, that is all the time that we have tonight! I want to thank our guests and esteemed panel! **garble, garble…** Ahem! Attention, attention!}}}}}


{{{{{Hold on a minute! It seems that we have one last questioner to end the evening for us with a question that apparently has been floating around on everyone’s mind! Go ahead sir, please ask your question!}}}}}

Questioner #6:

Jesus, speaking to the unbelieving Jewish leaders in the Temple, said:

You are from beneath; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins. (Jn 8:23-24)

Question: If Jesus bore their sins on the tree, why does He say that they will die in them?

Calvinist: Jesus did not bear their sins on the tree. Dying “in their sins” means that they will bear their own sins by being punished in hell for them.

Classic Dispensationalist: Jesus only potentially bore their sins. His sacrifice is only effectual in those people who follow the provisions for eternal salvation. Dying “in their sins” means that they will bear their own sins by being punished in hell for eternity. Jesus' death didn't actually do anything. Its power rests in its potentiality.

Free Grace Theology Advocate: Thanks for bringing up this verse. I believe that there are some wide-spread mis-applications of it. The question you ask contains the underlying assumption that to “die in your sins” means to pay for one's sins in hell. This is a begging of the question. It assumes the conclusion in the argument's premise. It assumes what has not been proven.

Tonight, we had the opportunity to review some of these statements by biblical authors and characters:

“the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all
“who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree”
He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us
“The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world
He Himself is the propitiation for [the] sins... [of] the whole world”
“Christ died for the ungodly
“while we were still sinners, Christ died for us
“God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them”
“Christ Jesus... gave Himself a ransom for all
“Jesus... taste[d] death for everyone

The above statements represent clear affirmations on the purpose and benefits of Christ's death on the cross. Notice how they are easily understood by the clear and simple language used. It is impossible, if someone approaches these texts impartially, to come to any other meaning but the one which they so clearly and simply submit. One of the cardinal principles of hermeneutics (just a fancy word denoting the art and science of literary interpretation) is the idea of interpreting more difficult passages by an analogy of faith that has been formulated by the simple, milk statements of the Word.

These passages ought to form the basis of our understanding of Christ's death. There is no word in them denoting a limited scope for it, either in limiting it to only a small segment of the world's population, or limiting it to merely a potentiality. Taken together, they provide an analogy of faith for this particular theological subject.

When we view the pronouncement of Jesus in the verse you provide, we are not met with anything that contradicts the clear statements of Scripture, just examined above, that must be employed to form the basis of our understanding of the Atonement of Christ. The phrase “die in your sins” is not a clear statement. It must be interpreted before we can determine its meaning. It does not provide an unambiguous proposition that is immediately discernable to us. On any reading of this verse, it does not say:

“If you do not believe that I am He, you will bear your own sins in hell.”


“If you do not believe that I am He, you will pay the debt for your sins in hell.”

The Christian public at large assumes that Jesus says this. The way that this verse is read by them is an example of the tragic error of importing one’s theology into the text of Scripture. This passage simply states to the Jewish leaders that they “will die in [their] sins.” That they will die is clear, but the phrase “in your sins” is not so clear. Without greater study and research, the most we can say is that they will die in the sphere of their sins, in some sense, hitherto unknown.

Let’s go back to the text. According to it, Christ was “from above”; the Jews were “from beneath.” The Jews were “of this world,” but Christ was “not of this world.” The next statement in the verse logically follows these assertions. “Therefore,” Jesus claims, they will “die in their sins.” In John 15:19, Jesus submits the proposition that His disciples, too, are “not of this world.” Does this suggest that being “of this world” is the basis upon which people die in their sins? and being “not of this world” the condition for the privilege to go where He goes? (Notice in the context, Jesus tells the Jews in vs. 21, “Where I go you cannot come.”) This conclusion is inescapable. Take a look for a moment at John 13:36. Jesus announces to His regenerate disciples, “Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but you shall follow Me afterward.” Those who are “of this world” “cannot” go where Jesus goes; but those “not of this world” “shall follow” Him afterward! Contextually, dying in one's sins is related to being “of this world,” being “from beneath,” and for not believing that Jesus is the Christ. Dying in one's sins is therefore the natural result of these things.

The fact that Jesus died for the sins of the world, all the sins of the world being transferred to Him in His death, does not automatically confer upon anyone God's life, God's imputation of righteousness, or even forgiveness. Christ's death had the purpose of satisfying God's Holy demands for the sins of all mankind so that God could unconditionally accept them. Through Christ's sacrifice, sin has been taken away as the barrier that prevented man from free access to God. It satisfied God's just demands for sins; therefore, no one goes to hell as a punitive consequence for their sins (in other words, to pay for their sins). But all this is an entirely different consideration than Christ’s pronouncement that the unregenerate will “die in” their sins. These concepts are mutually exclusive areas of doctrine. The assertion of the one does not deny or negate the other.

To illustrate, from the example I gave earlier in my answer to the second question, we could say the gangster who was killed in a drive-by shooting “died in his sins”. His death was the natural consequence of his sinful behavior. The same is true for the Jews. The natural consequence for being “of this world,” being “from beneath,” and not believing that Jesus is the Christ, is to die in the sphere of their sins.

Regeneration imparts God's divine life to the believer. This nature comes “from above.” Being “born-again” (Gk: genethe onothen, from Jn 3:3) has the equally attested meaning of being “born from above”! Regeneration alone prepares and befits one to go where Jesus goes, and privileges one to experience eternal life.

The Jews that Jesus is speaking to, being “from beneath” and “of this world,” are trapped in the sphere of their sins. The unregenerate, who are able only to sow to the flesh, “will of [their] flesh reap corruption” (Gal 6:8). Corruption is the present experience of death by the unregenerate culminating in their physical death “in their sins” where they will reap an eternal existence of death, the second-death, hell itself. Hell is the only appropriate place for those who do not have life. It is an existence of eternal death and corruption. But, hell is not the judicial punishment for sins. Jesus, as we have already discovered, completely took sins out of the way. He bore them in His body, God laid them on Him, He became them for us, He took them away!

I am afraid that Christianity is in need of several major paradigm shifts. One of them is needed in this area. I realize that, to many, this understanding will be foreign, to say the least. But no other position of this doctrine more faithfully conforms to the text of Scripture, for all others, rather, conform the text of Scripture to the position of their doctrine.

Thanks again for your question. I would be happy to respond to any follow ups.

{{{{{That’s it, folks! You have heard these three men discuss the Scriptures. It is now up for you to go out and be like the Bereans! Study, and rightly divide the Word of Truth! Drive safe!}}}}}

…”the world” isn’t “the world”…
…there really was no transfer… these only relate the potential transfer…

Both the Calvinist’s doctrine and the Classic Dispensationalist’s meet in strange and sad ways. In either case, the benefits of Christ’s cross are significantly decreased and/or removed. The honest Classic Dispensationalist must admit, in the face of all the above Scriptures, that his view is essentially that of the Calvinist. “Christ couldn't have had the sins of us all laid on Him, He couldn't have borne the sins of the world, He simply cannot be the Propitiation for the sins of the world,” they must reason. Why? Precisely because if He was the Propitiation for the sins of the world, had actually borne those sins having them all laid on Him, then in the light of their deep conviction that men and women go to hell to bear the penalty of their sins, the result following would be that everyone ever born would be admitted to heaven – but their theology does not allow for that.

Such examples of scriptural gymnastics are the case when theology is consulted to interpret the Scriptures for us.

Theology Should Not Be Our Rule for Interpretation!

Questions and objections to theology are often mothers of invention. When a theology is posed with the prima facie testimony of certain “problem passages,” creating insurmountable difficulties and objections that question its soundness, theologians, rather than modifying (or discarding!) their theology to make it consistent to the Scriptures, tend to respond with creative and often fanciful solutions in order to retain their complete doctrinal system. These ‘solutions’ are in fact, more often than not, the ad-hoc importation of secondary assumptions not found in the texts. Providing his assumptions to his interpretation of the passages, yes, answer the objections… but at what cost? What can be stated clearly, and without controversy, is this: a price being paid for this illegitimate practice is nothing less than the loss of the indispensable, hermeneutical principle of plain, literal interpretation!

It is human nature to prefer continuing to justify ones convictions using any means at his disposal rather than, through struggling with the mental dissonance, to face the challenges head on, sort everything out in an objective manner, work through the problems, and adjust his belief system accordingly. The former is the simple route often of pride and elitism, while the latter is the road left untraveled by most. The tendency to regard one’s theology over the Scriptures has been a common practiced error in the Christian faith over the centuries that has caused more than one church crisis! More often than not, allegiance to one’s theological “system” is stronger than fidelity to the Word of God. This tendency has done incalculable damage to Christianity! The Bible is thus not allowed to speak for itself, but rather has been made to accommodate the doctrinal systems of man. This has tragically stunted the ability of the Bible to be understood. Moreover, this is the method of biblical interpretation employed by the ‘Christian’ cults. It is should be a shame and embarrassment for those who claim orthodoxy, being guilty of the same thing!

There are several legitimate reasons why the Bible has a bad reputation of being un-perspicuous. Matters issuing from: the study of the cultural contexts governing the language and customs found in the different books, the translations from dead languages into current, the question of textual variants, and those themes in the Bible only discernible by mature Christians (i.e. ’meat’), are a few of the reasons why there has been difficulties with scriptural comprehension.

But there is one reason, possibly the major reason, why the Scriptures are maligned; a reason that we Christians will have to answer for: the clear propositions in the Word are warped and twisted by Bible scholars to conform to their doctrinal system. This happens so often, as a matter of fact, that it is difficult to extract even one clear affirmation from the Bible! This practice results in the wide-spread perception that the Bible does not mean what it actually seems to clearly state, but is a body of literature only discernable by ivory-tower divines, or no one at all.

When arguing for a particular interpretation, the partisan theologue will forward the idea that governing each problem passage is an array of underlying assumptions that must be considered in order for proper understanding to take place. Now unless you are a member of one of those elite doctrinal “systems”, those guardians of the faith, who alone possess the keys to the Scriptures, or you subscribe to one, you have no hope of understanding the “true” meanings of biblical passages.

The Scriptures have been interpreted in so many different ways as a result of the imposition of man-made doctrines, that it is viewed as a book whose value is not properly estimated by those who we seek to evangelize. “If the Christians cannot agree upon an interpretation, rather they have dozens of them, all disagreeing with the other, how on earth could the Bible be a benefit for me?” some may question. I am convinced that the majority of false interpretations today come as the direct result of the reckless imposition of man-derived theology on the Scriptures.

Example in the Gospel of John
For example, when the greatest majority of Christians are posed with the simple guarantee of Jesus that, “whoever believes in Me has everlasting life” (Jn 6:47), the notion doesn’t line up with their theology. Added to simply entrusting one’s eternal destiny to Christ, in their estimation it is believed that one must be pre-qualified to receive His gift by an imposed assent to various doctrinal statements, and/or by full-surrender to His lordship, and/or by holding no misconceptions of the “essentials,” and/or by repentance, etc., etc. – you get the picture! The various soteriologies of modern-day Christianity teach a multitude of additional provisos, codicils, and caveats to faith alone in Christ alone, even most Free Grace people!

How do the Lordship Salvation advocates and the Free Grace doctrinal legalists (only to name a couple of systems) deal with verses like this in the light of their inflexible doctrine? Answer: the astute theologians of their ranks must argue that the passage in question really can't be teaching what it actually says, for that would be tantamount to admitting error in their convictions. No, to salvage their systems, they must provide the passages a framework consisting of various ad-hoc assumptions nowhere to be found in the text that upholds their system.

Imagine a bible study consisting of new Christians and a few enlightened, mature theologues. During the course of the study, the defenders of doctrinal integrity provide an interpretation of a particular text that seems to contradict the plain sense of the passage within its context. The neophyte, not knowing doctrine or any better, asks the question, “How did you guys come up with that understanding? I am a bit confused.” In response we may hear something like:

“You see, found in a wealth of other scriptures reside a multitude of other, more specific revelation on the topic this passage addresses which must govern our understanding of this particular passage; considerations that this passage does not explicitly address nor even mention. These collected and systematized tenets underlie this text. The author of this passage surely wrote his epistle with these considerations in mind (because He knew doctrine at least as well as we do, ha!), and operated under the assumption that his readers would understand this passage in that ‘fuller’ context as well. In order to discover the proper meaning of this passage today, these considerations, only gleaned in time by those committed to the Word, must be taken into account. These considerations must therefore inform our reading of this passage if we are to understand it in the context in which it was originally given!”

Thus the life-giving and sustaining milk of the Word is turned into toxic waters by those thinking that they are actually preserving and defending it!

Example from an Epistle of John
When Christians read that Jesus is not only the Propitiation for their sins, “but also for the whole world” (1 Jn 2:2), it doesn’t jive with their well-ordered creedal statements. Our Reformed brothers can be heard saying, “This can’t be true of the non-elect and therefore, the assumption underlying this text is that ‘the whole world’ is merely ‘the elect.’” Classic Dispensationalism must in kind retort, “Christ is the Propitiation for the sins of the whole world, but this statement must be modified by qualification. He is not actually the Propitiation for the sins of the whole world; He is only potentially the propitiation for the sins of the whole world. We must modify this statement by assuming that it is provisional. Our insistence that people go to hell because of a punitive condemnation for sin precludes us from taking this statement at face value.” The Scriptures are thus held hostage by the doctrines of man!

Doctrinal Elitism
It is a tragedy enough that the Bible is considered valueless due in large part to an awareness that commonly held understandings of passages contradict each other and the plain sense of the passage itself. But there are more. Another casualty of doctrinal elitism is the practicality of doctrine. Without the proper understanding and application of doctrine, the Christian life is impossible. When the Bible is conformed to man-made systems rather than our systems of doctrine being shaped by the Bible, the conventions of men are taught and propagated as the oracles of God! Growth is thus prevented to the degree to which doctrine is unbiblical.

Theological systems can only continue enjoying the benefits of their prominence so long as they are able to defend their credos in the face of bitter challenges and problem passages. As has already been noted, this is done by clever assertion that questionable passages cannot be taken as is, but in whose understanding resides unstated assumptions arrived at through biblical synthesis. The base reaction employing this defense mechanism serves to make every aspect of one’s theology un-falsifiable, impervious to most attempts at discredit, which results in yet another opportunity for those who enjoy the honor, pride, superiority of their theological society to glory.

What can be more frustrating than conversing with someone who is a “know-it-all”? Not much! Every time you try to get in a word edgewise, you are confronted with his sharp and rehearsed answers. Any time you challenge the positions he holds, you are met with ten different things you hadn’t considered that make you wrong. Unfortunately, many theologians come off this very same way! It is an issue of pride and elitism. I am not saying that every Christian who practices defending their system by importing it into Scripture is guilty of such elitism. Many are only emulating what they were taught. But this problem facilitates and encourages an elite class of super-theologues whose adherence to a particular system is their high and mighty badge of honor. The “Club” alone is in the know, and those unfortunate enough to be non-members of the “Club” don’t really know what’s crackin’!

What say you?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

A Reflection of the Free Grace Theology "Food Fight": Zane Hodges Responds to an Email I Addressed to the Free Grace Alliance Leadership

Some time ago, the Free Grace Theology community became aware that J.B. Hixson wrote disparaging and erroneous libel against Zane Hodges, Bob Wilkin, and the Grace Evangelical Society in a book that he published.

We wouldn't have been surprised of this occurrence had it been produced by a Reformed Lordship Salvation advocate. These gentlemen have a habit of such practices. We are all aware of that.

But the libel didn't come from the pen of Lordship Salvation proponent. It came from a Free Grace Theology brother, and not only that, but from the then Director of the Free Grace Alliance, an organization that has as its stated purpose "to connect, [and] encourage” free grace people, and to “strategize together how to unite”"!!!

What makes this situation all the more tragic is that J.B. Hixson purposefully with-held the defamatory language from the main endorser of the book in which it resides: Dr. Earl Radmacher!

This post starts off with a reply from Zane Hodges commenting on my email correspondence with the leadership of the Free Grace Alliance, and following that, the email correspondence itself.

I am sharing this email correspondence, sent almost 4 years ago, with the hope that it will put some perspective on the "Free Grace Foodfight" that erupted some years ago. Those who vociferously allied themselves with the men who started the fight (Those from Duluth, the Duluthian Antagonists) with a pre-emptive attack of slanderous, false, and mischaracterizing statements about Zane Hodges, Bob Wilkin, and the Grace Evangelical Society, are still at large, and desire to rewrite history, relegating the GES and its supporters to the fringes of theological novelty and obscurity.

I will not stand idly by and allow that!

Zane Hodges' email to me:

Hi Antonio,

Well! I have read your whole email. I should start by commending you for the obvious skill you show in engaging in this kind of discussion. You acquit yourself superbly, in my opinion.

Hang in there. For my money you nailed J. B. to the wall. I thought also, that despite charges against you, your spirit was honest and appropriate. After all, Paul did not write Galatians 1 in a totally dispassionate spirit!

As you know, I have been through the "lordship wars" long before this sort of thing appeared. What J. B. reminds me of most is the "technique" of lordship controversialists. Among other things, misrepresentations, half-truths, full-throated false accusations were their stock in trade. Tragically, in heated theological discussions, integrity and honesty are often the first casualties.

Antonio, stay passionate, but stay calm, honest and direct. You did a great job here. Keep it up.

I am meeting Bob Wilkin today for lunch and, though we have already talked about Hixson's book, we will no doubt do so again and with you in mind.

God bless you,


This was the message header:

-----Original Message-----
From: Antonio da Rosa
Sent: Jun 16, 2008 11:05 PM
To: "J.B. (notbyworks)"
Cc: Zane Hodges , Bob Wilkin , Joe Lombardi , Earl Radmacher , "Fred Lybrand (Yahoo)" , Charlie Bing , Fred Chay , Fred Chay
Subject: Re: "Getting the Gospel Wrong"

For the following segment, I am going to put the statements of J.B. Hixson in blockquotes and my replies to him in normal format.

Dear FGA leaders and Dr. Radmacher,

I am glad that this is getting an airing. Let us discuss these things. I wish to comment on this email because it does not represent the whole truth. Thank you for your patience.


I am very disappointed in the outlandish and baseless accusations against me and the leadership of the FGA that continue to have a place on your blog. Although I am thankful that few people, at least, seem to be reading your blog, nevertheless I must ask again that you repent, set the record straight, and post an apology."

My blog receives over 100 hits a day, has had 48,000 hits, and over 100,000 page views, and this is with a very primitive counter. From personal experience and experimentation, I have found that it doesn't log a very good percentage of page hits. In all actuality, I probably have had over 100,000 hits.

I did not accuse. I put my thoughts up for discussion. I intimated what I thought, given the evidence, and have asked if there was any other explanation. If you read my article carefully, I put up the idea that there could be a misunderstanding. I wrote this:

The whole controversy can be quelled if Dr. J.B. Hixson will come out and say that the manuscript that he gave Dr. Radmacher contained the disputed material and that somehow Earl missed that section.

It is now apparent that the dissertation manuscript did not have this information. We will discuss this further down this email.

I have not accused the leadership of the FGA of anything. Would you please go ahead and document my accusing the leadership of the FGA of any wrongdoing? If you cannot document this, please retract that statement.

"I just had a very encouraging talk with Dr. Radmacher (whom I am copying on this email correspondence at his request). We talked for over an hour. Contrary to the conspiracy theory you unfold on your blog, he is not upset with me or the FGA and he intends to endorse my book wholeheartedly and to help distribute it, as he said he would do all along."

Let me ask you a question. Was it simply an oversight on your part that you did not reveal to Dr. Radmacher, who you know is good friends with and a ministry ally of Zane Hodges, that you were accusing Zane Hodges of preaching a false gospel in the book that Dr. Radmacher was to endorse and write the foreword to?

"Below is a summary of our discussion.

1. Dr. Radmacher affirmed his belief in the death/resurrection of Christ for our sin as part of the required content of saving faith. He confirmed his disagreement with Bob and Zane on this point, even though he (like all of us) loves and appreciates the impact that they have had--especially Zane--on all of us who champion the cause of grace. We all owe Zane an enormous debt of gratitude."

This is very curious, J.B. You see, I talked to Dr. Earl Radmacher at length as well. He stated explicitly to me that acknowledgement of the cross and resurrection WERE NOT NECESSARY for eternal life. He then went on with SEVERAL ARGUMENTS which PROVED his belief. He did stipulate that he believed that one must acknowledge Christ's deity, in opposition to Zane Hodges. But for the record, someone or something is very fishy.

I am of sound mind and sound recollection. Dr. Earl will not deny that he stated certainly and clearly that he does not believe that one must acknowledge the cross and resurrection. He furthermore stated that he does not believe that Zane or Bob or the GES has a "crossless" gospel. He stated his OBJECTION to the Duluthian Antagonists by telling me that he wrote them TWO times with his concerns, stating that he did not believe that Zane Hodges, Bob Wilkin, or the GES preaches a "crossless" gospel.

Let us have a conference call between me, you and Dr. Radmacher, and we will get to the bottom of this. He was VERY adamant that the cross and resurrection are not required content to saving faith. I put that assertion upon every thing that I love and hold dear, Dr. Radmacher spoke as I have here and on my blog stated of him. I do not wish to put forth what possibly could have been confused with your conversation with him. Maybe he stated that the cross and resurrection are part of the gospel message which I stipulate as well.

For Christ as my witness, God bearing testimony to this fact, Dr. Earl Radmacher, in NO UNCERTAIN TERMS related to me that he does not believe that it is a necessary requirement to acknowledge the cross and resurrection. Dr. Radmacher brought up arguments of the apostles even denying his prediction of His death, and denying that Christ had risen from the dead when they were informed by two parties that He had risen. Dr. Radmacher made NO RESERVATIONS whatsoever on this. He stipulated CLEARLY that the cross and resurrection aren't requirements for saving faith.

Dr. Radmacher would not deny that he told me these things in our phone conversation. I am certainly and positively convinced that, due to his unimpeachable integrity, he would not deny that he stated clearly to me that he believes that the cross and resurrection are not required content to saving faith, and that he gave a HANDFUL of arguments supporting that belief. I have truthfully and accurately described our conversation.

"2. Dr. Radmacher said that he wished I had been a bit more gracious in my footnote where I critiqued their view. He agreed that my tone was not personally attacking, but said nevertheless I could have gone even further in being gracious--a point of constructive criticism for which I thanked him."

I guess that would depend upon what you consider "personal". Misrepresenting and misquoting someone with the intent to disparage them as preaching a false gospel would qualify as "personal" to me.

"He also was bothered by my reference to Tom Stegall, whom he does not respect as a theological scholar, and stated that I would have been better served not to reference Stegall."

Did he also mention, in addition to his belief that Tom Stegall is not a theological scholar, that he believes that Tom Stegall has misrepresented, mischaracterized, and falsely accused Zane Hodges, Bob Wilkin, and the GES of a false gospel, the very exact thing that you have done in the book that he gave a foreword to while he was completely oblivious that you were adding such material "11th hour"?

"He also stated that it would be good if in future writings I could develop further a few of the points I made critiquing Bob and Zane's view. We talked about how this was not possible in a brief footnote, especially when it is beyond the scope of the work at large."

This is very confusing, J.B. You mark Zane and Bob as holding to a false gospel, the very topic of your book, but state that such was beyond the scope of the work at large? This is very confusing. Furthermore, why is it that you included the material in the first place, if it was beyond the scope of your book?

The material you have against Zane, Bob, and the GES is full of inaccuracies, misrepresentations, and misquotes. It was very unwise of you to make such a sloppy statement, especially in light of the fact that I hear a full review of your book will made available in a full journal article appearing in the JOTGES, and the GES website.

"He suggested I write an article explaining how the Gospel of John itself demands that both the person and work of Christ are a part of the required content of saving faith--a point on which he and I are in full agreement contra the GES position."

Again, I contest your understanding of Dr. Earl Radmacher's beliefs, unless of course that within the last 3 weeks he has changed his mind.

I believe that such an article would be wonderful for you to write, J.B. The Gospel of John certainly does not demand required content greater than faith in Jesus by way of His gratuitous promise. I have read some of your work on your website and have not found your material to be exegetical, and welcome your attempt to exegete the pertinent passages providing support to the contention that the Apostle John requires content greater than simple faith in Jesus for eternal life. I must warn you that I believe such an endeavor to be futile.

"3. Dr. Radmacher affirmed that other than my tone, which he said could have been more gracious, he did not find anything in my footnote that misrepresented Bob and Zane's view. He agreed that I accurately state their view. (A point which Bob Wilkin himself also has affirmed to me personally.) Therefore, I am curious, on what basis to you claim that my book contains 'misrepresentations, falsehoods, and misquotes'? Have you read any portion of my book other than the one relatively short footnote? The book contains 406 pages, with repeated positive citations of Zane Hodges, Bob Wilkin and JOTGES journal articles. Indeed, Wilkin himself thanked me for my frequent positive citations of JOTGES and said he plans to recommend my book to JOTGES readers for its "helpful information," even if he disagrees with me that the death/resurrection of Christ for sin is part of the required content of saving faith. You are quite deceptive in your blog when you lead your readers to believe you have read my book. You state, you will 'document these things word for word from his book, showing the lack of care that he took in constructing his criticism.' How do you plan to do this if you have not read, and do not have a copy of, my book?"

Please be careful in representing me, as it is apparant that you do not take care doing so for others. In my article, it explicitely states this:

Recently, Dr. J.B. Hixson, director of the Free Grace Alliance (FGA), published a book on the gospel which contains inaccurate statements concerning consistent Free Grace theology. The material includes misrepresentations, falsehoods, and misquotes. I may in the future document these things word for word from his book, showing the lack of care that he took in constructing his criticism.

"The material" refers to your "innacurate statements concerning consistent [in other words, GES] Free Grace theology". The documentation that I was referring to was documenting your "misrepresentations, falsehoods, and misquotes" specifically in the material in which you criticize Zane, Bob, and the GES. It is not speaking generally about your book, but the erroneous and inaccurate material you write in your criticism of the consistent Free Grace theology of Zane Hodges, Bob Wilkin, and the Grace Evangelical Society.

J.B., I don't appreciate your insinuation that you give that I do not know about the things to which I speak. As of this very moment, I just got off the phone with Bob Wilkin, talking to him for 50 minutes about all of this. He gave me no less than a handful of instances of your misquotes, inaccuracies, and misrepresentations of him and Zane in the small section that you proclaim them to be heretics.

I have not lead my readers to believe that I have read your book, nor did I ever intend to give that impression whatsoever. I plan on documenting word for word from your book (a metonymy of the subject, meaning "from the text of your book") the inaccuracies and sloppiness of your hasty critique of Zane Hodges, Bob Wilkin, and the GES, and it is to this and nothing more that I give reference in my article.

"4. Regarding the timing of the addition of the footnote to the manuscript, Dr. Radmacher is not bothered by the circumstances surrounding its inclusion at all. The manuscript he reviewed was the dissertation version, and it was clearly stated to him, and about 30 others from whom I requested endorsements, in an email dated February 20, 2008, that the final book version would have changes to the footnotes. It was further stated in that same email that an endorsement does not necessarily constitute full agreement with everything in the book."

J.B., if you took the opportunity and went through the trouble to inform your endorsers that the final book version would have changes to the footnotes, why is it that you didn't just go ahead and share with them those things which they hadn't read and to which their names would be affixed by way of their endorsement? I frankly would feel deceived by you if you had done this to me!

And furthermore, how can a major "inclusion" of additional material and footnotes be referred to as a mere "change... to the footnotes"? This is not accurate! You did not simply "change" the footnotes! You added material NOT FOUND in your dissertation version, which endorsers (more than just Dr. Radmacher) were totally kept in the dark concerning!

I spoke on the phone with a Mr. XXXXX XXXXX a few days ago for about 40 minutes. He is a very good friend of Dr. Radmacher, and he stated to me that Dr. Radmacher was concerned about it, and was bothered by it. They were wanting to find the manuscript that you had given Dr. Earl to find out if that offensive material was in there or not. Now we find out from your testimony that Dr. Earl was kept in the dark concerning this material. Mr. XXXXX XXXXX told me that Dr. Earl was distraught over the fact that he endorsed a book that called his friend and ally in the ministry a purveyor of a false gospel.

It doesn't make sense, J.B., Dr. Radmacher states this concerning Zane Hodges:

[Dr. Radmacher in Salvation]
Exegetically I am indebted to the exegetical expertise and hermeneutical care of Zane Hodges, whose humility before the Word of God and untiring diligence continues to be a model for me of "a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Tim. 2:15). There have been times when I questioned his conclusions, but further investigation usually demonstrated his superior wisdom.

It is very curious indeed that Earl Radmacher, friend and ally of Zane Hodges in the ministry wrote a foreword to your book which calls his friend of many years a heretic who preaches a false gospel. I have heard that Zane Hodges is now apprised that Earl Radmacher was kept in the dark (this cannot be disputed, you kept him in the dark of this material, now whether or not it was malicious, only God can tell) concerning material you wrote calling him a purveyor of a false gospel, and wrote a foreword to absolutely unaware that his ministry partner was so treated. This does not look good for you, J.B.!

Furthermore, to support the idea that Dr. Radmacher was bothered and concerned, I note our conversation together. In my conversation with Dr. Earl Radmacher, I conveyed to him my concern that you, J.B., were circuiting Free Grace churches with a message about "post-modern false gospels" in which you call the position of Zane Hodges, Bob Wilkin, and the GES "the promise-only gospel" - one of a number of false gospels in your estimation. He was very concerned about this, because you are the director of the Free Grace Alliance which has a stated purpose to strategize about unity and connect Free Grace leaders. But it seems that you are going about the United States sowing discord and division among Free Grace brethren. Dr. Radmacher told me to write him an email documenting this. And so I wrote to him the following:

[Antonio da Rosa]
Dear Dr. Radmacher,

I appreciated our talk we had yesterday!!! It was wonderful. I learned alot and was so very happy to have that fellowship with you....

Here are the facts concerning J.B. Hixson's statements. He was the guest speaker at Little River [www.littleriverucc.com] where the pastor is named Ted Weiss. He did so in his capacity as director of the FGA. On Ted Weis's blog, found here: [http://livingthebiblios.blogspot.com/2008_02_01_archive.html] (see his article entitled: "Revival Review: 1 of 5", scroll down a quarter of the way), he summarizes J.B.'s message thus:

[Pastor Ted Weiss]
What is the Gospel? How is this "good news" being presented today?

That was the subject of the first in a series of revival messages at the Little River Congregational Church, February 10-13, presented by Dr. J.B. Hixson, Executive Director of the Free Grace Alliance.

In a message entitled, "The Gospel: Kaleidoscope or Microscope?" Dr. Hixson outlined six mistaken gospel models that are propagated in our postmodern society: ...

The Promise-Only Gospel-- This gospel invites people to believe in Jesus, but without explaining who Jesus is and what He did. Knowing who He is and what He did isn't essential.

When I read this, I sent J.B. Hixson an email, here it was:

[Antonio da Rosa to J.B. Hixson]
Dear JB,

This is Antonio da Rosa. We met in San Diego. I took you to In & Out Burger after the ETS meeting. Remember?

To get directly to the point: I was wondering how you would characterize the post modern "promise-only" gospel that you spoke against recently at Little River Congregational Church. I read a blog entry by a Pastor Ted Weis that summarized your messages there. It was insufficient to clearly get a gist of what you believe about this position. Could you forward me your notes and thoughts on your particular problems with this position?

Thanks in advance,


J.B. Hixson responded to me in this way:

"As for my position on the content of saving faith, I am not comfortable parsing every public and private statement I make as I travel and speak.... My messages also are in keeping with the 7-point FGA doctrinal affirmation, which I personally helped write more than three years ago."

I responded to him in this way:

[Antonio da Rosa to J.B Hixson]
... the way this Pastor summarized your position on my position was this way:

"[Pastor Ted Weiss]
The Promise-Only Gospel-- This gospel invites people to believe in Jesus, but without explaining who Jesus is and what He did. Knowing who He is and what He did isn't essential.

This is a complete misrepresentation and falsehood concerning the position you supposedly are speaking against. It is a straw man. Now if you really want to fairly and accurately represent this position, you should run by those who actually espouse this position your comments about them.

No one will believe in Jesus without understanding something about who He is. No one I know who takes my position will invite someone to believe in Christ "without explaining who Jesus is and what He did." This is a complete falsehood. Knowing who Jesus is IS essential. One must understand that Jesus is authorized, having the power given to Him by God, to dispense everlasting life to all who simply entrust their eternal destinies into His hands. Jesus is the "Christ of God" who has the power and authority to guarantee one's eternal well-being through faith in Him.

In this debate, it gets tiring and frustrating that these mis-statements concerning the position I hold are tenaciously propogated to churches such as the one you spoke to. It is a poisioning of the well, rather than giving a fair testimony of the opposing side and allowing one to come to his own conclusion on the matter. If your position is as strong as you think, there will be no need to perpetuate these kind of falsehoods concerning what you have dubbed "the Promise-only" post-modern gospel.

Someone in your position, and scholarly background, ought to be a bit more cautious in his statements concerning a free grace position that shares a rich theological heritage with your own, and a position that is taken by some of the members and board of the FGA.

J.B. then proceeded to respond to me with utter evasion! Here is what he stated:

"Regarding the my reference to the "promise-only" gospel, how can you possibly say that I misrepresent your view? I never even mentioned you! Since you appear to share my disdain for that viewpoint, instead of accusing me a misrepresenting your view, perhaps you should have agreed with me that the "promise-only gospel" is wrong. You applied the label to yourself and then proceeded to accuse me of setting up a straw man. That's not very fair, now is it? Where have I ever said you preach/teach or otherwise espouse a "promise-only gospel?" Furthermore, your reaction is based upon Pastor Weis' summary of my passing comment about the "promise-only gospel," which in all honesty is not as precise a summary as I would have liked. All I am saying is that if the shoe fits, then wear it. If it does not, then you have nothing to worry about. No one ever included you in the discussion. You inserted yourself there.

I then sent him one more email about this and said:

[Antonio da Rosa to J.B. Hixson]
JB, ... are you going to deny that your label "the promise-only gospel" is not your designation for those who have aligned themself with the position of Zane Hodges and GES? If it doesn't, what group(s), precisely, adopt this view? And if no group you know of does adopt this view, how is this post modern gospel a problem? If it is your label for the views of GES and Zane Hodges, then that would include me.

J.B., at this point, never decided to write me back and deny that his designation of "the Promise-Only Gospel" which he considers a false, post-modern gospel, refers to Zane Hodges and the GES.

Dear Dr. Radmacher. J.B. Hixson is going around to churches in the capacity and role of the Director of the Free Grace Alliance and lamenting the Grace Evangelical Society and Zane Hodges (although he may not have done so by name) as proponents of a "Promise-Only Gospel" which he has dubbed a false, post-modern gospel. This does not inspire unity!

I have written to you with these facts so that you may be informed about the way that J.B. Hixson is carrying himself as the Director of the FGA. It is sad that he is creating factionism within the Free Grace community.

I will have something written for an article concerning our conversation, which I stated only that I would disclose 3 or 4 items only, all in a good light, and all promoting unity in the Free Grace world, within a few days for your review before I publish. Thank you for allowing me to share a few of your thoughts with my Free Grace theology readership.

Sincerely yours,

Antonio da Rosa

It is very interesting that J.B. Hixson wished to dismiss my criticism of him by stating that I "included [myself] there". When I asked him if the "Promise-Only" gospel didn't refer to men like me and those associated with the GES, who did it refer to, he wouldn't respond. Why? He knew he was discussing those, like me, who hold to the positions of the GES. To substantiate that he INDEED meant Zane, Bob, and the GES, we must only refer to the material in his book which he specifically labels the position of the GES as "the promise-only" gospel.

Dr. Earl Radmacher stated to me that he does not believe that the GES, Zane, or Bob preach a false, "crossless" gospel, and therefore he was very concerned that the director of the FGA was teaching that the position of the GES is a false gospel.

"This is a point that should have gone without saying, as anyone in the publishing world knows that endorsements do not signify 100% agreement with every jot and tittle in a given book. Yet just to be safe, and in the spirit of full disclosure, I made this explicit point more than five weeks prior to receiving Dr. Radmacher's endorsement on Monday, March 31, 2008."

Dr. J.B. Hixson! "in the spirit of full disclosure"? I am gritting my teeth! Why is it that you would not have provided your endorsers with material that could have potentially prevented them from endorsing your book? If you were sincerely in the business of "full disclosure" you would have disclosed this material that you knew Dr. Radmacher would find offensive and let him decide if he still wished to endorse your book!

This mode of operation that you conducted in this attempt to cover your rear-end (your communication to Dr. Radmacher stating that his endorsement does not signify 100% agreement), frankly, gets my ire, and emits a foul odor. Full disclosure would be allowing your endorsers full access to the material to which they would put their name on. Furthermore, such a disclosure to Dr. Radmacher (was it really a disclosure if it is something that "go[es] without saying"?) is transparantly an attempt to cover you, for you well knew that the material you were adding could potentially prevent your endorsers from their endorsements.

If someone wrote a book that I agreed with 100%, asked me for my endorsement, and then sent me further material he was adding to his book that called my personal friend and ally in the Free Grace ministry a heretic preaching a false gospel, I would NOT endorse the book, no matter how much I agreed with the other material. J.B., would you endorse and write the foreword to a book that you agreed with 100% but labeled and stigmatized Dr. Charlie Bing a heretic who preached a false gospel? (To make the scenario realistic, we could say that the book was on church polity and that there were 4 pages out of the rest (which you agreed with 100%) that calls Dr. Bing a purveyor of a false gospel.) Surely I would cringe at the prospect of you answering that you WOULD endorse it!

"Frankly, none of this is any of your business--a point which I made to you during your unsolicited phone call--and it is offensive that you would jump to wild conclusions about my motives and attack my integrity in your blog. You should be ashamed of yourself."

Sir, you still have many questions to answer concerning this book you plan on releasing June 30.

And how is any phone call "unsolicited"? This statement is from the FGA website under the Director's Corner, "Please feel free to call on me anytime if I can be of assistance. " and you give your phone number. I called so that you could be some assistance in getting to the bottom of some FGA matters.

You should be ashamed of the mode in which you operated. You say you were in the spirit of full disclosure. If you were, you would have apprised Dr. Earl Radmacher of your intention of "adding" (not changing!) footnotes which disparage his friends and allies in the faith, and allowed him the opportunity to choose for himself if such rose to the level of a deal-breaker. I would not be surprised to hear that Dr. Earl Radmacher removed his endorsement from your book.

"5. Finally, Dr. Radmacher agreed with me and Charlie in our calls for you to leave the FGA voluntarily. Over the last year, you have proven time and again that you do not evidence a gracious spirit. Your latest lies and personal attacks against me and the leadership of the FGA have exhausted our patience. Furthermore, it is clear that you believe, by your own repeated testimony, that it is possible for someone to be saved without any explicit knowledge of Jesus' death and resurrection for his sins. The FGA doctrinal affirmations do not allow for this possibility, and in fact demand that the content of saving faith requires explicit knowledge of Jesus' death and resurrection for sin. Since you disagree with this and in light of your utterly ungracious spirit, I ask you again, please, disassociate yourself from the FGA. Unless you repent, and have a change of attitude and spirit, you are not welcome in the FGA."

Dr. Radmacher has told me that I am welcomed in the FGA. I told him on the phone that you have asked me to leave the FGA and he told me that it would take alot for you to revoke my membership, and that I shouldn't have any worries. I have both, in personal email correspondence with you, J.B., and on my blog, publically declared my assent to the FGA covenant. I will also do so if asked by any board reviewing my membership. I can explain my agreement, as I already have.

Furthermore, if the FGA doctrinal affirmations (or do you mean the covenant which is NOT a doctrinal statement), DO NOT ALLOW THE POSSIBILITY AT ALL for someone to be saved without knowledge of Christ's death and resurrection, we would have the peculiar and odd circumstance that Dr. Earl Radmacher himself, the founding President of the FGA, would be unwelcome and disqualified from the FGA! Until such a time that he retracts or distances himself from his statements concerning his belief that one may be born again APART from specific knowledge of Christ's death and resurrection (and this is not only information that was told to me, but as well to others, including Bob Wilkin), I have forever etched into my mind and recollection his intriguing and convincing arguments which he used to support the idea that explicit knowledge of Christ's death and resurrection is NOT mandated required content in addition to simple faith alone in Jesus for eternal life.

You are now accusing me of lying. Please for the record, before Dr. Radmacher, Fred Lybrand, and Fred Chay, please document my lies. Where have I lied? Furthermore, you again restate the un-supported claim that I have personally attacked the "leadership of the FGA". Would you document this as well?

Dr. Radmacher, I know that you are reading this. I have been accused of lying and personally attacking the leadership of the FGA, both allegations are being made without a single substantiation or ducumentation. This is disturbing, considering it is coming from the leadership of the Free Grace organization that you helped found. I fall upon your grace and wisdom and seek you to judge this situation with righteous judgment.

The Lord judge between me and J.B. Hixson concerning the matters at hand. I have declared my mind in my integrity and stand unconvinced of the allegations leveled against me by the director of the Free Grace Alliance.

In closing, I wish again to review a section from the Free Grace Alliance website and a small portion of my post commenting on it:

[FGA Purpose Statement]
The FGA is seeking to unite leaders, churches, and organizations which affirm the gospel of grace. The structure of the Alliance is such that the membership owns the organization through SHARED LEADERSHIP. We at FGA want to CONNECT, ENCOURAGE and EQUIP free grace leaders, churches, and organizations...to STRATEGIZE TOGETHER about how to unite and promote grace to our needy world.

As the director of the Free Grace Alliance, Dr. J.B. Hixson is mandated to "“connect, [and] encourage” free grace people, and to “strategize together how to unite”". He is sorely lacking in these principles. On the contrary, he is using the directorship of the Free Grace Alliance to divide Free Grace theology asunder, and in the process, is making a public spectacle and mockery of it!

Dr. J.B. Hixson:
What are your strategies for uniting the Free Grace Theology camp?

Let me tell you something, J.B., condemning and anathematizing your Free Grace brothers who preach the substitutionary death and bodily resurrection of Christ and faith alone in Christ alone apart from works is not the way to inspire unity!

No longer are many who would consider themselves Free Grace advocates speaking against Lordship Salvation. No! They rather are devouring other Free Grace people! It is sad and deplorable! Free Grace brothers are not our enemies! The enemy is Lordship Salvation in its many guises!

Recently Dr. Hixson stated in a newsletter:

"I appreciate these men [John Piper, Mark Dever, Al Mohler] and their passion to speak out against sin."

Frankly, what does it matter if these people speak out against sin but preach a non-saving message of works-righteousness? What does it profit a man to repent from sin, reform his life, and then end up in hell? I do not appreciate the teachers of Lordship Salvation. They are false prophets and false teachers who lead men and women into destruction.

But does Hixson lift up his fellow Free Grace brothers who associate with the Grace Evangelical Society? No. He stipulates to his FGA speakers at the Free Grace Alliance National Conference that they aren’t even to mention Zane Hodges, Bob Wilkin, or the Grace Evangelical Society!

Zane Hodges is a biblical scholar par excellence. He has remained unmarried, devoting himself to the interpretation of the Word. His accomplishments are many! But the lack of respect and appreciation by the Duluthaian Antagonists (who aren't even Free Grace!) for this man who taught at Dallas Theological Seminary for 27 years, co-edited a version of the Majority Text, wrote nearly a dozen very helpful and exegetically sound Free Grace books, and devoted a large part of his life to expose the dangerous teachings of Lordship Salvation, is appalling and disturbing!

Free Grace theology shares a rich history and theological heritage. All of us preach Christ and him crucified as the only basis for eternal life. All of us preach that Christ was raised for our justification. All of us preach faith in Jesus Christ as the sole condition for eternal life. Dr. J.B. Hixson does not seem to grasp this, for if he did, he could begin constructing roads rather than burning bridges. If he did, he would be facilitating strategizing sessions on how to unite rather than publicly denouncing fellow Free Grace advocates.

In ending, I believe in the principles and mandates set forth by the founders of the Free Grace Alliance. I believe in the connection, encouragement, and equipping of Free Grace leaders. I desire to be a part of strategizing on how to unite and to promote grace to this needy world.

I believe the first thing on the agenda is to stop the unsubstantiated discord and division that is being hoisted upon the Free Grace world by a small minority and faction. In the Free Grace Alliance's roundtable discussion concerning the content of saving faith in regards to Christ's death and resurrection, only ONE man stated in the affirmative that it is a God-mandated requirement. All others on the panel fell short of making such a determination.

Therefore, J.B. Hixson, by his divisive actions and words, is alienating a LARGE portion of the Free Grace world. Rather than connecting, equipping, and encouraging, he is anathematizing and demonizing fellow brothers who share the same rich theological heritage as he does. To use J.B.'s words, "it should go without saying" that such actions are not commensurate with the stated objectives of the FGA or with the spiritual responsibilities and duties of a public leader in such a vital organization as the Free Grace Alliance.

I pray that you take these words to heart.

May the Lord save us from implosion.

Antonio G. da Rosa

Friday, March 16, 2012

God's Forgiveness Part 4: Getting into the Text

A Quick Review of the Doctrine of the “Forgiveness of Sins”

We have hashed out quite a bit in the previous articles. We won’t spend much time reviewing, but I do want to drive home a couple of quick points before we proceed.

A) Forgiveness of sins is a temporal, not eternal, issue. Our eternal well-being is not contingent upon a bestowal of forgiveness by God, but by the impartation of new life.

B) Forgiveness of sins is a relational, not judicial, issue. Justification and forgiveness are two separate considerations with differing purposes.

C) Forgiveness of sins is necessary for temporal fellowship with God. Our sins offend our Holy God and produce an estrangement to Him. Forgiveness allows fellowship to be restored (or to continue).

D) Forgiveness ‘lets go’ of offenses, releasing the personal debt of the offender to the one offended, and the offended party’s right to legitimate and commensurate retribution. In terms of the ledger governing a social relationship, forgiveness “squares” everything, but does not necessarily repair broken relationships nor institute new ones. (*Note: In the case of God’s forgiveness of Christians, forgiveness does repair the relationship!)

E) Forgiveness does not take away eternal condemnation. Sin is not the reason why people are condemned to hell (contrary to popular belief!). Forgiveness takes away God’s temporal wrath and retribution associated with our sins.

F) Forgiveness does not take away chastening nor natural consequences for sin. Divine discipline and forgiveness are not incompatible, while wrath and forgiveness are.

G) Forgiveness is never a once-for-all declaration or bestowal. At the moment of regeneration, all past sins are forgiven. Along with this comes the privilege of future forgiveness through the promise of 1 John 1:9.

H) Forgiveness of sins has as its basis the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ’s death on the cross has an eternal value. Through it, God is propitiated with regards to His righteous indignation caused by the universal sins of mankind. By initial faith in Christ, and subsequent confession to the Father, sins are forgiven by this basis and no other.

I) Forgiveness of sins is a divine blessing par excellence. I thank my God that I have this privilege! I thank the Lord Jesus Christ for His willing obedience to suffer the ultimate sacrifice for sins! You should, too!

Introduction to this Installment
As a whole, Christianity has blurred the lines between ‘justification’ and ‘forgiveness of sins’ -- so much so that they are often equated one with the other. Forgiveness has been seen as a one-time judicial declaration, remitting all past, present, and future sins. I greatly contend with these understandings!

In the remainder of this series, I will endeavor to show these 2 things: a) no passage in the whole of the Bible necessitates these views, but b) on the contrary, seen in its entirety, the passages relating to forgiveness will show conclusively that the “forgiveness of sins” is as described in the preceding outline above.

The Intended Course of this Study

In this and possibly future installments, I intend to consider every passage in the New Testament that deals with the subject at hand. If I should fail to cover your particular passage(s) of interest, please by all means bring them to my attention and I will adjust accordingly. I ask that you keep me accountable so that we might consider the entire body of New Testament data relevant to this topic. The starting point will be to examine each passage that includes the Greek words that translate into our English verb “forgive” and noun “forgiveness”. These words are aphiemi (forgiveness) and aphesis (to forgive). Furthermore, attention will be brought to those instances where the Greek, charizomai, is used with the meaning of “to forgive”. If after this exploration, more passages need to be reviewed by your request or questions, we shall do so. But it is my belief that the topic at hand shall be thoroughly fleshed out in the study of these important passages.

I am going to now set forth the procedures by which I will (and you must too!) conduct the following study. First, the relevant passages will be produced with a word on their contexts. Next, we will make critical observations from the text. After that, we will draw reasonable conclusions and inferences from the raw data. And from these we will build our complete and balanced doctrine of forgiveness.

This is where we must be very careful! We will not be allowed to make any statement or draw any conclusion that cannot be supported by the text! Each and every pronouncement must be supported by the text. We shall not go beyond the parameters and bounds set by the text itself. We will be determined to receive nothing from the text other than what may legitimately be ascertained from it!

This is where the rubber meets the road. Throughout history, students of the Bible have not followed these simple, yet indispensable principles, and have veered way off course. After this study, you will be scratching your head, pondering how in the world we ever believed such things about the forgiveness of sins!

It is as simple as that! I am going to lay everything out on the table and we are going to investigate all. For those of you who have not yet been convinced of my view concerning forgiveness, I have one task for you: show me how any of these passages necessitates your view. In other words, show me how the passage at hand must be understood in your particular way. If at the end of the study, we recognize that not even one passage clearly teaches that the forgiveness of sins is an eternal, positional, and/or judicial pronouncement dealing with all past, present and future sins, then this view must be abandoned. As I have said before, so now I say again: no passage in the whole of the Bible teaches this!

And so now on with the show…

APHIEMI: to Forgive
Matthew 6:12
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

Luke 11:4
And forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.

Jesus is teaching His regenerate disciples how to pray.

Jesus teaches that when His disciples pray they ought to beseech God for forgiveness.
The terms “sins” and “debts” are substituted one for the other.
Divine forgiveness is entreated upon a premise of our forgiveness of our every debtor.

Seeking forgiveness from God is a prescribed facet of prayer for disciples of Jesus Christ.
Divine forgiveness is conditioned upon our forgiveness of our every debtor.
In this context, the terms “sins” and “debts” are used in a functional equivalence.
“Sin” and “debt” are therefore related and can be a key to understanding forgiveness.
Sin incurs a debt to the sinner.
Forgiveness of sins is the “letting go” of debt.

Since beseeching forgiveness is prescribed as a facet of prayer, and prayer should be a daily activity (Lk 18:1), and forgiveness is the releasing of a debt accrued by sin, we can infer that sin debt will accumulate (Ro 2:5) until it is either forgiven or taken care of in some other way.

We furthermore can infer that forgiveness takes care of ones presently held sin debt completely, but only that debt. There is no credit given toward any future debts. Beseeching of forgiveness is prescribed whenever we pray (See Lk 11:2, “When you pray, say…”), and therefore does not extend to future sin debt.

The forgiveness spoken of here cannot be a judicial, positional, once-for-all declaration of sins forgiven, past present and future. This is a temporal moment consideration of any sin debt accrued up to the point of prayer.


Mark 11:25-26
And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.

Matthew 6:4-15
For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Jesus is prescribing a principle of prayer to His disciples.

The prescription being given should be done “whenever” someone prays.
When one prays, they should forgive “anything against anyone”.
“Trespasses” are the object of forgiveness in these passages.
Divine forgiveness of trespasses is conditioned upon forgiving everyone of theirs.
Disciples are to forgive in order that they may be forgiven.
God will not forgive a disciple’s trespasses if he doesn’t forgive others of theirs.
A “trespass” causes the one ‘trespassed’ to have ‘something’ against the ‘trespasser’.
This ‘something’ is ‘let go’ when one forgives.

“Trespass,” “sins,” and “debt” are all related.

The 'something' the offended party has against the 'trespasser' is the desire for righteous retribution.

Forgiveness is conditional.

Forgiveness can be withheld the regenerate disciple, therefore forgiveness, in this context, does not have any sense of a once-for-all forgiveness, i.e. positional, judicial, or eternal forgiveness. Forgiveness, here, has a temporal significance that deals with trespasses up to the point of one’s prayer.


Mark 2:3-12
Then they came to Him, bringing a paralytic who was carried by four men. And when they could not come near Him because of the crowd, they uncovered the roof where He was. So when they had broken through, they let down the bed on which the paralytic was lying. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven you." And some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, "Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?" But immediately, when Jesus perceived in His spirit that they reasoned thus within themselves, He said to them, "Why do you reason about these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven you,' or to say, 'Arise, take up your bed and walk'? But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins" — He said to the paralytic, "I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house." Immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went out in the presence of them all, so that all were amazed and glorified God, saying, "We never saw anything like this!"
(see also Luke 5:18-26; Matthew 9:2-8)

Jesus is preaching in a house to a crowd.

The faith of the men (the ones carrying the paralytic, and the paralytic, himself) prompted Jesus to “forgive” the sins possessed by the paralytic.

The “sins” claimed to be forgiven were particularly those that were the paralytic’s own present possession ("your sins" or "the sins of you").

Jesus claimed to be able to have the power, while He was on earth, to forgive sins.

There is nothing in the text that must cause us to understand this situation to exemplify eternal salvation, nor to refer to a once-for-all forgiveness of past, present, and future sins.

The claim that Jesus could forgive sins while “one earth” was affirmed by His miraculous healing of the paralytic.

The basis upon which Jesus could forgive sins must be the close proximity of His ministry to His crucifixion. Apparently, Christ's future death was not effectual as an atonement for Old Testament people (before John the Baptist) with regards to forgiveness, for they, rather, had to perform animal sacrifice for atonement.

Faith that a man is able to heal you is a different conviction than faith that a man is able to give you eternal life. Nowhere in the text are we met with the idea of eternal salvation. Believing that Jesus is able to heal you is not the prescribed thoroughfare of eternal life. In light of these facts, it must remain a plausable idea that unregenerate people could be nevertheless forgiven of their sins. Later in this study we will be met with a passage that conclusively shows this to be the case.

It is highly awkward and would be manifestly odd to make the statement, “Your sins are forgiven you” referring not only to the sins that the paralyzed man had already committed (which in fact it does), but to his yet uncommitted acts of sin in the future. There is no indicator, whatsoever, that such an understanding was meant. To paraphrase what Jesus said, we might offer, “Son, the sins which are yours, the one’s that you possess, whereby you have incurred a debt, are forgiven you.”

Furthermore, no one in Israel would have had any point of reference with which to understand Jesus’ pronouncement of forgiveness as one that included future sin. Sins were forgiven in the Old Testament through the application of sacrifices that covered past sins alone. We must make no reservations about the following statement: the paralytic would be under the impression that his past sins are forgiven and that any future sins would need an additional remedy.

At the very least, it will have to be admitted by everyone that the understanding that forgiveness, in this context, does not necessarily have to be referring to an eternal, positional, judicial, and once-for-all declaration of forgiveness. Nothing in the whole of the text necessitates that we must take that view. On the contrary, everything we have seen up to now points to the suggestion that the forgiveness referred to here is only for sins already committed in the past.


Matthew 18:21-22
Then Peter came to Him and said, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?" Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.

Jesus had been talking to His disciples concerning how they ought to deal with situations where one of their ‘brothers’ sins against them. This prompted Peter to ask this question of Jesus.

Peter wanted to know what was the required number of times that he ought to forgive a brother before he didn’t have to forgive him anymore.

Jesus uses a figure of speech to answer Peter which taught him that there ought to be no limit.

This question of Peter not only prompted Christ’s answer, but a parable to illustrate as well (as we shall see in the next section).

There is no indication of future forgiveness in this context. Otherwise, Peter would have spoken differently, maybe something like, “How many times shall my brother sin against me before his credit (my willful declaration of future forgiveness) runs out?” No, he spoke thus, “How many times shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him at that point?” No other understanding makes sense of this passage.


Matthew 18:23-35
Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, “Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.” Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt. But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, “Pay me what you owe!” So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.” And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt. So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, “You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?” And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.

Jesus had been discussing how a disciple ought to deal with a sinning brother. One of the principles that Jesus taught was that the brother ought to be forgiven each time he sinned against a disciple. Jesus used this parable to illustrate His teaching, and warn against non-compliance.

A servant was in debt to a king.
The servant owed the king an exact monetary amount.
The servant could not pay his debt.
The king forgave the servant of his debt.
The servant had a peer who was in debt to him.
The peer owed the servant an exact monetary amount.
The peer could not pay.
The servant had the peer imprisoned to pay the debt.
The king heard and was angry.
The king required the debt of the servant.
The debt must be paid through the infliction of torture.

There is some sense that God the Father will require the debt of His children, incurred by their sins, to be paid through the suffering of consequences if they will not forgive their brothers sincerely and completely.

The debts described in this parable were exact monetary amounts. A debt can only be assessed at any particular moment in time. At the time of this story, the servant’s debt to the king was ten thousand talents. No future, unrealized debt was in view.

The debt of the peer to the servant is analogous to the debt of the servant to the king. In whatever way the debt of the peer related to the servant must also be true of the debt of the servant to the king.

A purview of this parable is divine forgiveness in addition to peer forgiveness. Since there is an equivalence between the two situations (servant to king, and peer to servant), we must conclude that the divine forgiveness described here concerns all the debt, but only the debt, accrued up to the time of its accounting. As a result, this parable cannot be discussing any kind of eternal, judicial, positional, or once-and-for-all declaration of forgiveness of sins, past, present, and future.

Sin incurs debt to the sinner.
Forgiveness is the removal of the debt.

In this context, the debt incurred by sins can be relieved in only one of two ways: 1) forgiveness of it, or 2) the suffering of consequences as payment for it.

The edict of torture by the king and its suffering by the servant is analogous to God’s wrath and righteous retribution against the unrepentant sins of His children.

If a disciple fails to forgive his brother, he is liable to God’s wrath, the suffering of which will be ‘payment’ for his debt.

Jesus here gives us a choice: let your sins be forgiven through the condition of forgiving all others of their debts, or pay your own sin debt in the crucible of God's wrath.

Another Word about this Parable

Many people have had a hard time with this passage, as it has a very graphic description about someone being delivered to the “torturers,”; and this being a comparison to what God will do to a disciple of Christ if they do not forgive! Because of this reference, some have considered that this passage speaks of losing one’s salvation, and the torture pictures hell. Others try to tie this in with passages from 1 John, and say that anyone who doesn’t forgive a brother is probably not a brother at all, but liable to condemnation in hell.

There is a knee-jerk reaction to the imagery contained in this parable. I question that the reference to being delivered to the “torturers” means hell. Jesus was telling His disciples that such would be the case with them (eternally secure disciples) if they didn’t forgive. Thus it becomes apparent that truly regenerate people can suffer such consequences as has been illustrated in this passage.

What can we say concerning the parabolic metaphor of being delivered to the torturers? Well the key to understanding this is the idea that sin incurs debt and forgiveness lets debt go. It is apparent that the king doesn’t forgive the servant because the servant doesn’t forgive his peer. If there is no forgiveness, the debt remains. Being delivered to the torturers can be nothing other than the servant paying debt by it.

Notice the wording in this phrase, “delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him”. What can we make of this? There are only two things possible here. 1) Being delivered to the torturers corresponds to going to prison. Here in America, inmates have the opportunity to make money each day by doing work. Yet this does not make good sense of the text. It doesn’t say that he was relegated to hard duty in a prison, but that he was delivered to torturers. Thus the next option is manifestly correct. 2) The suffering of torture is is payment of the debt.

Since this is the case, we now can get a better grasp of this parable. Disciples of Christ ought to forgive their brother each and every single time he offends them. If they do not, God will deliver them to some form of consequences as recompense, thereby the offense being removed by payment of the debt, and the account squared. No other option can be defended.

The whole idea of sin incurring a debt is very important, as we shall see as we move on. Debt cannot be incurred until an action warrants it. People do not accrue debt for actions that are yet future, and un-realized. A person thinking about financing a car isn’t in debt for it. Not until he signs the paperwork does he possess the debt. As we shall see as we move on, the “forgiveness of sins” deals with the debt accrued through realized activities of sin.

Certainly God shows mercy and His wrath against His children is often mitigated. But the picture here is not a pleasant one. In any sense, a consequence for the disobedience of a disciple compared with being delivered to torturers is not pretty. This parable aptly illustrates the point that there are only two ways that an offense can be rectified: forgiveness or vengeance.

Here we will stop for today. But you are going to want to stay tuned for the next installment, as we will be addressing the perennial problem of the Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit and solving that problem once and for all!!

Stay Tuned!