Sunday, February 10, 2008

Those who do, and those who don't.

Of late, I and some of my close brethren in the Lord have been accused of holding a “laundry list” of stumbling blocks before the feet of the unconverted and thereby preaching a false gospel. We've been accused of negating the Lord's beckoning of the lost sinner to come and freely drink of the Living Water for Eternal Life. These are serious accusations, and if they prove true then my brethren and I are in grave danger, even more grave than the poor souls who would therefor have been led astray by our preaching and proclamation.

The Gospel we preach is this; That God Himself came in the form of a flesh and blood man lived a perfect life and willingly died on the Cross as He was prophecized, and qualified to do on our behalf for our sins. And that He was actually dead and was buried, and that from the dead He was resurrected to life and seen by some 500 people in the flesh. A lost sinner must believe this and cast his own trust on Christ Jesus Who did these things as his only hope for salvation, which is repentant faith.

We also preach that the confidence of salvation comes from trusting that Christ did this and the testimony of the Holy Spirit to the new Christian's own spirit. We affirm that repentant faith may or may result in many actions, intents and/or changes but that these results are not themselves repentance.

Our accusers tell us that a person can be saved by believing that Jesus is qualified to give them Eternal Life, so the call preached (as far as I can discern) is “Believe on Jesus for Eternal Life”. Our accusers are on record in many places stating that the person can be saved while denying or not knowing they are sinners, while denying and/or not knowing that Jesus is The Christ God Himself, and while denying and not knowing about Christ's resurrection.

If I have misrepresented our accusers stance and preaching then let it be assumed I am arguing against the stance and preaching that I have just described. I have found that our accusers often write in “double-speak” and in terminology which sounds like Christianity but is not based in the Scriptures.

In Mark 16 Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ Himself provides what we have come to call “The Great Commission.” And in it the Lord tells us the two results the Gospel will have.

Mark 16:14-18 NKJV

14 Later He appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table; and He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen. 15 And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; 18 they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

The Great Commission starts with a rebuke to those who did not believe He had been resurrected. That strikes me. The importance of belief in the Resurrection is set out first. And that makes sense to me but I'll get to that. The Lord says “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature.” He tells them to preach the Gospel. And then He declares the two states of man in this age. The person who believes will be saved. The person who does not believe will be condemned.

Does this condemnation happen only through denial? No John 3:18 tells us this “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” Oh precious truth, the Gospel saves a person out of condemnation because those who believe it are not condemned but those who do not are condemned already.

In a parallel passage to “The Great Commission” we read in Luke 24:45-48

45 And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures.
46 Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, 47 and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 And you are witnesses of these things.

“And you are witnesses of these things.” What things? Christ's death and resurrection, and repentance and remission of sins. These are the things we are to witness to the world.

When did the Lord first tell about the Gospel of Grace? Mat 16:21 “From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.” They had already been sent out with the Gospel of the Kingdom, which is the “Good News of the Kingdom”. Israel's coming Kingdom was there and available to them, they simply needed to repent and say “Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the LORD!” but they did not repent, and instead of recognizing Jesus as Messiah the Prince they had Him killed. They did not recognize God for Who He Is. We must take Israel's missteps and use them as warnings for ourselves and those we minister to.

The Lord sent the Disciples out with the Gospel of His Death and Resurrection, which I and others often term “The Gospel of Grace” or “The Gospel of the Risen Lord” or even just “The Gospel of Christ.” The Lord says in Mark 16 that those who believe this Gospel will be saved, and those who do not will not be. But what exactly IS this Gospel. What is the “content” or “laundry list” of “doctrines” or “items” that need to be believed to be saved.

The Apostle Paul tells us with great clarity in 1 Cor 15. He begins his teaching to saved Christians with the statement that “I declare to you the Gospel by which you are saved.” Some have stated that this is Paul declaring “how” Christians are saved and not the content of what must be believed. While it surely is news of what happened in order for us to be saved, the Lord's own words tell us that we do need to believe it for salvation to happen. In closing the Apostle shows that all those sent out from God preach the same message saying “Therefore, whether it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.”

So we have the full content of the Gospel that must be believed for a person to be saved in 1 Cor 15:1-11.

1 Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
3 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. 6 After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. 7 After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. 8 Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.
9 For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. 11 Therefore, whether it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

At this point the preacher can make it very complicated explaining the whys behind each verse of this section or he can follow the example of Paul in all his dealings and know the audience.

The Gospel can be preached as I recounted near the start of this subject or it can get as deep as discussing how all of Creation is under the Curse to die for sin and so that any “created being” who dies is actually dying for their own sin and so could not possibly die for anyone else's sin. This requires that the Christ actually be God. This sort of information is not “required” by the Gospel but there are people who will demand the Gospel be explained to them in full detail. The amazing thing about the Gospel is that it does make sense, it is fully defensible.

There are many examples in the New Testament of people asking what they must do to be saved. The answer is always “Believe on Jesus Christ.” or some variant of. Belief is always the requirement. It is the content of that belief that is important. The Lord Himself defined it, the Apostle Paul defined it, and what's more the Apostle Paul proclaimed under Holy Inspiration that all the Apostles preached this very same Gospel. If “Believe on Jesus for Eternal Life” is the proper Scriptural salvation message and if believing “for” Eternal Life is what saves and not believing “on” the Christ then the salvation message was never preached until recently and so the Early Church must have been filled with false converts. May it never be said to be so!

Finally, does this Gospel that Paul and the Apostles preached in accord with the Lord Jesus Christ's command put a stumbling block in the path of the lost one seeking to drink freely of the Living Water? The Lord Himself said in John 6:53-58

“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. 56 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. 58 This is the bread which came down from heaven—not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever.”

In John 3:1-18 Nicodemus asked the Lord how to be saved, Jesus gave him the Gospel. He showed the man how he must see his sin nailed to the tree as the Israelites had to when Moses lifted up the snake (curse for sin) up on the stick.

It costs a man nothing to judge himself, appraise Christ and His work on the Cross and then rightfully transfer his trust from himself to Christ. It is no stumbling block at all except for those who would hold to their pride instead of drinking what is truly free.


Lou Martuneac said...

Thanks for posting this article. It is Antonio da Rosa who I believe first conjured up the so-called “laundry list.”

I have the distinction of holding to dozens of “laundry list” items I demand the lost man must understand before can be saved. It is an impressive list he generated, but one I do not recall using in my personal evangelism.

You know even Crossless men have a “laundry list.” Believe in “the Christ” (although they mean non-Deity by that title) and in His promise. Of course that can involve and demand much more be known and understood about “the Christ” and the “promise.”

Hodges teaches that the deity and finished work of Christ is “excess baggage” in an evangelism setting. What’s left of the Gospel after that?


Kevl said...

"laundry list" is a fairly effective emotionally based criticism because it applies pressure to the person and any scholarship that would evaluate the "list" of items.

As we've watched recently we've seen such pressure applied to those who would question or deviate from any small portion of the Zane Hodges model for salvation.

It amazes me that systems and social groups like that don't just explode. I'm thinking of Rose particularly. She's by any reasonable standard an intelligent thoughtful woman who loves the Lord. Yet she willingly comes under that system. She is more than able to study the Scriptures and learn from them. Why would she allow a man, and not even her husband, influence her the way those at UoG do?

As I'm thinking this through... while I'm typing - which is seldom a good idea... I'm considering the idea of Papal Infallibility with a smirk on my face. Imagine an extremely liberal sect of the Free Grace movement adopting something so legalistic to control their people.

I should stop now because I'm getting more than a little speculative but we should chat about this. A Brother in the Lord once brought up the fact error either to the left or the right ends up looking the same if you push it far enough.


Only Look said...

Good post and comments.

Kevl said...

Sitting in church today I checked out Eph 1:13-14 for another confirmation that we're preaching the Gospel properly and the right Gospel at that.

13In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation--having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise,

14who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God's own possession, to the praise of His glory.

Neat eh?

Only Look said...

Yes, neat!