Monday, September 29, 2008

Is There Any Question?

In defense of their "Redifined Free Grace Gospel" members of the GES and it's community of sympathizers will often ask this hypothetical question;
"What if a person on an tropical island is only told that Jesus will guarantee their eternal life and they believe Him for it? Is that person saved by grace through their faith in Jesus?"
Then they ask who are we mere men to say the person could not be saved? *Edit: Note the question assumes the info shared does not identify Jesus as The Christ, by His Work on the Cross, by His identity as the Son of God, by His identity of God in the flesh, nothing other than that He can and will guarantee a person's Eternal Life. *End Edit And then they state that if this person could be saved, then reception of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is not a requirement for Salvation. I've been overly dismissive of this question in the past. I've only paid lip-service to the topic on any occasion it's come up. However....

I was reading an article today, over at Brother Gordon's blog Heavenly Heartburn. He's getting to the "heart of the Gospel" and addressing this same question. As I took in his comments, and those of his guests I remembered a section of Scripture and a number of things hit me about this question I have so often heard asked by the people mentioned above.

Mark 4:21-25 came to me.
21 Also He said to them, “Is a lamp brought to be put under a basket or under a bed? Is it not to be set on a lampstand? 22 For there is nothing hidden which will not be revealed, nor has anything been kept secret but that it should come to light. 23 If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.”
24 Then He said to them, “Take heed what you hear. With the same measure you use, it will be measured to you; and to you who hear, more will be given. 25 For whoever has, to him more will be given; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.”
And then I thought about the Eunuch that Philip was translated to preach to in Acts 8
26 Now an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, “Arise and go toward the south along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is desert. 27 So he arose and went. And behold, a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under Candace the queen of the Ethiopians, who had charge of all her treasury, and had come to Jerusalem to worship, 28 was returning. And sitting in his chariot, he was reading Isaiah the prophet. 29 Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go near and overtake this chariot.”
30 So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?”
31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him. 32 The place in the Scripture which he read was this:

“ He was led as a sheep to the slaughter;
And as a lamb before its shearer is silent,
So He opened not His mouth.
33 In His humiliation His justice was taken away,
And who will declare His generation?
For His life is taken from the earth.”

34 So the eunuch answered Philip and said, “I ask you, of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of some other man?” 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him. 36 Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?”
37 Then Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.”
And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”
38 So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him. 39 Now when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away, so that the eunuch saw him no more; and he went on his way rejoicing. 40 But Philip was found at Azotus. And passing through, he preached in all the cities till he came to Caesarea.
Now the thoughts were really coming... and I thought of Romans 1:18-24 (actually I was thinking all the way to verse 32, but up to 24 serves my purposes just fine)
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.
24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
And I began to see how God has revealed Himself in Creation, and on the Cross, and how He works with people all fits into this dilemma. That the Cross was a "public spectacle" where the Light of the World was lifted up on a Lampstand. That no one puts a lamp away, but instead they lift it up on a lampstand to make it completely visible.

See God gives people up to foolishness and His wrath is revealed through this when they disregard the revelation He gives us. But when we "receive" any of this revelation. If we "have ears to hear" or "eyes to see" and we do receive what He is revealing then He will give more. Even if it takes sending an Angel to an Evangelist to get someone to the person so they can hear "beginning with" where ever they are but ending up with the full preaching of Christ to them. Just like in Acts 8:35. And having had a preacher sent to them, and having heard (received), they can have faith and be saved unto Eternal Life.

Because the REAL questions, the ones we find in Scripture that relate EXACTLY to this subject are found in Romans 10:13-17;
13 For “whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.”
14 How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written:

“ How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace,
Who bring glad tidings of good things!”
16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “LORD, who has believed our report?” 17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
When I ask "Is there any question?" the answer is these questions;
How can they call on Him if they have not believed? And how can they believe in Him if they have not heard? How shall they hear without a Preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent?
The false premise of the question asked by the GES and it's sympathizers assumes that God will not give further revelation to the person who is seeking. But everything we know about our Graceful God tells us otherwise. We are told that "he who seeks will find" and we are told that God put Christ's work on the Cross on public display. We are shown that God will send the preacher to the one who has received just the little bit they are given.

The idea that God would allow someone who is seeking to go without the full Gospel is repugnant and reduces God to a mere idol, powerless to carry out what He has promised to do.

I can say, based solely on Scriptures, that it is impossible to believe in what you have not been told, and that it is reception of the Gospel that brings about Salvation, and that any who have not believed will spend eternity in the Lake of Fire.

13 comments:

GordonCloud said...

Very nice article. You make a good argument against the "desert island" scenario. I especially appreciated your point about God's ability to reveal additional knowledge.

The Holy Spirit's work in salvation is certainly not limited to conversion, but is also involved in conviction and enlightenment.

God bless.

Kevl said...

Hey Gordon,

Thanks for the comment! You're absolutely correct the Holy Spirit convicts and convinces before He baptizes us into Christ's death and resurrection.

Bless you!
kev

Kevl said...

More and more I'm seeing how it's impossible to defend the Gospel from only one direction.

The truth is that the Gospel doesn't need to be defended from Additionists and/or Reductionists it needs to be defended against all error.

My passion drifts towards defending against Lordship but that's probably because I feel prey to that system for a while.

So I guess the conversation here at OMW will vary more than I had planned it to. That's ok isn't it? :)

Kevl said...

Guests,

I thank you for your visits!! I pray over you as I become aware of your coming here. I'm so thankful that God brings people, both those who agree with me and those who do not.

Today I ask you to visit Lou's Blog to check out some more on this very important topic in his article New Exegetical Defenses Against “REDEFINED” Free Grace Theology’s “Crossless” Gospel

This article will take you to even more information on the topic. I hope and pray it will be a blessing to you.

Kev

Sanctification said...

Kevin,

I read this article and I thought it was a very faithful construction.

Confessing with your mouth in the first part of Rom 10, fits with the Eunich who also even "believed with all his heart." So it also is closely connected when "how can he believe if he has not heard" ties in nicely with the exact crisis of the Eunich, which Philip resolved by preaching Jesus out of Isaiah.

You make the case that there IS a content minimum confession of who/what the object is, that faith has been invested into. I thank you for that. However I would also like to point out that if Philip was preaching Isaiah as a starting point, there was a lot of intellectual content of Jesus' deity there already established, by faith, in the Eunich.

"Even today when the OT is read there is a veil that covers over the mind of its readers," I paraphrase from 2 cor 2?

I really appreciated your spiritual exalt of the cross as the light we should never choose to hide.

You have made a case I find convincing. Though I think you understand that I have a lot of questions to work through.

I am particularly drawn to your post because you mention that hypothetical message in a bottle. Hypotheticals are annoying and sometimes not worth the effort they get.

I do see the "message in a bottle" kind of thing as a tremendous neglect in this debate (though I wish it couldn't be called a debate). Each of you assume that people become saved only if there is a man who preaches the gospel. Can't a man put their faith in orthodox gospel content without a preacher?

Can't a man listen to the gospel (the life and death and teachings of Jesus) and become a believer, without a man who orders and dictates the conditions of salvation according to his training?

Now if the man can not be saved without having someone explain significance of certain truths over others, to him, why? Must they not only believe, but then read 1 cor 15 somewhere farther down the line in their walk with God, in order to know how to be saved or that he has already been saved?

If it's true that God looks at the heart, then how and when does a man become saved if there is no preacher, but still the content of the gospel lays at his fingertips?

The Eunich didn't have the revelation of Jesus Christ, and that is exactly what he wanted to know more about. There was no New Testament scriptures for Philip, so, it had to be verbally "explained." But today bibles are more plentiful than any other written thing.

God looks at the intentions of the heart. I hope you're not going to tell me that God can't save men without using men.

Would he deny His own goodness for people who lack a preacher (beyond the apostle's records) but have all the Words which cause faith?

Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!

luke 11:11-13

What happens if a man hears the gospel, and asks God with honesty for the Holy Spirit? Would you think God withholds?

And you know this is exactly what happened to me. I don't desire to disgrace your doctrines. By mentioning my testimony I just want people who have not yet met me, to understand from what angle I ask these questions.

That was a sloppy post. I hope you can make it out okay. Look forward to your replies,

Michele

Kevl said...

Hi Michele,

You asked What happens if a man hears the gospel, and asks God with honesty for the Holy Spirit? Would you think God withholds?

This question suffers from much the same problem as the one I address in the article.

First, if the man has heard the Gospel there is a preacher involved, someone was sent, they preached and the man heard.

Finally the same deal applies to the rest of your post - as near as I can tell - that God does not withhold things from those who are seeking. The premise is at fault.

If a person reads the words penned by the Apostle (sent one) Paul then they have been preached to by one sent to them. If they receive those words then they will be saved.

As for the "minimum content" the Apostle lays out what the ONLY content, not the min, not the max, but the ONE AND ONLY Gospel of Jesus Christ in 1 Cor 15:1-11.

Hope this helps,
Kev

Sanctification said...

Kevin,

So, you are saying that the preacher can be a writer of the gospels in the NT? It doesn't have to be an additional man of the church explaining them?

So... what happens if the person hears all of the gospels (the four gospels of the apostles) but not anything else of the NT?

(This is more than hypothetical because Jesus movies are often used in evangelism or simply broadcast on tv.)

If this happens how can you establish order in the truth as Paul did? Paul was given the gospel for Gentiles, but, that was only after His death and resurrection and ascension.

(I hope I didn't totally blow past your answer and I'm just slow or something...)

Thank you, Michele

Kevl said...

Hi Michele,

You asked So... what happens if the person hears all of the gospels (the four gospels of the apostles) but not anything else of the NT?

It's just the same question again. If God reveals something to a person and they receive it, He's going to give them more. The first bit of reception - "Wow I wonder if there really IS a God?" does not bring about Salvation.

As Paul affirms it is belief in the Gospel that brings about Salvation.

You also said If this happens how can you establish order in the truth as Paul did? Paul was given the gospel for Gentiles, but, that was only after His death and resurrection and ascension.

Paul was sent to the Gentiles with the Gospel, and Peter was sent to the Jews with the Gospel. It was the same Gospel - 1 Cor 15:11 - but the ministry fields were different.

Don't confuse the Gospel of the Kingdom with a Eternal Salvation message. It was not. It was the good news that they could receive their Kingdom then if they repented and said "Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the LORD"

There is only one Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Kev

Jan said...

Great article Kev!

Excellent point about God giving more light when the light someone has is responded to positively.

It gets a bit frustrating considering all these hypotheticals (which are really irrelevant) when one considers that no one wants men saved more than God and no one is clearer on what in necessary for that to happen than God. The whole perspective is wrong. Why are we concerning ourselves with what is the minimum one has to believe in order to be saved? That seems like the legalist asking what is the minimum he must do to be accepted by God. (Yes, I realize that comparison has its limits.) We know perfectly well what the gospel is- the substitutionary atoning death of Jesus Christ on the cross for our sin and His bodily resurrection from the dead. Why then would we trouble ourselves over "acceptable variations" on that? Why not just preach what we know is gospel?

Say, I wonder if you (or anyone else) happen to know- what ever brought about this change in direction for Hodges, et al? Why did they go to this crossless view?

JanH

Kevl said...

Hey Jan,

I've been going through my whole blog trying to tag all the posts... I saw a bunch of old comments by you and started to wonder where you've been. Then you pop up!!! YAY!

You asked Say, I wonder if you (or anyone else) happen to know- what ever brought about this change in direction for Hodges, et al? Why did they go to this crossless view?

I suspect that Lou would have information on this. He seems to document everything. I wasn't "on the scene" until after this came about so I just don't know. :(

Kev

Jan said...

I'm still here, Kev. I just don't always have much to say. I don't have a lot to say on this crossless issue as it isn't really on my "turf" if you know what I mean. In fact, I don't see ever having to deal with this issue in the circles in which I travel.

But you never know, so it's still good to glean.

I suppose I could just pop in a little comment to say "howdy" every once in a while! :)

Sanctification said...

Kev,

I'm very sorry, but I'm not getting this. Please explain again. I don't know exactly what you mean by Jesus preaching the gospel of the kingdom, though I think I might understand.

I thought I just finished talking with JP about the glorious gospel of 1 cor 15, where he thoroughly ties the content of that passage with the content of the gospel narratives.

....

Isn't 1 cor 15 a summary of the most essential points of the gospel narratives? I think that is what JP defends.

The "gospel" means the account of Jesus' life and work?

So... what am I confusing? I'm sorry. It's probably that you're trying to show me your beliefs but for now I don't know where you think differently than I. I'm sure as we talk more, I'll come to anticipate "areas" of these discussions where you have an indepth and intensely different framework than my own meager pov.

Thanks for the chance to discuss, and I'm grateful to learn more.

Michele

Kevl said...

Hi Michele,

You asked Isn't 1 cor 15 a summary of the most essential points of the gospel narratives? I think that is what JP defends.

and

The "gospel" means the account of Jesus' life and work?

Gospel means "good news" about something. When we say the Gospel of Jesus Christ we are saying the Good News about Jesus Christ.

What JP defends is that the Good News about Jesus that saves has a certain content.

The Gospel found in 1 Cor 15 is not a summary of the narratives found in the Disciple's accounts of Christ's life - often called the "Gospels" (which truly just confuses things).

The Good News of Jesus Christ is that God Himself died for our sins, was buried and rose again the third day all in accordance with the Scriptures and that He was seen in the flesh by more than 500 people.

Jesus gave, and sent His disciples out with another message that was titled "Good News" it was to Israel about the Kingdom. This is called the Kingdom Gospel. It was not a salvation message but it was "good news" for Israel.

Then once Israel had fully rejected Him, He "began" to tell His disciples about how He must die and rise again. He told them the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And they were saved - John 15 "you are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you"

When Christians speak of The Gospel we are speaking of the Good News that brings Eternal Life - and there is only one Gospel in that regard.

But you can find "good news" about God all through the Bible.

Kev