WHAT IS THE GOSPEL? (part 3)
Most of us realize that there are doctrinal issues on which Christians disagree that do not determine their salvation status. Some believe each soul of a newborn is created directly by God. Others say the soul is passed down from parent to child. Some believe in baptism by sprinkling and others by immersion. So there does seem to be degrees of truth and error, some things which are really dangerous and totally contradictory to the Christian body of doctrine. Then there seems to be a continuum. For example I know one seminary prof who holds that Adam was created mortal. While I strongly disagree and have my Scriptural reasons for rejecting it, I don't think his belief is equivalent to denying the Trinity. But then there are young Christians who haven't the faintest idea how to explain or understand the Trinity, and if they do try to explain it make spout off some heretical idea. Shall I pronounce that one unsaved?
On the other hand, if you say one merely just has to "believe in Jesus" that's a problem too, because people define Christ in very unbiblical ways. Some deny his deity and others his humanity. Some believe in Jesus but deny the Trinity (United Pentecostals). The Scriptures teach that there is a false faith which has no works, that even the devil possesses (James). It also says that people pass off "another Jesus" and "another Gospel" as the authentic one (Paul's letters). I tend to base my fellowship around the Biblical doctrines of the faith categorized and listed in the Nicene Creed. I think that's a good start. But having said that, even in that creed, there are ambiguities that are fuzzy. And I wouldn't say that is "the" standard, but for me its helpful. For example on the last days it says we should believe in four things--the Second Coming, the Resurrection, the Judgment, and the Eternal Hereafter. If you deny the resurrection, it's pretty dangerous error. But if you argue about the details of the "man of sin" in 2 Thess, big deal.
The problem I see with choosing the issue of the Gospel, is that people who ask the question that you do, have somehow elevated the doctrine of soteriology above all the others. There are nine major areas of Bible doctrine--Bibliology, doctrine of God, Christ, Holy Spirit, man, sin, salvation, church, angels, and last things (did I forget any?). As I see it, each area has essential truths that are very necessary for Christian health. On the other hand, we can have different views on the impassibility of God, whether man is dichotomy or trichotomy, whether church government should be episcopal or autonomous, and we can haggle over the interpretation of "Where the carcass is, there the eagles will gather" and "A woman should have authority on her head because of the angels." The problem is that so many Christians are not trained theologically or Biblically, that they don't even know what the issues are. Since I can't see into people's hearts, I usually take people at their word when they say they are a Christian. Then if there are serious moral inconsistencies, I speak to them and open the Scriptures to them. If I know they are holding to a doctrinal error, I try to do as Paul commanded Timothy, teach with all longsuffering and gentleness.
God's normal means applying His salvation to a person is through the preaching of the Gospel. (Rom 10) But how much, what truths exactly one must believe, or the exact heirachy of truths, I don't know. Several passages condemn those who err concerning the Gospel. But several other passages in Scripture seem to indicate that one can believe very little and still be saved. I don't know how much teaching the thief on the cross next to Jesus had, but we know that he was admitted into Paradise. It seems in the Gospel, simple women and blind persons came to Him and were saved, and most of them not only did not have a Bible, but also couldn't even read.
There are other passages in the Scriptures in which people seem to be saved, even when they are in error on major doctrines. Peter erred on salvation yet I don't think he lost his salvation for the period that he was in error (Galatians 2). The Corinthians erred on the doctrine of the Holy Spirit (Chs 12-14) and on the doctrine of the resurrection (1 Cor 15), yet Paul calls them "the church" in the first chapter. In fact, most of Paul's letters were written to correct soteriological errors that were occurring among people he considered "the church" in his salutation. The recipients of the letter to the Hebrews were in great error on the doctrine of salvation, yet the author says that he is convinced of better things concerning them, namely, their salvation (Heb. 6). I think Paul's followed his own advice. When people were in error, he, with all perseverance, labored to teach them the truth. He didn't try to play Holy Spirit, the searcher of hearts. He just preached the whole counsel of God and left the results with God.
One important aspect of the Gospel that Paul seems to prioritize is the crucifixion of Christ. He said in Corinthians that I claimed to know only one thing, and that is Christ and Him crucified. In the Lord's Supper His death is proclaimed as well. Then in 1 Cor. 15, there is the statement about Christ died, rose, and is coming again. In 1 Tim there's a little hymn about Christ. So, although this might not be the answer you're looking for, my advice is preach the whole counsel of God. If you're in the pastoral ministry or have opportunity, teach the Scriptures, because God's people really need to know his word, book by book. Also teach them theology by subject matter. If you can teach them church history that's good too, as there are lots and lots of issues that have been debated and hashed out by Christians before us that we can learn from. The Holy Spirit worked in these forefathers, and many of them have much to offer. And then know that God uses His word as a means of saving. But the exact amount of information that He uses in that process, seems to be at His discretion. In some cases, He seems to use a very small amount.
Related issues to think about include the following: Are infants who die, who didn't believe anything consciously, saved? Does God impart redemption or faith beyond the normal means of the preaching of the Gospel in the case of infants? I think the way you answer that question can have relevance to your question, and vice versa.
There are the persons who are half mentally retarded, and with slobbering mouths but very wide eyes, say, "I love Jesus." Somehow they demonstrate a measure of simple faith in Christ, but they can't really understand or articulate much about Him. Whether or not they are saved may help answer your question, and vice versa.
There is the toddler, who is three or four years old, and says he believes in Jesus and asks Christ for forgiveness for when he disobeyed mommy. You know his mental capacity is extremely limited for understanding the Gospel, but did God impart to him faith based on the very little Gospel truth that he can comprehend? That case might provide some light on your question as well.
The next thing I would recommend is that you study up on a movement in the early church called Donatism. These were "puritans" (in the elitist sense of the word) who believed that if Christians weren't as pure as them, they were "outside the camp." There's a volume in the Post Nicene Fathers series of Augustine's writings against the Donatists. This group, and Augustine's biblical correctives, I think have much to say relevant to your question. They were so exclusive, they limited the "true Church" to their section of the world in Africa, and refused to fellowship with all other Christians who did not believe exactly as they did. But Augustine, using the word, exposed their hypocrisy and their misunderstanding of the true nature of the Gospel, especially ecclesiology. Your question is related to ecclesiology, the doctrine of the Church. Who makes up the Church? Is it a pure body of persons who have no doctrinal sin or doctrinal error. Or is it made up of fallible, sinful minds, who although redeemed, don't worship God perfectly on this side of glory? One day we'll see Him face to face, and our worship of Him will not impeded by misunderstanding of divine truth. But now we see in part. Like the ancient Donatists, some Christians today require that in order to be "the Church," the group or individual must exist without spot or wrinkle on this side of glory. The fact is, it won't happen till that side of glory. In the meantime, we labor and teach.
The question also touches upon the doctrine of sin, or depravity. If even redeemed humanity is subject to sin, it follows that many redeemed people (I should say all) do not worship Him in total purity with all of their minds. Praise God, we do have Christ's righteousness credited to our account. But the remnants of sin still darken the understanding. Our mortality also blocks a totally clear vision of the Divine. But we have the blessed hope of one day receiving a resurrected body and see God as He is.
Moreno, I hope this helps. I pray that you do not associate with one of these modern "Donatist" groups. But if you do, my exhortation for you would be that in your search for answers, you heed and exhibit Paul's standards for men handling the word of truth, that a man of God is not to be pugnacious and argumentative, but is to gently teach opponents with all patience and longsuffering. ( 1 and 2 Timothy) It seems many in those groups have ignored that part of the Gospel.
It was encouraging to see from this response that pastor G finally took me seriously enough to warrant a decent (in length) reply to my questions. In dealing with his responses, I will first present my direct reply to him via email and then some additional comments.
My reply to pastor G is as follows:
Dear pastor G,
I want to thank you very much for the time you have taken to write to me.
The reason I have asked you and others the questions I have is to hear for myself what people are saying concerning the questions I have asked. I am not debate-driven but seek gentle and civil discussion of the most important issue facing man: what is the Gospel.
________ did not give me your email address and I will not be posting your reply to me on any web site. That is not what I am about. I have no answers to the Gospel I believe in. I cannot find anything in Scripture that supports the notion that any who do not believe the Gospel are saved nor that any who call saved that which the Holy Spirit calls lost are saved. If you are aware of any please let me know.
'Belief of the truth' is the key evidence that one is born again. This is not a belief of every fine detail of the Gospel doctrine but a basic understanding of them and that none can be in a saved justified state by believing anything else. Many say, as you know, that they 'believe in Jesus' and that they 'love Jesus'. The words 'believe' and 'love' have a far more distinct and exact meaning than that which is assigned to them in our day. To rightly and biblically believe in Christ is to believe in Who Christ is and what Christ has done. And, to love Him is to be devoted to Him, to follow Him and no other. Most who say they love Jesus believe He died for everyman atop the cross. Therefore whether they know it or not they would subscribe to the lie that Christ's atoning work made salvation possible for all and that it is now up to man to make his decision. To believe in Christ is to know Him and believe what He has done: atoned for the sins of everyone for whom He died. It is that simple. This is the central element to right Gospel preaching and right Gospel believing. But from what I have read of those who oppose this is that exactly what was done on the cross is not necessary to knowing Christ and believing in Him!
What I am saying all boils down to this: If Scripture tells us that belief of the Truth is a sign of salvation; if belief of the Gospel is that distinguishing sign evident in every true born of God believer then that truth, that Gospel must be something which is distinguishable from all the false gospels which abound. It is something which can be defined for every believer is told to preach that Gospel to every creature. You mention that the Gospel is necessary but 'what truths, how much, exactly one must believe I don't know'. In light of this may I ask you what is it that you tell a person the Gospel is. From my reading of Scripture I see that it most definitely is something which is definable and distinguishable from all counterfeit gospels. Seeing that the preaching of the Cross and the preaching of the Gospel are the power of God what is it about the True preaching of the Cross which distinguishes it from all the lies said about it? And, what is it that those who do not believe the Gospel count as foolishness about the preaching of the cross. For instance, Roman Catholics would not say Christ dying for sinners is the foolishness spoken of in Scripture yet we know they are not saved. So what exactly is it that the lost count as foolishness about the preaching of the cross: what Christ did and who He did it for? This 'foolishness' that unsaved people frown upon is precisely the truth that all must believe if one is to rightly and biblically state that he is a saved man.
Paul the apostle told the Galatians that any who came preaching anything different to what he preached this was an unmistakable sign that such people were lost. Imagine a person saying such a thing today! They would be called cultist and elitist, yet in reality Paul was a man of God whose written words were inspired by God's Holy Spirit Himself. Paul did not say that any who preached anything different were believers but a little confused or ignorant, he said they were accursed for they did not preach the Gospel as Paul preached it. I do not write this to you angrily or emotionally but to simply present this for your examination to see if my understanding of this passage is faulty. I do not believe it is but am open to Scripture which will teach me I have it wrong.
When I present the Gospel I do not exclude the various basic facts every believer holds to such as the Virgin birth, Trinity, Resurrection these are all vital teachings which must be believed. There are many side issues which are not Gospel issues that believers can have disagreement over but one thing is for sure the believer in Christ will believe that Christ is his all in all meaning that it is by Christ's obedience unto death which has obtained an elect person's salvation and that that salvation is conditioned on Christ from beginning to final glory.
Man is dead in sin and can do nothing in and of himself to get saved or stay 'saved'. God has elected a people from the nations to be His people. He has given these to Christ Who has died for them all and paid the price for their sins which have been imputed to Him. In turn they have all been imputed with Christ's Righteousness the only righteousness which saves. All these will be effectively called and come to God. All these shall remain saved and forever in a saved state. They will all repent from their sins including dead works and idolatry and from ever having believed that before they were born of that incorruptible Seed of God, His Gospel, they were saved.
That is my Gospel, sir. It is as simple and basic as that. I am sure you will agree that the atonement is the heart of the Gospel message. What Christ has done on behalf of His people must be heard, understood and believed. If one denies the atonement and says that Christ died for all then he cannot believe in THE Gospel; he cannot believe in the Messiah prophesied and foreshadowed in the Old Testament. He believes in a messiah that the Old Testament knows nothing of. In light of this what would you say of a man who claims that a person who does not believe in the Christ Who died for His people and who has changed what God says His Son did on the cross (actually accomplished redemption for all who was given to Him). Is he saved or is he lost. I know why he is lost but have never even heard an answer to the claim that he is saved.
Again, my words to you are written with a gentle spirit and not in anger or emotion. But I feel it is important to discuss the issue of the Gospel for any who do not abide in that Gospel have not God. This language of black and white with no room for any shade of grey is not one I have originated but is the very language of God.
I do hope to hear from you again and that you will honestly face my questions and provide me with an answer or at the least a comment. Thank you for not only taking the time to write to me but to also read my mail to you.
Though my reply to pastor G did not deal with everything he mentioned, it covers the gist of what he is saying and also presents the simple Gospel which all must believe if any are to be saved. The matter he raised of Hebrews 6, for instance, is dealt with in this author’s booklet entitled ‘Born of the Gospel’. Much of what pastor G raised simply has nothing to do with my basic question, ‘What is the Gospel?’ In pastor G’s first paragraph he again presumed several things about me which were wrong. He also says that he is concerned that my questions are sent to bait people into a debate. I have explained my reasons to him and the others and will state here again, that my reason for writing these letters to these men was to hear from various Reformed ministers, who claim to believe and preach the Gospel, what that Gospel actually is. I know what the Gospel is and am comfortable with it, but one should always allow some room for the examination of what one believes. This does not suggest we should doubt what we believe, but examining what we believe is a biblical practice. The true believer must never shy away from anything that opposes the Gospel while claiming to be THE Gospel, but all must be faced and looked at and examined. The true child of God will do so, for he has no fear of the truth. I have not hidden myself away in a corner not wanting to hear what the religious establishment says the Gospel is for fear it may conflict with my beliefs and thereby interrupt my ‘comfort zone’, but have gone directly to the source and have heard for myself, and had confirmed, what they are preaching. If there was anything I believed that was wrong I wanted to know about it, for I am deadly serious about my beliefs, as we should all be, that they be biblically accurate, and that I am a truly saved man.
In his second paragraph, pastor G raises the well-worn teaching that the last 12 verses of Mark 16 are not part of the original manuscripts of the Bible and therefore we cannot go to this passage for teaching. However, there is ample evidence that the passage in question is very much part of the Holy Scriptures and is Holy Spirit inspired. (If the reader is interested in obtaining a free copy of an 11-page booklet on the authenticity of the last 12 verses of Mark 16, please write to this author). Suffice it to say that there is nothing in Mark 16 which contradicts any other part of Scripture, and what is contained in it may be found in others parts of the Bible anyway. So to say that it is not advisable to gain sound doctrinal teaching from the passage in Mark 16 is quite an irresponsible and baseless argument. The bottom line is that none who believe not the Gospel are saved, but only those who do believe are saved. This is something to which pastor G readily admits in his next paragraph. Pastor G’s other concern is that we risk falling in with those who say that to be saved, ‘one must believe too many things with all their details’ and that this would reduce Christ’s Church on the earth to ‘fifteen’. Firstly, where is it written that to believe the Gospel is to believe only one or two things? Why is it presumed and taught by many that the Gospel is something which can be presented and defined with a few brief words? Secondly, the Bible does not state how many are to be saved other than it is an innumerable number. Throughout six thousand years many have been saved and these numbers must run into the hundreds of thousands if not millions. Pastor G’s line of thinking would not have served him well had he been alive in Noah’s day, for though many were religious and believed in many false gods, Noah was the only one saved along with his family. Not fifteen people here but a mere handful, 8 people, were of God and the countless others who believed not Noah, a preacher of Righteousness, were all lost sinners. Men of pastor G’s thinking would no doubt have gone with the majority for how could so few be the ‘true church’. So, we see that going by numbers is not the standard by which we are to judge whether a doctrine is true or not, or whether a person’s Gospel is God’s Truth or not. According to the Scriptures most will not believe the truth (Matt. 7:13,14). Paul stated that "...they have not all obeyed the Gospel, for Isaiah saith, Lord, who hath believed our report?’" (Rom.10:16). The same situation prevails in our day, perhaps even worse. It is not so much that none have heard, but that none will even listen to God’s Gospel.
Whatever groups pastor G has met is beside the issue here. The issue is the Gospel and not who pastor G has met and what his experiences with various ones have been. This author has not written to him in a pugnacious or argumentative manner. Does this, in and of itself, mean automatically that what I teach must be the Truth for I do it with gentleness? To judge a certain teaching wrong merely because one or more of its proponents lost their temper and blurted out something in frustration or even anger, or get easily flustered with those who oppose them, is not the standard whereby we can safely judge that man’s teaching to be wrong. I am one man asking one question: ‘What is the Gospel?’, and all I sought from pastor G was a direct answer and not a truck load of words dealing with everything but. Pastor G does correctly state that to merely say all one has to do is ‘believe in Jesus is a problem because there are many lies taught about Jesus’. He also mentions that there is another jesus and another gospel. If we can identify what a false gospel is then surely we, by that same standard, are able to judge what the true Gospel is. If we can judge a gospel as false then surely we may judge the person who believes it to be lost, otherwise we must conclude that one can be just as saved believing in a lie as one can be by believing in the Truth. The utter madness of such reasoning is highlighted in the following statement: ‘the man who believes 2 + 2 = 5 is just as right and is entitled to the same reward as the one who believes 2+ 2 = 4!!!!!’ It’s just ludicrous and illogical thinking. You only get the tick, you only pass, if you have the right answer, not the wrong one. Only those who believe the Gospel are saved, the others will perish (2 Thess. 2:12). If a man preaches a jesus who died for all then we judge him, from the Scriptures, to be preaching another jesus who is not borne record to by God in His Gospel, but is found only in false gospels. God’s Gospel does not talk about a jesus who died for every man, but the Jesus Who died for His people: all those whom God had given Him (Jn. 6:37-40). It talks about His death which obtained and secured redemption for all for whom He died (see Isa. 53:11).
There most certainly are degrees of error, but I am not dealing with those in this discussion. I have not said in my emails to these men that there aren’t degrees of error nor that there are many issues upon which salvation does not depend. Allow me to state quite categorically that there are some doctrinal errors which believers hold to, but they are not salvation issues. The error that will keep a man out of heaven is that which has to do with Salvation. False gospels do not lead people to the true God, but to an idol who can do nothing but provide a false assurance of salvation. Therefore, to talk of ‘degrees of error’ when one holds to a false gospel is misleading at best, and a sheer nonsense at worst. False gospels contain some truth, but it is the lies that are added which makes the whole a lie. Paul said, "A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump" (Gal.5:9). 2 + 2= 4, but even if the smallest fraction is added to the right answer, it turns the whole thing into an error. And that is all that Satan has ever done: he has either added to or taken from what God has done and said, thereby producing the Devil’s counterfeit. It appears that pastor G does not base his fellowship with others on the Gospel, but uses as a guide ‘biblical doctrines of the faith categorized and listed in the Nicene Creed!’ Evidently, he has a problem with basing one’s salvation and fellowship on the Gospel, because those who hold to this, according to pastor G, have elevated the doctrine of soteriology above all others. But, my friend, it is plain to see from God’s Word that it is GOD Who has elevated the Gospel above all other doctrines! It is He Who has said that if a person does not repent and believe the Gospel, that person is lost regardless of how moral he might be or how many non-salvation doctrines he believes correctly. A Seventh-Day Adventist is not judged lost by the Scriptures because he believes wrongly about anything in Scripture, except by his belief in a false gospel which tells of a false christ. Paul the apostle based the lostness of a person, and his fellowship with them, on whether or not they believed THE Gospel, and encouraged his hearers to mark those who taught contrary to the Gospel doctrine and avoid them (see Gal. 1 & Rom. 16:17,18).
Pastor G reveals a very perilous attitude when it comes to a person claiming to be saved. He says that as he cannot see into a person’s heart, he usually takes people at their word when they say they are Christian!! And this from a man who calls himself ‘pastor’ and is supposed to be shepherding the flock! This whole argument of our not knowing a person’s heart and not being able to see into a person’s heart is a gross misunderstanding of what Scripture teaches. Of a certainty no man knows what is in the heart of another man, that is his motives etc. (1Cor.2:11), but we do know what a man believes in his heart by what doctrine he holds to and confesses. The apostle Paul could not have rightly judged certain ones lost who preached another gospel if it were otherwise. If one comes to me saying he is a Christian and then states that he is a firm believer in universal redemption—that Christ died for all—then regardless of my abilities or lack of them to mystically ‘see into the man’s heart’, I know for a fact that what he believes is false doctrine and that he has embraced a false jesus. Jesus commended those who tested some who claimed to be apostles and found them to be liars (Rev.2:2). Pastor G prefers to show his concern and doubt over a person’s salvation if he sees any evidence of ‘moral inconsistencies’. But what if he does not? Can he biblically say that a person is saved who claims to be a Christian because he leads an outwardly moral life? I hardly think so (Jn.7:24). Whether it be in a negative sense or in a positive light, judging according to the appearance is strictly forbidden by Christ. One of the reasons for this is that any man can appear righteous to another according to appearance and a man’s opinion of what righteousness is (see Matt. 23:27,28). Go into any false church in the world today and you will see most people acting very morally and looking the absolute epitome of uprightness and rectitude. What else could they be but Christian if our standard was outward appearance? But when we ask the question ‘What is the Gospel?', then we see whether or not they truly know God and abide in His doctrine, or whether they have embraced a false god that cannot save. Paul the apostle told the Galatians not to judge any man as a brother by outward appearance or reputation. He told them to not even accept an angel come down from heaven simply because it is an angel, if he does not bring the same Gospel Paul taught them! (Gal.1:8). It is quite significant to note that NOWHERE in all of pastor G’s emails, or those of the others I wrote to for that matter, was there a single comment on Paul calling ‘accursed’, in Galatians 1, those who brought another gospel.
Pastor G reveals his total inability to be a minister of God when he states clearly that ‘God's normal means of applying His salvation to a person is through the preaching of the Gospel. (Rom 10) But how much, what truths exactly one must believe, or the exact heirachy of truths, I don't know'. Allow me to make it perfectly clear that: God’s ONLY means in applying salvation to a person is through the preaching of His Mighty Gospel!!!! Paul states that "..it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe" (1Cor. 1:21). What other means, or vehicle, has God provided wherein His Truth is revealed about His Son and His Perfect Righteousness without which no man can be saved? (Rom.1:16,17). God’s Gospel is the power of God unto salvation and no one can come to God without having heard and believed in that Gospel. Pastor G adds that there are several passages in Scripture which condemn those who err concerning the Gospel but that there are also other passages which ‘seem to indicate’ that one can believe very little and still be saved. But if one cancelled out the other then Scripture would be at odds with itself. There would be contradiction and confusion in God’s Word. The wise person knows that there is no contradiction in the Word of God and that God is not the author of confusion, so pastor G’s point of argument, fuelled by his lack of Scriptural understanding, is a very empty one that has no biblical support. He attempts to convince me by making reference to some passages which he alleges prove his latter point, but does not deal with the stark reality of the ones which show conclusively that a person IS LOST if they do not know and believe the Gospel of God. "God's Word does not contradict itself, and it is positively sinful for anyone to pit those verses we like against those we dislike." The Bible does not ever contradict itself. So either it promotes belief in very little and a substantial amount of remaining ignorance but salvation nonetheless, or pastor G is the one who is confused and contradicting himself.
To use the thief on the cross as an example of one who did not believe or know much of the Gospel and yet made it to Paradise, is to present a case that would be laughed out of court. Seeing that Scripture clearly teaches that a man must believe the Gospel to be saved, would it not be right and proper and biblical to conclude that whilst on the cross for several hours this thief, who at first derided and mocked Jesus, later came to trust Him as the Messiah because Christ Himself taught this man the Gospel Message? Why else the sudden change in this man? Some may say that this is an argument based on the silence of Scripture on the matter, but whilst the passage in Luke 23 does not say Christ taught the man the Gospel, is it not right to conclude, that belief in the Gospel was the standard that Christ judged this man to be saved and entitled to all of heaven? After all it was Christ Himself Who told the multitudes: "repent ye and believe the Gospel" (Mk.1:15; 16:16). Did He mean here ‘repent ye and believe the Gospel, except the thief on the cross? How ridiculous! To say the thief knew nothing and was told nothing by Christ but that he suddenly and mystically ‘believed’, or that his acceptance into Paradise was based on a remorseful attitude towards the Savior, is the true argument from silence. True repentance can only come after right doctrine. To say that the thief was accepted as a believer merely because he referred to Christ as ‘Lord’ and asked to be remembered, is really stretching things too far. If that is how the thief was saved, then why can’t we all be saved by simply calling Jesus ‘Lord’ and asking Him to remember us? One cannot isolate the thief on the cross from the Bible’s explicit teaching: Believe the Gospel and thou shalt be saved.
In a vain attempt to find support for his ‘many are saved despite their not knowing much’ stance, pastor G mentions ‘simple women' and 'blind people’ who did not own a Bible, and who could not even read anyway, but who were saved. There is no problem for God to save His people. Whether they be blind men or simple women, God’s elect are given the understanding of His Gospel and they believe it. The Faith of any saved person is given to them by God and that Faith believes the Gospel of Christ and no other. Saving Faith, of necessity, believes in that which saves, otherwise it cannot be the Faith which saves. All His people are saved through one means and one means only: the Gospel of God. The Bible says that if that Gospel is hid from a person, if it is covered up and concealed, it is evidence that that person is lost: "...if our Gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost" (2 Cor. 4:3). The Gospel, it is agreed, is something which must be revealed by God to a man and that man can only savingly believe it by God's grace. If the Gospel remains hidden from a man, that is, if he cannot see that there is no salvation before or without God-given belief in His Testimony about who man is and Who His Son is and what His Son has done, that man is lost. What is covered and concealed is therefore hidden from sight. However, if that object is uncovered, it is no longer concealed, but revealed. It is no longer hidden from view, but in plain sight. If the Gospel is hidden from a man, evidenced by whatever reason, be it ignorance or outright rejection, such a man, the Bible says, is lost. Therefore, it stands to Biblical reason that all born again people know, understand and believe God's glorious Gospel, for it has been lovingly revealed to them by God and savingly beieved. It is something which is no longer concealed or covered but REVEALED and UNCOVERED. That is the Scriptures’ proclamation and that is the Word this author stands by. This author’s argument is not based on a platform of emotion and sentimentalism, or the unscriptural desire to have all men saved regardless of who or what they believe, but on the Word of God alone. Men such as pastor G raise all sorts of ‘arguments’ to justify their speaking peace and calling saved those people who do not know the Gospel and have embraced another jesus. They look for, and base their opinions on, a variety of man-made standards to prove a person saved but all these people do, as one man has wisely remarked, is ‘they reason their way right into Hell'. Their judgements about salvation are not based on Scripture but on a mix of Scripture and man’s ideas about God and how He saves. IF ONE ADDS TO OR TAKES AWAY FROM GOD’S WORD, THEN ONE NO LONGER HAS WHAT GOD HAS SAID. Though pastor G makes reference to several Scripture passages in an effort to prove that even the saved are in error on salvation issues, he refuses to deal with the Scriptures this author raised such as Galatians 1:9,10 where Paul labelled lost all those who preached and believed in any other gospel than his own. It is vital that you, the reader, put your ‘pastor’ to the test and ask him directly what he believes the Gospel is and by what standard he judges saved and lost. Never accept a man and his gospel as come from God, or true, simply because he names the name of Christ and utters familiar Christian terminology with a smile (Matt. 24:4,5). Ask him to define the words and phrases he uses so there can be no mistake as to which gospel he is preaching.
In a later paragraph, pastor G mentions the importance of the crucifixion of Christ but then fails to say anything else about it. He is long-winded about other matters but devotes only a word to Christ’s crucifixion. The crucifixion of Christ means many things to many people. But the Scriptures have only one teaching concerning it and if one does not hold to what God’s Word says, then one simply does not have the Christ Who was crucified or the Gospel that God has declared is the only one that saves. Paul said he came to preach not only the name of Christ but the Person Christ AND Him crucified (1 Cor. 1:23), in other words what He did and accomplished by His death. Therein lies the heart of the Gospel Message. The preaching of the cross is the power of God unto salvation and Paul preached it every time he proclaimed the Gospel, and if any did not know and believe the preaching of the cross—what Christ has done and for whom He has done it—they evidenced a lost state. Many agree that Christ was crucified, but what was His crucifixion all about? It is not enough to simply know what happened to Christ, but to know and believe what He has done and for whom He has done it. Who did He die for and what did He do by that death? You see, if you do not believe that Christ has done everything necessary to eternally save all for whom He died, then you have a gospel which leaves room for a man to boast, for it conditions salvation to some degree on what a man does and not on Christ alone. This is not the Gospel of grace which comes from God, but a man-made gospel of works which does not save.
In an effort to escape the demands of this vital issue, some say that it is simply enough to ‘believe that Christ died for YOU’. This may sound plausible to some but it is not biblical, for such a belief is not in accord with the Scriptures which expressly teach that Christ died, made atonement for, all His people. This doctrine teaches what Christ has done for His people. Who you say Christ died for reveals and identifies the christ you believe in. If any think that all they have to believe is that ‘Christ died for me’, it is evidence that they either have not heard the Gospel properly taught or that they cannot see the importance, and thereby do not deem it necessary to believe, the vital doctrine of Christ’s atonement for His people, or that they simply ‘do not want to be caught up in a doctrinal debate’. One must be properly taught, understand and believe in, the Christ Who died for His people in order to know and believe what the Messiah has done to save His people (Matt. 13:23). After all, to biblically know (identify) and believe the True Christ is to understand and trust in what He has done. There are many arminians who ‘simply believe’ that Christ died for them, but again, such a belief leads the person to think that it is not that important to know who exactly Christ died for but what is important is that ‘I believe he died for me’. The focus or emphasis is shifted from Christ’s atoning death to one’s ‘believing’. The central issue is no longer Christ crucified, His saving His people from their sins, but ‘I believe’. Such a belief allows room for the person to believe that his salvation is conditioned on his ‘believing’ rather than wholly on Christ and what He has done for the sinner. This is not Scriptural and it is not what the Gospel teaches.
Pastor G encourages me to preach the whole counsel of God and I would agree with him, for this is what the Bible states (Acts 20:27). But how can one even begin to preach the whole counsel of God if one does not preach the whole Gospel of God? Are we to attempt to preach the whole counsel of God every time we raise an issue with another? If so, we would have time for nothing else and our discussions would become rather long-winded. I am not endeavouring to preach the whole counsel of God in my emails to these men, nor am I required to, but am simply dealing with the life and death issue of the Gospel. I wonder if I had asked a question about baptism, would I have gotten a reply stating that I should preach the whole counsel of God and not just baptism? How silly would that sound? Pastor G also raises the very emotive issue of children and their eternal destiny. One thing the Word of God is very clear on is that every child is conceived in sin and under God’s curse (Psa. 51:5; 58:3; see also Job 15:14-16; Rom. 5:12). Sinners beget that which is sinful (Jn. 3:6). Scripture asks "Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Not one" (Job. 14:4). If one does not believe the Gospel, it is a sure evidence that one is lost. That is the Standard which God has set and we must not allow ourselves to compromise and be moved away from that Standard, regardless of how unbearable its implications may be. We cannot make up doctrines of our own in order to render the doctrine of God more palatable. We must never forget that man is not a neutral creature. We are all born in sin (Rom.3:10-18,23; Psa.53:1-3). Our accursed and detestable state, by nature, is evidenced in physical death, of which infants also are such tragic victims. The guilt of the federal head (Adam) was imputed unto all he represented--evidenced by so many dying in infancy, for since even physical death is part of the wages of sin and infants having not personally committed any, they must be suffering the consequences of the sin of another." Adam died spiritually, legally and physically and his depravity was imparted to all his decendants, so that from the womb they are both legally and spiritually dead to God and subject to spiritual death also. "The case of each descendant of his (Adam's) upon entering this world is like that of the murderer in the condemned cell--awaiting the hour of execution unless he be reprieved." We are born children of wrath under God’s curse and if our sins have not been paid for and a perfect Righteousness established by the Savior for us then we shall perish in eternal fire (Eph.2:1-6). We are sinful creatures in need of a Savior. Not from the age of 12 or 18, but from the womb! (Psa.51:5; 58:3). We must also not allow ourselves to get tangled up in conversation about matters which the Bible does not expressly teach on (2 Tim. 2:23).
Pastor G also mentions those mentally retarded persons who cannot understand very much at all but utter the words ‘I love jesus’. He claims that perhaps this is somehow a demonstration, a measure, of simple faith in Christ. My friend, to which Christ are these people declaring their love? Who are these people? Are they children of Mormons who say they ‘love jesus’? What evidence is there that such people are true believers in the true Jesus of the Bible? Pastor G has already admitted that to say one merely has to ‘believe in jesus’ is not enough, for there are many false teachings about Jesus. Pastor G also talks of the three or four year old toddler who says he believes in ‘Jesus’ and asks ‘Christ’ for forgiveness when he disobeys mommy. My question to this sort of ‘argument’ is, ‘whose child is this toddler?’ Is he the child of an arminian couple or a JW couple? What has he been taught about Jesus? Has he been taught the True Jesus or another jesus? Does it mean that, because one is of a certain age, that one can believe anything about Jesus and still be considered to be referring to THE Jesus? How old then would one have to be before right doctrinal belief is the only acceptable standard? And, where does the biblical evidence for such lie? Surely the child of a Roman Catholic couple cannot be praying to the true Jesus when the jesus he has been taught, and in whom his parents believe, is the counterfeit jesus of Romanism? How could this author have been saved at the age of 8 when praying to the Roman Catholic jesus and then lost at 18 by still praying to the same jesus? No, my friend, this author was just as lost at the age of 8 as I was at the age of 18. It is not the age that matters, but which gospel and which jesus has been taught and believed in. Were the children of the Egyptians or the Syrians in the Old Testament saved and heaven bound after they were taught, worshipped and believed in the gods of their fathers? Were these children saved because they were unaware that none of the gods they were taught and believed in was the True God? To illustrate this, is a dog not ‘a dog’ because it does not realise it is a dog? Can it be deemed unfair to call a dog ‘a dog’ because it is not to blame that it was born a dog? For argument’s sake, how foolish would it be to say that though only cats are saved, a dog may also enter heaven because it is not its fault that it was not born a cat? Sentimentalism and an optimistic attitude has never passed any person into heaven. In the Old Testament one was not of the people of God if one was not of the nation Israel. Simply because one was a child, did not enter the equation. ALL other nations were called HEATHEN and that included the children of those nations. Only the truth of Christ’s Gospel will set a man free from eternal damnation. No good intention, optimistic reasoning, kind, inoffensive word or judgement, ever saved anybody. It may all sound nice and charitable, but these things, if not accompanied by God’s Truth, merely give a false assurance which will be shattered by the Rock of reality come Judgement Day. I am sure the reader can see that this situation is far more complex than our friend, pastor G, would like us to believe.
Pastor G goes on to mention a cult from many years ago called ‘the Donatists’, who claimed that if people were not as pure as they were, they were lost. I know nothing of the Donatists, but one thing I do know is that the Word of God expressly teaches that a belief in any other gospel than the one God bears record to, and which tells of the True Christ and His Righteousness, is a false gospel which has never, and can never, save anyone. The Standard by which I judge is not one of my own making, but is the very Word of God. Paul the apostle did not state that those who brought a false gospel were lost simply because he believed they were ‘not as pure as he’, or because he did not approve of the way they ran their church services. He made such a statement because he was judging by the Word of God, by God’s Standard, that if any believe or teach any another gospel other than the one Paul had received from Christ Himself, such people, according to God’s Judgement and not according to Paul the man, were lost. I do not promote a particular group, or push people into belonging to any organization or to attend any group’s meetings if they are to be saved, nor am I elitist. I simply believe the Gospel as taught by Christ which tells me that all are lost to whom this Gospel is hid. Allow me to state quite clearly that the true Church (called out ones) of Christ on earth at any given time does hold to some doctrinal error, but never to error concerning the Gospel. We do all worship God imperfectly. We all have sinful minds and sinful bodies and are far from being infallible on some of what we believe and teach. But, this does not mean that we do not all believe in the one true Gospel that saves. Christians are all of like mind when it comes to the Gospel for they have all been taught of the Father (Jn. 6:45). Scripture teaches that to be born again one must be born of the incorruptible Seed of God which is His Word, which is defined as His Gospel in many Bible passages (1 Pet.1:23-25; Jas.1:18; Eph.1:13). Every true believer is born of that Gospel, knows and believes that Gospel and is saved by that Gospel. We err in many things and sin in many ways, but all of God’s children have been given the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16), know God and are obedient to his Gospel. If we were to believe anything which contradicted the principle of the Gospel Message, that all of salvation is Christ’s doing and none of ours, we would then believe imperfectly and would show that we were lost. The reason for this is that anything added to or taken away from God’s Gospel turns the gospel into a system of works, leaving room for a man to boast (Rom.11:5,6). But the true believer believes what the Gospel says about man, God, Christ, the Holy Spirit and God’s only way to salvation. The type of argument raised by pastor G and others like him who do not know the Gospel is, we are all subject to error because of our sinful, fallen state. What they would have us believe is that the fallibility resident in all of us even stretches to the point where we cannot even trust in the Gospel we believe aright, for we are all prone to error and even our belief in the Gospel is riddled with error! If this is the case, then how can any rightly say that they are truly preaching the Gospel of salvation and that any are rightly believing the only Gospel that saves? Also, how can any say anything is what God’s Word teaches if we cannot understand and teach it without our teaching being sprinkled with error due to our sinful nature? How can we be certain of anything in God’s Word if we cannot understand it aright? Man is most certainly sinful and spiritually depraved but this does not mean that he cannot make a statement or believe that which is absolutely true. If this were so then the mathematician could not rightly teach arithmetic and pastor G could not teach anything from the Word of God and say it was absolutely true. All these sorts of arguments lead one into a spiral of confusion which causes all sorts of doubt in a person’s mind and ultimately to the lie that there are no absolutes. That is one of the reasons that sinful man prefers to base his salvation on his change of life and moral uprightness and a general knowledge concerning the matter of salvation, rather than on knowing intimately, and abiding biblically in, the doctrine of Christ.