Friday, January 25, 2008

The Spoken Gospel vs. the Living Gospel

Alrighty. So Greg Stier is founder of Dare2Share ministries. I frequent his blog and also frequently comment. I have huge respect for Greg even if I don't always line right up with his theology. After about my 5th comment of dissent on his blog, I decided to man up and lay out some of my own thoughts. Not to compete or try and one up him, I just thought it was lame of me to always be hatin' but never really put out any material myself, so awaaaaaaaaay we go:

The crux of my argument is this: the gospel cannot simply be a list of propositions. If a person agrees to a list of things procured from the Bible, it does not neccessarily mean a full induction into the way of Christ. In short: It is irresponsible for Christians to rely merely on information as opposed to relation.

My first encounter with this particular brand of Christianity was about 11 years ago. I remember being in 7th grade and going to an event called "Judgement House". It was a "haunted house alternative" held at a Baptist church around Halloween. We went through different rooms where the scenario of a high school boys basketball teams bus crashed, some of them went to hell some of them went to heaven. At the end of the program, they brought you into this little room and asked you if you knew where you were going when you died. They handed me a little card that had an acronym on it. A middle aged man who was a total stranger had sized me up and was asking me very probing questions. They were trying to make sure I was "saved".

Ever since then there has been an icky feeling in my stomach when I see/hear about events like this. This carries over into theological positions as well. What they were doing at "Judgement House" was actually pretty judgemental in itself, so maybe the name fit. They were making sure people understood "the gospel".

Ever since 7th grade, I couldn't quite formulate why I disagreed with this particular manifestion of evangelism; until I read "The Cost of Discipleship". Mr. Bonhoeffer says it best:
Cheap grace means sold on the market like cheapjacks' wares...Cheap grace means grace as a doctrine, a principal, a system. It means forgiveness of sins proclaimed as a general truth, the love of God taught as the Christian "conception" of God. An intellectual assent to that idea is held to be of itself sufficient to secure remission of sins.

Snap! So to Bonhoeffer, coming to the "intellectual assent" doesn't cut it. Instead of mere mental synthesis, Jesus takes hold of you, and transforms your life. You die to your old self, and put on Christ as I believe Paul says it. You're born again, as Jesus put it.

Yet this "if you only agree to THIS then you'll get to go to heaven" attitude permeates Christianity. It's as if the gospel were a commodity, something that worked like a ticket. Hhhhmmmm, where could we find such clear examples of this bad theology? No better place than Cokesbury my friends! (for those of you who aren't methodist, hopefully that's a lot of you, Cokesbury is a Christian Bookstore with particularly Methodist roots)

Let us consider EXHIBIT A:

Here is the front of one Christian t-shirt, taken with my camera phone. Now, this is a spoof of "Deal or No Deal". So the gospel is likened to Howie Mandel asking if you want eternal life if you agree with such and such list of statements, OR you can choose eternal suffering- take the deal! In the shape of a cross no less!


Now, here we have a spoof of the show COPS and hey, we even get an acronym! Christian sub-culture bonus for those oh so witty acronyms! Christians Obediently Preaching Salvation, and the verse referenced is Ephesians 5: 6 which reads "Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God's wrath comes on those who are disobedient." So can't you just hear the COPS theme song playing (bad boys, bad boys...) as Jesus returns to lock up all those bad guys who didn't listen to him; brace yo'self whachu' gonna do!?!?!

and the worst one of them all, EXHIBIT C:

A Staples easy button spoof. The Jesus easy button. Seriously. I know Jesus said his yoke was easy and his burden was light, but is this what he meant? YOU'VE GOT TO BE FREAKING KIDDING ME! EASY!?!?!??! One might even! Just press the Jesus button, say the prayer, and you're good to go! IT'LL BE EASY! What could be further from the truth? Was suffering the entire weight of human sin easy? Was being constantly dissapointed and let down by your best friends easy? Was being despised by his own people easy? For Christians today, and in all times, picking up your cross and following him easy? Is praying for your neighbors, turning the other cheek, and loving your enemies easy? Is loving others easy? Didn't Jesus actually say the opposite? That when you love those who love you, it's easy, but it's only when you love those who hate you that it's really love? THIS SHIRT IS THE BIGGEST BUNCH OF CRAP, PERHAPS THE BIGGEST CROCK OF ALL TIME. *ahem* sorry, but that just sent me through the roof.

SO, lets recap according to our Cokesbury t-shirt theology shall we? Whacha' gonna do when we comes for you? So take the deal so you won't burn in hell, and best of all it'll be easy! Jesus, lifes easiest solution!

Whats wrong with simply a spoken, intellectual, propositional gospel is that it's too easy and it doesn't hold any existential weight. My parents divorced, I've had friends die, and I've seen people in my congregation suffering unimaginable pain- and that's just my experience the last couple years! I won't even get into AIDS or evil, or any of the other tough stuff. The easy button Jesus doesn't exist. The COPS Jesus and the Deal or No Deal Jesus are bankrupt. Why? Because all they're concerned with is you "making a choice", as Bonhoeffer says "an intellectual assent" to the truth, and then you can know the state of your soul and let the easy life begin.

Jesus said we can know the truth and the truth shall set us free. The truth is not a list. The truth is not a formula, the truth is a person. The spoken gospel works like a magic spell. The lived gospel works like a living, breathing, person because that's what we become when Christ makes his home in us (John 14).

So I won't deny the power of words, isn't that what I'm employing to make my point? But the gospel cannot be reduced to a forumla that is abstracted and presented to people on their doorstep and in the grocery aisle. That's mere information. If we start with the information, ok, whatever works. But if that's where we end- we get cheap grace. Christ calls us into relation with him, and with people.

I know this was horribly long, but I've said my piece. If I've offended folks, at least it will make for exciting conversation. I'm out!


greg stier said...

Hey Adam, thanks for articulating your postion so well. I would absolutely agree that salvation is not received through an "easy button" of mere intellectual accent. There is a big difference between someone who just knows that Jesus died for their sins and a person who has put their faith alone in Christ alone based on the reality of his death, burial and resurrection. It is through faith and trust in the person of Jesus Christ based on the propositions of the gospel that a person is saved. Jesus said in John 5:24,"I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life" Paul writes in Romans 10, "That if you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, 'Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.'"

If you read these passages closely you will see that there is a propositional message that must be accepted and a real person who must be trusted in fully. As a matter of fact if you read the book of Acts (where most of the evangelism took place) you'll see Peter, Paul and the boys preaching a propositional message (Jesus died, was buried and rose again) along with the injunction to trust in him alone for the salvation of their souls.

When someone puts their faith in Christ they enter into a relationship with Jesus that is real and living! Yes, Jesus shed his blood so that we could have eternal life through faith in his name but the actuation of that transformation in our lives is a painful process of learning to die to self (Luke 14:25-35 and James 1:2-5)and learning to allow him to live through us (John 15:1-8.)

But the reception of salvation itself is a matter of faith alone in Christ alone at a point in time based on his death, burial and resurrection from the dead. When Moses wrote "Abraham believed God and his faith was counted as righteousness" in Genesis 15:6 he was referring to a point in time decision. The apostle Paul camps on this in Romans 4 to show that our salvation, like Abrahams, isa point in time decision that is received by faith alone and not by work. Jesus made this clear to Nicodemus in the classic verse John 3:16.

In John 6:47 it sure sounds like Jesus is offering an easy button to his hearers when he says, "I tell you the truth everyone who believes has eternal life." But when you think about it how easy can it be to trust a person you never met to take you to a place you've never been?

I would really challenge you to not let Bonhoeffer or anyone else but the Spirit of God and the Holy Scriptures to drive your understanding of salvation. It may not be the hippest answer but the Word of God rules over the philosophies of men.

"For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures." I Corinthianas 15:3-4

Your Old School Friend,

Eddie said...

I’ve been on your site before just reading around but this is the first time I’ve posted. I thought I might add my thoughts.

Jesus said in John 6:47, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life”.

Peter preached the believe-only message to Cornelius when he said, "To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins" (Acts 10:43). This was not just the message of Paul, but also of ALL the prophets.

I could list the literally dozens of verses claiming that eternal life is only through believing in Jesus Christ as your Savior but I’ll try to keep this short so I used the one of Peter preaching where he says that ALL the prophets preached that message. That’s good enough for me.

Believe means to accept as absolute fact or to fully rely upon.

The problem isn’t with believe and whether it’s too easy or not, it’s in what people believe. Many people claim to believe in Jesus but in reality, they believe that if they live a certain lifestyle or act a certain way, then Jesus will save them. They are not placing their faith IN Jesus for salvation. They are placing their faith in themselves and how they live as a condition for Jesus to save them.

Jesus did not include conditions when He spoke of eternal life or remission of sins. Neither did any of the other preachers or prophets in the Bible. They all had the same explanation.

You believe, you receive. You believe in Jesus alone without any works, lifestyle or conditions on your part, and you receive instantly without condition eternal life. The woman at the well is a great example of this point. One drink… lasts forever. Given instantly… when asked. No other conditions included.

One of the most easily understood facts in the Bible is that where Jesus says “he who believes in Me HAS everlasting life”. The receiving of eternal life is always immediate. It’s not something to be worked out over time. It is instant upon belief.

It seems simple but it’s very hard for some people to drop their own self worth out of the equation and put their faith wholly in what Jesus did for them.

We need to not look further than the story of Cain and Abel for this same issue of works verses faith. Cain worked hard and labored in the fields and offered up his own sacrifice. All Abel did was what God required. He offered up a blood sacrifice from his flock in keeping with what he knew God commanded. Abel’s offering was accepted and Cain’s was not. Both believed in God. Both made a sacrifice. Only one did what God required. It wasn’t the hard work of Cain that mattered. It was the blood that mattered.

Likewise, it’s not the works of man that have any condition on receiving eternal life. It is completely reliant on the blood of Jesus Christ and the belief in Him alone as OUR Savior that we are given as a free gift, eternal life.

When we believe in Jesus Christ, we are “born again” into the family of God. As a child of God, our works are very much an issue. Whether we are chastised or rewarded is conditioned on our works because we are ALREADY saved through faith. God wants His children to act like His children. But the important part to remember is the HIS children part. It is the believers in Jesus Christ who are His children.

And how we live will never take us out of the family of God and we can never lose our eternal life. We are bound forever to Him through Christ. If we are not saved forever, then we are not saved. Eternal life means just that, eternal life.

Just as we cannot change the family we are born into, when we are born into God’s family, it is permanent. The Bible says it clearly in John 6:37 where Jesus said, "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me, and him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out." Later in verse 39 He says, "And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that all which he hath given, I should lose nothing but should raise it up again at the last day."

While faith in Jesus Christ will save us from hell and give us eternal life and bring us into the family of God, it does not clear us from any punishments or consequences we will face on earth due to our actions. It is not a “saved from anything that will ever happen to me salvation.” It is for eternal life. It is to be born again into God’s family.

How we live our lives beyond that point matters for our day to day fellowship with God. We will still face struggles, temptations, trials and disappointments. Many times, we bring them on ourselves. But we now have Jesus to help us through them and to help us learn from them so we can grow spiritually in Him.

I also want to add a comment here that I am quite happy that you and Greg seem to be playing nicely. It’s too often that disagreements turn ugly and I’ve been at fault for that myself. Good job to both of you.

In Christ,

Adam said...

Wooo weee! We got some whopper comments, I love it!

Alrighty, I want to respond to Greg's first, and then I'll take a look at Eddies.

I need to clarify this point: I'm not espousing a "works/righteousness" way of salvation here. I'm not saying the more money you give, stuff you give away, blogs you write earns you spot in heaven.

However, I believe that TRUE belief will produce true obedience. I'm not saying that our knowledge of Christ is not propositional, or it doesn't matter what you believe. But rather, what you believe will affect everything else, and if it doesn't, then you have not come to a full understanding of what believing is- you have come to a mere intellectual assent!

Now, before you think I'm putting Bonheffer on some pedistal (sp?), I believe Jesus said that you will judge a tree by its fruit didn't he? Clearly Jesus (and Paul) also hold obedience to Christ as an outflowing of your faith in Christ.

Of course it is not your mere works that save you- our righteousness is like filthy rags right? I'm not trying to downplay what a person believes, if anything I'm trying to place even more emphasis on what you believe because that will affect everything else! Where your treasure is there your heart will be also!

I mean we can trade Bible verses all day if we want to. No one is ever impressed with that. What about when Jesus says "If you love me then you will obey my commands?"

Look, I'm not some afraid-to-come-out-and-say-it universalist. I'm just a dude who is so sick of Jesus Easy Button Theology. The espousing of a gospel where discipleship is all but forgotten is downright irresponsible.

What about what Jesus says in Matthew 25 about when he comes back? Does he say to those on his right: "Come, you who agreed to every letter in the Gospel acronym!" No, it seems to me that the kingdom of heaven is reserved for those who believed, and were obedient- clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, visiting the sick and those in prison. Not out of the concept of some heavenly scale because we can outwork our sin; but because of a faith that was so real it was actualized in their lives. Not merely a propositional gospel, but a living one.

"I would really challenge you to not let Bonhoeffer or anyone else but the Spirit of God and the Holy Scriptures to drive your understanding of salvation. It may not be the hippest answer but the Word of God rules over the philosophies of men." Greg, c'mon man. You don't quote anyone on your blog? Can the holy spirit not work through Bonhoeffer's powerful writing as well? Bonhoeffer is not driving my understanding of salvation, he just encapsulated an experience I had as a child that was deeply formative in my understanding of salvation.

On your blog we talked about the concept of a pendulum. You fear when it swings to far to the works side, and I've articulated my fear of the pendulum swinging to the 'believe this and you're good to go' side. I think you, I, and Eddie all really agree in principal, we're just disagreeing how we relate that to other folks.

Once again, a belief and faith in Christ is certainly what saves that. But out of that belief flows our priorities, attitudes, and actions. Easy Button theology leaves the latter part out, and this has to stop.

Adam said...

What I meant in that last part was: Once again, a belief and faith in Christ is certainly what saves US.

JimmyBob said...

I would add, you can't believe in Jesus without works, because faith without works is dead. Your works don't save you, but they are the proof that you really "believe."

John records that the disciples believed in Christ and the Scriptures when he rose from the dead, remembering his words that he would rebuild the temple in three days.

Others witnessed his miracles during Passover week and were "convinced" that he was the Messiah. But, Jesus did not trust them. He knew how people really were. He knew their nature.

Those same people who were "convinced" would be the ones to call for his death. When they said they believed, they were not "sealed" or "secure" for all eternity. Salvation is about a living relationship and trust, not one point in time. It is just as much a present event as it is a future one.

My stance is that a person can trust today and trample tomorrow on the Son of God. When I read Scripture, I see that endurance in our trust is a major factor in receiving salvation. He that endures to the end shall be saved.

Otherwise, Scripture would not have warned us about false teachers and being deceived.

By the way, I'm the James that has been posting at

Adam said...

Eddie, thanks for posting. Also, I agree that it is nice to have a civil discussion. Frankly, the whole reason I wanted to do this was because I felt like I was picking on Greg on his blog, and really don't want to come across like that. So thanks for adding!

I'm with you on people thinking that being a "good person" is going to warrant their salvation, and the dangers in this attitude; No branch can bear fruit by itself, it must remain in the vine.

It seems to me that Cornelius was being faithful, but needed his belief to be in Christ. He wasn't connected to the vine.

Now, where we start to differ is here: "One of the most easily understood facts in the Bible is that where Jesus says “he who believes in Me HAS everlasting life”

To me, this is not easy. I have a hard time understanding eternal life. I don't know how it's all going to work. I have a difficult time explaining it to the young people I work with sometimes. I believe that as Jesus said, he is going to prepare a place for us. But is it literally going to be a room? I don't know. Paul talks about those who are asleep in Christ; so when people die do they go to heaven immediately, or does a lot of time pass but it seems like its immediately because everyone will be judged at once. Are they going to have a take a number system or what? No to me, the understanding of eternal life is not easy. I don't mean for this to sound snide; but if you could explain it for me that'd be great.

Again, I think we agree on belief in Christ begets salvation. However, all I'm saying is that any presentation of the gospel relating to mere facts about Jesus himself is a neutered gospel. Your belief is the sort of faith that leads to action, to obedience to Christ.

Eddie said...


I have just been discussing the faith and works issue with several friends of mine and it’s fresh in my memory.

Here is my take on your comment

"But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness" (Rom. 4:5).

Paul uses the example of someone who doesn’t do ANY work. It’s not works good enough, or even a lot of works, he uses the example of someone “who does not work”. It is the belief (faith) in Him (Jesus Christ) that saves the one “who does not work.”

“. . . a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified. (Galatians 2:16)

The issue must always be the context in which the author is talking. It is the same when discussing faith and works. Paul is talking about salvation from an eternity in hell separated from God in the above verses.

Below are two passages which cover faith and works together for salvation. Notice they are not talking about being saved from the same thing and the works required are neither is the work required.

Paul speaking to believers about the work of Christ regarding their faith in Him for salvation…

Faith discussed = Faith in Christ
Work discussed = Work done by Christ
Type of salvation discussed = Assurance of eternal salvation from hell
Result of faith without substantiated work – hell, continued separation from God

"And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; you are yet in your sins". And furthermore, he said, "Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished if Christ has not been raised from the dead" I Corinthians 15:12-20.

Paul says if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, then our faith is in vain. Why? Because the object of our faith couldn’t do what we had faith in it to do. The work didn’t work.

Paul was giving the faith and works combination for salvation from an eternity in hell and separation from God.

Jesus Himself said “it is finished” on the cross concerning the works for our faith in Him.

James speaking to believers about how faith alone will not excuse (save) them from the responsibilities as God’s children…

Faith discussed = Faith in Christ
Work discussed = Work commanded by God for His children
Type of salvation discussed = Avoiding the chastisement of God on believers
Result of faith without substantiated work = God chastising His children (believers)

“What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?” (James 2:14)

The question here is save him from what? It’s not being saved from an eternity in hell and separation from God. He’s talking about being saved from the chastisement from God as a Father. Being a child of God, born again into His family comes with the reality that God expects His children to obey Him. When we do not, we will be chastised.

Many believers during that time as many do now, that being saved means you will not be punished as a child of God. They buy into the idea that once you’re saved, how you live does not matter since it was not a condition of your eternal life. James is pointing out that faith in Jesus Christ will not save you from not obeying your heavenly Father.

I have a son. I expect him to obey me. When he doesn’t, he is punished. His being my son doesn’t save him from that punishment. However, his actions do not keep him from being my son. He may not act like my son, but he’s still my son.

He could say, “I love you dad, you’re the greatest” but still disobey me. He’s going to get punished anyway. James continues with this simple illustration in verses 15-17…

“Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”

Likewise, having faith in God the Father and Jesus Christ as our Savior will not save us from the punishment God hands down to His children who do not obey.

The points to remember is this concerning faith without works being dead.

1. FAITH in Jesus Christ as our Savior is backed up by the WORKS he did on the cross and NO work by man in any form bears any condition on this salvation. (John 3; Rom. 4:5; 1 Galatians 2:16; Corinthians 15:12-20) Faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior gives us immediately eternal life and we are born again into the family of God.

As a result of being saved (born again, child of God), we have expectations from Him as His children. Not as a condition to BE His children, but because we ARE his children.

2. Faith in Jesus Christ will not save us from chastisement when we disobey our Heavenly Father. Salvation from that chastisement and even our rewards are greatly conditioned upon our works. (James 2)

(Many things I would have added to this comment are already posted in my earlier comment, it's long enough dont you think?)

Adam said...

Hey Eddie. Do you have a blog of your own? If not, you should!

I guess I don't see where you draw the different aspects of what "saved" means.

And if your logic is true; that being disobedient puts us under God's chastisement, does being obedient make us beyond god's chastisement?

Eddie said...


I've done a little writing before but not much online. I'm working on that currently though. Our youth ministry is getting a website up that will host some blogs from us youth leaders.

Here’s the thing and it’s completely scriptural. It’s not my own logic.

Jesus said “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

Jesus said that what we get when you believe in Him as our Savior is eternal life. That’s coming from the Son of God. He never added works to that. You can read the entire chapter of John 3 and not one work is included anywhere. He said just as much in other verses.

That’s all I need. I now know that everywhere else in the Bible that mentions works and faith saving me has nothing to do with my eternal security because Jesus Christ has already guaranteed me that I’m saved. (For more on that I’ve commented previously about the eternal part of trusting Jesus Christ)

Now I also know that God says he punishes His children when we disobey. So when I read a verse that says that if I disobey I will perish or if I obey God I will be saved, I know it’s talking about temporal punishment here on earth. It’s a rather easy read.

My son never has to question whether I’m going to kick him out of the family if he disobeys me. When I threaten a punishment, it’s not an option. Why? Because it’s not possible. He’s in the family. So the punishment must be something else.

God gives examples throughout the Bible of His punishments here on earth that did not include hell. So why should we assume that it does all mean hell and/or loss of eternal security when it’s mentioned in some passages that include works? He’s already told us it’s not possible so why would it be a question? And He’s already told us that works DO matter once we are saved.

That leads me to take those passages to mean exactly what He's saying. That if we do not live as we should, we are in danger of being punished just like the Israelites were, just like David was and others. And if we do obey Him, we as His children can be saved from those pending punishments.

I truly believe that God used the family as the example on purpose. When we are born, we are born. Period. We are in that family like it or not. All the adoptions and divorces cannot change which bloodline we are in.

But we don’t have to act like it. We don’t have to obey our parents. But no matter the punishment, we cannot be kicked out of the family.

Likewise, God uses the example of us being born again in to HIS family. As His children He says He will chastise us if we disobey and reward us if we do obey. But that punishment cannot ever be hell or eternal separation from Him. (Again, I’ve given these verses previously)

Here’s an example of family that gets overlooked quite often. When God made His covenant with Abraham and that bloodline became God’s people… look at the entire Old Testament and see how many times they turned from God, ran from Him, ignored Him and disobeyed Him. Over and over again they did these things. They were punished, led into captivity, scattered abroad and led through the wilderness, but they are still God’s chosen people even now. He did not leave them when they left Him. We have that same promise and example.

Once you are born again (the time you place your faith and trust in Jesus Christ alone for your salvation), you become a Child of God and that cannot ever change.

Knowing that fact leads us to the ability to grow in Christ through love as we are commanded rather than fear of losing our eternal security if we don’t live correctly or fear that we are not really saved if we “mess up”.

To believe means to KNOW and you know you believe when you KNOW you’re saved. 1 John 5:13 says “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.”

That’s a solid fact. It’s not a growing into salvation. There’s no waiting to see if you’re saved later.

From that point, living a life like we should helps us share the gospel with others and grow deeper in Christ.

Concerning your question about obeying God taking us beyond His chastisement…

Prior to trusting Jesus Christ, we are bound for Hell already. There is nothing to do to avoid that but trust Christ. There is no way possible for us to avoid THAT result without placing our faith in Jesus Christ alone.

Following that moment, we can avoid God’s chastisement by living as we are supposed to live. That doesn’t mean its all roses. We still have a lot of learning to do. We are not perfect and God will put us through things to teach us and guide us. I think of Joseph when I think of God teaching us and guiding us when we are obedient to Him.

JimmyBob said...


Let me first say that I totally agree, that there is no amount of work that can save us. I agree with all the Scriptures you posted. I disagree with your interpretation of James, however. I just don't see where the Scriptures there are speaking of earthly punishment. Dead faith is...dead. It is meaningless. It is the same as not having any faith. And unless we have faith in Christ we cannot be saved.

However, I believe we are on two sides of the aisle theologically as to how we believe all these Scriptures play out and affect our everyday lives. You believe in eternal security (so it sounds) and I believe in the believer's security. A person who no longer believes, according to their own confession, lifestyle, or hatred in in his heart, I am not convinced is saved. And there are many Scriptures to support my belief.

I'm not sure if our differences really matter in the end, except that our beliefs do shape the way we preach to others.

I will emphasize repentance whereas you will emphasize confession. Both of us lead people to Christ, and both of us believe it is not the works that save, but the faith.

You believe that dead faith leads to temporary punishment. I believe it leads to eternal separation.

I may go after the backslider out of concern for his soul. You don't believe in backsliding, but may encourage the wayward son to come home.

I think those are some ways we are different. But, I think we both have the right motivation to lead people to Christ and disciple them in Christ.

Eddie said...


I'm glad this has remained so civil. I've enjoyed the discussion.

And yes, we both do have the same motivation. We want others to know Jesus Christ as their Savior.

Let me add this...

The Prodigal Son.

At no time during the story is the son kicked out of the family. He is ALWAYS a member of the family.

Top it off with the fact that he turned his back on the father, lived outside his father's will, and wasted everything his father gave him.

This wasn't an act of backsliding. This was calculated from the beginning when he asked for the blessings up front. He was taking advantage of the of the father. And it took some time for him to blow it all. He made those decisions. He didn't "stumble" and fall into sin. He jumped in with both feet on purpose.

The prodigal son is the prime example of the carnal Christian.

Now I can guarantee you that many would just claim he was never his fathers son just as many now would claim that someone who treated God like that was never saved.

But the fact remains. God once again used the family as an example. Can't get out of the family. And again, how you live doesn't have any bearing on whether you're in the family or not.

However, what happened to the son? He went through all kinds of heartache and discipline. He was chastised for his actions or in the very least was left to face the consequences of his actions.

Funny thing about the story, is that the son who stayed home was just as sinful as the one who left.

He was jealous, covetous, selfish, and wasn't exactly portraying the love of Christ when his brother returned home.

He no doubt felt like many Christians who see someone who claimed to be a member of the family of God but then lives like the prodigal son.

Notice in the story how the father welcomes his son home. He is already out there watching for him and waiting. He isnt in the house doing other things. It's HIS son. He's out there. He's not waiting for the son to show up and then he'll reclaim him. He's already his son and is treated as such throughout the entire story.

The prodigal son would fail anybody's "saved test" based on his life. Yet he was his fathers son.

Remember, only God knows the heart. And we're only born once into this life... and once into the other (it's eternal after all).

And in John 3 where we both agree Jesus is discussing eternal life...

Jesus uses an example that cannot be left out. The brazen serpent.

Out of all the examples that could have included perserverance, or maintaining a faith, or something along those lines such as Naaman in the Jordan river, He uses the brazen serpent.

Not only did the children of Israel only have to gaze upon the serpent, they were cured instantly. It was over. Their impending death was gone. They were instantly saved and restored to life.

How they felt didnt matter. They didnt have to apologize, seek forgiveness or anything of that sort. Just look.

Jesus used that example for eternal life. There was a reason. As they were saved completely by something else, so are we saved (eternal life) completely by Him when we believe. It's not a process. It's instant. Just like the brazen serpent example.

Jesus knew what He was doing using that example. He used one where works, perserverance, longevity, or even maintaining a faith could not be added.

I find it odd at times that people accuse me of making it too simple. I wonder what they would have told Jesus had He presented John 3 to them in the same manner in which He did Nicodemus and He said, "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life" (John 3:14, 15).

In the end, I'll take the security of eternal life only by faith as preached by Jesus in a passage we BOTH agree is about eternal life, than to use a passage that doesn't discuss eternal life, was written to believers in the first place and resembles all references to obedience to God in the OT (children of Israel) and the NT (Prodigal Son, many letters to churches) for rewards or chastisement as the case may be.

Thanks guys. I gotta go.

JimmyBob said...

I gotta go...does that mean you're checking out of this conversation from here out? I hope not. When blogging, you can always come back, so there is no need to say goodbye. This isn't real-time, so no worries.

Okay, the prodigal son was lost. That means if he hadn't been found, he would have died outside of the protection and blessings of his Father's house.

The father did not chastise the prodigal at all in this story. The only thing he did was throw a party for his him when he came home after coming to his senses.

The only harm that befell the lost son was while he was lost. He suffered because of his own choice to leave his father's house. That's not chastisement. That's natural consequences of sin.

I once preached a sermon on this passage to two kinds of students. Those that had gone away from God and those that had stayed with God but had not taken advantage of His benefits.

The Father shows his lost sons compassion and acceptance with a kiss. He clothes them with a robe (representing his righteousness), a ring (representing his authority), and sandals (representing his readiness to go and do good).

The eldest son was jealous because the father gave these things to the lost son. But all along they were his and he could have taken advantage of them.

This is like the Christian who fails to see all that God has for them and becomes jealous when a new believer gets the attention and excitement of the church. They think things like, "Maybe I should have been hooked on drugs too and committed armed robbery. If I got saved from that, everyone would love me as much. Maybe God loves them more. How come I've never received the kind of attention and blessings that ex-drug addict is getting."

Little do they realize that all along, the love and blessing of God has been there for them. If they had only asked for more.

They could have said, "I want more of you Lord, I want to take your authority and speak to the nations, I want to walk in your steps and be ready to go and do your work. I want to feast at your table and receive your kisses everyday (not just on Sunday or at youth camp)."

So, we see the parable completely different. I see "lost" as out of the Father's house and protection.

We are all children of God to start. Heaven will be full of kids, for such is the Kingdom of Heaven. Somewhere along the way we decide to check out and do things our own way. The Father waits in eager expectation that we should come to our senses and come home.

But, at no time does he ever mess with our free will. We can choose to leave him if that is what we wish. Otherwise it really isn't love.

And so, you see the two sons as being both saved but sinners, regardless of their location. I see the lost son being out of his Father's house as being "lost", whereas the eldest son never left his Father's house, but was in desperate need of an attitude and perspective adjustment. He is the only one who the father "chastised."

The moral of the story is not to leave your father's house to go and sin or you'll be lost. But, if you do, realize it, come back again, because he is waiting for you.

And if you haven't left your father's house, enjoy it. Live large and hold nothing back, for he has held nothing back from you. Enjoy your father and be glad when your lost brothers return home. For he wants to bless them too. There is plenty to go around.

Adam Caldwell said...

Reality is that propositional Christianity rarely leads to true discipleship whereas relational Christianity leads to whole hearted discipleship (at least this is my own story). I believe it's much easier to give your life for someone you whole-heartedly love than for mere propositions.

Adam Caldwell said...

Also...Mustoe, your links in this post are bunk.

Adam said...

I'm with Adam. I think a lot of our discussion has been great, but we're bringing in other elements.

To me, a PURELY prepositional "believed" gospel is one that is solely intellectual.

A living gospel will be one that is lived, and implicitly believed. A problem with Christianity is when belief is held as something separate from action, which I tried to point out in the lame-o tshirts.

JimmyBob said...

Adam, excellent summary.

Eddie said...


The Prodigal Son was given to answer a question of the Pharisees as to why Jesus ate with “sinners”.

Jesus tells the story and begins it with the fact that BOTH sons are on the same equal footing with the father. Then He goes on to give the types of both sons. One is the Pharisee who believes himself to be close to the father as the good son basically. The other is the “sinner” (as the Pharisees believed others to be the sinners while not including themselves in that category), the publicans, the drunkards and the like.

The point of the story is an example of a father showing his love for his sons. All the other illustrations of the story fall in line with that point but are not the main point of the story. But to make the issue clear to the Pharisees, a basic fundamental point was that both sons were on the same equal footing with the father during the entire story. Now whether their eternal destination was heaven or hell isn’t discussed and doesn’t change the fact that where one was going, the other was also. It’s just not brought up in the story as it wasn’t the reason for the story. But they were both sons of the same father with the same blessings and privileges. They both have the same rights as sons.

What it also shows is that the “lost” son doesn’t believe he still has that right or deserves that right while the other son doesn’t think he deserves the right to come home. He’s kicking him while he’s down. This is what Jesus was pointing out to the Pharisees while simultaneously smacking them in the face with reality that they are no better than the “lost” sinners He was associating with. God’s love encompasses all.

The story isn’t an illustration at all about eternal destiny of either son. I know you use the “lost” word to mean that but lost simply means lost. It doesn’t always mean “going to hell”. I’ve been lost in Atlanta. Just because I use that word doesn’t mean I was going to hell, it’s not the point I’m trying to make. The Bible doesn’t do that either. The same goes for James 2 and the word saved.

Besides, a greater point if we analyze it to that degree (which I think might be chasing rabbits since it wasn’t the point of the story), is that if the son died while “lost” and away from the father, according to family tradition and culture, his body would be brought back to the father to be buried on family land. He would not be tossed off in a ditch and covered with dirt. That is, there may be some fathers who would refuse to allow their son home upon their death because of some honor code… but not this guy.

This father loved his son and it’s not like they didn’t know where each other was, the father was waiting for him to come home on his own. If he had died, the father, especially THIS father who waited for his son on the far reaches of the land, would have brought his son home to be buried. Again, this shows the family illustration in all its wonderful glory.

Ok, I know, you can say that I’m stretching it by saying what the father would do if his son had died and that’s not part of the story… but that’s exactly what you did when you said that lost equated to his eternal destiny which it doesn’t say and that if he died he would NOT have been treated as a son of the father.

But I agree with you and Adam on this subject, many times those who preach the propositional gospel preached by Peter on Pentecost, Jesus throughout John, the rest of the NT and so on, and Paul throughout his entire ministry… stop at the birth of a new believer. They do not help nurture and care for the babe in Christ and they leave them to the wolves.

It’s not about just adding children to the family of God; it’s also about the lives they live after they are saved.

An annoying truth to me is that many believers automatically recruit newborns in Christ into traditional rituals and subject them to their own personal convictional judgment rather then letting them grow in Christ, in the liberty that they now have in Christ. Rather than teaching relational Christian living with God in accordance to God’s Word (a true disciple), they teach their own rules, standards and personal convictions. This is some of what Paul wrote about in the book of Galatians. And we see this same issue in this day and time.

Another problem though is that many who preach a relationship gospel do so without preaching that eternal life is given only to those who believe on Jesus Christ alone. This leads many to believe that their works, the keeping of that relationship with God, is what saved them or keeps them saved. It puts the “work” back in the hands of the individual rather than in the nail pierced hands of Jesus Christ who has already performed the works for eternal salvation. If we must keep the relationship with God in good standing to be saved, then our salvation is in our hands and not in Christ’s and that would be contrary to the Bible. Paul spoke about this in Romans and also in Galatians. Again, it’s a problem we still have to this day.

Jesus didn’t command us to just go preach the gospel, He commanded us to make disciples of all nations. We cannot be a disciple without first believing Jesus Christ as our Savior. When we do so, we can then be a disciple out of love for Christ and the Father and we have the power of the Holy Spirit to do so. But if we are relying on our being a disciple in any way for our salvation, then our very motives are tainted with selfishness.

We cannot truly love God if we believe that our eternal salvation depends on it. We are only free to love God as He desires if we accept His free gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ.

JimmyBob said...

Eddie, all I can say to your last post is that you and I obviously use very different hermeneutics.

The lost son story was the third illustration after the lost sheep and the lost coin. Jesus is speaking to the sinners to show them how the father feels about them. He wants them to understand that restoring the lost was his priority.

These sinners were not saved. People cannot be saved until they realize they are lost. They cannot come alive until they realize they are dead.

Not only did these stories make a point about repentance and restoration, it showed that the Pharisees attitude was all wrong.

I can't, by any stretch, come up with the conclusion that you have. The sinners in Luke 15 are not saved.

The NT does not use that term for saved people. It calls them righteous and holy. We have too often declared ourselves sinners when the Bible says the Scriptures call us saints. We should instead say that we sometimes sin, but we should not label ourselves sinners. That term is reserved by the Lord for those who haven't experienced regeneration.

An overall study of the book of Luke will show that it was written to convince people "the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost." -Luke 19:10 So, even though the parable doesn't directly speak of eternity, it is implied that the Lord is refering to an eternal relationship with him.

I'm not saying you are the only one who thinks like yourself, but you are the first person I have ever known with your interpretation. Maybe my giant spiritual sphere isn't so big after all.