Other books by Ronald Shea will be available soon. Visit our Bookstore regularly for new selections.
Article IX - THE GOSPEL MESSAGE
Section 1 The Object and Content of Saving Faith
We believe that the object of saving faith is our Lord Jesus Christ. We note, however, that a name is simply an emblem of the truths associated with a person's character, and that it is a person's character that sanctifies, or sullies his name, not the name that sanctifies or sullies a person's character. We believe that this is why God has "magnified His Word above His name" (Psalm 138:2). It is the eternal truths of God's divine nature, as revealed in His word, that give meaning and awe to His name. Accordingly, we believe that the name "Jesus" and the word "gospel" are not magic words, and that to simply speak of "Jesus" or the "gospel" when divorced from the essential truths of Jesus Christ and His glorious gospel is to preach "another Jesus" (2nd Corinthians 11:3-4) and "another gospel" (Galatians 1:6-7) in whom and in which there is no salvation. Accordingly, we believe that a saving profession of faith in Jesus Christ must include as its content, at the very least:
1. An understanding and belief that one has sinned and fallen short of the standard required by God, and therefore, in need of a Savior (Matthew 9:12; 1st Corinthians 15:1-4).
2. An understanding and belief that Jesus Christ is the Eternal God who became a man; (Matthew 16:16-18; John 8:23-24 & 58; 11:25-27; 20:31; Acts 9:20; 16:30-31; 1st John 5:13).
3. An understanding and belief that the violent and bloody death suffered by Jesus Christ was sufficient to cover, pay for, or take away the sins of the one who believes in Him (1st Corinthians 15:1-4, John 19:39).
4. An understanding and belief in the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ; (1st Corinthians 15:1-4); and
5. An understanding and belief that Salvation is the gift of God, bestowed only on those who honor the Son by believing in Him alone for their salvation, and renouncing all confidence in the works of the law to contribute to their salvation (John 4:10; Romans 4:4; 11:6; Galatians 2:21; 3:10-14; 5:1-4; Ephesians 2:8-9).
Section 2 Denial of the Gospel
In view of the forgoing doctrines of this article as setting forth the minimum content of faith necessary for salvation, we believe that the adherence to doctrines and beliefs that are logically incompatible, and plainly at opposition to the elements of the gospel message set forth above, is to believe in "another Jesus," (2nd Corinthians 11:3-4) and "another gospel" (Galatians 1:6-7). We regard the following doctrines to be incompatible with saving faith:
a) Regarding the Denial of the Divinity of Jesus Christ:
i) Pantheism or "New Age" Philosophies We regard the belief that we are all children of God in an equal sense with Jesus as effectively reducing a profession of Jesus' divinity to meaninglessness. We therefore believe that a true saving faith in Jesus as the unique Son of God is not evident in a profession of faith that is tainted by the new age belief in the divinity of mankind.
ii) Polytheism We regard the belief that Jesus is one of many such gods as incompatible with the believe that He is the eternal God. We observe that Scripture records polytheistic converts as turning from their idols (1st Thessalonians 1:9) in their conversion to Christ. We believe that a true saving faith in Jesus as the unique Son of God is not evident in a profession of faith that is tainted by the belief that Jesus was one of many equivalent Gods.
iii) Cosmological and Biological evolution We freely acknowledge that as stars use up their nuclear fuel, that they progressively change in composition from hydrogen to heavier elements, and that the universe grows in entropy daily as a result. We further acknowledge that mutations occur in most living creatures, including man, and that in the case of a virus, simple mutations may even increase their survivability. We believe that these observable phenomena are consistent with the witness of Scripture (Hebrews 1:10-12; Romans 8:22), and that these entropic phenomena offer no support to the evolutionary theory.
iv) In view of this clarification, we believe that a fundamental definition of God is set forth in John 1:1-3. We believe that the most fundamental understanding of God therefore must include an affirmation that He is eternal ("in the beginning"), that He is the Creator ("all things were made by Him"), and that He personal, and not simply a "force" ("in Him was life"). We believe that to adopt a cosmological evolutionary view of the universe as a self creating entity, or a biological evolutionary view that mankind "evolved" from some "pre-biotic soup" of chemicals afloat in the sea or atmosphere, is incompatible with believing there even is a Creator God, and therefore, is incompatible with believing that Jesus is God at all. Although we reject as unbiblical and unscientific the belief in "theistic evolution," we do not hold that a perfect understanding of God's activity in creation is necessary for salvation. Without defining a specific point at which the erosion of faith in God's activity as the Creator falls below that of a saving profession of faith, we hold that a true saving faith in Jesus Christ God is not evident in a profession of faith that has reduced the meaning of "God" to a powerful being that stumbled upon a pre-existing universe. God is not and explorer who discovered the world. He is the Creator of the world. Accordingly, we hold that a true saving faith the Gospel of Jesus Christ is not evident in a profession of faith tainted by a radical evolutionary view of man or the universe.
To this end, Clear Gospel Campaign affirms that a defense of the Creatorship of God is intrinsically bound to the defense of the divinity of Jesus, and therefore, to the message of salvation.
b) Regarding the Denial of the Atonement of Jesus Christ as sufficient to pay for the sins of the professing believer and to satisfy the demands of Holy God against the guilt of sin.
i) We believe that Christians throughout church history have differed on the meaning of the Lords Supper, and we respect sincerely held differences within the reasonable bounds of Scripture. We believe, however, that any understanding of the Lord's Supper which includes a "continual sacrifice of the mass" as a vicarious sacrifice capable of atoning for, or contributing to the atonement of sins, amounts to a denial that Jesus Christ made a perfect, complete and final payment for sin at Calvary. We therefore believe that such a doctrine is therefore incompatible with saving faith. Accordingly, we hold that a true saving faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ is not evident in a profession of faith tainted by this heresy.
ii) We further reject, as incompatible with saving faith in Jesus Christ, the belief that sins were not fully paid for or atoned at Calvary, but must be further paid for through each believer suffering in Purgatory. Accordingly, we believe that a true saving faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ is not evidenced in a profession of faith tainted by this heresy.
iii) We further reject as incompatible with saving faith in Jesus Christ the belief that one can lose their salvation through sin. We believe that this is heresy is logically incompatible with the fact that Jesus Christ paid in full the penalty for our sins at the cross. We further affirm that such belief demonstrates a total lack of understanding that sin was paid for at Calvary, and that an exercise of faith in Christ that is stained by this heresy is dishonoring to the Son, and a denial of what he accomplished at Calvary. Accordingly, we believe that a true saving faith the Gospel of Jesus Christ is not evidenced in a profession of faith tainted by this heresy.
c) Regarding the Denial of the Bodily Resurrection of Jesus Christ:
We acknowledge the profound mysteries of the nature of matter, including the mystery that the glorified and incorruptible body of the resurrected Christ should arise out of such matter in a fallen and entropic universe. We nevertheless maintain that a profession of faith that understands the resurrection as only a "spiritual" event must be regarded as suspect, and weighs heavily against the likelihood that a profession of faith is a saving profession.
d) Regarding the Denial of the Doctrine of Grace
We believe that the requirement of works to attain eternal life is incompatible with the belief that Salvation is a gift of God (John 4:10; Romans 4:4; 11:6; Galatians 2:21; 3:10-14; 5:1-4; Ephesians 2:8-9), including:
i) the belief that the performance of specific works or actions, such as circumcision, baptism in water, public confession of Christ, or speaking in tongues, is required in order to secure eternal life;
ii) the belief that a promise of future works of the law must be offered in exchange for God's offer of eternal life, such as "repenting of one's sins," or "making Christ the Lord of one's life;"
iii) the belief that obedience to God's laws are necessary to maintain one's salvation, and that salvation can therefore be lost through disobedience to the laws of God;
iv) the belief that one must persevere in good works and obedience to the Ten Commandments to confirm that they are saved, thereby requiring that works are ultimately necessary to secure salvation, and that the sure and final declaration of salvation is only offered in conjunction with the works of the law.
We believe that the aforementioned works-based doctrines contravene the very meaning of the word "grace," insulting the gracious nature of God Himself as the giver of eternal life, thereby constituting a rejection of his offer of eternal life (Romans 11:6-7; Ephesians 2:8-9). We find no evidence of saving faith in a profession of faith tainted by any of these heresies.
We acknowledge that believers may fall into error or confusion regarding salvation and works after their conversion, as happened to the church of Galatia (Galatians 1:6-7. 3:1). We further acknowledge that the believers of Galatia were regarded as "brethren," (Galatians 1:3), having fallen into this grievous error subsequent to their coming to an authentic faith in Christ (Galatians 3:1-3). We note, however, that the authors of this grievous error, who had never believed on Christ alone, having simply added Jesus Christ to a pre-existing confession of salvation by works (Acts 15:1) were regarded as "false brethren." (Galatians 2:4). To this end, we affirm that a lost sinner must, at some time in his life, believe on Christ alone, apart from the works of the law, for his salvation, and that apart from such an authentic moment of saving faith, there is no hope of salvation.
We believe that the more ardently and regularly a pastor or teacher holds forth any of the above perversions of the gospel of grace as a necessity for salvation, the more firmly a pre-existing grid of salvation-by-works is fabricated in the hearts and minds of the congregants, progressively shackling the lost sinner more hopelessly behind a veil of deception, making it less and less likely that any forthcoming profession of faith has meaningfully grasped the message of salvation.
Section 3: Popular False Doctrines Touching on the Gospel
We believe that there exist popular doctrines and teachings that, though not necessarily denying the gospel, are so inextricably linked to the gospel message, that history bears witness to the damage consistently done to the gospel message by adherence to these false doctrines, including:
(a) The Doctrine of "Infused," "Sovereign," or "Irresistible" Grace.
We believe that the fundamental meaning of "grace," from the Greek word "charis," is the disposition of a giver to offer something freely, out of the beneficence of the giver, its closest equivalent term in Hebrew being "hesed," God's loyal and unconditional love. We note that, throughout the progressive history of the church, the very meaning of grace was transformed from its lexical roots into a sensual quality or an ethereal vitalizing element (e.g. Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologica, Part 1 of the Second Part, "Treatise on Grace," questions 109-114). Through this progressive distortion, bizarre and complex schemes of "grace" have been developed, including "prevenient grace," "actual grace," "common grace," "effectual grace," "sovereign grace," "sanctifying grace," and "irresistible grace." We observe from church history that the corruption of "grace" into an ethereal vitalizing substance, though often starting with the seemingly "innocuous" view that "grace" vitalizes the lost sinner to belief in Christ, deteriorates, almost inevitably, to the belief that the effects of grace, being sovereign or irresistible, will ultimately empower man to "repent of his sins," to perform certain acts of righteousness, and/or to "persevere to the end" in faith and good works. Finally, we observe that the frequent conclusion of this heresy is that, if permanent and significant lifestyle changes are not manifest in the life of a sinner, God's "grace" was never received.
As a consequence, we believe that such a corruption of the meaning of the word "grace" historically portends a grave likelihood, if not a virtual certainty, of a theological system deteriorating into a system of salvation by "Christ plus works," (Romans 11:6-7, Ephesians 2:8-9), the very opposite meaning of the word "Grace."
(b) Faith as a "Work"
We further note that the doctrine of "sovereign grace," whereby grace is redefined as a vitalizing element empowering man toward faith often gives rise to the absurd doctrine that faith is somehow a "work," or that the teaching that a man must make a free will decision to believe on Christ is to deny the doctrine of "grace." To this end:
1. We affirm that the one requirement of Scripture for man's salvation is to believe on Christ alone (John 3:16). Moreover, we believe that the requirement of faith on the part of man is specifically singled out in Scripture as being wholly consistent with God's offer of eternal life by grace, that is, a free gift (John 6:28-29; Romans 3:28; 4:4-5; Ephesians 2:8-9; and see especially Romans 4:16).
2. We further reject as unbiblical the absurd teaching that a belief in "sovereign grace," or the bondage of the will is, on any level, part of the gospel message unto salvation. We affirm that the logical and necessary conclusion of this absurd view of the gospel is that, for a lost sinner to exercise saving faith, he must believe that he cannot believe.
3. We further affirm that the drawing of man to God is an act of the personal Triune God (John 3:8; John 6:44; John 16:7-11; John12:32), and reject the belief that man is drawn to God by some impersonal mystical Aristotelian empowering substance that is infused into man. We deny knowledge of any such form of "grace," in the Holy Scriptures.
Although we believe that the Triune God is active in drawing the unbeliever to Christ, we believe that faith is ultimately an act of the creature, not an imposition of the Creator.
(c) Popular Gospel Substitutes
Because it is impossible to anticipate every corruption of the gospel that fallen man may concoct, we offer, not as exhaustive, but by way of example, the following as false gospel substitutes:
i) "Invite Jesus into your heart,"
ii) "Make a personal commitment to Christ,"
iii) "Put Christ on the throne of your life,"
iv) "Give your life to Christ,"
v) "Commit your life to Christ,"
vi) "Give your heart to God,"
vii) "Turn your life over to Jesus,"
We believe that there are at least six grave dangers set before the church in the use of these, and similar contemporary gospel substitutes and popular aphorisms:
1. Even when presented fully and accurately, the gospel is camouflaged by such nonsense, thereby hindering the effectiveness of the gospel message from illuminating the way of salvation to those who know not Christ.
2. Oftentimes, essential elements of the gospel message are excised entirely from the message of the evangelist in order to make room for the addition of more nonsensical aphorisms, thereby robbing such messages of any capacity for imparting a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
3. The gospel is often contradicted by works-oriented invitations such as requiring an unbeliever to "make a personal commitment to Jesus Christ," which is, in its essence, a requirement of a promise future works in exchange for salvation.
4. By such silly aphorisms, the unregenerate are given a false assurance of salvation through a meaningless profession of faith, thereby discouraging further inquiry into the most important question in the universe.
5. Those unregenerate who subsequently lapse from their confused "profession of faith" are more likely to become hardened to the gospel, having seen the emptiness and worthlessness of what they understood to be biblical true Christianity.
6. The true believer who is not firmly grounded in the clarity of the gospel is likely to redefine his understanding of the gospel message according to how he hears it repeatedly presented, thereby perpetuating and multiplying this confusion, and crippling successive generations of evangelists.
(d) The Testimony
We believe that the "Christian testimony" as practiced today has become a cancer on the church. We observe, from Scripture, the "testimony" of Paul before the multitude (Acts 21:40-22:21), before the Sanhedrin (Acts 23:1-10), before Felix (Acts 24:10-21), before Festus (Acts 25:10-11 & 19), and before Agrippa (Acts 26:1-29) included the following elements:
a) Paul describes his religious beliefs before coming to faith in Christ, including being a Jew, a Pharisee, and one who hoped in the resurrection (Acts 22:3, Acts 26:4-5, 26:25).
b) Paul describes his attitude and understanding of Jesus Christ before his conversion to Christianity, in that he was hostile to Christ, and a persecutor of Christians (Acts 22:4-5; Acts 26:9-12).
c) Paul recounts the events on the Damascus Road that lead to his conversion to faith in Christ (Acts 22:6-16, Acts 26:13-16).
d) Paul proclaims the atoning death of Jesus Christ (Acts 26:23).
e) Paul proclaims the resurrection of Jesus Christ (Acts 25:19; 26:8-9; 26:23).
f) Paul proclaims the forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ (Acts 26:18) and
g) Paul proclaims his hope of the resurrection through Jesus Christ (Acts 24:14-15, 24:21, 26:23).
h) Paul tactfully and humbly invites Agrippa to believe (Acts 26:26-29).
We note that nowhere in any of the five times that Paul gave his "testimony" did he ever discuss how "Jesus Christ changed his life."
In contrast to the testimony of Paul, we note that the predominant "testimony" in the church today is that "Jesus Christ changed my life." We acknowledge that there are many truths of the Christian faith to which a believer can bear witness, including the deliverance from trials, temptations, sin and despair, and the deliverance unto hope, meaning, and purpose. However, we believe that, when these matters become the focus of a "conversion" testimony, such a testimony is misleading, and therefore counter productive in pointing men and women to a saving faith in Jesus Christ. It implies that salvation is allowing Jesus to change one's life, with the consequence of observing a change. We believe that this teaches, by implication, the doctrines of Lordship salvation and justification by works, wherein justification is a process by which our lives are transformed. This is, by definition, the doctrine of Justification by works. We believe that such "testimonies" have become a cancer on the church.
We believe that a testimony of one's conversion and salvation through Jesus Christ should include, as a general guideline:
i) what one understood about man, God, and Jesus Christ before coming to saving faith in Jesus Christ;
ii) what impediments there were in one's former life to understanding or believing the gospel;
iii) what events and circumstances of one's former life prepared one to receive the gospel or to perceive in their life a need for a Savior;
iv) how one came to hear the gospel; and
v) how one came to believe the gospel, including motivations that drew one to consider the gospel, and how any impediments to faith were overcome.
We believe that a clear presentation of the gospel message should be woven into a conversion testimony, both for the salvation of unbelievers, and the edification of believers.
We believe that, in any presentation of the gospel, great care should be taken to ensure that the hearer does not misconstrue works as being a necessity for salvation or assurance of salvation. The Christian "testimony" is no exception.
We believe that an invitation to faith is a reasonable conclusion to the presentation of one's testimony.
Section 4 The Judgment Seat and The Gospel Message
We believe that the judgment seat is a place of judgment for the believer, where "each man's works will be made manifest" (1st Corinthians 3:13). We further believe that the same Lord who could look into the murky depths of lake Genneraset is able to look into the depths of every man's heart. (Luke 5:1-8). Accordingly, we believe that the judgment seat or "bema" will include the disclosure not only the actions, but the inner thoughts and even the innermost motives of every believer. (2 Corinthians 5:9-11, Hebrews 4:11-13) We believe that this disclosure of man's sins will take place publicly before other believers (Luke 12:1-3). We deny that this judgment constitutes punishment for sin beyond the perfect atonement offered by our Lord Jesus Christ. We observe, by way of example, that even in a criminal court on earth, before a man can be declared "not guilty" of a crime, the crime with which he is charged must be read aloud. In a similar manner, we believe that the extent of God's forgiveness made available through the cross can only be manifest by such a public declaration of man's condition, and that to fail to disclose the full extent of man's condition can only leave mankind, for eternity, paying lip service to the salvation received through Christ, without full appreciation of the extent of that salvation.
We believe that history unmistakably demonstrates that the lack of a clear understanding of the doctrine of the Judgment Seat of Christ leaves a theological vacuum on the question of human works and divine judgment, and that this vacuum is invariably filled by a corruption of the gospel of grace with some form of salvation by Christ-plus-works. Accordingly, we believe that the teaching and preaching of the judgment seat of Christ, although not in any way part of the gospel message, is nevertheless essential to the preservation of the purity of the gospel message.