The New Powerless Gospel
I have been challenged lately to think again about what the Gospel message is all about. This has come as a result of hearing what I consider to be, at the very least, "gospel lite" and at the most no gospel at all being presented by a number of neo-evangelicals, Third Wavers and outright heretics. The interesting thing is that many seem to be preaching the same message. What is most intriguing is that false teachers like Benny Hinn, ecumenicals, and even some preachers I would consider to be orthodox in their theology are preaching a "gospel" that is very similar.
The question is: Is this new gospel message really the Gospel at all?
The following is an example only. I am not stating that everyone is preaching this exclusively without mention of the cross, repentance, etc. But the new gospel goes something like this, with variations:
"God loves you and has a plan for your life. He cares about you and wants to be a part of your life. You need to give in to Him and realize He has forgiven you for all the mistakes of your past, present and future. He wants you to be His child and wants to bless you with everything. Just come forward, decide for Jesus and ask Him into your heart."Now, on the face of it, many people would have no problem with this presentation. Parts of the above are true. God is love. He can and does forgive. He wants us to be His children. God does bless those who belong to Him, though that is certainly not the whole story. When a person places His faith in Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit does immediately indwell that person.
A major advantage of this new gospel is that it can be accepted by almost anyone of any religion. Read the above again and imagine yourself to be a New Ager, a Mormon, a Hindu. Would it offend you to know that God loves you? Who would not want to have a relationship with a God who loves them? Who would not want to be blessed?
The trouble is this new gospel says nothing about repentance, recognition of guilt and the penalty of death for sins, or any true explanation of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. This is clearly why those who preach this gospel are seeing so many profess faith in it. Millions worldwide are able to accept this gospel without it interfering with their life in any significant way. There is no challenge presented that would cause anyone to have their world view completely changed, let alone their life. This new gospel allows people to continue to do what they want and to be who they want to be. It's so easy. All they need to realize is that "God" loves them as they are. A small problem with this scenario is: who knows what "god" they have in mind when they place their belief in this new gospel message?
Although the above snippet of this modern "gospel lite" does have some major flaws that we will get into in a moment, what is most conspicuous is what is NOT being presented.
The Missing Gospel ABCs
First of all, every presentation of the Good News should always have, what has been referred to by Josh McDowel as, the ABCs of the Gospel:
A - Admit you are a sinner: Rom 3:23, 6:23
B - Believe in the Gospel facts: 1 Corinthians 15:1-8
1. Jesus died to pay for your sin: Rom 5:6-8,
2. Jesus rose from the dead to show that the payment was accepted: 2 Cor 5:21, Rom 6:4-5
C- Commit yourself to trusting in God's provision. Personally receive the gift: Rom 10:9-10
Every Gospel message should include these ABC's. These would necessarily include an explanation about the sin in every man that ends in death, the Atonement provided by Christ's death on the cross, the washing of the Blood of Christ shed for us because without blood being shed there is no forgiveness of sins, and the fact that when we believe we pick up our Cross and follow Christ to death also.
1 Cor. 2:1-2 When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.Paul preached the cross. Should we do any less?
Ga 6:14 May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
Just Decide For Jesus
Another problem: What is all this "come to Jesus" or "decide for Jesus" stuff? These kind of statements gloss over the truth of the Gospel to the extent that it can no longer be properly understood by the non-believer. Here is what A.W. Tozer said about this kind of gospel back in his day in the book Man: The Dwelling Place Of God, pages 142-143:
"Salvation comes not by "accepting the finished work" or "deciding for Christ". It comes by believing on the Lord Jesus Christ, the whole, living, victorious Lord who, as God and man, fought our fight and won it, accepted our debt as His own and paid it, took our sins and died under them and rose again to set us free. This is the true Christ, and nothing less will do. But something less is among us, nevertheless, and we do well to identify it so that we may repudiate it. That something is a poetic fiction, a product of the romantic imagination and maudlin religious fancy. It is a Jesus, gentle, dreamy, shy, sweet, almost effeminate and marvelously adaptable to whatever society He may find Himself in. He is cooed over by women disappointed in love, patronized by pro tem celebrities and recommended by psychiatrists as a model of a well integrated personality. He is never acknowledged as Lord. These quasi Christians follow a quasi Christ. They want His help but not His interference. They will flatter Him but never obey Him."No Original Sin
Another flaw in this modern gospel presentation is the implication that man is not totally fallen but is partly good -- good enough for God to overlook the sinful parts -- good enough to aspire to have a relationship with God on our own merits -- in fact, good enough in the end to even aspire to godhood according to Third Wave heretics. This is all Pelegianism to the core. The new gospel is very much tied to a Pelegian concept of original sin, which is that there was no original sin that effected all mankind. It is implied that God loves our sinful part because He sees the good part in us. It is implied if not directly stated by some that there was no total fall in Eden but rather a broken relationship where God is just waiting for us to muster up enough "good" intentions and godly sorrow to come back to God who doesn't really care if we have sinned in the past, present or future.
To me this type of gospel nullifies the need for Christ's sacrifice on the cross. The Pelegians are wrong because the Bible says we are desperately wicked without cure.
Jer 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?Only through the substitutionary sacrifice of God's Son on the cross can we be made righteous in the Father's eyes.
Ro 3:10-12 As it is written: "There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no-one who understands, no-one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no-one who does good, not even one."
Ro 5:19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.No Need For Faith
2Co 5:21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us,so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Another major fault I hear often in the new gospel presentations is, interestingly enough (because it is from the opposite side of the theological divide), a hyper-Calvinist tenant. It claims that we are made regenerate before we believe. The end result of this teaching is the concept that since God already decided to love some and hate others and that faith is a gift from God that He decided to dole out to some individuals for His own purposes, there is no need to believe, to have faith. This misrepresentation of the gospel teaches that we simply need to sort of understand what God has done for us and it will be made so, despite any decision we make or do not make.
The fourth point of Calvinism states:
(4) CALVINISM - "I" = IRRESISTIBLE GRACEAll we need is one verse to refute this false doctrine.
The Calvinists believed that the Lord possesses irresistible grace that cannot be obstructed. They taught that the free will of man is so far removed from salvation, that the elect are regenerated (made spiritually alive) by God even before expressing faith in Jesus Christ for salvation. If a totally depraved person wasn't made alive by the Holy Spirit, such a calling on God would be impossible.
"Surely seeing the kingdom of God is the act of faith and, if so, such faith is impossible without regeneration. Hence regeneration must be prior to faith. We can affirm then on these grounds that the order is regeneration, faith, justification." (John Murray in Redemption-Accomplished and Applied (grand Rapids 3, MI: Wm. B. Eermans Publishing Company, 1955) p. 104.)
Eph 1:13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit,Notice that the Holy Spirit seals the believer the moment they believe, not before. We hear the gospel, we are convicted by the Holy Spirit, we respond in faith, we believe, we are marked with the Holy Spirit. That is the biblical truth of the matter. But hyper-Calvinists go further:
"A believer may come to the place of not believing, and yet God will not disown him,, since He cannot disown Himself." (Charles Ryrie, So Great Salvation (Victor Books, 1989) p. 141)This can also be disproved with a few verses:
Re 21:8 But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practise magic arts, the idolaters and all liars--their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulphur. This is the second death."If the Jews, the chosen people of God, could be broken off because of unbelief, Paul warns us that we as Gentiles can also.
Ro 11:20 Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but be afraid.
Belief is absolutely crucial to be saved:
Ro 10:9-10 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.Faith is an act of the will.
Ro 3:22 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.
1Ti 1:16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.
I also do not believe that Eph. 2:8-9 is talking about faith being a gift from God, but rather it is referring to grace being that gift. This is confirmed by other passages that deal with the subject of the gift of grace such as Rom.5:15-17. We never see the "gift of faith" mentioned in the Bible but instead Eph. 2:8-9 says "through faith" not as a result of God giving us our faith. Rom.11:6 is not juxtaposing faith vs. works, but rather grace is shown to be the way to salvation and not works. So Eph. 2:8-9 is the same theme, the main topic being grace vs. works. The appropriation of that grace comes "through faith" alone. God does build us up in our faith, of which Jesus is the author (leader, pioneer, prince leader) if we choose to continue in faith.
Heb 12:2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.With Heb.12:2 in mind we must also weigh the following:
Col. 1:22-23 But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation--if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel.If faith was totally a gift from God then we would have no choice but to continue in it because it does not originate from ourselves.
If that is the case, it would nullify the apostles many other teachings on the subject of holding, standing in, persevering, overcoming by faith. In fact all those teachings become inane and useless, which is why you will hear very little teaching from hyper-Calvinists on the subject of holding on to faith (with regards to salvation), and nothing about the possible destruction of faith. Suffice it to say that God will build us up in our most holy faith if we submit to Him. However, God will never circumvent our free will to save us. Interestingly the Bible also teaches us that we must also build ourselves up in the Faith.
Jude 1:20 But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit.This is because faith is an act of the will, a very human decision made using our God-created will whereby we can decide to
Heb. 10:38-39 - 11:1 But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him." But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved. Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.The writer of Hebrews is talking about "my righteous one". "He" - the righteous one, can shrink back, but those who believe are saved. Apparently there were whose who had lost their faith in the Lord during the time Hebrews was written, but he is commending those he is writing to that they "are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed". Faith is holding on to the hope we have in the grace of Jesus Christ. God helps us hold on and strengthens that holding, but God's people can resist the Holy Spirit (Acts 7:51), grieve Him (Eph. 4:30) shrink back (Heb. 10:39) shipwreck their faith (1 Tim. 1:19) and fall away (2 Pet. 1:10, Mr. 4:17). I won't debate with you as to the end of any person who shrinks back because the Holy Spirit continues to convict until such a time as is appointed by the Father.
My point is that faith is a two-way street. Jesus is the leader and will preserve our faith as we continue to hold on. I don't know how it works but I have to take Scripture at face value on this apparent antinomy. But I'm glad the Lord gives me a choice, aren't you?
The hyper-Calvinists, and those who incorporate this this extreme Calvinist doctrine into the modern gospel message, are wrong because the Bible states over and over again that we cannot be saved without faith/belief.
Heb 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.Faith is a freewill decision to place our hope in Christ in response to the conviction of the Holy Spirit and the work of the Spirit in the mind of the believer to help him come to faith in Christ.
Ac 16:31 They replied, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved--you and your household."
Ro 10:9 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.
Heb 11:1 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.We can see three elements in John 16:8-11 that are tied to the conviction of the Holy Spirit. These are also essential for inclusion in a gospel presentation: the problem of sin, the righteousness of Christ, and the judgment.
Joh 16:8-11 When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.
To summarize, I believe that because of teachings like this many are either never able to come to a true belief in Christ or that some are not continuing in their faith because they are placing their hope in another "Jesus", like the one who is at their beck and call for signs, wonders, miracles, and money. Suffice it to say that God will build us up in our most holy faith if we obey Him and submit to His will. However, God will never circumvent our free will to save us against our will. Lest we give God credit for something He urges us to decide to do, the Bible teaches us that we must build ourselves up in the Faith. This is a wonderful antinomy of both a free will decision on our part to build up our faith aided by the Holy Spirit, without Whom we would not even know how to pray (Rom. 8:26).
Faith is an act of the will, a very human decision within a God-created will to submit to the will of God with the conviction and help of the Holy Spirit, without Whom we would never be able to come to faith in God. Jesus, the God/man, in His humanity made the same kind of free will decision to submit to the Father and lay down His will and finally His life for us on the cross. With the decision to believe we place all our hope of salvation in the grace of Jesus Christ alone. God created in us a conscience that is further aided by the Holy Spirit and made to comprehend the meaning of the salvation message when truly presented. The Spirit is able to convict the righteous and unrighteous alike. I believe we are also able to resist the conviction of the Holy Spirit to bring us to salvation and end up falling away, shipwrecking our faith.
No Penalty, No Repentance
Yet another problem with this modern defective gospel is to bring people to a belief in a God who is all love without His holiness causing Him to require the penalty of death for sin be paid by His only Son.
Ro 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.This omission of the death penalty for sin nullifies the very need for a Savior and causes many to believe in a different god who is apparently willing to write off the death of his only son. The wages of sin is death. Without repentance we are doomed:
2Pe 3:9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.It is not repentance that saves. Jesus Christ saves. But repentance is the only way to come to the point where a person sees his desperate condition and fully realizes his need for the Savior. Conviction of sin is a work of the Holy Spirit in concert with a will brought into submission to God. These concepts are what are almost totally absent from the modern gospel.
2Co 7:10 Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.
Ac 3:19 Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,
There are many other problems with this new gospel. I see an almost total lack of explanation about how and why the physical death of Jesus Christ on the cross is the only sacrifice for our sin.
Heb 10:10 And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.There is almost no teaching on why Jesus had to die or the significance of His resurrection.
1Pe 3:18 For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit,There also seems to be a strong emphasis on the fact that we are accepted already by the Lord in our sinful condition and that we just need to allow Him to love us and bless us. I actually heard Benny Hinn preach on 4/14/01 that God loves the wicked. This is a wrong way of presenting the Gospel. God loves the creatures He created in the sense that He wants them to repent and turn to Him, placing their faith and trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation. But He does not love wickedness or those who practice it. They must be saved or forever damned to hell in eternity.
Ro 6:5 If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.
Pr 8:13 To fear the LORD is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behaviour and perverse speech.Finally, this kind of false gospel often leads into teachings on prosperity and confession, which is why it seems to be no problem for heretics like Hinn to preach it.
Ps 97:10 Let those who love the LORD hate evil, for he guards the lives of his faithful ones and delivers them from the hand of the wicked.
Ro 12:9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.
Lu 13:27 "But he will reply, `I don't know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!'
I believe many are being inoculated against ever coming to true faith in Christ because of this "gospel" that is NOT the power unto salvation for those that believe in it. It only talks about the love of God and little or nothing about fearing the wrath of God, sin, repentance, or the cross of Christ. Without those things this new gospel is nothing but dust in the wind and doesn't have the power to save anyone.
(c) 2001 Sandy Simpson, Deception In The Church
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