Saturday, December 14, 2019

"Free Grace" Theology: 6 Ways Grudem Misrepresents Biblical Repentance

    Reformed theologian and author Wayne Grudem does have some interesting arguments that he uses to try to convince people that repentance in the Bible does not simply mean "a change of mind". Grudem says that true repentance must also include remorse, contrition, self-reproach, and making a life change for the better (which he defines as better conduct), or at least a resolve to do so "as a result of remorse or contrition for one's sins." I was reading his book "Free Grace" Theology: 5 Ways It Diminishes the Gospel (Wheaton: Crossway, 2016) on google books because it came up in the search results (I did purchase the book but "FOR REFERENCE ONLY!"), and I must say that at first Grudem almost had me believing that Charles Bing just had no lexical support for his "change of mind" definition of repentance. Grudem made it sound like Charles Bing was taking statements from the Greek lexicons out of context. But when I looked up a few of the lexical examples cited by Grudem, I found that it was Grudem who was quoting the lexicons very selectively and taking statements out of context! Here are six examples of how Wayne Grudem misrepresents Biblical repentance:

1.) Grudem misrepresents Bauer’s lexicon. 

     In his book ‘Free Grace’ Theology: 5 Ways It Diminishes the Gospel, Grudem makes the following statements in his critique of Free Grace theology. Grudem claims that Charles Bing’s citation of Bauer’s lexicon in support of the “change of mind” meaning of metanoeō is “misrepresenting the entry on metanoeō in the BAGD lexicon” (p. 59). Grudem goes on to say that Charles Bing “repeatedly fails to account for the fact that no standard lexicon or other reference work on the meanings of Greek words in the New Testament supports his understanding of metanoeō and metanoia in these passages.” (p. 64.) This is a bold claim! But is this really the case? Let’s take a close look at Bauer’s lexicon (third edition) to see if what Grudem says is accurate or if maybe he's the one who is actually misrepresenting Bauer’s lexicon! 
     The first definition listed in Bauer’s lexicon for the verb metanoeō (repent) is “change one’s mind”. The first example Bauer cites for the “change of mind” definition of metanoeō is from The Shepherd of Hermas (abbreviated as “Hv 3, 7, 3” in the lexicon). This is important because The Shepherd of Hermas is not secular literature, nor is it pre-Christian. Instead, The Shepherd of Hermas is Christian literature. Is it early or late Christian literature? It was written in the mid second century (c. 140 AD). In fact, one author dates it to have been written “about 90–110 A.D.” (See Charles H. Hoole, The Shepherd of Hermas [London: Rivingtons, 1870], Introduction, p. x.) Related to this, it was the opinion of Origen (186–253 A.D.) that The Shepherd of Hermas was written by the “Hermas” to whom the apostle Paul sends his greetings in his letter to the Romans, chapter 16, verse 14. If the Gospel of John was written between 90-100 AD as many Bible scholars believe, then The Shepherd of Hermas was written very close to the same time. So The Shepherd of Hermas is not just Christian literature; it’s early Christian literature written at about the same time as (or at most only about 50 years after) when parts of the New Testament were written. The Shepherd of Hermas is nearly contemporary with the New Testament and was widely read by many of the early Christians. What's more, some of the early Christians such as “Clement of Alexandria (193–217 A.D.) evidently considered the book to have been inspired.” (Ibid., pp. xi-xii.) I’m not arguing that The Shepherd of Hermas is inspired nor am I saying that it should be included in the New Testament. My point is simply that The Shepherd of Hermas is early Christian literature written close to the same time as when the New Testament was written and thus it is very important because, as one author puts it, “it carries us back into the very earliest period of Christian antiquity, and dealing with religious subjects in a more familiar way than is found in the works of the other ecclesiastical writers of the Apostolic period, it is most valuable as supplying a specimen of the ordinary tone of thought and feeling in the early Church.” (Ibid., pp. x-xi.) The Shepherd of Hermas is important in helping us today to understand the meaning of metanoeō (the verb repent) and metanoia (the noun repentance) because it shows how the Greek-speaking Christians of the early church were using these words. It shows that the early Christians were using the word metanoeō in a religious context and in the sense of “a change of mind”! So for Bauer to exclude every New Testament use of metanoeō from having this meaning is suspect and may show a theological bias or a double-standard. Why does metanoeō mean “change one’s mind” in The Shepherd of Hermas but not anywhere in the New Testament? But I don’t think that’s what Bauer is saying at all.  
     Grudem is correct to point out that Bauer does not list any New Testament passages immediately under the “change one’s mind” meaning for the verb metanoeō, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. What Grudem fails to tell his readers is that Bauer does in fact list many New Testament passages under the “change of mind” definition for the cognate noun metanoia (together with the verb metanoeō in parenthesis) on the very same page of the lexicon! (See page 640 in Bauer's lexicon.) Grudem in his book actually references the cognate noun metanoia on page 640 of Bauer's lexicon, but only to say in a tiny footnote at the bottom of the page (p. 57) that "under the cognate noun metanoia, 'repentance,' [Bauer gives] this explanation: 'in our literature with focus on the need of change in view of responsibility to deity' (640)." So Grudem conveniently fails to mention that in the lexical entry for the noun metanoia, Bauer includes the verb metanoeō together with the noun and classifies them both as having the meaning of “primarily a change of mind”! Here is the actual statement in Bauer’s lexicon (I transcribed the Greek letters into English): 
metanoia, as, ē (metanoeō) prim. ‘a change of mind’ (Thu. 3, 36, 4; Polyb. 4, 66, 7;…[etc.]) repentance, turning about, conversion; as a turning away metanoia apo nekrōn ergōn turning away from dead works Hb 6:1. Mostly of the positive side of repentance, as the beginning of a new relationship with God: ē eis theou m[etanoian]. repentance that leads to God Ac 20:21. axia tēs metanoias erga deeds that are consistent with repentance 26:20. Also karton axion tēs m[etanoias]. [fruit worthy of repentance] Mt 3:8; cp. Lk 3:8.etc

Under this very heading, Bauer goes on to list many more examples from the New Testament, including some of the very same New Testament passages which he had previously listed as examples for the verb metanoeō, such as Luke 15:7 and Acts 26:20. Additionally, Bauer also includes under this same heading (and interspersed with the New Testament references) many more citations from The Shepherd of Hermas
    So Grudem’s entire argument that Bauer doesn’t list any New Testament passages under the “change one’s mind” definition of metanoeō falls flat and doesn’t hold up under close scrutiny because Bauer lists many New Testament references under the cognate noun metanoia, (together with the verb metanoeō immediately following in parenthesis) where both together are given the meaning of “primarily ‘a change of mind’”.  

2.) Grudem misrepresents the lexicon by Moulton and Milligan. 

     Grudem makes it sound like the Moulton and Milligan lexicon doesn't support the "change of mind" definition of repentance. Grudem writes: "The specialized lexicon by Moulton and Milligan, compiled with particular reference to the papri and other nonliterary sources, says of metanoeō that 'in the New Testament it is more than 'repent,' and indicates a complete change of attitude, spiritual and moral, towards God.'" But Grudem omits the entire first part of that quote which gives the basic meaning of metanoeō: a "change of mind"! Notice what Moulton and Milligan say concerning the meaning of metanoeō which Grudem left out:
See also Menandrea p. 1272 where the verb is used of "change of mind." Its meaning deepens with Christianity, and in the NT it is more than "repent," and indicates a complete change of attitude, spiritual and moral, towards God.1

  The Moulton and Milligan lexicon doesn't say that the meaning of metanoeō changes with Christianity; it says the word's meaning "deepens with Christianity". What's more, when the Moulton and Milligan lexicon says that the meaning of metanoeō in the New Testament is more than "repent," all they're saying is that our English word "repent" is not the best translation of metanoeō. They are saying that our English word "repent" does not fully express the meaning of the Greek word.  This is exactly the point made by Charles Bing and other Free Grace theologians! For example, in The Theological Wordbook (edited by such stalwarts of the faith as John F. Walvoord, Donald K. Campbell, Wendel Johnston, and John Whitmer) they write this on page 296 concerning the word Repentance: "the English word repentance derives from the Latin and does not express the exact meaning of metanoia." To be more specific, when the Moulton and Milligan lexicon says that the meaning of metanoeō "deepens with Christianity, and in the NT it is more than 'repent,'" - it means more than repent (in the sense of regret), i.e. metanoeō is more than a synonym of metamelomai (see the definition for metamelomai, "regret," in the Moulton and Milligan lexicon where they define metamelomai as meaning "repent oneself").
     I want to make another point regarding what Moulton and Milligan say in their lexicon concerning the meaning of metanoeō. Apparently Grudem imports his own definition of repentance into the words "a complete change of attitude," but is that justified? How should we understand the word "attitude" when the Moulton and Milligan lexicon says "a complete change of attitude"? Should we import Grudem's definition of repentance into the word "attitude" or should be define the word "attitude" according to its own meaning? The Merriam-Webster dictionary says that the word "attitude" means "a mental position with regard to a fact or state." (The word "attitude" can include feelings or emotions, but that is not the primary meaning of the word.) Thus, when the Moulton and Milligan lexicon says "a complete change of attitude," it is simply another way of saying a complete "change of mind," spiritual and moral (e.g. a recognition of one's sin, and need for salvation, etc.), towards God.
     I want to make one last point, and this has to do with what the Moulton and Milligan lexicon says concerning the noun metanoia ("repentance"). Under the entry for metanoia (page 404), the concluding remarks are these: "It may be added that Lactantius (Div. Inst. vi. 24. 6) for the ordinary paenitentia ['repentance'] of Christian Latinity prefers resipiscentia [to recover one's senses], as implying, like μετάνοια [metanoia], a coming to one's senses, resulting in a change of conduct." The Moulton and Milligan lexicon correctly distinguishes between repentance and what repentance results in, which is a change of conduct.

3.) Grudem misrepresents the Greek lexicon by J. H. Thayer. 

     Grudem also makes it sound like Thayer's lexicon doesn't support the "change of mind" definition of biblical repentance. But after I looked up in Thayer's lexicon the definition of metanoeō (repent), I noticed that once again Grudem only selectively quoted the pertinent lexical material! The very first definition Thayer gives for the verb metanoeō is "to change one's mind, i.e. to repent".2 The same is true for the noun metanoia (repentance). The very first definition for metanoia in Thayer's lexicon is: "a change of mind: as it appears in one who repents of a purpose he has formed or of something he has done, Hebrews 12:17".3 This is the most basic and fundamental meaning of the two words. Furthermore, in both instances Thayer makes a distinction between repentance and the fruit of repentance, which is "conduct worthy of a heart changed"4 or in other words "good deeds"5 (cf. Matt. 3:8; Luke 3:8; Acts 26:20).
     Interestingly, Grudem also fails to mention the word of caution given by the publishers of Thayer's own lexicon (see the "PUBLISHERS INTRODUCTION," page VII) when they say: "A word of caution is necessary. Thayer was a Unitarian, and the errors of this sect occasionally come through in the explanatory notes....When defining μεταμέλομαι [metamelomai: to regret, to have remorse], Thayer refuses to draw a clear distinction between this word and μετανοέω [metanoeō: to change one's mind]. Underlying this refusal is the view that man is inherently good, needing Christ not as a Savior but only as an example." When Grudem cited Thayer and selectively quoted Thayer's definition of metanoeō, Grudem issued no such "word of caution". But this "word of caution" is important and necessary because Thayer's definition of metanoeō is suspect because he co-mingled metanoeō and metamelomai and did not properly distinguish between them. In fact, after Thayer's entry for metamelomai, he calls the two words synonyms. The unsaved man does not need to repent in the sense of "feel sorry and try better" (as Thayer and Grudem imply). The unsaved man needs to repent in the sense of "change his mind" and trust Christ as Savior!

4.) Grudem misrepresents New Testament Greek scholar A. T. Robertson.

     In his book Grudem takes issue with the fact that Charles Bing quoted A. T. Robertson in support of the view that metanoia has the basic meaning of a "change of mind". Grudem focuses on statements from Robertson on 2 Corinthians 7:9-10, but really the focus should be on Robertson's statements concerning metanoeō in Matthew 3:2 which is the first mention of the word in the New Testament. In the past, Grudem has made Matthew 3:2 the focus, such as in a lecture he gave at Phoenix Seminary titled "Salvation without Repentance from Sin: A Critique of the Free Grace Gospel". (By the way, the title of Grudem's lecture is somewhat misleading because only non-traditional Free Grace adherents of Zane Hodges say that repentance is not necessary for salvation, the traditional Free Grace view is that repentance from the sin of unbelief is necessary for salvation like the Bible says in John 16:8-9 and in Hebrews 6:1 where the unsaved need to change their minds and transfer their trust from whatever they were trusting in before salvation and trust only in Christ for salvation.) Grudem made a statement in that lecture in which he said something to the effect that "John the Baptist never called on people to change their minds." (Grudem was arguing against the "change of mind" definition of repentance.) But A. T. Robertson in his book Word Pictures in the New Testament gives the following commentary on Matthew 3:2, where John the Baptist called on people to "repent":
Repent (metanoeite). Broadus used to say that this is the worst translation in the New Testament. The trouble is that the English word "repent" means "to be sorry again" from the Latin repoenitet (impersonal). John did not call on the people to be sorry, but to change (think afterwards) their mental attitudes (metanoeite) and conduct. The Vulgate has it "do penance" and Wycliff has followed that. The Old Syriac has it better: "Turn ye." The French (Geneva) has it "Amendez vous." This is John's great word (Bruce) and it has been hopelessly mistranslated. The tragedy of it is that we have no one English word that reproduces exactly the meaning and atmosphere of the Greek word.6

     Contrary to what Wayne Grudem would have us believe, A. T. Robertson says that the word repent means "to change (think afterwards) their mental attitudes (metanoeite)" - Robertson adds "and conduct." But the words "and conduct" come after he had already defined what it means to repent. Robertson keeps the two ideas separate and so should we. A change of conduct should follow and is expected to follow, but according to the Bible a change of behavior is the "fruit" of repentance (see Matt. 3:8; Luke 3:8; Acts 26:20), not repentance itself. A. T. Robertson affirms: "Certainly the word for repentance [metanoia] is more than a mere 'after-thought.' It is a 'change of mind' that leads to and is shown by a change of life, 'fruits worthy of repentance' (Luke 3:8)." (The Minister And His Greek New Testament [London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1923], p. 54.) Robertson's statement here is consistent with how classic Free Grace theology has traditionally understood the relationship between faith and works, justification and sanctification. For example, Charles Ryrie in his book So Great Salvation (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1989, p. 45) writes: "Every Christian will bear spiritual fruit. Somewhere, sometime, somehow. Otherwise the person is not a believer. Every born-again individual will be fruitful. Not to be fruitful is to be faithless, without faith, and therefore without salvation."  

5.) Grudem misrepresents Reformed theologian Louis Berkhof. 

     Grudem quotes Louis Berkhof at length in an attempt to show that Berkhoff does not offer supporting comments for Bing's "change of mind" understanding of repentance. Grudem argues that "Berkhof repeatedly emphasizes that a turning from former sins and turning to a new way of life is essential in the meaning of the word [metanoia]". But Berkhof does not actually say this. Here's what Grudem admits that Berkhoff does say concerning metanoia: "In the New denotes primarily a change of mind, taking a wiser view of the past, including regret for the ill then done [i.e. past regret which led to repentance, cf. 2 Cor. 7:9-10], and leading to a change of life for the better." I put emphasis on the words "leading to" because here again we must be careful not to confuse repentance with what repentance leads to: the "fruit" of repentance (see Matthew 3:8; Luke 3:8; Acts 26:20). It's true that whenever there has been "a change of life for the better" it was preceded and effected by repentance; repentance led to the change of life for the better. So the Free Grace "change of mind" understanding of repentance can accept Berkhof's definition of repentance. Grudem goes on to quote Berkhof as saying that true repentance includes a "moral consciousness". Yes, like Adam and Eve after they ate the forbidden fruit, unsaved people must understand that they are sinners who have sinned! This is part of the gospel (see 1 Corinthians 15:3). Grudem also quotes Berkhof as saying: "To be converted, is not merely to pass from one conscious direction to another, but to do it with a clearly perceived aversion to the former direction." I can agree with Berkhof's statement in this sense, that in order to be converted a person realizes that he or she is headed toward a Christless eternity, and has "a clearly perceived aversion to the former direction" of going to that Christless eternity. They see their need for a Savior and trust in Christ alone to save them from sin, death, and Hell.
     Thus, Berkhof's statements on metanoia pose no real problem to a Free Grace understanding of repentance. They are "supporting comments" to Charles Bing's "change of mind" understanding of repentance in at least three ways: (A) Berkhof repeatedly emphasizes that "the word [metanoia] denotes primarily a change of mind". (B) Berkhof says: "In the English Bible the word is translated 'repentance' but this rendering hardly does justice to the original, since it gives undue prominence to the emotional element." (C) Berkhof traces how the Greek word metanoia has been mistranslated down through the centuries of church history and concludes his remarks by saying:
"Sad to say, the Church gradually lost sight of the original meaning of metanoia. In Latin theology Lactantius rendered it 'resipiscentia,' a becoming-wise-again, as if the word were derived from meta and anoia, and denoted a return from madness or folly. The majority of Latin writers, however, preferred to render it 'poenitentia' a word that denotes the sorrow and regret which follows when one has made a mistake or has committed an error of any kind. This word ['poenitentia'] passed into the Vulgate as the rendering of metanoia, and, under the influence of the Vulgate, the English translators rendered the Greek word by 'repentance,' thus stressing the emotional element and making metanoia equivalent to metameleia [as Thayer was prone to do in his lexicon]. In some cases the deterioration went even farther. The Roman Catholic Church externalized the idea of repentance in its sacrament of penance so that the metanoeite of the Greek New Testament (Matt. 3:2) became poenitentiam agite, --'do penance,' in the Latin Version."
 Grudem in his book never mentions these statements by Berkhof!

6.) Grudem misrepresents standard lexicons and other reference works on the meanings of Greek words in the New Testament.

     Grudem claims that Bing "repeatedly fails to account for the fact that no standard lexicon or reference work on the meanings of Greek words in the New Testament supports his understanding of metanoeō and metanoia in these passages." What Grudem claims is a "fact" is not a fact but a misrepresentation. Contrary to what Grudem would have us believe, there are standard lexicons and reference works on the meanings of Greek words in the New Testament that support Bing's understanding of metaneō  and metanoia as used in the New Testament. Besides the examples cited above (and at the risk of being superfluous), I will list several more examples:
  • Sir Anthony Bottoms (1939-present) of Cambridge University points out the following facts: "A characterisation of repentance as 'turning around' is certainly not the only interpretation available within the Christian tradition; but, equally, it is not an eccentric understanding within the tradition. To illustrate this point, consider the Greek words metanoeō (a verb) and metanoia (a noun), which in English versions of the New Testament are usually translated 'to repent' and 'repentance'. There is a consensus in modern scholarship that the core meaning of metanoia is simply 'a change of mind or purpose'. To take a prominent example of how the word is used, in the Gospel of Mark the first words attributed to Jesus at the beginning of his ministry are: 'The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent [metanoeite], and believe the good news'. As the context suggests, the main action for which this statement calls is a change of mind or purpose in response to the radically new situation described." The author goes on to cite the following Greek lexicons in support of his statements above: "A modern edition of a classical Greek-English Lexicon offers definitions as follows: metanoia: 'change of mind or heart', 'repentance', 'regret', and possibly 'afterthought'; metanoeō: 'to perceive afterwards or too late', 'to change one's mind or purpose' and 'to repent [of]': H G Liddell, R Scott and H S Jones (eds) A Greek-English Lexicon, 9th edn (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1968) at 1115. See also the definitions in FW Danker (ed), A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Early Christian Literature, 3rd edn (Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 2000) at 640: metanoia: primarily 'a change of mind', also 'repentance, turning around, conversion'; metanoeō: (i) change one's mind, (ii) feel remorse, repent, be converted."7 
  • In The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges (Cambridge: The University Press, 1897) commentary on 2 Corinthians 7:9, the Rev. J. J. Lias writes (p. 84): "It cannot be too strongly insisted upon that the Greek word translated repentance (penaunce, Wiclif and the Rhemish Version) contains neither the idea of sorrow nor of penitential discipline. The word means change of mind or purpose. Sorrow may or may not accompany it." 
  • The New Testament Greek scholar A. T. Robertson (1863-1934) writes: "Certainly the word for repentance [metanoia] is more than a mere 'after-thought.' It is a 'change of mind' that leads to and is shown by a change of life, 'fruits worthy of repentance' (Luke 3:8)." (The Minister And His Greek New Testament [London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1923], p. 54.) Robertson's statement here is consistent with how classic Free Grace theology has traditionally understood the relationship between faith and works, justification and sanctification. For example, Charles Ryrie in his book So Great Salvation (p. 45) writes:  "Every Christian will bear spiritual fruit. Somewhere, sometime, somehow. Otherwise the person is not a believer. Every born-again individual will be fruitful. Not to be fruitful is to be faithless, without faith, and therefore without salvation." 
  • The Greek scholar Dr. Julius R. Mantey (1890-1981) gives the following definition of repentance under the heading "Meaning of Repentance and Conversion in the New Testament." Mantey writes: "Metanoeo (metanoia, noun) is regularly used to express the requisite state of mind necessary for the forgiveness of sin. It means to think differently or to have a different attitude toward sin and God, etc."8
  • The Scottish Bible scholar Alexander Souter (1873-1949) gives the following definitions for metanoeō (repent) and metanoia (repentance) in his reference work A Pocket Lexicon to the Greek New Testament. Souter writes: "metanoeō, I change my mind, I change the inner man (particularly with reference to acceptance of the will of God by the nous (mind) instead of rejection)". Concerning the noun repentance, Souter writes: "metanoia, a change of mind, a change in the inner man".9 
  • George Abbot-Smith (1864-1947), formerly professor of Hellenistic Greek at McGill University, gives the following definitions for metanoeō and metanoia in his reference work A Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament. Abbot-Smith writes: "metanoeō change one's mind or purpose, hence, to repent; in NT (exc. Lk 173, 4), of repentance from sin [fundamentally unbelief, Jn. 16:8-9], involving amendment [i.e. a change of heart for the better]". Concerning the noun metanoia, Abbot-Smith writes: "metanoia...after-thought, change of mind, repentance".10 
  • In The Scofield Reference Bible (New York: Oxford University Press, 1917), the Rev. C. I. Scofield gives the following note on the word "repent" in Acts 17:30. Scofield writes: "Repentance is the trans. of a Gr. word (metanoia--metanoeo) meaning 'to have another mind,' 'to change the mind,' and is used in the N.T. to indicate a change of mind in respect of sin, of God, and of self. This change of mind may, especially in the case of Christians who have fallen into sin, be preceded by sorrow (2 Cor. 7. 8-11), but sorrow for sin, though it may 'work' repentance, is not repentance. The son in Mt. 21. 28, 29 illustrates true repentance."
  • The Biblico-Theological Lexicon of New Testament Greek (Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark, 1892) by the German Protestant theologian Hermann Cremer (1834-1903) gives the following definitions for metanoeō and metanoia. Concerning the verb metanoeō, Cremer writes: "Μετανοέω, the opposite of προνοείν [to consider in advance, i.e. to perceive beforehand], a word not often occurring in profane Greek, combines two meanings of the preposition, to think differently after....But usually to change one's mind, or opinion....In the N.T., especially by St. Luke and in the Revelation, it denotes a change of moral thought and reflection....without addition [i.e. without any prepositions modifying it] = to repent in a moral and religious sense" (pp. 440-441). Concerning the noun metanoia, Cremer gives this definition: "μετάνοια, ἡ, change of mind, repentance....In the N.T., and especially in Luke, corresponding with μετανοεῖν [to repent], it is = repentance, with reference to νους [mind, intellect, thought] as the faculty of moral reflection" (p. 441).
  • The Rev. J. Oswald Jackson (1820-1901) in his critical dissertation on the Greek word metanoia titled REPENTANCE: OR THE CHANGE OF MIND NECESSARY FOR SALVATION CONSIDERED, clearly demonstrates that this understanding of metanoia as being "a change of mind" does not stand on questionable or even new ground, but is instead the Scriptural doctrine and correct understanding of the word repentance as well as the testimony of biblical critics and scholars alike, so much so that the author can confidently say: "I may remark that all the critics and commentators that I have been able to examine, give the same signification to μετάνοια, metanoia, rendered repentance, with unanimous voice declaring that it signifies change of mind. Thus is it translated by POOLE, KUINOEL, DR. BLOOMFIELD, DR. ROBINSON, SCOTT, DODDRIDGE, ADAM CLARKE, M'CLEAN, PRINCIPAL CAMPBELL, DR. HENDERSON, BARNES, BENSON, DR. JOHN CAMPBELL, ROBINSON of Leicester, and the Author of THE MARROW OF MODERN DIVINITY" - also MATTHEW HENRY, the worthy JOHN BROWN of Haddington, and many others in addition to these.11
  • Even Martin Luther, quoting the Greek scholars of his day, acknowledges that the basic meaning of metanoia in the New Testament is a change of mind, or "coming to one's right mind". In a letter to John von Staupitz, dated May 30, 1518, Luther writes, "I learned - thanks to the work and talent of the most learned men who teach us Greek and Hebrew with such great devotion - that the [Latin] word poenitentia means metanoia in Greek; it is derived from meta and noun, that is, from 'afterward' and 'mind.' Poenitentia or metanoia, therefore, means coming to one's right mind and a comprehension of one's own evil after one has accepted the damage and recognized the error. . . . Such transition of the mind, that is, the most true poenitentia, is found very frequently in Holy Scripture: the old Passover foreshadowed it, and Christ made it a reality; it was also long before that time prefigured in Abraham, when (according to the learned exegesis of Paul of Burgos) he began to be called 'he who passes over,' that is, a 'Hebrew,' evidently because he had come across into Mesopotamia."12
  • Also consider the writings of the early church theologian Tertullian (c. 155 - c. 220 AD). In his book Against Marcion, written at the start of the third century (in about 208 AD), Tertullian says this about the true meaning of metanoia: "Now in Greek the word for repentance (metanoia) is formed, not from the confession of a sin, but from a change of mind, which in God we have shown to be regulated by the occurrence of  varying circumstances."13 Tertullian affirms that the meaning of metanoia is "a change of mind" and what that change of mind is about, or what it is in reference to, can vary depending on the circumstances given in the context of the passage. Furthermore, Tertullian points out that in the Bible even God repents! Thus it is obvious that the meaning of the word repentance does not inherently convey being sorry for sin, because of course God has no sin to be sorry for! The word repentance (metanoia) simply means a change of mind, and what that change of mind is about must be determined by the context.


1 James H. Moulton, and George Milligan, The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1972), p. 404.

2 Joseph H. Thayer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1977), pp. 405, italics his. The publishers give the following copyright note: "The Fourth Edition of Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, published by T. and T. Clark in 1901, was used in preparation of this edition."

3 Ibid.

4 Ibid.

5 Ibid., p. 406.

6 A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, commentary on Matthew 3:2, online edition: Similarly, consider the comments on Matthew 3:2 in The Expositor's Greek Testament: "Ver. 2. legōn [“saying”] introduces the burden of his preaching. –metanoeite, Repent. That was John’s great word. Jesus used it also when He began to preach, but His distinctive watchword was Believe. The two watchwords point to different conceptions of the kingdom. John’s kingdom was an object of awful dread, Jesus’ of glad welcome. The message of the one was legal, of the other evangelic. Change of mind John deemed very necessary as a preparation for Messiah’s advent." (Alexander Balmain Bruce, W. Robertson Nicoll, Editor, The Expositor’s Greek Testament [London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1912], 5 Volumes, Vol. 1, p. 79, commentary on Matthew 3:2, bold and italics his.)

7 Anthony E. Bottoms, "REPENTANCE AS 'TURNING AROUND'," Antje du Bois-Pedain, and Anthony E. Bottoms, Editors, Penal Censure (Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2019), p. 126, bold added, italics his.

8 Julius R. Mantey, "Repentance and Conversion," Christianity Today, March 2, 1962, italics his.

9 Alexander Souter, A Pocket Lexicon to the Greek New Testament (London: Oxford University Press, 1917), p. 157, italics his.

10 George Abbot-Smith, A Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament (London: T. & T. Clark, 1922), p. 287, italics his.

11 J. Oswald Jackson, REPENTANCE: OR THE CHANGE OF MIND NECESSARY FOR SALVATION CONSIDERED (London: Houlston & Stoneman, 1845), pp. 22-23, 101-102.

12 "To John von Staupitz, Wittenberg, May 30, 1518," Martin Luther, Edited and Translated by Gottfried G. Krodel, Luther's Works (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1963), 55 Volumes, Vol. 48., pp. 66-67.
     Another English translation, which is in some ways clearer, can be viewed at the following link:  "Letter of John Staupitz Accompanying the 'Resolutions' to the XCV Theses" by Dr. Martin Luther, 1518, Works of Martin Luther, Adolph Spaeth, L.D. Reed, Henry Eyster Jacobs, et al., Translators and Editors (Philadelphia: A. J. Holman Company, 1915), Volume 1, pp. 39-43.

13 "CHAP. XXIV.--Instances of God's repentance, and notably in the case of the Ninevites, accounted for and ably vindicated by Tertullian." Tertullian Against Marcion, ANTE-NICENE CHRISTIAN LIBRARY: TRANSLATIONS OF THE WRITINGS OF THE FATHERS DOWN TO A.D. 325., 24 Volumes, Vol. 7. Edited by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson. Translated by Peter Holmes (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1868), p. 107, bold added.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Calvinism Refuted by the Bible

Just to first give some background on Calvinism for those who may not be aware of it, one of its key beliefs is that God unconditionally elects some people for Heaven and the rest of the people God either actively predestines for Hell (as the Calvinistic doctrine of "double predestination" teaches), or some Calvinists believe that God simply passes over the non-elect and thus they still end up in Hell, either actively or passively on God's part. So basically, Calvinists believe that God unconditionally elects some people to salvation while all the non-elect go to Hell. But is this what the Bible teaches?

Earlier this year I jotted down a short three-point sermon which I titled "Calvinism Refuted by the Bible". Look up these verses in your Bible; Calvinists may be surprised to find these verses in their Bibles too! 

So here it is, my short three point sermon titled "Calvinism Refuted by the Bible":
  1. God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked but wants all to be saved. (Ezekiel 18:23, 33:11; 2 Peter 3:9)  
  2. God does not show personal favoritism or partiality. (Acts 10:34; James 2:9) 
  3. God prepared Hell for the devil and his angels, not for unsaved people. (Matthew 25:41; Romans 2:4-5)

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Let's Hold Fast to the Gospel

Should we dispense with Christ's burial in the Gospel? In this blog post I'd like to respond to a groundless gospel advocate who thinks that Christ's burial is not really part of the Gospel. The particular objection which I'll be responding to is from the "Notes From A Retired Preacher" blog. I hope and pray that my responses will help inquiring minds come to understand more clearly the glorious gospel of salvation and hold fast to the faith once for all delivered to the saints!

To set this up, someone named Jesse asked a question over at the "Notes From A Retired Preacher" blog about the groundless gospel. Here's the comment from Jesse:
Jesse | September 6, 2013 at 4:44 pm | 
Hi Jack and All, 
I’m wondering what you all’s thoughts were on the so called groundless gospel in the free grace movement. It seems to me people say one must believe that Jesus was seen of The Twelve and all the other appearances in order to be saved. 1 Cor 15:1-5 is used as a reference. Have a blessed weekend All!

The next day, ExPreacherMan Jack responded by quoting a statement from someone named John (who I'll call "doubting John" because he questioned and cast doubt on Paul's statement of the Gospel in 1 Corinthians 15). Here's the comment with my responses in red brackets:
expreacherman | September 7, 2013 at 11:57 am | 
Our friend [doubting] John questioned and brought to my attention whether the burial of Christ is an “essential” belief for salvation. [It reminds me of a poem I read years ago about the Word of God. The last stanza of the poem says: "The anvil of God's Word, for ages skeptics blows have beat upon, yet though the sound of falling blows was heard, the anvil is unchanged - the hammer's gone!" Is the burial of Christ really part of the Gospel? My Bible says it is in 1 Corinthians 15:4 and other Scriptures like Isaiah 53:9. Also notice how doubting John tried to shift the discussion away from "the Gospel" (which is clearly defined in 1 Corinthians 15:1-5) and instead wanted to focus on the phrase "'essential' belief for salvation." This is a common tactic of groundless gospel advocates. They try to divert attention away from the Gospel in 1 Corinthians 15 where the apostle Paul clearly includes Christ's burial and resurrection appearances in the Gospel.]
I agree that the burial of Christ, being an historical fact, is not an essential to believe for one’s salvation. [Just because the burial of Christ is a historical fact doesn’t mean it’s not essential to believe for salvation. Christ's death, burial, resurrection and appearances are all historical facts and are all essential to believe for salvation because they're all part of the Gospel. How does being a historical fact make the burial a non-essential for salvation? Is he promoting a fairy-tale gospel where in order for something to qualify as an essential for salvation is must not be a historical fact? ] However, we must be careful to express the essentials. [Yes, exactly! But unfortunately groundless gospel advocates are not doing that with Christ’s burial and the other elements of the Gospel.] That is, Jesus is God in the Flesh Who died on the cross for our sins and arose alive from death. [Notice how Jack's statement is not careful to express Christ's burial and resurrection appearances like the apostle Paul does in 1 Corinthians 15 because those facts are deemed non-essential to believe for salvation by groundless gospel advocates.  Even the apostle Paul's twice repeated reference to "the Scriptures" in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 is left out of the essentials by groundless gospel advocates! Amazingly, although groundless gospel advocates use the twice repeated phrase "according to the Scriptures" in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 to mark out the content of the groundless gospel, they don't even include those two phrases in their gospel! In their view, those two phrases mark out the content of the gospel but they are not included in that content themselves. Is it any wonder that a false gospel doesn't include the references to "the Scriptures"? It's truly a tragedy that groundless gospel advocates exploit the Scriptures in this way. And what about the fact that Christ rose again “on the third day according to the Scriptures” like the apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:4? Is that historical fact of the Gospel now not essential either? Even though the reference to "the third day" in 1 Corinthians 15:4 is clearly said to be "according to the Scriptures" (a phrase which supposedly marks out the real content of the groundless gospel), groundless gospel advocates still don't include the reference to "the third day" in their gospel! This is one of the double-standards of the groundless gospel which I've written about in the past.] 
John’s excellent [groundless] explanation (which I agree with) is: 
Christ’s burial is not mentioned in Romans until chapter 6 (in connection with baptism) [But even Tom Stegall, the main proponent of the groundless gospel, admits that baptism is a picture of the Gospel. And the Gospel is frequently mentioned in Romans. I discuss this more in my blog post titled "The Romans Road Leads to Isaiah 53".], and the term “burial” is not used in Acts at all (the term “sepulchre” is used in Acts 13:29 with respect to Jesus). [In Acts 13:29 the apostle Paul says "they took Him down from the tree and laid Him in a tomb." So a synonym for “burial” is used. This argument by doubting John that the particular word "burial" isn't used in Acts is similar to those who have a problem with the Trinity because the word “trinity” isn't in the Bible. The word "Bible" isn't even in the Bible! But doubting John admits that the word "sepulchre" (or "tomb") is used by the apostle Paul in Acts 13:29 with respect to Jesus.] When Peter preaches the gospel to Cornelius, as depicted in Acts 10:39-44, he makes no mention of the burial of Christ. [Again, the idea of Christ's burial is in the text when Peter says that God caused Jesus to be raised up on the third day and granted that "He become visible” (Acts 10:40). Why wasn’t Jesus visible after His death? Because He was buried!] And yet, those who believed the spoken word immediately received the Holy Ghost. The reality of the resurrection is vigorously defended in 1 Corinthians 15, and we see why in verse 12: [Notice how doubting John conveniently skipped over the Gospel in 1 Corinthians 15:1-5 (which highlights the burial of Christ) and starts with verse 12. This is a common tactic among groundless gospel advocates. They try their best to divert attention away from the Gospel in 1 Corinthians 15:1-5.]
[12] Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? Then, we see in verses 13-17 why it is of such central importance: 
[13] But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen:
[14] And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. 
[15] Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. 
[16] For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: 
[17] And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Verse 17 takes us back to verse 2: 
[2] By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. So, if Christ is not risen, all of us have believed in vain. Since He is risen, we have not. Christ could not have risen from the dead, and could not have defeated death, if He had not died. Verses 25-26 make it clear that Christ could not have put everything under His subjection, unless He had defeated death: 
[25] For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. 
[26] The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. 
We see numerous times, in other scripture, references to the death and resurrection. [Apparently, groundless gospel advocates fail to realize that an emphasis on certain facts of the Gospel does not equate to an exclusion of other parts. Such thinking is non sequitur, i.e. a logical fallacy. If God says something even once in the Bible, it's as true as if He says it a thousand times! And Christ's burial is included in the Gospel more than just one time in the Bible (for example: Isa. 53:9; Acts 13:29; 1 Cor. 15:4). God said it, I believe it, and that settles it!] For example, Romans 5:10: 
[10] For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. We also see that it is the message of the cross that is rejected as foolishness (1 Corinthians 1:18) and is a stumbling block (1 Corinthians 1:23). 
[18] For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. 
[23] But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; 
So, scripture would tell me that the crucifixion and resurrection are the central message, and cannot be dispensed with. [What he's really saying is that Christ's burial can be dispensed with in the Gospel.]
Some will say that since the burial of Christ was prophesied, it is indispensable to the Gospel. I would argue that there are many other prophesies that Christ fulfilled (for example, where He was born, riding a colt) that are not central elements to saving faith. [But unlike Christ’s burial, those other prophecies are never said by Paul to be part of his Gospel like the burial is said to be part of the Gospel in 1 Corinthians 15:4. No one is saying that every prophecy of Christ is part of the Gospel like doubting John is implying in his straw man argument. Once again doubting John is trying to divert attention away from the Gospel in 1 Corinthians 15. Notice how he again wants to focus on the "elements of saving faith" instead of focusing on the elements of the Gospel (which is clearly defined in 1 Corinthians 15). By focusing on the "elements of saving faith," groundless gospel advocates are not constrained by the apostle Paul's definition of the Gospel in 1 Corinthians 15 and thus they can more easily throw in whatever they want and leave out whatever they deem as non-essential.] 
The burial is proof of His death. The sightings are proof of His resurrection. Some people need a lot of proof. Some people need none. [If that's doubting John's line of reasoning then he doesn't have a Gospel because every element of the Gospel is also a proof of something else. Every part of the Gospel is a proof. For example, Christ’s death is proof of His passion or love (Rom. 5:8). Christ’s burial is proof of His perfection (Isa. 53:9). Christ’s resurrection is proof of His payment (1 Cor. 15:17). And Christ’s appearances are proof of His physical body (Luke 24:39). So if some people don’t need any proof like doubting John says, then what he's really saying is that some people don’t need the Gospel at all because all the Gospel is proof! Doubting John's line of reasoning just doesn't hold up under scrutiny. The definition of the Gospel is not based on what doubting John thinks unbelievers need. Instead, the definition of the Gospel is based on what God says in His Word. "Let God be true and every man a liar" (Romans 3:4). Furthermore, why doesn’t doubting John go on to mention the four gospel accounts, particularly the gospel of John? No doubt because all four gospels disprove doubting John's point about the burial not being mentioned. The burial of Christ is highlighted in all four of the gospels.] 
Well said, [doubting] John and thanks for your detailed explanation [of the groundless gospel]. 
In Jesus Christ eternally, Jack

When answering the question "What is the Gospel?," Paul's declaration of the Gospel in 1 Corinthians 15 is "of first importance" (1 Cor. 15:3). The preeminence of the passage in 1 Corinthians 15 is normally recognized, and even groundless gospel advocate Dennis Rokser of Duluth Bible Church has said that "the most definitive passage in the New Testament explaining to us the very content of the Gospel is found in this same book, 1 Corinthians chapter 15." (Rokser, Seven Key Questions about Water Baptism, p. 5.) Furthermore, when we answer the question "What is the Gospel?" we at the same time answer the question "What is essential to believe for salvation?" because belief in the Gospel is what saves. Even groundless gospel advocates like Tom Stegall admit that belief in the Gospel is what saves. So please let's not debate that particular point about whether or not the Gospel is the saving message. It is the saving message (see Rom. 1:16; 1 Cor. 1:17-21, 1 Cor. 4:15; Eph. 1:13; 2 Thess. 1:8-9, etc.).

Here's a paper I wrote some years ago about the new groundless gospel in the Free Grace Movement. It answers many of the groundless objections stated in the comments above. Anyway, here's the paper I wrote titled "Getting the Gospel Right".

Let's keep holding fast to the Gospel and let's keep defending the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints!

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

J. Vernon McGee Warns Against "Lordship Salvation"

“But the new thing that’s happened today is, liberalism is just about dead. But in our conservative groups, heresies are coming in. At least, I’ve labeled them heresies. Some think I ought not to, but many of these men have been friends of mine in the past. Let me just mention them, and I’m not gonna belabor this point either because all I want to be sure of [is] that we’re in days of apostasy - that in conservative churches today a new gospel is being preached, and that’s the Lordship gospel, the Lordship Salvation – that you are not saved until you make Jesus Lord. And I said to a friend of mine that teaches that, and he’s in a seminary, and I said to him, ‘What do you do with the thief on the cross? Did he make Jesus Lord?’ Why, all he did, or asked, was, ‘Remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ That’s all he did; he just had faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. And I can imagine that old tough Philippian jailer that came in that night, and he was ready to kill himself because Rome would’ve done it for him. And Paul says, ‘Don’t do yourself harm. We’re all here.’ And then this man said, ‘What shall I do to be saved?’ And if anybody needed to make Jesus Lord, it was that old rough Philippian jailer! But he didn’t mention that. He said, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.' . . . and you can always recognize that they add something to what Jesus did for us on the cross. Jesus paid it all. He doesn’t want my two bits. He doesn’t want anything I do. And He doesn’t want my commitment because He’s found out that I lied about that two or three times. And don’t you look at me that way because you’ve done the same thing. May I say to you, thank God tonight for a Savior who did it all! And I can know I’m saved, because I trust Him. I trust Him. And that’s what He told me to do."1


1 J. Vernon McGee, "What Can Believers Do in Days of Apostasy?" (time stamp: 14:30 - 16:20 minutes). 

Sunday, November 24, 2019

The Gospel According to Scripture Twisting, or How to Wring Christ's Burial Out of the Gospel

I've noticed that proponents of the groundless gospel1 use a very arcane method of Bible interpretation to decipher the contents of their no-burial gospel in 1 Corinthians 15. They say that since only Christ's death and resurrection are followed by the twice repeated phrase "according to the Scriptures" in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, only the statements about Christ's death and resurrection are really part of the gospel, in distinction to the burial and appearances which are not modified by these phrases.2 In the book The Gospel of the Christ (Milwaukee: Grace Gospel Press, 2009), author Tom Stegall calls this double occurence of the phrases "symmetrical literary markers" which he says mark out the actual content of his no-burial gospel. But there are several glaring problems with Stegall's method of Bible interpretation that I would like to briefly point out:
  1. Stegall uses the twice repeated phrase "according to the Scriptures" in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 to mark out the content of his groundless gospel, but amazingly he doesn't even include these two phrases in his gospel! Is it any wonder that a man-made gospel doesn't include the references to "the Scriptures" (1 Cor. 15:3, 4)? It's truly a tragedy that Stegall exploits the Scriptures in this way. In contrast to Stegall's reductionist reasoning, notice what John Piper has to say about the twice repeated phrase "according to the Scriptures" (1 Cor. 15:3, 4). Under the heading "6 Aspects of the Gospel Without Which There Is No Gospel," Piper declares: "The gospel was planned by God beforehand (verses 3, 4: 'according to the scriptures')...Now, why is that good news? Because I'm arguing this is an essential part of the gospel. You strip away 'according to Scriptures' - [so as to say] 'there was no plan here'...well what was it if it wasn't a plan? Historical vagaries, just something slipped up here, something went wrong here...that's not gospel."4 Richard B. Gaffin, Jr., Professor Emeritus of Biblical and Systematic Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary, affirms: "'Of first importance' (en protois) in the gospel tradition that Paul has received and passes on is '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, and that he appeared to Peter and then to the Twelve' (1 Cor. 15:3-5). Death and resurrection, not as isolated events but in their significance and as the fulfillment of Scripture (entailing revelatory, tradition-establishing appearances of the resurrected Christ to the apostles), are central to Paul's message."5
  2. Stegall also excludes from his groundless gospel any mention of the phrase "on the third day" (1 Cor. 15:4) even though the apostle Paul plainly declares it to be "according to the Scriptures". The phrase "according to the Scriptures" supposedly marks out the content of the groundless gospel, but Stegall still doesn't include the time element of the third day in his gospel.6
  3. Stegall employs a double standard in regards to his use of "symmetrical literary markers" because there are other "symmetrical literary markers" in the passage which exegetically do in fact mark out the content of the gospel, such as the four-fold repetition of the Greek word hoti (English "that") in 1 Corinthians 15:3-5. Notice the four content conjunctions beginning in verse 3: "...that Christ died...and that He was buried...and that He was raised...and that He was seen...." The word "that" (Greek hoti), repeated four times in verses 3-5, functions as a "content conjunction" and indicates a content clause. Greek grammarian David Alan Black affirms: "Content clauses involve a subject, predicate nominative, direct object, or an appositional noun clause. Such clauses are commonly introduced by hina, hoti, hopos, and hos."7 More specifically, Daniel Wallace cites 1 Corinthians 15:3 to illustrate a "content conjunction".8 And John Niemela notes under the heading "Indicating a Content Clause" that "1 Corinthians...15:3...15:4a-b, [and] 5" (but not 15:6ff) each indicate "a Content Clause".9 Even Stegall affirms that "Paul begins by stating explicitly, 'I declare to you the gospel (to euangelion) which I preached (euengelisamen) to you' (1 Cor. 15:1a)....In the following verses Paul then specifies the content contained in that good news starting with the conjunction 'that' (hoti) in verse 3."10 This is the actual grammatical exegesis of the passage that marks out the content of the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15. So I want to ask groundless gospel advocates: What are you going to do with "that"? My guess is they will likely just ignore it and continue to twist the Scriptures to their own destruction, like the Bible says in 2 Peter 3:16.

The Gospel According to Scripture Twisting: Exploit the Scriptures. Exclude certain elements. Employ a double standard.


1 What is the groundless gospel? In 2007, pastor Tom Stegall removed the burial of Christ from the Word of Grace Bible Church doctrinal statement on salvation. I coined the term "groundless gospel" to describe Stegall's new teaching. The groundless gospel label has a double meaning:
    1) It refers to a gospel lacking Christ's burial in the ground (Isa. 53:9; Acts 13:29; 1 Cor. 15:4, etc.).
     2) It refers to a gospel lacking biblical support.

2 For example, author Tom Stegall writes: "A...major reason why the burial and post-resurrection appearances of Christ are not technically part of the gospel, and therefore not part of the required content of saving faith, is the double occurrence of the phrase, 'according to the Scriptures' in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4." (Stegall, The Gospel of the Christ [Milwaukee: Grace Gospel Press, 2009], p. 578, italics his, ellipsis added.)

3 Tom Stegall, The Gospel of the Christ, p. 578.

4 John Piper, "How I Distinguish Between the Gospel and False Gospels," (compiled from the sermon outline and the sermon audio [1:13:50-1:13:20], bold and italics his).

5 Richard B. Gaffin, Jr., "'Life-Giving Spirit': Probing The Center of Paul's Pneumatology," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 41 [December 1998]: p. 574, bold added.

6 Stegall excludes "the third day" from his groundless gospel using some very clever reductionist reasoning. First, he defers to the "opinions among commentators" as his new authority on the third day. Stegall writes: "Opinions among commentators are divided as to whether the phrase 'according to the Scriptures' [in 1 Corinthians 15:4] qualifies the entire statement, 'and that He rose again the third day'". (Stegall, The Gospel of the Christ, p. 560, note 60, italics his.) Wait a minute - "Opinions among commentators"? "BUT WHAT DOES THE SCRIPTURE SAY?" (Gal. 4:30, capitalization added; cf. Rom. 4:3). That's the only question that really matters. Let's back up for a minute and examine why Stegall makes such a comment in the first place. Stegall knows that he has some explaining to do in regards to his removal of "the third day" (1 Cor. 15:4) from the content of the gospel because he has no reason to remove it, at least if he wants to be consistent with his own reductionist reasoning (which views the twice repeated phrase "according to the Scriptures" in 1 Corinthians 15:3,4 as marking out the real gospel). But Stegall knows that he has to remove the reference to the third day from the content of the gospel because the third day points to the burial of Christ (see Matt. 12:40, 27:63-64; Lk. 24:6-7; 1 Cor. 15:4; also see Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology, 4 Vols., Vol. 4, p. 82.) And Stegall has removed the burial of Christ from the gospel. So Stegall defers to the "opinions among commentators" as his new authority on the issue of the third day. (Stegall, The Gospel of the Christ, p. 560, note 60.) A few pages later in his book Stegall similarly appeals to the supposed conversion experiences "of a vast percentage of God's children in the world today". (Ibid., p. 566.) The problem with Stegall's reductionist reasoning is that he is rejecting Jesus' statement on the matter, when He says, "Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and rise again from the dead the third day" (Lk. 24:46a, italics added; compare to the wording in Lk. 4:4, 8, 17, etc.). By saying, "Thus it is written, that the Christ should...rise again from the dead the third day" Jesus makes it clear that the reference to the third day is indeed "according to the Scriptures" (1 Cor. 15:4)! That's what the Scriptures say. Commenting on Luke 24:46, Everett F. Harrison affirms: "Here Jesus is not simply stating the fact of His resurrection on the third day, but rather the Scriptural necessity for its occurrence at that time. The same thing is true of Paul's statement in I Cor. 15:4 to the effect that the resurrection transpired on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures." (Everett F. Harrison, The Christian Doctrine of Resurrection, unpublished manuscript, pp. 54-55.) Commenting on the similarly worded passage in Luke 18:31-34, Merrill C. Tenney affirms: "By the inclusion of the phrase [in Luke 18:31], 'the things that are written,' Jesus connected the events of His passion with the Old Testament." (Merrill C. Tenney, The Reality of the Resurrection, p. 31.)
     Another argument that Stegall uses to exclude the third day from his groundless gospel is by saying that the reference to "the third day" in 1 Corinthians 15:4 is merely "a circumstantial detail" (see Stegall, The Gospel of the Christ, p. 727). The Collins English Dictionary says that "Circumstantial evidence is evidence that makes it seem likely that something happened, but does not prove it." Yet the Lord Jesus consistently foretold His resurrection on the third day in order to verify (prove!) His claims to be the Messiah (see for example: Matt. 12:38-41, 16:21, 17:23, 20:19; Mk. 9:31, 10:34; Lk. 9:22, 18:33, 24:6-7, 46; Jn. 2:19-21). So the reference to the "third day" is clearly not "a circumstantial detail"! The Puritan minister Isaac Ambrose affirms: "When He arose; it was the third day after His crucifying, As Jonas was three days and three nights together in the whale's belly, so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth, Mat. 12.40. This was the time He had appointed, and this was the time appropriated to Christ, and marked out for Him in the calendar of the prophets: of all those whom God raised from death to life, there is not one that was raised on the third day but Jesus Christ; some rose afore, and some after...but Christ takes the third day, which discovers Him to be the Messiah; Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day, Luke 24.46." Ambrose goes on to say that "all these [Scriptures] signify, that His rising on the third day was the accomplishment of prophecies, and a certain evidence that He was the Messiah indeed." (Ambrose, The Complete Works of Mr. Isaac Ambrose, Book 4: Looking Unto Jesus [Dundee: Henry Galbraith and Company, 1759], p. 637, cf. Ambrose, Looking Unto Jesus: A View of the Everlasting Gospel; or The Soul's Eyeing of Jesus, pp. 136-137, 425.) Similarly, Robert Gromacki writes: "If Christ had been raised from the dead on the second, fourth, or any succeeding day [such as the 666th day], that would have been a remarkable, unprecedented achievement; but it also would have declared Him to be a false prophet." (Gromacki, Called To Be Saints, p. 182, bold added.) For more information and further discussion, see the Free Grace Free Speech article "The Deceiver Savior of the Groundless Gospel".

7 David Alan Black, It's Still Greek To Me, p. 144.

8 Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, p. 678.

9 John Niemela, "For You Have Kept My Word: The Grammar of Revelation 3:10," Chafer Theological Seminary Journal 6 (January 2000): 29-30.

10 Tom Stegall, The Gospel of the Christ, p. 532.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

The Biblical Basis for Wordsmithing

My precious mother has been helping me proofread and edit my book HOMELESS FOR HIM.1 Today, we talked on the phone for almost two hours going over more of the manuscript. At the end of our nearly two hour phone call, she said to me: "I hope I haven't been too picky about getting the words just right. I know your Dad would think I am." I replied by saying, "No Mom, you've been a big help! We each have our gifts from God. You and I are wordsmiths!" Then I shared with her the proverb that says, "An idea well-expressed is like a design of gold, set in silver." (Proverbs 25:11, Good News Translation.) That's a great Bible verse, but I knew there's also another one that is even more specific to wordsmithing. Then I remembered it's in Ecclesiastes, and I found it from there. The verse is Ecclesiastes 12:10 (NIV), and it says: "The teacher searched to find just the right words, and what he wrote was upright and true." So there you have it - the Biblical Basis for Wordsmithing!


1 If you want the latest edition of the free e-book HOMELESS FOR HIM, it's free for the asking. Just let me know in the comments or send an e-mail requesting the free e-book to:

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Dr. Ralph "Yankee" Arnold on "Lordship Salvation"

“To believe in Lordship Salvation means: Must be willing to serve the Master in order to be saved, stay saved, or prove you're saved. It is only your - and here's that word - beginning to salvation, and your total commitment is only complete when you finish, when you finish the life - death! It's only good until you die. Because you see, you can't have total commitment until the day you die. Did you maintain? So you can't know for sure you're gonna make it until the day you die. Now isn’t that a shame to live your whole life, and be like it says in the book of Matthew chapter 7. He says some will say to Me, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not done many wonderful works, and cast out devils in Thy name, and prophesied in Thy name?’ And Jesus says, ‘Depart from Me, I never knew you.’ Not that ‘I knew you one time but then I lost you.' 'You used to be saved but you’re not saved anymore.’ He says you never were: ‘I never knew you.’ You see, and they did many ‘wonderful works’. So ‘wonderful works’ is Lordship Salvation. ‘Lord, Lord, have we not…’ - that’s Lordship Salvation! That’s not how a man is saved! A man is saved by just trusting Christ as his Savior, believing that when Christ died, He died for you and paid for all of your sins.” (Ralph “Yankee” Arnold, "JESUS vs John MacArthur," July 28, 2019, time stamp: 20:15 - 21:45.)

Sunday, November 3, 2019

The True Missionary Spirit - by G. C. Needham

Rev. George C. Needham
"For the appeal we make does not come from error or impurity or with deceit, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we declare it, not to please people but God, who examines our hearts. For we never appeared with flattering speech, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is our witness—nor to seek glory from people, either from you or from others...." (1 Thessalonians 2:3-6.)

"The true missionary spirit: --Brave Paul! He spoke the Word, whether sinners would hear or not, whether men were converted or not. If it pleased God he was content. Just like that grand man who kept working away in isolation in the heart of China, and for years saw no conversion. A lady said to him, 'What good are you doing in China, Mr. Burns?' To which he replied, 'Madam, I did not go to China to convert the Chinese, I went to glorify God.' He went to serve and please his Master. I was asked to examine a young man who wanted to give up his business and go to Africa as a missionary. I asked him, 'What is your motive in wanting to take this step? Suppose you go to the heart of Africa, and, seeing thousands bowing down before their idols and refusing to hear of Christ, what would you do?' He replied, 'I'd just keep pegging away.' That is the right spirit of service: to keep pegging away for the Master, not to please the society, not to have a large place on the statistics, not to have a great following, but to please God. If we go forth to any service according to the will of God, and only to please Him. He will bless us in our souls, and in the end give us to see His power in the salvation of sinners." (G. C. Needham, quoted by the Rev. Joseph S. Exell in The Biblical Illustrator, Thessalonians, [New York: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1887], p. 48.)

Saturday, October 26, 2019


The true story of one man's journey to reach the homeless for Christ!

"Jesus said to him, 'If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.'" (Matthew 19:21, NASB.)

I moved into the Milwaukee Rescue Mission on June 1, 2015, the same day the lease ended on my apartment. When the intake specialist at the mission asked me why I was there, I simply said "Jesus".

This is the true story of how one man left everything to follow God's call to become HOMELESS FOR HIM. This book relates how God worked in truly amazing ways after I took a step of faith and made a commitment to live in a local homeless shelter for seven months in order to reach the homeless in my city with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. You’ll learn what motivated me to do this and you’ll read about the day-to-day challenges I faced living homeless in one of the most segregated cities in America. As you read this book, you’ll find answers to the following questions:

     • What inspired and prompted me to do this?  
     • What was my motivation? 
     • What was my objective? 
     • How did I handle it? 
     • What impact did it have on me? 
     • What impact did it have on others? 
     • What dangers did I face? 
     • And much more!

To read this amazing true story, you can request the free ebook. Please let me know in the comments section or email your request to:

Sunday, October 20, 2019

The Elements of Paul's Gospel

"Paul insists on the Resurrection as distinct from the appearances of Christ. [The German liberal theologian Karl Heinrich] Weizsäcker urges that Paul says nothing of what happened at the grave, to prove that he knew nothing of it. It is, of course, true that he gives no account, as do the Gospels, of appearances at the grave. But the Resurrection itself is a concrete fact for him. And what he meant by Resurrection is clear. It immediately follows the mention of the burial, and therefore must be explained as a resurrection of the physical body; and in another place he defines it as a 'quickening of the mortal body.' But this can only mean that the earliest apostolic tradition knew not only of appearances, but of a resurrection of the body. Further, we may well ask, What would have been the point of a reference to the burial of Jesus [in 1 Corinthians 15:4] if the body that was buried played no part in the Resurrection? If Paul's faith rested simply on appearances of Jesus, the body need have played no part, and resurrection would simply have meant a manifestation of the spirit of Jesus from heaven. But when we remember that for Paul resurrection meant a quickening of the mortal body, and when we read [in 1 Corinthians 15:4] that Christ was buried and rose again the third day, we are not at liberty to interpret him as meaning anything else than that the body, which was placed in the tomb dead, was quickened into life, quitted the grave, and appeared to the disciples. On the other interpretation Paul need have said no more than that Jesus died and on the third day appeared to the disciples. But in a summary statement of this kind [in 1 Corinthians 15] we are not entitled to treat the burial as irrelevant and the Resurrection as identical with the appearances; each of the four points - death, burial, resurrection, appearances - was vital to his case. And therefore we may conclude that Paul himself had no doubt that the death and burial of Jesus were followed by the resurrection of the body and the leaving of the tomb." (Arthur S. Peake, Christianity: Its Nature and Its Truth [London: Duckworth and Company, 1908], pp. 202-203.)

“The Gospel consists of certain facts and their interpretation, received from others, handed on by him [Paul] to them [the Corinthians]: Christ’s death on account of sins as set forth in Scripture, the burial (explicitly mentioned, not merely to guarantee the fact of death, but to indicate that the next clause speaks of what happened to the body), the resurrection on the third day also in harmony with prophecy, the appearances mentioned as a fact distinct from the resurrection." (Arthur S. Peake, A Commentary on the Bible [New York: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1920], p. 846.)

Saturday, August 24, 2019

God's Who's Who

The other day I was listening to a sermon by Pastor J. D. Greear and he was preaching about Ehud from the book of Judges. It was excellent, and I want to quote something he said about how God uses weak and ordinary people to accomplish His purposes. This quote is from his sermon “Southpaw Savior, Part 2". Pastor J. D. says: 
“You may not feel like you have much to offer. God doesn’t need the much that you have to offer. All God needs is availability. God can use you. You say, ‘But I don’t have much talent. I don’t have a right hand of strength.’ It’s never been about the right hand of strength! Not with Ehud, not with the apostles, not with you! I remember being on a pastor’s conference, where Adrian - an old southern Baptist preacher named Adrian Rogers looked out at this group of pastors, thousands of pastors. He said, ‘How many of you were valedictorian? Stand up!’ A handful of them - people in the audience - stood up, and some people started clapping. He said, ‘No, no. Don’t clap yet.’ He said, ‘How many of you--’ He said, ‘Remain standing. How many of you went to school, college, on an academic scholarship? An athletic scholarship? How many of you were on the homecoming court? How many of you….’ You know, he just went through all these honorifics. How many of you were in these categories? And at the end there was about thirty percent of the audience standing up. He said, ‘Well, there they are. Those standing are the Who’s Who. These are the ones that have something to brag about.’ He looks at that group standing up and he says this. He said, ‘I’ve got good news and bad news for those of you that are standing up.’ He said, ‘The good news is that God can use you, too. The bad news is that you’re not His first choice. His first choice are those that are seated beside you.’ Because God chooses the weak to shame the strong. And God wants to do things in the world in a way that the glory will not go to the strength of the man or the speed of the horse but will go to God who fights through the left hand of weakness. God doesn’t need your ability; He just wants your availability. Where has God told you to act that you’re not obeying Him? Maybe there is a ministry vision He’s put on your heart that you have yet to pursue. Maybe He has told you to start doing something but you’re not doing it. Maybe He’s told you about a person that you need to reach out to, but every time you’re like, ‘God, they’re going to ask me questions I don’t know. They might mock me. I don’t want to be in that situation.’ And what you’re saying is, ‘God, my arm’s not strong enough!’ And God’s like, ‘I don’t need…I don’t need your arm, all I need is for you to obey Me….’ God does His work in the world through ordinary people obeying Him in ordinary ways. And God takes those weak acts of obedience and infuses them with His power so that you in your life can say like Ehud and like Philip and like the little boy and Zechariah, ‘It is not by might nor by my power, it is by Your Spirit. And this is what the Lord has said.’ . . . You don’t serve God in your strength. Just as you didn’t save yourself by your strength, you don’t serve Him in your strength. You say, ‘Lord, here I am. I’m ready to follow and obey. You use me and You work in me.” (Time Stamp: 19:30 min. – 22:15 min.)

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Henrietta Mears, Billy Graham, and the Gospel

"I doubt if any other woman outside my wife and mother has had such a marked influence." (Speaking of Dr. Henrietta C. Mears influence on his life directly and indirectly). - Dr. Billy Graham1   

     Earlier this year I came across a paperback book titled What The Bible Is All About by Henrietta Mears (1890-1963). The Foreword of the book is written by none other than Billy Graham, who commends it with these words: "This book, What The Bible Is All About, will help make the reading and study of God's Word interesting, challenging and useful. We commend it to you."
     The book is a "clear, concise overview of the Scriptures" in easy to understand language. In the chapter titled Understanding 1 Corinthians, Henrietta Mears gives the following helpful explanation of the Gospel:

     No doubt there was a group in the Corinthian church who did not believe in the resurrection of the dead. Paul in answering this starts out by giving a wonderful statement of what the Gospel is in 1 Corinthians 15:1-11. Paul did not give a new Gospel. It was the old Gospel, given in Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus.
                1. Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures (15:3). 
                2. He was buried (15:4).
                3. He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures (15:4).
                4. He was seen by many witnesses (15:5,6).
     If we deny the resurrection, we deny one of the greatest of all truths of the Gospel. Preaching is vain; faith and hope are all vain. But more than all that, no resurrection would mean no Gospel at all for we would be worshipping a dead Christ. There would be no "good news," for there would be no proof that God had accepted Christ's death as an atonement for our sins. If a sailor on jumping overboard to rescue a drowning man were drowned himself, then we would know that he did not save the man after whom he went. If Christ did not come out from the grave, then He could not bring anyone with Him from the grave. Christ's body died, and it was His body that was raised again. His soul was committed into the hands of the Father.
     Because Christ lives, we shall live also. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?2


1"> (February 21, 2018).

2 Henrietta C. Mears, What The Bible Is All About (Ventura: Regal Books, Copyright 1953, 1954, 1960, 1966, 1980), pages 468-469.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

I Never Knew You

By Peter Hann 

Many people have different views on the passage in Matthew 7:21-23 where Jesus says: "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven". In a minute I'll give my personal view. 

Some people think Jesus' statement is addressed to believers who are living sloppy carnal Christian lives and they're going to lose their salvation if they don't correct. But you cannot lose your salvation! It's not dependent on how you or I live, it's all about what Jesus did. It's also all about grace otherwise it would be our works saving us and no longer grace (Rom. 11:6). Christians living carnal lives will face chastisement by the Lord but not condemnation (1 Cor. 11:32). 

Personally what I think Jesus is talking about in the Matthew 7:21-23 passage is people who think they are going to heaven because they have church membership, or they give money to the church, or Grandpa is a Christian so they think they're saved, or they've been baptized, or given to the poor, and the list goes on and on. These are people that have outward goodness or appear religious but don't have that faith in Jesus in a personal way. To be saved we must stop trusting in things like baptism and church membership and believe in our hearts that we are actually judgment deserving sinners. We must believe in our hearts that Christ died for our sins (Rom. 5:8), with His burial and resurrection validating who He is and what He did for mankind's sins. When we receive Jesus we truly know Him and He knows us, just like Jesus said: "My sheep hear My voice and I know them" (Jn. 10:27). It's like knowing Him on a personal level. It's knowing Jesus rather than just knowing about Him. 

A few years ago I sent a couple of photographs to Fox 6 Milwaukee's chief meteorologist Vince Condella, because on his weather forecast he shows feature photos that viewers send in to him and then he will display the photos during the broadcast. I gave him two pictures of Wisconsin scenery, like a shot of Lake Michigan and a view of a pond in central Wisconsin. As he was showing my photos it said on the T.V. screen: "Peter from Greenfield". I recorded the broadcast because I wanted to show it to a friend of mine but not tell her what it was. She was a little reluctant at first of seeing it but as soon as Vince Condella said "Peter from Greenfield" my friend started smiling. It was because she knew me and knew who I was. If it had said "Frank from Delavan" my friend wouldn't have been smiling because she doesn't know who Frank is but she knows who I am and that's why she was smiling. It's the same when we receive Jesus and we come to know Him on a personal level and now He knows us as well. So if you don't know Him receive Him today. Your eternity depends on it!