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!

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