We should not think it strange that those who boldly proclaim salvation "by grace through faith plus nothing" — are under attack. One of the most diabolical forms of the attack is to say that we are preaching cheap grace and easy believism, implying that we who proclaim such a free, fully-paid-for salvation teach contrary to the great spiritual giants of church history. Even if such criticisms were true, we should never take our beliefs or practices from other men. There is only one authority and that is the Bible! However, such accusations are decidedly not true, as the following samplings from "great spiritual giants of church history" should demonstrate.
We begin with Dr. Harry A. Ironside, evangelist, prolific author, pastor of Moody Church, and one of the most respected Bible teachers of his day. In his article, "Another Gospel?" he says the following:
There is only one gospel — only one true message of good news from heaven. But there are many substitutes offered in place of the gospel. It was so in the beginning. It is so now. The apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians: "I marvel that ye are so soon removed from Him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel; which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed" (Galatians 1:6–9).
These are intensely solemn words. They come bubbling up from the steaming heart of the indignant apostle in righteous wrath as he learns of pretentious carnal legalists deliberately seeking to mislead eternally-bound souls with a false message which could only, like a will-o-the-wisp, lead to ruin and destruction at last. He would have us know it is a fearfully wicked thing to trifle with the sacred heaven-sent message that has come to a needy world declaring the grace of God to poor lost sinners.
What then is this gospel of which the apostle was so jealous? He tells us plainly in 1 Corinthians 15:1–4, "…I declare unto you the gospel…how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures."
Note carefully: The Gospel is God's wonderful story of His beloved Son. It is a message of grace to be received in faith. It is not a code of laws to be obeyed or good advice to be followed. It is not a system of ritual observances or a call to submit to certain ordinances. It does not set forth the claims of any human church organization, however venerable, nor does it exhort men to seek after experiences, however remarkable, though a blessed experience follows its acceptance. It simply sets forth Christ crucified and risen as the Savior of all who believe in Him.
When the Mormon elder comes declaring that an angel revealed a gospel of salvation through a restored church and renewed ordinances, he is preaching another gospel, and angel and man are alike under the curse.
When the legalist comes insisting that salvation is by obedience to God's holy law (which in itself is just and good), he is preaching another gospel, for the Word of God declares, "By the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified in His sight."
When the revivalist comes promising salvation to those "who make a full surrender" of all that they have to God, and who "pay the price of full salvation," he is preaching another gospel, for the price was paid on Calvary's cross and the work that saves is finished. It was Christ Jesus who made the full surrender, when He yielded Himself unto death for us that we might be redeemed from the curse of the broken law and forever saved from the judgment to come upon all who refuse His grace.
When the modernist prates in glowing terms and honeyed phrases of salvation by character, salvation by altruism, salvation by ethical culture, he, too is proclaiming another gospel, for if character could have saved, Christ need not have died; if altruism would have fitted sinful men for heaven, the Lord Jesus would surely have told us so; if ethical culture could deliver from the wrath of God, what place would Gethsemane, Calvary and the Empty Tomb have in the Divine economy?
When the Christian Scientist (falsely so-called) denies the reality of sin, disease and death and lulls sinners to sleep by telling them that "God is all and all is God," even going so far as to declare the death of Christ was unreal, and His resurrection simply spiritual, and that the blood of Jesus was no more efficacious to cleanse from sins when shed upon the accursed tree than when it was flowing in His veins, he, or she, is promulgating another gospel, which is not another, for it is a baseless dream, a weird and blasphemous "error of mortal mind" that will leave its votaries at last without God and without hope.
The solemn fact is that there is no other gospel. Every pretended substitute is but a Satan-devised delusion meant to turn men away from the strait gate which alone leads into the narrow way, and make them contented as they crowd down the clear side of the broad way to eternal perdition.
Before there can really be another gospel there must be another Savior and another Holy Spirit, and this can never be. Nor is any other gospel needed, for the grand old gospel of the grace of God is all-sufficient to save "whosoever will," and has demonstrated its power throughout the centuries by transforming lost miserable sinners into happy joyous saints. Paul says, "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ; for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith" (Romans 1:16–17).
The gospel needs only to be preached in the power of the Holy Spirit to hold its own against every imitation and substitute that the mind of the natural man energized by Satan can devise. Like the Bible itself, it is divinely inspired and, therefore, preeminently fitted for the needs of mankind…It convinces the mind and satisfies the heart, if men but take the place of repentant sinners and accept it by faith. It is the dynamic of God unto the deliverance of all who believe it. To refuse it is to be lost. To receive its message is to be saved.
It reveals the righteousness of God, making known how He "can be just and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus." Satan's false gospels all pretend to show how man can establish his own righteousness. The gospel of Christ comes to unrighteous men and tells them of a righteousness that is divine which is imputed to all who believe.
Another gospel — whatever its outward form — will always be found to center in something that man can be or do in order to obtain merit. The gospel of God declares what Christ has done in order that the salvation purchased may be justly offered to sinners.
Another gospel presupposes some good in man. God's gospel starts with the solemn fact that "there is none good, no, not one."
Another gospel presupposes some strength, some ability to please God, in the natural man. God's gospel declares that when "we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly."
Another gospel will land you in hell! God's gospel, believed, will bring you safe to heaven.
Turning from every false hope, I beseech my unsaved reader to rest in what Scripture declares concerning Christ, and thus be able to sing in faith:
Upon a life I did not live,
Upon a death I did not die,
Another's life, Another's death
I hang my whole eternity.
None will ever be confounded who put their trust in Him.
Horatius Bonar is another voice speaking clearly to us of the importance of presenting a clear, free gospel message. Bonar was a Scottish Presbyterian minister. He wrote nearly six hundred hymns and poems, most famous of which is probably "What a Friend We Have in Jesus."
He once wrote a booklet geared to ministers entitled Words to Winners of Souls. In a chapter entitled "Ministerial Confession" he lists fourteen areas in which ministers have failed. The tenth point of the list is as follows:
We have not fully preached a free gospel. We have been afraid of making it too free, lest men should be led into licentiousness; as if it were possible to preach too free a gospel, or as if its freeness could lead men into sin. It is only a free gospel that can make men holy. Luther's preaching was summed up in these two points — that we are justified by faith alone, and that we must be assured that we are justified…and it was such free, full, bold preaching of the glorious gospel, untrammeled by works, merits, terms, conditions, and unclouded by the fancied humility of doubts, fears, uncertainties, that such blessed success accompanied his labors. Let us go and do likewise.
J. Irvin Overholtzer, the founder of Child Evangelism Fellowship, was blinded to the gospel for years. The preaching of grace opened his darkened mind, and God used him mightily to lead hundreds to Christ. In his powerful booklet, Salvation by Grace, he wrote:
This terrible corrupting of the Gospel of grace (legalism) has been with us since that time. It has taken many forms. We have added many things to simple faith as the condition of salvation. We have demanded that all sin be forsaken as a condition of salvation. This is not the Gospel of grace at all. Sin is to be forsaken after Christ has received us and gives us His power with which to forsake sin. We have demanded that a promise to obey Christ as Lord must be made — that we give our hearts to Him. This is not grace. Grace presents salvation to helpless sinners as a free gift (Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:8). If promises are to be exacted, the salvation obtained would be anything but a gift (Romans 4:4–5). But the tragedy is, no salvation at all would be had. We have demanded that a certain creed be subscribed to. All of these are but forms of the Galatian error. They are under the condemnation of God.
Again a certain amount of sorrow for sin, or a certain kind of sorrow has been demanded. We have required a public confession of Christ as a condition for justification. This, Christ and the apostles, never did. Confession of Christ should follow and not precede faith. The salvation mentioned in Romans 10:9–10 refers to something beyond justification, as the context shows.
In the Galatian church those who accepted these errors lost this "blessing," even if they were already saved, which left them without the Holy Spirit's witness and guidance. This has always been true where any form of salvation by works has been accepted. This explains the loss of spiritual blessing in many a Christian life. Teachers who teach any form of salvation by works cannot have the blessing of God upon them, for they are really leading people away from salvation instead of to the only Saviour who can save.
We appreciate the example of these spiritual giants of church history. Their love for the gospel message and sharing it are certainly examples that we can follow.
Our heartfelt concern and prayer is that all believers in Christ will be clear in their presentation of the gospel. May God use us so that unbelievers will understand exactly who Jesus Christ is, what He has done for them, and what they must do to receive the gift of eternal life — said so simply in John 6:47: