Monday, May 25, 2015

The Gospel and Simplicity

I began a series on my assessment of independent Baptists (parts one, twothreefour, and five), and will continue, but that's how I got started on the gospel recently.  From that series, I spun off into a post on the gospel, that turned into another series (parts one, two, three, and four).  All of this occurred between April 27 and May 20.  I still plan on finishing the assessment of independent Baptists, but I want to park on the gospel still, because if men either can't admit that or don't understand it, the other points and observations won't matter.

In one of the comments in the series I was writing on omissions from the gospel, someone expressed concern over the simplicity that might be missing in an explanation of the gospel, that included the Lordship of Christ.  To be sure I represent it properly, here is a quote from the comment:

Where is the simplicity in your position? Does someone have to understand that he is giving up his life, in order to be saved? Does he have to consciously have that thought?

I included the follow up questions, but it seems that the thought was that teaching the Lordship of Christ makes the gospel too complicated or more complicated than it should be or is.  I think the opposite of that.  The true gospel is the most simple, because it is the one you can show from the Bible.  A false gospel is one where you have to read into the text of scripture, and that's what is complicated.

However, I want to consider the concept of simplicity.  I have heard in the past the thought of keeping the gospel simple.  I have four separate thoughts right away.  One, I think of the old gospel tract, "God's Simple Plan of Salvation," that many churches had in their tract rack and used, and I'm sure still do use it.  That tract told people the plan of salvation was simple, so if it isn't simple, it must be wrong.  By "simple" the tract meant very, very easy to understand even for someone of very little mental capacity.  Or as I sometimes will describe something simple -- without very many moving parts.

Two, I think of the description of Peter and John in Acts 4:13, "Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus."  The idea here is that the gospel of Jesus is one for even the "unlearned and ignorant men."  It must be simple, because that's how the original disciples of Jesus were -- simple.

Three, I think of 1 Corinthians 1, where Paul says that the saving message isn't for the "wise" or the "scribe" or "the disputer of this world."  Since it isn't for the "wise," it must be for those not so wise.  It is the "foolishness of God," something that doesn't even make sense in its lack of complication, a simplicity that would not be expected by an intellectual researching his plan of salvation.  He would make it more sophisticated.

Four, I think of 2 Corinthians 11:3:

But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.

That verse says point blank that the gospel is simple, so it is.  It is worth exploring what "simplicity" means in 2 Corinthians 11:3, if "simple" has the same meaning here as it does today.  The word translated simplicity, aplotes, is used eight times in the New Testament, including here.  The same word is translated "liberality" in 2 Corinthians 8:2, "bountifulness" in 2 Corinthians 9:11, and "liberal" in 2 Corinthians 9:13.  On the other hand, that word is translated "singleness of heart" in Ephesians 6:5 and Colossians 3:22.  In Romans 12:8, the KJV translates it "simplicity," but the obvious meaning is similar to 2 Corinthians 8 and 9, because it reads, "he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity."  BDAG, the foremost Greek lexicon, says concerning the meaning in 2 Corinthians 11:3, "Of simple goodness, which gives itself without reserve, ‘without strings attached’, ‘without hidden agendas’."

The meaning of the word translated "simplicity" in 2 Corinthians 11:3 fits with the understanding of a true gospel.  The simple gospel, the true one, is one in which it is clear cut who is saved.  You can know it.  It doesn't muddle it up with convoluted explanations of the nature of Jesus.  It isn't this contemporary gospel, where it is almost impossible to judge, because a person could live in a nearly perpetual state of carnality and still be saved.  This is the one that seems to come with a hidden agenda that plays around with the Lordship of Jesus Christ.  You receive Jesus as Savior in the complicated gospel, and then maybe or maybe not, you receive Him as Lord at some later date.

As all of the doctrine of salvation relates to the modern understanding of simple, the later additions or omissions to a true gospel have complicated the simplicity.  Salvation comes through believing in Jesus Christ, and He's either the Jesus of the Bible or He's not.  If someone diminishes the identity of Jesus to widen the threshold or broaden the appeal of Jesus to the lost, you get another Jesus.  That's actually what 2 Corinthians 11:3 is talking about more than anything as related to the distortion of the gospel, that is, another Jesus Who will not save, albeit a more palatable Jesus to someone who wishes to remain in charge of His own life.  The false teachers at Corinth were presenting another Jesus and, therefore, teaching another gospel.

I'm afraid that the simple that people want, as it regards salvation, is something as simple as a glancing thought about Jesus.  A modern audience may want to "click in" to Jesus on the right index finger to its mouse.  You're now saved sort of like the one motion that sends an email, or publishes a post or comment, or makes a purchase.

If there is a simple plan of salvation, as close to what we would understand "simple" today, then it is found in the gospel of John.  I would agree that if you want to make it simple, have someone read John, because John writes (John 20:31), "But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name."  John could be the Bible's gospel tract, giving the most fundamental or simple information that would end in someone believing in Jesus Christ with the consequence of eternal life.  What does John say to believe about Jesus?  "That Jesus is the Christ" -- "the Christ."

"Christ" is found 569 times in the New Testament.  John says if you "believe that Jesus is the Christ," you "have life through his name."  If salvation is simple, then that is as simple as it gets.  If it must be more simple than that, then it is too simple.  With it being so simple, then a lot of people were saved, right?  A lot of people got life through Jesus, right?  Wrong.  Was it not simple enough?  Did it need to be more simple?

When you read John, you see Jesus separate the true followers from the false ones.  He whittles down His crowd like no other preacher, by today's estimation just making it harder and harder for folks.  He totally blew multiple opportunities in John by a modern gospel assessment.  What was it that made the gospel so difficult for people, when it was so simple?

It's simple to "believe that Jesus is the Christ," right?  I think it's as simple as it should be.  I've not noticed it being complicated in my experience.  You've got to believe.  It must be "believe," but people easily mess that up.  It must be "the Christ," and then people also distort that.  I've found that they usually corrupt it by twisting it into something of their desire, so that it is less than believe and less than "the Christ," and usually both.

If John is about convincing people that Jesus is the Christ, so that people will believe that He is the Christ, then reading John, to see Who that is, is necessary.  Is it too complicated to find out Who Jesus is in John? With most evangelicals and independent Baptists today, I think it is.  That would take too long and require reading skills or perhaps a lot of time of explanation.

As I have read through John many times, and taught through it a few times, it reads like it's arguing for the content of saving faith.  Let me offer you a sample.  In John 5, Jesus goes down to one of the feasts in Jerusalem.  It doesn't say which one.  It's obvious that John 5 is thematic, furthering the evidence for what John says in John 20:31, like it already has been up to that point.  It reads like part of a master plan.

At the beginning, Jesus performs a sign or miracle.  He does it on the Sabbath, on purpose.  In this case, he has the lame man stand up, pick up his bed, and walk, so that he would violate their Sabbath laws.  He does that so that they could see that He was Lord of the Sabbath, just like His Father.  Jesus works on the Sabbath, just like the Father works on the Sabbath.  How does the Father work?  He upholds the entire universe on every Sabbath, a never ending task of sustaining the entire creation. Jesus argues that His work is the same as the Father's work, which is giving life and judging, which encapsulates everything that man experiences.  Jesus is the Author of it all.  

I could explain further, but I'm just pulling John 5 out as a sample.  John reads like it offers one sample after another.  All of this is to convince that Jesus is "the Christ."  "The Christ" is the Anointed One.  That's what the term means.  "Anointed" for what?  To reign.  Jesus is the Messiah. He is the coming King, Who comes to rule.  You have to believe that.  

"Belief" is not just intellectual assent.  The word means more than just registering something in the brain, what most evangelicals want "belief" to be and twist it into.  Interpretation is guided by the laws of language.  Belief must be what belief is.

Belief involves the will.  If someone believes Jesus is the Christ, he has acquiesced to Jesus' authority.  The reign belongs to Jesus, not himself.  In John, just from the minimal sample of John 5, he knows that Jesus does the works that the Father does. Someone who stays on the throne of his own life doesn't believe that.  However, most evangelicals and independent Baptists want that still to be belief and that still to be Jesus.  It isn't.  It's a distortion. The distortion is what complicates simplicity.

It's simple.  Jesus is either Lord or He is not.  That's simple.  That's not hard to grasp.  What makes it hard?  People want to stay in charge, want their own way.  They want to be saved, sure.  People want a Jesus who will save them, but not rule them.  If they believe in that Jesus, does he save?  No, because that isn't Jesus.  Men present this alternative Jesus, because he's easier to accept, but he doesn't save, because he isn't Jesus.  He isn't the Messiah. He isn't Christ.


Tyler Robbins said...

I'm preparing a message on Rev 22:6-21. I just now came to Rev 22:14, which has some bearing on the Gospel. Rev 22:14 reads thus:

Revelation 22:14 Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.

The blessed ones are those who continually do Christ's commandments. It's a present, active participle. It's a continual, ever-present dedication, devotion and submission to Christ and His commandments. He is Lord, and the believer acknowledges this and lives in light of it. It means a changed life. This is the fruit of real salvation, not a prayer prayed 20 years ago or a meager profession from days gone by. Salvation proves itself by actions. This is what Jesus said in Rev 22:14.

Farmer Brown said...

Kent, Tyler, Et al;

You quoted my comment, but I think did not address what I intended for you to address.

I do not disagree that if Jesus is not the Lord of your life you are not of him. In my comment I cited 1 John 2:4. There is no stronger verse that that on these matters.

My question was about the requirements of salvation. My question was this: "Does someone have to understand that he is giving up his life, in order to be saved? Does he have to consciously have that thought? Maybe I am lost in the volume of the discussion, but it seems like you are saying he does."

I believe when you are talking about the Lordship, you are talking about a requirement for true belief. I am talking about a result of true belief. We are ending up in the same place but getting there two different ways, which matters.

To be saved you have to know Jesus is God, not a god like the JWs, but the God. You have to repent and believe in him. If you do that, you will do what he says. If you do not do what he says, or believe what he says (creation, hell, etc) you are demonstrating you have not believed in him.

That is the simplicity to which I was referring. Repent and believe and this will have tangible results. One of those results is you will bow the knee to his word. If you are a believer he will be your Lord and you will bow the knee to him in whatever he says. He is a benevolent king, and will never make a demand to which you cannot submit.

This last paragraphs takes some maturity, though. Our flesh will naturally fight the surrender of our will. Paul in his trip to Jerusalem decided his reason to go to Jerusalem was more important than the Holy Spirit's reason for telling him not to go. David knew he should not number the people. Moses knew he should speak to the rock.

All these men failed to bow the knee for a moment, but as believers they repented and returned to following their Shepherd and Bishop, having been redeemed by his blood. This is the mark of true saving faith. (King) Saul on the other hand did not repent, showing he lacked a true repentance and belief.

Does all this have to be considered for salvation, or can someone simply understand who Jesus is, and turn to him in repentance and belief?

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi Tyler,

Scripture is consistent about what justification will produce. It will produce good works. He works in us to will and do of His good pleasure. And this is the effect that Farmer Brown talks about with 1 John 2:3-4. I'm not exactly talking about that here, but it is true.


Kent Brandenburg said...

Farmer Brown,

I was taking off your simplicity comment, mainly because I have read it as a common argument. Lordship salvation is not cleaning-your-life-up-preceding-justification. Yes, Jesus said, if you keep your life, you lose it, but if you lose it, you gain it. That was also the point of "deny self," and "blessed are the poor in spirit," and even Jesus' teaching to the rich young ruler. Commitment is found in the meaning of "believe."

What is complex and not simple is equating Lordship with Deity, as you do above. When Thomas said, "My Lord and My God," he wasn't saying "My God and my God." Receiving Jesus Christ is receiving the Jesus, the only One, and He is Lord. This is a vital component of His identity, that He is in charge and you believe that. Do you believe that someone must believe that Jesus is the Christ to be justified? Who is the Christ? What is the Christ? Should someone know what that means? If someone is leaving it out, and adding it post-justification, is that to change the nature of salvation?

Farmer Brown said...

Thomas is a good example. The first message I ever preached in a church was on his two-fold confession and the implications of it. This (Thomas) is a mature believer at this point, not at the moment of his conversion. He had to be rebuked by Jesus to arrive here, but arrive he did as he was a believer.

Peter preached to unsaved Gentiles in Acts 10, and Paul in Acts 17. Both of them identify Jesus both as God and Lord, although Peter only parenthetically. Neither delve into the meaning of the Christ, which would not have been natural knowledge to the audiences as it was to the Jews early in Acts.

Peter says that God anointed Jesus in Acts 10 and ID's him as Christ, but Paul does not mention it at all. Some of those in Athens believed. They did not have the level of detail you have espoused, but they had enough to repent and believe.

It sounds as if you would have preached a different message to the Athenians. That is not snide, but an honest observation. I recognize John 20:31 exists, but so does Acts 10 and 17. We seem to have the whole text of Paul's speech which does not get into the Christ at all.

How do you integrate these two accounts? I am not offering a solution necessarily, but genuinely asking how you integrate these two accounts? My thought is that for the Jews John was addressing that acknowledging Jesus as Messiah was fundamental. The Jews of John's day would not accept him as Messiah, but they knew what that meant.

For the Athenians, that was not standing between them and salvation. It was their abundance of Gods, and that is what Paul addresses. For the rich young ruler, it was the money and Jesus addressed this. He does not argue he is Messiah, he attacks the man's misplaced faith. For Cornelius it was just knowing who the true God is. Peter addresses that, not money.

If the Athenians can accept the one true God, they will accept him as Messiah. If the rich young ruler can trust God over money, he will accept Jesus as Lord. Once Cornelius knows who God is, he will trust him. Money will not be an issue.

The central and key themes are repentance and true belief in the one true God. Once that is accomplished, Messiah, money, and Lord will not be a problem, if they have truly believed. That is my thought, off the cuff. It is not totally developed.

Bobby said...


I'm not sure we have everything Paul preached to the "certain" that "clave to him and believed" in Acts 17. It reads to me that he preached the sermon that is recorded, some mocked, and some stuck with him, thus giving him more time to teach them. They believed.

It seems the same with the jailer in Acts 16. We see the short message, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ," but the text indicates that more was preached.

Even Acts 2 does not contain everything Peter preached on Pentecost for "with many other words..."

Anyone reading this discussion might be interested in listening to "Jesus Did Not Believe In Them" at . It deals with those who believed in His name, but He did not commit Himself to them in John 2.

Kent Brandenburg said...


It seems like we're talking past each other on this. There seems to be continued misunderstanding. I don't know how the inclusion of, and not the exclusion of, Lordship, effects simplicity. There are salvation passages that say nothing about Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection. Does that mean someone could be saved without believing that? No. We don't get our doctrine of salvation from an individual passage, or assume that because something wasn't in there, that it wasn't said. Bobby dealt with that too. When I talk about the Christ, that is the message of the book of John as a whole, weaving through the whole book.

Thomas is a mature believer, but my point was not that he was getting saved, first believing, there, but that Lord and God don't have the identical meaning.

Ditto on Bobby's mention that you can't assume anything from what a passage doesn't say. John 20:30-31 is of a different nature or character as it stands in the book of John. The whole book was written to believe Jesus is the Christ.

The Athenians also would need to believe Jesus is the Christ. They would have been brought to speed on that. A lot of them didn't even get there, because they weren't willing apparently to believe something short of that.

I don't think this is that difficult. I explain what belief is and I explain who Jesus is. I don't leave out Lord, and I don't leave out repent. Part of repent is not having your way anymore, but Jesus having His way, and that's believing in Him and repenting.

The main point I'm making is that this other gospel, the false one, says Lordship isn't on this side of faith, but on the other side of it, the already-saved side of it. You leave it out purposefully in that plan. So far, I haven't heard whether you agree or disagree with that, I don't think.

For the rich young ruler, I think it was, would He do what Jesus said. He said that he believed Jesus was God. If he really believed that, then he would do what Jesus said. His possessions wouldn't get in the way of doing what Jesus wanted.

With this paragraph -- "The central and key themes are repentance and true belief in the one true God. Once that is accomplished, Messiah, money, and Lord will not be a problem, if they have truly believed. That is my thought, off the cuff. It is not totally developed." -- it seems you too say that you don't need to believe Jesus is Lord until after you're saved. If that's the case, then you are taking Lou's position. 90 times in Acts Jesus is Lord, twice He is Savior. I'm not advocating excluding Jesus as Savior. It's just that leaving out Lord is perverting the gospel. That's been my main contention in this series.

The Preacher said...

This is an excellent sermon concerning the truth in preaching the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ that has as its bases the “forgiveness of sins” when a man REPENTS and believes the gospel.

We have many in so called churches today who have been told such things as to “let Jesus into your heart” and “that Jesus loves you” which are contrary to the truth of the gospel. These have made many “the two-fold children of hell” for “praying a prayer” that had no biblical basis which has created great confusion in these last days.

Farmer Brown said...

I tried to post a comment on here about a week ago. I may have fatfingered the submission.

We probably are saying the same thing. Thinking about this for the last week or so, we have the same destination.

When I say "true belief" or "truly believing", I mean you truly believe on the name of Jesus. That means he becomes the authority in your life and you will believe anything he says and act on it. This is the definition of "Lordship", right? He is the authority, your Lord, whom you wholeheartedly follow.

I see this as a part of true belief. If you truly believe, he will be your Lord. If he is not your Lord, you have not truly believed on him. As I witness, I emphasize this to unbelievers. You cannot be a believer if you do not believe on him. It is impossible to reject some part of his doctrine, but to still believe on him.

If you reject hell, you do not believe on him. If you believe in evolution, you do not believe on him. If you refuse to believe you should bear witness, you do not believe on him. If you refuse to live Godly, you do not believe on him.

That is the point of my last post, not that what is recorded are the only things that were said, but rather that like with the young ruler, the preaching attacked the area in which the hearer would not submit and believe. As long as they held out in this one area of unbelief, they were wholly unbelieving. They had to submit every part to Jesus and see him as the King. I am calling that true belief, and I think that is what you are calling Lordship.