John Reisinger: A Different Gospel or No Gospel and Still Saved?

Dear John,

I agree with Mormons that all are commanded and invited to believe the gospel. But I disagree with them about what is the gospel. I agree with you, John, that the reprobate are invited to believe the gospel. But I disagree with you about what the gospel is.

You have an idea of the gospel, a doctrine of the gospel, which hems God in, which misrepresents God, which is idolatry. Your idea is that God loves the reprobate because God invites the reprobate. You so much think this is the way to display the love of God, that you end up with a different gospel than the gospel Jesus preached.

Jesus said, “come to Me, all you.” You say that there is “nothing before this come”. But before this invitation, Jesus identified Himself as the one who reveals the Father and identified the Father as the one who hides things from the reprobate. As I say, we agree that Jesus invites even the reprobate to come. But the difference between us is about which gospel we command and invite everybody to believe.

Your gospel presents a God whose love is not stingy but a love which wants to save those God doesn’t save. Since God would rather save the elect than damn them, you conclude that God would rather save the reprobate than damn them. But this is not the truth, and this misrepresentation of God leads to more falsehoods.

John, there is still something in you which rejects the gospel which displays all the riches of God’s grace. Instead of preaching that salvation is not conditioned on the sinner, you hold back talking about the glory of God in reprobation. The gospel is about the righteousness of Christ dying for the elect, not about the faith of the elect. To each and every sinner, we must say: if you are reprobate, there is no room for you. Matthews 11:25 ” I thank you Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and the prudent, and have revealed them to babes.”

We are to imitate Jesus in His preaching because we are to be convinced that the only difference between saved and lost is the Father giving a people to His Son and His Son dying for those people. Why should we hold back that gospel? Do we think we are prudent enough to know how to abridge the gospel Jesus preached?

I just finished listening to your sermon “The Real Prodigal” from the Bunyan Conference. I like the part about new converts seeing the best in the new and the worst in the old. I can relate to that.As a relatively new concert, I certainly have a keen sense of the sin of believing in a salvation conditioned on the sinner. I certainly have a great shame for having “misrepresented God” for so many years. I was an idolater, and not until God delivered me to the doctrine of the true gospel did I ever feel ashamed of the things I now hate.

I also liked the “sound bite” about truth not being in the middle but in the extremes. If the extremes are in the Bible, they do not contradict each other, no matter what we may think. So we need to be sure that they are in the Bible, and then teach them. I agree with that.

I also was interested in your profession of love for open discussion. I have asked to meet with you, to talk with you, but that has never happened and now you have used the slanders of Phil Johnson as an excuse for exercising your authority to end the discussion. So you end up with one person giving “both sides”, not only his side but a caricature of the other side.

Two things about this. 1. I know that I cannot assume that everything or even anything in your sermon was about me. You kept saying “these people” and “hypers’. And then you can say to us: if the shoe fits, wear it as I call it: you are “hyper”. And if we say that this is a caricature, a cold critical stereotype fitting no individual person, then you say, OK, I wasn’t talking about you.

Thus you keep the stereotype, but without having to defend it, and without answering for the accusations you have made. But this is what happens when you take both sides, and try to represent the other side without letting the other side represent itself. You are not yet as much unlike Al Martin as you think you are.

Now I am not complaining that you only give one side of things. We all do that. What takes the cake is that you talk about “open discussion”.. What I want to say, John, is that you do not know me. You do not know if I am happy or angry or if I have love in my life. I do know that I am still a real sinner. My confession is not simply that “I repent of the false gospel” I used to believe. My confession is that I do not yet see my sin as I should see it, and that the law of God would still condemn me despite my confessing the true gospel and my repenting of the false gospel, were it not for the righteousness of God established for the elect at the cross. Salvation cannot be conditioned on any sinner, no not even one who is a Christian.

Now I know that you also profess not to condition salvation on the sinner. You say that, while Arminians may THINK that their salvation is conditioned on them, they are saved and their salvation is not conditioned on them. After all, you say, you are not “stingy with the love of God”. Does this mean that God loved the elder brother in spite of his legalism? Since I know that you profess a not-saving but universal love, I am sure that you would say that God does love “in some way” that elder brother.

But that is not the real difference here. Is that elder brother saved? Must the one who came home from the hog pen confess that the elder brother is his brother? Back in the days when I became an universalist, I said yes: all are brothers.

What do you say? I do not ask if you think he was reprobate in the secret counsels of God. Rather I ask,is a legalist converted while still left in his legalism? Are the “good people” saved also, despite their being deceived about their sins and about the gospel? What do you say? Is the love of God so weak that it cannot save a person who remains a legalist? In spite of his legalism? Is the love of God so weak that it cannot save a person who remains an Arminian? In spite of his Arminianism?

My answer is that the love of God is so powerful that it CONVERTS the sinner. The sinner is not saved BECAUSE OF his turning from sin; but the converted sinner does turn from sin. The sinner is not saved BECAUSE OF his faith in the gospel, but the converted sinner does have faith in the gospel. The sinner is not saved BECAUSE he understands and submits to the righteousness established in Christ’s death for the elect, but the converted sinner will understand and submit to that righteousness.

The converted sinner will believe the gospel  BECAUSE OF THAT RIGHTEOUSNESS.  What God did at the cross is not merely “potential”. The power of the cross “crucifies” sinners so that they understand that salvation is not conditioned on the sinner. We should not presume that any man who does not know this is our brother.

John, you can and do make this distinction: not because of, but necessary. It will happen, and until it does, then we cannot say that the gospel has converted a man. But you won’t say it when it comes to submitting to effective atonement. Which means you won’t say it when it comes to being a legalist. Because anybody who says that Christ died for everybody but some of them are not saved MUST be looking to the sinner as the difference between saved and lost. Even if the legalist gives his god or election the “credit” for the difference, he MUST locate that difference in himself and not in what Christ did at the cross.

I understand that you believe that Jesus died only for some. But you think knowing about this death is not necessary. It is the cause, sure; but you don’t think they need to know it’s the cause. And I cannot help thinking of some of my “strict baptist” friends. I do not call them “hypers” (I like to be more specific) but they say that people can be converted without hearing the gospel. They say John the Baptist was, and that people can be converted “directly” without the message of the cross. So they think it doesn’t matter if the elect hear the true gospel or the Arminian gospel or any gospel.

I reject this. I know that the reprobate will refuse the gospel. I know that the elect must be made alive in regeneration (on account of imputed righteousness) before they will submit to the gospel. But I also know that people need to hear the gospel before they can believe it. (I Peter 1:22-23). To obey the truth, they must hear the truth. To believe the Word, they must hear the Word. Those who have never heard anything but the Arminian gospel have not yet heard the gospel, and are still lost in their sins.

I know you are not an universalist like I was. You will not say that all men are your brothers. You are very right to focus on the elder brother’s refusal to say that the one who came home was his brother. My question: WERE they brothers? If the elder brother goes on like he is, never repenting of his legalism, is he in the family of God? Your assumption, suited to your purpose of attacking “these people” who say that Arminians are lost, is that both are brothers. But that is a false assumption.

Though Cain and Abel are brothers in the flesh, both creatures of God, made in the image of God, both are not saved. The one who came home is saved; the elder brother is not saved. They ultimately do not have the same home or the same gospel or the same God.

This means that we can’t take your universalist pose which acts as if God loves everybody, in spite of their rejection of the gospel. We need to know what the gospel is. And we need to say that those who reject the gospel are condemned already. John 3:17-21 “He who DOES THE TRUTH comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.”

There is no pleasing God without faith in God’s gospel. We “do the truth” only when we confess that salvation is not caused by our deeds but “done in God”. The “good works” of Christians are necessary but they are not “good works” unless the sinner has understood that his salvation is conditioned on what God did at the cross and not on these works. Faith must exclude itself as the condition of salvation, or it is not faith in the gospel and is not pleasing to God.

Workers must exclude works as the condition of salvation, or they are not ‘good works” and the people who do them are elder brothers, not yet in the family of God, but still lost in their sins. Elder brothers do not “do the truth”. They can talk much of their works, but they will not bring these works to the light of the true gospel, for the true gospel would say that their works were not acceptable.

You don’t know me, John. You say that there are some you are proud to have as your enemies, and then some who you still love but who don’t know what you are saying, who would be right to be upset if you were saying what they think you say. I read your essays. I listen to your tapes. I think I know what you are saying. But we don’t know each other. I know that you profess to have been saved while an Arminian. You know I profess to be a new convert. Besides that, about all we have to go on is what we say and how we say it. I suppose we could accuse each other of saying what we say “ungraciously”. But that is a very subjective thing, and very difficult to say when we don’t talk.

Remember they said that Paul was a hard man in print but a wimp face to face? Or something like that. I could say that you sound very critical and know-it-all in the pulpit but “as a person”, you are very “nice”, even timid. So the best I can do is to once again try to show how you misrepresent me. If the crap doesn’t stick, you say, I wasn’t throwing it at you. But maybe this is a case of you thinking you know what I say when you really don’t.

You say that “these people” think that “the only thing that matters is if you believe the five points. It doesn’t matter if you pray or witness, if you believe the five points.” Let me say, John, not only is this NOT what I think but also that neither you nor I know anybody who thinks that. I pray for you, because I think it matters. I do not pray for you because I think that my salvation (or yours) is conditioned on my praying. I do not pray to get assurance. I pray because I have assurance.

Similarly, John, I witness to you, because I think it matters. But not because I think my salvation is conditioned on my witnessing. Of course you are mad that anybody thinks you need witnessing to. I know the feeling.

I would be urgent with you. The gospel is different, much richer than you think it is. It is a great and wonderful thing that salvation is conditioned only on the death of Christ for the elect. What you call an unnecessary and unhelpful “qualifying” of the gospel is all about the glory of God in the gospel. It is a great comfort for me to define sin as God defines it, and thus to confess my sin of conditioning salvation on the sinner. It is false comfort to tell the sinner that he can define his sin anyway he wants, and so define the gospel any way he wants.

I am urgent because I am happy in this good news. Jesus did not die for the non-elect. If you don’t submit to the righteousness, only then will we know that there never was any righteousness for you. If there was a righteousness for you but that righteousness did not save you, then that righteousness will not save me either. There is no difference between me and any non-elect person EXCEPT that righteousness.

I do not know need to know who is and is not non-elect to tell the truth that Christ did not die for those who reject the invitation. I do not need to know who is elect to shout the glad tidings that all the elect will hear the voice of the Shepherd instead of the voices of Arminians.

I know what it’s like to look to myself and to be too proud to come. What will people say after all these years of me being a Calvinist if I confess that I was lost? I am such a sinner, and have so many regrets, and have been on so many “kicks”, what will it look like if I say that I was lost all those years?

John, I am urgent, because I know the temptation of all that. And also I know the great great joy of one day saying: I don’t care. I will flush all the crap .I will rejoice in what God says about saved and lost. I will go by what God says. I repented of all other gospels. I plead with you to do the same.

You say that “these people” think that all who don’t believe the five points are lost.

But what I really say is that “I was a five pointer and I was lost.”

You say, “these people” say that all who didn’t hear the gospel from a preacher who believe the five points are lost.

I am not saying the five points are the gospel. You can believe every one of the five points and still die the second death. Many say that Christ only died for some who still say that the reason the some are saved is not the cross but what God does in them.

So the next time you want to have an open discussion, by saying what the other side would have said if you had invited them to say it, make sure that you say the discussion is about the “righteousness” of the cross.

It’s not only about tolerating Arminians; it’s about the sin of conditioning salvation on the sinner. There are many folks who sincerely believe every one of the five points who still do not know the gospel, and that is why they do not feel the least bit of ashamed of having conditioned salvation on the sinner. They CONTINUE to condition salvation on what God does in the sinner.

John: are you ashamed of ever conditioning salvation on the sinner. Or are you, like the elder brother, one who still claims never to have sinned in that way?

To your second point: “they say” that the preacher you heard when you got saved had to be a five pointer. No, the preacher had to preach that the atonement was  not only effective for the elect but also righteous for God (since God imputed the sins of the elect to Christ).

You can deny every one of the five Arminian points and still be trying to establish your own righteousness, still ignorant of the righteousness of God.

I am glad that you are at least talking about the preacher and about what you heard when you profess to have been “effectually called”. Unlike the “strict baptists” I mentioned earlier, we agree that both regeneration and the gospel are needed when a man is converted. Understanding the gospel is necessary. We agree about that. But we do not agree about the gospel, and about who God is, if you say that God saves a man whichever gospel he believes.

Now you could count numbers (they are on your side) and say: if they believe your gospel, then they are lost, because your gospel adds to grace the condition of understanding the gospel. But understanding is necessary, not a condition. The same as you would say about perseverance or faith or repentance from sin.

If a man told you he was a carnal Christian who had no intention of turning from his sin, would you say to him: welcome to the party, brother? I don’t think so. Why then are you so critical toward those of us who refuse to call brothers those with another gospel?

We have different gospels. My gospel is not conditioned on the sinner understanding, for I say that this understanding is a necessary result not a condition.

Maybe you are saying that what you believe and what the Arminian believes is really still the same gospel anyway. And that may be more true than you think! If you really do think that God saves people while still leaving them think that salvation is conditioned on them, then your God is very much like the God of the Arminian.

And now you can say that you weren’t talking about me. Legalists who like to murmur and mutter about you, like to do this to somebody else, and not to you directly. I have often wondered about Paul’s relation to the false teachers in Galatia BEFORE he wrote that letter. Did he talk to them face to face before he wrote? Maybe, but maybe not. Their different gospel was being “secretly brought in” (2:4). They came with “stealth.”

Perhaps they preached about the ungracious manner in which Paul was conducting himself, but without using Paul’s name and without sitting down to talk to Paul directly. I do know what Paul said. My gospel or their gospel. Not: this is a difference of opinion about sanctification. Not: the elder brother is in the family too, but he needs to “lighten up”. No. Two gospels. Christ will not profit those who believe one of those gospels.

John, you go too quickly to consequences, without considering that Christians are ambassadors of the Lord who do not “regard anybody according to the flesh” (II Cor 5:16). According to numbers, and according to our own flesh that wants to say we were saved while still ignorant of the gospel, many should be accepted as brothers to whom the Lord will say, “I never knew you.” According to the flesh, we say to both Cain and Abel: you are both sincerely worshipping God.

John, you are too quick to say, if that gospel is true, all these people would be lost, therefore it must not be true. That is what the Pharisees said: the wrong people are being lost!

I John 3 says that Abel “did righteousness”. In John 3:21, Abel “did the truth”. Cain did not. Why was Cain not saved? Because he murdered? No. he murdered because he was not saved. His works were evil. The evil works are the “sincere worship” Cain offered.

Cain could not have good works because Cain had the wrong gospel. And so Cain and Abel were not brothers. But you would make it out as though Abel is the elder brother if Abel is not able to call Cain his brother, if Abel is not able to enter into worship and religious fellowship with Cain.

Some say that God “stoops” to save even those who confess that God conditions salvation on the sinner. In other words, God not only saves idolaters (praise God for that, since I was one when I was a lost Calvinist!), but God saves these sinners using the idolatry as the message by which He saves them and THEN LEAVES THEM IN THEIR IDOLATRY.

God justifies the ungodly. God is also just. God will be glorified in the salvation of sinners, and in the damnation of those who persist in saying that a “gracious” God accepts the faith of the sinner as making the difference between saved and lost.

God is not stingy on His love to the Son: if one person for whom the Son died is lost, then God is misrepresented. All those who believe in universal atonement are lost idolaters. God does not love His people more than His Son, for His love of the Son’s righteousness (His death for the elect at the cross) makes ALL the difference between saved and lost.

Sure, you may say, but you don’t have to know that to get the benefit of it. What then do you need to know?

In Galatians, Paul did not accept all who professed to be Christians as his brothers. He said: they are cursed. Those who bear fruit of the Spirit have had their flesh “crucified” for them in their conversion, when they understood that the cross was all the difference and they none of it. (Gal 5:24).

Arminianism appeals to the desire of the flesh to condition salvation on the sinner. Even when this flesh says “but my faith is not a work”, the flesh is deceived and deceiving, because faith in faith as the difference means ignorance of the righteousness as the difference. Romans 9:11–that the purpose of election might stand, not of works”. No “election of grace” (Romans 11:5), no grace.

In Philippians 3, Paul explained that as long as he had the righteousness to be found in the law (conditioning salvation on the sinner), that he was lost.

He didn’t say: I have always been a brother, and was a brother even then. He says his worship then was crap. And crap we are ashamed of … But no man is ashamed of Arminianism by nature. Romans 6:21 What fruit did you then have? NONE. …”in the things of which you are now ashamed of”.

John, when you became an Arminian, you were already ashamed of some things before then, and after that, maybe more. But until you are ashamed of saying that Christ’s death was for those who perish, then you are still free of the righteousness established for the elect in the death of Christ.

Your sermon is a confession that you can receive the immoral but not those with a different gospel. And that is as it should be. If I have a false gospel, then you should NOT receive me or call me your brother. (II john 9). You can tell people with a false gospel what the gospel is without having to say that they are brothers already without the gospel.

So don’t feel bad about the lack of fellowship. There could be open discussion without that, if you wanted it. I have learned that I need to continually take sides with the Scripture against myself. It is not coldness and hardness that makes me say this but a love for the gospel and a concern for you when you sound so much like the universalist I was. No, you don’t say that all are brothers. But neither do you say that we judge who is a brother by the gospel.

What if a person says: Christ died for all sinners, I am a sinner, and thus Christ died for me? Then what do you say: OK, you are saved, but there are some things I need to teach you about how you said that?

I say not all are saved. Not all are brothers. The good news is that the death of Jesus actually saves all the sinners Jesus for whom died Believe this gospel, and commit yourself to this Christ described in this gospel, and you will be saved. It’s the only gospel there is. He’s the only Christ there is.

John, I wonder how you felt when you walked off that platform the night you preach that sermon on the “real prodigal”. You got your share of laughs, of vindication from the group for which you speak. But I can’t help wondering what the sermon did for you. Did it make you sad? or happy? Did it make you less angry, less critical, more fruitful? Did you that night pray “thank you that I am not the real prodigal”?

Mark McCulley, 2000

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2 Comments on “John Reisinger: A Different Gospel or No Gospel and Still Saved?”

  1. DC Says:

    Astounding letter!


  2. thank you. I see more doctrine and gospel here in a few paragraphs than most can put out in a week of sermons.


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