A Letter on the Terms of Discipleship

as the Terms of Salvation

by Glenn Conjurske

[Written in response to a letter reviewing my article on this theme, which appeared in Olde Paths & Ancient Landmarks, October, 2000.—-editor.]

Dear Brother —-—-—--,

I have looked over the materials you sent by —-—-—-– V—-—-—--. My first inclination is to say little in reply, for I will not be able to respond to such things without seeming to bear hard on the author of them, but I suppose you may wish to know what I think.

I find one thing truly amazing in his remarks on my article. The obvious purpose of my article was to demonstrate that my doctrine of discipleship was the doctrine of all the men of God in history. The amazing thing is that in fifteen pages of response to this article, Mr. V—-—-—-– does not once mention the main fact which it demonstrates, namely, that this was the doctrine of Richard Baxter and Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield and C. H. Spurgeon and Charles G. Finney and J. C. Ryle and William Kelly. Every word, then, which he writes against my gospel must militate with equal force against Edwards and Spurgeon and Kelly, etc., etc. I am quite accustomed to being charged with preaching a “works gospel,” with being a heretic, etc., by men of his theological stamp, but if “Glenn Conjurske sets forth not the gospel of the grace of God, but a different gospel—-a legal/works gospel—-which is not the gospel at all,” then the same is true of C. H. Spurgeon and Richard Baxter and Charles Wesley. Why does he not address this? This was obviously the main point and purpose of my article, and no stronger or more explicit statement on the subject could be so much as imagined than that which I have quoted from Spurgeon. Did Spurgeon preach another gospel also? Till Mr. V—-—-—-– faces this, he is really only begging the question. As things now stand, he is writing not only against Glenn Conjurske, but against all the great evangelists and men of God in history. Did they all preach a “works gospel,” and if so, are all their converts gone to hell?

The many scriptures which he cites concerning salvation are of course known and believed by myself, as they were by all those men whom I have quoted. Yet Baxter and Edwards and Spurgeon and Ryle could believe all those scriptures, and yet believe at the same time that the terms of discipleship are the terms of salvation. But there is a new brand of wisdom in the world, which can see nothing but stark contrasts where every man saw harmony before. C. I. Scofield was one of the progenitors of such wisdom, and Lewis Sperry Chafer a master of it. But I tell you plainly, it is no wisdom at all, but precisely the lack of it. It is only the ignorance of modern theology, coupled with the technical mode of thinking which belongs to the shallow intellectualism of modern times. Technical, artificial, and extreme ideas are affixed to every word, and in the light of this kind of thinking, if a thing is this, it of course cannot be that, whereas in very fact it is both. For example, this shallow thinking affirms that if salvation is a gift, it cannot be a reward, whereas the Bible plainly and explicitly affirms it to be both. What then? Why, it must be categorically affirmed of all those scriptures which present salvation as a reward that they have nothing to do with salvation, though the merest child can tell that they have. This is Mr. V—-—-—--‘s constant method, and there is no soundness in it. It consists of almost nothing but wresting the Scriptures—-wresting half of them by exalting them to some artificial or technical extreme, and the other half by reducing them to nothing. His theology determines all, and the Bible determines nothing. It is a nose of wax in his hands, and he turneth it whithersoever he will. A little understanding of the things of which he speaks would change his proceedings altogether, along with his theology.

I am a dispensationalist, and I have no question that my dispensational principles are sound and solid, but this modern hyperdispensationalism (and this is really what it is) has degenerated into nothing more than a broad system of unbelief, by which the Scriptures are constantly wrested and emptied, the whole system existing for the sole purpose of maintaining antinomian notions of grace and salvation.

With reference to Luke 24:47 he quotes Lewis Sperry Chafer, saying, “Above all, the passage does not require human obligations with respect to salvation,” and here is the key to the thinking and theology of these men. The foundation of all is a false notion of grace, which entirely abrogates the responsibility of man. Directly in the teeth of dozens of plain scriptures, they are determined that there shall be no “human obligations with respect to salvation.” With this determination they come to every particular text of the Bible on the subject, and twist and wrest and empty every one of them. But if “the passage does not require human obligations with respect to salvation,” then repentance is not a human obligation, or, in plainer English, no man has any obligation to repent, though God now commandeth all men everywhere to do so. Or if, as these men will have it, “repentance” is only a synonym of “believing,” then no man has any obligation to believe. And how then will God judge men for not doing what they had no obligation to do?

And he can no more deal squarely with Paul than he can with Matthew or Luke. He refers to numerous verses in Galatians, but of course passes by Galatians 6:7-8. “For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in doing good: for in due season we shall reap [life everlasting], if we faint not.” Everlasting life is here presented as a harvest to be reaped, and that in the future, by those who sow to the Spirit in the present, exactly parallel to the harvest of corruption to be reaped by those who sow to the flesh. This text has absolutely no place in Mr. V—-—-—--‘s theology, though Paul wrote it, and I can predict that if he deigns to touch the text at all, it will be to set aside its Greek grammar and empty it of its plain meaning, as John R. Rice and others do. Perhaps the text is corrupt here, and this verse has been accidentally transplanted to Paul from its proper place in the synoptic Gospels! At any rate, it “can have no application to the church,” which has eternal life as a present possession. Such is the usual manner in which these folks handle the Scriptures. All I ask is honest dealing with the Bible, and I find without exception that those who wrest the synoptic Gospels must wrest Paul also. They have no choice, for it is the same gospel and the same salvation which we find in both. But I tell you frankly, such theology stands more in need of rebuke than it does of refutation. It is unbelieving and impious.

But this brings me to Mr. V—-—-—--‘s assertions that the New Testament speaks of two different salvations and two different kinds of eternal life. I absolutely deny this. Mr. V—-—-—-– says, “it is crucial that we recognize that the ‘eternal life’ of the Synoptic Gospels and the ‘eternal life’ of the Gospel of John (and other [sic] NT epistles) are by no means the same thing or even different sides of the same coin; rather, they are completely distinct and unrelated to each other (though both are by grace alone through faith alone). The references in the Synoptics to ‘entering into life’ or ‘inheriting eternal life’ refer to entering into or inheriting eternal earthly kingdom life in the future, under the reign of the Messiah when His Kingdom is established on the earth.” Empty assertion, and really much worse than empty. What can he mean by “eternal earthly kingdom life”? We know that the earthly kingdom is not eternal, but limited to a thousand years. The life is eternal, and the possession of it is the possession of eternal salvation—-the forgiveness of sins, and eternal glory—-and that for endless ages after the termination of the earthly kingdom. And regardless of how many times it has been dogmatically asserted by this school, it is simply not true that the eternal life of the synoptic Gospels is earthly or millennial. The rich young ruler asked what he must do to “inherit eternal life,” and the Lord prescribed to him the terms of discipleship, and told him that, meeting these conditions, he would have “treasure in heaven.” The alchemy which can make this earthly or millennial may just as well turn the Bible into the Book of Mormon. But these folks never deal with this word “treasure in heaven,” for apparently they have not yet observed that it is there. I think they have been so busy outside the passage, looking for arguments by which to disallow it, that they have failed to delve into its precious contents, to discover what is there. If these folks but knew their Bibles, they would learn that the things which they disallow in the synoptic Gospels are to be found in Paul also, and that the gospel which they embrace in Paul is to be found in Matthew, Mark, and Luke as well. Let Mr. V—-—-—-– now explain how his notions of “eternal earthly kingdom life” will square with this “treasure in heaven,” which Christ preached to the rich young ruler as “eternal life.” It would not surprise me to hear him say, after the same manner in which he treats “repentance” in Luke 24:47, that heaven—-here, not elsewhere—-means the kingdom of heaven on earth, but by such tactics anything may be made to mean anything. Years ago I wrote a treatise on the terms of salvation. A young lady who read it, having known nothing but this modern theology, told me it was “as if someone switched on the light.” She was relieved to find that she could take the Bible to mean what it says, rather than perpetually trying to determine what it means, contrary to what it says. This is what Mr. V—-—-—-– needs. Regardless of the circumstances under which it is received, eternal life is eternal, and the possession of it is nothing other than the eternal salvation which we now possess. We know that those who enter the earthly kingdom will do so in the flesh, with the same animal life which we now live, but that “earthly kingdom life” is not eternal. They will also have that same eternal life which we possess ourselves.

I utterly repudiate the notion which finds a different gospel in the synoptics, and in John. Analyze this, and it becomes ridiculous—-too much so for serious consideration, seeing that those two contrary gospels were both preached by the same Christ, during the same period of his earthly ministry, and to the same persons, and with no hint or warning that they were two different gospels, or two different salvations. And as a plain matter of fact, he preached nothing “in the synoptics,” nor in John either, but did all his preaching on the same earth and in general to the same people, many years before any of those Gospels were written. On the plan of Mr. V—-—-—--, those who heard his preaching must have said on some occasions, “These things apply to us, for they will be written down in future decades in the Gospel of John,” but on other occasions, “Today’s sermon does not apply to us, for it will some day be recorded by Matthew or Luke.” To such absurdities as this we must be reduced by this hyperdispensational theology. But the plain fact is, Christ’s hearers of necessity applied all that he preached to themselves, and took it all to be the true gospel of the grace of God, which it certainly was. Mark commences his Gospel with “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” Not “the king of Israel,” but “the Son of God.” Anyone who can find in this a different gospel than Paul preached, or a different gospel than John recorded, is trifling with Scripture. This is “THE gospel of Jesus Christ”—-the only gospel there is.

Nay, more. It is Paul who writes, and that in Second Timothy, when I should think the present “dispensation of the grace of God” must certainly have begun already, “that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” Now we know that the holy Scriptures which Timothy knew from a child were those of the Old Testament, and Paul affirms that those Old Testament Scriptures are able to make him wise unto salvation, obviously that same “salvation” which Paul preached everywhere, which is “through faith in Christ Jesus.” Will anyone dare to contend that the “salvation” of which Paul here speaks is earthly, millennial salvation—-in Second Timothy? So then, the Old Testament is ABLE to make us wise unto salvation, but the synoptic Gospels are not!! David and Isaiah are, but Matthew and Mark are not!

Mr. V—-—-—-– wants to make the passages on discipleship refer to the evidences of salvation already possessed, rather than the terms by which it is to be received, but this is only more wresting of Scripture. The rich young ruler asks “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” and the Lord prescribes the terms of discipleship. This is the condition of inheriting life, not something which flows from the possession of it. And so it is with all the discipleship passages, unless we invert and scramble them. The terms of discipleship are always the condition, never the evidence. But it is evident that Mr. V—-—-—--‘s theology determines all, and the Bible determines nothing.

Most of his particular objections I have abundantly answered in former articles—-such as the assertion that “repentance” is a synonym for “believing” in Luke 24:47, and his objections concerning the penitent thief.

Well, but “there is safety in numbers.” He has the theological climate of the whole present age on his side (nothing to glory in, really), and can quote many moderns in support of his doctrines. Against that I set the testimony of all the great men of God of all the past ages. On that point he answers not a word. Truly, it is something he ought to consider.

Glenn Conjurske