Monday, October 26, 2009

Against Hodges

“In speaking of heirship in 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10, the Apostle did not threaten his readers with the loss of eternal salvation. He did not even raise a question about their salvation. But he warned them plainly that if they did not correct their unrighteous behavior, they confronted a serious consequence. They would not inherit the Kingdom of God” (Zane Hodges, “Gospel Under Siege,” page 134; quoted in “The Race Set Before Us: A Biblical Theology of Perseverance and Assurance by Thomas R. Schreiner and Ardel B. Caneday. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2001, page 27).

Irenaeus wrote a work called “Against Heresies.” I’m gonna write a spin on Irenaeus’ work, called “Against Hodges.”

The above quote from Zane Hodges is a defense for what is known as the “Loss-of-Rewards” view. According to Thomas Schreiner and Ardel Caneday,

“...its advocates contend that the biblical admonitions and warnings threaten believers with a possible loss. However, the loss that a Christian may encounter concerns ‘rewards’ only, not salvation or eternal life, which comes to us only by faith in Jesus Christ” (24).

The Zane Hodges quote above is his exposition on 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, which reads as follows:

“Do you not know that wrongdoers WILL NOT INHERIT THE KINGDOM OF GOD? Do not be deceived! Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers—none of these will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9-10, NRSV; quoted in “The Race Set Before Us,” page 27).

Notice that 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 talks about “not inheriting the Kingdom of God”; yet and still, Zane Hodges can advocate a “loss-of-rewards” view. Losing rewards and losing eternal salvation are not the same thing. So how can Zane Hodges make the above statement about 1 Cor. 6:9-10?

“This may sound like double talk. However, Hodges and fellow advocates of this view distinguish between INHERITING the kingdom of God and ENTERING the kingdom of God. Hodges explains: ‘Many have assumed, without much thought, that to “inherit” the Kingdom must be the same as “ENTERING” it.’ BUT FOR HODGES THERE IS A GREAT DIFFERENCE. He contends that entrance into the kingdom is of grace, and inheritance of the kingdom is based on the merits of our deeds for Christ and thus is costly” (27).

Unfortunately for Zane Hodges, his statement above is not true. To show that to “inherit” and to “enter” are the same, let’s use a few passages of Scripture.

First, Matthew 19:29—

“And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, SHALL RECEIVE A HUNDREDFOLD, AND INHERIT ETERNAL LIFE” (Matt. 19:29, New King James Version).

Notice that eternal life is “inherited”; in addition, there is a connection between “eternal life” and “receiv[ing] a hundredfold.” What “hundredfold” is being mentioned here? In the context of Matthew 19, Jesus has just told the apostles that “In the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, YOU WHO HAVE FOLLOWED ME WILL ALSO SIT ON TWELVE THRONES, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matt. 19:28, NKJV).

It seems clear then, that to receive possessions is connected with eternal life, not SEPARATED from it. In Zane Hodges’ view, a person can still receive eternal life while not receiving any other rewards. With the apostles, however, we see that they couldn’t receive a throne to judge the tribes without also receiving eternal life. It is all a package deal!!

Matthew 25 is another passage that testifies to the contrary of Hodges’ claim. In the parable of the sheep and the goat, Jesus says to the sheep (on His right hand),

“ ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, INHERIT THE KINGDOM prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matt. 25:34).

What happens to the goats?

“Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, INTO THE EVERLASTING FIRE prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt. 25:41).

We see in Matthew 25 that to “inherit the kingdom” is the exact opposite of “the everlasting fire” that the goats enter into. Since we know from Revelation 20:14 that the “everlasting fire” is the lake of fire and brimstone, the “inheritance” of the kingdom must be eternal life—and those who are sheep receive eternal life. Here in Matthew 25, there is no distinction (as Hodges believes) between eternal life and rewards. To receive one is to receive the other.

The next passage is Mark 10:17-23. We read of someone running to Jesus, someone wealthy (in Luke’s Gospel he is called “the rich young ruler”) asking Jesus,

“Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may INHERIT ETERNAL LIFE?” (Mark 10:17)

Notice that “eternal life” is to be “inherited.” This by itself doesn’t fit Hodges’ view that you can “enter” eternal life and lose rewards. But look at what’s next!!
After Jesus tells the man what he needs to do to follow God, the man walks away.

Notice Jesus’ response:

“How hard it is for those who have riches TO ENTER THE KINGDOM OF GOD!” (Mark 10:23)

So when the rich man asked about “inheriting” eternal life, he wanted to be able to “enter the kingdom of God.” Here, there seems to be no difference between the two—“inheriting” and “entering” are the same thing.

Let’s look at 1 Corinthians 15:50—

“Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot INHERIT THE KINGDOM OF GOD; nor does corruption inherit incorruption.”

According to Hodges, “inheriting” the kingdom is different from “entering” into it; however, reading the context of 1 Corinthians 15:50ff, we find these words:

“For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality...then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: ‘DEATH is swallowed up in victory’” (1 Cor. 15:53-54).

“Inheriting” the kingdom of God now becomes connected to “incorruption” and “immortality”; in addition, “Death” is defeated. This is what eternal life is made of. Paul doesn’t mention a distinction here about rewards after death, or anything else.

Last but not least, Hebrews 1:14 links “inheriting” and “eternal life” together once more:

“Are they [angels] not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will INHERIT SALVATION?” (Heb. 1:14, NKJV)

Here we understand that to receive “salvation” is to “enter” the kingdom of God.

The language of the Bible connects “inheritance” and “entrance” of the kingdom of God together with no distinction between them. How then, can Zane Hodges hold to such an unbiblical idea?

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