Major Ian Thomas (MIT) championed the grace of God in regeneration and in the Christian life. There is much helpful information in his writings.
However, there are also some errors in his teachings that need to be recognized and rejected. Two points particularly concern me.
1. Faith in Christ is not enough to be born again. You must have genuine faith.
Major Ian Thomas (MIT) distinguished between faith in Christ and genuine faith in Christ:
“If the initial act of faith was genuine by which you were redeemed (and you will only be redeemed if the initial act of faith was genuine), your subsequent attitude will never change the consequences of the act—you will remain redeemed by His one sacrifice for sins forever (Heb 10:12) and irrevocably sealed” (The Mystery of Godliness, pp. 124-25, emphasis his).
The Lord Jesus said, “he who believes in Me has everlasting life” (John 6:47). In John 3:16, He famously said that whoever believes in Him will not perish but has everlasting life. The Lord did not indicate that there were two types of faith in Him, one genuine and one not genuine.
This teaching results in people doubting their salvation. They will wonder, do I genuinely believe in Christ? Or is my faith in Him less than genuine? How can I determine if it is genuine or not?
The issue of faith is the object, not the faith. If we believe in the Giver, the Lord Jesus Christ, for the gift of God, everlasting life, then we have it (John 4:10-14).
2. 1 John 1:9 teaches that we must confess our sins to be saved, not that believers are to confess our sins to have ongoing forgiveness.
Thirty years ago, I was an elder in a Bible church. The pastor came under the influence of MIT and began to teach that believers are always in fellowship with God and that 1 John 1:9 is a salvation verse. When that pastor left to take another church, one of my fellow elders became the new pastor. The new pastor had been mentored by Bob George, himself very close to MIT and his teachings.
MIT later spoke at my former church on several occasions. (I left after the new pastor took over.)i
I could not find a direct quote from MIT on 1 John 1:9. However, MIT wrote the foreword to Bob George’s book, Classic Christianity. MIT concludes his foreword by saying, “I am convinced that many, heartily sick of the ‘rat race,’ will in reading these pages find in the Lord Jesus Christ the final answer to their need” (p. 8).ii
In Classic Christianity, George said that believers are already totally forgiven (e.g., p. 72). Most Evangelicals say that believers are totally forgiven positionally, but that in terms of fellowship, we need ongoing fellowship as 1 John 1:9 teaches. However, MIT and Bob George taught that believers are always totally forgiven in a fellowship sense. They understood 1 John 1:9 as a salvation verse. They said that believers are always in fellowship with God.
In an article entitled, “What about 1 John 1:9?” (available here), Bob George says that 1 John 1:9 is how one is cleansed forever:
Verse 9 says that “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” In other words, if the Gnostics were to confess they had sins, then God, Who is faithful and righteous, would forgive and cleanse them from their unrighteousness. In the Greek language, the words “forgive” and “cleanse” mean past actions that have results today and will continue to have results in the future. Also, the word “all” used in these verses means all. It doesn’t mean that we are cleansed of our past sins and our past unrighteousness, it means we were cleansed of all our unrighteousness. And if God cleanses us from all unrighteousness, then we are cleansed forever!
A few paragraphs later, he explains what it does not mean:
Today, there are people who believe that Christians must confess their sins in order to be forgiven. They believe that it is possible for us to be “in and out” of fellowship with God and that we must “keep short accounts” (or stay “fessed up”). The Bible doesn’t teach that we are “in and out” of fellowship with God. A person who is saved is in fellowship with God– eternally. “God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.” (1 Corinthians 1:9). A person who is lost is not in fellowship with God. There is no bouncing back and forth. You are either in fellowship with God (saved, walking in the light) or you are not in fellowship with God (lost, walking in darkness).
“A person who is saved is in fellowship with God–eternally.” That is a radically different view of sanctification and the Christian life.
So, while there is much to like in the writings of MIT, there are also a few major concerns.
i I had been considering leaving after the previous pastor began teaching that 1 John 1:9 is a salvation verse and that believers are always in fellowship with God. I was still wondering what to do when he resigned. When the church then selected as pastor someone who promoted those same views, I knew it was time to leave.
ii Bob George refers to MIT glowingly in a 2007 radio broadcast several months after MIT died. It was rebroadcast on 11/24/21, with a transcript provided. See here. Bob George died in 2018.