R.T. Kendall is known in Free Grace circles as an FG friendly writer. He wrote two books that have been useful in FG circles: Calvin and English Calvinism to 1649 where he argued that Calvin taught that assurance was the essence of saving faith; and Once Saved Always Saved, defending eternal security.
In a recent issue of Charisma magazine, Kendall wrote an article entitled, “Whatever Happened to the Gospel?” (October 2017). It’s an excerpt from a forthcoming book of the same title.
Kendall explains that Luther rediscovered the doctrine of justification by faith alone (p. 22). By studying the Psalms, Galatians, and Romans, Luther went “from doubt to full assurance of faith” (p. 22). As Kendall explains, “Luther called John 3:16 the ‘Bible in a nutshell’” (p. 24). Instead of depending upon your good works to be saved, you transfer “your trust in your good works to what Jesus Christ, the Son of God, did for you on the cross” (p. 24).
Sadly, as Kendall argues, that message was quickly lost. “But before the end of the first century of Christianity, even while the apostle John was still alive, people had begun to ask, ‘Whatever happened to the gospel?’ The gospel was brushed to one side, and no one seemed to notice it” (p. 24).
Although Luther rediscovered it, it was lost again. “The true gospel has been largely ignored in many historic Protestant churches in America—Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, Episcopal…” (p. 28).
This is also true of Pentecostal and Charismatic churches (Kendall became Charismatic). The loss of the gospel has led to a loss of assurance:
The focus in some “Word” churches has stressed sanctification as the only grounds for assurance of salvation, robbing the gospel of its uniqueness. That said, it is my own observation that almost everywhere I go nowadays, a shocking percentage of people in all denominations—whether Word or Spirit churches—lack assurance of their own salvation simply because they don’t know the gospel (p. 28, emphasis added).
I’m glad that there are other people thinking that the saving message has been lost in popular Christianity, and assurance with it. Like Kendall, we pray that changes soon.
We will review his new book as soon as it is released.