Book Review of Getting the Gospel Wrong
Disclaimer: while this review is critical in nature, it’s not my place to judge Hixson’s motives, sincerity, or faith. All believers will stand before Jesus Christ very soon to give an account —starting with myself. The critical standard applied to Mr. Hixson’s book should be equally applied to my review based on the Word of God.
In this 324-page book, Hixson presents his view of the gospel and then surveys the different gospels of our day. I sincerely commend his effort to identify the true gospel and expose the false gospels that abound. This one-star review then is not because I disagree on the importance of knowing and believing the gospel of Jesus Christ, but because I disagree on the content of the gospel and the ongoing faith God requires.
An honest effort was made to be accurate in this review. If you find I’ve misrepresented the author based on this book, please respond with specifics and I will make changes as necessary.
This review will focus primarily on chapter three, “Establishing the Standard: What is the Pure Gospel?” and chapter four, “Establishing the Standard: What is Saving Faith?”
Hixson claims that saving faith must include five elements to be valid for salvation to occur. He writes, “saving faith is the belief in Jesus Christ as the Son of God who died and rose again to pay one’s personal penalty for sin and the One who gives eternal life to all who trust Him and Him alone for it” (Hixson, 2013, location 1098).
Hixson does not believe that repentance of sin (Acts 2:38, 3:19, 17:30, Luke 13:3, etc.), baptism (followed after belief in Christ; Acts 2:38, 10:48, 22:16, Mark 16:15-16, 1 Peter 3:20-21, etc.), or ongoing faith (1 Corinthians 15:1-2, 1 Corinthians 1:18, 21, Acts 2:47, 2 Corinthians 2:15, 1 Peter 1:8-9, etc.) are elements required for salvation. So one can live the wages of sin and have a free gift, all at the same time. In contrast, the Apostle Paul preached a gospel message of ongoing repentance and turning: “REPENT [Greek present tense, ongoing action] and turn [Greek present tense, ongoing action] to God, performing [Greek present tense, ongoing action] deeds in keeping with their repentance” (Acts 26:20). He also taught, “Believe in the LORD [one must believe He is Lord] Jesus, and you will be saved [future tense], you and your household” (Acts 16:31). “And Peter said to them,  “Repent and  be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ FOR the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).
The outcome of biblical interpretation is influenced by one’s presuppositions. If one believes Hixson’s five elements are required, they read these five in Scripture.
Hixson’s view reads theology into Scripture. It ignores the historical, grammatical, and contextual method of interpretation. Passages must be examined in context based on established grammatical rules of interpretation, where elements are carefully “drawn out” allowing Scripture and the Holy Spirit of God to illuminate truth outside of an established man-made theological grid. So it’s not about finding five elements in Scripture but allowing Scripture in context through the Holy Spirit of God to decide how many elements are required.
Secondly, Hixson teaches that salvation is acquired and kept by a one-time faith. He failed to demonstrate exegetically with ONE passage that salvation becomes a completed action the moment one exercises Hixson’s five-element gospel. There are well over 100 passages in scripture that grammatically and contextually demonstrate that salvation is an ongoing action for those who are being saved. The Bible does not contradict itself.
So what proof does Hixson offer to the church for his new five-element gospel? He calls it, “a matter of theological synthesis” (location 1394). He writes, “By linking Scripture with Scripture, one can conclude that these five essentials comprise the kernel of salvific truth that must be believed if one is to receive eternal life. Moreover, a survey of various gospel presentations from the book of Acts validates these essentials” (location 1394).
If these five elements “are a matter of theological synthesis“, then Hixson should have provided a long list of theologians of the past 2000 years whose writings agreed with his. Where is the proof? An examination of church history since Pentecost comes up empty handed. Hixson as evidence for his five element “theological synthesis” provides not one book or author. A search on the Internet suggests Hixson may have borrowed the “theological synthesis” phrase from the Roman Catholic Church.
Hixson’s “theological synthesis” is nothing short of babbling nonsense (in my opinion). When Hixson surveyed the book of Acts he was unable to find ONE salvation account where all five elements were present without making assumptions. Dear believer in Christ, please know that the Bible can be made to say anything one wants when assumptions are added; it becomes a platter to serve one’s theology.
Hixson claims that one account in particular found in Acts 10:34-48 comes close to capturing his five element gospel. An examination will highlight Hixson’s sloppy exegetics. Let’s dive in for a closer look.
An independent look at Acts 10:34-48 fails to uncover two of Hixson’s five required elements. The missing elements in this passage are (1) that Jesus offers eternal life, (as found in location 1247) and that salvation is received by trusting in Christ by faith alone (as found in location 1361). For this passage Hixson writes, “Peter’s sermon before members of Cornelius’s household comes close to explicitly affirming all five components of the object of faith—and may in fact do so” (location 1409).
The account in Acts 10:34-48 has two additional elements that Hixson denies are required. They are ongoing faith (vv. 35 and 43), and baptism (vs. 47-48), which was practiced immediately upon belief in Christ in the early New Testament church.
Hixson’s failure to identify his five-element gospel from ONE salvation passages should set off alarms. If the early church believed Hixson’s gospel, why did the authors of the New Testament fail to present it as such? And why does the Great Commission given by Christ and practiced by the early church stand in contrast?
Hixson’s dismal failure in exegesis is consistently practiced by those in Free Grace Theology where Hixson has taken residence. Thankfully, Free Grace Theology has been in decline for years. Free Grace Theology twists countless passages for a “cotton candy” gospel where becoming a true disciple of Christ, repenting, and following Jesus Christ in ongoing faith are all optional tasks. As stated previously, this makes living the “wages of sin” a gift of God.
How does Free Grace Theology have any followers with such disregard for numerous passages that declare an ongoing faith is saving faith? One reason is that they get around obvious passages by claiming salvation is absent any works. Consider this quote by Hixson:
“However, to make the validity of one’s faith contingent on the presence of such obedience elevates good works to a level of instrumentality in eternal salvation—a flagrant violation of the theological truths contained in passages such as Ephesians 2:8-9 and Titus 3:5. The amazing thing about grace is that it does not need man’s good works to deliver on the promise of eternal life. Indeed, works and grace are mutually exclusive. “And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work (Rom. 11:6, NKJV)” (location 2420).
Please notice that according to Hixson’s theology, “works” cannot be present in salvation because it would be a “flagrant violation of theological truths contained in passages such as Ephesians 2:8-9 and Titus 3:5.” Let’s examine these verses and show how far removed his theology is from Scripture.
Titus 3:5 states: “he saved [see footnote #1 to follow] us, not because of works done by us in righteousness [since salvation; unsaved can’t perform works of righteousness], but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.”
The word “saved” (“he saved us“) is NOT a completed action in the Greek. The aorist tense for this word in the Greek is undefined outside of context. Two verses later, salvation is portrayed as ongoing: “so that BEING justified by his grace we MIGHT become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (vs.7). There are several additional verses that declare the act of justification is an ongoing action -not a completed action (Rom. 3:24, 28, 4:5, James 2:24, etc.).
These believers had performed “works of righteousness” in their ongoing salvation as only true believers can perform. Paul states that their salvation had works, but THEIR WORKS WERE NOT SAVING THEM. So when Free Grace theology claims works are absent real believing faith, they twist Scriptures. Don’t let them deceive you as they did to me for years.
Ephesians 2:8-9: “by grace you HAVE BEEN saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
The verb “saved” (“have been saved“) is in the Greek perfect tense, which indicates a continuous action from the past (at salvation) to the present (“have been saved“). The Greek perfect tense does not comment on the future. This ongoing salvation was because of their ongoing faith (“by faith“). A horizontal time line could represent this. The perfect tense for the word “saved” indicates salvation is an ongoing action -not a completed action as Free Grace Theology falsely claims. Secondly, their ongoing salvation was NOT a result of their works. Paul is clear that their works were not saving them. So don’t fall for Free Grace Theology’s distortion of this verse.
“But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace” (Romans 11:6). This is the third verse Hixson deceitfully twists in his quote (in my opinion). It reminds me of Satan when he tempted Christ by taking verses out of context. In this passage Paul described a remnant of believing Jews that were alive. God had NOT forgotten the Jewish people. The believing Jews in this passage were chosen by God’s grace. Hixson and Free Grace Theology twist Scripture to Satan’s delight. When a passage’s context is disregarded, the Bible becomes a platter to serve man’s theology.
It would be good for Hixson to read and believe passages such as this: “He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek [Greek, ongoing action] for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey [Greek, ongoing action] the truth, but obey [Greek, ongoing action] unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek” (Romans 2:6-10).
Review of chapter four, “Establishing the Standard: What is Saving Faith?”
At the end of this chapter, Hixson summarized his view of saving faith. Please consider his unscriptural definition. He writes, “to believe the gospel requires nothing more than confidence that what Jesus has promised is true. Generically speaking, faith is assurance or confidence in the truth of some object. Saving faith occurs when faith meets the right object—the gospel” (location 2411).
How did Hixson arrive at such a misrepresentation of faith in Christ that saves? This comes from his insistence that saving faith is propositional in nature. That is, one only needs to have one-time head knowledge that something is true. He used John 1:12 to allege this very thing. He writes, “To ‘believe in His name’ is to believe that He is who He said He is —the Messiah” (location 1779). But when this passage is examined —real saving faith is much more than agreeing that He is the Messiah. Let’s examine this passage closer. Here is Young’s Literal translation:
“But as many as did receive him to them he gave authority to become sons of God —to those BELIEVING [Greek present tense] in his name” (John 1:12).
The sons of God are identified —they received Him in the past and believe in Him in the present (“believing“). This undeniably represents ongoing belief, thereby excluding those who no longer believe. In the same book of John, these believers are identified as knowing Christ in the present (10:14), hearing His voice in the present (5:24, 10:3, 16, 27, 8:47, 18:37), following Jesus in the present (10:4, 27), believing in Him in the present 3:16, 18, 36, 5:24, 6:35, 40, 47, 7:38, 8:24, 11:25-26, 12:36, 46), obeying Jesus in the present (3:36), did good [in the past] (5:29), the work of God is to believe in Him in the present (6:29), they come to Christ in the present (6:35, 37), they “eats this bread” in the present [Christ], (6:51, 58), they eat the flesh of Jesus and drink his blood [ongoing] (6:53, 54), they come to drink in the present (7:37), Abraham’s children perform the work that Abraham did in the present (8:39), they keep the words of Christ in the present (8:51), they enter in the present by Christ (10:9), they hate this life in this world in the present (12:25), those in Christ produce fruit OR they are pruned off the Vine (15:2), eternal life is knowing Jesus Christ in the present (17:3), the book of John was written so that readers would believe [present tense] and “that by believing you may have life in his name” (20:31).
Not only do the passages above substantiate that real belief in Christ is ongoing -further, Hixson’s one-time, prepositional, acknowledgement is glaringly absent from salvation accounts!
To help understand how Hixson arrived at such a perversion of saving faith, please consider his “generic faith” definition. He writes, “Generic faith may be defined as the assurance or confidence in some stated or implied truth” (location 1723). Please notice that Hixson’s definition of “generic faith” EXCLUDES any human response. He provides Hebrews 11:1 as support, which was plucked out of context. Does Hebrews 11 substantiate Hixson’s “generic faith” definition?
Hebrews 11 has been called “the hall of faith.” These heroes were commended for faith that resulted in action. Please consider the VERBS that express genuine faith in action from Hebrews 11:4-21: “By faith Abel OFFERED to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain…by faith Enoch was TAKEN up…by faith Noah … CONSTRUCTED an ark…. By faith Abraham OBEYED … By faith Sarah herself received power to CONCEIVE … By faith Abraham, when he was tested, OFFERED up Isaac…. by faith Isaac INVOKED future blessings on Jacob and Esau… By faith Jacob, when dying, BLESSED each of the sons of Joseph….“. The faith of these heroes invalidates Hixson’s “generic faith” definition which is a counterfeit from Satan.
Please consider John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” The reason I choose this verse is that Free Grace Theology loves to pluck this verse out of its context. These famous words of Jesus are part of a larger passage (3:1-12) where He describes the “Kingdom of God” to Nicodemous (vs. 3). For a full view of how one can inherit the kingdom of God, please examine the many passages in the Gospels where Jesus describes the Kingdom of God. Free Grace Theology “cherry picks” their verses for their “have Jesus and your sin” gospel. An examination of John 3:16 outside of the larger context does not even support the easy belief theory of Free Grace Theology.
For now, please consider that “everlasting life” (John 3:16) is conditional on the word “believes” which is in the present tense. Most Free Grace Theology teachers purposely cast doubt on inspired present tense verbs because it invalidates their one-time faith counterfeit. Those who “believes” in the present “have” in the present “everlasting life” (John 3:16). In the underlying Greek these two words are in the present tense and describe ongoing action, not a one-time cotton candy, intellectual acknowledgement that Satan regularly packages for this verse from those who follow Free Grace Theology.
According to the Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian Literature (2000), the meaning of “believes” for John 3:16 is “to entrust oneself to an entity in complete confidence, believe (in), trust,”. This definition knows nothing of Hixson’s perversion of saving faith when he writes: “nothing more than confidence that what Jesus has promised is true” (location 2411).
How can one believe in Christ and not obey? Does not a man who believes in his wife express this with actions? There are clear accounts that establish “obedient faith” for salvation. Romans 1:1-7 is one long sentence. Paul writes how he is a servant apostle, “set apart for the gospel of God” (v. 1). Verses 2-4 describe how this gospel is concerning Jesus Christ. In verse 5, Paul writes, “through whom [Jesus Christ] we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the OBEDIENCE OF FAITH for the sake of his name among all the nations.” This is the same gospel Paul went on to write, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes [Greek present tense, ongoing belief], to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it [the gospel] the righteousness of God is revealed from faith [how one enters the family of God] for faith [how one lives in the family of God], as it is written, “The righteous SHALL LIVE BY FAITH” (Romans 1:16-17).
Hixson and Free Grace don’t believe the righteous must live by faith. They falsely teach one can live for self in the cesspool of sin and be greeted into heaven.
In Romans we are taught that justification is an ongoing process not a completed action: “the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe [present tense belief]. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified [right now in the present!] by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:22-24).
Thanks for reading this review. Your feedback is welcome. In Christ!
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