Theron Messer, who was at the time Chairman of the Board and Vice President of Grace Fellowship International, wrote this letter to Margaret Irons in 1990, in response to her request to review some of George Geftakys' written material.
October 8, 1990
Please forgive our delay in responding to you... Dr. Solomon has maintained a very busy schedule of conferences and counseling. He read your letter with interest and asked that I review it and respond with my insights. I should introduce myself. I am the Chairman of the Board of Grace Fellowship International and Vice President. I have been teaching Bible for many years and enjoy research into theological questions. I do some seminar work for Grace Fellowship as well. Thank you for sharing George Geftakys' book and your comments to us.
I share your concerns about the teaching of this booklet. There is certainly a need for teaching on the subject of rewards which is a neglected Biblical topic. Today, some teachers are presenting a concept of a partial rapture of the church which would only include the "pure" Bride of Christ. I am in agreement that we need to address the appalling condition of the Church today. I believe that we qualify as a Laodicean Church! We should be called to repentance. Where I believe we would disagree with brother George is in the arena of self-righteousness or works done by human effort without the freedom which comes by grace.
In the critique by Dan Kistler there is a statement that the Assembly teaches a distinction between being a Christian and being a member of the body of Christ and also a distinction between being saved and those called to holy living.
Quoting Geftakys, page 3, The Itinerant Ministry, The Torch and Testimony, July-August 1989, Vol 16, No 4: "We may be born again, but that does not automatically bring us into the body, for this we must be baptized with the Spirit... It is by the baptism of the Holy Spirit that we are formed together into the body of Christ; without it we are just individual believers. We may be regenerated, but that does not automatically mean that we are members of Christ’s body. It is through the sending of the Spirit and the baptism of the Spirit that we become members."
Quoting Geftakys, page 13, The Assembly in the Wilderness, Torch and Testimony, March-April, 1990, Vol 17, No 2: "If we fail to see ourselves as God sees His people, not just as redeemed individuals, but collectively, as a church in the wilderness, or if we fail to apprehend Christ as the center in the midst of God’s dwelling, then we will forfeit all that God has planned for His people... As we gather according to His plan, God gets satisfaction in that which expresses His Son. Failure to respond by faith and obedience to His Word, which reveals His plan to bring us to that incomparable purpose in His Son, will cause forfeiture of the promised possession."
In the second quote, he warns against failure to enter into rest and inheritance because of unbelief. He certainly does teach that there is a distinction between salvation and inheritance, entering heaven and being in the kingdom and being hurt by the second death. I agree that these may nullify the security of being in Christ.
I believe that George Geftakys desires purity in the church. I am afraid that his method of presentation leads to human pride when one excels in good works and great guilt if one fails. In the pursuit of an inheritance, believers may very well miss the promised rest. I pray that George may not lead the Assembly into Galatianism. "Having begun in the Spirit are you now being made perfect by the flesh?" Gal. 3.3.This topic of the sanctification of the believer requires very careful balance. The immature, baby or carnal believer who walks after the flesh and does not walk after the Spirit is a part of the body of Christ, a part of the church, a part of the kingdom, a part of the bride of Christ, and one also called to holy living. This assumes, of course, that the person we call a believer is in fact a born again person. Such a person is the object of the grace of God but has not responded and thus may miss the mark of the high calling in Christ Jesus.
Quoting Geftakys, page 49, Royal Overcomers: "Righteousness forms holiness in the life... This righteousness of God which we receive by faith comes unconditionally when we accept Christ as our Saviour. The holiness, however, is conditional, for though it is available to all believers, we must avail ourselves of it. In the original Greek text this passage reads, 'the holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord' (verse 14). It echoes the teaching of the Lord Jesus when He said in His sermon on the mount, 'Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God' (Matt. 5:8).From this we conclude that not all believers are pure in heart; therefore we must pray, 'Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me' (Ps. 51:10)."
Security of the believer and maturity of the believer are unfortunately two distinct things. Every believer should have security in that he is a new creation in Christ. This work of God which took the person out of Adam and placed him in Christ, by co-crucifixion with Christ and co-resurrection with Christ, is a permanent change of nature based upon the free gift of grace. Geftakys does not deny that salvation is a free gift. He believes that sanctification, or holiness leading to inheritance is limited to those who avail themselves of it (as just quoted). He makes a distinction between being declared righteous and becoming holy.
He may be teaching that righteousness comes by faith and that holiness or sanctification comes by human effort. I believe that this is the very error of the Galatian church. Geftakys carefully says that we must "avail" ourselves of this holiness and with this statement I fully agree. If I fail to become holy or to act out my holiness when I have been declared righteous and have been given a new righteous spirit, the fault is surely within myself and not of the Holy Spirit. If I fail I am to blame! If I become holy I cannot take any credit because my holiness was produced by the Holy Spirit within me, and all I did was avail myself of it.If I succeed, He must have the credit! The question I would ask is who gets the credit for expressed holiness in the believer? My understanding is that there is (and only will be) one righteous person, Jesus Christ. He lived a holy life and now lives every holy life.
I say then, that sanctification and righteousness are both gifts of grace. Sanctification or holiness, our DOING, may be quenched in the life of a believer, but each believer still has been given the gift of righteousness which is a change of nature or a change of BEING. Now, doing should flow naturally from being; sanctification or holiness should flow naturally from righteousness. Sometime, it does not [flow naturally] because the believer is deceived and does not understand that he was freed from the power of sin by his death with Christ and his new birth. Sometimes, it does not [flow naturally] because the believer is carnal and enjoys his sin. Sometimes it does not [flow naturally] because the believer is rebellious. These three problems with maturity rest in soulishness. The deception is a problem with the mind; the temporary enjoyment of sin is a problem of the emotions; and the rebellion is a problem of the will. They reflect walking after the flesh rather than the Spirit.
Quoting Geftakys, page 89, Royal Overcomers: "The final privilege associated with our corporate call is a call to the body. This is a call to intimacy. Colossians 3:15 tells us that we are called to "one body" because we are engaged to Him. However, our engagement to Him entails a transformation of character. Ephesians 5:25-27 says, 'Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word. That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.'
The fiancee must keep herself clean by the sanctification of the Word. If she is not kept clean by the Word, she will not be presented to Him as a glorious bride. Not all Christians are going to be in the bride. Only those who have daily been sanctified, washed, and cleansed shall be presented without "spot or wrinkle" unto Him. Without blemish or defilement, the overcomer shall come to Him."
Geftakys seems to believe that the bride of Christ must "keep herself clean". Yet the verse he quotes says that, "He might sanctify it. "If you take the position of Geftakys, then only part of the believers who keep themselves clean are to become the bride of Christ. If you take the position of this verse, then every believer will someday become clean practically as well as positionally. Where will this take place? Read I Cor. 3:11-15.The believer's judgment seat will purify any remaining unrighteousness or self-righteousness from our lives before we become a part of the temple, the body, or the bride of Christ.
We will be rewarded if our works remain (verse 14).We will suffer loss if our works are purged by this fire; but we will not lose our salvation and we are still in Christ, a part of His body, His Bride, His Temple, His Kingdom; and we will enjoy some degree of the inheritance due to the corporate body. I believe that some will share a greater reward having submitted to a larger degree to the work of the Holy Spirit. Rewards are always for works. They express the justice of God. Being in Christ by the new birth means that we will share any benefit of being in the body, a part of the temple, a part of the bride of Christ. Is Christ divided? This is just like the current gifts of the Spirit in the church or the body of Christ. Some gifts seem superior and some body parts get more glory than others. They are all necessary.
Even though we are one body, one bride, we should be motivated to press to the mark of the high calling in Christ Jesus. We should "avail" ourselves of all the power of the Holy Spirit and by His grace become all that we can be!
It is an error to believe that we are saved by works. This is legalism or law.It is also an error to believe that we are perfected or made holy by works. This is Galatianism. But, it is also an error to receive the free gift of grace for salvation and then continue in the flesh. This is antinomianism. "Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid!"
Quoting Geftakys, page 33, Royal Overcomers: "The Lord tells us that there will even be some of the children of the kingdom which shall be cast 'into outer darkness' (Matt. 8:12).We need to realize that there is no guarantee that all believers are going to get into the kingdom; again, this is not speaking of their salvation, but of entering the kingdom by that narrow gate."
Here Geftakys teaches from Matt. 8:12 that some of the children will be cast into outer darkness. By context Jesus is teaching that some Jews will reject and be cast into outer darkness in contrast to the Roman centurion who had more faith than Christ had seen in all of Israel, (vs.10). Obviously, no believer who is in Christ can ever be cast into outer darkness or hell.
Quoting Geftakys, page 61, Royal Overcomers: "The second provision we notice about this promise is the security it provides to the overcomer: '...and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life' (Rev. 3:5).The first time we read of the book of life in the Bible is in Exodus 32... God has a book and to have one's name inscribed in that book assures life to that person. We can see from this passage, however, that there is the possibility of these names being erased out of the book. This does not mean that we can lose our salvation; rather it refers to the loss of the inheritance through sin. He says in the promise to the overcomer, 'I will not blot his name out of the book of life. 'We can rejoice in this positive possibility, for God guarantees an eternal security of life to the one that overcomes. It is not necessary to worry about the negative possibility if we are taken up with pursuing the Lord."
Here Geftakys makes a logic mistake by arguing from a negative statement. Of course God will not blot the name of an overcomer out of the book of life! You cannot argue from a positive statement, that it is possible that names can be blotted out of the book of life, from a negative statement. The fact that Israel stood at risk under the law does not change the security we have under grace.
Why does Geftakys fail to quote the other verses which clearly state the permanence of the names in that book? Rev. 13:8, 17:8 and the teaching of Eph. 1:3-6 clearly teach that we were chosen in Him before the creation of the world and that resulted in an eternal listing in that book of life. "In Him we were also chosen having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will." (Eph. 1:11).I believe that Geftakys rejects the Biblical teaching on predestination and thus believes that man must have a part in his salvation. Not being able to argue against justification by grace, he argues against sanctification by grace. This subtle error is probably an error from a pure motive. I agree with the need to call the church to holiness. I believe that the only holiness we can attain will be the life of Christ in us. Even our righteous works must come from grace and faith alone.
Let us all pray for brother George that he not become trapped in such subtle error out of an honest motive.
God bless you,