Full Salvation by Devout Effort
Written by Steve Irons, a former elder in the Fullerton Assembly, soon after he left the Assembly in 1990. During that time period Steve also wrote What George Geftakys Believes about his Ministry, George Geftakys' Treatment of People, and The Story of Denise Stanford, among others. (Consult the glossary (above) for definitions of Assembly terminology.)
Adoption becomes a reward.
Inheritance becomes a reward.
The kingdom becomes a reward.
Membership in the body of Christ becomes a reward.
Election becomes a reward.
Resurrection and rapture becomes a reward.
Heaven becomes a reward.
Beholding Christ's glory becomes a reward.
In every case George places the emphasis on our effort to achieve this "so great salvation" rather than God's gracious gifts to us in Christ. George distorts every aspect of salvation as "rewards" that the believer must earn through diligent effort.
Although we begin the Christian life through the gospel message of faith alone, George Geftakys stresses that we go on to the “greater privileges” of salvation (full salvation) by devout effort. His language is unmistakable.
Liberty, adoption, destiny, inheritance, and glorification all speak of something beyond forgiveness of sins, as great as that is. These greater privileges of the Christian life demand serious commitment and love for the Lord Jesus Christ. (p. 36, The Glorious Liberty of the Sons of God)
What we need to realize is that although God desires all of this for us, it is conditional. Salvation from sin is unconditional, but privilege in glory is conditioned upon our response. (p. 40-41, Stages on the Journey)
Our forgiveness of sins and justification is unconditional in the Word of God, but holiness of life and the reward at the judgment seat of Christ are conditional. (p. 75, So Great Salvation)
His [Christ’s] exceptional maturity and moral beauty stemmed from the supreme development of his faculties by determined effort. This effort characterized the apostle Paul in his pursuit of godliness... As we follow our Lord in spiritual maturity, our awareness of these levels of human existence grows, and the struggle becomes more conscious, more determined and more defined. (p. 16, "Joy, Peace, Glory", Torch and Testimony, July-August, 1991, Vol 18, No 4)
Without doubt, George Geftakys is saying that we enter into a fuller relationship with God by great effort. Through “serious commitment,” “response,” “determined effort,” and “more determined struggle,” we develop our “intellectual, moral and spiritual faculties” in order to achieve “joy, peace and glory (an expectation of ultimate reward)” (p. 12, Joy, Peace, Glory, Torch and Testimony, July-August, 1991, Vol 18, No 4) and a “position of privilege and communion with God.” To have a “place of transcendence” with God, he tells us, we must pull ourselves up on an inner-soul ladder of “resurrection vitality”, one rung at a time, until we reach a “place of reigning with Him.”
God has also built a heavenly ladder into our souls and lives. A ladder has three functions. First, the only way we can climb a ladder is one step at a time. Secondly, a ladder provides a way by which we may pull ourselves up... Thirdly, a ladder is a way of arriving someplace... Throughout the Word of God, and especially in the Psalms, we find that the way to the presence of the Lord is always up. The journey begins with Calvary, with the forgiveness of sins, but it does not end there. He is bringing us to something... He has given us resurrection vitality as a ladder to bring us to a place of transcendence, a place of reigning with Him. The Lord is teaching us... how to follow the trails that He Himself has blazed before. May we learn to follow in these ascending steps upon the journey with the Captain of our salvation. (p. 14-15, Stages on the Journey)
Learning to follow “ascending steps,” pulling ourselves up “a heavenly ladder,” getting involved “in corporate, overcoming relationships in a local assembly,” (p. 84, Royal Overcomers) and having “serious commitment and love” for a fuller salvation is adding the requirement of “faith works” to the gospel.
George Geftakys treats all the benefits of salvation as rewards which we must “enter into” by means of additional acts of faith, even though these benefits of salvation have already been given us—freely—by virtue of our receiving a whole Christ. “It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30). Our adoption as sons of God, our place in the eternal kingdom, our inheritance, our election, and our final glorification (all benefits of our salvation), George Geftakys treats as “privileges” which we may or may not realize, depending on how diligent and responsive we have been to God’s provision of grace to overcome sinful habits. For example, rather than taking Romans 8:37 “we are more than conquerors” as a statement of fact and a present reality for the believer, George Geftakys reshapes it into a question creating the doubt that we might not be overcomers.
How can we be more than conquerors? It is by getting involved in corporate, overcoming relationships in a local assembly where there is a wholesome and fervent affection for Christ. It is by entering into the privileges of our calling: the new creation, the heavenly man, sonship, priesthood, kingship, the body, and the bride. (p. 84, Royal Overcomers)
Foreign to the text, George Geftakys adds the requirement that to be an overcomer we must get involved in one of his local assemblies. Whereas, the apostle John declares, “Everyone born of God overcomes the world... Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God” (1 John 5:4-5). That is, the believing child of God is an overcomer. However, George Geftakys insists that “overcomers” are those “who have sensed and responded to the higher call of walking worthy.” (Forward, Royal Overcomers) George Geftakys withdraws God’s gracious gift and turns it into an impossible standard or goal which the believer must pursue.
Again, our presentation to Christ as part of His bride may be lost, if we don’t daily cleanse ourselves from sin.
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 and wrinkle” unto Him. (p. 89, Royal Overcomers)
Even our participation in God’s eternal purpose in His Son may be forfeited if we fail to see ourselves as “a church in the wilderness” with a certain kind of understanding of who we are as God people.
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. (p. 13, "The Assembly in the Wilderness", Torch and Testimony, March-April, 1990, Vol 17, No 2)
The prospect of receiving rewards for faithfulness are clearly taught in the Word of God. For example, Paul rejoices in 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20 that seeing God’s people in the presence of Christ was his “crown”. James speaks of a “crown of life” for enduring temptation. And if a builder’s work endures the test of fire, he will receive a reward (I Corinthians 3:14). But the N.T. writers do not confuse rewards with such benefits of salvation as adoption, inheritance, resurrection, election, and membership in the body of Christ.
George Geftakys teaches from Galatians 4:1 7 that if believers remain in a state of infancy in their faith they will not receive the Father’s commendation of sonship someday and consequently will forfeit the inheritance.
As long as we are children, remaining in the state of infancy in light of our faith, we are no different than servants. Sonship and inheritance are our privileges; it is God’s intention that we be heirs of all, but inheritance is for sons, not children. A child is not a son. In the Greek and Roman culture, the idea of a son was different from that of the Jewish culture. Under Greek and Roman tradition, when a child pleased his father and was acceptable to him, and had reached a certain maturity, the father assembled relatives, family, and friends, and announced that his child was now his son; accordingly, he was to be heir of all the father’s possessions. Until that day of acclamation, though the child might be in name lord of all, he was in actuality no different than a servant... If we are continually disobedient children, then we will forfeit the inheritance and the one who has been a faithful and obedient servant will become the heir of all the possessions. (p. 11, The Glorious Liberty of the Sons of God)
However, Scripture teaches that sonship (or adoption) is conferred on the believer when the believer first trusts in Christ. Sonship is bestowed on us because our sins have been forgiven; not because we have matured in our faith or have “taken the place” of privilege as sons. Wuest in his Word Studies confirms.
The Lord Jesus... died under law... in order that He might not only deliver us from the law but also raise believers with Himself into a realm where law does not operate. Instead therefore of being children (immature ones, nepios) under law, we became adult sons (huios) under grace. We received the adoption of sons. This expression in the Greek is literally, “in order that we might receive the adult son placing”... Thus, we have presented to us the status of a person under grace as compared to that of a person under law. (p. 116, Galatians in the Greek New Testament, Word Studies in the Greek New Testament, Volume I)
George Geftakys describes adoption as placing ourselves (instead of the Spirit of God) into the status of sonship.
That word “adoption” is a Greek word which literally means “to stand in the place,” and implies that we must take the place of sonship. Sonship is conditional, not automatically ours. (p. 87, The Royal Overcomers)
Through the boundless ages God has intended [not destined] for us inheritance, rule, and glory with His Son... By rising to His call, responding to His invitation, we take the place of privilege. (p. 39, The Glorious Liberty of the Sons of God)
Wuest, however, states the exact converse.
In the fact of the Galatian’s possession of the Spirit, Paul finds the proof that they are adult sons of God. The emphasis is still upon the fact that their position as sons gives them freedom from bondage to the law, for he says that they are no longer slaves (doulos). It is also implied by the use of the words “no longer,” that at one time the Galatians were under bondage to law...
As a son, Paul says, the believer is an heir of God. The purpose of the apostle in again bringing up the conceptions of heirship and inheritance is perhaps that he wants to remind the Galatians that their position as heirs of God is due, not to any personal merit or good works, but to the grace of God. (p. 117, Wuest, Galatians in the New Testament, Word Studies in the Greek New Testament, Volume I)
Paul is not contrasting different kinds of believers (one immature in his faith and the other mature). Instead he is contrasting the unbeliever with the believer. Before salvation we were under law, looking upon God as our judge. Now, we are under grace, looking upon God as our Savior and heavenly Father. The Spirit places us in the position and status of sons and Himself bears testimony with our spirits that we are God’s children.
For you did not receive a spirit of slavery again with resulting fear, but you received the Spirit who places you as adopted sons (huiothesias), by whom we cry out with deep emotion, Abba, Father. The Spirit Himself is constantly bearing joint testimony with our spirit that we are God’s children, and since children (teknon), also heirs. (Romans 8:15 17)
The “since” in the phrase “since children, also heirs” introduces a fulfilled condition. It can be translated, “In virtue of the fact that we are children, we are heirs.” Notice, too, that the heirs are “new born ones” not “mature sons” (teknon not huios).
John Murray, who spent most of his career teaching systematic theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, wrote,
The person who is justified is always the recipient of sonship... Adoption is, like justification, a judicial act. In other words, it is the bestowal of a status, or standing, not the generating within us of a new nature or character. It concerns a relationship and not the attitude or disposition which enables us to recognize and cultivate that relationship. (p. 132, Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied)
And certainly John, the apostle, confirms this great truth when he boldly proclaimed, “Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us that we should be called children of God, and we are” (I John 3:1).
Another spiritual blessing, which George Geftakys treats as a reward for faithfulness, is the believer’s inheritance. He teaches that it is possible for God’s people to miss out on (forfeit) the “rest” of their inheritance by not persevering in the faith. He uses Hebrews 3:18 to support his claim: “God swore that they would never enter his rest,” which is a reference to Numbers 14:23, “Not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their forefathers. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it.” George Geftakys argues that it was not to unsaved people that God said this, but to saved people of God, who were delivered from Egyptian bondage. These redeemed people failed to possess God’s promised “rest” of the inheritance because they did not go on to perfection.
The whole theme of Hebrews is going on to perfection, going on to the possession, going on to the inheritance. (p. 75, So Great Salvation)
Hebrews is about that great High Priest interceding at the right hand of God. And this great High Priest intercessor encourages us, “Keep going; do not quit; do not get discouraged; do not get diverted. I am on your side and I have all the provisions that you need for the journey. I will take you all the way from the cross to the throne. I am standing for you.” (p. 59, So Great Salvation)
In order to answer George Geftakys, we need to understand the intended audience, author, and theme of the book of Hebrews. Westcott states that,
The letter is described in all existing copies as addressed “to Hebrews”; and Tertullian, who assigned the authorship to Barnabas, gave it the same destination. (p. 35 of Introduction, Westcott, The Epistle to the Hebrews)
It is clear that the letter is addressed to a definite Society and not to “Hebrew” Christians generally. This is proved yet more directly by the fact that the writer hoped to visit them (13:23) as he had been with them before (13:19). At the same time, though he spoke of them as “brethren” (3:1) and “beloved” (6:9), he does not speak of them as “children”. (p. 37 of Introduction, Westcott, The Epistle to the Hebrews)
Knowing the destination of the epistle, helps us understand that the author’s reference to “brethren” and “beloved” is not to Gentile believers, but to Hebrew Christians. The author of the epistle is “the last voice of the apostles of the circumcision” and not “a peculiar utterance of the apostle of the Gentiles.” (p. 51 of "Introduction", Westcott, The Epistle to the Hebrews)
Westcott does not believe that the apostle Paul wrote Hebrews but some other apostle who “regarded Judaism naturally with sympathy and even with affection, for it was that through which they had been led little by little to see the meaning of the Gospel.” (p. 52 of Introduction, Westcott, The Epistle to the Hebrews)
The group of Hebrew Christians to whom the author writes had become disappointed with Christianity. The early expectations of a triumphant return of Christ had not occurred and their fellow countrymen had not embraced Jesus as their Messiah. They were wondering if they would be forever deprived of the comfort of “a sacrificial worship and priestly atonement” which they had in Judaism. The author answers these disappointments by showing how Christ as a great high priest obtained for them far greater and more permanent spiritual blessings than what they ever enjoyed under the “temporary” system of Judaism. The theme, then, of the epistle is “the finality of Christianity.” (p. 47 of Introduction, Westcott, The Epistle to the Hebrews)
There is for the believer a priestly consecration (10:22), an altar (13:10), a sabbath-rest (4:9). (p. 59 of Introduction, Westcott, The Epistle to the Hebrews)
There is a triumph to come; and, in looking forward to this, Christians occupy the position which Saints have always occupied, the position of faith, of faith under trials. (p. 58 of Introduction, Westcott, The Epistle to the Hebrews)
Because of the permanent nature of Christianity, there is a definite response the author wanted to invoke from his readers.
Judaism was becoming, if it had not already become, anti-Christian. It must be given up (13:13). It was ‘near vanishing away’ (13:13). It was no longer debated whether a Gentile Church could stand beside the Jewish Church, as in the first period of conflict in the apostolic age; or whether a Jewish Church should stand beside the Gentile Church, as in the next period. The Christian Church must be one and independent. And thus the Epistle is a monument of the last crisis of conflict out of which the Catholic Church rose. (p. 58 of Introduction, Westcott, The Epistle to the Hebrews)
So the author warns “let us be careful” not to fall short of “so great salvation” and “let us go on to perfection.” The author is not referring to entering into the “reward” of the inheritance by being faithful, as George Geftakys does; the author is asking his audience to stand independent of Judaism.
Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come. (Hebrews 13:13)
The theme of the epistle is not possessing our inheritance through the perfection of our souls. “Let us go on to perfection” in the context of the theme of the epistle means to “go on to a mature understanding” that the theocratic institutions of Judaism were a representation of eternal truths.
Judaism was the shadow, and Christianity is the substance; yet both are regarded under the conditions of earth. But the figures have an abiding significance. There is a heavenly city in the spiritual world, an organized body of rational beings; ‘a congregation’ which answers to the full enjoyment of the privileges of social life (11:10,16; 12:22 ff). There is also a heavenly sanctuary there, which was the pattern of the earthly, to confirm the eternal duty and joy of worship (8:2,5). (p. 59 of Introduction, Westcott, The Epistle to the Hebrews).
George Geftakys teaches that “the kingdom is given as a reward” (p. 66, God's Eternal Purpose). Only those “reflecting the character of that coming kingdom now in some measure” will enter it. “Even a Christian, if he is living an unrighteous life, will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (p. 67, God's Eternal Purpose)
Unless our righteousness exceeds that of an outward formality, or mere assent to the things of God, unless there is inner growth, reality, and transformation, we shall in no case enter into the kingdom of God... Entrance into the kingdom is not determined by how much we know or even how much we understand, but simply by love for Jesus Christ, which is demonstrated by faith and diligence in our daily lives. (p. 63, God's Eternal Purpose)
The sheep in Matthew 25:31-46 “inherit the kingdom prepared from the foundation of the world” (verse 34). The goats receive these words, “Depart from me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels” (verse 41). The inheritance of the kingdom is contrasted with eternal fire, the same punishment of the devil and his angels. “And these [the goats] shall go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (verse 46). This passage clearly establishes that the inheritance is equivalent to the kingdom which is equivalent to eternal life which is equivalent to escaping eternal fire. The inheritance is not something someone can miss out on and still escape hell. It is not an optional extra for the faithful.
All who are declared righteous (justified) will live holy, godly lives. Sanctification flows out of justification. It is not an option. According to Romans 6:22, those who have “been freed from sin and enslaved to God... derive [their] benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life.” George Geftakys, on the other hand, teaches that holiness for the believer is optional, sanctification is optional, discipleship is optional. Sanctification is never optional in Scripture, but is the necessary consequence of justification. Romans chapter 6 was written to those who thought that God’s justification of the ungodly means they could just go right on sinning. Paul answers, “Absolutely not.” How can we continue in sin if we have been united with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection?
George Geftakys argues that since his teaching encourages people to holiness, then it must have merit. But this is a dangerous assumption. Many people hearing that holiness is optional may wake up in hell someday (not just outside the kingdom), thinking they will only lose their reward if they live in sin, since they are saved anyway (because they have eternal life).
George Geftakys teaches that new birth does not automatically make us members of the body of Christ.
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. (p. 3, "The Itinerant Ministry", The Torch and Testimony, July-August 1989, Vol 16, No 4)
The Christian Research Institute (CRI) discovered this erroneous statement in George Geftakys’s magazine, The Torch and Testimony, and remarked that Geftakys was making a false distinction between being a Christian and being a member of the body of Christ. A year later, without any explanation or reference to CRI’s critique, The Torch and Testimony magazine published a statement in answer to CRI’s objection. It was discretely tucked away on the last page under the caption “Editorial Note”.
It is the position of this magazine and its contributors that all believers are members of the body of Christ. This is effected through the baptism of the Holy Spirit in accordance with I Cor. 12:13... which we receive at the time of new birth (see Gal. 3:14). The church, which is His body, came into being on the day of Pentecost. (p. 18, Editorial Note, The Torch and Testimony, July-August 1990, Vol 17, No 4)
What was being corrected was not identified. There was no retraction of the former statements; only this isolated statement of what the editors now believe was published.
However, George Geftakys’s previously published statement is consistent with his theology. The privilege of being a member of the body of Christ is not “automatic” at new birth (it is not a benefit of salvation), but must be entered into by receiving a special “baptism of the Holy Spirit”.
George Geftakys repeatedly makes reference to Matthew 22:14, “Many are called, but few are chosen” as proof that God calls all of His people to these benefits of salvation, and that not all of God’s people respond to God’s call, and so are not chosen. Holiness of life then becomes the basis for God’s choosing us.
Our righteousness is not based on our calling, for it is unconditional, but our holiness is based on our calling. The Lord Jesus said that many are called but few are chosen. All of God’s people are called, but not all avail themselves of their resources in Christ. Though all are called, all of God’s people do not respond to the call of Christ. Only those who respond are the chosen. (p. 62, Spiritual Perfection)
But Ephesians 1:4-6 teaches just the converse. God did not choose us because we were holy, but He chose us in order to be holy. “For He chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves” (Ephesians 1:4-6).
A footnote in the NIV Study Bible makes it clear that God’s choosing is not based on any kind of pre-existent holiness in us.
holy and blameless. Holiness is the result—not the basis—of God’s choosing. It refers both to the holiness imparted to the believer because of Christ and to the believer’s personal sanctification. (p. 2270, footnote on Eph. 1:4, NIV Study Bible)
The NIV Study Bible elaborates on this last statement in the footnote on 1 Cor. 1:2, “to those sanctified in Christ Jesus”. In this verse, Paul addresses the Corinthians as “sanctified” or “holy” even though he has to correct them. This is called “positional” or “definitive sanctification.”
sanctified: Set apart for the Lord. It can also mean “made holy,” which is done by (1) being declared holy through faith in Christ’s atoning death on the cross (sometimes called positional), and (2) being made holy by the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of Christians (sometimes called progressive sanctification). In spite of the fact that Paul found much in the Corinthians to criticize, he still called them “sanctified”—not because of their conduct, but because of their relationship to Christ (positional sanctification). (p. 2201, footnote to 1 Cor.1:2, NIV Study Bible).
George Geftakys teaches that the overcomers are an elite group of believers who will receive resurrection and rapture before the Millennial reign of Christ. Not all believers will participate in such privileges because they are not holy enough.
Many believers are unaware that there is more than one resurrection. The first resurrection, which Paul pursued, is the resurrection of inheritance, or the resurrection of the overcomers who will reign with Christ. Those who fail to overcome must wait a thousand years until the second resurrection, which is a resurrection of life, not a resurrection of inheritance. (p. 82, Spiritual Perfection)
George Geftakys teaches that there will be not just one rapture, but many raptures just prior to and throughout the tribulation period. These “companies” of believers are ranked based on their degree of holiness and suffering.
Dwight Pentecost in his book, Things to Come, describes George Geftakys’s type of teaching on the rapture as a “theory”. It is interesting to observe that G.H. Lang holds this view, whom George Geftakys holds in high regard.
The first theory associated with the translation of the church is not concerned with the time of the translation in relation to the tribulation period, but rather with the subjects to be translated. It is contended that not all believers will be taken at the translation of the church, but rather only those who are ‘watching’ and ‘waiting’ for that event, who have reached some degree of spiritual attainment that makes them worthy to be included. This view has been held by such men as R. Govett, G.H. Lang, D.M. Panton, G.H. Pember, J.A. Seiss, and Austin-Sparks to mention but a few. (p. 158, Pentecost, Things to Come)
According to Dr. Pentecost, evangelicals today reject the partial rapture theory outright for doctrinal and exegetical reasons.
The partial rapturist position is based on a misunderstanding of the value of the death of Christ as it frees the sinner from condemnation and renders him acceptable to God...
The partial rapturist, who insists that only those who are ‘waiting’ and ‘watching’ will be translated, minimizes the perfect standing of the child of God in Christ and presents him before the Father in his own experimental righteousness. The sinner, then, must be less than justified, less than perfect in Christ.
The partial rapturist must deny the New Testament teaching on the unity of the body of Christ... If the rapture includes only a portion of those redeemed, then the body, of which Christ is the head, will be a dismembered and disfigured body when it is taken to Him... Such is impossible to imagine.
The partial rapturist confuses the Scriptural teaching on rewards... Nowhere in its teaching about rewards is the rapture included as the reward for watching. Such a teaching would make rewards a legal obligation on the part of God, rather than a gracious gift. (p. 160-161, Pentecost, Things to Come)
Pentecost’s objections to this theory coincide with the objections already stated. Resurrection and rapture are not given to believers graciously, but are rewards for “those who are waiting for him” (Hebrews 9:28).
Even heaven is a reward. The editors of the Torch and Testimony published a modernized version of John Bunyan’s essay entitled, The Heavenly Footman. In the book, the editors consistently used the word “believer” in place of “professor”. This subtle exchange of words is not coincidental. George Geftakys teaches that Bunyan was writing to saved believers—a thought which would have shocked Bunyan. Bunyan was urging unsaved, professing, nominal Christians to “run for it” if they wanted heaven. By substituting “believer” for “professor”, George Geftakys misuses Bunyan’s essay to support his teaching that saved believers must run for heaven if they are to possess it.
We make this book available in the hope that it will stir the Lord’s people to pursue godly lives and to remind them that “they that will have heaven, must run for it.” (Forward, Bunyan's The Heavenly Footman, Edited by Torch and Testimony Publications)
Yet for all this, there are very few who obtain that ever-to-be-desired glory, and hence many prominent believers fall short of a welcome from God into His pleasant place. (p. 19, Bunyan's The Heavenly Footman, Edited by Torch and Testimony Publications)
What, do you think that every slothful believer will have heaven? Every careless and foolish believer, who will be stopped by anything, kept back by anything, who barely runs so fast heavenward as a snail creeps on the ground? There are some believers who do not go as fast in the way of God as a snail goes on the wall, and yet they think that heaven and happiness is for them. But wait, there are many more who run than there are who obtain; therefore, he who will have heaven must run for it. (p. 23, Bunyan's The Heavenly Footman, edited by Torch and Testimony Publications)
George Geftakys would have us believe there is some kind of continuum, with the highest reward (heaven, inheritance, resurrection, sonship) at one end of the scale and with punishment (weeping and gnashing of teeth, outer darkness, stripes) at the other. In contrast, Bunyan taught a heaven/hell dichotomy with no gradation of reward—punishment in between. It’s either heaven or hell and to miss heaven is to gain hell.
You must either win or lose. If you win, then heaven, God, Christ, glory, ease, peace and life eternal are yours; you must be equal to the angels in heaven; you shall sorrow no more, sigh no more, feel no more pain; you shall be out of reach of sin, hell, death, the devil, the grave and whatever else may endeavor your hurt. But on the contrary, if you lose, then your loss is heaven, glory, God, Christ, ease, peace, and whatever else tends to make eternity comfortable for the saints; in addition, you will gain eternal death, sorrow, pain, blackness and darkness, fellowship with devils, together with the everlasting damnation of your soul. (p. 49, Bunyan's The Heavenly Footman, edited by Torch and Testimony Publications)
It can be legitimately asked of George Geftakys’s reward-punishment graded scale, “When does the lower end of the scale become eternal condemnation?” because he goes so far as to state that believers at the judgment seat of Christ will “suffer awesome consequences”, “they can be hurt by the second death” (p. 30, Royal Overcomers), and will not “be in the bride” (p. 89, Royal Overcomers). This is shocking, because Revelation 20:14 clearly states, “The lake of fire is the second death.” Doesn’t the forgiveness of sin mean that God has saved us from the awful consequences of hell? George Geftakys in describing forgiveness as “mere” and “initial” makes forgiveness insufficient. In belittling the forgiveness of sins, he takes the very heart out of the New Testament.
There is however no privilege comparable to the forgiveness of sins with which adoption into divine sonship is granted, and when a man can stand before God he stands beneath no other benefit. “If God is for us,” we may ask, “what can still stand above us?” The New Testament speaks in awe of the forgiving wonder accomplished in God’s sending of Jesus Christ for the sins of the world and it focuses all its powers of attention on this living center. The Holy Spirit’s power exists in nothing less or more than in the illumining and implementing of this universal wonder. (And sanctification, from the believer’s side, is simply taking justification seriously.) (p. 234, Bruner, A Theology of the Holy Spirit)
Justification as taught in the gospel (Romans 3:21-26) is not simply that we are pardoned and forgiven of our sins, but that we are actually accepted by God as righteous. We have a righteous standing before God. In order for God to make this declaration about us, we had to receive a perfect, undefiled, and undefileable righteousness; otherwise, God could not have declared us righteous. God constituted us righteous in Christ through faith, thus making it possible for God to justly declare us righteous.
Justification is both a declarative and a constitutive act of free grace. It is constitutive in order that it may be declarative. God must constitute the new relationship as well as declare it to be. The constitutive act consists in the imputation to me of the obedience and righteousness of Christ. (p. 124-125, Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied)
Now that God has so declared us righteous, we have a title to the reward of the righteous—heaven, eternal life, the inheritance, adoption—in short, “every spiritual blessing.”
John Bunyan is not the only godly teacher that George Geftakys uses in support his own theories of salvation. John Owen, inspired by the words of Christ’s high priestly prayer, “Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24), wrote:
For if our future blessedness shall consist in being where He is and beholding His glory, what better preparation can there be for it than a constant previous contemplation of that glory as revealed in the gospel, that by a view of it we may be gradually transformed into the same glory. (p. 26, Owen, The Glory of Christ)
No man shall ever behold the glory of Christ by sight hereafter who doth not in some measure behold it here by faith. (p. 47, Owen, The Glory of Christ)
And yet George Geftakys misquotes John Owen in order to support his notion that our future enjoyment of Christ depends on our present ability (by developed spiritual faculties) to behold Him.
To meet Him at the end of the journey is a great prospect, one for which we are now preparing ourselves. In his book The Glories of Christ, John Owen wrote that to the measure that we behold His glory now, to that extent will we behold His glory then. If we fail to see His glory now, what prospect, what hope, what assurance do we have that we shall behold it then? But if in some measure we behold His glory now, we can look forward to seeing much of His glory then. By the spiritual exercise and discipline of contemplation along the journey, we prepare ourselves to enjoy Him at the end of the journey. (p. 54, Stages on the Journey)
Indeed, it is in the measure that we behold Him here that we shall behold Him there... God is developing within us spiritual faculties of sensitivity. (p. 55, Royal Overcomers)
George Geftakys is making Owen say something which he never said. Owen is not saying that the degree or measure we behold Christ’s glory in this life determines (as cause and effect) the degree, measure, or extent to which we will behold His glory in our resurrection bodies.
Owen’s concern was pastoral, to give encouragement to the believer in the conflicts and trials of life on this side of heaven. For Owen contemplation of the glory of Christ, “will carry us cheerfully, comfortably, and victoriously through life and death, and all that we have to conflict withal in either of them.” (p. 30, Owen, The Glory of Christ)
To be sure beholding His glory now by faith will make us more like Christ in this life, but increased holiness does not increase our ability to see Christ’s glory in our glorified state. Sinclair Ferguson in his book John Owen on the Christian Life clarifies.
Weak faith will carry a man to heaven, “yet it will never carry him comfortably nor pleasantly thither... the least true faith will do its work safely, though not so sweetly”, since “A little faith gives a whole Christ”, “Others may be more holy than he, but not one in the world is more righteous than he.” “The most imperfect faith will give present justification, because it interests the soul in a present Christ. The lowest degree of true faith gives the highest completeness of righteousness, Col. 2:10. You, who have but a weak faith, have yet a strong Christ.” (p. 271-272, Ferguson, John Owen on the Christian Life)
Beholding Christ now by faith brings comfort to our souls in this veil of tears and will also transform us into his glory. Owen makes no reference to “developing spiritual faculties of sensitivity” through “the spiritual exercise and discipline of contemplation” so that we have a more wonderful view of Christ in heaven. Instead, Owen says that “the view which we have of the glory of Christ by faith in this world is obscure, dark, inevident, reflective” (p. 168, Owen, The Glory of Christ). Whereas, the “vision, or the sight which we shall have of the glory of Christ in heaven, is immediate, direct, intuitive; and therefore constant” (p. 172, Owen, The Glory of Christ). There is no thought of developing our spiritual faculties in this life so that our view of Christ in this life can become more immediate, direct, and brilliant, and that, in turn, our view of Christ in heaven might be even more immediate, direct, and brilliant (“seeing much of his glory then”). Simply seeing Christ now by faith (though inadequate) is sufficient for seeing Christ in heaven.
The hunger for “more” is pervasive throughout George Geftakys’ teaching. He offers incomparably greater and higher privileges to those who “enter into” these privileges by “determined effort” and “spiritual exercise”. Setting forth these higher privileges satisfies George Geftakys’ craving for something beyond “bare-bones salvation”.
This hunger for “more” places believers on a performance based relationship with God. The requirements for entrance into George Geftakys’ “fuller salvation” will never be “fully” met. There will always be something “more” to do to attain ever higher privileges. George Geftakys used to speak of salvation as the passport. To get into the kingdom you need a visa (based on Hebrews 6:3 “if God permit”), and a visa is only granted to the overcomer. Now George Geftakys has added a new privilege and with it a new requirement. If you want to be a V.I.P. in the kingdom, you need to have a “white stone” (Revelation 2:17). The stone signifies you have reached perfection.
As the privileges set forth become greater, the “spiritual hoops” to jump become more difficult. J.C. Ryle remarks,
I protest against such teaching as this. It not only does no good, but does immense harm... It depresses some of the best of God’s children, who feel they never can attain to “perfection” of this kind. It puffs up many weak brethren, who fancy they are something when they are nothing. In short, it is a dangerous delusion. (p. 21 of Introduction, J.C. Ryle, Holiness)
A salvation system which adds devout effort (“spiritual exercise and discipline” and the development of “spiritual faculties”) throws into question the sufficiency of Christ’s once-for-all work and of faith alone which receives him—fully.
Not only is Christ’s person divided but his people are robbed. The believer is thrown from a gratitude for God’s work outside himself into a grovelling within himself. The gracious fact of the inner Christ is made to depend upon tricky inner doings and undoings of the believer (for example, “yieldings,” “appropriating,” “full surrender,” et al). Thus the way of law enters via the teaching of “Christ in us”—a strange irony. The only corrective is emphasis where the New Testament overwhelmingly places it: on the whole Christ received once and for all by simple faith; on the Christ who is so much for us that he is in us. (p. 233-234, Bruner, A Theology of the Holy Spirit)
George Geftakys’ passion for “more” is subversive to the message of the sufficiency of Christ’s once-for-all-work and of faith alone which receives him. In short, it ruins the gospel.
The issue is clear: either the believer receives everything God has to give in Christ, through faith, or he receives it by more (even by “more faith”). The New Testament flatly repudiates the second way. (p. 284, Bruner, A Theology of the Holy Spirit)
Read The Galatian Crisis in the Biblical Exposition section of this website for a Scriptural answer to the teaching that fuller obedience will result in a fuller salvation.