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A Contrast In Pastors

I recently did my own little project.  I spoke to two very different pastors of traditional churches (traditional in the sense that they are not house churches).  I asked them the same basic questions.  I wanted to highlight their answers (which I have summarized here) and show the contrasts in their thinking.  The first pastor I will call John and the second I will call Rob.  John pastors a traditional Reformed church.  Rob pastors a seeker sensitive church.

John, age is late 50’s, Reformed in his theology.

What books are you reading?

I’m reading several books by a few Puritans.  Right now, I am reading Thomas Watson.  I just finished a book on the humor of Charles Spurgeon which I found delightful.

What style is your preaching?

Expository.

What are you preaching right now?

Through the Gospel of Mark.

How often do you preach on doctrine?

I try to deal with my text and include sound exegesis and doctrine in every sermon.  Sometimes, depending on the text, doctrine comes up more.  Sometimes not.  I want the text to lead me.

Lastly, how much time you spend in prayer and study in a given week on average?  

I would say 10 to 15 hours.

Rob, age is early 40’s, Baptist in his theology.  Non-Calvinist.

What books are you reading?

Right now I am reading Mark Batterson.  My favorite author is John Ortberg.

What style is your preaching?

Topical and series.

What are you preaching right now?

Actually we are working through the Gospel of John.  (Side question I asked: Is this expository preaching through John?  He said not in the technical sense but more focused on long sections).

How often do you preach on doctrine?

Um….I know doctrine is vital.  Not downplaying it at all.  We have a lot of seekers coming to church so I try to avoid anything that would lose them.  We talk about doctrine a lot in our home groups.

Lastly, how much time to you spend in prayer and study in a given week on average?  

I would say about 5 hours.  Sometimes more, sometimes less.  Just depends on how busy I am.

Conclusions

First, let me state that I am not trying to attack Rob though it will appear that way.  I disagree with him and his church.  I am not a Calvinist so I didn’t agree with John either but it shows me why Calvinists are seeing a resurgence and we Arminians are not at this point.  I know of few Arminians preachers who actually preach Arminianism from the pulpit.

In this case, Rob is not an Arminian.  He is a seeker sensitive church plant from the SBC.  He would say that he is a non-Calvinist though he stated that he enjoys John Piper and David Platt.  Rob, however, often reflects non-Calvinist churches.  That are often shallow, lacking theological depth, and focused on getting results (in this case pragmatically) for the purpose of numbers.

John was very gracious.  He is a scholar.  He deeply loves the Lord (though I think Rob does too).  Both men want to see Jesus glorified though I believe John is more God-centered in his approach.  John, unlike Rob, seems to not care what the numbers say.  John’s church is only about 35.  Rob is running near 500.  That said, the theological depth of the average person in John’s church is deep while Rob’s is seriously lacking.  Even the music was noticeably different.  John’s church sang deep theological hymns while Rob’s sang the latest praise songs from the popular praise singers.

One final point.  What I found interesting in this short study was even the Bibles these men used.  John preaches from the King James Version.  Rob preaches from the New Living Translation.  Yet John dealt with his text.  Rob only skims it.  John developed his points from the text and allowed the text to dictate him.  Rob read the text and then only touched on points here and there from it.  John preached with Christ and His gospel as the focus.  Rob preached, it seemed to me, with the hearers as this focus.

My call to my fellow Arminians is learn from this.  Preach doctrine (2 Timothy 3:16-4:2).  Let us not shy away from the Word of God.  Furthermore, I pray for a revival of expository preaching among my fellow Arminians.  This goes for house churches as well.  God’s Word is the final authority and we must preach the Word with unction and to the glory of God.  Care not for the attention of men but rather long for the glory of God to be exalted.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

04/12/2016 at 11:47 AM

The Gospel Plus Nothing Else

The gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16).  The gospel is focused on the work of the Lord Jesus Christ in shedding His blood for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:1-4; Galatians 1:4).  The gospel is about the wrath of God being satisfied through the offering of the Lord Jesus for our sins for everyone who repents and believes the gospel (Romans 5:1-11).  We can add nothing to the gospel nor take anything from it lest we fall under the condemnation of Paul the Apostle (Galatians 1:6-9).

Why then should we add to the gospel by adding works as part of the message?  Why add that we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus but add you must be baptized in this church or you must do this or that?  When we add to the work of Christ, we take away the work of Christ (John 6:29).  The finished work of Christ is done (Hebrews 10:10, 14).  Hebrews 7:27 says that Christ offered Himself up “once for all.”  This work of salvation is complete.  There is nothing to add to this work.  We are now saved from the wrath of God though faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and by His grace alone through faith alone (Titus 3:5-7).

We need not add our theological systems in there either.  I know of a brother who once preached for all to come and repent and be saved (Revelation 22:17).  He gladly preached repentance to all people (Acts 17:30-31).  He called all to believe the gospel and be saved (1 Corinthians 1:21).  Yet somewhere along the way the guy started saying privately at first that only true Christians were Calvinists.  He then went public with his views and begin to rebuke anyone who was not a Calvinist saying that only Calvinists preach the gospel and only Calvinists are truly saved.  He now denies fellowship with anyone who is not a Calvinist and his acid test for true faith is Calvinism.

That is adding to the work of Christ.  If you have to say, “Repent and believe in the gospel but also believe in Calvinism as well to be saved” then you have added to the gospel and have denied the power of the gospel.  The gospel is not about Arminius or Wesley or Edwards or Spurgeon or MacArthur.  The gospel is all about Jesus as Lord.  The true disciple of Jesus (whether Arminian or not) professes the Lordship of Jesus and loves Him above all (Romans 10:9-13).  The disciple of Jesus is fixed on Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-2) since He is our salvation (1 Corinthians 1:30-31).

The gospel then is not about Jesus plus your goodness.  It is not about Jesus plus you must believe in unconditional election to be saved.  The gospel is all about Jesus and what He has already done in saving lost sinners (Luke 19:10).  This gospel produces godly repentance which leads to salvation (2 Corinthians 7:10).  This is the will of God (2 Peter 3:9).

So my friends let us all preach Jesus plus nothing else.  Let us not preach Jesus plus our isms or Jesus plus our church or Jesus plus faith in our favorite theologian or preacher.  Let us preach Jesus!  He alone is worthy!

Written by The Seeking Disciple

01/31/2016 at 5:01 PM

The Shallowness of Seeker Churches

Over the past ten years or more we have been witnessing a revival in Calvinism and Reformed theology.  I can remember in college back in the 1990’s when neither Arminianism nor Calvinism was a big issue.  The issue in those days was the Lordship controversy with John MacArthur and the Dallas Theological Seminary teachers such as Charles Ryrie and Zane Hodges.  There were debates over spiritual gifts (charismatic vs. non-charismatic) and debates here and there over the security of the believer but by in large the issues related to Arminianism and Calvinism were not much of an issue.

Fast forward to now.  The debate couldn’t be much hotter.  I do appreciate that more and more brothers and sisters are learning to debate with grace toward each other as Scripture commands (2 Timothy 2:24-25).  Philippians 2:3 is becoming a passage we all need to heed.  Philippians 4:2 needs to be preached more.

On the one hand, I as an Arminian do not rejoice in the revival of Calvinism I see around me.  After all, I oppose the “doctrines of grace.”  But I do rejoice that disciples of Jesus are longing for more, wanting to go deeper in their theological knowledge, wanting to explore the deeper things of God.  And while I confess that I believe Arminianism to be deeper than Calvinism on many issues, I do believe that Calvinism is a move past the basics that are often not even being preached in the Western churches.

In my neck of the woods, we have a very large seeker sensitive church.  They would likely argue that they are not seeker sensitive but “Spirit sensitive” but their sermons, their music, etc. are all focused on attracting people to church.  They don’t care if you love Jesus or not (though they say they want to introduce you to Him).  Their point is to make church cool again, to get you in the doors, to get you “plugged in” with small groups, prayer, etc.  Some of what they do is good.  Jesus is mentioned a lot.  I appreciate that.

Recently I have subscribed to their podcast to listen to their preaching.  I have been listening to two different seeker sensitive churches in my area both of which are large.  After hearing a few of their sermons, I see why so many young people move toward Calvinism.  Calvinism is readily out there with podcasts, apps, study Bibles, Bible conferences, etc.  The works of John Piper are even quoted a few times by one of the speakers.  Tim Keller is mentioned much.  Matt Chandler seems to be a favorite.  All three men are Calvinists.

The preaching is typically focused on the people.  The text does not drive their preaching.  While they will occasionally quote from the Bible, the focus is the hearer.  The audience is their focus.  These are not dying men preaching to dying people about the living Savior.  These are showmen offering products to consumers.  That is the bottom line.  The sermons can be heard at any Amway presentation.  “You can make it.”  “You can do it!”  “You will survive this!”  “You got this.”  “Jesus will help you!”

So I can see a young person sitting in these churches just coming to faith in Christ.  They were drawn to the church by the women, the men, the cool music, the awesome logo, the lights, the sounds, the largeness of it all.  They came broken by a world that offers nothing and takes all.  They heard about Jesus, thought they would give Him a try and so they take the preacher up on his offer and they raise their hand, say a prayer, get baptized in a mass baptism, and start going to a small group.  While I would not say these people are saved at this point, they are are just what John Wesley described as “awakened sinners.”  They know they are lost, know that they are sinners, know that they need a Savior.  They have been brought to Christ by the traditions of men and not the Bible.

That said, they start to listen to the sermons, download the podcasts and they take a chance on hearing John Piper.  Piper blows them away!  He is actually preaching the Bible!  Piper begins to teach them and they become his students (or his cubs as Roger Olson puts it).  Soon they are reading Piper, listening to other Calvinists, and the door is opened to a new life in Calvinism.  Like Austin Fischer, they plunge into the world of Calvinism out of the shallowness of the seeker church.

The young person moves up!  Some of them actually repent at this point and get truly saved.  They leave their shallow seeker church to go to a Reformed church.  Some of them remain here.  Some move on higher out of Calvinism.

The seeker church has been a source for the revival of Calvinism.  I listened to just three sermons from a large seeker church and I was done.  It was not good.  The guy is a pretty good public speaker but he is no elder (1 Timothy 3:2 with an emphasis on teaching here).  The duty of biblical elders is to shepherd the flock of God (1 Peter 5:1-2) which includes teaching the Word (2 Timothy 3:16-4:5; Titus 1:5-9; 2:15).  I heard talks but didn’t hear exegesis of the texts.  I heard much talk about people but little emphasis on the sinfulness of mankind in light of the perfection of God’s holiness.  I heard much about Jesus coming and what He has done for us but I heard little in way of repentance and faith in His saving work.  I heard much about praying the sinner’s prayer but no emphasis on the Lordship of Christ and our submission to Him when we repent (Luke 6:46-49; Acts 2:36-41; 3:19-20).

The Arminian church must preach sound doctrine.  Now is not the time to become pragmatic and want to copy the seeker churches to gain the crowds.  Our duty is to preach Christ to the lost (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).  Our duty is not to gain crowds.  Our duty is to be faithful to our King and not to this world (John 14:15).  What you win them with is what you win them to.  If you preach Jesus and His Lordship, this often doesn’t draw crowds.  In fact, it often draws hate.  People love Jesus so long as He is their “god” that they worship and they created.  People often despise the true Jesus when He is preached in the power of the Spirit (John 15:18-16:4).  There are many counterfeit Jesus’ being preached by many (Matthew 24:23-24).  Our duty is to preach the true Jesus by preaching His inerrant and infallible Word.

May the Lord help us all, whether Arminian or not, to preach the Word of God faithfully and to exalt the one true and living God.  Jesus alone can save sinners and we must proclaim Him and His glory!

The Awakened State of Sinners

John Wesley called the awakened state of man as “the almost Christian.”  Wesley believed that most people in the church were that way, they were aware of their sins but they had not truly become children of God.  They were servants of Christ but not sons.  All sons are servants but not all servants are sons.

Wesley believed that Romans 7 described the awakened state.  While nearly all Calvinists that I know of teach that Romans 7 is the normal state for Christians and Martin Luther taught that a Christian is both a sinner and a saint at the same time, Wesley taught (along with Arminius I might add) that Romans 7 describes people who are not saved.  This is what Wesley deemed the awakened state, where a person is aware of their sins and aware that they are not pleasing to God so they seek to please God by their works or by their flesh.  This cannot merit salvation (Romans 4:5).  Those who are in the flesh cannot please God (Romans 8:7-8).

Sadly many in the modern church are in that state as well.  Many of the seeker sensitive churches preach an easy gospel that is without conviction, without true repentance, without a true knowledge of God’s holiness and our sinfulness before God.  They preach a message of “come to Christ” but they fail to convict sinners of their sins.  They ignore the Bible’s call to repentance (Mark 1:15-16).  They fail to preach repentance for the forgiveness of their sins (Luke 24:47; Acts 2:38; 3:19).  They seek to lead people to Christ using the goodness of God but fail to preach His just wrath nor His forbearance and patience with sinners (Romans 2:4).  Just this week I listened to two local seeker churches “sermons” and both were focused on the flesh rather than God, on what the sinner can get from God rather than repentance from their sins, and they both gave “altar calls” where the sinners just said a prayer and were said to be saved by grace.  Both failed to preach the gospel where sinners see their sins and repent of their sins against God.  Both failed to present Christ as the propitiation for our sins (John 1:29).  Both preached a message of “Christ wants to fill the void in your life.”  That is not the gospel.  That is what many people are hearing week after week in many churches.

The Arminian should preach the law of God to produce the awakened state.  Of course, the Spirit of God is the one who produces mighty conviction of sin (John 16:8-11).  The almost Christian will see their sins and their need for Christ but they don’t know how to respond to the call of God to salvation.  People believe (because of their sinfulness) that they must do something to earn salvation.  This is human thought through and through.  World religions attest to this fact.  Religious people are consistently trying to earn God’s favor, His forgiveness, or His salvation.  They think that they will be saved if their good works out number their bad works.  Others believe that their actions (sacrifices, prayers, etc.) will bring salvation.

The truth is that only Jesus Christ can save us from the wrath of God (1 Thessalonians 1:10).  Isaiah the prophet saw the work of Christ in Isaiah 53:4-6:

4 Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.

5 But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.

6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

The Lord Jesus is the hope for our salvation.  Jesus is the hope for the awakened sinner who sees his sins but doesn’t know how to flee from them.   The hope for the sinner is not rehabilitation or reform.  The hope for the sinner is to be born from above (John 3:3-7).  The hope is for the Spirit of God to regenerate the sinner to bring about new life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Titus 3:5-7) and this only comes through faith.

Romans 3:21-26 is full of the richness of God’s mercy and grace given freely to the sinner in Christ Jesus our Lord:

21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

The sinner is justified before God only grace through faith in Christ alone (Romans 5:1).  The sinner is not justified before God by a combination of human works and God’s grace (as many cults teach).  We are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.  Why is this?  Because the sinner cannot merit God’s salvation.  Consider good works for a moment.  How many good works must we do to earn God’s forgiveness?  What works qualify as “good” works?  How do we know that our wicked hearts will not produce pride in our “good” works?  How will we know if God approves of our “good” works?  Are there any “good” works which we consider good but God considers as bad?  How can we know?

The awakened sinner, writes Wesley, fears God but does not love Him.  The Christian loves God and fears Him (Romans 11:20-22; 1 John 4:18).  The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 1:7) and the Christian has a healthy fear of God (Hebrews 10:31).  Too many do not fear God but sadly few actually love Him either.  The awakened sinner fears God and knows that the judgment of God is just in punishment of their sins but they do not love God.  They seek to win God’s approval by reforms, by vows, by religion.  They find Romans 7 to be true, that they are too sinful to do any “good” works.  Their flesh simply will never please God.  They find in their awakened state that they are fully aware that they are sinners but have no peace with God.

The gospel is the solution.  The gospel brings peace.  Jesus is the prince of peace (Isaiah 9:6).  Jesus came to bring peace (Ephesians 2:14).  Jesus came to bring us not just peace in the storms of life (as many seekers preach) but He came to bring us peace with God whom we have greatly offended by our wicked sins.  The holy God of the universe is the one that we have violated.  He is the offended one.  When we talk about salvation we are saying that we are being saved from something and that something is the wrath of God that we justly deserve for breaking His laws and shaking our fists at Him.

The awakened sinner is not saved.  The duty of the evangelist is to preach Christ to the awakened sinner and call the sinner to faith and repentance through Christ.  The blessed Holy Spirit aids us in this preaching.  The Spirit works on the sinner’s heart to free the will to believe freely the gospel of God’s grace and mercy.  May we preach Christ and Him crucified for our sins.

Interceding For The End of Abortion

Abortion has been legal in the United States since 1973 with the Supreme Court decision of Roe v. Wade.  Since that time, literally millions of babies have been slaughtered in the womb.  While people want to argue about which lives matter, babies everyday are being killed for the simple reason that they exist.  The untold slaughter of the unborn in the United States and around the world is a stench to a holy God who cannot tolerate such evil.  We see the effects of Romans 1 in the United States and abortion is a fruit of this.

How can one make an impact for the Lord against abortion?  I could talk on about voting pro-life and I do and I believe all true disciples must.  How can one vote for a pro-murder politician is beyond me.  I could talk on about the need for true disciples of Jesus to run for political office to make an impact for the pro-life cause.  I could talk about the need for Christians to go to your local murder mills to protest and to preach and to plead with women and men not to kill their babies.  I could talk about the need for the churches to stop being silent about abortion.  Preach on abortion, talk about the need to end abortion, pray for sinners to repent and believe the gospel and turn from their wicked sins.

For all of us, I point to the biblical truth of praying for the end of abortion.  I do pray that we would pray, plead, preach, and protest but above all pray!  Pray for the Lord to end abortion.   Pray for Him to save the staff and “doctors” involved in murdering unborn babies.  Pray for pro-life groups to be strong, to preach the gospel, to help women who have become pregnant to see that murder should not be an option.  Pray for the Lord to raise up preachers of the gospel who will preach against abortion and turn women (and men) from the murdering of babies.

1 Timothy 2:1-7 is my bases for all this:

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. 7 For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.

We are winning the war over the pro-murder groups.  The pro-life movement in the United States is strong.  Granted, the federal government (especially under the pro-murder Democrats) has provided billions of dollars toward pro-murdering groups but the Lord is on our side.  The Lord is for life.  He created us in His image (Genesis 1:26-27) and we seek to murder babies who likewise are created in His image.   The pro-life movement must preach the gospel realizing that the hope for those involved in murdering babies is that Jesus saves from sin (Luke 19:10).  So many in the pro-life movement go and protest with an eye on earning merit from God (Isaiah 64:6).  I remind you again that our “works of righteousness” do not save (Titus 3:5-7).  We must preach the gospel that Jesus saves sinners and we are chief (1 Timothy 1:15).

For now, let us pray earnestly for the Lord to end abortion.  I do pray we preach, plead, and protest but oh that we would pray for sinners to be saved (Romans 10:1), that the Lord would raise up laborers for His harvest fields (Matthew 9:37-38) and that we would pray for the end to abortion.

Oh Lord grant this for Your glory!  In Jesus’ name!

Written by The Seeking Disciple

08/22/2015 at 5:16 PM

There Is No Middle Ground (Biblical Christianity vs. Liberal Christianity)

I was listening to Dr. Albert Mohler interviewing historian Matthew Bowman over his book, The Urban Pulpit: New York City and the Fate of Liberal Evangelicalism.  The book focuses on the early 20th century and the showdown between conservative (or fundamentalists) and liberals in the heart of New York City churches.  It it worth listening to the interview.

What I found interesting was that Dr. Mohler points out that what we learn from the book is that there is no middle ground between biblical Christianity and liberalism.  Men such as Harry Emerson Fosdick (of Riverside Church in New York City) and Robert MacArthur (of Calvary Baptist in NYC) showed us that they can’t be unified when the Bible is cast aside.  Fosdick longed for the “spirit of fundamentalism” but he decried their doctrines.  MacArthur stood firm for the truth of God and would not give an inch in his preaching of the cross.  Riverside Church today is a liberal church in New York City that does not preach the gospel but instead is a liberal church focusing on liberal issues.  Riverside struggles whereas Calvary Baptist remains a strong church in the heart of New York City that is still preaching the gospel all these years later.

There can be nothing gained by trying to find middle ground between liberalism and biblical truth.  The emergents tried but they failed (as Fosdick before them).  Emergents wanted to find common ground between what they saw as the best of fundamentalism and the best of liberalism.  Yet one must choose sides.  The emergents (like those at Riverside church in NYC before them) have chosen liberalism.  And they should.  Like Fosdick, emergents were not biblically following the Lord.  They claimed to follow Jesus but in reality they viewed Him as nothing more than our example.  Few of them talked about saving from sin (after all we must save the world from humans who are destroying our “mother”) and they didn’t speak of Jesus as revealed to us in the Bible.  I know of no emergents who preached the death of Christ for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:3) nor did they preach His glorious resurrection (Acts 1:3) but instead they made Jesus and His work a “spiritual” work where we learn from it and apply it to our lives (as in “God wants to resurrect our dreams as well”).

Emergents followed Fosdick and Riverside church and embraced what they believed in: liberalism.

What we can rejoice in is that God will be vindicated.  Calvary Baptist Church is still preaching the gospel nearly 100 years after Fosdick and MacArthur.  The work of Christ is still saving sinners.  The gospel is still being preached in the heart of New York City.  Truth always wins.  The truth of God cannot be stopped.  Jesus said that nothing would be able to conquer His Church (Matthew 16:18).  Jesus said that He would always be with His disciples (Matthew 28:20).  Nothing has changed that.  For 2000 years the Church of Jesus Christ has stood firm.  We have seen countless false apostles arise (Revelation 2:6), we have seen people turn from the faith (1 Timothy 4:1) yet the truth of God still goes forth.  Faithful men and women of God have taken the truth of God from the time of Christ and it comes to us still to this day in the pages of the Bible (John 17:17; 2 Timothy 3:16-17).

We it comes to the truth of God, there can be no middle ground.  We cannot hold hands with those who want to “change the world” but without preaching the gospel of saving sinners from their sins (John 3:3).  We cannot preach good works apart from preaching that good works do not save us but flow from a truly saved heart (Ephesians 2:8-10).  We cannot preach in some impersonal God when we believe that we can know God through His Son (John 17:3).  We cannot join hands with those who deny the virgin birth of Jesus (Matthew 1:23), the sinless life of our Lord (1 Peter 2:22), His miracles (Acts 10:38), His death on the cross (Mark 15:37), and His bodily resurrection from the dead (Luke 24:38-39).  We must stand firm for the truth that Jesus shed His blood for sinners (Ephesians 1:7).  This is why He came (Luke 19:10).  Jesus didn’t come to just give us an example (1 Peter 2:21) but He also came to save sinners from their sins (1 Timothy 1:15).  Jesus said Himself that He came to do the will of Him who sent Him (John 4:34).  Jesus finished His saving work on the cross (John 19:30) and God raised Him from the dead to prove His saving work was complete (Romans 1:4; 4:24-25).  We are now saved by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 15:11) and not by works (Isaiah 64:6; Titus 3:5-7).  Jesus said that the work of God is to believe in Him (John 6:29).  When a sinner believes the gospel, they are justified before a holy God (Romans 4:5; 5:1; 10:9-10).

We must not lay down these precious truths of God’s Word.  We cannot join hands with those who do not believe (James 4:4).  The gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16-17).  The gospel alone will transform the world (Psalm 110:1; 2 Corinthians 5:17).  We can preach the goodness of mankind all we want to but it will not save sinners.  We can feed the hungry, clothe the poor, and provide money for them but we will not be saving sinners from hell.  We can pray for peace and fight for peace but until the gospel of peace is preached, we cannot know true peace (Romans 5:1).  Until we see our depravity before God and see our miserable state, we will know the blessing of repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus (Romans 7:7).  The work of Christ on the cross becomes glorious when we see it in light of our sinfulness.

We must preach Christ and Him crucified.  This was the motto of Robert MacArthur and Calvary Baptist.  The gospel is what saves sinners.  It is what saved me.  Christ is the One who is worthy to be preached.  Christ is the One who is worthy to be glorified.  Paul said that he preached Christ crucified (1 Corinthians 1:23).  This was the great Apostle’s message and must be our own.  The glory of Christ.  The wonder of Christ.  The work of Christ.  The priestly work of Christ.  This is our passion.  This is our duty.  This is our delight.  This is what will endure (see Fosdick as an example when it does not).

May the truth of God go forth in the name of Jesus!

Written by The Seeking Disciple

08/18/2015 at 12:35 PM

The Gospel As The Power of God Unto Salvation

I think both Arminians and Calvinists need to rethink our positions on the issue of the gospel as the power of God unto salvation.  Here is what I mean.  Both Arminians and Calvinists assert that because of sin, mankind is unable to hear the gospel and be saved.  Calvinists teach that mankind must first be regenerated by the Spirit of God to come to salvation.  Arminians deny this but still teach prevenient grace as the work of the Spirit to bring sinners to salvation which in essence frees their will to believe the gospel.  Both sides teach that mankind is totally depraved to the point that even if we preach the gospel to lost sinners, they are incapable of responding to the gospel apart from this other work of the Spirit either in effectual calling or in prevenient grace.

However, how can it be that the gospel given to us by the Spirit is incapable of drawing sinners?  What if part of the work of salvation is the preaching of the gospel to lost sinners?  After all, Jesus makes much about the preaching of the gospel (Mark 1:15-16; Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 1:8).  Notice that in Acts 1:8 the Holy Spirit would empower the disciples to preach the gospel yet is the gospel still not able to save?  What if the work of the Spirit is drawing (John 6:44) but He does so through the preaching of the gospel (Romans 10:14-17)?

Paul the Apostle wrote in Romans 1:16-17:

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

Notice several things.  First, the gospel is the power of God unto salvation.  The same Greek word used in Acts 1:8 is used here.  The Spirit of God brings the power of God into our lives but the gospel is also the power of God unto salvation.  I ask again, if the gospel not able then to save?  Could it be that the Holy Spirit works through the gospel that is preached and He also works on the hearts of those who hear the gospel so that they can respond and be saved?

Secondly, the gospel is the power of God unto salvation.  I think this is where Calvinists get this part wrong.  They teach that a person must be regenerated to be saved.  Even the great Charles Spurgeon saw the folly in this:

“If I am to preach the faith in Christ to a man who is regenerated, then the man, being regenerated, is saved already, and it is an unnecessary and ridiculous thing for me to preach Christ to him, and bid him to believe in order to be saved when he is saved already, being regenerate. Am I only to preach faith to those who have it? Absurd, indeed! Is not this waiting till the man is cured and then bringing him the medicine? This is preaching Christ to the righteous and not to sinners.” [Sermon entitled The Warrant of Faith].

The difficulty lies in trying to prove that a person is regenerated before faith.  To do this, the Calvinists must take their doctrine to the Scriptures and presuppose this upon the text.  Because of time, I will only say that the biblical case for the Calvinist doctrine of regeneration before faith is weak.

As an Arminian, I believe that mankind is depraved (Ephesians 2:1-3) but I believe that the Spirit works through the preaching of the gospel to draw sinners to the Savior.  He also works on the human will to draw sinners to salvation through the preaching of the gospel that He inspired through holy men of God (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21).  The Holy Spirit does both!  He works through the gospel to draw sinners to salvation but He doesn’t stop there.  As the gospel is preached, the Holy Spirit works on the person to prepare them and draw them to salvation through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Can I prove this from Scripture?  Lets look at two examples both used by Arminians and Calvinists: the salvation of Lydia (Acts 16:11-15) and then the example of the Philippian jailer in Acts 16:30-34.

  1. The Salvation of Lydia (Acts 16:11-15).

Notice the text.  Lydia hears the gospel from Paul and believes (Acts 16:14).  The Holy Spirit opened Lydia’s heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.  She hears the Word, repents, and is baptized just as Jesus commanded (Matthew 28:19) and Peter preached (Acts 2:38).

We must not gloss over the truths here that the Holy Spirit did both the opening of her heart and He used the Word of God to bring salvation.  This is the biblical pattern (Ephesians 1:13).

2.  The Salvation of the Philippian Jailer (Acts 16:30-34).

The pattern here is clear: the jailer asks what must he do to be saved.  Does Paul say “There is nothing you can do to be saved.  If God wants to save you, He will save you for His glory!”  No!  Paul preaches that he must believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and he would be saved.  Paul preaches to him the gospel (v. 32), the jailer demonstrates his repentance and is baptized (v. 33).  Again, the gospel is preached here.  While the text says nothing of the ministry of the Spirit as in Lydia above, no doubt He is at work doing just what Jesus said He would do by exalting the Savior (John 15:26).  As A.W. Tower proclaimed: “We need not cry out for God to pour His Spirit for He already has beginning at Pentecost but now we simply exalt Jesus Christ and we have the assurance that this is the work of the Holy Ghost.”

What is clear is the preaching of the gospel.

Conclusion

Calvinists believe in the preaching of the gospel.  I don’t want to undermine that truth.  I know of many good Calvinists who are out on the streets preaching the gospel to the lost and calling people to repentance.  I appreciate them doing this very much and I admire them greatly.  I do think they are not consistent with their theology and I know they feel the same toward me.  I rejoice that Jesus is preached (Philippians 1:18).

In Galatians 3:2 Paul wrote this:

Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?

Notice that Paul makes the receiving of the Spirit conditioned upon hearing the gospel.  The term “hearing with faith” can only mean that as we see in the context from Galatians 3:1.  We preach Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 1:23) and we exalt Jesus as the One who saves from sin (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).  When we preach Christ, the Holy Spirit is at work.  The Holy Spirit has come to glorify the Lord Jesus.  The Holy Spirit takes the gospel preached and He woos sinners to salvation.  The work of regeneration is the Holy Spirit’s work (Titus 3:5).  Being “born again” is being born from above (John 3:3).  When a sinner humbles themselves, the Lord brings the forgiveness of their sins and they are born from above by God’s grace.

Now both Arminians and Calvinists acknowledge the necessity of the new birth.  Both acknowledge the necessity even of preaching the gospel to the lost.  The difference lies in whether depraved sinners can hear the gospel and be saved.  Calvinists deny this.  Arminians affirm this but only with a view of prevenient grace wherein the Spirit works on those whom God has foreknown will believe.  I am more comfortable preaching that the work of the Spirit is in the preaching of the gospel and sinners can hear and be saved.  Simply ponder the amazing work of the Spirit in conviction of sin (John 16:8).  When does this take place in Calvinism?  If regeneration is first, when is conviction of sin?  And how can dead sinners be convicted of sin if not first made alive?  While I acknowledge depravity of sinners, I also believe that the preaching of the gospel is powerful enough to open sinners eyes to their sins.  Most reject the gospel and continue in their sins but a few believe and repent and are saved.

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