Jesus’ Method of Evanglelism

I recently ran across the following comment on another blog site that specializes in trashing anyone who believes the doctrines of grace or anyone who believes that the redemptive work of Christ is intended to sanctify believers as well as justify them.

It is really hard to read how Jesus, Who was at creation, LOOKED at the rich young ruler and LOVED Him but did not “produce faith in him” so he could be one of the elect that was predestined before Adam sinned. I mean, the guy even asked God in the flesh what to do! And according to the doctrine of the NC, NCT, REformed, etc, the only way we can read it through their filter is that Jesus consigned him to hell at that moment and did not force him to “want” to give up his riches. He was refused regeneration. And we wonder why there is such a darkness in that determinist god filter of theirs. A short walk to Allah, I tell you!

This allusion was taken from Mark 10: 21. All the Synoptic Gospels contain this account but only Mark includes that “Jesus looking on him loved him.” If you wish to consider the passage in context, you can read it in Matt. 19: 16-30, Mark 10: 17-31, and Luke. 18: 18-30. All these passages relate essentially the same account. In case you don’t understand the reference to NC, NCT, and REformed, those refer to New Calvinists, New Covenant Theology, and Reformed. If you have any understanding of these views, you will recognize immediately that this statement is a perversion of their actual doctrine. I must confess my personal ignorance of the New Calvinists view since, to my knowledge, I have never met a “New Calvinists.” My assumption at this point is that the New Calvinists, if they are Calvinists indeed, believe essentially what the Old Calvinists believed on this issue. If you are a New Calvinist and wish to correct my understanding at this point, I urge you to do so. Now, let’s talk about the above quotation. My first observation is that it appears to me the blogger was not interested in a discussion of the matter at hand since she did not give any biblical reference so that others might interact with the verse in its context. Second, the comment comes as an accusation, not as a matter for instruction. My question is, whom is she accusing? Ostensibly, she is accusing NC, NTC, and REformed, but a careful reading of her words will reveal that she is actually accusing Jesus. It may come as a shock to some, but these passages were not written by followers of John Calvin. The passage says what it says and indicates what Jesus said and did. Among other points of information, the passage tells us Jesus looking on him, loved him, and then allowed him to go away disappointed. By the standards of modern evangelism, Jesus blew it. Third, the quotation assumes facts not in evidence. It would be vain to speculate about what happened to this young man after he went away. We simply don’t know whether he was ever converted. The blogger seems to be viewing this account from the standard of modern evangelism according to which sowing seed and reaping the harvest must occur at the same time. It is incredible to me that evangelicals expect a phenomenon that never occurs in the realm of nature to occur in the spiritual realm. I have planted many seeds; I have never seen one sprout the same day I planted it. Notice the words, “the only way we can read it through their filter is that Jesus consigned him to hell at that moment and did not force him to “want” to give up his riches. He was refused regeneration.” Jesus “consigned him to hell AT THAT MOMENT.” I somehow missed that when I read the passage. Since Jesus let him slip through the net, there was no possibility he would ever be converted? Oh, really? Is there no possibility that he went away disappointed because for the first time in his life he began to understand that it was absolutely impossible that he could “do something to obtain eternal life?” Is it inconceivable that he later embraced Jesus in saving faith? Modern evangelism usually dismisses this possibility. If you don’t close the sale on your first try, you have failed. This quotation also betrays the erroneous idea that at some point sinners are for the first time “consigned to hell.” He wasn’t consigned to hell before, but now “at that moment, Jesus consigned him to hell.” We all know about the biblical passage that tells us we are born innocent and continue that way until we come to the age of accountability. Then, if we reject the gospel we are consigned to hell. Perhaps, someone can remind me where the Bible states that. Fourth, the quote twists the Calvinistic doctrine at this point. No one believes, [at least no one should believe] that God has no love for the non-elect at all. Our teaching is that God does not love all sinners equally and in the same way. In his sermon on the mountain, Jesus instructed his disciples to love universally. We are not simply to love our friends and hate our enemies. He said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (Matt. 5: 43-45). The Bible makes it clear that God gives common grace to all his creatures. He opens his hand and satisfies the desire of every creature. There is no mystery that Jesus showed love and compassion for this lost and broken sinner. Later we watch as he weeps over Jerusalem. The apostle Paul confessed that he had great heaviness and continual sorrow in his heart for his unconverted Jewish brothers. The question we must ask is whether everyone for whom Jesus showed love and compassion was loved with an everlasting and redeeming love. The Scriptures make it clear that God’s love for his chosen people far exceeds this universal love and compassion that extends to his creatures, as creatures. Fifth, the quote seems to indicate that if Jesus didn’t regenerate this man, he ought to have done so. Notice the words of the quote, “I mean, the guy even asked God in the flesh what to do.” Perhaps I am misunderstanding the implication of this statement, but it looks as if she is saying, “This guy really deserved eternal life since he actually asked Jesus what to do to obtain it.” Please remember, the words in this passage are not a Calvinistic representation of what occurred on this occasion. By all accounts, Jesus let this man walk away unconverted. Perhaps I have misread the words, but if I understand the contention, it is that if Jesus could have done something about this man’s unrepentant heart, he would have. Since he let him walk away unconverted, he must have been powerless to change his heart. Now either way, Jesus is to be blamed. If he could have changed this man’s heart and didn’t, he should have. We all know the Bible passage that states, “God owes everyone at least a chance at salvation,” right? If God doesn’t give everyone a level playing field, he isn’t fair. Perhaps someone reading this can refresh my memory about where that occurs in Scripture. I have read the Bible carefully and I just can’t find that passage. The alternative is that Jesus really wanted to change this young man’s heart but was powerless to do so. What a pitiful savior. Either way, Jesus failed to close the sale. Sixth, the blogger misrepresents the Calvinistic position. She stated, “. . .but [Jesus] did not “produce faith in him” so he could be one of the elect that was predestined before Adam sinned.” What Calvinist believes that “when Jesus produces faith in them, people become one of the elect who were predestined before Adam sinned? That is simply a perversion of our doctrine. Seventh, the quote twists the Calvinistic doctrine and represents it as teaching that, in conversion, God forces sinners to do something they really don’t want to do. She wrote, “. . . and did not force him to “want” to give up his riches.” God does not force anyone to do anything. If sinners rebel against God, we do so willingly. If we embrace Jesus as he is offered us in the gospel, we do so willingly. If this rich man had left his riches and followed Jesus, he would have delighted to do so and counted it no loss at all. The apostle Paul wrote that he had “suffered the loss of all things and counted them as rubbish” in comparison to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ (See Phil. 3:8). Is she suggesting that it would have been better to simply leave this man in his abject inability to stop loving and worshipping this chief object of his delight. This is where sinners are doomed to remain unless God moves on them internally by the power of sovereign grace. This brings us to the real issue. The issue is not that Jesus must have been unable to do anything about this man’s rebellious heart since he didn’t do what he would have and should have if he had the ability. Please notice that this man’s question had to do with “what he could do to obtain eternal life.” Since Adam’s fall, the sinner’s choice has always been “do it yourself” religion. The very question was an act of rebellion against God. God intended the entire Mosaic system to teach the sinner’s inability to do it himself. If you insist on doing something, then, as Jesus said, “You know the commandments. . . .” In his arrogance this man proclaimed, “I have kept these from my youth.” What utter self-deception! Jesus had to remind him that the Law required more than perfect and continual obedience; it required inward obedience. He did this by laying his finger on this man’s characteristic sin–the sin of covetousness. Jesus knew this man not only possessed stuff but that he was possessed by stuff. The Law asks sinners not only to stop doing things God has forbidden but to stop loving things that usurp God’s rightful position in their hearts. The real issue is who was in control in this situation, Jesus or the rich man? Was this man able, in and of himself, to suddenly start loving God instead of his stuff? Jesus answered the question quite forcefully. This is what he said, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! ” And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” (Mark 10:23-25). The disciples’ response was a proper one. They said, “Then who can be saved” (v. 26)? We must not ignore Jesus’ answer to that important question. If we do so, we are bound to go astray, not only in our theology but also in our evangelistic methodology. He did not say, “Any sinner can be saved if he/she exercises the power of the will that has been set free by prevenient grace. All we need to do is persuade them to make a choice.” This is what he did say. Read it in large letters! “WITH MAN IT IS IMPOSSIBLE, BUT NOT WITH GOD. FOR ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE WITH GOD” (V. 27). Sinners in a state of sinful nature will never choose to forsake their idols and bow in saving faith to Christ. With them, it is impossible. It is the rest of the sentence that makes gospel proclamation profitable. Though salvation [even choosing to pass through the door of conversion] is impossible with men, it is possible with God. He is able to remove the stony heart and replace it with a heart of flesh and a new disposition. This is why we not only proclaim the gospel to the dead, but also pray that he, according to his sovereign good pleasure will bring them to spiritual life in Christ.

2 Responses to “Jesus’ Method of Evanglelism”

  1. September 25, 2013 at 10:31 am

    The comment was an adventure in missing the point.

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