Archive for November, 2014

21
Nov
14

Calvinistic Evangelism–Chapter Two:Rubbish Removal

“In Judah it was said, “The strength of those who bear the burdens is failing. There is too much rubble. By ourselves we will not be able to rebuild the wall” (Nehemiah 4:10).

The Priority of Rubbish Removal

It is impossible to build or rebuild on a foundation that is faulty and covered with rubble. When Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem for the purpose of rebuilding the wall, his first order of business was to inspect the foundation of the wall (see Nehemiah 2:11-16). Once he had learned what needed to be done, he encouraged the people to rebuild the wall by reminding them the good hand of God would be with them and give them success (see Nehemiah 2:20).

After the work had begun and was progressing well, God’s people encountered opposition and began to become discouraged. One of the reasons for their discouragement was the large quantity of rubble that needed to be carted away.

I would invite you to consider Jeremiah’s call and commission as a prophet of Jehovah. The LORD said to him, “Behold I have put my words in your mouth. See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.” (Jeremiah 1:10). Notice that before God instructed him to build and to plant, he told him to tear down and pluck up.

It has become quite difficult to engage in biblical evangelism because the landscape of evangelical Christianity has become cluttered with so much non-biblical rubbish. I am not only or even primarily referring to the non-biblical and often anti-biblical practices and message that are in vogue. Instead, I am referring to the mindset that has characterized the evangelical church for decades. That mindset has resulted from a set of theological [or in many cases anti-theological or a-theological] presuppositions that have prevailed in the evangelical church for more than a century.

Doctrinal Rubbish

One such assumption is that faith is a decision that locks a sinner into an eternally secure salvation even if he should later deny the faith and return to a life of unbridled sin and wicked unbelief. According to this understanding of faith, if ever we can get a person to come to a point of decision at which he acknowledges the facts of the gospel, he will be saved for eternity. Some have traded biblical teaching that true believers will persevere in faith to the end for the doctrine of “once saved, always saved.” Please do not misunderstand me. I believe that once God has truly declared a person to be righteous in his sight he will never alter that verdict, but that is different from the teaching that all who profess faith in Christ are saved for eternity no matter what occurs subsequently. This presupposition of “once saved, always saved” grows out of the free will doctrine. The belief is that once the scale of the sinner’s libertarian free will is tipped toward Christ so that he “decides for Christ” [as if Jesus is running for office] he gets his ticket punched for the gospel train that takes him to heaven. Nothing that occurs after that can cause him to be kicked off the train.

I know that for anyone who has carefully read and studied the Scriptures the idea that anyone could believe such a doctrine sounds too bizarre to be true, but I will not ask you to merely take my word for it. You can read it for yourself at such web-sites as http://www.expreacherman.com. The following represent a small sample of the statements that confirm their doctrine.

“It is possible for a believer to lose confidence in eternal security, or any other part of the gospel message. In such cases, he still has eternal life. (Luke 8:13).”

“One does not have to love God to receive the free gift of salvation. He needs to believe on Jesus as his Savior.”

“Demas is an eternally secure believer who turned his back on God. He is in heaven.”

From these brief quotations it is easy to see that in their view, faith need not involve anything more than an intellectual nod to certain propositions. It clearly has nothing to do with guilty rebels being reconciled to God and need not be ongoing. It appear that according to this view, once a sinner gets his ticket punched by making the right choice, he is home-free for eternity whether he continues to believe the gospel or not. Admittedly, this appears to be an extreme view even among those who practice free will evangelism, but it is in line with the widely held view called the “carnal Christian doctrine.” The idea is that once a person has made an open profession of faith, he is eternally secure no matter what occurs subsequently.

Several false doctrines as well as many non-biblical practices have grown out of this presupposition. I intend to discuss the faulty theological foundation of modern evangelism in detail in a subsequent chapter. For now, I want to focus more on the evangelistic rubbish that has cluttered the landscape of the Christian church.

The “Invitation” and the Sinner´s Prayer

In the first half of the nineteenth century, Charles Finney introduced a number of innovations into the practice of evangelism. One such innovation was what he called “the anxious seat.” At the end of an evangelistic meeting he would invite those who “were willing to be on the side of Christ” to come forward and sit on the anxious seat. In his view, if a person had been able to overcome his pride and natural timidity and had come to the anxious seat, he had given evidence of saving faith. In his Lectures on Revival he made it clear that the anxious seat was intended to be a replacement for baptism. He wrote,

The church has always felt it necessary to have something of this kind to answer this very purpose. In the days of the apostles, baptism answered this purpose. The gospel was preached to the people, and then all those who were willing to be on the side of Christ were called to be baptized. It held the place that the anxious seat does now as a public manifestation of their determination to be Christians.

Since he had assumed that all who came to the anxious seat were truly converted, he later found himself in a quandary when they gave no evidence of genuine faith. For that reason, he introduced the idea of a second work of grace that would accomplish what he had expected from the first work of grace.

The “anxious seat” was the precursor of the modern “invitation system” or the “altar call.” Many modern pastors and evangelists make the same assumption that Finney had made. They assume that if a person walks the aisle of a church building or coliseum and makes a public profession of faith, he or she has been saved for eternity. If such people give no evidence of love for Christ or a desire to obey him, they are referred to as “carnal Christians.” They are encouraged to make another decision and become a “spiritual Christian.”

The question is, “How can we know these people are truly Christians”? The stock answer is that we know they are saved because we saw them “get saved.” By that they mean they saw them walk the aisle to make a profession, and they assume that means they became genuine believers. Now if they are right, they are completely justified in using every psychological technique and emotional tactic possible to induce people to make that all important decision. Additionally, we are remiss if we do not use every scheme possible to get such decisions out of people.

What we need to discuss is not whether such practices as the “invitation” and the “sinner’s prayer” are justified, but whether the underlying presuppositions on which they are based can be supported biblically. There is nothing inherently wrong with a person walking to the front of a church building or coliseum to confess that he or she has trusted in Christ for salvation. The assumptions we need to question are those that have been taken for granted by modern evangelists and those who follow them. If you do not believe these folks actually assume these ideas, simply listen to them talk. The following are a few of their assumptions:

1. The use of such methods is necessary for the sinner’s salvation. I have often been asked, “If you don’t give an invitation, how can anyone “get saved?” This clearly implies that a walk to the front of a building or repeating a prayer is necessary for salvation. It seems that, according to their view, if we do not use their methods there will be people who will be lost who would otherwise have been saved.

2. A proper response to an invitation to come forward is an evidence of saving faith. I have often heard people make statements like “There were five people saved in the meeting last night.” By this they mean five people walked the aisle and made a profession of faith. At times they will say something like, “I know she is a Christian because I saw her “get saved.” Or “I saw him ‘get saved,’ and now he has backslidden. It must be possible for a person to lose his salvation.” Again, the inference is that if a person walks the aisle, he must be a true believer.

3. There is a limited time in which a person can be converted. One often hears them say, “If no one comes while we sing this verse, we are going to close the invitation.” Who do these people think they are? Are they going to open the gates of heaven to sinners and then close them because they didn’t respond at the proper time? God’s invitation to sinners is open as long as they live.

4. It would be wrong to conclude that a person’s profession may not have been genuine if he shows no evidence of love for Christ or a desire to obey him. These people must be Christians because they responded properly to a gospel invitation. They simply need to take a second step of faith and become “spiritual Christians.”

5. If a person doesn’t give “an invitation” at the end of a gospel message, he must not care about souls.

The Proper Venue for Evangelism

Another area in which the evangelical church needs to experience a radical paradigm shift is in its thinking about the proper venue for evangelism. For decades, evangelicals have been conditioned to think that the purpose of the church meeting is to provide a venue for the propagation of the gospel. This mentality has manifested itself most blatantly in the “seeker sensitive/friendly movement” and in the “emergent church movement.” The idea that seems to underlie the methodology of these movements is that the church should be a place where sinners will feel comfortable to “hang out.” As a result, everything that might be offensive to an unconverted person has been eliminated from the program. The entire idea of a hymnology in which God’s people were instructed in the great truths of the faith and inspired to worship him intelligently has vanished. The great hymns of the faith have been replaced with vapid ditties and theologically vacuous mood music designed to prepare the sinner to hear the message.

The message itself has been carefully crafted to produce the desired response from the unconverted. Everything that might be distasteful or offensive to the unconverted person has been omitted. We should remember here that a portion of the truth when presented as the whole truth becomes a whole lie. God forbid that any preacher should actually proclaim sound biblical doctrine in such a gathering. Preachers are often urged to “put the cookies on the bottom shelf so that everyone can reach them.” The result of following this advice has been an epidemic of spiritual malnutrition that is plaguing the church.

Just yesterday I listened to a portion of a “sermon” in which a Southern Baptist pastor was excoriating people in the so-called church he claims to pastor. He referred to these people who wanted to be taught more doctrine as “big fat spiritual babies,” and suggested that they are the excrement of the body of Christ. He said to these people, “I don’t have time to feed you; I’ve got work to do.” This man has been set over one of the larger churches [and I use the term “churches” very loosely] in the Southern Baptist Convention. He described the church as having a “big front door” through which unchurched, unbelieving people enter and “choose Christ.” To me, this speaks volumes about this man’s doctrine of the church. He clearly believes his work is not to feed the flock over which God has made him overseer, but preach to these people who are entering “the big front door” so that they will be converted, or to use his non-biblical phrase, “choose Christ.” The church is advertised as “A safe place for non-believers.” Is it any wonder that God’s people are malnourished when charlatans like this guy are allowed to stand in the pulpit and spew their putrescent garbage?
Please do not misunderstand me. I am not opposed to having unconverted people attend the gathering of God’s people to observe how we worship our God and hear what the Bible teaches. I am delighted when such a person is so overwhelmed by God’s truth that he or she becomes a true believer, but the evangelization of the unbeliever is not the purpose of the gathered church. Additionally, unbelievers should never feel “safe” from the possibility that they might hear something that will make them feel guilty before God.
There is not a single verse in the Bible in which believers are instructed to invite their unbelieving friends and loved ones to church. Christ’s command is not “bring people to church,” but “Go and make disciples.” The purpose of the assembly and of the teaching pastor is to equip believers to do the work of ministry. There is only one passage in the New Testament Scriptures that mentions an unconverted person coming into the assembly and in that passage (1 Cor. 14:23-24) it is stated as a possibility—“What if an unconverted person should happen to come into the assembly?” The apostle does not instruct them to bring such a person in for the purpose of evangelizing them.

It is time for shepherds to return to the task for which God has equipped them. If they are unable to nourish the flock with healthful teaching, it is time for them to find a new profession. Perhaps selling vacuum cleaners would suit them better.

In a later chapter, I want to offer suggestions about the proper venue for evangelism based on the biblical pattern. For now, suffice it to say that it is not the purpose of the gathered church to provide this venue.

The Use of Unbiblical Jargon

There are certain phrases one will never find in biblical proclamations of the gospel, yet many would think it impossible to evangelize without using them. I invite you to read the New Testament gospel presentations and see if you can find any of the following phrases that have become so commonplace in modern evangelism:

Let Jesus come into your heart.

Give Jesus your heart.

Open your heart, and let Jesus come in.

You need to “pray to receive Jesus.”

You need to “decide for Jesus.”

Jesus died for you.

God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.

Smile, God loves you.

God hates the sin, but loves the sinner.

God can’t save you unless you let him.

Perhaps you are thinking that though these exact phrases do not occur in the New Testament Scriptures, we can certainly find verses that express the truth that lies behind them. After all, doesn’t the New Testament tell us that God loved the world in such a way that he gave his only Son (John 3:16) and that he demonstrated his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8-9)?

Regarding the first of these verses, I would invite you to read “Arminian Presupposition #2 Refuted” at http://www.truthunchanging.wordpress.com. The reality is that the word “world” was almost never used to designate every person on the globe without exception. John used it to indicate the condescension of God’s love. The holy one loved fallen rebels who were hostile toward him. John’s emphasis was not on the number of the people loved but on the nature of the people loved. Additionally, he used the word to indicate the true universality of God’s love. He did not merely love people from the nation of Israel but from every nation on earth. This is probably the predominant sense of the word translated “world” the New Testament Scriptures.

But what about verses like Romans5:8 that state that God loved “us” and Jesus died for “us?” Any reasonable person would simply need to read these verses in context to understand that “us” does not refer to every human being on earth. First of all, we should consider to whom Paul addressed the letter. He wrote, “To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints” (Rom. 1:7). Additionally, the immediate context makes it clear that “us” refers to Paul and to the believers in Rome. Consider his description of those to whom he addressed this epistle. He refers to them and to himself as follows:

We have been justified through faith (v.1).

We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (v. 1).

By faith we have obtained access into this grace in which we stand (v. 2).

We rejoice in hope of the glory of God (v. 2).

We rejoice in sufferings also (v. 3).

God’s love has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit who has been given to us (v. 5).

We have now been justified by his blood (v. 9).

We shall be saved by him from the wrath of God (v. 9).

Certainly, no one would be so theologically inept as to suggest that “we,” “our,” and “us” in these verses refers to every sinner without exception. Yet, incredibly, there are those who contend that “us” in Romans 5:8 refers to every sinner without exception.

It is time for evangelicals to bring our phraseology into conformity with the biblical pattern. I urge you to read the sermons on record in the New Testament Scriptures and to begin to incorporate more biblical language in your gospel presentations. In the following chapter, I intend to examine those sermons and suggest a more biblical expression of the gospel of our great God.

If ever we are to be effective in making disciples, we must dispose of the rubbish that has so greatly damaged the cause of God and truth. I implore you to examine your message and methods in the light of Scripture. “Put all things to the test; hold fast what is good” (1 Thess. 5:21).

21
Nov
14

Calvinistic Evangelism–Chapter One: The Necessary Prerequisite to Evangelism

“And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach” (Mark 3:14).

It should be impossible for a person to read this verse without noticing two reasons for which Jesus appointed the twelve apostles. Additionally, it should be obvious that one of his reasons for appointing them has priority over the other. He did not merely choose them so that he might send them out to proclaim a message. He first appointed them that they might be with him and only after they had spent time with him did he send them out to preach.

We should consider this a pattern that we must follow. How often neophytes are thrust into the arena of evangelism before they have had opportunity to be with him, but it is being with him that produces meaningful evangelism and bold evangelists. It is difficult to recall an example of a divine call or commission to perform some God-given task that was not preceded by a resplendent revelation of God’s glory. Jesus’ disciples were so powerful in their proclamation of the gospel because they were prompted by the Spirit to recall what they had learned from Jesus while they were with him. John expressed it this way, “. . .we gazed on his glory, the glory as of the uniquely begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” Then he wrote, “and from his fullness we have all received and grace upon grace. . . .”(John 1:14, 16). It was out of this fullness that the Apostles proclaimed the good news that Jesus had risen and had been exalted to the throne. It was clear to those who saw their boldness in proclaiming this message that they had been with Jesus.

Consider the account recorded in Acts four regarding the lame man whom the Apostles had healed and their defense before the council.

On the next day their rulers and elders and scribes gathered together in Jerusalem, with Annas the high priest and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead-by him this man is standing before you well. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. But seeing the man who was healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. But when they had commanded them to leave the council, they conferred with one another, saying, “What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is evident to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:5-20).

This passage makes it clear that Peter and John were not performing their evangelistic activity in a perfunctory manner. They were not engaged in evangelism merely because it was a matter of duty or responsibility. They had not organized an evangelistic planning committee to figure out how they could fulfill their evangelistic task. John had not said to Peter, “OK buddy, I know you are really timid about this matter of evangelism, and I know how easy it is for you to wimp out. I remember the rooster incident, but you have to try to be bold and strong. After all, we have a responsibility to try to fulfill this commission Jesus left us.” They didn’t have to try to be bold; they could not help being bold.

When their hearers witnessed the clarity of their message and the boldness with which they spoke, no one suggested they must have had great evangelistic training. No one inquired about the name of the evangelistic system they had memorized. No one asked about their seminary training. What, then, was the source of their boldness? The text tells us “When they saw the boldness of Peter and John. . .they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.” If we are to be bold evangelists, it is essential that we first get a clear vision of Jesus’ glory.

When the members of the council forbade them to preach any longer in Jesus’ name, they replied, “”Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” People do not become effective evangelists because they have finished a course on evangelism and have mustered up the courage to try to put it into practice. People become effective evangelists when they are so filled with the knowledge of God’s glory and of his truth that they simply cannot be quiet.

This accords with Jeremiah’s experience when he had become so discouraged that he resolved never to preach in Jehovah’s name again. He wrote,

I have become a laughingstock all the day; everyone mocks me. For whenever I speak , I cry out, I shout, ‘Violence and destruction!’ For the word of the LORD has become for me a reproach and derision all day long. If I say, ‘I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,’ there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot. (Jeremiah 20:7-9).

An effective and bold evangelist is one who has been so filled with God and his truth that he simply cannot keep quiet. He must proclaim the good news.

In regard to the priority of being with Jesus over simply doing something out of duty, one thinks of Mary and her sister Martha who got into a bit of a squabble because Martha was doing all the work while Mary was spending time with Jesus (Luke 10:38-42). Consider the account,

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

Martha was a veritable bundle of energy and activity. It is interesting that when she appears in John’s gospel, the text reads, “Martha served” (John 12:2). Mary, on the other hand, spent her time with Jesus. Martha was overwrought by the thought that the work was not going to be finished. She must have thought Mary was a Hyper-Calvinist who had left all the work to her. Jesus said she was “anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary.” Notice how he sets the “one thing” that is necessary over against being anxious and troubled about many things. The one thing that is necessary is spending time at Jesus’ feet.

Like Martha, the “free will” evangelists are a bundle of activity, but bustle in itself proves nothing. The cults are always zealous in their proclamation of their message, but their activity is damning. Jesus said the Pharisees would travel across land and sea to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, they make him twice as much a child of hell as themselves (see Matt. 23:15). I am not citing these examples to suggest that “free will” evangelists are cultic or that they are hypocrites like the Scribes and Pharisees. I am not questioning their motives. Only God knows their hearts. What I am questioning is the idea that feverish activity is laudable or that it is rightly identified as righteous evangelistic zeal.

Additionally, I am not suggesting that lethargic inactivity is to be praised. Those who have good news are under obligation to others who could profit from that news. Paul wrote, “I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. So I am eager to preach the gospel. . . .” (Rom. 1:14-15).

You may remember the account of the four lepers who were sitting outside the gate of Samaria. There was a famine in the city because Ben-hadad of Syria had besieged it. The famine was so severe that mothers were eating their children. These lepers said to one another,

Why are we sitting here until we die? . . .let us go now over to the camp of the Syrians. If they spare our lives we shall live, and if they kill us, we shall but die” (2 Kings 7:3-4). When they arrived at the Syrian camp there was no one else there. The LORD had driven the Syrians out of the camp. These lepers had free rein as thy plundered the Syrians’ tents. They ate and drank and carried away gold, silver, and clothing. Then, they went back and took more and hid it. Suddenly, they came to their senses and said to one another, “We are not doing right. This day is a day of good news, and we are silent. . . . (v. 9).

The application should be clear. If we understand the good news of the Christian message and do not share it, we are not doing right.
Still, it must be more than a sense of obligation that impels us in the execution of this task. The question I am asking is not whether we should evangelize. Clearly, we have a duty to do so. My question is whether duty alone should be our first consideration.

It is likely there has never been a more indefatigable evangelist than the great Apostle to the gentiles. If we should inquire about the source of his great evangelistic zeal, his answer would be unequivocal. He wrote, “Christ’s love controls me. . . .” (2 Cor. 5:14). The word translated “controls” means to surround, to hem in, to be held prisoner, and to be controlled. The great Apostle never got over the life altering truth that Jesus had loved him and had given his life for him. A good friend of mine who is now with the Lord used to say, “When Jesus arrested Paul on the road to Damascus, the vision of the risen, and glorified Christ was so burned on the retina of his eyeballs that he was never able to see anything else.” Jesus had filled his vision.

It should not escape our notice that most biblical calls and commissions were preceded by some revelation of God’s glory. Think of Moses at the burning bush, Peter’s call to be a fisher of men , Paul’s conversion on the road to Damacus, John’s commission to write the Apoclypse , etc. All these commissions were preceded by a resplendent manifestion of God’s glory. Perhaps there is no clearer example of this than that of Isaiah’s call and commission (Isaiah 6). If you take the time to read to the end of that chapter, you will learn that the ministry to which God called him was not an easy one. He was not promised a multitude of conversions, a great following, or “a successful ministry” according to the usual modern standard of success. His minisry was to be one of hardening and condemnation, and he was to continue until his ministry resulted in devastation for his hearers. How does one continue under such circumstances? There can be only one answer. One will only successfully finish the course if he has begun the course gazing on God’s glory.

Before you engage in the ministry of evangelism, I urge you to spend time gazing on the glory of God as it is revealed in the face of Christ. Spend time with him. Be overwhelmed by his majesty so that you overflow to those around you. True evangelism always results from the overflow.

21
Nov
14

Calvinistic Evangelism–Introduction

I am in the process of writing a short book on Calvinistic evangelism. I intend to consider such topics as the following:

The necessary prerequisite to evangelism
The need to remove non-biblical rubbish,
An examination of apostolic evangelism,
The theological foundation for evangelism,
Lessons from Jesus’ evangelistic ministry,
The standard of evangelistic success,
The issue and goal in evangelism,
A history of Calvinistic evangelism.

It is my intention to post these chapters here as I write them. As usual, your questions and comments are welcome, but please read and conform to the rules for commenting. If you do not abide by the rules, your comments will be summarily deleted.


CALVINISTIC EVANGELISM

Introduction

This title might seem like a contradiction in terms to some people since the common notion is that Calvinists do not believe in evangelism. The perception is that even if they believe in evangelism it is clear they are not too concerned about it. Some have alleged that a Calvinist would sooner fly across the country to debate with an Arminian than to walk across the street to witness the gospel to an unbeliever. They believe Calvinists simply do not think evangelism is necessary or important. One of my purposes in writing this short book is to show that this has not been the case historically and is not true in the present day.

Definitions

Calvinist

Contrary to popular opinion, a Calvinist is not a follower of John Calvin. The term “Calvinist” is merely a theological nickname for those who believe the salvation of sinners is all of God and all of grace. The Calvinist is a person who believes that sinners do not cooperate with God in their salvation in the sense that God does his part, the sinner does his part, and the two working together produce salvation. This does not mean the Calvinist denies the sinner’s responsibility to believe the gospel and turn to God and away from his idols. He simply denies that either the preacher or the sinner is able to produce these responses to the gospel.

Evangelism

It seems the impression that Calvinists are not concerned about evangelism has come from differences of opinion about what constitutes evangelism. If a person does not use the accepted vocabulary and follow the evangelistic procedures and methods that have been established by the advocates of free will decisionism, he is perceived as non-evangelistic. For example, someone has defined evangelism as “getting sinners across the line for Christ.” If this is what evangelism means, it is true that Calvinists do not believe in evangelism.

What do we mean by the term “evangelism?” The term itself is derived from the word euangelizo which simply means to tell or proclaim good news, but that good news must have a context. Before the good news can have significance, sinners must understand the bad news. For this reason evangelism must include a clear communication of the biblical teaching concerning the great chasm that exists between God and the sinner. The sinner needs to know what the Bible teaches about God’s character, his purpose in the world, and his own rebellious condition and guilty standing before God.

Evangelism should also include an urgent call for sinners to obey the commands of the gospel and bow before God’s sovereign throne in humble adoration. As we shall see, the issues of the gospel concern far more than whether the sinner is destined for heaven or hell. It is an issue of whom or what he will worship.

Finally, evangelism should include a communication of the good news that God has promised to save guilty sinners who will call on him to forgive them based on Christ’s redemptive work.
We can define evangelism as the proclamation of the good news that God has universally published his terms of peace. It is the announcement that he has promised to pardon every guilty rebel who will discard the weapons of his insurrection and bow in humble submission and grateful worship before his sovereign throne. Finally, it is the declaration that this proffered pardon is not based in any sense on the sinner’s willingness to return to God or on his believing acceptance of the terms of peace. Pardon is based solely on Jesus’ redemptive accomplishments on the sinner’s behalf.
I plan to return to this definition later since it is critical that we understand its component parts if our evangelism is to comport with the biblical pattern.

Zeal without Truth

It is true that many Calvinists would fly across the country or even around the world to debate issues that concern God’s salvation. This is not true because Calvinists enjoy debate so much but because we are interested in the accuracy and purity of the message we Christians proclaim. It does not matter how zealous a person may about the matter of evangelism if his message and methods are faulty.

Perhaps you will recall the events surrounding Absalom’s death recorded in 2 Samuel 18. There was a messenger named Ahimaaz who asked Joab to allow him to carry the news of Absalom’s death to the king but Joab denied his request and sent a man referred to as “the Cushite” instead. Ahimaaz asked that he might also run after the Cushite and Joab allowed him to do so. Being a zealous and rapid runner, he was able to outrun the Cushite, but when he arrived he had to confess–“When Joab sent the king’s servant, your servant, I saw a great commotion, but I do not know what it was” (2 Samuel 18:29). Whether we should be zealous about the task of evangelism is not at issue here. The king’s business requires haste. The question is what message will be on our lips when we begin to tell the good news. Will it be God’s truth or will it be a garbled approximation of the biblical gospel?

A Radical Restructuring

What I am going to propose in this book will require a radical restructuring of the Church’s evangelistic message and methods. For many, this will require a complete paradigm shift in their thinking about doctrine and practice. Such a proposal will be terrifying to many who read these pages. It is far easier to continue in the well-worn paths to which we have become accustomed than to sincerely follow the truth.

Let me try to put your minds at ease by making you a promise. I will not ask you to reject any evangelistic practice or any evangelistic terminology for which you can find precedent in the New Testament Scriptures. What I will ask you to do is reject the concepts, the jargon, and the methodology that is absent from or contrary to the biblical pattern.

This is not intended as another “how to” manual on evangelism. In reality, such a manual would be impossible to write from a biblical standpoint. There is no “one size fits all” method. There are certain factors in the evangelistic process that do not change, but every individual has specific needs that should be met as we engage them in conversation. If we study Jesus’ evangelistic ministry it becomes very clear that he never dealt with two individuals in the same way. In some cases we must spend a significant amount of time instructing people about the character and attributes of God. In other cases, we will need to focus on the worthlessness of their own righteous acts as the basis of their acceptance with God. In still other cases we may need to focus on God’s willingness to accept them and forgive them, their vileness and wickedness notwithstanding. Although every sinner has the same basic needs, those needs do not always manifest themselves in the same way. Someone has said that the preacher’s task is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. In reality, the best way to prepare for biblical evangelism is to be well armed with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures so that one will be prepared for whatever issues may arise when we urge sinners to be reconciled to God.

Instead, my purpose is to contrast modern evangelism’s message and methods with the biblical pattern and suggest a more biblical approach to this important aspect of the Christian life. What I am asking you to do is to obey the LORD’s admonition in Jeremiah 6:16, “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.”