Calvinistic Evangelism–Part Two–The Apostolic Pattern: The Message

I have heard many say that those who believe salvation is a work of God’s sovereign grace should be able to live in unity with those who believe salvation is a cooperative effort between God and the sinner, because, after all, we are all preaching the same gospel. My answer to that is that if we are preaching the same message they are preaching, we should be ashamed of ourselves. I say that because the message they preach has no precedent in apostolic preaching. I contend that if our message is not a reflection of what the Apostles preached, we need to change our message.

There are several themes that are consistently repeated in the message of the first century church. Those themes are so prevalent that it is difficult to escape the conclusion that they provide a pattern that we must follow in evangelism if we are to be faithful to the Lord under whose authority we have been sent. It is quite true that those preachers whose proclamations of the evangel have been preserved for us in the New Testament Scriptures did not preach from a uniform script. There were differences in their messages that were dictated by the different needs of the audiences they addressed. For example, when they preached to Jewish audiences, they said little about the attributes of God. One would assume a person who had been well schooled in the Old Testament Scriptures would have known God’s attributes.

When they preached to Gentiles who knew little of God’s character, they spent time instructing them about the God who gave them being and who in his sovereign government of the world, gave them life, breath and all things (see, e.g., Acts 17: 22-31). Additionally, in addressing Gentile audiences their focus was often on God’s common grace and universal benevolence. There is powerful evidence of this theme in the passage just cited. When they preached to Jewish audiences their focus was often on God’s faithfulness in fulfilling the promises he made to the fathers. Paul spent a great deal of time in the Synagogues demonstrating that Jesus is the Messiah.
My purpose in this section is to examine those themes in both the Book of Acts and the Epistles of the New Testament that seem to form the basic framework of the apostolic message. The following are a few of the questions I intend to explore:

1. How does the Spirit’s ministry of reproving sinners relate to the apostolic proclamation?

2. How and in what sense should we proclaim God’s love to sinners? Did the apostolic message ever begin with a proclamation of God’s redeeming love?

3. How does God’s fulfillment of Old Testament apply to the proclamation of the gospel?

4. What basic spiritual needs must the gospel address?

5. What does the apostle Paul mean when he uses the phrase “wrath of God” (Romans 1:18)?

6. Must we precede gospel preaching with a proclamation of the law of God? How did the Apostle Paul confront sinners with God’s law in his Epistle to the Romans?

7. How does the gospel’s demand for both repentance and faith relate to the sinner’s basic spiritual needs?

8. How should we preach repentance to avoid giving sinners the impression they must rid themselves of sin before God will receive them?

9. What part does the message that Jesus is Lord play in our evangelistic preaching?

10. What should we make of the fact that the Apostles never told an audience of unconverted people that Jesus died for them?

11. What part did Jesus’ resurrection and enthronement have in apostolic preaching and what significance should it have for our gospel witness?

It is my view that a proper understanding of the answers to these questions will radically affect the way we witness the gospel. I would urge you to lay aside your preconceived notions about the gospel message and search the pertinent New Testament passages with a ready mind to find answers to these important questions.
The subject matter of this section will be similar in some ways to the section on the theological foundation for evangelism. The reason for this should be obvious. They preached as they did because they believed as they did. I intend, in this section, first to show what they preached and then, in the following section, examine the theology on which they based their message.

In the introduction to this work, I proposed a definition of what I believe the evangelistic message must include, I suggested three components:

1. It 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.

2. It should include an urgent call for sinners to obey the commands of the gospel and bow before God’s sovereign throne in humble adoration.

3. It should include a communication of the good news that God has promised to save guilty sinners. It promises pardon through Christ and what he has accomplished to all who call on him

This section will include three chapters:

The Great Chasm
The Gospel Call
The Gracious Commitment

It is my intention to arrange the components we find in the apostolic message under these heads to see how those elements relate to the definition I have suggested. It is my hope that you will not only begin to see how radically the evangelical church has departed from the apostolic pattern, but that you will also purpose to conform your message to the message they preached. Once we have considered these component parts of the gospel message as set forth in the Epistles, I want to consider how they are illustrated in the preaching recorded in the book of Acts.


3 Responses to “Calvinistic Evangelism–Part Two–The Apostolic Pattern: The Message”

  1. February 24, 2015 at 12:53 pm

    So, you’re writing a book? It looks really good!

    Would you say that once a sinner is regenerated he cooperates with God? In the accepted Ordo Solutus, at what point does the sinner begin cooperating? No question that while he is dead in sins and trespasses he cannot cooperate with God; but soon after the Spirit gives him new life, he must.

    Many thanks for your work to make these concepts clear, my brother. Press on.

    • February 24, 2015 at 1:15 pm


      Good morning my brother. I always appreciate your encouragement.

      Faith and repentance are not acts God performs for us. It is our duty to bow before the throne, trusting God’s promise that he will forgive us when we do. Before the unregenerate will bow the knee, God must remove the disposition to resist his command. Faith and repentance are to regeneration what seeing is to having been given sight. The person whose blindness has been cured has no reason to boast that he sees while others remain sightless.

      Sent from my iPad


    • February 24, 2015 at 1:26 pm

      One additional comment. We must never loose sight of the fact that a sinner MUST believe and repent even before God grants him sight. His incapacity does not relieve him of his responsibility. His blindness is self-inflicted. “What may be known about God is clearly seen, being understood from what has been made . . . .” Sinners have chosen to poke out their own eyes [suppress the truth in unrighteousness] rather than rejoice in the light.

      Sent from my iPad


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