Archive Page 2

28
Mar
18

The Real Issue in Gospel Preaching

 

 

One of the great problems with modern “evangelism” is that it attempts to deal with the wrong issue. The question with which most evangelistic conversations seem to begin is “Do you want to go to heaven when you die?” Then, the “mark” is told that Jesus died for everyone without exception, and if they will just believe that he died for them, they can go to heaven when they die.  Aside from the fact that no apostolic preacher ever made such statements in early New Testament evangelism, there are several fatal flaws in this approach.

 

The first problem is that it ignores the sinner’s ignorance of the nature and character of God. This is one reason the “drive by” approach to evangelism is faulty.  True evangelism cannot take place in a theological vacuum. To assure sinners that God loves them when they have no concept of that God’s character and attributes will be a futile exercise. When they learn who God is and what he demands, they may not wish to be with him in heaven for one minute, much less for eternity.

 

Additionally, it ignores the true nature of the sinner’s condition in sin and rebellion against God. I recently heard an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist pastor explain what he called the gospel. When he spoke about the universality of sin, he said this, “You have to know that you are a sinner because you have done bad things like everyone else.”  Such statements glaze over the true problem. The psalmist understood and stated the true problem when he wrote, “They are corrupt, they have done abominable works” (Psalms 14:1). The remedy God’s redemptive work accomplishes reaches beyond the sinner’s abominable works to the sinner’s corrupt nature.  Since all the unregenerate sinner’s actions result from his corrupt nature, it is not merely that he has done wrong things but that everything he has done has been displeasing to God since all his actions have sprung from the heart of a corrupt rebel. The Scriptures tell us the prayers of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord and the plowing of the wicked is sin.  God’s redemptive plan intends to remedy not only the sinner’s guilt but his corruption.

 

Paul understood very clearly the commission Jesus had given him.  This is what he said Jesus had sent him to do. Jesus sent him to the Jews and Gentiles “to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they might receive the forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified through faith in me [Christ]  ( See Acts 26:16-20). Does this not indicate that unless sinners are turned from darkness to light, there will be no forgiveness of sins and no spiritual inheritance?

 

Please understand this does not mean sinners must quit all their sins before Jesus will accept them. What it means is that they must understand they are so corrupt that they will never be able to break the bonds of sin’s dominion by their own efforts. If they are to be saved from their bondage and corruption, only Christ can save them. They must bring their sins to Jesus that he might break those bonds. It is the promise that they will be fully pardoned and justified when they turn to God, that gives them confidence to approach him.

 

There is not the slightest hint in the New Testament Scriptures that it is God’s purpose to exonerate sinners of their guilt but leave them in the  state of sinful corruption out of which those sins have flowed.

 

If you are interested in reading in greater detail about this issue, I would urge you to read my book, “Authentic Evangelism and Its Counterfeit.”  It is available at http://www.amazon.com/author/randyseiver.

24
Mar
18

The Nature of God’s Saving Work

God’s ultimate purpose in the work of salvation as in the works of creation and providence is the manifestation of his own glory but the end of his work of salvation itself  is the restoration of what Adam lost when he sinned in the garden. The reason the apostle Paul was so excited about preaching the gospel to both Jews and Gentiles was that he knew the gospel was God’s prescription for dealing with the problems of the sinful human condition that the fall had caused.
God’s method of putting sinners right with himself is the only one that can adequately deal with the sinner’s deep need. Paul tells us that God’s redemptive work is necessary because God’s wrath is being revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress his truth in unrighteousness.
When he speaks about God’s wrath, we are not to understand him to be talking about God losing control in a fit of rage but about God’s settled indignation against sin and sinners. It is the only reaction an infinitely holy God can have toward sin and sinners.
There are two basic problems that sin has caused and that God has purposed the gospel to correct. The first is that sinners are ungodly and the second is that sinners are unrighteous. Ungodliness concerns a wrong relationship with God, a failure to obey the first great commandment, and unrighteousness concerns a wrong relationship with other people, a failure to obey the second great commandment. Every problem we encounter in our relationship with other people is a direct reflection of our failure to love God as we ought. Though it is not true that all our human relationship issues will automatically be remedied if we love God as we ought, it is true that we have no basis for repairing human relationships until we are rightly related to God and love him as he has commanded.
It is also important that we notice that the gospel is not only about pardon or even primarily about pardon. Justification is a means to an end. People who sense their guilt do not approach God in worship. People who feel their guilt do not love God. This is why justification must occur at the beginning of a person’s spiritual life and not at the end. God does not declare sinners righteous after a lifetime of learning to obey him, love him and worship him. We would never love him, worship him and obey him as long as we continued under a burden of guilt. The writer of the Book of Hebrews made this point quite well when based his exhortation to come with confidence before the throne of grace on the great truth that we have a Great Priest who has passed through the visible heavens and now appears as intercessor for his believing people in the very presence of God.
Not only is it true that God’s saving work is intended to remedy the breach between both God and our fellow man, but it is also intended to remedy two great problems that sin has caused. Much of modern day evangelism has concentrated exclusively on one of those problems alone. The message is usually couched in terms of God forgiving us so we can go to heaven when we die but says very little about remedying our corruption and restoring our fellowship with God so that we can glorify him, be thankful to him, and worship him supremely.
In Romans chapter one, verses twenty-one through twenty-three, Paul has outlined the problems God intends to correct through his saving work. Although they knew God as he has revealed himself in the creation around them, they did not glorify him as God and they were not thankful to him. Because their foolish hearts were darkened, they opted to worship and serve the creature rather than the Creator. It is God’s intention in redeeming sinners to restore our ability to reflect his glorious attributes and worship him out of profound gratitude.
We must not forget that in Jesus’ parable about the lost son, the Father received him back into his fellowship both safe and sound (Luke 15:27). A message that concentrates only on the sinner’s safety if a half gospel. August Toplady expressed this idea well when he wrote, “Let the water and the blood/From your wounded side which flowed/Be of sin the double cure/Save from wrath and make me pure.”
J. C. Ryle wrote,
He who supposes that Jesus Christ only lived and died and rose again in order to provide justification and forgiveness of sins for His people, has yet much to learn. Whether he knows it or not, he is dishonoring our blessed Lord, and making Him only a half Savior. The Lord Jesus has undertaken everything that His people’s souls require; not only to deliver them from the guilt of their sins by his atoning death, but from the dominion of their sins, by placing in their hearts the Holy Spirit; not only to justify them but also to sanctify them. He is, thus, not only their “righteousness” but their “sanctification.” (I Cor. 1:30).
23
Feb
18

To Know the Love of Christ

To know the love of Christ, my Lord,

Who rescued me and holds me fast,

Will be my highest treasure here,

Until I see his face at last.
 

That love above all loves below,

Its width and depth and height unknown,

Will far exceed my knowledge here

Until I see him on his throne.

 

To know him thus, exceeds my power

To plumb the depths of love divine.

Upon his Spirit I depend

To make this splendid knowledge mine.

 

Above what I can ask or think,

He works in me to give this light

And fill me with his fullness here

That I might live and walk aright.

 

To him be glory in the church,

Both now and while the ages run,

For he alone can make me know

The splendors of his glorious Son.

R. Seiver

Based on Ephesians 3: 14-20

08
Feb
18

Loved to the Uttermost

Have you ever noticed that the same chapter in which Jesus told Peter he was going to betray him before the night was over, begins by telling us that Jesus, having loved his own who were in the world, loved them to the end or to the uttermost? [see Jn. 13:1] As we continue to read the Fourth Gospel, we find that Peter’s actions were very similar to the actions of Judas. John wrote regarding both these men that they stood with Jesus’ enemies [see Jn. 18:5, 18]. The reality is that every time we sin, we stand with Jesus’ enemies and demonstrate our remaining hostility toward God.
The difference in these two men is seen not in their sin [Sin has the same character in the regenerate that it does in the unregenerate]. The difference is seen in their response to their sin [Judas went out and hanged himself; Peter went out and wept bitterly] and in Peter’s restoration].
The point we must understand is that Jesus did not love Peter because of the latter’s steadfastness or because he foresaw his repentance. He did not love him any more because he saw what he would become [by grace] or any less because he knew of his miserable failures. In fact, he did not love Peter because of Peter at all. He could love Peter, and the rest of us faltering and failing sinners, because the cause of his love is not anything in us, but everything in himself.
Charles Hodge wrote,
If he [God] loved us because we loved him, he would love us only so long as we love him, and on that condition; and then our salvation would depend on the constancy of our treacherous hearts. But as God loved us as sinners, as Christ died for us as ungodly, our salvation depends, as the apostle argues, not on our loveliness, but on the constancy of the love of God.
12
Jan
18

Reason’s Obituary

I just listened to a few minutes of a Youtube video in which the speaker was arguing against the idea that God has chosen a people for himself and predestined those people and those alone to inherit everlasting life. After listening to what this man had to say, I concluded that the ability to reason must have died. If a person could stand behind a pulpit and  teach such bilge and no one listening to his absolutely erroneous arguments called him to account, there is little hope.  
 
His “argument” was that God has predestined everyone to everlasting life but only who choose to be saved are actually saved. His contention, based on Romans 8:30, was that if we can discover who is called, then we will know who has been predestined to be conformed to the image of God’s Son. He then read several verses that made reference to the universal call of the gospel. I saw several problems with his argument that were so obvious that anyone thinking person should recognize immediately. Let me just list a few of his errors:
 
1. He has ignored the fact that the “calling” Paul speaks of in this verse is according to God’s purpose and that being called according to that purpose is his description of believers alone. It is true of those who love God, but of them alone (Romans 8:28).
 
2. He has ignored the fact that “called” is used in two distinct ways in the New Testament. It is used of the sincere, universal call of the gospel and it is used of that internal call by which God unites his chosen people to Christ (1 Cor. 1:9). Paul wrote, “but to those who are called, Christ is the wisdom of God and the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:24). One need only ask himself if everyone who is invited by the gospel message (“called” in that sense) regards Christ as God’s wisdom and God’s power.
 
3. He argues that if we can show who are the called, we will know who has been predestined, but he has ignored the fact that he would, in that way, limit God’s predestinating decree to those alone who have heard or will hear the gospel.
 
4. He argues that if we can show who are the called, we will know who has been predestined, but he has ignored the other side of that link in the chain. There is an inseparable link between all the links in this golden chain, so that Paul’s argument boils down to this—God will glorify all those he has purposed to save. The chain spans God’s entire work of redemption from his purpose in eternity past to glorification to his act of glorifying his people in eternity future. Everyone who is predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ will be glorified. What this gentleman has overlooked is that not only can we show who has been predestined by learning who has been called, but we can show who has been called by showing who has been justified. Paul wrote, “those he called, he also justified” (Rom. 8:30). According to this man’s argument, everyone who is called [invited] by the gospel will be justified. I suspect that is not a conclusion he would wish his hearers to draw.R
06
Jan
18

“Free Grace” Hijacked.

I want to thank one of our readers, Dan Huston, for pointing out that in my booklet, Burning Straw Dummies, available at http://www.amazon.com/author/randyseiver, I have used the term “free grace believer” to refer to those who believe in the free and sovereign grace of God, and that the term may be misleading since there are those who use the same term in a quite different way to describe what I would describe as “cheap grace.” As a correction, I have added the following to the book description. I hope it will serve to clarify my views on this matter.

Throughout this booklet, I have used the term “free grace believer” to refer to those who believe in the free and sovereign grace of God lavished on hell-deserving sinners. Since I wrote this booklet over thirty years ago, that term has been hijacked by those who believe in cheap grace and are perpetuating a doctrine that shows they have no understanding of salvation at all. In my book, Authentic Evangelism and Its Counterfeit, I have addressed this damnable heresy in some detail. I would suggest that you read the last two chapters of that book if you have any question about my affinity for that aberrant view.

28
Dec
17

Covenant Theology vs. New Covenant Theology

The following is a brief answer to a question posed by a man who has recently come to understand Reformed Theology.  He asked me to help him understand the difference between Covenant Theology and New Covenant Theology.  This answer does not by any means exhaust the differences between the two positions but these are perhaps the most salient distinctions. I thought this might be helpful to other readers as well.

Perhaps the most significant difference between CT and NCT is that CT sees more of a physical continuity between the covenants.  Just as the physical offspring of Abraham became members of the covenant community by physical birth, CT sees the children of believers as members of the covenant community so that the church is, by design, made up of believers and unbelievers just as Israel’s community was made up of believers and unbelievers. NCT sees a radical discontinuity between Israel and the church since the church is comprised only of believers.  We recognize that there are unbelievers in the local church but only by default.  Since it is impossible to know for sure if another person is truly born from above, there may be false professors in the church, but only those who have made a credible profession of faith are considered to be members of the covenant community. Jesus told Nicodemus that in order to see the kingdom and be a part of it, one must be born from above. 

Israel stood as a type or foreshadowing of the NC church.  They were chosen, redeemed, called, adopted, received an inheritance etc. but none of those blessings had the same significance for them as they do for us as New Covenant believers.  We are not the Israel of God in the sense that the same relationship with God that existed under the Old Covenant simply continues under the New Covenant. We are the Israel of God in the sense that Jesus, the consummate Israelite, has fulfilled the terms of the conditional covenant God made with Israel and merited for his people spiritual blessings of which the physical and material blessings promised to Israel stood as types and shadows. It is not so much that the church replaces Israel, but that the church is the fulfillment of Israel.