A couple weeks ago, I received an email from someone concerned about the gospel I proclaim and how I declare it.
My words are marked by the offset.
I appreciate your lengthy reply. This is commendable. It shows me that this is something extremely important to you, since u invested valuable time to communicate it. This is not insincerity on my part.
Me: I do not doubt your sincerity, although you will see I think we have found some disagreement. Thank you for the time you took to love me from your heart and share what you think is good for me, even if I am not convinced.
Now let me say a few things about the first link (your gospel tract) and I hope you will read my email with interest as I did yours:
Me: I spent much time on it and took careful interest.
This excerpt is from my tract and was referenced by the writer: “What if I told you there is good news? That you can go to Heaven and live in paradise without any effort or commitment on your part. Like 2 minute abs, but better! Of course that is foolish. So what does it take to get to Heaven? It takes total commitment! ” You can read the entire tract by clicking here. It will open in a new tab.
1. Mike, the Bible (I think u will agree) is the only standard for faith and life. And the Bible clearly tells us that “there is none that seeketh after God”(Rom 3:11-12). Your question assumes that unconverted men are interested in heaven. But heaven is complete reconciliation to God. Sinners hate God and would much rather be in hell than heaven if it weren’t for the torment.
No, my question does not assume that anyone seeks after God. My question was partially rhetorical. Nevertheless, if I assume anything, it is that people generally would like to avoid punishment for their sins. In our modern vernacular, no one translates “go to Heaven” as “reconciliation with the God of the Bible who I hate.”
“Go to Heaven” means “not be judged for my unrighteousness” in 2014 or “go where I think I deserve to go because I’m already good or I’m a universalist.”
You actually contradict your own self when you say “if it weren’t for the torment,” and you prove my point. No one wants the torment. My tract analogy does not fail because it rings true that people who think it is good news to be able to go to Heaven (avoid punishment) without any commitment is analogous to people who want to sit on their couch, watch TV and lose weight.
Common sense tells us that we do not offer a man something he does not and cannot desire.
As you stated, the Bible is the only standard for faith and life. If the Bible commands that I offer a man something that I know he cannot practically desire, then I still do it – because God’s wisdom is above my own (and yours, Person’s name).
That is why I preach the gospel to all men, even though I am aware that they will not all be saved by God from His wrath through Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection. Common sense says “don’t obey God’s command to preach, because He will save His elect anyway!” Yet I still preach because I would rather obey God than the fallible logic of men like you and me.
Common sense says to stop preaching when folks pick up stones to kill you, yet Stephen did not have that type of sense. Common sense says to stop prophesying if it costs you everything, yet Jeremiah could not quench the fire in his bones.
And common sense says call down legions of angels to protect you from a mock trial where you will be killed even in your innocence – yet thanks be to GOD that Jesus was more concerned about obedience to the Father than common sense.
Here are some scriptures to support the public proclamation of the gospel:
Acts 10:42 And He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead. 43 To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.”
Acts 17:30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”
Genesis where Noah was a preacher of righteousness
I would be very concerned that your doctrine would disqualify all of God’s prophets and even our Lord Jesus Christ from being adequate preachers due to the fact that their message contradicts yours.
2. Secondly, there is nothing that a sinner can do either to reconcile himself to God or to participate in that reconciliation.
The gospel is a command to be believed. Mark 1:15 states ‘and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”’ Although it is God who must first regenerate a sinner, and that call is, in fact, effectual, there is still a required response by man to exercise faith, even the faith which was a gift of God. Absence of exercising saving faith keeps a man in condemnation. See John 3:14-36.
Ironically, it is common sense which would dictate: if faith is the instrument of salvation, preaching to people to exercise said faith would be the best and most loving thing we could do for them – despite their ability.
Not to mention, Person’s Name, you don’t know who the elect are, do you? You propose they are revealed to you by the preaching of the law. I do not see that as the pattern in scripture although I am aware you can cherry pick instances where it would appear to have occurred that way.
And our proclamation must reflect this fact. What good does it do to tell a man that it takes total commitment to get to heaven if total commitment is completely out of the question with respect to him?
In fact, it is my understanding that God uses the proclamation of His gospel to those who will deny it to bring further judgement on them.
As well, Romans 1:16 says it is the gospel which is the power of God unto salvation and Romans 10 states that it is faith that comes by hearing which God uses to save men. So again, you are contradicting yourself in a sense and God when you state this. Especially since you are nit-picking sentences of the tract out of context. Because the ability will only exist as the result of the hearing of the gospel, to withhold that until a person calls for it is to shut them out from it.
The tract clearly pointed out that it was Christ’s total commitment that saves. And then the tract attempts to fight the easy-believism, “sinner’s prayer salvation” epidemic in our culture by commanding total commitment to Christ which would encompass things like doing works bearing fruit of repentance. Look at Luke 3:7-8 Then he said to the multitudes that came out to be baptized by him, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones.
Here is God almighty (through JTB) commanding many who would later crucify Jesus to bear fruits worth of repentance – something he is aware they will not do.
Let me explain. Ez. 33 tells us that unless the servants of God warn the wicked, they will end up in hell with the wicked. And verse 8 tells us the content of this warning.
I’m glad you brought that up. Considering verses 9 and 10 completely contradict your stated position above See:
9 Nevertheless if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul.
Here is God Himself, commanding Ezekiel to warn people to turn who will not turn.
Many people refer to this passage but few point out the exact content of the warning. IOW, we must not only warn the wicked, but we must warn him with the warning the God gives him. Otherwise we are not warning him and again, we ourselves will end up in hell. This is extremely serious, as you know. So here is the content of the warning: “O wicked man, thou shalt surely die!” That’s it. Notice that the warning is not, “You will surely die unless you give your heart to Jesus,” or “You shall surely die unless you commit your life to Christ.” NO. “O sinner, thou shalt surely die!” And the reason this warning is so important is that it (when accompanied by the Spirit) drives the sinner to total despair of being able to do anything to reconcile himself to God. The orthodox divines of old used to say constantly, “The law and the gospel, the law and the gospel.” What did they mean by that? They meant that in evangelism we must use the 10 commandments. And we must use them with a view to “slaying” the sinner. IOW, with a view to causing the sinner to see that he is dead. He can do nothing. He is as sure for hell as if he were already there. Hell fits him. Heaven does not fit him whatsoever. And then after the proclamation of the law there is the word “But!” “But God has sent Christ to die on the cross for completely wicked and profligate sinners and to work out a perfect righteousness on their behalf. This is just exactly what you are–a completely and utterly wicked, profligate, and worthless sinner infinitely deserving of eternal hell torments. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as your only hope for acceptance in the sight of an infinitely holy God! (Here is a key. We command the sinner to believe, as our Lord did Lazarus. And we command him to believe with no illusion that he is able to do so. But the true gospel which I communicated above is itself the power of God unto salvation and when accompanied with the HS regenerates him as was the lifeless body of Lazarus regenerated.)
Yes, ironically at this point you have spent an entire paragraph summing up exactly what I preach and my tract states. So we are either in agreement and you are sorely misunderstanding – or you are simply argumentative and quarreling about words. My tract points out several of the sins from the 10 commandments and points out that Jesus did not commit them and that we do and that the punishment we are owed is eternal. I then issue no less than 2 commands to repent and trust Christ alone for the forgiveness of sins. There is no room on the tract for self-reliance or easy believism to be the justifying force in the heart of a sinner.
But if your concern is that the tract itself is light on sin – then I’d maybe agree with you. Part of the problem with tracts is sufficient space. But I don’t think you can argue that there is not sufficient information on this tract for a person to be saved from God’s wrath – and if you think you did – then you did not as I proved above.
Mike, the above is the biblical gospel. It is the only gospel there is. It is an announcement that man is completely and utterly destitute. IOW, it is an announcement of Total Depravity. “Calvinists” in our day are redefining Total Depravity to say that it does not mean what the words say, i.e., that the sinner is as wicked as he can be. But this is exactly what it means.
Not exactly. Total Depravity refers to the utter inability for man to believe unto salvation without the regeneration of the Holy Spirit primarily. In the sense that you are arguing, total depravity refers to the fact that all our works are stained with sin and earn us no right standing with God.
But it does not mean that men always do the worst possible thing all the time. If that were true, then you would never go out to eat at a restaurant because you would be poisoned by the food if the host did not slaughter and rape you first. You would not use yahoo email because certainly one of the unregenerate yahoo employees would steal all your information and use it against you after committing adultery with small children.
No Person’s Name, you do not believe in the total depravity as you’ve defined it. No one does. What you believe and what we all know and what the Bible declares it that man is utterly incapable of pleasing God and reconciling himself to God. We believe that man, by nature, is a sinner and God hater and that, by His mercy, men sometimes actually do things that are outwardly in line with His revealed righteousness through His law. The fact you are alive today indicates your own mother gave birth to you and did not eat you shortly thereafter.
The WCF says that man in sin is “Utterly indisposed to all good, utterly disabled to all good, made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil.”
Irrelevant to me. Thought the Bible was your guide to faith and life? Either way, this statement does not mean what you want it to mean as explained above.
The above message says that since man is completely wicked and helpless God the Father loved some of them and determined to save them, Christ came and worked out a perfect righteousness in their behalf, and the Holy Spirit applies the work of the Son to all the Father gave him and they believe!
Amen. Praise God for that. Note you include the sinner’s required response that they believe – forget whether it is caused by God, it is essential.
And since salvation is of the Father’s Election, by the Son’s redemption, and through the Spirit’s regeneration it is and must be an everlasting salvation. Hallelujah.
I give you my full permission to use anything and everything above.
Thanks, I believe this will be a good learning tool for others.
Your tract is a fatal mistake, as it gives sinners the impression that they can do something that will benefit their souls.
Fatal mistake is a strong sounding phrase. It would imply that no one can come to know Jesus through this tract. I find you to be mistaken in this point. Maybe I misunderstood you.
If I did not misunderstand you, and if the gospel I preach and wrote on that tract is the true gospel, then you may be denying the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and making another gospel. In that case you would be considered anathema by Paul according to Galatians 1 and we could only hope that God would have mercy on your soul and cause you to repent.
I hope this is not the case and you were simply too harsh concerning my tract and have a teachable spirit. If you would like to use the excuse that I was not kind or loving enough in my response to justify your unbelief don’t bother letting me know; I’ve heard that one enough.
Nothing could be more loving than the time I took to address your objections and care for you enough to tell you the truth. I hope I do not become your enemy because I tell you the truth.
You also used the word “share.” The gospel cannot be shared.
Sharing is when you give something to someone. Proclaiming the gospel to people is sharing it with them.
It must be declared.
I agree. The tract clearly declares the gospel along with commands to believe it.
1 John 1:5 says, “This then is the message which we have heard of Him and declare unto you.”
Out of context. I am not convinced this is a universal command to all Christians that they cannot “share the gospel.”
Thanks, Person’s Name.
What do you think? Was I right? Am I unnecessarily harsh?
Brian Ottinger says
I thought you were more than charitable in your dialogue with this guy. He seems to have a flawed hermeneutic in regards to Ez. 33 and overall I would say that this dude isn’t fully grasping God’s grace. May it please the Lord to help open his eyes to the true Gospel of Grace through your interaction. More than the content of the conversation (which was handled extremely well), I was most impressed with the loving and careful response and the time you gave this man. That is true love. Thanks for your example and sharing it with us. God bless. Love you brother