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What is Evangelism?

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What is Evangelism?

A Warning to Calvinist, from a Calvinist

A sermon preached by Dr. R.A. Hargrave

My intention in this message, is to answer the question, “what is evangelism?” At first glance it appears to be a rather simple proposition. It’s simple enough to state the obvious, evangelism is “gospelism.” Or to put it another way, it is the propagation of the “euangellion.” It is to circulate, to disperse and distribute the “good news” which alone is the power of God unto salvation. It is to broadcast the gospel as illustrated by the sower casting the seed indiscriminately on different types of soil.

As I stated, it appears to be a simple task to define it, but the simplicity of this definition is complicated by the presence of misinformation, the proliferation of the unfortunate meandering theology of our day and the consequential practice of promoting unbiblical means to obtain spiritual ends. On the one hand, we call breaking a concrete block over someone’s head evangelism, while on the other hand, we call dead, lifeless, passionless presentations of orthodoxy evangelism. While one preacher may see evangelism’s simplicity through leading a 4-year old in Vacation Bible School through the sinner’s prayer, another preacher see’s it as a complicated maze of theological formulas which even the most clever theologian can’t decipher. While many are so consumed with the “numbers” of converts, others are unusually indifferent to the conversion of even one soul. Some of us Calvinists are often more concerned with the recognition of our astuteness, our profundity, than we are the conversion of a sinner. I personally loathe the former and I find the latter to be an extremely difficult act to sustain. Spurgeon must have been right on, seeing that the Arminians of his day didn’t embrace him due to his forthright Calvinism, and the dead ultra-Calvinists of the day didn’t embrace him because of his passionate evangelism. It seemed that the only ones who loved Spurgeon’s ministry were the sinners. How many of us at this conference could be accused, as Spurgeon often was, of possessing too much passion for the lost?

Well, of course, after all, we as Calvinists are more like the Apostle Paul who thundered out the clarion message of God’s Sovereignty in passages like John 6, 10, 17, Ephesians 1 and Romans chapters 9-11. We even count ourselves as guardians of the truth of God’s authorship in salvation. But is it possible, that as preachers of the gospel, our zeal to guard the biblical truth of God’s sovereignty in salvation, has perhaps so overshadowed our zeal for the conversion of lost sinners that many of us preside over cold, passionless congregations, who by the way simply mirror us?

This is tough talk that may be offensive to some of the Calvinistic brethren, but don’t we Calvinists often remind our congregations to examine themselves? Should we not also, as preachers of the gospel examine ourselves? Iron sharpens iron and we must hold one another accountable to the Truth as set forth in the Holy Text. Let us all be reminded that the wounds of a friend are more precious than the flattery of an enemy? And even if these words or accusations are used by our enemies, is it not true that God often teaches His children through their enemies? There are many enemies of the doctrines of grace that accuse us of coldness and indifference toward soul-winning and passionate preaching. Personally, it is sad for me to confess that I have often found that my detractors sometimes know me better than my friends. Do we possess the humility of heart to take heed to their accusations if they prove to be correct. Remember, if God can use Balaam’s ass to chasten a prophet, He can use our enemies to correct us.

Now please don’t misunderstand what I am saying. Those detractors in evangelical circles, many of whom occupy positions of great authority, who deride the teachings of God’s sovereignty in salvation, manifest, in my opinion, a profound ignorance of biblical theology as well as church history. But that does not change the fact that God often uses those who vehemently disagree with us to point out our faults. And anyone among us who would declare that his zeal for the conversion of sinners is adequate is disingenuous.

Since I’ve been a Calvinist for 28 of my 33 years of ministry in Southern Baptist life and the church that I have been the pastor of for the past 18 years is openly and explicitly Calvinistic, I think I have the credentials to say what I’m about to say. Some Calvinist I know preach as though they’re afraid some non-elect people may accidently be saved. Granted, there is a prevalent “so-called” gospel that, in the words of the late A.W. Pink, is not able to heal or wound. Then there is also the reduced or minimized gospel, God loves you and has a wonderful plan for you life sort of gospel, which even the non-elect can’t reject. But that should not sour our desire to passionately, persuasively, persistently preach the Gospel of Christ to the lost.

Enough of my opinion, what saith the Scripture on this matter, what saith the Holy Spirit, and what saith the Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul? Perhaps the most profound teaching in the Bible on our personal responsibility as well as our method and manner in evangelism is found in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian church in chapter five, verses 17-20. Under divine inspiration, the revelation through the Apostle Paul reads, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” (ESV) Take note that following Paul’s testimony of the transforming of the old into the new in verse 17, he makes a most pivotal declaration – “All this is from God” (18). We see in this statement a protective element that is most crucial as it pertains to Paul’s present subject. It could be called an umbrella statement which guards the passage. It guards not only the passage, it protects us from the rain which descends upon us from the storm-clouds of self-glory, carnality and human manipulation. It is, in fact, a safeguard against abuse which is often produced by an anthropocentric approach to evangelism and we would be wise to keep this groundwork before us at all times when we engage in the proclamation of the gospel. It is to be understood in the context of a proper grasp of fallen man’s precarious position. When Paul said in verse 17 that the “old” is “passing away”, it is to be understood as a fading away of things of short duration. It is precisely a passing of man’s present wanton, willing disregard for God’s rightful rule and reign for which man is fully responsible. And in this context it is abundantly clear that man in his fallen state will not make advances toward reconciliation with a Holy God. This truth is clearly set forth in passages such as Romans chapter 3, which states unequivocally that no one is righteous, no one understands and no one seeks after God. Jesus Himself declared in John chapter 6, that no one can come to him, unless, of course, it has been granted to him by the Father. Fallen man does not possess the moral ability to come to God due to his radical corruption. Therefore, reconciliation between sinful man and Holy God can never be accomplished by man but is the work of God from first to last. This is what Paul is addressing when he states, “All this is from God.”

To fully understand the precision of this statement, “All this is from God,” as well as it’s rich contextual meaning, it is required that we not only see it in light of the precursory statement in verse 17 as to the new creation as being from God, but forward to what follows in verse 18, in which Paul declared two vital elements of the initiative of God’s salvific good pleasure. First, Paul states that God “through Christ reconciled us to Himself”. It is not man’s initiative or man’s first step as it is often referred to in today’s gospel preaching which procures reconciliation, but God’s initiatory intention and engagement toward fallen man which secures it. This is an essential matter for the evangelist to comprehend, that the Gospel of reconciliation is of God, through God and to God. In other words it is to be understood as God-centered. This is the very essence of the Gospel, “All this is from God”! The Bible speaks with abundance and authority concerning this truth.

But not only is God the Father procuring reconciliation to Himself, He is providing that reconciliation through His Son, Jesus Christ. Again, Paul states in verse 18, that it is “through Christ” that He reconciled us to Himself. A Christ-less gospel is no gospel at all. In fact, a Christ-less exposition of Scripture is not a true exposition. The infinite God cannot be known apart from Christ. The “logos” has revealed the Father. The written “logos” makes known the living “logos” and He, in His condescension as recorded in the Scripture makes known the Father, not only the person of the Father but also the work of the Father. And that work is to manifest the greatness of His glory to His creation. And the primary means to declare the greatness of His glory in manifesting His divine attributes is through the redemptive work. For in Christ we see justice and mercy together as is portrayed in the words of the Psalmist, “Mercy and truth have met together, Righteousness and peace have kissed.” (Psalm 85:10). For in Christ all the righteous demands of a Holy God were met through His active and passive obedience. Active in that Christ actively fulfilled the whole law of God and lived an impeccably holy and righteous life before His Father. Passive in that Christ gave Himself voluntarily as well as vicariously to that cursed death on the cross. In that cross we see God’s divine attributes displayed for all to behold. God’s wrath was poured out upon His Son and His mercy was poured out on the sinner through His Son. Christ was pleased to be the sinner’s substitute and suffer the wrath that the sinner deserved eternally and to have His own righteousness imputed (attributed) to the sinner in exchange. What mercy, what grace, what unfathomable love we see before us when we consider the cross of our dear Savior. And it is not as though the Father was the angry party and the Son appeased His anger. No, it was the vengeful Father who loved the world and gave His only begotten Son to redeem it. Perfect wrath and perfect love in the same Father. And it must be noted that the Son, who is deemed meek and lowly, also possesses wrath for the unrepentant sinner. For such wrath is designated as the “wrath of the Lamb” in Revelation 6:16. Though we could continue for eternity to glory in this vital element, we must move on from this point by stating again, “all this is from God.”

Now, the second element in verse 18 that Paul addresses concerning the fact that “all this is from God” is found in this statement, that God in Christ, “gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” In other words, the very ones that have been reconciled in Christ and declared blameless through His death on the cross, have subsequently been called to the “ministry of reconciliation.” This is clearly a universal call to the redeemed. All who have been reconciled have been commissioned to the ministry of the very same. Again, this is all from God in that the ambassadors, as designated in verse 20, are not sent from man to God, but from God to man. For instance, Jacob’s ladder was not illustrating man’s approach to God one rung at a time, but God coming down to man. In fact the ladder was not “a way” at all, but “a person”, the person of Christ, according to John 1:51, who is, in fact, “the way, the truth and the life.” And the messengers of that Christ are sent ones from the council of the Most High. So the blessed triune God not only provided, in and of Himself, the atonement for our sins, He also provided the very means of the application of the atonement to sinners through sending the recipients of that atonement as His ambassadors of reconciliation. So from the decree to reconcile sinners, to the provision of reconciliation in the merits of Christ, to the application of those merits to the human heart, “All this is from God!”

Now this area of human involvement in the redemptive process is where great confusion reigns in the hearts of the saints. Though all this is from God as I have clearly pointed out from the Scripture, He has manifestly chosen to use means. A clear understanding of the human element in reconciliation lies in the wisdom to receive paradoxical truth. On the one hand God is preeminently Sovereign and as such, He does as He pleases in the affairs of men and angels as well the whole of creation. However, the Bible also plainly declares the responsibility of man. He must obey God, repent, believe or else. He is responsible for his own depravity and must therefore by prepared to face the consequences of his actions. It is the attempt to reconcile these two truths in Scripture that produces such chaos and confusion theologically and practically in our midst. Spurgeon was once asked to reconcile the two truths of God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility as taught in a couple of passages he had preached. His response was simple yet profound (like everything that came out of his mouth or from his pen) he said, ‘No, I never reconcile friends.’ These two passages never fell out: they are perfectly agreed. It is folly to imagine a difference, and then set about removing it. It is like making a man of straw, and then going out to fight with it. The grand declaration of the purpose of God that he will save his own is quite consistent with the widest declaration that whosoever will come to Christ shall be saved. The pity is that it ever should be thought to hold both truths; or that, supposing there is a difficulty, we should have thought it our duty to remove it. Believe me, my dear hearers, the business of removing religious difficulties is the least remunerative labor under heaven. The truest way is to accept the difficulty wherever you find it in God’s word, and to exercise your faith upon it.”

All of us know that God could have brought about the application of reconciliation through more miraculous means or by direct intervention, but clearly, He did not choose such a route. In fact, He chose to use the most common means – man, in all of his frailty – This is exactly what Paul was referring to in 2 Cor 4:7 “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels (clay pots), that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves;” It must be stated that the “treasure” is not common but the “earthen vessels,” are so designated. So in God’s economy of redemptive means, the Christian, the most common of pots, will carry this treasure, the precious gospel to others, many of whom will likewise become the clay pots and continue the dispersal of the treasure to others. We may not understand all the reasons for this approach, but we can be certain that God’s determination to reconcile sinners in such a fashion involves His most wise providence and conformity to the laws of mind that He has established in creation.

Today’s preaching often fails to understand this concept of conformity to the laws of mind. And I’m not referring to user-friendly preaching that only deals with felt needs and only occasionally resorts to using a verse here and there to establish a philosophical or psychological point. No, I’m referring to expository preaching, which seeks to communicate the Word itself to the people in the pew. While we may claim to be expositional in our preaching (and I’m certainly not a model) we may be ignoring the necessity of clarity for the hearer’s sake due to the fact that we believe the power is in the Word. And, of course, it is in The Word, but we must add, it is in the “understood” Word. There’s no saving power in the Word that is not understood by the hearer. Perhaps Spurgeon’s impact upon the sinners who heard him was partially due to his own understanding of this human factor which God created in man. He stated, “[God] might have, if he had pleased, influenced all human hearts by his Spirit, without a pleading ministry selected from among men, but he has not chosen to do so. God exercises his power over the human mind, not miraculously but in conformity with the laws of mind. The Spirit of God beseeches and prays men to be reconciled; he deals with us not as with marble or wood, carving and shaping us by mere power: acting upon the mind of man, he does not act according to the laws of matter, but deals with mind after the mode in which mind must be dealt with; and therefore his grace operates upon human wills by persuasion, — “as though God did beseech you by us,” and by pleading, — “we pray you, in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.”

Now this makes many Calvinists squirm, because it introduces an element of persuasiveness that we are often not comfortable with. However, the Scripture must be heeded over any system that falls contrary to it. When Paul declares, “knowing the terror of the Lord, we persuade men” in 2 Cor. 5:11, we should be dissuaded from opposing arguments. As we move through the rest of the text, hopefully you will be more fully persuaded of this.

But let me add this one thing to what I’ve said concerning the human element of reconciliation. We know that this “means” (Latin, “motus operandi” meaning mode of operation), clearly manifest the glory of God more than any other means possible seeing that God in His infinite wisdom has chosen this method. That God would stoop down to man in such a condescending fashion declares the surpassing worth of His mercy and grace as well as His justice more than any other possible mode of operation. Now with this hopefully, firmly established in our minds, let us examine more carefully the remaining text before us: All that I have previously stated is simply my introduction which must be stated succinctly one more time, “All this is from God.” The failure to acknowledge this truth renders the remainder of this message meaningless. If you are of such a disposition then close your ears immediately, for you are wasting your time.

Assuming, you readily embrace the foundation Paul has set before us in that, “all this is from God,” let us move forward in understanding the answer to the question, “what is evangelism.” Again, Evangelism as I understand it is quite simply the propagation of the gospel. And by what means? Through human means. A man or woman is saved by the power of the gospel and immediately enlisted as an ambassador for Christ (vs. 20). So let us consider this ministry of reconciliation.

In order to come to a clear understanding of it we must first consider the ambassadors of this ministry of reconciliation. “Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ” (vs. 20). And who are these ambassadors? We are of those who were once enemies of God. We were trespassers according to verse 19. While we were yet sinners Christ died for us. Christ came to save sinners and we qualified. We were enemies of God and with hostility we opposed God and would not submit to His authority according to Romans 8:7. Paul reminded us in Ephesians 2 that we were of those who walked according to the course of this world and according to the prince of the power of the air. And our lives were lived in the lust of the flesh and we indulged ourselves according to our own evil desires. And tragically we were children of wrath, even as others.

And you may ask, how does this reality qualify us for this ministry of reconciliation? Well, first it humbles the evangelist. We can hold no pride before our hearers for we were once as they, dead in trespasses and sins, slaves to sin. Those that we proclaim the gospel to are sinful, but so were we, they are rebellious, so were we. Let us not forget their hopelessness and vexation for we have also felt the debilitating power of sin. As a matter of fact, we are presently experiencing it’s power due to the remaining sin that will only be eradicated when we put off this old man, the flesh. This should cast us down in utter dependance upon the power of God and strip us of our remaining desire for self-glory in proclaiming the gospel.

In that we were once as they (the lost person), we are therefore readily equipped for this task. We are actually more fitted for this ministry than the elect angels themselves. For the elect angelic host would have been cold and detached for they do not know as we know of the heartache of depravity and separation from God. We have been, by God’s providential decree, equipped to most faithfully sympathize with the sinner and show much more tenderness toward them. What profound wisdom we see in the infinite and sacred head that He would choose those who have known sin’s power as the very ambassadors of it’s remedy. We can only bow before His throne and cry Holy, Holy, Holy at such divine wisdom.

But though we have experienced the awful state of lostness, that in itself does not qualify us for the ministry of reconciliation. No, multitudes, yea, all the sons of Adam have known of sin’s power and it’s consequences. Therefore, the ministers of reconciliation must also meet another qualification. And that qualification is that we are also those who have been reconciled according to verse 18.

An ambassador of a nation must know his subject well. He must know the ends and outs of his work. He must know the people intimately to which he goes as a representative of his homeland. And of course he must have a well-rounded understanding of the nation he represents. Likewise the ambassadors of heaven, the ministers of Christ and reconciliation must not be strangers toward God or unacquainted with the work of reconciliation. Again God in His wisdom has given us a Ph.D. in this matter. For not only have we known sin’s force in our hearts, we have known the cross and it’s power over sin. We are not strangers to reconciliation. We know all too well the sting of the Holy Spirit’s conviction upon the soul. We know the sorrow we felt, as we by faith, saw our Savior suffering in our stead and bleeding and dying for our atrocious sins. Our sins became so offensive because we were brought to the force of them. It was no longer a mere peccadillo, but an offense to the Most High God. What once seemed like a trivial indiscretion was now an offense to a Holy God who is angry with the wicked everyday. We remember the heaviness, the guilt as we came face to face with the truth. We recall days of running from it, only to finally be overtaken by it. And blessed overtaking it was, when our Savior through the Holy Spirit and the Word sought us out with an effectual calling which made us willing in the day of His power.

And from this holy calling we remember the freedom we enjoyed when our sins were rolled away and our guilty conscience was cleared. Oh, how our enmity toward God was vanquished and was replaced with joy unspeakable and full of Glory. And now we know Him not as a Judge but as our Father, Lord and Savior. Our hearts are enthralled in His mercies that reached into our pit of iniquity and translated us into the Kingdom of Christ and made us a kingdom of priests unto our God and transformed us into heirs and joint-heirs with Christ.

We are not the sinners enemy but his friend even as Christ was a friend to sinners. If the sinner is to be offended let it be an offense to the message and not the messenger. We come to them with no harm intended but that they may be reconciled to God. And though as His ambassadors we know that we cannot, in and of ourselves, bring sinners to reconciliation, we retain the knowledge that God through us by His Spirit can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. I could say much more on this matter, but let us move on . . .

We have first considered the ambassadors of this ministry of reconciliation, now let us consider the message we carry as ambassadors. What is the message? It is quite simply the message of reconciliation, for Paul says that God “gave us the ministry of reconciliation” in verse 18. And what is the means provided for this ministry of reconciliation? Namely, Substitution according to verses 18-19 – “God in Christ reconciled us to Himself” in verse 18, and “in Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself” in verse 19.

Again, it is God who brings reconciliation to the sinner not visa-versa. Man perpetually attempts his own method of reconciliation with the Creator, but to no avail. Man’s futile efforts are dangerous, yea, damnable efforts and will eventually lead only to his destruction. Human effort, good works, prayers, Bible studies, sorrow, lamentations, cannot perform the task required to appease a Holy God. This is so clearly woven into the fabric of Scripture that it is without controversy to the most casual reader of it. Man’s approach to Holy God has always been God’s way or no way. For instance, God warned Moses concerning the building of an altar (which represented man’s approach to God) to Himself that, “. . . if you make Me an altar of stone, you shall not build it of hewn stone; for if you use your tool on it, you have profaned it.” (Exodus 20:25). The only way to have communion and fellowship with the Creator is on an altar of God’s own making, not man’s.

Before man will sees the necessity of a substitute, the high places must be dismantled and destroyed. His arguments must be cast down and his tower of Babel must be rendered useless. Only then will he see the need for a substitute. Seeing that he cannot possibly reconcile himself, he will be driven by the law of God, which is the schoolmaster, to utter despair. This reality cannot be seen through the means of a truncated gospel. We have reduced the gospel to a seven minute presentation. A two minute God, with the addition of a one minute reminder of our sin followed by four minutes of persuasion is not the remedy for a malady so horrific that the Son of God had to die to redeem us from it. No, only substitution can do what we are not capable of doing. God’s holiness demands it. His wrath and judgement must be satisfied. His justice requires a payment, of which, in this case is death, eternal death in the lake of fire. When Christ died it was not merely physical anguish that he was exposed to, though it of itself was beyond our limits. No, it was infinite spiritual torment upon Himself which was most agonizing and the tormenter was inexorably His Father. Yes, it pleased the Father to bruise Him and put Him to grief (Isa 53:10) and to what end? For sinners like us who were without hope and yet God loved us so much that it pleased the Father to bruise His own Son on our behalf. How the angels seek to look into these things, but we as reconciled people understand it’s reasoning. Paul taught us that in verse 19, “In Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself.” The Christ, who knew no sin, became sin for us in order that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor. 5:21). God in Christ was forming a people for Himself who would praise, worship and enjoy Him for eternity. Praise the Lord!

And what a substitute we have to offer the burdened sinner. The God-man, perfectly God and perfectly man. The Creator, the Sustainer, the Holy One, the incarnate One, meek of heart, lowly of spirit, perfect, obedient, kind, truthful, merciful, a spotless lamb, who gave Himself for our sins. The one who thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation and took on Himself the form of a bond-servant and humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. The One worthy to open the scroll and look into it. The King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He is the substitute and what better substitute than He. One who knew God the Father intimately, being in His bosom from all eternity and eternally proceeding from Him and as man, fulfilling all of the righteous requirements of a Holy God through His perfect obedience. What person or power could possess such authority that those who call on His name would be saved. Those who merely look to Him will be spared from the fiery serpent of sin. Amazing, beyond all heights, beneath all depths, the length and breadth of which cannot be traversed. This is our message, stop making it boring!

So we as ambassadors for Christ in the ministry of reconciliation have been given the message of reconciliation – Now, how are we to deliver that message, as His ambassadors? This is a most vital and pertinent point to the preacher of the Word that we must understand and fully embrace.

Verse 20, tells us the how, of delivering the message of reconciliation by stating that we are to “implore” those to whom we preach the gospel. It is not sufficient for the preacher to only give them the correct information of the gospel (this is essential), but he is also to “implore” . In the original Greek the word is “daomai” and it means literally to beg, to plead, beseech them to come to Christ. We must not only preach to the head but to the heart as well. It’s unbiblical to preach the gospel in a detached fashion. If we are more passionate about our favorite football team than preaching for the salvation of the lost we are not good ambassadors for Christ. We must not only warn them, but plead with them to come to Christ. Where are the Whitefield’s, the Edwards’, the Boyce’s, the Spurgeon’s and the Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ of our day? Oh Lord, send them soon or we perish!

But of course, the Calvinists says, but God must save, and yes He must, but God Himself says through Paul that we must preach the gospel “as though God was making His appeal through us.” Now that is a profound statement. “As though God Himself was making His appeal through us.” How many of us stand in the pulpit week by week with this thought in our minds? Or is it our theological prowess which most concerns or consumes us. I remember a few years ago hearing John Piper make a statement that went something like this, preachers don’t believe their people can be moved by the truth of God because they’re not moved by it themselves. How true are Piper’s words for our day of frivolous conjecturing and arrogant pomposity! Every great preacher of the gospel, in days gone by, that was worth his weight in the pulpit believed that it was not only the message preaching, it was the preacher preaching. God has chosen to use men of His choosing, utilizing their personalities, their experiences, their losses and their joys to facilitate His truth to the lost sinner. Now granted, those elements must be sanctified in order to be a good minister of the gospel, but it still holds true that God uses different men for different tasks. Now if we are called to implore, beseech, plead with men as though God were doing so through us, then a most vital question is, how does God appeal to the lost? When we learn of it we must emulate that appeal, seeing that it is God who makes His appeal, through us.

Let us limit ourselves to God’s own Words about the matter. In Isaiah 1 – God says, you have rebelled against me and He points out their mounting iniquities, but then in His mercy He appeals to them in Isaiah 1:18-19 “Come now, and let us reason together," Says the LORD, "Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool. {19} If you are willing and obedient, You shall eat the good of the land;”

Wait a minute, a Calvinist may object and say, only God can make a sinner willing. Well sir, that is certainly the case, but if God can give this invitation so can we, since He is imploring them through me.

Again God says, in Ezek 18:32 "For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies," says the Lord GOD. "Therefore turn and live!" But you say, that doesn’t fit into my system, then trash your system. No system is worth keeping, that is contrary to the divine revelation. Let me remind you that this text in Ezekiel is not Ezekiel giving the invitation, it is God giving the invitation. And what an invitation it is. God Himself (Sovereign ruler of the universe) is beseeching and pleading for the sinner to come!

Well, I know perhaps what some of you are thinking, that’s only a couple of verses. Well, if it were so, I would ask you, how many times does God have to say it to make it true? But oh blessedness that He did not give us only a brief suggestion of His heart toward sinners, but an overflowing abundance of it.

Again through the writings of Isaiah we glimpse His mercies, "Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; And you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk Without money and without cost. {2} "Why do you spend money for what is not bread, And your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, And delight yourself in abundance. {3} "Incline your ear and come to Me. Listen, that you may live; And I will make an everlasting covenant with you, According to the faithful mercies shown to David.” (Isa 55:1-3)

What amazing, if not almost alarming compassion we see in the great Sovereign in Hosea 11:8-9 “How can I give you up, O Ephraim? How can I surrender you, O Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I treat you like Zeboiim? My heart is turned over within Me, All My compassions are kindled. {9} I will not execute My fierce anger; I will not destroy Ephraim again. For I am God and not man, the Holy One in your midst, And I will not come in wrath.”

And what of Christ, the fountain of all life who condescended to flesh to extend to man these invitations, "All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out” (John 6:37) and “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. {29} "Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and YOU SHALL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS.”(Mat 11:28-29 NASB)

Paul plainly spoke in Romans 10:13. When he said, “For whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved. Some of us are such sticklers for theological accuracy, that we may need to pause and ask the question, is this the God that we preach? Such tenderness, such love, mercy, and condescension. For how amazing is it, how convicting is it to the preacher, that God Himself stoops lower than we are willing to stoop for the salvation of the lost? Even a backslidden preacher ought to get this – It was the whole point of the story of Jonah – Jonah 4:2 clues us in on Jonah’s reluctance to take the message of reconciliation to his enemies, the Ninivites. “So he prayed to the LORD, and said, "Ah, LORD, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm.” I’ve heard many a preacher miss the point of the book of Jonah. They say, well, Jonah like many of us, was intimidated by such a large city of lost people. He felt ashamed to tell them of their sins and was reluctant to share the gospel like we are ashamed. So of course he ran, just like we do from witnessing opportunities. NO! NO! NO! That’s not why Jonah ran. He ran for two reasons. Reason #1 – He hated the Ninivites, most if not all of the Jews hated them, they were their arch enemy. Reason #2 – He knew the nature of God. He knew that God was gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness. The last thing Jonah wanted to do was to introduce his arch enemies to such a benevolent Savior. Behold, even a backslidden preacher knows that God is love and desires the salvation of the wicked.

I can almost hear some 5-pointer (I’m one) screaming at this message, “Oh, but, but, but God has not decreed the salvation of all.” I would ask you dear brother, do you know the manner of God’s decree, the motive of it, the ultimate purpose of it? No! You do not know of the “secret things” of the Lord. Of course, all who believe that God is God knows that He works all things after the counsel of His own will, including the area of salvation, but that does not negate the clear teachings of Scripture as it pertains to God’s heart of compassion for the sinner. You are a Calvinist? Then you must have failed to read of Boyce’s and Broadus’ understanding of God’s compassion for sinners. Maybe Lottie Moon’s Calvinism would serve you well, Judson or perhaps Carey should be on your reading list. Somehow you missed reading Spurgeon’s grasp of this truth or perhaps Martyn Lloyd-Jones could inform you along the way. And what of today’s stalwarts of the faith, MacArthur (whom I believe a champion of truth in our day of relativism), Piper (supremely passionate for God’s glory and the universal spreading of the Gospel), Sproul (one of Christianity’s greatest minds in our day), and a host of others. Better yet, try Moses, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Jesus, Paul, Peter and John just for starters.

Men, cease from laboring to do what only God can do (save) and let us engage in doing what God has empowered us to do, imploring men, as though God Himself was making His appeal through us. We are to plant and water, only God can bring the increase. The identity of the elect is unknowable except to God so stop trying to figure it out for yourselves. For those who know nothing of the great doctrines of God’s grace I pity. But for those who know of His grace and His irresistible power to save and yet withhold compassion for the sinner and passion for God’s glory in the proclamation of His truth, I weep.

Let me conclude by stating that we glory in the gospel and we know it is a two edged sword. And we acknowledge that all of our labors, all of our pleadings and all of our praying will accomplish their purpose, whether it be a savor of death unto death or of life unto life, who is sufficient for these things (2 Cor. 2:16), for it is all in the hands of God. Let us not be accurately portrayed as detached from the passion of the gospel. Again we can only plant and water and only God can give the increase. He rightfully gets the glory because He is pleading through us and that glory is the ultimate end of all things. But let us not forget, that the salvation of a sinner is the greatest manifestation of His glory! And what an amazing thought that we who have been recipients of reconciliation have been called to the ministry of reconciliation as though God Himself were beseeching through us, be reconciled to God!

So what is evangelism? It is this, “And the Spirit and the bride say, "Come!" And let him who hears say, "Come!" And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.” (Rev. 22:17). Don’t ever fear extending to sinners what God has already extended. May God have mercy on our souls and the souls of those who sit under our feeble preaching.

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