Reformed Baptist Fellowship

Evangelize or Fossilize or Compromise? – Part 2

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on February 24, 2009 at 4:20 pm

Here are three common, but deficient ways of dealing with sinners.  It’s the truth that sets sinners free, so why would we even think of resorting to a lie or a partial truth?

1)  God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. If we are well-taught, we should immediately see the man-centered problem with this appeal.  However, this statement could be presented as a truth, if we are willing to tell the sinner that the wonderful plan God has may be for them to serve as an eternal example of God’s justice and wrath.  We would most likely do better service to God and His Word by abandoning statement number one altogether, and concentrate on the fact that there is forgiveness and eternal life for sinners who flee to Jesus Christ.

2) Jesus died for you. To make such a statement is tantamount to declaring that one can declare which lost person is part of God’s elect, (of course, no one means it that way).  A desire to spread the gospel should not cause us to misrepresent the purpose of the atonement.  In fact, the thinking sinner should immediately deduce from statement number two that Christ’s blood and sacrificial death are not sufficient for salvation.  Simply changing this to “Jesus died for sinners” or even “God saves sinners” is a positive truth we can proclaim with confidence and not just a nice sounding sentiment that may harbor insidious error.

3)  It’s up to you to accept Him.  There are many variations of this one, and it is usually given at the close of a gospel presentation.  But all the variations boil down to the same thing: “God has done everything He can to save you, and now it’s up to you to make the final choice”.  That is a far cry from “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.”  There is truth in the old saying that every man is born a Catholic and an Arminian.  This is what lies in the heart of every sinner.  He believes in the power of his own free will.  The last thing a totally depraved man needs is for that inner belief to be fed.  We shouldn’t be telling the sinner that he somehow has the power to save himself by the powerful exercise of his free will or by his good works.  Self-salvation is the way of salvation for every single religion in the world except for one, The True One.  Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone by Christ alone.

True freedom in personal evangelism comes from knowing that God is in control.  The eternal salvation or damnation of a sinner does not rest in my hands, ultimately.  I must speak the truth, as best as I can, but the results are up to God, and not in the polish of my presentation.  If a true work of grace is to be done, He must do it.  The fact that He is pleased to use men (and women) in the spread of the gospel is part of the wonder of it all!

Steve Marquedant
Sovereign Grace Reformed Baptist Church
Ontario, California

  1. Good blog, I was saved in 1975, I have been arminian most of my life. The Lord opened my eyes to reformed theology starting about 7 years ago and it is still a learning process. I still like to use tracts, and don’t feel we should rule them out in evangelism.
    My problem is finding a reformed tract. Almost all tracts are from a Arminian angle. Can you help me out with this?


  2. free reformed tracts and literature by the bushel here:
    they’ll even pick up the postage if your poverty stricken…

  3. ” ‘Jesus died for you.’ To make such a statement is tantamount to declaring that one can declare which lost person is part of God’s elect…”

    Good point. We do well to remember that words have meanings and to consider them carefully.

  4. I have spoken all three to lost sinners and though it felt good to tell them of God’s love for them and His death on the cross for them personally, the scriptures do not teach this. Interestingly, as an unconverted man, I felt sure that God loved me and that He had died for me. I did not ultimately repent with these thoughts in my mind of God…

  5. Hi Jim,

    Good question. There is a place for tracts, and they can be used to sow the seed. Chapel Library is a great resource, and we carry a large variety of their tracts our people can use. We have a flier we pass out and encourage our people to pass out — and you can see the back page of it on our website. We got it from Earl Blackburn.

    When someone is interested, I will give them “Ultimate Questions” — and if they are really interested we use the three part correspondence course you can get from Revival Literature. “God” “Man and Sin” and “Salvation”. I have found those very helpful, when someone will go through the study with another. They must do so with an open Bible. We have had folks come to Christ by attending worship services and also going through that series.

    Tracts can be a blessing. Tracts that fall into the pitfalls I listed are not. Many many many Americans (more than half) have said the sinners prayer that is on the back of those tracts. Satan uses it to delude people into self-satisfaction, or a belief that religion is trite. God is pleased to use His Word — even these tracts — for the salvation of sinners. But that should not be an excuse for us to give an “easy” and “palatible” message. Laboring for souls is hard work. Getting someone to say a quick prayer is not hard work. I am sure you agree with me on that.

  6. Dear Steve,

    Good series. As one who formerly sympathized with some Arminian views of the gospel and who is presently a 5-point Calvinist, I agree with the need to be sure our gospel presentation is soundly biblical. In regards to the second danger above, however, I have sometimes wondered whether such language as “Christ died for you” is, of necessity, tantamount to identifying the hearer as one of God’s elect.

    First, the English preposition “for” (and the Greek huper it translates) is semantically flexible. It can simply mean “because of” or “on account of.” Certainly in a general sense, all human sin as “occasioned” Christ’s death. In other cases, it means “for the intended benefit of.” Here, the efficacy of the “intent” is determined not by the preposition alone but by the immediate and larger context in which it is used. Second, I think all Calvinists believe that Christ’s death procured benefits not only for the elect but also for the non-elect (1 Tim. 4:10). Third, some Calvinists (e.g., Calvin) see in Christ’s death a kind of salvific stance or posture that God manifests towards all men in general (John 3:16). Fourth, Paul describes the gospel that he had received (from Christ, the Scriptures, and the other apostles) and preached to the Corinthians during his initial evangelistic labors among them in the following terms: “For I delivered (aorist) to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died FOR OUR SINS in accordance with the Scriptures [emphasis added]” (1 Cor. 15:3). Note that, according to verse 1, these words constituted the good news that the Corinthians initially “received” (aorist) and upon which, following their conversion, they “had taken their stand” (perfect). So it would seem, at least from a prima facie reading of this text, that Paul’s gospel presentation to unconverted Greeks included the phrase, “Christ died for our sins.” Of course, this doesn’t imply that Paul viewed Christ’s atonement as efficient for all. He may simply be alluding to God’s saving posture towards all men as demonstrated in the death of Christ, or he may have intended the all-sufficiency of Christ’s atonement. On the other hand, one might argue that the phrase “for our sins” is anachronistic, that is, Paul really didn’t preach those words initially; it was only after the audience to whom he writes believed the gospel that Paul could utter that phrase. I’m not persuaded by this argument, but I suppose it might be plausible. In any case, just trying to sharpen iron. Thanks again for your series on this important subject.

    Your servant,
    Bob Gonzales

  7. Interesting passage from Edward Fisher’s Marrow of Modern Divinity:

    “I beseech you consider, that God the Father, as he is in his Son Jesus Christ, moved with nothing but with his free love to mankind lost, hath made a deed of gift and grant unto them all, that whosoever of them all shall believe in this his Son, shall not perish, but have eternal life. 1 And hence it was, that Jesus Christ himself said unto his disciples, (Mark 16:15), “Go and preach the gospel to every creature under heaven”: 2 that is, Go and tell every man without exception, that here is good news for him; Christ is dead for him; and if he will take him, and accept of his righteousness, he shall have him…

    That the reader may have a more clear view of this passage, which is taken from Dr. Preston’s Treatise of Faith, I shall transcribe the whole paragraph in which it is found. That eminent divine, speaking of that righteousness by which alone we can be saved, and having shown that it is communicated by gift, says, ‘But when you hear this righteousness is given, the next question will be, to whom is it given? If it be only given to some, what comfort is this to me? But [which is the ground of all comfort,] it is given to every man,—there is not a man excepted; for which we have the sure word of God, which will not fail. When you have the charter of a king well confirmed, you reckon it a matter of great moment: what is it then when you have the charter of God himself? which you shall evidently see in those two places, (Mark 16:15), ‘Go and preach the gospel to every creature under heaven’; What is that? Go and tell every man, without exception that here is good news for him; Christ is dead for him: and if he will take him, and accept of his righteousness, he shall have it; restraint is not; but go tell every man under heaven. The other text is, (Rev 22:17), ‘Whosoever will, let him come, and take of the water of life freely.’ There is a quicunque vult, whosoever will come [none excepted] may have life, and it shall cost him nothing. Many other places of Scripture there be to prove the generality of the offer; and having a sure word for it, consider it,’ p. 7,8. The words ‘under heaven’ are taken from Colossians 1:23. The scope here is the same with that of our author, not to determine concerning the extent of Christ’s death, but to discover the warrant sinners have to believe in Christ, namely, that the offer of Christ is general, the deed of gift or grant is to every man. This necessarily supposeth Christ crucified to be the ordinance of God for salvation, to which lost mankind is allowed access, and not fallen angels, for whom there is none provided: even as the city of refuge was the ordinance of God for the safety of the man-slayer, who had killed any person unawares, (Num 35:16); and the brazen serpent for the cure of those bitten by a serpent, (21:8). Therefore he says not, ‘Tell every man Christ died for him”; but, Tell every man ‘Christ is dead for him’; that is, for him to come to, and believe on; a Saviour is provided for him; there is a crucified Christ for him, the ordinance of heaven for salvation for lost man, in the use-making of which he may be saved; even as one had said of old, Tell every man that hath slain any person unawares, that the city of refuge is prepared for him, namely, to flee to, that he may be safe; and every one bitten by a serpent, that the brazen serpent is set up on a pole for him, namely, to look unto, that he may be healed. Both these were eminent types of Christ; and upon the latter, the Scripture is full and clear in this very point. (Num 21:8), ‘And the Lord said unto Moses, make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole; and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live.”—(John 3:14-16), “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the son of man be lifted up; that whosoever believeth on him should not perish but have eternal life.’ ‘For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever,’ &c.”

  8. Hi MarieP,

    “That eminent divine, speaking of that righteousness by which alone we can be saved, and having shown that it is communicated by gift, says, ‘But when you hear this righteousness is given, the next question will be, to whom is it given? If it be only given to some, what comfort is this to me? But [which is the ground of all comfort,] it is given to every man,—there is not a man excepted; for which we have the sure word of God, which will not fail.”

    This quote leads me to believe that every man shall receive the righteousness of Christ, which we know is not true. There are conditions to the the giving of the gift. One must be a sinner, thirsty, hungry, with a broken and contrite heart (this too is the gift of God, the work of the Spirit). It is surely to these that the righteousness of Christ is offered and received, not to every man.
    “But go and learn what [this] means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” Matthew 9:13
    “When Jesus heard [it], He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call [the] righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” Mark 2:17

    I try to stay clear of any language that would assure a self-righetous man that Christ died for him and all he needs to do is add Christ to his life instead of making Christ his life and knowing that he has no life apart for Christ.

  9. Thank you for your input, Dr. Bob. Let me just make a couple of comments.

    I would agree that telling someone “Christ died for you” is not necessarily tantamount to saying that one is elect, if we want to deal with the larger question of the non-salvific benefits of Christ’s death. However, is that what folks usually mean when they are witnessing? I think it is far more likely most Christians will tell lost people something akin to “Jesus died for you, now all you need to do is accept him.” This too often then morphs into “God did all He could, now it is up to you.” These are very common words in sermons and in personal evangelism. As the average Christian hears these appeals from the pulpit — they are incorporated into his thinking and witnessing.

    I do not believe there is anywhere in the Scripture that we would see any of the Apostles telling lost men and women that “Christ died for them”. I do not think that is the language of 1 Corinthians 15 either. Paul is writing to professing Christians in Corinth. Even though he rebukes them sharply in the book, he beseeches them as brothers and fellow Christians. It would only be natural for Paul to write, in 1 Corinthians 15, “Christ died for OUR sins, according to the Scriptures.” This kind of inclusive language is very common in Paul’s epistles when dealing with Christian truths. Intent is the key here, IMHO. His audience is a Christian audience, not a lost audience. He is also writing in short-hand if you will, in a formulaic manner. I do not think Paul is telling us that he went into Corinth with the proclamation to lost men that Jesus died for them, personally. It is my settled conviction that the atonement should personally be applied only to those who know the Lord.

    I believe the larger context of 1 Corinthians 15 helps us understand what Paul is saying to the Corinthians. I do not think his point is the extent of the atonement. Also, he is not trying to give an exhaustive word concerning the content of the gospel. Notice, there is no mention of repentance or faith, although these are vital aspects of the gospel. But he is building a case which he brings out fully in verses 12-17, showing what the implications would be for them if Christ had not died and rose again. He is combating a serious error, and the formulaic way he states the gospel in v. 3-4 is vital to his closing argument in v. 12-17, along with the supporting material which is given in verses 5-8, which talk of the eyewitnesses to the resurrection.

    May God bless you in your labors for His sake.

  10. Hey, djs!

    Bob Gonzalez could explain it better than I could, but since you addressed me, I’ll bite!

    Preston later adds that “if he will take him, and accept of his righteousness, he shall have it.” So it appears he believes in the same condition we do. His words actually seem similar to a verse my pastor preached on last Lord’s Day, Acts 5:31- “Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.”

    I think Preston, and the apostles, were talking about the free offer of forgiveness and repentance in the Gospel. This is preached to all. And it is only found in Christ. If we believe (which of course is God’s sovereign work), then we are forgiven and granted repentance.

    You added: “I try to stay clear of any language that would assure a self-righetous man that Christ died for him and all he needs to do is add Christ to his life instead of making Christ his life and knowing that he has no life apart for Christ.”

    Where is there language about “adding” Christ to one’s life rather than making Christ one’s life? No one is saying we have life apart from Christ.

  11. Sorry for the confusion, I think I’m just in over my head here. I added what I did to say there are many professing christians who have added Christ to their life and are not truly born again because they have received a misleading gospel. I will never (by God’s grace) tell an unbeliever that God loves him or that Christ died for him, assurance is the work of the Spirit. I will tell them that there is a Savior for sinners. Pastor Marquedant’s article is put. The gospel is to be preached to every creature. We all need to be careful that we don’t misrepresent it.

  12. Pastor Marquedant’s article is WELL put 🙂

  13. Steve,

    Thanks for your response to my comment above. My thoughts about 1 Corinthians are tentative. Your interpretation may be correct. I agree with your concern for precision and appreciate your emphasis on our need simply to engage in the work God’s called us to do and to do it rightly.

    Bob G.

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