After having gone to great lengths to prove the scriptural basis of the doctrines of grace, it is now necessary to answer one of the most prominent accusations hurled at those holding to this teaching. The opponents of the doctrines of grace will often accuse us of not believing that gospel preaching is necessary for souls to be converted to Christ and will label us as hard-shells or hyper-Calvinists. Nothing could be further from the truth. I Corinthians 9:16 states: "For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!" It is the firm conviction of the writer that gospel preaching is necessary for souls to be saved. In fact, as much as I despise the Arminian system of theology, I have just as much hatred for hardshellism. The man who says that souls can be saved apart from the gospel is the worst sort of heretic. This man's thoughts fly in the face of all Scripture and reason.
A true saint of God, who has been taught by the Spirit to understand the doctrines of grace, will also understand that God uses the means of the gospel to save the elect. Some say that a belief in election will naturally lead a person to believe that they don't need to witness and that God will save whom He will save, whether we witness or not. It is true that God will save whom He will, but it is equally true that He uses the preaching of the gospel as a means to save them. I Corinthians 1:21 states: "For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe." A proper understanding of the doctrine of election will cause a person to be a fervent and zealous witness of the gospel's power to save. A belief in election motivated the Apostle Paul to do extensive mission work as
II Timothy 2:10 states: "Therefore I endure all things for the elect's sake, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory."
The fact that God sovereignly elects and saves sinners according to His own good pleasure does not in any way dismiss the believer of his responsibility to witness and preach the gospel to every creature. We are to do all that is within our power to be faithful witnesses of the power of the gospel. Our labors and concerns should be unceasing in trying to persuade and lead men and women to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Our hearts should be filled to overflowing with compassion for those on the "broad road" that leads to destruction-the same road we were once on.
The first and foremost motivating factor for preaching the gospel and persuading men to trust Christ is to glorify God through obedience to the command of Christ. Jesus Christ clearly commanded His church to preach the gospel to every creature in Mark 16:15 which states: "And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature." A genuine love for Jesus Christ is proven by obedience to His commands as John 14:15 states: "If ye love me, keep my commandments." The command to preach the gospel is not optional for the true believer. It is our duty, debt, and privilege to obey this command of Jesus Christ. If our hearts were filled with a burning desire to glorify God through obedience, we would not find it hard to: "Sing unto the LORD, bless his name; shew forth his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the heathen, his wonders among all people" (Psa. 96:2-3). The first church took this command so seriously and literally that they first filled the city of Jerusalem with their doctrine (Acts 5:28) and later turned the whole world upside down (Acts 17:6). I think it is safe to say that there were no Hardshell or Primitive Baptists in the first churches in light of these Scriptures.
The second motivating factor for gospel preaching is the realization that it is the ordained means God uses to save sinners. This is a fact that is repeatedly emphasized in the Scriptures. Romans 10:17 states: "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." That the gospel is clearly the means God uses to call the elect is evidenced by II Thessalonians 2:13-14 which states: "But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ." If God could save sinners apart from gospel preaching then why did He lead Philip out of Samaria into the desert so that he could preach Christ to the Ethiopian Eunuch? Why did God command Peter to go to the house of Cornelius in Caesarea if he could have been saved apart from gospel preaching? The answer is found in Peter's words to the house of Cornelius: "And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead. To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins" (Acts 10:4243). Paul the apostle certainly was no Hardshell in light of I Corinthians 4:15 which states: "For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel."
The third motivating factor for preaching the gospel is found in I Corinthians 5:14 which states: "For the love of Christ constraineth us..." The Greek word for constrain is sunecho which carries with it the idea to arrest, compel, press and preoccupy. Because of Christ's great sacrificial love for us, we are to be pressed, compelled, and preoccupied with telling others of His power to save. Because we have tasted that the Lord is gracious there should be an urgency in our lives to break the bread of life with others so that they may know and experience the love of Christ which is beyond measure. If Christ has made a difference in our lives we should be constrained to show and tell others of the power of the gospel to change ruined sinners into saints. Like the Psalmist of old we should declare unashamedly: "He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the LORD. Blessed is the man that maketh the LORD his trust..." (Psa. 40:2-4).
The fourth motivating factor for gospel preaching is found in II Corinthians 5:11 which states: "Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men..." God has been gracious to open our eyes to the truth of His holiness, justice, and wrath. We know that God's wrath is going to be revealed from Heaven against all ungodliness. We know that Hell is a place of burning fire and irreparable ruin for those who die in unbelief. The knowledge that men will suffer an eternity in a burning lake of fire, should motivate us to point them to the only way of escape and refuge--faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ. Some Calvinists may object and say that we should not operate upon emotion in reference to the unregenerate. But such an objection is overridden by the example of Paul who said: "Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men", and elsewhere: "To the weak became I as weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. And this I do for the gospel's sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you" (I Cor. 9:22-23). Jesus Christ was moved with compassion when He saw the plight of lost souls during His earthly ministry. Have our hearts grown so cold and calculated that we no longer follow the example of our blessed Lord in compassion for the lost? May God deliver us from the apathy and coldness in our attitude toward sinners. May He give us grace to follow the directions of the Psalmist who said: "They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him" (Psa. 127:5-6).
The early churches preached the simple message of Christ crucified and risen again as the power of God unto salvation. Their method was equally simple; they preached the Word of God zealously, depending upon God to save sinners. They boldly pointed men to Christ alone as the way of salvation. Peter declared: "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). When the church at Jerusalem was persecuted by Saul they didn't give up or quit. Rather, the Scriptures state: "Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the Word. Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them" (Acts 8:4-5). When Philip was called away from Samaria by the angel of the Lord to minister to the Ethiopian eunuch, it is recorded: "Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus" (Acts 8:35). After Saul had been converted on the road to Damascus and went into Arabia (Gal. 1:17) "he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God" (Acts 9:20). Later, Paul on his first missionary journey preached Christ at Antioch: "Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses" (Acts 13:38-39). When Paul came to the city of Thessalonica, he went into the synagogue: "Opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead: and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you is Christ" (Acts 17:3). It has always pleased God to use the simple means of gospel preaching to call and convert the elect. The Spirit of God is pleased to use the Word in the mysterious work of regeneration and conversion. It is according to the sovereign will of God that the simple preaching of the Word be used in the work of conversion as stated in James 1:18: "Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures."
The power of a changed and sanctified life is also a means of persuading men to believe the gospel. Acts 4:13 states: "Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus." This is the kind of testimony that every born-again believer should strive for, to show men and warn that they have been with Jesus.
From the human side of salvation, a lost world will never believe our message if our way of life does not evidence the joy of the Lord and obedience to Christ. We cannot live like the world and expect them to believe our message. One only has to look at the recent damage done to the testimony of Christianity through the fall of prominent false teachers who professed the name of Christ, yet denied Him by their way of life. Our testimony is probably the single most important thing in the eyes of lost men. They don't know and often don't care what the Bible says because they never read it. But they read the testimony of professing Christians every day! That is why there are so many exhortations to holy, separated living in the Bible. II Timothy 2:9 states: "Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity."
When worldly Lot tried to persuade his sons-in-law to flee from the wrath that was about to be poured out on Sodom they thought he was just joking because his testimony had been ruined. Their reaction is recorded in Genesis 19:14: ". . .But he seemed as one that mocked unto his sons in law." Let us never underestimate the power of a changed life and a sanctified testimony to affirm the gospel we preach!
When you recognize the Biblical means for persuading men to believe the gospel as the preached Word, backed up by a changed life, the psychology and emotional trickery used by many in our day will seem as foolishness. In all of our preaching and godly living we must never forget that it takes the power of God to quicken dead sinners. Emotional appeals, long invitations, psychology, and worldly gimmicks can never be used as substitutes for the power of God. Listen carefully to the inspired record of the Apostle Paul in his epistle to the Corinthians: "For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man' s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of the power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God" (I Cor. 2:2-5). "I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth: but God that giveth the in crease. Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour" (I Cor. 3:6-8).
There are costs involved in gospel preaching. A sacrifice of self denial is associated with gospel preaching. It is necessary to put a bridle on our lusts and passions if we are to be effective witnesses of the gospel of Christ. Mark 8:34-35 states: "Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it."
There are afflictions and persecutions associated with gospel preaching as II Timothy 1:8 implies: "Be not therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God." All one has to do is read the book of Acts to see that genuine gospel preaching brings persecution and affliction. The apostles were threatened (Acts 4:13-20) and later beaten for gospel preaching (Acts 5:40-42). Stephen was stoned by an angry mob of Jews for preaching the gospel in Acts 7. The entire church at Jerusalem was persecuted and scattered because of their testimony for Christ in Acts 8. James lost his head for preaching the gospel in Acts 12. Paul and Barnabas were expelled from Antioch by the Jews for preaching the gospel (Acts 13:49-52). Paul and Silas were beaten and imprisoned at Philippi for gospel preaching (Acts 16:20-24).
When we take the command to preach the gospel to every creature seriously and literally as a necessity and our bound duty, there will be a cost of time, money, effort, reputation and status. The question we must ask ourselves is:
Am I willing to pay the price and suffer reproach for preaching the gospel? If the answer is yes, we will be numbered among the holy band in Hebrews 11:36-40 of whom it is said: "And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect."
Just as there is a cost associated with gospel preaching there is also a greater cost for not preaching the gospel to every creature. If we fail to preach the gospel it will mean the loss of blessings in this life and the satisfaction of knowing that we are doing what Christ has commanded. For a church, a failure to preach the gospel will bring upon them the loss of the Lord's presence and power. It will also mean the loss of rewards for the believer at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Paul plainly told the church at Corinth: "Woe unto me if I preach not the gospel..." (I Cor. 9:16).
It is the height of folly to presume that God does not see and hold us accountable for not witnessing. Proverbs 24:11-12 states: "If thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn unto death, and those that are ready to be slain; if thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not; doth not he that pondereth the heart consider it? and he that keepeth thy soul, doth not he know it? and shall not he render to every man according to his works?" God charged the prophet Ezekiel with the solemn responsibility of warning the wicked as a faithful watchman. If he failed to give them warning their blood would be required at his hand (Ezek. 3:17-19). Could this also be applied to Christians who are responsible to witness? Perhaps this is one reason why the early disciples had it said of them: "and behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine..." (Acts 5:28). "And daily in the temple and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ" (Acts 5:42). If we would faithfully witness, the Lord will reward us with a crown of rejoicing as Paul said: "For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? For ye are our glory and joy" (I Thess. 2:19).
We are living in a day when there seems to be a growing imbalance in Sovereign Grace Baptist churches. We must not only hold firmly to the truth of the doctrines of grace, but we must also see the necessity of publishing the gospel of grace to every creature. We must return to a solid balance of strong doctrinal preaching as well as a zeal and fervency in witnessing. Historically, Baptists have maintained this scriptural balance as they carried out the great commission. May God grant us the same grace in our day.
How thankful I am that eleven years ago, a man who was concerned about my soul, began to witness to me at work. In spite of my ungodliness and rebellion, he faithfully preached the gospel and lived a consistent Christian life before me. He was used of God to direct me to Christ and the free forgiveness of sins. May God stir us to witness for Christ and persuade men to repent and believe the gospel.