The Presence of Sin
Sin has been in the world since the day man and woman chose to disobey the word of God and eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:15-17; Romans 3:9-19, 23; 5:12-14). The father of lies, the devil, presented the woman with a lie against Gods word and Gods integrity (you will not surely die... God knows in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil, Genesis 3:4-5). Sin is the devils lie. The woman was deceived and the man followed her into sin. They believed and obeyed the lie, and died in their sin against God (Genesis 3:6; 2:16-17).
The way sin enters mans life has not changed. Sin has always been and shall continue to be a choice man makes to believe a lie and thus transgress Gods truth (by either doing what God forbids or by omitting what God commands, 1 John 3:4; 5:17; James 4:17). God, since the days of Adam, has repeatedly revealed to mankind the damaging and destructive nature and results of sin (cf. Genesis 6:1-7; Jonah 1:2; 3:1-4; Isaiah 59:1-2; Romans 1:18-32; 3:20).
The Remedy for Sin
In the midst of His judgments against sin, God has always revealed mercy to those who are faithful to Him (Genesis 6:8-22; Jonah 3:5-10; Romans 3:21-26). God has chosen to redeem sinners from their sins through the precious blood of His Son Jesus Christ (John 3:16; Romans 5:6-11; Ephesians 1:4-7). Man must choose to obey truth and live in Christ in order to obtain Gods gracious forgiveness of his sins (Ephesians 1:3; 2 Timothy 2:10; Galatians 3:26-27; Romans 6:1-6; 2 Corinthians 5:17).
The truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ contains the remedy for sin (the devils lie). But Gods remedy for sin will not work upon those who believe and obey the lies of the devil. Romans 1:16 teaches that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes..." Therefore, we must not be ashamed of the gospel. We must love and obey the truth. With the gospel we must compel sinners to love truth more than the lie and the pleasures of sin (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12). Only then can the sinner be saved from his sins through Jesus Christ (Ephesians 4:17-24).
The truth of the gospel calls all sinners to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, to confess ones faith in Jesus before men, to repent of ones sins, and to be baptized into Christ for the remission of his sins (John 8:23-24; Matthew 10:32-33; Acts 17:30-31; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:37-38; Galatians 3:27). Unless one obeys the call of the gospel, he will not be saved from his sins (Romans 10:8-17; Matthew 7:21-23). We should be fully aware that if we reject the gospel of Christ now, we will one day be judged by it and stand before Christ to answer for our sin against Him (John 12:48; 2 Corinthians 5:10).
God Calls Sinners With The Gospel
God is calling men and women to be saved from the practice of their sins (Romans 6:16-18). He does this through the message of the gospel. Consider the following scriptures which emphasize this fact:
For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call. And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, Be saved from this perverse generation. (Acts 2:39-40)
...that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory. (1 Thessalonians 2:12)
But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14)
For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:3-4)
For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. (1 Corinthians 1:21)
And so, God uses the gospel to call lost souls to salvation. He does not call sinners through a still, small voice. He does not send a personal revelation to the lost person to lead him to salvation. He does not send the lost person a better felt than told experience to call him to salvation. He does not call sinners to salvation by sending the Holy Spirit into their hearts to enable them (give them the power) to believe. God sends the call of salvation to all humanity through the gospel, and in it He urges every person to believe and obey the gospel of Jesus Christ in order to be saved by His grace (Mark 16:15-16; Romans 1:16-17; Ephesians 2:8-9).
Convicting the World of Sin
Before any sinner can be saved by the gospel from his sins he must be persuaded of the presence and penalty of sin in his life. Without such knowledge one will remain in the darkness of sin, doomed to pay its penalty (Romans 3:23; 6:23). But the New Testament of Jesus Christ (inspired scripture) exposes sin and provides the remedy for it (2 Timothy 3:16-17). This is the tool we must use as we go everywhere preaching the word (Acts 8:4). It is the inspired teachings of the apostles which God intends for Christians to use to convict the world of sin and to call the world to repentance and salvation in Christ.
While Jesus was still with His apostles, He promised to send them the Holy Spirit as a Comforter who would guide them into all truth and help them address sin in the world: Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. (John 16:7-13) The Holy Spirit convicts the world of sin, righteousness and the judgment to come. He does this through the truth He revealed to the apostles of Christ, the word of the gospel. This passage reveals a divine order for calling sinners to salvation from their sins. Jesus said the Holy Spirit functions through the gospel of Christ to save a lost world. A natural progression for preaching the gospel has been set in place.
Please note the guideposts God has established for calling the lost to salvation:
Convict the world of sin (John 16:9). Gospel preaching
must include convicting sinners of their sin. Any preaching which
does not bring the sinner face to face with his own sin is a
perversion of genuine, gospel preaching.
A person who has not been convicted of sin, righteousness and the judgment cannot properly believe in and confess Christ, repent of his sins or be baptized into Christ (Acts 2:36-41; Romans 10:6-10; 1 Peter 3:20-22).
For us to seek the salvation of the lost, we must use the truth which the Holy Spirit inspired - the word of the gospel, the New Testament of Christ - to convict sinners of their sin, to teach them of righteousness and to warn them of an approaching judgment against sin. To use anything else to try to call sinners to salvation is a futile effort which is against the purposes of God. To do so is to pervert the gospel of Christ (Galatians 1:6-7).
Shall we water down the gospel call in our efforts to persuade sinners to be saved? We must not! Consider these New Testament examples which over and over teach us it is the word of the gospel which convict sinners of their sin and calls them to repentance and salvation:
Acts 2:36-41: The preaching of the inspired word of God
exposed their sin (v. 36), convicted them of their transgression (v.
37), commanded a remedy (v. 38), exhorted them to respond to
Gods call of salvation (v. 39), and warned them to avoid sin by
obeying Christ (v. 40). About 3,000 souls believed and obeyed the
word the apostles preached (the truth which the Holy Spirit guided
them into, John 16:13), and were saved from their sins (v. 41).
When the gospel is preached it will convict the sinner of his sins. Without the gospel, the sinner will not know his sins, understand Gods love and commandments, or see his need to repent and be converted to Christ (2 Timothy 4:2; Ephesians 4:17-24). But, when good and honest hearted people hear the truth of the gospel and learn of their sin against God, they will receive the truth, believe it, obey it, and bear the fruit of salvation (Luke 8:11, 15).
The Uncompromised Gospel
Jesus never changed nor compromised His message for the sake of those who were unwilling to yield themselves to the will of God. On one occasion, Jesus disciples told Him that the Pharisees were offended by His teaching (Matthew 15:12). Jesus did not apologize for the truth He had taught. He did not apologize for having exposed the sin of sinners or for calling them back to the commandments of God. He did not change His message or His manner of preaching that message simply because sinners were offended by the truth He preached.
Only the truth of God will convict sinners of their sin. All sinners, then and now, need to be humble before the truth of God, repent of their sins and obey all of Gods commands. Unless we teach all of Gods word to them, how shall they do this? How shall they call on the name of the Lord and be saved? (Romans 10:8-15)
We are being influenced by the techniques of men to compromise the call of the gospel. We are forgetting that the objective of the gospel is to save lost souls from their sins. Before the sinner can be saved from his sin, he must know what his sin is and be taught Gods remedy of forgiveness. Whenever we water down the message of the gospel for the sake of our own comfort or to spare the feelings of the sinner, we forfeit the gospels power to convict, convert and save the sinner. We show a lack of faith in the gospel. We compromise with the world. Sinners remain lost in their sins. We will have to answer for such neglect (2 Corinthians 5:10-11).
Here are some of the current influences we should guard against to prevent a compromise of the gospel as we address sin in the world:
1) Friendship Evangelism
This is the technique of first securing friendships with sinners before teaching them the gospel. The reasoning is that unless we first become friends with the lost we will not be successful converting the lost. Of course, there is nothing wrong with making friends with the lost, and we should certainly use the opportunities we have with our lost friends to urge them to obey the truth and be saved in Christ.
But friendship evangelism goes a step further. It would convince us that we are not properly approaching evangelism unless we give careful attention to how to be a friend (with a view of converting the lost). So, much time is spent learning friendship techniques and cultivating friendships as a prelude to talking to the lost soul about his or her salvation. Connect with them. Laugh with them. Cry with them. Open up to them about yourself. In other words, you must first form a personal relationship with the lost person before you can ever hope to effectively teaching him the gospel.
How many personal relationships do you suppose the apostles had with the people of Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost? (Acts 2) And yet, about 3,000 obeyed the gospel and were saved. In fact, nowhere in the New Testament will you find forming a personal friendship to be a prerequisite for teaching the gospel to the lost. Friendship Evangelism is the product of human wisdom. It replaces the gospel as our basis to urgently convict sinners of their sin with interpersonal relationships. Friendship becomes the basis of convicting and converting the sinner rather than the gospel.
Can you imagine what might have happened if Stephen had tried Friendship Evangelism? Or Paul in the synagogues? Stephen would not have had to die! Paul would not have been pursued from place to place by Jewish unbelievers who were bent upon destroying him. But, sinners would not have been confronted with their sin and with Gods call to repentance! Men would have continued in their sin while preachers and fellow Christians emphasized friendship over convicting sinners of their sin!
Please do not misunderstand. We should be friends and be friendly with those who are lost. But friendship will not convict the sinner of his sin! Only the gospel will do that (John 16:8-9, 13).
2) Preach the man, not the plan
This approach to sinners would strip the gospel of its particulars, its commands and directives to the lost. Truth becomes negotiable for the sake of peace.
We cannot preach the man (Christ) without preaching the plan (the commands of the gospel). In Acts 8:35, Philip began with Isaiah 53, and from this scripture preached Jesus to the Ethiopian. As they were riding in the chariot they came upon some water and the Ethiopian said, See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized? (Acts 8:36) Philip replied, if you believe with all your heart, you may, and the man answered I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God (Acts 8:37). Philip preached the man (Christ) and the plan (belief and baptism) to the sinner! We cannot do less and then comfort ourselves by saying, I told the sinner about Jesus! Unless you tell the sinner what Jesus said about how to be saved from sins, you have not preached Jesus to him!
3) Recreation and the social gospel
The pot luck dinner has become a staple for many, many churches of Christ. They have facilitated their social gatherings by providing fellowship halls complete with kitchens, tables, chairs, gymnasiums, etc. When objections are raised that this is not the work of the local church (please read 1 Corinthians 11:22, 34), one reply is that such activities provide opportunities to reach the lost. Church baseball, basketball, volleyball and bowling teams, arts and crafts, aerobics, and many more such activities are promoted as evangelistic tools. Medical and educational missions are established in foreign countries with the stated goal of reaching the lost through these social services.
Brethren who oppose such things as the work of the local church have at times been tempted to succumb to the same type of worldly reasoning. Conservative brethren conclude that unless social activities abound among members of the church, lost souls will not be reached with the gospel. We are told that we have to have something to offer folks if they are going to show any interest in the gospel. This is wrong and unscriptural thinking. Peter and John had nothing to offer the lame man except the power of God which healed him (Acts 3:6-10). The apostles had only the gospel of Christ to offer the lost, nothing more (1 Corinthians 1:22-25). We can offer nothing but the gospel. Only it will convict and convert the sinner.
When people began following Jesus because they had been miraculously fed, He rebuked them saying, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled (John 6:26). Following Jesus for the wrong reason amounts to not following Him at all (cf. Luke 14:25-27). Offering the wrong reasons to people for following Jesus makes us guilty of corrupting the gospel and its power to draw people to Christ. Jesus taught that the Father draws sinners to Himself and His salvation by a message they can hear and learn (John 6:44-45). That is the gospel, dear reader. We must offer the gospel to the lost, not gimmicks.
4) Accentuating the positive
Religious people in general have long been enamored by the so-called positive approach to Christianity. From Norman Vincent Peale forward, people have been induced to accept a feel-good gospel which has no power against sin (having its origin in the wisdom of men, 1 Corinthians 1:21; 2:4). Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, and dont mess with Mister In-between has long suited the objectives of ecumenism within the denominations of men. But now, brethren have taken up this impotent banner under the heading of reaching the lost.
Today, driven by the need for emotional validation, the positive approach of preaching the gospel to the lost has infected the body of Christ. This view of gospel preaching avoids the direct exposure of sin, choosing instead smooth words which will never fully soothe the hurt of sin (Jeremiah 6:14-15; 8:11-12). Calling sin and its practitioners by name will never do for those who have been taken in by the claimed superiority of positive Christianity.
When charged before God to preach the word, the evangelist Timothy was commanded to convince (reprove, asv), rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching (2 Timothy 4:2). To reprove means to tell a fault, to convince of wrong or convict. It is significant to note that the word used to speak of the Holy Spirit convict(ing) the world of sin in John 16:8 is the same word which is translated reprove in 2 Timothy 4:2. The purpose of preaching the word is to convict or reprove the world of sin! Preaching the word will point out sin and strive to convince the sinner of his sins! This is not a positive experience as men like to define it, but it is Gods arrangement to save sinners from their sin.
Timothy was also commanded to include rebuke as a part of preaching of the gospel. Thayer says the word means to tax with fault, rate, chide, rebuke, reprove, censure severely, to admonish or charge sharply (page 245). The goal of gospel preaching is not to be rude or thoughtless (2 Timothy 2:24-26; Colossians 4:6). Instead, it is intended to expose sin so that the sinner can understand his dilemma, repent and escape the snare of the devil (cf. Acts 8:20-24, where the apostle Peter rebuked Simon for his sin, thereby motivating his repentance).
Timothy was also told to preach the word in season and out of season. One seasoned preacher observed that this means to preach the word of God when they like it, and preach it when they dont! We must take our stand with truth and stick to it, even when men cry out against it as being unloving and negative (cf. 2 Timothy 4:3-4; 1:8; 2:3). When men describe gospel preaching which rebukes sin as being unloving, arrogant or negative, they reveal their displeasure with Gods way of convicting sinners. They are allowing human emotion rule over the needs and purposes of objective truth. We must not give in to this temptation.
Whenever sin is eradicated from a persons life by the power of the gospel, the result is positive. It hurts to dig a splinter out of your finger, but better to endure the pain for a moment than to experience the greater suffering of infection if the splinter is left in place. So it is with sin. The gospel truth will, at times, be painful. If we choose to avoid the pain of truth for the sake of our feelings and those who are lost, we will both suffer eternal pain. The coward (who will not rebuke and expose sin) and the unbeliever (who will not repent of his sins) share the same fate (Revelation 21:8; Eph. 5:11).
5) Emphasis upon oratory
We have developed a warped impression of what constitutes good gospel preaching and a good gospel preacher. It goes without saying that some men are simply better public speakers than others. Every preacher should work at making his public presentation of the gospel as effective as possible. But a good gospel preacher is not so defined upon the basis of his oratorical expertise.
The problem of which we speak is illustrated when, for instance, the preacher is remembered, but the message he preached cannot be recalled. If our emphasis is on masterful oratory we may be tempted to enhance our oratory at the expense of the gospel message. When an audience comes away from a sermon remembering all the stories and jokes a preacher has told, but cannot remember his sermon topic, something is dreadfully wrong! Part of the fault, granted, may be with the hearer. His heart may simply not be right before God. He may be captivated with the preacher. He may be seeking to be entertained. He may not be interested in the gospel message. But, part of the blame may also fall upon the speaker. What does he emphasize as he preaches, anecdotes, stories and style, or the saving message of the gospel? The apostle Paul made sure that when people came away from his preaching they were not praising and following the messenger, but the message. He was determined that people would not focus upon him, but upon Christ (1 Corinthians 1:14-17; 2:1-5).
Fellow preacher, let us likewise work diligently to be sure the focus of our preaching is Christ, His truth and His salvation (1 Corinthians 2:2). We, too, can be tempted to compromise the message of the cross for the sake of mens acceptance and applause (John 12:42-43). May we never imperil the souls of men for the sake of obtaining the praises of men.
Undoubtedly there are other ways the gospels power to convict sinners of their sin can be compromised. To the extent that the convicting power of the gospel is compromised, we have perverted the gospel and nullified its power to save. It is imperative that we be vigilant against all intrusions into the purity and power of the gospel to save the lost (2 Corinthians 11:3-4; 1 Corinthians 4:6). Only a gospel which is free from the contaminants of human wisdom and worldly influences will save sinners from their sin (Romans 1:15-17). Only the full and complete message of truth will lead the lost soul out of the bondage of sin into Gods grace, mercy and forgiveness.
Do not be ashamed of the uncompromised gospel: "Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, to which I was appointed a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles. (2 Timothy 1:8-11)
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