THE SAME GLORIOUS GOSPEL SAVES AND DAMNS!
“For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall My word be that goeth forth out of My mouth: it shall not return unto Me void, but IT SHALL ACCOMPLISH THAT WHICH I PLEASE, AND IT SHALL PROSPER IN THE THING WHEREIN I SENT IT.” [Isaiah 55:8-11]
It is a known fact that many who hear the gospel walk away ‘unsaved’ without any desire for the life promised therein or fear of the judgment warned to those who reject it! (2thes 1:8) What is the response to this rejection by the average preacher or evangelist? Their response usually is – “The seed has been sown in the hearts of those who heard the gospel! If not today someday soon it will bear fruit and save them. For has not God promised – that “My Word shall not return unto Me void, but shall accomplish that which I please, and shall prosper in the thing wherein I sent it?” [Isa 55:11]
I remember many years ago when I was visiting an old friend of mine, I was introduced to his brother who had recently married a Hindu lady. And in the course of our conversation during dinner, I steered the topic to Christ and salvation in Him and finally confronted this Hindu woman with the gospel. Unlike many Indians who are generally polite and usually say, “I’ll think about it”, this woman bluntly said, “Sorry, not interested!”
After dinner, my Christian friend came up to me and comforted me saying, “Don’t worry brother. You have done YOUR part, and though my Sister-in-law has rejected the gospel . . . at least the ‘seed is sown’!
According to my Christian friend, the Gospel comes to ALL with a sincere desire from God to save them ALL, and since God has promised that His Word shall not return back to Him void, therefore sooner or later the ‘seed sown’ in the hearts of these who rejected His Word will bear fruit and save them.
Is this true?! Is there a ‘seed sown’ in the hearts of those who reject the gospel, only to bear fruit at a later time? What saith the Scripture?
“Now the parable (of the Sower) is this: The seed is the Word of God.
Those by the way side are they that hear; THEN COMETH THE DEVIL, AND TAKETH AWAY THE WORD OUT OF THEIR HEARTS, lest they should believe and be saved..” [Luke 8:12]
Or has Matthew puts it – “When any one heareth the Word of the kingdom, and UNDERSTANDETH IT NOT, then cometh the WICKED ONE, AND CATCHETH AWAY THAT WHICH WAS SOWN IN HIS HEART. This is he which received seed by the way side.” [Matt 13:19]
So you see, beloved, contrary to popular opinion, there is no ‘seed sown’ in the hearts of those who hear the gospel without understanding it or those who hear and reject it!
If this be so, then WHAT does God mean when He says that His Word will not return unto Him void, but will accomplish that which He pleases, and prosper in the thing whereunto He sent it?!
In order to understand this, we must accept the fact that the Gospel does not come to all with an intention to save! This is an ‘hard saying’ and many will not receive it, but it is the truth nevertheless!
“The Apsotle said, “But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a STUMBLINGBLOCK, and unto the Greeks FOOLISHNESS; But unto them WHICH ARE CALLED, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God!” [1Cor 1:23]
The ‘Gospel’ makes sense and means something ONLY to those ‘who are called’! To the rest it is either a stumbling block or plain foolishness!
There is a GENERAL CALLING by means of the Word of God which is not accompanied by God’s effectual operation (which generates faith and love), but which comes to the external ear only. It leaves man in his natural state, who, in his wickedness, REJECTS THIS EXTERNAL CALL. He despises this call due to his free will which wills by way of necessary consequence. This is true of MOST who are called (Matt. 22:5, 14).
This is the Word going out in WORD ONLY without the power, the effectual working of the Spirit or much assurance! The Apostle reminded the Thessalonians that he knew that were the elect (or the Called) of God because – “Knowing, brethren beloved, your ELECTION of God. Because our gospel came not unto you in WORD ONLY, but also IN POWER, and in the Holy Ghost, and in MUCH ASSURANCE “! [1Thes 1:4,5]
Think about it . . . to the MAJORITY the ‘gospel’ comes in ‘WORD ONLY’!!
But to return, has God’s Word returned to Him ‘void’ because many walked away refusing and rejecting His Word! Oh No! On the contrary it ACCOMPLISHED THE EXACT PURPOSE FOR WHICH IT WAS SENT TO THESE REJECTERS! And what is that purpose?
To be “a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the Word, being disobedient: WHEREUNTO ALSO THEY WERE APPOINTED!’ [1Pet 2:8]
Consider once again our text from Isaiah 55 – “For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my Word be that goeth forth out of My mouth: it shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing wherein I sent it!” (Compare Hebrews 6:7,8)
For the remaining part of this article, I cannot do better than to quote from the writings of Professor Herman Hanko of the PRCA –
“The gospel that is widely preached is like the rain that falls upon the earth. In some instances, because of the blessing of God, it brings forth fruit. In other instances, the same rain brings forth briars that are destined to be burned. The latter as much as the former is the realization of the purpose of God accomplished through the gospel.
The outward call of the gospel that demands repentance and faith in Christ from all who hear it has its purpose. Its purpose is, first of all, that through the work of the Spirit, the elect bring forth fruit. But it is also that the wicked who reject the gospel and in whom the Spirit does not work, are left without excuse when they bring forth only briars.
But behind the rejection of the gospel lies the purpose of God in the DECREE OF REPROBATION. It is no wonder that men hate the doctrine of Reprobation, for it more than any other reveals the Sovereignty of God. But that the gospel also is used by God to ACCOMPLISH HIS DECREE of reprobation is clear from Scripture.
In 2 Corinthians 2:14-17, the apostle Paul writes: “Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place. For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish. TO THE ONE WE ARE THE SAVOUR OF DEATH UNTO DEATH; AND TO THE OTHER THE SAVOUR OF LIFE UNTO LIFE. And who is sufficient for these things? For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ.”
Paul is not ashamed of the gospel. He rather considers preaching the gospel to be a triumph in Christ because God’s purpose is accomplished. And God’s purpose is accomplished whether the gospel saves or hardens. In both cases the preaching of the gospel is a pleasant smell to God. No wonder the apostle says, “Who is sufficient for these things?” (16).
That the decree of reprobation stands behind the rejection of the gospel is taught elsewhere in Scripture. This firm teaching of Scripture does not detract from man’s responsibility, because, as I said in an earlier instalment, God accomplishes His decree by means of the sinful rejection of the gospel by man. But that does not alter the fact that God remains sovereign.
There are many passages in Scripture that teach this. God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and told Moses he was going to do this before Moses ever confronted Pharaoh with the command, “Let my people go” (Exodus 4:21, and at least eight other places in Exodus). Paul confirms that this was the work of God’s sovereign decree of reprobation in Romans 9:17.
Jesus explains the unbelief of the Jews as God’s sovereign work when he explains his purpose in teaching in parables (Mark 4:11-12). Jesus, in speaking of himself as the good Shepherd, explains the unbelief of the Jews as being rooted in God’s decree: “But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you” (John 10:26). It is a mistake to turn this around, as some do: rendering the verse as – “Ye are not of my sheep, BECAUSE ye believe not.”
In very strong language Jesus explains the unbelief of the Jews in this way: “Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, “He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them” (John 12:39-40). It is impossible to harmonize these strong words with a God-loves-you, God-wants-to-save-you, God- pleads-with-you-to-accept-Christ gospel. The exegetical daring of those who try leaves one breathless.
The gospel is God’s great power unto salvation to all who believe. Any minister who takes his calling seriously stands in awe before the great power of the gospel. He mounts to platform, explains a text – and unleashes powers that make a destructive earthquake of less power than the pop of a small firecracker. The gospel makes saints out of sinners and the bride of Christ out of spiritual prostitutes. It carries on its power the elect from the spiritual dirt and filth of sin into the purity and glory of heaven.
And the gospel also accomplishes God’s purpose in hardening the Reprobate that they might, in the way of their sin, manifest the judgment of God.
Let us humbly give thanks that God has used the gospel to transform us. And let the gospel be our light and guide in life.
For who is sufficient unto these things?”