WHY I DON’T PREACH THE GOSPEL TO SOME OF MY RELATIVES ANYMORE
I am writing this paper having been a preacher of the Gospel for a good thirty two years of which I was a ‘street preacher’ for six of those years. When I say a ‘street preacher’ I mean someone who used to go out every day, six days a week both morning and evening as a man goes to his office from nine to five for all those six years out on the street and door to door preaching the Gospel to anyone and everyone who would care to listen. During those years I have met and presented the gospel to literally thousands trying to get them to make a ‘decision’ for Christ and follow Him. Those days I had a great zeal but little knowledge of the sovereign discriminating grace of God.
As a newly born regenerated babe in Christ I was under the impression that if I could only quote the right scriptures and debate eloquently I could convince folks that they were sinners and show them the need for Christ and His salvation. It was only much later that God in His mercy patiently taught me the truth that this whole ‘convincing and convicting’ business was completely out of my hands and that it was the ministry and prerogative of the Holy Spirit to convict people of their sins! [John 16:8] You and I can no more convict people that they are sinners before God than we can raise the dead!
There is no mandate in the scriptures to keep preaching the Gospel to those who have rejected it time and again. On the contrary the scriptural admonition concerning those who reject the Gospel is to “shake off the dust under your feet for a testimony against them” and keep going. [Mark 6:11] The apostle Paul and Barnabas told the unbelieving Jews who rejected the Gospel, “It was necessary that the Word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.” [Acts 13:46]
And yet there are some of my relatives and loved ones to whom I have preached time and again hoping that something would trigger and get them to see the light. I have preached to them as though everything depended on preaching and prayed for them as though everything depended on praying and yet for all that I have seen many die in their sins to whom neither my preaching nor praying had any effect.
Now as I am drawing nearer to end of my own pilgrimage I am given to see that ‘MY DESIRE’ to see some of my loved ones saved is not necessarily GOD’S DESIRE! Weigh carefully the case of Eli’s sons who practiced wickedness. No doubt their father desired to see his sons repent and straighten out, and yet they repented not! And the Scripture tells us WHY – “Notwithstanding they hearkened not unto the voice of their father, BECAUSE the LORD would slay them”. [1Sam 2:25] In other words Eli’s desire to see them repent and be saved was not necessarily God’s! The God of the Bible is still the Sovereign who hath mercy on WHOM HE WILL and hardens WHOM HE WILL! [Rom 9:18]
Now this is an hard saying especially to those who have been taught that God desires ALL MEN TO BE SAVED. I thank God for showing me that when the Scripture says God desires ‘all men’ to be saved it does not mean every ‘Tom, Dick and Harry’ and ‘Jane, Jill and Mary’ but ALL SORTS of men i.e. ALL without DISTINCTION not ALL without EXCEPTION!
Scripture says that God “hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.” [Luke 1:53] Truth is, many, in fact MOST of our near and dear ones are ‘FULL’! Take my own loving mother for instance, she is so full of good works and good intentions that she sees no need for either forgiveness or a Saviour!
Only the sovereign work of regeneration can convince a man that he is a sinner and cause him to repent and believe the Gospel! As William Gadsby so beautifully penned it –
Though all are sinners in God’s sight,
There are but few so in their own.
To such as these our Lord was sent;
They’re only sinners who repent.
What comfort can a Saviour bring
To those who never felt their woe?
A sinner is a sacred thing;
The Holy Ghost has made him so.
New life from Him we must receive,
Before for sin we rightly grieve.
True repentance is that which causes a man not only to hate his wickedness but his own “righteousness” as well. True repentance is the evidence of a man being a “sinner”, the likes of which the LORD “came to save”. True repentance is that which causes a man to renounce the very things in which he once trusted even as Paul said, “But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.” (Phil 3:7-9) Only sinners are called to this repentance, the righteous are left in their righteousness where they are quite content.
And beloved, the MAJORITY of our kith and kin, i.e. our near and dear ones are ‘RIGHTEOUS IN THEIR OWN EYES’ and see no need for the Christ you are presenting in the Gospel! As the Wise man said, “There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness!” [Prov 30:12] If you haven’t already seen this YOU WILL see it by and by – IF you’re truly saved! To tell our self-content, self-satisfied and prospering friends and relatives that all they need to do is “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” that they might be saved is to betray our ignorance as to what Salvation truly is.
None of the above means that I have stopped all preaching to my family members per se`, but what it does mean is that NOW as opposed to before I PRAY for the ‘leading of the Lord’ and the discernment of the Spirit as to WHO I preach to and WHO I don’t!
Let me close this paper with some comments from our beloved brother A.W. Pink –
No doubt some readers are ready to object to our “harsh” and “sarcastic” statements above by asking, When the question was put “What must I do to be saved?” did not an inspired apostle expressly say “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved?” Can we err, then, if WE tell sinners the same thing today? Have we not Divine warrant for so doing? True, those words are found in Holy Writ, and because they ARE, many superficial and untrained people conclude they are justified in repeating them to all and sundry. But let it be pointed out that Acts 16:31 was not addressed to a promiscuous multitude, but TO A PARTICULAR INDIVIDUAL, which at once intimates that it is NOT a message to be indiscriminately sounded forth, but rather a special word, to those WHOSE CHARACTERS CORRESPOND to the one to whom it was first spoken.
Verses of Scripture must not be wrenched from their setting, but weighed, interpreted, and applied IN ACCORD WITH THEIR CONTEXT; and THAT calls for prayerful consideration, careful meditation, and prolonged study; and it is failure at THIS point which accounts for these shoddy and worthless “messages” of this rush-ahead age. Look at the context of Acts 16:31, and what do we find? What was the occasion, and TO WHOM was it that the apostle and his companions said “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ?” A sevenfold answer is there furnished, which supplies a striking and complete delineation of the character of those to whom we are warranted in giving this truly evangelistic word. As we briefly name these seven details, let the reader carefully PONDER them.
First, the man to whom those words were spoken had just witnessed THE MIRACLE-WORKING POWER OF GOD. “And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed” (Acts 16:26).
Second, in consequence thereof the man was deeply stirred, even to the point of self-despair: “He drew his sword and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled” (v. 27).
Third, he felt THE NEED OF ILLUMINATION: “Then he called for a light” (v. 29). Fourth, his SELF-COMPLACENCY WAS UTTERLY SHATTERED, for he “came trembling” (v. 29). Fifth, he took his proper place (before God)—in THE DUST, for he “fell down before Paul and Silas” (v. 29). Sixth, he showed respect and CONSIDERATION FOR GOD’S SERVANTS, for he “brought them out” (v. 30). Seventh, then, with a DEEP CONCERN FOR HIS SOUL, he asked, “What must I do to be saved?”
Here, then, is something definite for our guidance—if we are willing to be guided. It was no giddy, careless, unconcerned person, who was exhorted to “simply” believe; but instead, one who gave clear evidence that a mighty work of God had already been wrought within him. He was AN AWAKENED SOUL (v. 27). In HIS case there was no need to press upon him his lost condition, for obviously he felt it; nor were the apostles required to urge upon him the duty of repentance, for his entire demeanor betokened his contrition. But to apply the words spoken to HIM unto those who are totally blind to their depraved state and completely dead toward God, would be more foolish than placing a bottle of smelling-salts to the nose of one who had just been dragged unconscious out of the water. Let the critic of this article read carefully through the Acts and see if he can find a single instance of the apostles addressing a promiscuous audience or a company of idolatrous heathen and “simply” telling them to believe in Christ.
Just as the world was not ready for the New Testament before it received the Old; just as the Jews were not prepared for the ministry of Christ until John the Baptist had gone before Him with his claimant call to repentance, so the unsaved are in no condition today for the Gospel till THE LAW be applied to their hearts, for “by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Rom. 3:20).
It is a waste of time to sow seed on ground which has never been ploughed or spaded! To present the vicarious sacrifice of Christ to those whose dominant passion is to take their fill of sin, is to give that which is holy unto the dogs. What the unconverted need to hear about is the character of Him with whom they have to do, His claims upon them, His righteous demands, and the infinite enormity of disregarding Him and going their own way.
THE NATURE OF Christ’s salvation is woefully misrepresented by the present-day “evangelist.” He announces a Saviour from Hell, rather than a Saviour from SIN. And that is why so many are fatally deceived, for there are multitudes who wish to escape the Lake of fire who have no desire to be delivered from their carnality and worldliness. The very first thing said of Him in the N.T. is, “thou shalt call His name Jesus, for He shall save His people (not “from the wrath to come”, but) FROM THEIR SINS” (Matt. 1:21). Christ is a Saviour for those realizing something of the exceeding sinfulness of sin, who feel the awful burden of it on their conscience, who loathe themselves for it, who long to be freed from its terrible dominion; and a Saviour FOR NO OTHERS. Were He to “save from Hell” those who were still in love with sin, He would be the Minister of sin, condoning their wickedness and siding with them against God. What an unspeakably horrible and blasphemous thing with which to charge the Holy One!
Should the reader exclaim, I was not conscious of the heinousness of sin nor bowed down with a sense of my guilt when Christ saved me. Then we unhesitatingly reply, “Either you have never been saved at all, or you were not saved as early as you supposed.” True, as the Christian grows in grace he has a clearer realization of what sin is—rebellion against God—and a deeper hatred and sorrow for it; but to think that one may be saved by Christ whose conscience has never been smitten by the Spirit and whose heart has not been made contrite before God, is to imagine something which has no existence whatever in the realm of fact. “They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick” (Matt. 9:12): the only ones who really seek relief from the great Physician are they that are SICK OF SIN—who long to be delivered from its God-dishonoring works and its soul-defiling pollutions.”