THE GOSPEL IS NEVER ‘EXPLAINED’ ONLY PREACHED!
The Master said, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature!” [Mark 16:15] The Greek word for preach here kēryxate – means to proclaim, herald or preach. But sadly for a long time in my ministry I have tried to ‘explain’ the Gospel with hopes of converting the hearer. And in almost all cases for these many years I have found to my dismay that whenever I have had to ‘explain’ the Gospel . . . I’ve been explaining it to a ‘natural man’ who just cannot receive the things of the Spirit of God! [1Cor 2:14]
Oh yes, I still try to show my lost nominal Christian relatives that they need to be ‘born-again’; and there’s nothing wrong in doing that. In fact our Lord Himself told the most religious Pharisee of His day that he needed to be born again, did He not? But for the most part trying to prove to our nominal Christian friends and relatives that they aren’t saved does not in any way save them. Because at the end of your little discourse, about all they can say is what old Nicodemus himself said, “How can these things be?!” [John 3:9]
And our Lord does not go about explaining HOW the new birth occurs, or HOW one is actually born again, but leaves the wonder of the New-birth still in the realm of mystery . . . “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit!” [John 3;8]
“A comparison is here drawn between the wind and the Spirit. The comparison is a double one: first, BOTH ARE SOVEREIGN IN THEIR ACTIONS, and second, BOTH ARE MYSTERIOUS IN THEIR OPERATIONS. The comparison is pointed out in the word ‘so’. The first point of analogy is seen in the words ‘where it listeth’ or ‘pleaseth’; the second is found in the words ‘canst not tell.’
‘The wind bloweth WHERE IT PLEASETH … so is every one that is born of the Spirit.’ The wind is an element which man can neither harness nor hinder. The wind neither consults man’s pleasure nor can it be regulated by his devices. So it is with the Spirit. The wind blows when it pleases, where it pleases, as it pleases. So it is with the Spirit. The wind is regulated by Divine wisdom, yet so far as man is concerned, it is absolutely sovereign in its operations. So it is with the Spirit. Sometimes the wind blows so softly it scarcely rustles a leaf; at other times it blows so loudly that its roar can be heard for miles. So it is in the matter of the new birth; with some the Holy Spirit deals so gently, that His work is imperceptible to human onlookers; with others His action is so powerful, radical, revolutionary, that His operations are patent to many.
Sometimes the wind is purely local in its reach, at other times widespread in its scope. So it is with the Spirit: today He acts on one or two souls, tomorrow He may, as at Pentecost, ‘prick in the heart’ a whole multitude. But whether He works on few or many, He consults not man. He acts as He pleases. The new birth is due to the sovereign will of the Spirit.” – A.W. Pink
And if the ‘new-birth’ is by the Sovereign will of the Spirit and a mysterious one at that, then it is not brought about by any effort of mine. My job as a preacher is only to “Loose him, and let him go!” I cannot raise Lazarus! [John 11:43,44]
Beloved I say these things not because I read about them in a theology book somewhere, but from my own personal experience in my own salvation and in the salvation of those I am intimately acquainted with. When the good Lord saved me or more specifically regenerated me there was no ‘preacher’ involved to explain to me HOW I could be born-again!
One stormy night (O that glorious night) I just got off my bed and walked over to a nearby Church building (because as a new born babe THAT was where I figured I could talk to God); and I just stood outside those locked Church doors and wept my heart out telling the Lord what a great sinner I had been as a Satanist, a drug addict, and gangster; and that I was truly sorry for all my sins. And I also added, “I know that You can never forgive someone as vile as ME, but I just want you to know that I love you and am right now renouncing my Satanism, drug addiction and wicked way of life”!
A few weeks later some American missionaries were in my neighbourhood randomly going door to door with gospel tracts. And out of the nearly twenty four houses on my street they picked mine. They later told me that they had felt a strong ‘leading’ to knock on MY house. And when I told them my story, one of the men pulled out his old King James Bible and made me read for the first time Romans 3:23 – “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus etc”
Spurgeon in one of his sermons says, “Before Salvation came into this world, Election marched in the very forefront, and it had for its work the billeting of Salvation. Election went through the world and marked the houses to which Salvation should come and the hearts in which the treasure should be deposited. Election looked through all the race of man, from Adam down to the last, and marked with sacred stamp those for whom Salvation was designed. “He must needs go through Samaria,” said Election; and Salvation must go there.”
This missionary went on to explain to me that Heaven was a place filled with forgiven sinners and Christ actually did not come for those who deem themselves righteous but for sinners like me (Mark 2:17) and that I could never be too bad for Jesus! THIS was news to me! It was something I had never heard – the ‘Gospel’ if you will!
These missionaries even got me to pray the old ‘salvation prayer’ and ask Jesus into my heart, little knowing that He was already there by the sovereign operation of the Spirit!
And isn’t that how it is all through history? The Apostle Paul was born-again long before Ananias met him in the street called Straight [Acts 9:11] and likewise Cornelius, the Ethiopian Eunuch and every child of God saved since then.
The apostle Paul was religious Pharisee who had been a regular attendee at the Jewish temple and had prayed nominal religious prayers all his life; and yet following his regeneration one of the characteristics which our Lord used to describe him to Ananias was – “Behold he prayeth!” [Acts 9:11] Now THAT is the mark of a truly regenerated soul they repent, believe and they pray!
The regenerated soul right away ‘sees’ the heinousness of his sin and also the fountain opened for sin! [Zech 13:1] If I as a preacher have to labour hard to show someone what a great sinner he is, there could be a good chance that I am trying to convince a ‘natural man’ who has no relish for the things of God.
But to return, repentance and faith immediately follow regeneration! Sometimes just as the blind man at Bethsaida who had His eyes opened, but saw “men as trees walking” [Mark 8:24], the regenerated soul may not see all spiritual truths CLEARLY. And it may take a ‘second touch’ from the Lord to accomplish this.
But generally speaking, faith , belief, conversion or ‘seeing the light’ if you will follows on the very heels of Regeneration. Saul was regenerated on the road to Damascus and three days later the Lord sends Ananias to pray over Saul and cause him to receive sight and learn a little more about this Jesus from the disciples at Damascus. Shortly following Cornelius’ regeneration the apostle Peter is sent to him. God had already made an incredible change in his life by giving him a heart that separated him from other Italians. The life-giving voice of the Lord Jesus Christ had called for him to live spiritually, and he lived as certainly as Lazarus came forth from the tomb. He only needed Peter to loose him from some Roman and Jewish burial clothes!
Peter brought the gospel to save Cornelius from despair over his sins [Luke 7:36-50; Rom 7:24-25], from Jewish ignorance of salvation [Rom 10:1-5], from Roman idolatry and superstition [I Thess 1:9-10], from ignorance about life and immortality [II Tim 1:9-10], and from confusion about the resurrection [I Cor 15:2]. He needed to learn the way of God more perfectly [Acts 18:24-28], and how to prove his election [II Pet 1:5-11].
Same with the Ethiopian Eunuch. Shortly following his regeneration God sends Philip to preach the truth to him and lead him in a believer’s baptism.
The point of all this being that generally speaking God always sends His preachers to His children whom He has sovereignly regenerated that they may hear the Gospel and thereby believe. [Rom 10:14] The job of the evangelist or missionary is not to bring about the new-birth but to bring “life and immortality to light” to the already regenerated soul through the Gospel!
Sometimes regeneration and ‘belief’ can be simultaneous and at other times it may be a short while before the regenerated soul is shown the truth and made to believe.
BUT GET THIS – THERE ARE NO ‘REGENERATED UNBELIEVERS’ WALKING AROUND WHO WERE REGENERATED MANY YEARS AGO!
Conversion or ‘belief’ immediately follows Regeneration, but it make take the converted believer some time before he sees all things clearly.
“But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect Day.” [Prov 4:18]
Praise the Lord!