The immediate response to this in the heart and mind of the great majority of Christians is, “how absurd to ask such a ridiculous question.” But we present the question for more than a moment’s consideration and for more than your own private and personal opinion. There are many practices in churches today which may seem right in the eyes of all people but which do not have the Divine sanction of the Word of God.
We are perhaps familiar with the theological controversies that have taken place from time to time during the past two or three centuries in America and Europe between the “Hyper- Calvinists” and the “Arminians”, “Irresistible Grace” versus “Free Will”. The “Irresistible Grace” theologians have been frequently called “Fatalists”, because they have taught that the omniscient God, knowing the end from the beginning, has not only foreknown the eternal destiny of every member of the human race, but He has arbitrarily predestinated and foreordained that some should be the vessels of His wrath. They quote in support of this teaching Romans 9:22 with other scriptures such as Ephesians 1:4, II Timothy 1:9 and Titus 1:2.
I was preaching the Gospel for ten days in a southern town. I was asked to call on a prominent business man, who had made it a practice to criticize and condemn every evangelist, as well as the local pastors, who had proclaimed a “whosoever” message. He was especially bitter and sarcastic in his denunciation of what he called the high-pressure tactics and cunning tricks of the professional evangelists. If he had the right to be the judge in such matters, perhaps some of his criticisms were just. There are many who are quite sure that these so-called professional evangelists have done much harm to the Lord’s work by substituting carnal schemes, clever methods and a compromise message for a spiritual, Scriptural method and for God’s pure Gospel of grace. How many times have we heard the statement, “professional evangelists have killed evangelism”. The only thing that can kill true evangelism is for the servants of the Lord to cease to proclaim the pure evangel or cease to get to the sinners with that saving message.
When I called on the “critic” I found him to be quite a theologian, and from his own theological point of view quite a student of Scriptures. He told me that his father for many years was a Primitive Baptist preacher. He was quite sure that his father belonged to the elect; but he had serious doubt as to his own spiritual welfare. Then he added, “my own deep concern can never alter the foreordained decree of God. If God knows that I am predestined to be a vessel of wrath, all of your preaching and all my anxiety and emotional desires and struggles will not change God’s mind. If I am ordained to be numbered with the elect, God knows all about it and He will yet call and justify me.” Romans 8:29 and 30; Acts 13:48. All my appeal to the Scriptures to show him the responsibility of man was in vain. When I left him he said, “perhaps when you come again I will be numbered with the elect.” I asked him if he would have assurance, if and when God should elect him to eternal life. He was quite positive that he would.
This man was also quite positive that Christ died for the elect; and he was also of the opinion that the number was not only strictly limited, but limited a very small percentage of the human race.
In recent years there has been quite a revival of Universalism in the religious movements of Charles T. Russell and Judge Rutherford known as “Jehovah’s Witnesses” alias “International Bible Students”, alias “Millennial Dawnism”. They have worked out a salvation scheme to refute all the arguments and counteract all the evil influences of the “limited atonement” theologians. Along the same line we now find the literature of the “Universal Reconciliationalists”, claiming by Colossians 1:20 and a few other disconnected Scriptures that the atonement (reconciliation) by Christ on the cross was so unlimited that all humanity will finally be reconciled to God; and perhaps Satan also and the fallen angels. Those of us who are somewhat familiar with this movement know what it has done to the evangelistic zeal of preachers who have been caught in its grip.
Several years ago I was an eye-witness of the wreck of a spiritual assembly of the Lord produced by a “limited atonement” preacher who viciously denounced, as servants of Satan, every evangelist and pastor who preached what he called a “whosoever Gospel.” He was a very clever juggler of the Scriptures, and won for the defense of his “election” hobby a sufficient number of the leaders in the assembly to control the work. About seventy per cent of the believers withdrew and were scattered. There was no longer a sane, spiritual testimony given out by the believers left behind: It is needless to add that missionary zeal died out and soul-saving ceased in that assembly. But here is an interesting fact: One of the believers, who withdrew from the assembly to which we have just referred, ascertained from those who remained with the “election” preacher that, without a single exception, one hundred per cent of them, as well as the preacher himself, had been saved by hearing and responding to what they called the “whosoever Gospel”.
Mr. Moody related an experience with one of his critics who protested against his emotional urge and his prolonged appeal to sinners to accept Christ. He asked “how do you know they have been elected?” He proceeded to preach “predestination” and “foreordination” to Mr. Moody. Mr. Moody very graciously replied to the man with this statement, “I feel quite sure if by chance a sinner, who had not been elected, should believe the Gospel, should respond to his invitation and receive Christ, that God will forgive me for my blunder.”
Perhaps you have heard of the evangelist who had preached several nights about the death of the Lord Jesus, in sincerity and with deep devotion, describing the sufferings and sacrifice of the eternal Christ, saw no visible effects upon his audience. Then, with much pathos in his voice, he related a story. It was the unsuccessful attempt of a father to save a drowning dog, a pet of his little son, who looked on the scene with tearful eyes and pleading cries. As the evangelist pictured the last death struggle of the dog, he observed that there were but few dry eyes in the audience. A number responded to his invitation. Later on in the meetings he reminded them that not one had shed a tear when he had described the death of the Son of God on the cross, but most of them cried over the drowning dog.
It is rather unfortunate that in many meetings the success of an evangelist and the amount of his pay-check depend upon the number of hands that are raised in the meetings. This is rather a temptation. Many men of God fall into the trap and are not altogether honest in their invitations; they make them so broad and so general that a larger number may respond and give to the evangelist his coveted record.
It is interesting to compare God’s assurances to Paul and Paul’s appeals, recorded in the Book of Acts. God assured Paul that he would reach Rome: yet Paul solicited human aid and appealed to Caesar. Acts 23:11, Acts 23:17. “I appeal unto Caesar.” Acts 25:11. Again: “Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar; and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee.” Acts 27:24. “I exhort you to be of good cheer; for there shall be no loss of any man’s life among you, but of the ship For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve.” Acts 27:22 and 23. Paul is sure to reach Rome. All aboard the sinking vessel are sure to reach land in safety. It is an assured fact. But hear the word: “Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved.” Acts 27:31. We can never remove the human element from salvation Compare Ephesians 1:4 and 5 with Colossians 1:23:
“According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will Ephesians 1:4 and 5. If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled. and be not moved away from the hope of the Gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaves; whereof I Paul am made a minister.” Colossians 1:23.
As to the sinner’s responsibility in the matter of salvation, it is clearly set forth in Romans 10:8 to 13, “the word of faith his heart”, “believe and confess”, “call upon the name of the Lord. And the preacher’s responsibility is set forth in the verses that immediately follow; Romans 10:14 and 15. The preacher will be held responsible for withholding or proclaiming the saving Gospel. Read carefully II Corinthians 5:11 as to why believers should persuade unbelievers.
There is no Scripture limiting the ambassador of Christ to a private interview with a sinner. Whether private or public every Christian worker should believe John 6:44 and John 6:37:
“No man can come to Me, except the Father which hath sent Me draw him; and I will raise him up at the last day.” John 6:44. “All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me; and him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out.” John 3:37
The Christian worker should make no attempt to do the work of God or the Holy Spirit.
“And when He is come, He will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment; Of sin, because they believe not on Me.” John 16:8 and 9. “I (Paul) 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 increase. Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour.” I Corinthians 3:6 to 8.
The sinner’s salvation is accomplished according to II Thessalonians 2:13: “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.”
But the true servant of the Lord will never forget Romans 10:14, 15:
“How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? at how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the Gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things.”
In the light of the foregoing Scriptures no servant of the Lord will allow himself to be put in bondage by the dictation of theological critics; but will look to the Holy Spirit and God’s Word for direction, and give God’s invitation to sinners privately or publicly, just as frequently as the opportunity is at hand.
For more articles by Pastor J. C. O'Hair, visit the J. C. O'Hair Online Library.