In this issue we continue to give a Reformed perspective on evangelism. We emphasize this time the important truth that evangelism is nothing more or less than preaching the gospel! If we are preaching the gospel we are faithfully doing evangelism.
As obvious as this seems, many have forgotten it. Thus they talk endlessly about evangelistic methods and spend a great deal of time drawing up complicated and expensive evangelism schemes for their church. It never seems to enter their mind that evangelism means preaching.
Believing that evangelism is preaching the gospel we reject the dreadful, though long-established, practice of setting aside every Lord's Day evening for an evangelistic message - teaching in the morning, evangelism in the evening. There is nothing Biblical about this practice.
Apart from the fact that such evangelistic services tend to degenerate into services where the same message is heard week after week, but "hung" on different text each time to the utter boredom and frustration of those who desire to learn the truth, this practice has forgotten the simple truth that all gospel preaching is evangelism. No matter what passage of Scripture a person is preaching upon, if he is preaching properly he is preaching thegospel. There is no such thing as a special "evangelistic" message.
Perhaps, however, Christians and Christian ministers have forgotten or do not understand that all Scripture reveals Christ and is therefore the gospel in the fullest sense of the Word (Jn. 5:38-39). If the Scriptures are properly preached, Christ is preached. If Christ is being preached, the gospel is being preached. And if the gospel is being preached, then sinners will be saved by it. It is God's appointed means for their salvation.
We are afraid that the practice of having evening "gospel" services betrays a lack of trust in the gospel as the means God has chosen to use for the salvation of His own. Thus, such services tend to become attempts to arouse emotions, to frighten people, or to produce some kind of "decision." Certainly there is very little of the Word of God expounded in such services and even less dependence upon the Holy Spirit for fruit.
But there are other reasons why devoting a service each Sabbath to preaching to unbelievers is wrong. It betrays a wrong view of the church, as if the church is ordinarily a place for unbelievers, and it overlooks the teaching of in I Cor. 14:23. There the Word suggests that it is not a normal but an exceptional thing that an unbeliever comes into the worship services. The church is for believers and their children.
There is another problem here as well. That is the idea that the work of evangelism ceases as soon as someone "gets saved." If evangelism is preaching the gospel, and if preaching the gospel is preaching and teaching "the whole counsel of God," then the work of evangelism has only begun when a person repents and believes. At that point he still needs by gospel preaching - evangelism - to have the way of God expounded more perfectly (Acts 18:26) and to be rooted and grounded in the truth (Col. 2:6-7). This aspect of evangelism is almost entirely neglected today.
This does not mean, however, that there is not a difference between preaching the gospel in the church and to those who are outside the church, or that Reformed people believe only in preaching the gospel within the church. The gospel must be preached everywhere that God in His good pleasure sends it! Rev. R. Hanko
For those who have not yet taken advantage of our offer, we would invite you to write for the "Three Forms of Unity," (Heidelberg Catechism, Canons of Dordt, and the Belgic Confession).
(Calvin comments on I Tim. 2:4): "The other texts adduced are not declarative of the Lord's determination respecting all men in his secret counsel: they only proclaim that pardon is ready for all sinners who sincerely seek it (Ps.145:9). For if they obstinately insist on its being said that God is merciful to all, I will oppose to them, what is elsewhere asserted, that 'our God is in the heavens; he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased' (Ps. 115:3). This text, then, must be explained in a manner consistent with another, where God says, 'I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will show mercy on whom I will show mercy' (Ex. 33:19). He who makes a selection of objects for the exercise of his mercy, does not import that mercy to all. But as it clearly appears that Paul is there speaking, not of individuals, but orders of men, I shall forbear any further argument...."
(Calvin's Institutes, Book III, Chap. 24, XVI)
- Volume: 5
- Issue: 19
Rev. Ronald Hanko (Wife: Nancy)
Ordained: November 1979
Pastorates: Wyckoff, NJ - 1979; Trinity, Houston, TX - 1986; Missionary to N.Ireland - 1993; Lynden, WA - 2002; Emeritus October 15, 2017Website: www.lyndenprc.org/sermons/
Address13823 Clear Lake Rd.
State or ProvinceWA