We have established the fact that evangelism is nothing more nor less than the preaching of the gospel. That is what the word "evangelism" means. From this it follows that all preaching of the gospel is evangelism, including preaching to those who are already saved, the members of the church. This aspect of evangelism is almost entirely neglected today so that God's people are destroyed for lack of knowledge (Hos. 4:6).
We have also established the fact that gospel preaching is preaching "the whole counsel of God," that is, all of Scripture. There is, therefore, no such thing as, nor any need for a special "gospel" message or "evangelistic" service, especially when that is nothing more than haranguing sinners or pressing them for some decision.
We would add that the call to repentance and faith is not just for unbelievers either. Those who are already saved need to hear that call in order that they too may turn from their sins (and they do commit sin as long as they are in this body of flesh) and that their faith may be stirred up and strengthened. This is also part of true evangelism.
With this in mind there is no need for the preacher to divide the congregation up into groups in his own mind or in his preaching, directing some of his preaching to one group and some to another. ALL the hearers need to hear whatever God the Lord says in a particular passage of His Word. There is not one message for the church, another for the world, one for the "unconverted," another for those who are "saved and safe" (as a certain preacher once put it).
Even the promises of the gospel, though they concern and are only for those who repent and believe, must be heard by all, if for no other reason than that their condemnation may be the greater when they do not believe. True gospel preaching is the exposition of the Word of God, including its solemn call to repentance and faith, to ALL who hear.
In that connection we wish to emphasize here that the Reformed faith believes in the preaching of the gospel to those who are outside the church as well as to those who are saved and are members of the church, to the heathen as well as to Christians. Here also the Reformed faith is not the enemy of evangelism.
Even here, however evangelism may not be limited to those who have never heard the gospel. Those also who have heard and departed, those who make a profession of Christianity but do not know the truth of God's Word and those who are members of churches where the gospel is not preached or not preached purely are also the objects of evangelism. When Jesus spoke of fields white for harvest He was thinking especially of the multitudes who were fainting and scattered abroad as sheep that have no shepherd (Matt. 9:36-38).
What the Reformed faith does oppose is the preaching of lies - that God loves everyone and wants to save everyone, leaving the impression with the unbelieving that all is well. It is the enemy of the idea that the promises of gospel are for all (note: they must be preached to all but are not FOR all). The things promised are only for such as repent and believe under the preaching of the gospel, not for everyone conditionally. To preach otherwise is to give false hope to those who do not believe and to suggest that God is helpless in the face of continued unbelief. This Reformed evangelism may not and will not do! Rev. Ronald Hanko
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(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: 20
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