Gospel Preaching 7

You will say to me, alas, here is my misery, to wit, although God propounds Christ upon gospel terms to poor sinners to me among others, I have no power of myself to receive Christ and to believe in Him and accept of Him. True, it is not {as I said} in him that wills, or him that runs, but only in God who shows mercy. {Rom.9:16} It is the exceeding greatness of his power toward us who believe. Which must be put forth in your hearts to make you believe also according to the working of His mighty power, which He wrought in Christ when He raised Him from the dead. {Eph.1:19,20} And you ought to wait on God in the diligent use of means until the day of His power come upon you and then you shall be a willing, a believing people. “Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power.” {Ps.110:3} I may exhort you to repent of your wickedness, profaneness, &c., as Peter did in Acts 8:22, but God alone must give you repentance unto life. {Acts 11:18} It is my duty to preach the gospel to you and to exhort you to seek Christ, Acts 17:22,27, but it is the mere mercy and free grace of God to drive you to Christ, which nothing, but His everlasting love can move Him to do. {Jer.31:3} Hanserd Knolly (Baptist, 1645)

Here we see a vital important point, even the crux of a main issue, and that has to do with the ability or power of those hearing the Gospel of Christ and the Gospel of grace alone. The soul that hears with the external ear something of the wonders of Christ and the Gospel has no power to turn his or her fleshly heart in to a spiritual one. The soul that hears the wonders of Christ with the external ear has no power to receive Christ and has no power to believe and accept Him. This is very clear in the Gospel of John 1:12-13 (just below).

12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

In the text (just above) it reads that God has to give the right to become children of God. The word for “right” is exousia which is perhaps better translated as “power” or “authority.” This certain brings to mind Romans 1:16 where the Gospel is said to be “the power of God for salvation.” The words men speak is the message of the Gospel, but the Gospel is about a God and a Savior who is the power itself of salvation. The power of the Gospel is God Himself in action carrying out the message of the Gospel. This is missing from the vast majority of “Gospel messages” in our day. For some reason we think that the power of the Gospel is in our message, but our message of the Gospel is about a God of all power and all sovereignty who must work the message at His good pleasure.

With the above paragraph in mind, we can look to verse 13 and see that people are born (again) or receive the new birth because of the will of God and His power rather than because of their birth or the will of any human being. Here is a Gospel that is all of grace and all of Christ. It does not tell sinners to look to themselves and their will for faith, but instead it tells them that it is all the will of God. The power to become a child of God can only come from the power of God and it cannot possibly come from the power of man because man has no power in the spiritual realm. The Gospel is not the good news that man can choose Christ from his own will, but that God saves sinners completely and totally by His own power and by grace alone and that they contribute nothing. It is not good news to a poor sinner who is wrestling with his own wicked heart and knows that he has no ability or power in the spiritual realm and as such has no ability to do anything but sin and then tell that sinner that he must choose Christ in order to be saved. It is not in the power of a poor sinner to change his own heart which is at enmity with God and love Him, so those who know their hearts know that they cannot exercise true faith.

In a very real sense the Gospel reaches to dead sinners who have no power and no ability and it tells them “but God.” It is God who can make sinners alive even when they are dead and even when they are unable to believe. God saves sinners by His grace and by His grace alone and so He has no need of the sinner to make a choice or decide to act according to his own will before He saves them. In fact, to the dead sinner who is aware that he is dead making a choice is not good news at all. In the eyes of God that sinner looking to himself for the power to choose is an act of idolatry. Gospel preaching will not stress the power and ability of the sinner, but instead it will press the sinner to see his total lack of power and total inability to give himself a believing heart. Gospel preaching will always point the sinner to grace alone, Christ alone, and the power of God alone to give a believing heart. Gospel preaching always points to the absolute freeness and ability of God to save sinners by Himself and for Himself.

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