Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. (2 John 9)
This evening in our services we begin a new series of messages on evangelism. For the next two months, each message will emphasize some aspect of the gospel including the truth of the message we preach, the necessity of it, the desire to proclaim it, and the church’s role in the propagation of it. Tonight we will briefly speak on each of these issues, but if I were to choose the most important of the different aspects, it has to be the gospel itself. We must have the right gospel or else all the peripherals are useless.
The loss of the true gospel message is the most serious issue of all because without the truth people cannot be saved. John wrote, ”Whosoever…abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God.” Recently one of our members related a conversation with a pastor of a large congregation nearby. A simple question was asked, “Do you believe salvation is by grace through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone?” The pastor answered affirmatively and enthusiastically. A second question was asked, “Do you believe a Christian can lose his salvation?” It was a great follow-up question because it began to break down this pastor’s understanding of what it means to be saved by grace through faith alone. The pastor replied as if this subject was a secondary issue and that some in the church believed it is possible while others did not. He preferred not to teach either way because it was not really important. This is actually very important because this pastor in effect denied salvation by grace and justification by faith alone. Charles Spurgeon wrote: “That doctrine of the final perseverance of the saints is, I believe, as thoroughly bound up with the standing or falling of the gospel as is the article of justification by faith. Give that up, and I see no gospel left.”
This pastor’s response is not unusual among so-called “evangelistic churches.” They do not abide in the doctrine of Christ and therefore there is no saving gospel in their churches. If there is no gospel, what is their purpose? What does their church actually do? A recent article in Tabletalk magazine summed it up well. The author said:
“Every weekend in churches everywhere, music is performed to the glory of human skill and artistry. Once upon a time, I sat through a little ditty in a church service in which the congregation was led to sing, ‘I can change the world with these two hands,’ and the question struck me like a lightning bolt: ‘Who exactly am I worshipping right now?’”
“Likewise, every weekend men and women file into church buildings in order to exult in the rhetorical skill of their preacher, to admire him and think of their church as his church, not Christ’s church. Many of us file in each week to enjoy the conspicuous spiritual exercises of our brethren. We worship the worship experience; we tithe with expectation of return from heaven’s slot machine; we dress to impress; and we serve and lead to compensate for the inadequacies in our hearts that only Christ can fill. Every weekend, hundreds of preachers extol a therapeutic gospel from the pages of the same Bible where the real gospel lies.” (Tabletalk, June 2012)
This is the pitfall we seek to avoid in Berean Baptist Church. We will hold steadfastly to the doctrine of Christ that teaches we are enemies of God and our greatest need is to be reconciled to Him. This is accomplished by recognition of our sinful depravity, repentance from our vile wickedness, and faith alone in the finished work of our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross. This is the only gospel that saves!
Pastor V. Mark Smith