By Curtis Pugh

Bocsa, Romania

“Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).

The verses quoted above set forth the essentials of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  The Gospel, then, is seen to be the finished work of Christ!  It is this gospel that has been preached by faithful men of God and believed by countless multitudes down through the centuries.  It is “the gospel” meaning there is no other.  This is the saving gospel!

But today it seems that there is a deficient gospel being preached that results in converts whose experience is less than scriptural and whose genuine salvation is to be doubted when the lives of these people are examined.  Poll after poll shows that the lifestyles of “born again” men and women are no different than those of the unprofessing majority around them.  What are the causes of this situation?  I will list and discuss briefly four reasons that the deficient gospel produces deficient converts.

First of all there is little or no sense of the holiness of God in both preachers and hearers.  To many people God is a nice old “grandfather” dozing in the sky somewhere.  He is rather disinterested in what is going on in the earth, but can be appealed to in emergency situations.  Mankind, all of us unholy ourselves, cannot naturally conceive of true holiness on the part of another – even of God.  The Psalmist wrote: “…thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself…” (Psa. 51:21).  The God of modern man’s understanding is most often a reflection of man himself, rather than the awe-inspiring perfect holy Being called Jehovah.  God is revealed in His Word as a God who can have nothing to do with sin!  “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity” (Habakkuk 1:13).

Understood in the light of Scripture, God cannot be properly thought of as a benign old grandfather who overlooks sin.  He is not like us!  His holy law reveals that His holy nature demands holiness – the very thing man lacks!  His holy nature demands that sin be punished – either by the individual sinner or by the vicarious substitionary death of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, in the place of His people.  But modern-day preachers seldom really preach the law of God and so men and women are ignorant of the holiness of God and the need for a sacrifice to pay for their failure to live according to God’s holy demands.

Secondly, unbelief in the total depravity of mankind on the part of the preachers has resulted in the idea that lost men can please God by a self-manufactured repentance and faith.  Romans 8:8 says, “So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.”  John 6:44 says, “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.”  First Corinthians 2:14 says: “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”  But in spite of such clear statements as these (and others) both preachers and hearers are naturally inclined to think that it is within the power of mankind to “do something” and thus obligate God to save them.  Because of this, the average “convert” is one who has “done something” and thus trusts in what he has done, having been assured that if he would do the “something” he would be guaranteed a place in heaven.  (Usually the “something” is “pray the sinner’s prayer,” “come forward and make a public profession,” “open your heart’s door to Jesus,” etc. or some other unscriptural idea that is promoted ad nauseum.)  Total depravity as taught in the Scriptures is not that mankind is as bad as he can be, but that he is as bad off as he can be – he is dead in sins and in need of regeneration – a thing which a spiritually dead man cannot accomplish or initiate.  This last statement is proved by the following verses: “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1); “Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again” (John 3:7); “Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:13).  In spite of these and other similar verses, the idea promoted by modern preachers is that the new birth is indeed initiated by “the will of man.”  And so it is that people are told in so many words that his eternal destiny is in his own hands and that salvation is brought about by his will – by his making a decision for Christ.  Rather than being told that he is a helpless sinner who must be saved by another, he is led to believe he can bring about his salvation by his own actions.  Thus he does not seek God, but rests in his own ability.

Thirdly, there is an overriding concern for numbers on the part of preachers and churches alike.  There is a wholesome, scriptural concern for numbers in that numbers represent people and the right concern is for lost people, I realize.  But the present emphasis is on big evangelists making big numbers of converts which results in big churches –  or rather big crowds.  (I learned a long time ago that there is a difference between a church and a crowd!  It was a crowd that crucified the Lord Jesus and today a similar crowd of lost professors of religion will “crucify” the preacher that dares to preach to them the whole counsel of God.  Many of us have found that out to our own sorrow and the hurt of our families.)  And so preachers and churches resort to worldly music, theatrics, psychological manipulations and all sorts of gimmicks to “get people interested in the gospel.”  Rather, our concern ought to be for the glory and honor of the Triune God and in the preaching of the whole counsel of God.  That is the only way we will do the will of God and thus be free from having the blood of men and women on our hands as is clear from Acts 20:26-27 which says:“Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men.  For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.” We ought to settle this in our minds and hearts: only those sinners in whom God works will hear and receive the Word of God.  It was only after God opened the heart of Lydia that she heeded the preaching of Paul for the Scripture says about her: “whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul” (Acts 16:14). We are not authorized to pare away parts of the truth of God to make it pleasing and acceptable to the majority of sinners – in fact we are forbidden to do it!  Let us faithfully proclaim in every legitimate and scriptural way the eternal truths of God’s Word – let us proclaim “all the counsel of God.”

Fourthly, the preaching of a man-centered rather than a God-centered gospel has been popularized in order to make the gospel acceptable to lost men and women.  As is seen in the first verses quoted in this article, the true gospel is not what man does, but what Christ has done!  But today, the benefits of the gospel are preached in lieu of the gospel!  The emphasis is on what you can get from God by making a decision for Christ rather than on who Christ is, what is owed Him, and what He accomplished as the Good Shepherd on behalf of His sheep.  Remember Jesus said: “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” (John 10:11).  Churches and preachers set about finding out what lost sinners want from them and then occupy themselves with trying to supply lost men and women with what they want rather than what they need as is spelled out in the Word of God.  This man-centered gospel is in reality a success-oriented gospel and that purpose drives preachers and churches to adopt practices and methods suited to pleasing the lost rather than preaching the true gospel to the lost.

Why do we have churches filled with deficient converts?  Why must preachers harangue and threaten their members in order to keep them in line?  Why do most church members willfully absent themselves from the services of their own churches?  In short, why are most “converts” still lost?  It is not because the Spirit of God no longer regenerates those whom God has chosen.  It is because the present-day gospel is deficient in so many ways as to produce converts that are “two fold more” the children of hell than are those who preach this false gospel (Matthew 23:15).

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