March 29, 2012

Concerns with The Way of the Master

by Jesse Johnson

Today I want to present a critique of The Way of the Master’s approach to evangelism. This is essentially my notes from my Shepherd’s Conference seminar, and so the audio is available here.  If you are unfamiliar with TWOTM, then read this post first (there I explain what TWOTM is, and give some reasons why I think it is a helpful approach to evangelism).

Let me give two disclaimers: 1. This is a long post, because I want all of my concerns to be in one place. If you want to read the whole thing, I suggest you pack a lunch. 2. I write this with much respect and admiration for the people at Living Waters, and I am very thankful for their work (if you are wondering, yes I did share this with them first). I share the same goals as they do, and I want this post to be more like two teammates talking at half time, and not like two opposing players bumping chests.

With that out of the way, here are my two main concerns about TWOTM approach to evangelism:

1. It has an over emphasis on the law, which results in several verses that are misinterpreted and leads to a lack of balance in its presentation.

2. Because it presents a single approach to evangelism, it often becomes divisive in churches.

Over Emphasis on the 10 Commandments

My main contention is that by over-emphasizing the role of the Ten Commandments, they are often misusing them. They are thus often not using the law lawfully. For an example of how pervasive the use of the Ten Commandments is in TWOTM, you only really have to consider their acronym that drives their evangelistic approach: WDJD (What did Jesus do?).

1. Would you consider yourself a good person?
2. Do you think you have kept the Ten Commandments?
3. If you were judged by the Ten Commandments, would you be guilty or innocent?
4. Destiny: do you think you will go to heaven or hell based on that judgment? (What Did Jesus Do, 170).

What makes reading TWOTM materials so confusing, and their approach so difficult to digest through a theological lens, is the confusing way they use the phrases “God’s moral Law” and “the Ten commandments” interchangeably. This gets to the large point about the misuse of the Law. Comfort and TWOTM will say things like “God judges people based on the Ten Commandments” and then defend that statement with verses that talk about God judging sin. So as you read some of the quotes below where Comfort uses “God’s Law,” know that he generally means “Ten Commandments.” And that is precisely the over emphasis that leads to these other errors:

Standard for Sin:

The problem here is foundational to the system. Are non believers going to be judged by the Ten Commandments when they die?

I don’t think Scripture says that they will. Sin is not simply a violation of the Ten Commandments, nor do the Ten Commandments capture God’s moral law. Rather, God’s moral law is revealed to the world apart from the Ten Commandments. In fact, it is revealed to Gentiles through their consciences. Idolatry, murder, and adultery were all sin before Sinai. Gentiles who have never heard of Moses will still be judged by God for their sin, and it has nothing to do with the Ten Commandments.

Comfort writes that people “need the law to show them the righteous standard that God requires.” (God Has a Wonderful Plan for Your Life, 18). If by that Comfort means people need to see the Ten Commandments—or some other form of God’s written law—in order to see sin, then I completely disagree.

Aspects of God’s moral law are of course seen in the Ten Commandments. Idolatry is a profound sin, as are rebellion against one’s parents, murder, and stealing. There are two main ways to view the Ten Commandments: TWOTM way is to see them as a summary of God’s moral law, and thus binding to Gentiles. I disagree with that view, and below I will explain some of the problems it causes.

The better approach is to view God’s moral law as eternal and transcendent, given to people through their consciences and by common grace. This approach sees the Ten Commandments as a reflection of aspects of that moral law, and a codification of some of what is apparent to the world, with some other particulars for Israel. The rest of the Torah does this as well, I might add.

If you agree with me, then it makes no sense to say Gentiles will be judged when they die for breaking the Ten Commandments. It also makes no sense to define moral goodness by one’s compliance with the Ten Commandments. Finally, it also makes no sense to define sin as a failure to keep the Ten Commandments perfectly. More accurately, people will be judged for sin when they die, and sin is any lack of conformity to God’s character. People will be judged for their sinful deeds,even if those deeds are not enumerated in Exodus.

This element of my objection would disappear if, instead of asking a person if they have ever taken Yahweh’s name in vain, broke the Sabbath or dishonored their parents, the evangelist took people to passages like 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 or Revelation 21:8.

Misuse of 10 commandments

But I wish it was as simple as cross references. This wrong view of the Ten Commandments results in incorrect interpretations and misplaced emphasis all over the place. To make the case that the Ten Commandments should be used in evangelism, their material often cites verses about the Law, or historical authors who favor using “the Law” as if those sources were talking about the Ten Commandments.

This results in serious confusion.

For example, Comfort writes:

Wesley, Spurgeon, Whitefield, Moody, Luther, and others used a principle that is almost entirely neglected by modern evangelical methods. They warned that if the Law wasn’t used to prepare the way for the gospel, those who made decisions for Christ would almost certainly be false in their profession and would fall away. (Wonderful Plan, 47).

I don’t know about Wesley or Moody, but I am almost positive that when Luther, Whitfield, and Spurgeon talk about Law, they are using it to mean imperatives in scripture (as opposed to indicatives), and are not making statements about the use of the Ten Commandments in evangelism.

For example, Comfort quotes Spurgeon as saying “There is no point upon which men make greater mistakes than upon the relation which exists between the law and the gospel.” But the context of that quote is a sermon Spurgeon preached in 1855, titled Law and Grace, and it is not at all about Ten Commandments in evangelism, but rather it is about the relationship between imperatives and indicatives’ in Christian living. In fact, there is even a section of the sermon where Spurgeon mocks the idea that gentiles have sin defined by the Torah.

The irony of this is that Comfort would probably agree with the point Spurgeon is making—namely that belief in the gospel does not lead to anti-nomianism, but to contrite obedience to the commands of God. But regardless, it has nothing at all to do with the Ten Commandments in evangelism.

Since I gave the session at the Shepherd’s Conference, many people have pointed out to me that John MacArthur supports using the law in evangelism. But they are making the same mistake Comfort makes above. When MacArthur uses the word “law” and talks about “law in evangelism” he is not talking about the Ten Commandments! He is talking about confronting sin, which I completely agree with. It is simply misleading (and frustrating) to present every use of the word “Law” as an argument in favor of using the Ten Commandments.

This mistake is not just repeated with historical figures, but with Scripture as well. Passages that talk about the Law are quoted by Comfort as if they were talking about the Ten Commandments. This results in confusion about the nature of God’s moral law.

First, the Ten Commandments are not the sum total of God’s moral law. They are an introduction to and a summary of the Law given to Israel. Gentiles are not under the Ten Commandments, and they never were. They are under a law though—the moral law of God. And that law is revealed to them and is manifestly obvious in the world. It is seen in their conscience, in the creation, and in the way the world works.

There is a fundamental bridge to cross here. To say that the Law equals the Ten Commandments is certainly not justified in Scripture. It does not even work to say, “The Ten Commandments capture the moral demands of God” which apply to Gentiles. Or “The Ten Commandments are God’s standard of goodness.” (That quote is in just about everything I’ve ever read by TWOTM). But God’s standard of goodness is Himself, and the Ten Commandments simply cannot be severed from the rest of the Torah, and then held out to Gentiles as if they are to measure up to them.

There are some obvious problems with that approach. Gentiles are not under the Sabbath (Ask the non believer: “Have you ever rescued your neighbor’s cat from a tree on a Saturday?”). The promise about life going well in the Promised Land doesn’t make sense for a Gentile (5th commandment). The third commandment is one that only professing believers can break anyway (it is not “using God’s word as a curse word” but rather calling yourself a follower of God but living in an empty way). Regardless of one’s view of the relationship between the church and Mosaic Law, it is obvious that idolatry, murder, adultery, rebellion against parents, stealing, and perjury are all sins. But they are sins because they are against God’s character, and they are that way independent of the Ten Commandments.

10 Commandments and Gentiles

A major part of my critique is that the Ten Commandments are not able to be separated from the rest of the Mosaic Law, and that the Mosaic Law was given to Jews before the Messiah came, and that they are not binding today to anyone, but especially not to Gentiles living in America.

It simply does not make sense to ask Gentiles if they have kept the Sabbath, or ever taken Yahweh’s name in vain (hint: that is not what you do when you say God’s name when you stub your toe). However, I will save that element of the critique for next week, as I know many people disagree, and I don’t want that to distract from the other points.

I will say this though: When I shared this concern with TWOTM, they responded by granting that gentile believers are not under the Mosaic Law, but that it is a standard that applies to Gentile non-believers. But I don’t understand how that works. To say that Gentile non-believers will be judged by the Law, but gentile believers are not under the Law, and then add that the Ten Commandments are still a valid source of morality for believers (even though they are not under them anymore?) is just too contrived for me. I get that it is probably the majority opinion in evangelicalism, but I just don’t buy it (I often hope for TWOTM TV to try their approach on a back slidden dispensationalist, but so far I am still waiting). More on this next week.

Romans 3:19

Because there are so many other Scripture passages that show that gentiles are not under the Mosaic Law, TWOTM material often gives interpretations of those verses that are either misleading or simply wrong. One obvious example of that is TWOTM’s use of Romans 3:19: “Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.” That passage is often cited as a compelling argument that the Ten Commandments need to be used in evangelism.

But the point of Rom 3:19 is almost the complete opposite of that. Paul is saying that it is axiomatic that the OT Law only applies to Jews. Earlier in Romans 1 and 2 Paul demonstrated that Gentiles are not lawless, because of their conscience and general revelation. Certainly the passages Paul quotes in Romans 3 about depravity are descriptive of gentiles as well as Jews. But equally certainly this passage is not saying that the Ten Commandments should be used to silence gentile mouths! There are so many reasons for this that it is difficult to know where to start.

One reason is that when Paul writes “What ever the Law says,” he is NOT referring to the Ten Commandments, or even to the Torah. He uses the word “law” to describe the OT in general. In fact, it is in reference to quotes from the Psalms and Isaiah. So even if it was talking about Gentiles, Paul’s point is that all of Scripture is given to silence the mouth, not specifically the Ten Commandments. But more importantly, Paul specifically narrows the reach of the passage to the Jews by saying “those who are under the law.” Mounce puts it this way:

Some wonder how accusations against the Jews can result in the “whole world” being accountable to God. One answer is that the first half of the ἵνα clause refers to Jews alone and the second half to the entire world. More probably we are dealing with an argument that says if God’s people are guilty, how much more guilty is the outsider. (Mounce, Romans, 110).

In other words, the passage is making the point that Law gives Jews a greater accountability than gentiles precisely because they are the ones who had the Law. To take that passage to mean “use the Ten Commandments in witnessing to gentiles” turns Paul’s original point on its head. Leon Morris explains:

It is unlikely that Paul’s readers would have held that anyone other than the Jew was under the law. The law, being from God, has its relevance for all mankind, certainly. But Paul’s point here is that the Jew cannot rest on a fancied security, holding that he is safe while the Gentile will come under the judgment of God. (Morris, 170).

This does not mean that Gentiles are lawless though. As John MacArthur explains, “Paul has already declared that the Jew is under God’s written law, delivered through Moses, and the Gentile is under the equally God-given law written in his heart (Rom. 2:11–15).” (Romans, 194).

In other words, the Gentiles have their guilt established in Chapter 1-2. The Jews may think they are able to escape God’s judgment, so Paul shows them that depravity is described clearly in the OT, and that it is specifically the Jews who are under the Law, who are not going to escape. The result is that the whole world is judged.

Notice that Paul is explicitly making the opposite point from the idea that the Ten Commandments were given to judge Gentiles. Gentiles are condemned by doing things against their conscience. But the Jews have the Law which even codifies some of those offenses.

Another way of saying this is that adultery, idolatry, and murder were wrong before the Ten Commandments were given (and Paul does make that case in Romans 5). Those things are not wrong because of the Ten Commandments, but because they are contrary to God’s nature as revealed in the world.

The Law is exalted at the expense of the work of the Spirit:

In TWOTM, often the work of the Holy Spirit is down played, and replaced with the work of the Law. For example, in several passages that talk about regeneration, Comfort sees the Law as the power behind regeneration, rather than the Spirit.

This is most clear in his handling of the passages in 1 and 2 Corinthians where Paul talks about non believers being blinded by the truth, but then having their spiritual eye sight given to them (or having the spiritual veil lifted). When Comfort talks about those passages, he emphasizes the work of the Law, rather than the work of the Spirit. He writes:

Think of God’s Laws as an extension cord that is plugged into the power of Heaven. The gospel is a light bulb. Without the Law, the gospel is powerless; it leaves the lost in the dark about their sin and its deadly consequences…The message of the cross is therefore foolishness to a world that is perishing. However once the gospel is connected to the Law, it becomes the power of God to salvation. The Law gives the gospel its light. (What Did Jesus Do, 20).

And later he adds, “By using the Law, Paul was pulling back the veil of Moses so that his hearers could have ‘the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” ( What Did Jesus Do, 92).

But the context of those passages (2 Cor 4:4, 1 Cor 2) shows it is the Holy Spirit that does this, and it does this through the preaching of the gospel. The power cord in the analogy I think is wrongly identified as the law, rather than the Spirit.

Another example is Psalm 19:7, “The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul;” Concerning this verse, Comfort writes, “Scripture makes it clear that it is the perfect Law of God that actually converts the soul (Psalm 19:7)” (Wonderful Plan, 51). But in the Psalter, the word torah does not mean Ten Commandments, but actually the whole of God’s revelation (cf. Ps 119). Moreover, the word for restores is probably better seen as refresh than regeneration anyway. But regardless, this passage simply is stretched too far if it is taken to mean that the use of the Ten Commandments are what regenerates a person. And to imply that they do gives the credit to the use of the Law for what is actually a work of the Spirit.

I conveyed this concern (and my others) to Living Waters, and they disagree. They don’t think the method relies on the law to bring conviction. I’m telling you that in the interest of full disclosure. But when I read quotes like this, and then see the method in practice, that is the concern that I come away with.

Missing the Relational Separation from God:

The non-Christian is doubly separated from God. They are separated judicially (when they die, they have a debt they cannot pay), and they are separated relationally (in this life the unsaved live without purpose, without prayer, and without peace with God). Because of its focus on the Ten Commandments, TWOTM stresses the judicial nature of salvation over — and (in our opinion) to the neglect of — a restoration of our relationship with God through Christ.

Too often the gospel is presented simply as a way to have your debt paid, not as a way to have a relationship with God restored. TWOTM uses lots of analogies about a courtroom scene, but not a lot of analogies about adoption or Fatherhood, for example. Salvation is simply portrayed as having a fine paid and a punishment lifted.

While people were designed and created to have fellowship with God, sin separates us from our Father, and breaks that relationship (Psalm 80:4, Isaiah 1:15, 59:2). People were created in the image of God, and were designed to have a relationship that consists of obeying his word, prayer, and rejoicing in who God is.

The gospel is not simply the paying of a fine, but is the restoration of the sinner’s relationship to God. The joy of conversion is seen in judicial righteousness, and in a right relationship with God (1 Peter 3:18).

However, having said that, just about every other gospel program I have ever seen commits the opposite error by stressing a personal relationship with Jesus to the point that the judicial element of justification is completely gone (The Four Spiritual Laws, for example). But the opposite of those (God is angry with you and has a terrible plan for your life unless you repent) also misses the mark.

Skewed view of judgment

The question is this: are people going to hell for breaking the Ten Commandments, or for rejecting Jesus? In some sense that is a false dichotomy. They are both true. But TWOTM certainly builds their tent on the commandments side of the question.

Comfort makes clear that he thinks people are sent to hell for breaking the Ten Commandments, and he expressly says it is not for rejecting Jesus. In What Did Jesus Do, he has a sort of excursus on this question (67-8). He argues specifically that those who have never heard of Jesus are on their way to hell for breaking God’s moral Law as revealed in the Ten Commandments. He rejects that they are on their way to hell for rejecting Jesus, because he points out that they haven’t even heard of Jesus.

But notice the circular reasoning Comfort finds himself stuck in. If people cannot be held accountable for the rejection of Jesus if they have not heard of him, how can they be held accountable for the rejection of the Ten Commandments, if they have not heard of them either? Unless Comfort would grant that the truth of the Ten Commandments is self-evident (which I don’t think he would, but on pages 94-95 he does deal with this question), he simply kicks the dilemma further down the road.

To be clear, Comfort is not putting forth universalism, nor am I. But I am saying that the Ten Commandments are not equal and congruent to natural revelation of sin. Those who have never heard are on their way to hell for being sinners, for hating God and rejecting God, as manifestly seen by their sinful deeds. This is all true apart from the Ten Commandments, but it is personified in Jesus Christ. Had Jesus come to their unreached group, they would have rejected him because they are murderers form their nature.

This difference is seen in concrete terms with the Rich Young Ruler. If there was a TWOTM proof text, this would be it. Jesus is evangelizing a synagogue leader, and he directly asked him if he had kept the commandments. In fact, this I believe this passage is where the name TWOTM comes from.

The leader lied to Jesus (breaking the ninth commandment), and said that he kept them all. But here is where I think TWOTM’s understanding of this verse reflects their concept of judgment. When the leader lied, Comfort claims that Jesus simply drilled down on the first commandment (What Would Jesus Do, 43). But this wrongly gives the impression that Jesus was taking issue with his fidelity to the commandments. I think it is better to see Jesus as taking an entirely different approach to evangelism all together. Instead of calling him out on his lie, Jesus demonstrated that God’s standard is not seen in the commandments, but in the person of Jesus Christ.

It is almost as if Jesus set the commandments aside, and made the issue about him—not about the law. He told the man to value the person of Jesus above everything in the world, and thereby demonstrated that the ruler was rejecting the Messiah, and if you do that there is no hope for eternal life. There is so much depth about the person of Jesus and his glory in that passage, but to simply say Jesus drilled down on the first commandment (or the 9th commandment) is to simplify what happens here. That ends up missing the point that you go to hell ultimately because of your rejection of Jesus, and not the commandments.

Wrong emphasis in Witnessing:

The elevation of the law also leads to wrong emphasis in witnessing. The Ten Commandments are seen as an essential element of evangelism, and the biblical mandate for their use is seen everywhere. It is said that some Calvinist preachers can find tulips in every verse. Well, it seems to me that often TWOTM can find the Ten Commandments in every witnessing encounter.

For example, in Acts 17, Comfort writes that Paul was preaching “the essence of the first and second commandments” by confronting the Athenians in their idolatry. But I think it is the opposite way around. Paul is not holding them to the first and second commandment, but he is showing them that idolatry is sinful, and that the very presence of their plaque demonstrates that they know that. Idolatry is sinful, and that is in the second commandment, but it is not sinful because of the second commandment. This is an important distinction.

Or consider the woman at the well in John 4. Jesus certainly confronted her on her adultery, but definitely did not use the Ten Commandments. He called her out on sin, and that certainly transcends the seventh commandment. To see that encounter and simply say “Jesus did use the seventh commandment” is to conflate the confronting of sin with the commandments. Comfort and I would both agree that evangelists need to confront sin, but disagree on the role of the Ten Commandments in that. I look at encounters like John 4 and don’t see them used. TWOTM does.

Skewed emphasis on the death of Jesus

The elevation of the Law leads to a skewed emphasis on the death of Jesus. The Are you a Good Person tract says that “Jesus suffered and died on the cross to satisfy the Law.”

I agree that Jesus did die to satisfy the righteous requirement of the Law (Rom 8:4), and, ultimately, to satisfy the righteous wrath of God (Rom 3:25-26; 5:9; Heb 2:17-18). The satisfaction was a legal, forensic satisfaction, yes. But that satisfaction was made to a Person: God Himself. In that sense, his death satisfied God, not simply the Law.

The result of this skewed emphasis is that the principle of justification based on faith and the need for propitiation are down played. In much of their material the clearest element of the gospel is substitution (not so much in the 180 video, but alas). But even where it is clearly presented, it is usually described as a paying of a fine. But biblical substitution is linked more to propitiation than to a simple payment.

This is connected to occasional lines like, “There’s something you can actually DO, because of God’s kindness, to have all your sins forgiven” (at 27:47 in the 180 video)–all without a single mention anywhere of the fact that OUR works contribute nothing to salvation.

This means that often in TWOTM material, propitiation is neglected, substation is equated to a paying of a fine, and regeneration through the washing of the Word is reduced to “have you ever lied?”

Phil Johnson writes:

It is crucial–especially in these postmodern times when words are capable of an infinite variety of meanings–it is crucial to explain _what we mean_ when we say “Jesus died for your sins.” The principles of substitution and propitiation; the futility of our own works and the utter sufficiency of Christ’s righteousness; and the meaning of faith as trust in Christ ALONE–those are truths that even many professing Christians don’t understand sufficiently. And the person who never takes time to explain them in clear and simple terms just isn’t doing all he needs to do as an evangelist, no matter how bold he is in bringing up the subject with people on the street.

And I am saying that these truths are crowded out by an over emphasis on the law. And when I say over emphasis, I’m not talking about  a specific ratio, as much as how a misplaced theological concept (nonbelievers will be held to and judged by the Ten Commandments) affects these issues.

Divisive nature in churches

My second concern with TWOTM approach is that it can lead to division inside of churches. I have dozens of emails, FB messages or phone calls since my Shepherds Conference presentation from pastors telling me that this is an issue in their churches.

I know that it is not the goal of the staff at Living Waters to create a divisive program for churches. In the same way that Calvinists are often more Calvinistic than Calvin, I think many TWOTM people are more Comfort than Comfort is.

This reality is in large part caused by the one-size fits all approach to evangelism TWOTM presents. At their training conference, they ended the event by a role-playing exercise. The whole point of the exercise was that no matter who the person you were talking to, the content of the evangelism presentation was identical. This point is driven home by any of TWOTM TV shows and even the 180 video. Comfort is seen witnessing to multiple people, and often the same audio track is even played over all the encounters as their faces flash by, as a way of illustrating that the exact same words are being used with each person.

That can lead to those who use TWOTM approach to think “if you are not doing evangelism this way, you are not doing it the way of the Master.” And I can’t even begin to count all times I have heard people tell me that I am not doing evangelism biblically because I am not using the Ten Commandments.

The leadership of TWOTM may not think that they are presenting a one-size fits all approach to evangelism, but the seeds for those tendencies are certainly in the material they produce. Comfort has said that unless evangelism uses the Law, it is going to fill the church with false converts. If by “law” he means Ten Commandments, then a person who hears that is going to think “this is a hill worth dying on.”

That tendency is reinforced in some of Comforts’ writing. For example, he writes, “I want the church to see that God gave only one method to reach the lost, and that method is the one we should be using.” (What Did Jesus Do, 11). When it is combined with the acronym WDJD and the four questions that go with that, then followed by training videos that use the same questions over and over, it becomes very scripted.

But I do think Comfort is conflicted about this. He sees the danger of the scripted approach to evangelism, and he has writings that warn against it. But then he has other statements that certainly seem to foster it. For example:

Am I saying that we must us the moral Law to bring the knowledge of sin every time we share the gospel? Of course not; Jesus didn’t. (What did Jesus Do, 18).

But then he writes:

When I speak of using the Law in evangelism, I don’t mean merely making a casual reference to it. Rather, the Law should be the backbone of our gospel presentation, because its function is to prepare the sinner’s heart for grace.

I did ask TWOTM staff about this, and the answer they gave—which is also in their books—is that they strive to give “law to the proud, grace to the humble.” I think that answer is perfect, and explains a principle and a balance that every evangelist should have. But the follow up question is how do you know who is humble and who is proud? And in one of their training videos they say, “I don’t know a better way than to ask the person if they think they are a good person.” So we are back on the script again. It is as if the approach is law to the proud, grace to the humble, but the only way to see if someone is humble is to give them the law.

TWOTM makes it clear that everyone has to be hit with the law at some point in evangelism. So when you find the person in the NT who is witnessed to without a reference to the Ten Commandments (Nicodemus and Zacchaeus are two examples they grant), then Comfort deduces that they must have been broken by the law prior to their encounter with Jesus.

Comfort writes, “Never once did the Son of God give the Good News (cross, grace, mercy) to a proud arrogant or self-righteous person.” (Wonderful Plan, 84-5). He often writes, “If I go to an impenitent sinner and say, ‘Jesus Christ died on the cross for your sins,” it will be foolishness and offensive to him…” So his implication is that you have to use the law, so that they see they are sinners. And again, this is often true. I’m not objecting to the principle, but to the practice.

And in TWOTM practice, “Law to the proud, grace to the humble” means Ten Commandments to everyone, until they are broken, then grace. This is simply not a balanced approach to evangelism.

On the whole, I appreciate TWOTM and all they do. But a good evangelist has to have many tools in his tool box, and taking people through the Ten Commandments cannot be the only one in there.

Next week we will look at the use of the Law in evangelism to gentiles, and specifically at Galatians 3.

Update: Mike Riccardi has written a follow-up post addressing the threefold division of the Mosaic Law.

Jesse Johnson

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Jesse is the Teaching Pastor at Immanuel Bible Church in Springfield, VA. He also leads The Master's Seminary Washington DC location.
  • Donnamarieshannon

    Ummmm it wasn’t exactly a lunch, it was more like High Tea! 🙂 Thanks I will continue to digest this over another cup of tea!

  • >>>I don’t think Scripture says that they will. Sin is not simply a violation of the 10 commandments, nor do the Ten Commandments capture God’s moral law. Rather, God’s moral law is revealed to the world apart from the Ten Commandments. In fact, it is revealed to Gentiles through their consciences. Idolatry, murder, and adultery were all sin before Sinai. Gentiles who have never heard of Moses will still be judged by God for their sin, and it has nothing to do with the Ten Commandments.<<<

    The Decalogue or the 10 Commandments are a summary of the Moral Law. Since you admit that the Moral Law is written in man's heart via the divine image and likeness, then what is your point? Paul makes it clear that mankind is fallen in Adam and that everyone is without excuse just based on general revelation (Romans 1:18-32). Romans 2 does not say that good works are an acceptable way of salvation for those who have never heard (Romans 2:11-15). That much is clear because Paul says that both Jews and Gentiles are under sin and ALL have sinned and fallen short of God's glory and the law (Romans 3:10-25).

    The first use of the moral law is to drive miserable sinners to Christ for the promise of mercy and salvation (Galatians 3:23-24). The law cannot save. It can only reveal sinners to be sinful and deserving of an eternity in hell (Romans 3:20; Romans 7:7).

    Sincerely in Christ,


    • I agree with all that you wrote above (especially the first paragraph). I give it an amen. Thanks for commenting.

  • >>>Without the Law, the gospel is powerless; it leaves the lost in the dark about their sin and its deadly consequences…<<<< Romans 3:20; 7:7

    • I also agree with this comment. My point is that “Law” does not equal “ten commandments.” And if you mean “without the ten commandments the gospel is powerless, then I completely disagree. But if by “law” you mean God’s moral law (for gentiles) or the Torah (for Jews), then sign me up too.

    • Willandirene will

      I diddnt even know what the ten commandments was when i was saved but i surely did have the convecting power of the Holy Spirit.I am sure that there are many a christian (saved person) who cannot resite the ten commandments by heart but still know right from wrong.

  • I guess I should not be surprised that Anabaptists do not understand the confessional statements of the Protestant Reformation. It might be helpful if you studied the Westminster Confession and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms before jumping to conclusions about what the purpose of the Moral Law is.

    • Wagraham

      That seems like an unreasonable comment. Shouldn’t one study Scripture to understand what the purpose of God’s law is?

      • Ha. I just got the “unreasonable” part. Funny Wyatt.

    • I didn’t know Jesse was a Mennonite, Hutterite or Amish?

    • Lylep


  • Steve

    Wow. Sounds like my seminary professor desperately trying to defend his dispensational presuppositions. Actually, John MacArthur states in his study Bible on 1 Timothy 1:9…”the first 6 characteristics expressed in 3 couplets, delineate sins from the first half of the 10 commandments”. Then MacArthur explains in verse 10, “these sins are violations of the second half of the 10 commandments”.
    How can you say…….”When MacArthur uses the word “law” and talks about “law in evangelism” he is not talking about the Ten Commandments! He is talking about confronting sin, which I completely agree with”. WHAT? Are you unaware of this, or just deliberately lying about it? By the way, your comment in the Shepherds conference about Christians “just enjoy evangelism” was funny too. I am not sure about the crowds you run with , but most Christians I know certainly do not enjoy evangelism and are actually afraid of it. The idea of handing out a Gospel tract is something that would never occur to them. And if you ask most Christians what the Gospel is, they would probably not be able to put it in words.
    Your comments to these confused Christians only make things worse. How can someone possibly want to repent if all you say to them is that they are sinners? In my experience, this is a worthless statement. Sin to these people could be anything…not loving themselves enough, whatever. I guess if you were a hyperCalvinist, then it would not matter, but I do not think we should give up.
    Look, Jesse. I appreciate your perspective, but this message did nothing to exhort the saints to fulfill Christ command to proclaim the Gospel to all creation. Most of the people I encounter in church are not upset with WOTM, but just afraid of sharing the Gospel in the first place. Your message did nothing but give them another reason to warm the pews and take pot-shots at those who are actually out there in obedience to our Lord in evangelism efforts.

    • Scott

      I’m consistently reminded how the LORD has wired each of us in such a way that we can all look at the same thing and extract different impressions, statements, and points. There are differences of perspective in the Body of Christ that need to be addressed in a way that is (1) gracious and (2) eternally-minded. It’s a shame that your comments — spe. addressing Jesse’s statement that “Christians just enjoy evangelism” — didn’t really come of as meeting these 2 concepts/criteria as well as the way that Jesse presented himself at the conference.

      When it comes to MacArthur’s commentary, there are a couple of things: First, we all recognize that he’s an extremely faithful teacher of the Word of G-d. His commentary is not the Word of G-d, though. So, we have to be willing to examine… even when those we highly regard speak. If the Bereans did it with Paul, I think that it’s okay to do it with Dr. MacArthur. Second, realize that there is a definite overlap between the second half of the 10 Commandments and that which is written in the consciences of people-groups who’ve never heard of the Mosaic Covenant and it’s Laws. So, this has to be weighed into the discussion. I’ve never heard of anyone having the Kosher laws or the law to marry your dead brother’s wife and raising seed in his name written on their consciences. Fundamentally, we’re in the realm of the intersection of the Mosaic Law and the laws written on hearts of the Gentiles in their consciences (Romans 1 & 2).

      I don’t think that Jesse’s discussion, here, is meant as an exhortation to have more people go out and share the Gospel who weren’t doing it before. I see him graciously walking along side an amazing ministry that’s led more people out on the streets to proclaim the Glory of Jesus Christ than I’ve ever seen. I see him as providing a nuance to one of the fundamental tenets of the WOTM. Is it a bad thing to attempt to refine something that is good ? Of course it’s not. Is it a bad thing to weigh the things that we do against the Word of G-d ? Of course not !

      Right after Jesse taught this at the Shepherd’s Conference, a dear brother and I went out on the streets and gave it a try. Instead of using the 10 Commandments (which WOTM says is the way to get around the intellect and get to the conscience) we bypassed the 10 Commandments and made a bee-line straight to the conscience. I’ve got to share that it was truly powerful. Where (after having had many conversations using the 10 Commandments) there was always the initial “Well, everyone lies” or “Yeah, I stole stuff when I was a kid”, going straight to the conscience left them with no excuse whatsoever. The initial “haha” experience of the conversation through the framework of the WOTM was not there. The person being witnessed to immediately remembered the guilt that they felt and the internal struggle that they had when they broke the very law that was written on their hearts.

      Perhaps using the 10 Commandments, here in the US, has borne fruit because so many have been brought up in churches and they know them (or, at least, know of them). Does that take away from the fact that the Law of Moses (not just the first 10, but all 613) was not given to the Gentiles but to the Israelites (and, of course, proselytes that followed along with them — strangers and sojourners) ? No, it doesn’t take away from that truth in any way.

      I’ll share, also, that I’ve had only a couple of witnessing conversations over the years with people who were “churched” and their response to my taking them through the 10 Commandments was, “But that doesn’t apply to me since the Commandments were given to the Jews and not to the Gentiles.” Where do you go from there ? The immediate next step is to address their conscience. The fundamental nuance that Jesse seems to be identifying is that we can go directly to the conscience in the first place and it is more aligned with what’s taught in the Scriptures.

      His alone…


    • Hey Steve,

      I think your question about 1 Tim 1:10 is a good one, and I did bring it up in my session (so I’m neither lying about it or unaware of it). In that passage Paul goes through some of the ten commandments, and even alliterates them (they all start with “a.”). In fact, I wrote a thesis on slavery in the NT times, and have a long discussion about that passage. It is cool that in place of the eighth commandment (don’t steal) Paul talks about kidnappers. Regardless, his list is not confined to the 10 commandments. I think Paul there is going through that list for rhetorical effect, not to make a statement about the Christian’s relationship to the Torah. In fact, I think I have a stronger case for this than the other view. If Paul is expounding on the ten commandments, he certainly goes beyond what is written in 1 Tim 1 with his list (skipping the 10th commandment, and adding “whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine” for example). But if the ten commandments are a reflection of the moral law, which transcends the ten commandments, then it would make sense that Paul would use them in this way. So I think Paul is using them to make the point that God’s moral law is transcendent.
      To the point about MacArthur, I’m not saying that EVERY TIME he uses “law” he means God’s transcendent law. But generally, my experience listening to him, reading him, and the quote I provide above from him (and he has preached entire sermons on this topic, btw) show that his use of law is determined by context, and he often uses that term to simply mean the confronting of sin.


  • Mary Elizabeth Tyler

    Street evangelism is just plain difficult. So how is one to give a short, succinct presentation of sin and the gospel, when people are running about trying to get from point A to point B, before the bus leaves the curb? I think street evangelism almost necessitates these 10 simple steps to seeing how ones righteousness does in fact not stand up to God’s holiness. I also think that not only for the sake of brevity, but the fact that people’s consciences are so seared, if not totally fried, that to confront them head-on and boldfaced with the Ten Commandments, that maybe this will be the jolt their consciences need. Let’s face it, you’ve got a window of maybe less than ten minutes to hit the highlights on sin and God’s holiness, and the package is already made succinct and simple in the structure of the Ten Commandments. It is nigh impossible to have a person wait for someone to go through the entire council of God, hoping to do what a short synopsis can do.

    However, I totally agree with your appraisal. The law is so expansive and is written on our hearts. Question is: how does one get to a heart that is so blinded by sin, in less then a ten-minute window? I think maybe this “time factor” is the impetus that drives Ray Comfort. Who knows for sure?

    Great article, Jesse; you obviously put so much thought and care into your observations!!!

  • Paul H

    I enjoyed reading your article. Thanks for your insight into an area that should be at the forefront of every Christian’s mind…proclaiming Christ to a lost and dying world!
    I cannot speak for Ray Comfort (obviously), but I have taught WOTM and been active in street evangelism for a few years. I also teach systematic theology at my church, and other bible classes. My point to add is simply this: I use the Ten Commandments a lot when witnessing, but always to point to the holiness of God. I tell people these laws (when speaking of the Ten Commandments) are a reflection of God’s character. They exemplify His nature, and I remind the hearer that their conscience bears witness to the fact that God’s moral standard is transcendent. That even those who never hear the words “Ten Commandments” know in their conscience that idolatry, lying, theft, hatred, greed, etc are wrong. And they are wrong because they are the opposite of God’s character.
    I still, however, use the Ten Commandments specifically. Why? Because I am in America. And pretty much everyone knows them (some of them), and they typically (but not always) know that when I mention the Ten Commandments I am referring to God’s Word, and HIS definition of moral goodness. But I don’t tell people they deserve hell for breaking the Ten Commandments. I tell them we deserve hell for sinning against a holy, righteous God. And then I point to the person of Jesus Christ as both the perfect keeper of God’s standard, but also as the propitiation; the substitute, the only one who can legally and willingly take my place before God’s holiness, by whom I can be made right with God. And enjoy Him forever.
    My two cents…
    Grace and peace to you…

    • Mary Elizabeth Tyler

      Exactly, Paul! The Ten Commandments are a reflection of God’s holy character. So in using the Ten Commandments, you have essentially killed two birds with one stone. By pointing to this, you have given people a glimpse into God’s holy character and also shown the unregenerate how they cannot measure up to such holiness. But to drop the ball there is to give an incomplete message. It must be followed up by the gospel; otherwise we’ve left them without a cure.

    • Totally Paul. I also mentioned that in my session. You meet many Americans that say “The ten commandments are a valid test of morality” but then turn around and cannot name two of them. For that reason, it is often an effective approach in the US.

  • “there is even a section of the sermon where Spurgeon mocks the idea that gentiles have sin defined by the Torah.”~Spurgeon

    I know this passage… Spurgeon is talking about the 613 precepts, NOT the 10 Commandments.

    • Thanks Miriam. I don’t mean this sarcastically, but honestly. When people say “613 precepts” are the ten commandments part of that total?

  • Jmv7000

    One of my problems with WOTM peeps who say its the only way is their inability to harmonize with our bibliology. “ALL Scripture is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training.” Psalm 19 uses 6 words to describe Scripture– they are not all synonyms for Torah-law. They describe Scripture and it’s saving effectiveness. The Holy Spirit can use any text to save a person. Are we going to say Ephesians 2:1-10 can not save a person because we don’t use the law?

    • Exactly JMV. I think a little balance goes a long way. And by the way, I have had people tell me exactly that about a tract MacArthur had made from Eph 2:1-10. A TWOTM disciple (not an official one, but the kind that might wear a Ray Comfort mustache) told both me and Pastor John that the tract was going to lead to false converts because it didn’t use the ten commandments.

      • Jmv7000

        I want to be surprised by, but unfortunately I am not. I really appreciate your view on TWOTM (just listened to the SC speech and really loved what you said about the race to distill the Gospel). I also really appreciate the drive for many WOTM peeps to see people know Christ. I just wonder if some of them spend all their energy and focus looking into and defending the one subject to where it becomes central in their mind and the lens through which Scripture or theology is formulated in his / her mind? In other words, maybe he / she starts to lose focus of the forest because he is so focused on a beautiful tree?

  • Thanks for the post Jesse. I wanted to ask about the position you laid out re the relationship between Gentiles and the 10 Commandments. How do you understand Paul’s statement in Romans 7: 7 – “What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” Specifically was Paul saying that only applying it to his fellow Jews?

    Also one of the 1st presentations I heard on the 10 Commandments was from a series by Phil Johnson

    One of the main points he made was that God’s moral law (which he DID equate with the 10 commandments, and distinguished it between things like civil and ceremonial laws) was as you said exceedingly broad but that (just as WOTM purports) it has been written on the hearts of men before the law was given in Exodus. Do you agree with that position?

    • Jmv7000

      Aside from systematic theologies and preachers who support the three division law (those are arguments by authority–but not THE authority), where did you get that idea from Scripture?

      • I am assuming that the proper approach of systematic theology tries to correctly interpret THE authority (aka the Bible/Scripture). And so I imagine the idea of seeing the 3 divisions of the law being biblical would come from how we observe God and man interacting up to the point of Moses. We can all agree that as God has progressively revealed himself to men in history he has set out laws/instructions for them. We see in the Garden don’t “eat of the tree” and other instructions of being fruitful and multiplying. We all know how that went. But now we reach Cain and Able. Now at this point we have seen no explicit instruction to men. Yet these men give offering to the Lord, one gives the lamb another vegetables and God looks upon Cain and shows us that he should have known what the proper offering was. So God clearly was revealing his will to men (though no explicit details are given to us). Now he kills his brother and it is clear he recognises he has sinned. Now again we have seen no explicit instruction in scripture as yet that God told them to not kill.

        It could be argued that God was revealing to them certain instructions explicitly and it was just not recorded. I don’t know. But what I think is more consistent with scripture is that more than likely God still in interacting with men, they saw his nature & character and so they would have known that things like bad sacrifices and killing was against his nature (and so by extension sin). And even more (confirmed by Rom. 2:15) these things were written on their heart, because they were made in the image of God. And so these “laws” showed God’s holy nature. This is how I am defining the moral law. Now up to the Patriarchs any sins committed seemed to have fallen under this sort of category.

        And so if sin is breaking of the law (1 John 3:4) and sin was in the world up to Moses at the burning bush, especially before all the other laws given to Israel after which affected how they were to run their government, taxes, festivals etc. It’s hard for one not to see some sort of preeminence in the moral law (as I defined it above).

        Now if by authority you only mean finding verses that explicitly state certain doctrines and truths, that require no biblical interpretations of entire texts, I guess the answer is no; I have not seen a passage that says explicitly the law is broken into 3 divisions. But I have also never seen a passage that says explicitly that God is made of three persons. But we would all agree that the idea Trinity is stated implicitly all throughout Scripture and so we receive it as truth.

        However I don’t want the discussion to get too off point. Because the question I want to know is whether or not the Decalogue represents a good summary of the moral law (which is written in the heart of the Jew and Gentile including Piggy Wiggy who lives on a remote island).

        • Jmv7000

          Thanks, I know the question is not directed at me, but it’s confusing for me. The Bible presents all the law together as one (the tripartite view is a presupposition requiring the cov of grace / works as its foundation). The Decalogue is not a separate entity from the rest of the law. So when I hear your question, I try and think what unbeliever gentile I know who felt convicted for eating a piece of bacon. Because if the Decalogue represents a summary of the law on our conscience, then so does the rest of the law.

          It seems some of the discussion in this thread will not be resolvable because some of us are Amil’s and some of us consistent dispensationalists 🙂 Thank you for your answer.

    • Great question Sean. I do know that Phil and I agree on much, but probably don’t go the same way with how we see the three-fold division of the Law. However, we do agree that elements of God’s moral law are indeed written on human hearts, and were there before Sinai. I’ll answer your last question next week. It is a really good one. Thanks Sean.

      • I look forward to the response Jesse. I want to say again that I appreciate the blog post and also the atmosphere for healthy disagreement. I hope that the believers among us don’t see this post from you as an attempt to tear down, but one of iron sharpening iron.

        I too am one of the Christians whose passion for God and the mission of evangelism was tremendously impacted by WOTM. I continue to learn much from them. Yet I have also appreciated those who disagree because it helps me to watch for those areas that I may have indeed been missing and helps to bring balance to my witness.

        So look forward to your humble critique and URGING ALL OTHER BELIEVERS, please let us disagree graciously, in hope that we can help build up one another where we are lacking.

  • Jonspeed


    Thanks for posting this critique. In your lecture, you stated that Paul uses the word “law” in several (five?) different ways. So far, I have seen no substantive documentation for this idea. I was hoping to see some reference to it here, but unless I missed it, there’s no reference to it. In fact, much of what you have put forward has lacked substantive support apart from your own interpretation and some presuppositions that you assume we all agree with.

    You have yet to demonstrate that the moral law written on the conscience is substantively different than the Decalogue. Consider Thomas Watson’s book, published by Banner of Truth, “The Ten Commandments.” Watson (and most of the Puritans) states that they are one and the same (see pages 43-48 in particular, “The Right Understanding of the Law”).

    The underlying issue of “Are the Gentiles under the Law?” could be answered this way: yes and no. Yes, they are under the obligation of God’s moral law, the Ten Commandments. No, they are not under obligation to the ceremonial laws (Galatians) being that Christ is the fulfillment of the sacrificial system (Hebrews).

    I get a little tweaked whenever I hear a dispensationalist (or New Covenant Theology proponent, which sounds very similar to your arguments) say that the Gentiles are not under obligation to the Sabbath. Really? The Sabbath was instituted before the Law was given, before there were Jewish people, all the way back in Genesis. As was murder, adultery, and all the rest. You might call these moral laws of God, but when they are exactly parallel, as Grace Evangelism teaches (if memory serves), this is not separate from the Ten Commandments, but directly related. Walter Chantry’s book (Today’s Gospel: Authentic or Synthetic?) which is usually required reading with Grace Evangelism, makes the same statements. BTW, I do sometimes use the fourth commandment when I am sharing the gospel because I have found that this issue is also written on the conscience.

    My question is, does Romans 7 have a different understanding of the same Greek word? Romans 7:7 states, “What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, ‘Thou shalt not covet.'” My question is, where did the “Thou shalt not covet” come from? Is that a moral law written on the conscience or is this verse referring to the Decalogue?

    Martin Lloyd-Jones states that this refers to the Ten Commandments: “…Paul doubtless meant the Ten Commandments…and particularly the tenth commandment” (Romans 7:1-8:4, page 114). Earlier he states that Romans 7:7 is essentially parallel to Rom. 3:20 (page 113). He also states, “So the trouble with people who are not seeking for a Saviour, and for salvation, is that they do not understand the true nature of sin. It is the peculiar function of the law to bring such an understanding to a man’s mind and conscience. This is why great evangelical preachers three hundred years ago in the time of the Puritans, and two hundred years ago in the time of Whitefield and others, always engaged in a preliminary ‘law work’. In their preaching of the gospel they generally started with a presentation of the Law” (114). By “Law”, in this context, Lloyd-Jones is referring to the Ten Commandments.

    If you want to make a statement that the Ten Commandments has no use in evangelism, you need to know that Grace Evangelism, the Puritans and MacArthur’s favorite preacher (Lloyd Jones) all disagree. If this is a new direction for TMS and Grace Community, it is a shoring up of MacArthur’s leaky dispensationalism to something that resembles more of Lewis Sperry Chafer than any Reformer.

    • Agreed.

    • The different uses of “Law” are categorized by Moo in his commentary. He actually gives more than five. Here they are: “A demand of a body, usually with sanctions” and he gives two subsets of that; human law and divine. Inside of the divine, he gives three main uses, general/basic demand (eg, Rom 2:14, 7:22, Gal 3:21), NT Law (Gal 6:2), and Mosaic. Even inside of Mosaic are different uses as well, such as legalism (rom 4:13), a single particular command (Rom 7:2), a body of commands, or the entire system of OT teaching (Rom 3:19, 6:14). Beyond that, Paul uses the term in two non-legal ways. With reference to the cannon (such as when he uses it to describe passages from Isa or Pss), or as a principle/force of law (usually with a genative; Rom 7:21). He give many, many other cross references, but those are just a few. Thanks for asking.

      • And hey! I helped write Grace Evangelism, so I agree with it.

        • Jonspeed

          As someone who helped teach Grace Evangelism at Countryside Bible Church (Tom Pennington is the pastor), I can say you don’t agree with it since the section on the Ten Commandments flies right in the face of what you are saying now. We actually used the videos from WoTM to help teach Grace Evangelism. The version I used was available in 2005. Is this the same version? If not, were there changes?

          • Ok, hold on Jon. First, the ten commandments to Gentiles thing was a tiny paragraph above. 200 of 5,000 words. So can we move past that now? I don’t have a beef with it. My issue is with the over emphasis of it. GE is very balanced.

          • Jonspeed

            Let’s back up the truck for a second. I am counting a lot more than 200 words written against using the Law in evangelism. You could write it in something like four words (“Don’t use the Law”) and it would accomplish the same goal. That’s why I am asking if you revised GE since 2005 to reflect this new position. You can’t state, “A major part of my critique is that the Ten Commandments are not able to be separated from the rest of the Mosaic Law, and that the Mosaic Law was given to Jews before the Messiah came, and that they are not binding today to anyone, but especially not to Gentiles living in America” in one breath and then turn around and say, “Hey, I’m not saying don’t use the Law! I’m just saying don’t overemphasize it!” Whaaa??

            If by “balanced” you mean a conglomeration of a bunch of different methods, then yes, it is balanced. I think of it as a mish-mosh. I remember seeing elements from four spiritual flaws, Romans Road, EE, WoTM (!!), Contagious Christian and probably Billy Graham. It’s virtually unusable because it’s so disjointed. We ran through two full classes and couldn’t keep the people who started the class because it wasn’t reproducible. WoTM may be scripted, but it can be taught and remembered whereas GE is confusing. That fact is evidenced by the tens of thousands who have been trained in WoTM and are doing it versus

            No, we can’t move past that any more than we could move past it if this was a discussion with Ken Ham about six literal days. “Hey Ken, we’re on the same team, consider this a pep talk at half time, but you know that six literal day thing? Well, that’s just not the best way to go about it.” When you chip away at the foundation of WoTM’s use of the law, you’ve essentially taken a swipe at their whole ministry no matter how polite you are while you do it. It’s a pretty big deal or else we wouldn’t even be having this conversation.

      • Jonspeed

        Jesse, do you subscribe to New Covenant Theology?

        • No. I don’t know much about NCT, but my understanding of it is that it teaches that OT Laws have been canceled and replaced with Laws in Christ, but I’m not even sure that is representing what they teach well. Assuming that is accurate, I would say that I get what they are trying to say, but disagree. The OT laws were not given to the whole world, but to Israel. So for the purpose of this conversation, I’ll just say that it is not that they were canceled, but simply that applying them to Gentiles is shoddy hermenutics, resting on an arbitrary and suspect division of the Laws to begin with.

          • Jonspeed

            That’s pretty much the NCT position.

          • Jon, what is the difference between NCT and dispensationalism? I honestly don’t really know beyond what I tried to convey in my first reply. Thanks.

          • Jonspeed

            The set up here won’t let me respond under your response, so I am adding it here.

            Difference between NCT and dispensationalism? It depends. Classic dispensationalism says that the Law was for the Jew to obtain righteousness (they could be saved by keeping the Law) which is preposterous. More modern Walvoord-like dispensationalism says that the Law showed the Jewish people their need for salvation and that trust in the coming Messiah saves. It says that the Law is now abolished unless it is specifically repeated in the dispensation of grace (also preposterous). I have no idea what the progressive dispensationalists are teaching since I haven’t kept up with it and don’t care.

            NCT says what you say about the Ten Commandments; they are abrogated under the New Covenant and therefore we are under the Law of Christ. It says that Gentiles are not under the Law and never have been. Proponents of NCT make the same arguments you make here about the Law, and not surprisingly, they cite the same source: Moo on Romans. Because of this Moo has had some direct discussion with the NCT people and in fact wrote the foreword to the definitive “New Covenant Theology” by Tom Wells and Fred Zaspel (in spite of the fact that he is Lutheran). Moo says that their position is, “…close to the right one” (page xiv). It may be somewhat ironic that you are espousing a NCT position on the Law while claiming to be a dispensationalist (I assume bc of your past staff position at Grace), which might be considered evidence that NCT is really just a compromised version of dispensationalism (or the other way around). Whatever it is, it is not Reformed.

            My position? “The same law that was first written in the heart of man continued to be a perfect rule of righteousness after the fall, and was delivered by God upon Mount Sinai, in ten commandments, and written in two tables, the four first containing our duty towards God, and the other six, our duty to man.” (1689 Second London Baptist Confession) This, btw, was Spurgeon’s confession of faith. For the full statement on the law,

    • Excellent post and love your book!

  • You wrote:

    “I don’t know about Wesley or Moody, but I am almost positive that when Luther, Whitfield, and Spurgeon talk about Law, they are using it to mean imperatives in scripture (as opposed to indicatives), and are not making statements about the use of the Ten Commandments in evangelism.”

    Spurgeon stated,

    “The Ten Commandments, like ten great pieces of cannon, are pointed at thee to-day, for thou hast broken all God’s statutes, and lived in the daily neglect of all his commands.”

    “The Ten Commands surround us on all sides, and encompass all the movements of body, soul, and spirit, comprising under their jurisdiction the whole range of moral action; they hold us under fire from all points, and nowhere are we out of range.”

    “I find it sometimes profitable to myself to read the Ten Commandments, and to think over my sins against each one of them. What a list it is, and how it humbles you in the dust to read it over!”

    • Fair enough. I overstated my case here. But in MANY (not all) of their uses of the term “law” they are not using it to mean the ten commandments. And, I would agree that the ten commandments are convicting to read, because they help show us God’s law, and they convict us (esp in light of the sermon on the mount) that God’s standard is perfection. It is certainly humbling.

      • Also, John MacArthur om the TEn Commandments,

        Do the Ten Commandments apply to Christians today?

        • I appreciate the way Pastor John describes the 10 Commandments as a reflection of godly virtues, or a reflection of God’s moral law. I think that is very well said. In my session I drew a chart (I know, typical dispensationalist, with charts) illustrating what I see as the difference b/w the two views of the ten commandments. But in the view I take, God’s moral law is above the ten commandments, which are one reflection of them. Christians see God’s moral law not through the ten commandments, but directly in Christ. I also like how he stresses that the Sabbath is not something binding to Christians. I am not comfortable saying, as Pastor John does, that the Sabbath was not a moral law. But notice what granting that difference means, and both Pastor John and I would agree on this: that the Ten Commandments are not, by their nature, binding on Christians–or those in the world. We derive our moral law from the NT. It now simply becomes a conversation about where you drawn the line. I’ll draw my line on Tuesday here.

        • I also want to add that the ten commandments to gentiles thing is not my driving concern. My driving concern is how an over emphasis on that ends up affecting other areas of theology and practice.

  • I do not see how this article, nor your sermon from the Shepherd’s Conf. that attacks WOTM and Ray Comfort, edifies the church or glorifies God, unless you truely believe that WOTM evangelism is unbiblical and you are exposing a false teaching.

    • Guest

      Jesse shined Ray’s shoes pretty much….come on dude. Seriously.

      • Did you listen to the sermon? Jesse called Ray Comfort’s ministry wrong and unbiblical…come on dude. Seriously

    • I do not call TWOTM false teaching. I think doctrinal conversations (esp about the relationship of law to the believer) are helpful and they are edifying. I tried hard in my intro to show that this is not an “attack” but seriously, can’t we talk about something as basic as the way we evangelize? And, after all the videos Ray does, and how he goes after so many people in his books, you can’t really say that what is written here is over the top, can you?

      • You call it a wrong and unbiblical way to evangelize. How is that not calling it a false teaching?

        When does Ray name names in his books except for atheists? Never heard nor read him tear apart an evangelism ministry by name, point by point.

        • God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life? Or “any approach to evangelism that does not use the Ten Commandments will be filling the church with false converts”?

          • Jonspeed

            So how is that “going after” them? Give me a break. It’s far less than what MacArthur has done in naming names.

      • Tony Miano


        I think you have a responsibility, now, to show were Ray, in any of his books or videos, has “gone after” a Christian leader.

        • Hi Tony,
          I wouldn’t say I have “gone after” Ray to begin with. This isn’t personal, as much as it is a review of a highly publicized and well known evangelistic method. It is a method that is taught everywhere, and it is one that is well known. It is also one that is causing division in some churches. A critique is needed and I think appropriate. It is possible to critique a theological perspective without “going after” the person behind it. Just ask any of my charismatic or amil friends 🙂

          But to the question, Ray has often said that any method that does not use the ten commandments is going to fill the church with false converts. I think that is way more severe than anything I have said here. Secondly, the book “God has a wonderful Plan for your life” is a deliberate swipe at Campus Crusade, so much so that Ray has an entire chapter in there (if memory serves) about Bill Bright’s confession that Ray is right and that Bill has fallen short in his evangelism. I”m not saying Ray is wrong, and I’m not saying Cru always has it right, but I am saying that is a pretty clear example. Finally, when you publish something (like any of the books I’ve quoted from) you have to grant that you are opening it up for review. That is kind of the point. I tried really hard to say that I love and respect Ray, and that TWOTM has some stengths to it that I appreciate. I use that approach to evangelism often. But at the end of the day, there are some concerns with it, and I wanted to post those concerns here.

          In fact, I really respect both Ray and Bill for their exchange in God Has a Wonderful Plan For Your Life. Ray describes Bill as being humble and open to corretion, despite the fact that Ray said his approach to evangelism is filling the church with false converts.

  • “On the whole, I appreciate TWOTM and all they do. But a good evangelist has to have many tools in his tool box, and taking people through the Ten Commandments cannot be the only one in there.”

    I agree but WOTM never say they are the only tool.

  • Mary Elizabeth Tyler

    Frank Turk told me a long time ago that you can quote short segments of someone’s work without infringing upon copyright law, but that you must give the title of the book, the author’s name and the page #’s. So, with that in mind, here is a an excerpt from R.C. Sproul’s book The Soul’s Quest for God, and the page #’ are 96 @ 97.

    He’s referencing Psalm 119, here. “Looking closely at the psalm we see a constant interplay between the idea of the Law of God and the Word of God. Two concepts are used interchangeably in the text. We tend to think of the Law as a specific part, or subdivision, of the broader context of Scriptures. There is nothing wrong with this, as Scripture itself often distinguishes among the Law, the Prophets, and the writings. Therefore, in a narrow sense it is appropriate to distinguish between the Law and other portions of the Word of God. However, in the “broad” sense the two are to be identified as one. Not only is all of the written Law of God also the written Word of God, it is equally true that all of the Word of God is also the Law of God.

    We see parallels to this in our language. It may be said of a ruler or a person in authority that “His word is law.” So it is with God. Whatever He says is Law to us. His entire Word imposes a sacred obligation upon us that carries with it both duty and responsibility.

    If we love the Word of God, we must therefore love the Law of God, both in the broad and narrow senses. The psalmist’s affection is not directed to the Law of God in abstraction. He loves it because it because he loves God, and the Law comes from Him. He says “I love THY Law.”

  • Chris Hobeck

    To my shame, as someone who’s been “using” WOTM approach since 2003-2004, I have been guilty of this factiousness.

    What would you say of the uniqueness of the Ten Commandments as expressed in verses like Exodus 34:28 or Deuteronomy 4:13 and 10:4?

    • Those verses do indeed show the uniqueness of the ten commandments, as well as how they serve as an introduction to the rest of the Mosaic Law. I agree that much of what comes in Deut and Lev can be seen as expounding on the ten commandments.

  • Noah Hartmetz

    I can’t speak for anybody else, but I was definitely edified by this article (as well as the two previous, both of which people seem to be ignoring) and by Jesse’s session at Shepherd’s. Both the article and the session were helpful to me because they put words to concerns that I’ve had about WOTM since I was introduced to it last year. This doesn’t mean that I’m a hater of Comfort or think that it’s false teaching, and neither do I think Jesse is conveying that either. It also doesn’t mean that I won’t use principles from WOTM in evangelism since they are EXTREMELY helpful. However, it does mean that I need to be careful to line up my words in evangelism to the biblical model of the apostles and their associates and not be bound solely to one method or another.

    Even though I may be the minority, I appreciate the article and your willingness to write and speak on the issue with such clarity and conviction. I, for one, was edified.

  • Tony Miano

    Jesse wrote: “…yes I did share this with them first). I share the same goals as they do, and I want this post to be more like two teammates talking at half time, and not like two opposing players bumping chests.”

    While Living Waters’ public response to Jesse’s message and blog posts will be coming soon, for now it is important I add some context to the above statement.

    Once I learned that Jesse would preach his message “The Way(s) of the Master,” at the Shepherd’s Conference, I emailed Jesse on 02-16-12 to open a dialogue with him regarding his message. Jesse did graciously share with us the portion of his outline that pertained to “The Way of the Master.”

    I, in turn, drafted a seven-page response on behalf of the ministry, in which we offered clarification on some of his concerns and a further explanation of our theological positions on others. Once I heard Jesse present his message at the Shepherd’s Conference, it seemed apparent to me that our correspondences had little or no bearing on the content of Jesse’s message.

    Unfortunately, I personally (not speaking on behalf of Living Waters) find it a bit disingenuous for Jesse to continue using the “teammates talking at half time” analogy.

    Jesse said the following toward the end of his message:

    “The way I think you shepherd them [those in your church who use The Way of the Master] is by saying, ‘Let’s set aside curriculum. Let’s do an evangelism class. Not bring The Way of the Master stuff. Let’s do an evangelism class. Let’s go through Acts together. Let’s look at evangelism in the Book of Acts. Let’s go through John together and see how Jesus witnessed to people; and draw principles out. Draw the same principles Living Waters does. Draw the same principles Randy Newman draws. Draw the same principles EE draws. Draw them all out! And free the people to tell people about Jesus; having conversations with them; introducing them to the Savior; not with a method, but with the person of Jesus Christ.”

    Translation: Do evangelism the way Jesus did it. Draw principles from a number of evangelism methods. And put together your own method. Just don’t bring in “The Way of the Master stuff.”

    In a sermon with a theme that was negative toward methodology in evangelism–and one method in particular (The Way of the Master), Jesse simply encouraged people to craft a methodology of their own.

    Unfortunately, Jesse’s message has left many who are faithfully engaged in evangelism (a small minority in the American Church) confused and discouraged. Jesse likens the interaction between him and Living Waters as two teammates talking during half time. In reality, what Jesse has done and continues to do is more like holding a public press conference at half time.

    • Thanks for stopping by Tony, and I do appreciate your graciousness. And, if you put together a response, I have no problem posting it here. Just let me know.

    • Mr. Miano, I have met with you (and was truly blessed, edified, and instructed with our conversation). With the exception of anything posted in the past few weeks (as my schedule has been very busy), I believe I have watched just about every video TWOTM has online, and have been tremendously encouraged in evangelism. I have learned a tremendous amount from you, Ray, and as we spoke at Shep. Conf. have been highly motivated through the testimony of someone close to you. I have also been highly encouraged by your initial responses to Jesse’s message, as well as your dealing with people on your facebook page you saw as unteachable.

      Above, you wrote: “Translation: Do evangelism the way Jesus did it. Draw principles from a number of evangelism methods. And put together your own method. Just don’t bring in “The Way of the Master stuff.” and “In a sermon with a theme that was negative toward methodology in evangelism–and one method in particular (The Way of the Master), Jesse simply encouraged people to craft a methodology of their own.” and then spoke of Jesse as “disingenuous” for using the teammate analogy.

      I believe this is a misrepresentation of Jesse’s comments. I do not feel there is a need to “translate” Jesse’s words, when they are right there for the reader; furthermore, to make part of your “translation” read “and put together your own method,” when Jesse’s words clearly state “not with a method,” misrepresents what was actually said/written. Also to characterize a critique as negative, which (between three blog posts) offers 13 points of praise to Ray Comfort/TWOTM and 2 points of disagreement seems a bit misleading.

      I also believe to call Jesse disingenuous and use the analogy of a public press-conference of halftime, stands as a character judgment, which is unnecessary and COULD run the risk of coming across as hypocritical. For instance: one could accuse you of the same for commenting on the internet rather than raising these concerns face-to-face with Jesse during the extensive Q&A following his seminar at the conference. I am NOT by any means accusing you of this, but rather trying to point out the dangers of making such character judgments rather than addressing the theological points. I believe one can disagree with Jesse without calling him disingenuous.

      You previously wrote on your facebook wall:
      “While I do not know Jesse beyond a few email correspondences and what I heard from him today, I believe Jesse to be a godly man. I believe he loves Christ, loves the Church, loves the Word of God, and is passionate about reaching the lost with the gospel.

      I believe his presentation today was a sincere effort to put forth a balanced critique of “The Way of the Master.” While I do not personally agree with Jesse regarding every point of his theological and philosophical observations regarding “The Way of the Master,” I came away from Jesse’s message with a desire to study the issues further. I can disagree with him without questioning his integrity or intentions.”

      I believe this to be an admirable response.

      • Tony Miano

        Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Eric.

      • Disagree Eric. Listen to the sermon, it’s worse than the post.

    • And that is the main reason I did the extra long blog post. I just wanted all the notes out there and up. Next week I’ll write on ten commandments and evangelism, but trust me when I say I have no intention of saying anything else about TWOTM specifically or by name. All I wanted to say is here.

      Also, fret not about your video reply (if this is a press conference at half time, would you call that Sports Center highlights before tip-off?). I was initially surprised you made it public, but am grateful. It did influence what I said. I took out some concerns, and even quoted it above. So I did read it, and was humbled by the time you all took to reply to my initial draft.

    • Standridgejl

      Thanks for your faithfulness in evangelism, and your obvious fearlessness. God has been gracious to you, and to everyone you preach to, by first of all saving you, and then giving you such a fire to see people saved from eternal fire, that is very rarely seen in the church these days.
      Although being criticized is never fun, I think ultimately this is going to be very helpful for you, Ray, Kirk or whomever this article has bothered in any way. I think, or at least hope, you guys will get together and together come up with a statement explaining exactly what the purpose of your ministry is.
      As I’m sure you know, because you know Ray, that Jesse was the evangelism pastor at Grace Church. At such a large church, he has seen the impact your ministry has had on the world. He has seen how “successful” it has been in reaching people with the gospel, but as one could imagine he has seen many, many, many nutty people who have taken TWOTM approach too far, and have made it a mandate rather than a method.
      Jesse has done you a favor.
      Honestly, like any parachurch organization, you have a problem, that despite the fact that you have blessed so many people, there are a few people who have taken your method and taken it too far. Just read some of the comments above, and all we see here is the tip of the iceberg of your “followers”. I believe this article is a good opportunity for you guys to come together, and make your mission more clear, and clear up some misunderstandings that obviously come from any parachurch organization. Many of your followers could use a good statement on your part that encourages them not to demand everyone to use the ten commandments in evangelism.
      Ray’s says his mission in coming to America, was to bring life to American Evangelism, and if this was his goal, God has answered this prayer in such a powerful way. I know Ray’s mission was not to bring a Method to America, but rather to help people understand that Evangelism should be present in every believers life.
      Thanks again for your ministry,

    • Excellent post Tony.

    • Yes, excellent post and thank you for shedding some light on the situation.

  • truthunites

    Steve: “Most of the people I encounter in church are not upset with WOTM, but just afraid of sharing the Gospel in the first place. Your message did nothing but give them another reason to warm the pews and take pot-shots at those who are actually out there in obedience to our Lord in evangelism efforts.”

    Tony Miano: “Unfortunately, Jesse’s message has left many who are faithfully engaged in evangelism (a small minority in the American Church) confused and discouraged.”

    Steve and Tony Miano’s comments are legitimate, valid concerns. This post, while certainly having some valid concerns too regarding WOTM, gives me a knotty, unpleasant feeling in the pit of my stomach.

    My take. If I saw a brother-in-Christ or sister-in-Christ using WOTM approach to Great Commission evangelism, I’d be happy as pie that they’re actually doing Great Commission work!

    The Harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. My goodness, just to see someone laboring faithfully on behalf of Christ and for Christ warms my heart like you can’t believe.

    • TUAD,
      Thanks for reading and commenting. Maybe I do run in different circles (as Steve suggested), but I do find myself surrounded by Christians who are generally excited about evangelism. That said, the target audience of this post was pastors who are dealing with divisive people in their church. I want to help them see areas, even if they are small, where we are in disagreement. So I hope this was helpful to them. Then, once I gave the presentation, I think posting the notes on line is helpful.

      • Steve

        Your message to the pastors was devastating. There are so precious few people willing to even “do the work of an evangelist”…especially the pastors. Sure, the pastors can share the Gospel on Sunday to the folks in the pews, but someone on the streets can proclaim the Gospel to more unsaved people in one day than most pastors in a year. Sure, there a loose cannons out there as evangelists that need encouragement and accountability, but the answer is to trash the core of WOTM? Really? So now we have a bunch of pastors that are intimidated and unsure of someone in their church that actually evangelizes outside the church and you have given them the OK to shut them down and tell them that they are doing it all wrong. Perfect. I have heard so many people with your same message that is used just for the purpose of making us stop. Well I hope all the folks that have been discouraged by your message at the Shepherds Conference will pray about it, study the Scriptures, but do not stop! That is what they need to hear. We need more pastors praying for evangelists, exhorting the folks to get out there, and (gasp) even do it themselves. Maybe if that was happening, the pastors would have a little more insight into what is really going on instead of just sitting in another conference hearing about how everyone else is doing it wrong. How about the next conference we tell the pastors to actually go with an evangelist and work with them. That will be the day.

        • Mary Elizabeth Tyler

          Dear Steve,

          Jesse is in no way trashing the methods of WOTM. He has gone out of his way to show “great respect” for Ray Comfort and his methods, but it does not mean he has to be in 100% agreement with it, either.

    • Agree

  • Maybe I missed it but what approach do you recommend for someone struggling with sharing their faith? How do you go about street evangelism? Please give more than friendship evangelism. Thank you.

    • Good question Dominic. Tony gave my answer (I think he quoted it actually) in his comment above, but to train someone in evangelism I would take them through a study of Acts or a study of the evangelism encounters of Jesus. I also do use Grace Evangelism. To encourage someone who perhaps is timid in sharing his faith, I try to teach them more and more about the glory of the gospel. When I am street witnessing, as I did say above, I will sometimes use the ten-commandments approach. But more often than that, I ask questions, have a conversation, then make a jump to the gospel, then explain the gospel, then ask more questions, then challenge them to respond. That is probably worth its own post. By the way, the book I helped Pastor John edit (on the side bar, called Evangelism) has a few chapters about that. Thanks Dominic.

  • Also, what is John MacArthur’s view on all this? Has it changed? He has endorsed TWOTM and has their link on gty, so i’m curious if it has changed. Thank you.

    • I’m not exactly sure what John’s personal view is of TWOTM. I was assigned the topic I did at shep con., but John didn’t directly give me content. Although much of my session was taken from a sermon he did about the law and evangelism. Including this line: “People don’t go to hell for breaking commandments, but for rejecting Jesus Christ.” Obviously rejecting Jesus is in itself a violation of the first and second commandments, but the point is that it is bigger than that.

  • I highly recommend anyone following this debate to listen to the following message also given at SC by Dr. Richard Mayhue, Dean of TMS. It is titled (and very relevant to this discussion) “Still Written in Stone? The Christian’s Relationship to the Mosaic Law”:

    • Scott

      Just listened to that session and thought it was very applicable here, as well !!

  • P_johnson_al

    I do see the deficiency of WOTM’s exposition and definition. I also see that it cannot be viewed as “the only way to witness”. I agree with Pastor Johnson that the concept of sin is present before evangelism and that it has more to do with our nature and character opposing the nature and character of God. However, it seems like the problems described above have more to do with limiting the gospel to a “tunnel vision” presentation and whether or not Exodus 20 is applicable for personal evangelism.

    Paul Washer is known for pointing out that most gospel presentations begin by such statements as, “You know we’re all sinners, right?” Such statements are quite vague and can lead to a trite view of sin. Being pointed in exposing the fact that people are sinners, and even pointing out certain sins, does seem to be a biblical principle.

    “STANDARD FOR SIN” The 10 Commandments were given to Israel, but the requirement to obey them (excepting the 4th) were present by conscience. All 10 are also reiterated in the New Covenant. I don’t see the problem in “summarizing” God’s standard for holiness beginning there, unless you teach that you are saved by obedience to them. You must be perfect, or you must have Christ. (No one but God is perfect.) Many of the old statements of faith even summarize the 10 commandments and teach their place in the New Covenant.

    “MISUSE COMMANDS” The principles of the 10 Commandments stand (though we may argue about the 4th being a part of NT moral law with Covenantals). However, “the law” is used more often to reference the whole word of God. Here I agree with Pastor Johnson.

    “LAW EXALTED OVER SPIRIT/WRONG EMPHASIS” This might have more to do with Ray Comfort’s views on Soteriology and the definition of the word “law”.

    “SKEWED EMPHASIS ON DEATH OF JESUS” Here I would disagree with Pastor Johnson. We go to heaven because we trust in Christ. We do not go to Hell because we don’t believe in Jesus, we go to Hell because we are sinners. Pastor Johnson says they speak too much about paying the fine and not enough on propitiation. Jesus’s righteousness being credited to our account is propitiation, simply speaking, and they do teach that in WOTM.

  • Alantabb

    I’m glad that you have taken the time to evaluate this popular tool for evangelism and I am sorry I missed the Shepherd’s Conference this year…I would have attended your session. We recently employed this material in our church and I thought maybe I was the only one who noticed the same concerns you mentioned. It does seem to be a “canned” one-size-fits-all model, but it is not too different from many evangelistic methods that have been popular over the years… I wonder if you remember DJames Kennedy’s Evangelism Explosion from some years back? Though the script seems fine in a training setting, in “real life” it is often far different… One of the things I liked about TWOTM was the brief clips showing realistic evangelism and not-so-pliable lost people. Those brief examples showed that your point about the Gentiles not knowing (or caring) about the Law or the Ten Commandments was right on. This too exposed the trouble with this method

    However, it is the method itself and its genre that troubles me. As you mentioned briefly, the Holy Spirit doesn’t seem to have a very prominent role at all in TWOTM… What is not so surprising is that He very seldom has a role in many evangelistic methods! There is too much methodological ju-jitsu wherein the “lost sinner” after answering a few questions finds himself turned around or backed into a corner ready to cry “uncle” or at least “give ’em what they want so they’ll leave us alone” responses… This doesn’t sound at all like the work of the Holy Spirit Who uses all sorts of circumstances and sorrow to bring someone (or lead someone, or grant someone) repentance that leads to life. How we can assume that our technique will usher in the Holy Spirit to work His “magic” and zap someone with eternal life is beyond me… It seems we leave Him out of the picture entirely until “we’re ready”…

    What is also troubling about many evangelism methods is that so much focus is spent on the how of evangelism or the technique that it drives me back to Scripture to find those texts that teach such an approach to evangelism… I must confess that I don’t find any! What I do find in Scripture is a treasure trove of texts that explain and exhort believers to live godly lives, to pursue (hunger and thirst after) righteousness, to be zealous for good deeds, and to be busy with good works that glorify our Father in Heaven… Is it just me, or does the New Testament seem to take a different approach? First, faith. Then obedience. Then godliness. Then lives that testify of the change God has wrought. Then opportunities to give an answer for the hope that is in us (and can be seen by the way we live out that hope in the midst of this world of lost people). Like the fruit of the Spirit that should always precede the use of the gifts, so too should godliness and righteousness precede the proclamation of the gospel…

    I am excited about evangelism. But I am more excited about true Biblical obedience that leads to godliness and a “sound” witness both in lifestyle and theology. What the saints need is more biblical exposition of the Way the Master wants us to live in the power of the Holy Spirit and leave the results of evangelism up to Him. For when we are obedient to the Savior we are useful to Him especially in evangelism! And when we understand the Biblical role of the Spirit of God in sanctification as well as justification we will be better positioned to be useful to the Master in spreading the (correct) gospel. Not only that, it will be easier to be filled with the Spirit than to be grieving Him or quenching Him when we seek to employ our own (fleshly) methods rather than allowing Him to move in and through us.

    Sorry for the length of this comment…. you would probably cover these issues a bit later on, but I just had to comment. Thanks for your contributions to Cripplegate! May God bless your ministry as you seek to glorify Him.

    • Thanks Alan. Those are some quality points, and don’t apologize for the length. WordPress charges me the same fee, no matter how long the comment 🙂

  • Gary Chaffins

    Pastor Johnson:

    Please layout for us how you would personally share the gospel to a crowd of people in your local park. Please note that this crowd is made up of a variety of backgrounds and understandings….go!

    • I would basically walk through who God is (holy, creator, demand obedience), who people are (made in image of God, sinful, deserving of judgment and hell), and then explain who Jesus is (God in flesh, substitute for sinners, death, resurrection). I would stress the substitutionary atonement, and vindication of the resurrection. Finally, I would say that God demands a response. Count the cost, turn, and believe.

  • Greatful for your tone

    Greetings Brother,
    let me say that we have alot to learn from you. I agree with almost everything you said with respect to the content. But that is not what I am refering to. We as a the body Christ can learn from you in how you respectful and graciously treated your brother in Christ, Ray Comfort, even though you disagreed with him. One of the things I observed in your 3 posts on the issue was your sincere love for your brother, even though you disagree. To often when another believer is in the doctrinal error, the people in our circles pound that individual to a pulp like he is a heritic, ostrisize him, and cut him off. You did not and for that you are a great example for us to follow. Thank you for your example and your Christlikness in standing for truth in grace.

    • Scott

      Strongly agreed…

    • Mary Elizabeth Tyler

      Amen, Greatful for you tone!!! I totally agree with you as to how Jesse is handling all this.

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  • Pastorsteveathope

    I’m curious to know what you would say to someone on their deathbed, an atheist no less, who had about ten minutes left to live. In the street, there is usually just a few minutes to get a small conversation in… What would you say on the street to make the greatest impact in the shortest amount of time? I would appreciate your feedback on this. (I was also in your class at the ShepCon.)

    • Tony Miano


      I will be doing this, today–sharing the gospel with the father of a dear friend who is literally on his deathbed and whose heart is hardened toward the gospel. I will bring God’s moral, universal, transcendent, and holy law to bear, to hopefully bring him to the knowledge of the sinfulness of his sin. And then I will present God’s glorious gospel of grace, by bringing the dying man to the foot of the cross of Christ.

      • Steve Sanchez


        As well you should. I do hope he listens and understands, and will pray for that outcome, bro.

        Still, Jessie, what would you say if you had limited time, say 5 minutes to share? How would you get them to a knowledge of their sin, an understanding about Judgment and Hell and grace? Please, as one pastor to another, and one who greatly respects The Master’s Seminary, what would you say?

        In the seminar you quoted a lengthy piece from the estimable Phil Johnson which, in essence (from my understanding, at least), seemed to say that a sinner had to understand everything about theology before the Gospel was properly proclaimed. I remember thinking, after hearing that quote, that Phil hasn’t witnessed one day on the street in his life. (I’m sure he has, it just sounded like he never had.)

        I’m eagerly anticipating your answer Pastor Jessie. This is no gotcha question. I want to know how you go about this irksome task in as brief a time as possible.

        Thank you,

        Pastor Steve Sanchez
        Hope Chapel, Hermosa Beach

        • Thanks for your question Steve. I would say essentially what I said in my comment a few up. I’ll cut and paste it here:
          I would basically walk through who God is (holy, creator, demand obedience), who people are (made in image of God, sinful, deserving of judgment and hell), and then explain who Jesus is (God in flesh, substitute for sinners, death, resurrection). I would stress the substitutionary atonement, and vindication of the resurrection. Finally, I would say that God demands a response. Count the cost, turn, and believe.
          Finally, if someone is on their death bed, I’ll focus in more on the reality of judgment and the afterlife, and on God’s love. Heaven is a real place, and God is a loving God.

          • Pastorsteveathope

            Thanks, Jessie, for your reply. I understand and agree with you that we should mention all the things you stated. My point though, is, that there is limited time in the street. To say all the stuff you mentioned would take a whole lot longer than 5-10 minutes. The Way of the Master seems to get to the heart of the matter in under 5 minutes. I’m sure there are other methods that do the same, but I’d like to know how you can get someone to understand their dire condition in around five minutes apart from the Moral Law.

            Thank you. I know you have a lot better things to do…

  • Romans11_36

    Isn’t Jesse doing what we are all called to do?

    “Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.”
    (Acts 17:11 ESV)

    When did it become a bad thing to evaluate and come to a different conclusion on non-salvation issues? Shouldn’t we as believers be able to discuss and talk through what we believe and why we believe it? Does this not encourage all of us to more carefully study the Scripture and become more effective evangelists as well as love Christ more?

    Should it be the method that encourages us to be more bold in evangelism or our deepening love for Christ and the outworking of the GOSPEL in our own hearts?

    Thank you, Jesse, for not fearing man in bringing up an area of disagreement. Thank you for stating your position in a gracious, kind, manner. Thank you for encouraging discussion that drives us all to the Word of God to really understand why we believe what we do. Thank you for causing us to think and not just accept everything we hear because of whom we hear it from. Thank you for demonstrating that we can care for, respect and admire and yet have a different perspective than other believers.

    As much as we don’t like to be disagreed with, I think it is good to have our conclusions/perspectives questioned–we can all use the encouragement to humbly think and consider “if these things were so.”

  • Iam1870h

    Isn’t Doug moo the Guy from wheaten college that is on board with the gender-neutral Bible?

    Why do you trust his interpretation of Romans?

    • “An ad hominem (Latin for ‘to the man’ or ‘to the person’), short for argumentum ad hominem, is an attempt to negate the truth of a claim by pointing out a negative characteristic or belief of the person supporting it. Ad hominem reasoning is normally described as a logical fallacy.”

      • Rick Barnes

        Mike, though your definition of ad hominem may be correct it still does not address the point made about Moo…

        The integrity and trust worthiness of a source must always be validated..because they “might” get one thing right doens’t mean we should trust all things from them.. I would question any source that would support a gender neutral strikes at the very CORE of the word of God….

        When dealing with the idea of someone should wear say blue shirt with black pants or a brown shirt instead..hey let him get it wrong ad hominem would apply…

        But if someone (Moo) wants to change the gender roles on the bible I would tend to toss out anything he has said on the scriptures…And for that matter I don’t trust much that comes out of Wheaton College anyway…

        But hey that’s just me…

        • Mumbles

          “what hath gender to do with the 10 words?” Tertullian

        • it still does not address the point made about Moo…

          Sure it does. Iam1870h didn’t address Moo’s arguments in the least. I’ve read Moo’s stuff on this, and it’s some of the most thorough, well-reasoned, and obviously-desiring-to-be-biblically-faithful works that I’ve read on the subject. To find something else that he believes that we disagree with in order to dismiss a position we don’t like without argument is the definition of ad hominem, and, for its laziness, probably has a few steps up to go before it should even be considered a logical fallacy.

          because they “might” get one thing right doens’t mean we should trust all things from them

          Exactly. That would also be the genetic fallacy. But the problem here is the opposite. I’m not trusting Moo on the Law because I like him on other things. I’m trusting Moo on the Law because I’ve weighed his arguments, compared them with Scripture, and find them to be compelling. In this instance, what we need to hear is that just because someone might get one thing wrong doesn’t mean we should dismiss all things from them.

          If we applied Iam1870h’s (or, apparently, your) standard used on Moo to the rest of theology, after learning enough about their views there’d be nobody left that you trust except yourself. D. A. Carson supported the TNIV too. Do we toss out everything he’s ever written? Interestingly enough, both Carson and Moo are complementarians and each have written excellent chapters in the very-complementarian book, “Rediscovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.”

          Listen, I think gender neutrality is dumb too. Moo’s wrong on that, and I hope he changes his mind. But his position on that has nothing to do with whether his arguments on the believer’s relationship to the Law are right or wrong. Let’s do the hard work of weighing each brother’s arguments on each issue on their own merits, no matter how easy it might be to dismiss them because it spares us the difficult, yet noble, work of the Bereans.

          • Iam1870h

            Sorry, just asking. I’ll try not to be “lazy” with moo, maybe if i have enough time I’ll examine the works of moo and check his 400 page document on the modified lutheran view and why its not biblical to use the ten commandments in evangelism. In the meantime I’ll keep my discernment filter cranked up because he’s onboard with the gender neutral Bible and he is a professor at a college (wheaton) that is ok with teaching that the earth is millions of years old. I’m not a professor and I didn’t graduate from a seminary. I hope that you can see that even though I take issue with moo’s affiliations, doesn’t mean that his works on Romans is wrong… But it does make me skeptical as to his accuracy… please understand that this isn’t to say that everyone needs to have the same discernment filter as me. Theres my disclaimer… Label it what you want. Thats all I’m saying.

  • Mumbles

    If anyone still doubts point #2, scroll back up and re-read… (repeat if necessary)

    • Ha. I was sort of thinking the same thing.

      • And with the introduction of gender neutral translation theory, Wheaton College, the NIV, and the age of the earth, and DA Carson, I think this thread has run its course.

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