“The Way(s) of the Master–Why evangelism should not be one size fits all” was a message taught by Pastor Jesse Johnson, to pastors and church leaders at John MacArthur’s 2012 Shepherds’ Conference (March 9, 2012). Here is the audio of that teaching, and here is where the notes were put up on this blog.
Although Mr. Johnson’s critique misrepresented my views and teachings on a number of points, this response has not been written as a defense of me or my reputation. It is rather a defense of the Bible’s teaching on the nature and purpose of the Ten Commandments.
Spurgeon and the Law
First, when you think of the role of the Law, my biggest concern is an overemphasis on the Law with a capital L, and overemphasis on the Ten Commandments, on the Decalogue, an overemphasis on using the Ten Commandments on evangelism. I come across this fallacy often in Ray Comfort’s writings. ’m not so familiar with Wesley’s style approach to evangelism or Moody’s but I’m very familiar with Spurgeon’s, Whitefield’s, and Luther’s approach to evangelism, and it doesn’t go like that. For example, Comfort quotes this from Spurgeon: “There is no point upon which men make greater mistakes than upon the relationship which exists between the Law and the gospel.”
And Comfort in this book [God Has a Wonderful Plan for Your Life, 47] goes on to explain how that is Spurgeon arguing for the Ten Commandments in evangelism. But that is not what Spurgeon is arguing for. We look up the sermon “Law and Grace” 1855, Spurgeon is making a point about imperatives and indicatives …The idea that the Scriptures command certain things of us. It is a hermeneutical grid more than an evangelistical grid and in fact, the very next paragraph of this Spurgeon sermon goes on to talk about how Gentiles do not have God’s written Law given to them but they are still under the imperatives of the New Testament. That’s Spurgeon’s point.
But Johnson misses that later in the sermon, Spurgeon himself tells us what his point was:This morning I shall attempt—God helping me to show you what is the design of the Law, and then what is the end of the gospel. The coming of the Law is explained in regard to its objects: “Moreover the Law entered, that the offence might abound.” Then comes the mission of the gospel: “But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.”
In the cited sermon, Spurgeon went on to say:
Until men know the Law, their crimes have at least a palliation of partial ignorance, but when the code of rules is spread before them, their offenses become greater, since they are committed against light and knowledge. He who sins against conscience shall be condemned; of how much sorer punishment shall he be thought worthy who despises the voice of Jehovah, defies his sacred sovereignty, and willfully tramples on his commands. The more light the greater guilt—the Law affords that light, and so causes us to become double offenders.
This “ignorance” is mentioned by Paul as he confronts Gentiles in Athens for their violation of the First and the Second of the Ten Commandments:
Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device. And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commands all men everywhere to repent… (Acts 17:29–31).
Spurgeon then tells us to what he is referring when he uses the word “Law”:
“There was sin in the world long before God sent the Law. God gave his Law that the offence might seem to be an offence; ay, and that the offence might abound exceedingly more than it could have done without its coming. There was sin long before Sinai smoked; long ere the mountain trembled beneath the weight of Deity, and the dread trumpet sounded exceeding loud and long, there had been transgression.”
When Spurgeon spoke of the Law, he was referring to the Ten Commandments that were given on Mount Sinai, and that if there is a misunderstanding as to the purpose of the moral Law (the Commandments) grave mistakes will issue. He then makes reference to idolatry (1st and 2nd Commandments) and the Sabbath (4th), and quotes the 10th: “Thou shalt not covet.”
Perhaps Spurgeon had John Newton in mind when he said, “There is no point upon which men make greater mistakes than upon the relationship which exists between the Law and the gospel.” Newton said, “Ignorance of the nature and design of the Law is at the bottom of most religious mistakes.”
In the time of Moses, God was pleased to set apart a peculiar people to Himself, and to them He published His Law with great solemnity at Sinai…The Decalogue, or ten commands, uttered by the voice of God himself, is an abstract of that original Law under which man was created, but published in a prohibitory form, the Israelites, like the rest of mankind, being depraved by sin, and strongly inclined to the commission of every evil.
Watch now as Spurgeon addresses sinners (before he presents the gospel), and note his reference to the Law as being the Ten Commandments:
But more, there is war between you and God’s Law. The Ten Commandments are against you…The First one comes forward and says, “Let him be cursed, for he denies me. He has another god besides me; his god is his belly, he yields homage to his lust.” All the Ten Commandments, like ten great pieces of cannon, are pointed at you today, for you have broken all God’s statutes, and lived in the daily neglect of all His commands. Soul! You will find it a hard thing to go to war with the Law. When the Law came in peace, Sinai was altogether on a smoke, and even Moses said, “I do exceedingly fear and quake.” What will you do when the Law comes in terror, when the trumpet of the archangel shall tear you from your grave, when the eyes of God shall burn their way into your guilty soul, when the great books shall be opened, and all your sin and shame shall be published? Can you stand against an angry Law in that day?
When Martin Luther spoke of the Law, he was talking of the Ten Commandments (he here cites five Commandments):
The Law is the Word in which God teaches and tells us what we are to do and not to do, as in the Ten Commandments….Presumption follows when a man sets himself to fulfill the Law with works and diligently sees to it that he does what the letter of the Law asks him to do. He serves God, does not swear, honors father and mother, does not kill, does not commit adultery, and the like. Meanwhile, however, he does not observe his heart, does not note the reason why he is leading such a fine, good life, that he is merely covering the old hypocrite in his hear with such a beautiful life.
Although the word “law” is also used in places in Scripture to mean the Word of God, civil law, and Hebrew ceremonial law, in this context John MacArthur also believes that the word “Law” is a reference to the Ten Commandments:
They must understand the problem. And that’s why biblically speaking, and mark this, biblically speaking evangelism always begins by presenting the Law before grace…You must preach Law, you must preach judgment, you must preach condemnation…And what Jesus is saying to these people is, you may not have killed anybody and you may not have commit adultery but in your hearts you have been angry and in your hearts you have hated and in your hearts you have lusted and you are as vile as a murderer and as an adulterer. And in desperation they are driven to the need of an outside Savior who can change their evil hearts.
Thus, those who don’t understand the importance of using the Ten Commandments to bring the knowledge of sin before the gospel is preached make great and tragic mistakes: “There is no point upon which men make greater mistakes than upon the relationship which exists between the Law and the gospel.” Spurgeon told us his goal. He said:
This morning I shall attempt—God helping me to show you what is the design of the Law, and then what is the end of the gospel. The coming of the Law is explained in regard to its objects: “Moreover the Law entered, that the offence might abound.” Then comes the mission of the gospel: “But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.”
For Jesse to say that the sermon is about “imperatives” and “indicatives” and “is a hermeneutical grid more than an evangelism grid” is to cloud the simplicity of Spurgeon’s point. The Law prepares the way for the gospel.
Law and Gentiles
Later, Jesse also said: “It doesn’t make sense to me to ask people if they have kept a set of Laws that God never gave to them.”
God gave Israel Ten Commandments that were written in stone and He gave the rest of humanity (the Gentiles) the “work of the Law” written on their hearts:
For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them… (Romans 2:14,15).
John MacArthur has said:
The purpose of the Law is to lay us under a curse. You say, ‘Well sinners don’t really understand that.’ Yes they do understand that; I’ll tell you why. Because not only is the Law of God written in His word but according to Romans 2, there is the Law of God written in the heart. And the Law of God written in the heart is an ally to the evangelist who is approaching the sinner on the basis of his violation of the Law. This is the authoritative note in evangelism: you are violating the absolute Law of God.
Jesse apparently disagrees, as he went on to say:
There are a few problems and concerns that I have. First there is exegetically—the way that some passages get handled they are very troublesome to me. Romans 3:19 is probably the one that bothers me the most. Pastor Comfort makes a big issue about that in almost every one of his books. Romans 3:19: “The Law has been given so that every mouth may be stopped.” He takes that the Ten Commandments are given to all people so that everybody is under them and that is why he uses them in evangelism. If you look at Romans, that passage, that is not what is happening there: “We know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those that are under the Law.” There are all kinds of things in that passage. It is referencing the verses that are before which are not the Ten Commandments. It is Psalms and Isaiah he is calling the Law right here and not the Ten Commandments.
Jesse only quoted half of the verse at this point in his teaching and the other half some time later. The complete verse says, “Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God” (Romans 3:19).
The truth is, the Law leaves the whole world (Jews and Gentiles) guilty before God. Let’s back up to where Paul begins talking about “the Law” to see the context—to see if he is talking about Psalms and Isaiah.
Back in Romans 2:12, Paul said that those who have sinned in the Law shall be judged by the Law. Then he begins to use the Law lawfully, using five of the Ten Commandments (8th, 7th, 1st and 2nd, and the 3rd) to address his hearers:
You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal [8th]? You who say, ‘Do not commit adultery, do you commit adultery [7th]? You who abhor idols [1st and 2nd], do you rob temples? You who make your boast in the Law, do you dishonor God through breaking the Law? For ‘the name of God is blasphemed [3rd] among the Gentiles because of you,’ as it is written (Romans 2:21–24, NKJV).
Then in Romans 3:1-2 Paul says that the Jews have an advantage because they were entrusted with the “spoken” words of God (God Himself spoke the Ten Commandments). In Romans 3:11–18 he gives an epitaph of the universal nature of sin (both Jew and Gentile), and then says that the Law was given “that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.”
Although Paul quotes Isaiah and Psalms to back up universal depravity, in the context of the Scriptures, he is speaking primarily about the Ten Commandments, four of which he had just used to bring the knowledge of sin to his hearers. It is that knowledge of sin which stops every mouth, and leaves the whole world guilty before God. The sinner’s conscience bears witness with each Commandment, leaving him without justification and guilty before God. The next verse (Romans 3:20) tells us “…for by the Law is the knowledge of sin.” Matthew Henry said, “There is no way of coming to that knowledge of sin, which is necessary to repentance, and therefore to peace and pardon, but by trying our hearts and lives by the Law.” .
Martin Luther said:
Therefore learn, who can learn, and learn well, so that we may know, first the Ten Commandments, what we owe to God. For if we do not know this, then we know nothing and we will not inquire about Christ in the least. Just like we monks did who either held Christ to be an angry judge or despised him entirely in the face of our imaginary holiness. We fancied we were not in sin, which the Ten Commandments show and punish; but we had the natural light of reason and free will, and if we lived according to that, as much as we were able, then God would have to bestow upon us his grace, etc. But now, if we are to know Christ as our helper and Savior, then we must first know, out of what he can help us, not out of fire or water, or other bodily need and danger, but out of sin and the hatred of God. But whence do I know that I lie drowned in misery? From no other source than from the Law, that must show me what my loss and disease are, or I will never inquire for the physician and his help.
Jesse went on to say:
So it does not make sense to me to begin evangelism by asking people, have they kept a set of Laws that God never gave to them. Or what will happen when you die if God judges you on these Laws that God never gave to them.
But it makes perfect sense when we understand that God has given the Law to the whole world. Again, Jews have it in stone, and Gentiles have its work written on their heart—the Gentiles have the “work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness” (Romans 2:15). We intuitively know that it is wrong to lie, to steal, murder, blaspheme, and commit adultery.
The 2nd Commandment about idols, the Way of the Master often asks, and I’m quoting directly, “Have you made a god in your mind that you are more comfortable with or a god to suit yourself?” Is that the nature of the 2nd Commandment? I don’t think so.
Yet before anyone carves an idol, he conceives the image in his mind—the place of imagery. Most in America don’t go so far as to carve a physical image of their god in wood or in stone, but their image of God is idolatrous. He is seen as a divine butler or a celestial Santa Claus. The Westminster Larger Catechism says:
Question 109: What are the sins forbidden in the Second Commandment? Answer: The sins forbidden in the Second Commandment are…the making any representation of God, of all or of any of the three persons, either inwardly in our mind, or outwardly in any kind of image or likeness of any creature.
Martin Luther, in speaking of idolatry, said:
For when I compare my life with the Law I see and experience always the contrary of what the Law enjoins. I shall entrust to God my body and soul, and love Him with my whole heart; yet, I would rather have a dollar in my chest than ten gods in my heart, and I am happier when I know how to make ten dollars, than when I hear the whole Gospel…. But that it is not so and ten thousand dollars can make people happier than all the grace and possessions of God, proves what kind of fruit we are, and what a distressing and horrible fall it is in which we lie.
Paul even wrote that covetousness (violation of the Tenth Commandment—a sin of the heart) is idolatry: “Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5). This was also true of the rich young ruler (see Mark 10:17). God was not first in his affections. His god was his money.
The Spirit and Evangelism
Jesse also said:
Later, Comfort writes, “By using the Law, Paul was pulling back the veil of Moses so his hearers could have the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” Again, that is not what Paul is talking about in 2 Corinthians 3. He is talking about how the Spirit does that. In fact, in 2 Corinthians 3 he is contrasting it with the work of the Law. The Law couldn’t remove the veil; it is the Spirit that removes the veil. And I can picture the response being, “Yes but the Spirit uses the Law.” I don’t think so. Again, that is the contrast. The Spirit does not use God’s moral Law…The Spirit uses the confronting of sin, but particularly the Spirit uses the Word of God, which has as itself a hammer that opens the heart to expose sin. So the Law is emphasized to the diminishing of the Spirit.
It is clear from Scripture that any evangelistic effort is dead letter without the influence of the Holy Spirit. Paris Reidhead said, “When 100 years ago earnest scholars decreed that the Law had no relationship to the preaching of the gospel, they deprived the Holy Spirit in the area where their influence prevailed of the only instrument with which He had ever armed Himself to prepare sinners for grace.”
Matthew Henry also said:
The commandments of the Lord are pure, holy, just, and good. By them we discover our need of a Savior; and then learn how to adorn his gospel. They are the means which the Holy Spirit uses in enlightening the eyes; they bring us to a sight and sense of our sin and misery, and direct us in the way of duty.
John MacArthur has also said:
Furthermore, John 16:9–11 says the Holy Spirit who is the only one who can save, the only one who can bring the sinner to repentance, convicts the world of sin, righteousness and judgment. Those are all terms connected to the Law: sin is the violation of the Law, righteousness is the standard by which that Law is given and the standard by which the sinner’s failure is measured and judgment is the outcome that is what the Holy Spirit works in the heart of one he is convicting. So you have the Law written in the heart, which is an ally to the evangelist, you have the work of the Spirit—why do we have to come up with other ways to do this and avoid the very things the Spirit of God has called us to do.
I think it would be good if Jesse studied Wesley’s evangelism, because it was based on Holy Scripture. The great open-air preacher, when referring to the Ten Commandments in evangelism, said:
[I]t is the ordinary method of the Spirit of God to convict sinners by the Law. It is this which, being set home on the conscience, generally breaks the rocks in pieces. It is more especially this part of the Word of God which is quick and powerful, full of life and energy and sharper than any two-edged sword.
Jesse said, “And I can picture the response being, ‘Yes but the Spirit uses the Law.’ I don’t think so… The Spirit does not use God’s moral Law…So the Law is emphasized to the diminishing of the Spirit.” But this is simply not true, either biblically or in our ministry. He went on to say:
Overemphasis on the Law can lead on a skewed view of judgment, by saying things like, “When you die you’ll be judged based on the Ten Commandments.” Which I don’t think is true. So my main question, are Gentile nonbelievers under the Law of Moses or the Ten Commandments? Will they be judged by them when they die? I say no.
But Romans 2:12 does say that God will use the Law to judge the world: “For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law.” Elsewhere the Bible says:
“For He who said, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘Do not murder.’ Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty” (James 2:11,12).
Charles Spurgeon believed and preached that the Law would judge his hearers (who presumably were Gentiles):
But more, there is war between you and God’s Law. The Ten Commandments are against you…What will you do when the Law comes in terror, when the trumpet of the archangel shall tear you from your grave, when the eyes of God shall burn their way into your guilty soul, when the great books shall be opened, and all your sin and shame shall be published? Can you stand against an angry Law in that day?
John Newton said:
We cannot be at enmity with God and at the same time approve of his Law; rather this is the ground of our dislike to him, that we conceive the Law by which we are to be judged, is too strict in its precepts and too severe in its threatenings; and therefore men, so far as is in them lies, are for altering this Law…the Law is lawfully used as a means of conviction of sin; for this purpose it was promulgated at Mount Sinai.
When Paul preached to Athenian Gentiles, he told them to repent of their idolatry (violation of the 1st and 2nd of the Ten Commandments), then he said, “Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness…” (Acts 17:31, KJV).
“So my main question, are Gentile non-believers under the Law of Moses or the Ten Commandments? Will they be judged by them when they die? I say No.”
By what standard then will God judge idolaters, blasphemers, murderers, adulterers, thieves and liars, if it’s not by the Ten Commandments?
Going to hell for breaking the Law, or for rejecting Jesus?
Jesse also took issue with my belief that sinners are going to hell for sinning, rather than for rejecting Jesus. Talking about one of my books where I make this point, Jesse said:
There is a section in this book–and this gets the most troubling–that teaches that people are on their way to Hell for violating the Law, rather than on their way to Hell for rejecting Jesus Christ. And there is a huge difference. So here he has a section,where Ray talks about you are not going to Hell for rejecting Jesus Christ because what about those in unreached people groups? They’ve never heard of Jesus Christ so how can they go to Hell for rejecting? Let me be super clear, Ray goes above and beyond in that chapter to say that he is not talking about everybody getting saved. What he is talking about is they are going to Hell for breaking the Ten Commandments. Ray is saying that they have not heard of Jesus, so how can they go to Hell for rejecting Jesus? But let me throw that ball right back and say “But what about the Ten Commandments? Are they going to Hell for breaking those? They haven’t heard those either!”
Once again, the Gentiles have the work of the Law written on their hearts. In the book I give a scenario of a missionary who believes that people go to Hell because they reject Jesus Christ. He peers through the bushes and looks at the gospel-ignorant tribe. He thinks to himself that these people have never heard of Jesus Christ, so they haven’t rejected Him. Therefore they haven’t sinned. This is because he believes that “sin is rejecting Jesus Christ.” If he then preaches to them, and they reject Jesus, they will go to Hell. So it is better for them that he says nothing.
Here is the biblical definition of sin: “Whosoever commits sin transgresses also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law” (1 John 3:4).
The popular belief that sin is rejecting Jesus probably finds its roots in John 3:17,18 and John 16:8,9:
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they believe not on me…
Much damage has been done to the cause of the gospel by telling the world that they will go to Hell because they don’t believe in Jesus. It seems unreasonable to them that God would eternally damn them for not believing something. However, the verse can be explained this way: If a man jumps out of a plane without a parachute, he will perish because he transgressed the law of gravity. Had he put on a parachute, he would have been saved, so in one sense, he perished because he didn’t put on the parachute. But the primary reason he died was because he broke the law of gravity.
If a sinner doesn’t trust in Jesus Christ when he passes through the door of death, he will perish. In one sense this will happen because he didn’t put on the Lord Jesus Christ. But the primary reason he will perish is because he transgressed the Law of God. Again, had he “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” he would have been saved. But because he didn’t trust in Jesus, he will suffer the full consequences of his sin. Again, the biblical definition for “sin” is “transgression of the law” (1 John 3:4).
The Westminster Shorter Catechism says:
“Q. 14. What is sin? A. Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God.”
In response to this explanation, Jesse said: “But let me throw that ball right back and say but what about the Ten Commandments? Are they going to Hell for breaking those? They haven’t heard those either!”
I think that I have covered the answer to that question with the explanation that the whole world is guilty, because of the work of the Law written on the Gentile heart.
Does the Law or the Spirit bring repentance?
Jesse also said that he thinks our ministry wrongly attributes to the Law the work of repentance, when it is really brought about by the Spirit. In fact, he said:
The use of the Law to bring repentance, I think is an unlawful use of the Law. First Timothy 1 is rattling through the Ten Commandments, you can see the 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th Commandment, 9th Commandment; but it is not confined to that. I think Paul here is rhetorically, more than to say that the Ten Commandments are used in evangelism, he is bringing people through the rhythm here. He throws in homosexuality which you can say is a violation of the 7th Commandment but if you look at 1 Timothy, I don’t know I just don’t buy that Paul is establishing the use of the Law to bring repentance. He is saying that the use of the Law, use the Law lawfully and it does condemn people but it is not what leads people to repentance.
I have never once said (or written) nor knowingly implied anything like “Paul is establishing the use of the Law to bring repentance.” Here are the Scriptures to which Jesse is referring:
But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine… (1 Timothy 1:8–10).
Paul is explaining the correct use of the Law. It’s not for a righteous person; it is for “sinners.” Then he is specific. It is for those who use profanity, for murderers, fornicators, homosexuals, liars, etc. Obviously he isn’t saying that the Law was made so that they could be saved by keeping its precepts. Rather, its function is to show them that they have sinned against God, and that they desperately need a Savior. The Law condemns, but it doesn’t lead anyone to repentance. It is God who does that: “And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will” (2 Timothy 2:24–26).
“When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life” (Acts 11:18, KJV).
To insinuate that I teach that the Law leads sinners to repentance is to seriously misrepresent our ministry.
Are we a one-size-fits-all ministry?
Jesse also seems to think that The Way of the Master teaches there is only one way to do evangelism. He said this:
So my issue is with the one size fits all approach to evangelism. Ray writes this: “When I speak of using the Law in evangelism, I don’t mean making a casual reference to them. Rather, the Law should be the backbone of our gospel presentation because its function is to prepare the sinner’s heart for grace.” But his response to this was, “Law to the proud and grace to the humble,” that’s the old Living Waters mantra and that is true. However, it was followed right away by this comment: he defines proud as those who have not yet been broken by the Law. He defines humble as those who have been broken by the Law. So you say this but it is still the one-size-fits-all approach to evangelism. The next sentence in their response was, “Hey, I don’t know of a better way to find out if somebody is proud or not than to ask them, ‘Are you a good person?’” Oh, we are back where we started again. That is what I mean by the one-size-fits-all approach. Law to the proud and grace to the humble; but the only way to find out if you are proud or humble is to ask you, “Are you a good person?”
We have never said, “The only way to find out if you are proud or humble is to ask you, ‘Are you a good person?’” That question is merely a suggestion to help those who go through our teaching.
Rather than call this a “one size fits all,” I prefer to say that all of humanity has a God-given conscience. Without the Law to stir the conscience to do its duty, they will have the experience of Paul, who said that he didn’t know what sin was until the Law told him:
What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, “You shall not covet” (Romans 7:7.
Notice that Paul quotes the 10th Commandment making it clear what he meant by “Law.”
Like the rich young ruler, most people have no idea of the biblical definition of the word “good”:
Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, ‘Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?’ So Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Do not defraud,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother’” (Mark 10:17–19).
The Scriptures tell us, “Most men will proclaim everyone his own goodness…” (Proverbs 20:6). Most people think that they are morally good. If you want to see if this is indeed true, you could ask a sinner, “Do you think you are a good person?” and you will more than likely hear words of self-righteousness and pride. He will say something like, “Yes. I’m a very good person. I don’t harm anyone and will certainly go to Heaven when I die.” In his eyes he is worthy of Heaven because he is morally good—“All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes…” (Proverbs 16:2).
So we should do what the Master Evangelist did with the rich young ruler to give him God’s definition of good. Jesus gave him the Ten Commandments. Remember Luther’s words: “‘I was alive without the Law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived (Romans 7:9).” So it is with the work-righteous and proud unbelievers.
Perhaps you have found another way to discover if someone is proud and is trusting in self-righteousness, or if they are humble and are trusting in the mercy of God. I have been using my suggested question for many years, but if you find something better, let me know and I will gladly adopt it, if it is biblically sound. Instead of calling it “one size fits all” and criticizing it, try it and see if it doesn’t open people to talk about their salvation.
Jesse said that The Way of the Master emphesizes the “judicial” element of the gospel at the expense of the “relational” element of the gospel:
[They have a] diminished view of relational separation from God. And again, every gospel presentation diminishes something. Most gospel presentations focus on the relational separation from God, right?—You are separated from God because of your sin. But there is an equally strong error of ignoring that side of the separation from God and saying the problem with your sin is your judicial penalty. And skipping over the fact that the person is made in the image of God, does not have his prayers answered, does not have hope in this life because he is apart from God. He is lost, wandering around this world as a pilgrim with no guide, no hope, living an empty, sad and desperate life. And the gospel bridges him back into communion with God.
But Spurgeon said this:
The Law of the Ten Commandments is strictly just; it is such a law as a man might make for himself if he studied his own best interests, and had wisdom enough to frame it aright. It is a perfect Law, in which the interests of God and man are both studied; it is not a partial Law, but impartial, complete, and covering all the circumstances of life. You could not take away one command out of the ten without spoiling both tables of the Law, and you could not add another command without being guilty of making a superfluity. The Law is holy, and just, and good; it is like the God who made it, it is a perfect Law.
Psalm 19:7 tells us that the Law of the Lord is perfect. The sinner cowers before its perfection as an enemy of God (Colossians 1:21). His wrath abides on him (John 3:36). Every time he sins, he is storing up wrath that will be revealed on the Day of Wrath (Romans 2:5). He stands before the Judge, condemned to death and damnation because his crimes are unspeakably serious in God’s eyes.
To address felt needs of being “empty” and “sad” is unbiblical. An attorney who speaks of his client’s felt needs, when he is clearly guilty of raping and murdering half a dozen young women, shouldn’t be an attorney. When Paul reasoned with Felix of righteousness, temperance, and judgment (Acts 24:25), he didn’t tell him he was empty or sad. Felix trembled because the thought of judgment by God’s righteousness terrified him.
Most who make professions of faith today don’t tremble, because misguided preachers address felt needs rather than reasoning of sin—which is transgression of the Law (1 John 3:4), of righteousness—which is of the Law, and of judgment—which is by the Law (Romans 2:12; James 2:12). More than likely modern preachers make this mistake because they don’t understand the relationship that exists between the Law and the gospel. Remember John MacArthur’s words: “sin is the violation of the Law, righteousness is the standard by which that Law is given and the standard by which the sinner’s failure is measured and judgment is the outcome that is what the Holy Spirit works in the heart of one he is convicting.”
Idolatry and the Second Commandment
Jesse also thinks that we wrongly identify idolotry as a violation of the Second Commandment. He said:
[TWOTM says ] idolatry is wrong because of the Second Commandment…no, no, no, no, no. Idolatry is wrong because we love Jesus Christ.
According to Scripture, idolatry is wrong because it is a violation of the First and the Second of the Ten Commandments. Paul preached the essence of the 1st and the 2nd of the Ten Commandments to the Gentile Athenians when he said, “Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising” (Acts 17:29). It seems he preached a similar message to the Thessalonians:
And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost….For they themselves show of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God. (1 Thessalonians 1:6,9, KJV).
Even John MacArthur said:
I think there’s no question but that idolatry is the most serious and contaminating of all the sins because it strikes directly at the character of God. That’s why out of the Ten Commandments the first three of them are directly related to idolatry.
The Rich Young Ruler
Jesse also fails to see that Jesus did use the Ten Commandments in his interaction with the rich, young ruler. He said:
You see this it the story with the Rich Young Ruler, where Jesus asks him… And I tell you if there is ever a WOTM passage, it is this passage, right? … The WOTM understanding of the passage says that Jesus focuses on the 1st Commandment, you come and follow me. He is holding him to the 1st Commandment. No he is not. He is not holding him to the 1st Commandment. He is saying, I think, my understanding of the passage, he is saying… Ok for the sake of the discussion, I’ll grant you that. But Law-keeping doesn’t get you to Heaven anyway. The issue is what are you going to do with me—God in human flesh? Sell and follow me, and he won’t do that because he loves his things more than he loves Jesus Christ. It is not that he is being rebuked by the 1st Commandment, although, hey, if you want to put in there, it is still true, right? Put it under the 1st Commandment, he is still being rebuked for breaking the 1st Commandment. But I am saying that there is something greater going on than the 1st Commandment— it is the person of Jesus Christ in the flesh. That is what I mean by skewed view of judgment.
Here is the cited passage:
Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, ‘Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?’ So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. You know the commandments: “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not bear false witness,” “Do not defraud,” “Honor your father and your mother.” (Mark 10:17–19, NKJV).
Jesse says that I believe that Jesus is holding him to the 1st Commandment, and adds, “No he is not. He is not holding him to the 1st Commandment.” He then says this:
It is not that he is being rebuked by the 1st Commandment, although, hey, if you want to put in there, it is still true, right? Put it under the 1st Commandment. He is still being rebuked for breaking the 1st Commandment… But there is something greater going on than the 1st Commandment.
Jesse disagrees at first, and then he concedes that the man is in violation of the 1st Commandment. So he is in agreement, but for some reason he concludes his case against me by saying “That is what I mean by skewed view of judgment.” Ultimately this concern does not hold up.
Exodus 20 or 1 Corinthians 6?
Jesse also wanted to make the point that it would be better to use NT lists of sin, instead of using the Ten Commandments. He said:
So part of me (and this is why I said this is a small concern) says it would be much more comfortable if you use the WOTM approach to evangelism using 1 Corinthians 6 and Revelation 21 with people. Walk them through those lists, because they got those lists, and it is not from the Ten Commandments. Although there is overlap because they both are the reflection of God’s moral Law.
Jesse says of the two lists of those who will not enter Heaven, “Walk them though those lists, because they have those lists, and it is not from the Ten Commandments.” Then he says that there is an overlap because both lists are the reflection of God’s moral Law. So let’s look at the lists and then note the overlaps:
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9,10).
But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death (Revelation 21:8, NKJV).
Here are those in the two lists who are mentioned in the Ten Commandments: adulterers (7th), idolaters (1st and 2nd), thieves (8th) the covetous (10th), murderers (6th) and liars (9th). Keep in mind that 1 Timothy 1:8–10 tells us that the Law was made for sinners, gives a list, and then says that the moral Law is for “anything that is contrary to sound doctrine.” Jesus also gave a list of sins which trace themselves back to the Ten Commandments:
But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts [lust is adultery, and hatred is murder], murders [6th], adulteries [7th], fornications, thefts [8th], false witness [9th], blasphemies [3rd]. (Matthew 15:18,19, NKJV).
Paul also gives a list of sins that include the moral Law:
But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery [7th], fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry [2nd], sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders [6th], drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:18–21, emphasis added).
So Jesse’s “small concern” need not be a concern at all. The Law covers all sin, because “sin” is transgression of the Law (1 John 3:4).
Skewed emphisis on Jesus’ death:
Jesse thinks that we have “skewed emphesis on Jesus’ death. He explains what he means:
Ray writes, “Jesus died to satisfy the demands of the Law.” “Jesus suffered and died on the cross to satisfy the Law.” And again, not exactly. I don’t think that is why Jesus suffered and die, he suffered and died to satisfy the righteous requirements of the Law (Romans 8:4) and ultimately satisfy the righteous wrath of God. He said, his action was legal, forensic satisfaction; yes. But it was made to a person, not to satisfy a law. But to satisfy God. That’s what I mean by a slight wrong emphasis on that.
It is a great error (if not a great sin) to separate God from His Law. The Ten Commandments are the expression of His moral character. There wasn’t a time in eternity when God said, “I wonder what is right and wrong?” The Law is eternal.
Jesse said, “But [the sacrifice of the cross] was made to a person, not to satisfy a Law. But to satisfy God.” But the Bible calls God “the Habitation of Justice.” Psalm 89:14 says “Justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne.” To strip Him of the justice He loves is to create an idol, and to violate the First and the Second of the Ten Commandments.
Did the Ten Commandments, in terms of expressing God’s moral character, start with Moses? When did they start? Did God start them at creation? No! They never had a beginning, because they are an expression of God’s eternal character. That’s an important point to make.
Why did Jesus suffer? Romans 8:3-4 tells us:
For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
Galatians 3:13 says, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us — for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.” Matthew Slick , writes, “Jesus is God in flesh (John 1:1,14; Col. 2:9) and only God can satisfy the Law requirements of a perfect life and perfect sacrifice that cleanses us of our sins.”
In Jesus Satisfies Both the Law’s Demands and it’s Curses, John Colquhoun (1748–1827) said:
The meritorious obedience of Christ to the precept could not satisfy the penal sanction; and the sufferings and death of Christ, could not satisfy the precept of the Law. The commandment of the Law as a covenant requires doing for life; the curse of that Law demands dying as the punishment of sin. These, though they are never to be separated as grounds of justification, yet are carefully to be distinguished. The perfect obedience of Christ is as necessary to entitle believers to eternal life as His suffering of death is to secure them from eternal death. His satisfaction for sin, applied by faith, renders them innocent or guiltless of death; and His obedience makes them righteous or worthy of life (Romans 5:19). As the latter, then, is as necessary to complete their justification, according to the gospel, as the former, so it is as requisite as the former to establish the honor of the Law.
Yet Jesse says that to believe that Jesus died to satisfy the demands of the Law is to have a “skewed emphasis in the death of Jesus.”
Law to the proud, Grace to the Humble
Jesse also thinks that there are New Testament examples where Jesus did not use the Law on the proud:
Ray writes this, “Never once did the Son of God give the good news, cross, grace, mercy to a proud, arrogant and self-righteous person.” Sort of, I guess. I mean there are some examples. Looking at the woman at the well, Ray says that Jesus used the Ten Commandments; Jesus calls her for her adultery. Well yes and no. He is not bringing the Commandment to bear on her. He is calling out her sin, but again I’m putting her on this side of the chart [pointing to his chart on the wall about moral law vs. Ten commandments]. I think he is pushing a little bit too much.
Jesus is clearly speaking to her about her sin of adultery—a violation of the Seventh Commandment (see John 4:18). How many “husbands” does a woman need to have for her to be guilty of adultery? She had five! I don’t think I am “pushing a little bit too much” to say she had broken the 7th Commandment.
Jesse also cited Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus. He said:
Ray says, “Obviously, Nicodemus was broken by the Law because Jesus didn’t give him the Law.” But when you look at John 3, he is not broken by the Law here, he is confused. The last verses in John chapter 2 say that Jesus didn’t trust himself to any of these men. Chapter 3:1, here is one of these men that Jesus didn’t trust himself to. And Jesus brings him the thunder. This is a hell-fire, brimstone sermon. He ends it with, you are standing judged by God for rejecting Jesus Christ, He tells Nicodemus. That is not grace to the broken, this is a proud person who is being hit by Jesus apart from the Law.
I believe that a leader of the Jews seeking out Jesus at night, acknowledging His deity and asking questions about the new birth, reveals a humble heart. I don’t think “this is a proud person.” If someone sought me out at night, said that what I preach was from God, and then asked me about the new birth, I think it would be reasonable to conclude that the man is humble of heart.
So I don’t think it’s unreasonable to conclude that this godly Jew (who obviously knew the Law) didn’t need the Law to humble him. He was already humble and was thirsting for truth. He therefore needed the message of God’s love. That’s why Jesus gave him the good news of the gospel. But Jesse says of the passage:
That is not grace to the broken. This is a proud person who is being hit by Jesus apart from the Law.
I would consider John 3:16 to be the very heart of the message of God’s love and grace. God gives grace to the humble, and that’s what we see in this passage.
In reference to John 3, Jesse says:
This is a hell-fire, brimstone sermon. He ends it with, you are standing judged by God for rejecting Jesus Christ, He tells Nicodemus.
But the discourse between Jesus and Nicodemus ended at verse 21. From verse 22 on we see John the Baptist preaching to proud and argumentative Jews, ending in verse 36 with, “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”
Jesse clarifies by saying:
I’m not saying don’t confront people with sin. Yes, you need to confront people with sin. Yes, the Law of God is used to the proud but they do know they are sinners; they don’t need the Ten Commandments to show them they are sinners. They need to be confronted with what the Bible and their conscience bears witness that they are liars and hypocrites… They do know they are sinners; they don’t need the Ten Commandments to show them they are sinners.
But this is what the Scriptures say: “There is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God” (Romans 3:11). There is none who understand. None. Not one. We are all like sheep that have gone astray. Until sinners come to Christ they have their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart (Ephesians 4:18).
Even Paul said that he didn’t know what sin was until the Law told him. His understanding was darkened:
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. (Romans 7:7).
When Paul spoke of “the Law,” was he speaking of Isaiah, Psalms, or some other passage of the Bible? His quoting of the 10th Commandment in the same verse is a good clue.
But Jesse said that they don’t need the Ten Commandments. He maintained, “They need to be confronted with what the Bible and their conscience bears witness that they are liars and hypocrites.” What then is our moral yardstick for lying if it’s not the 9th Commandment, which says, “You shall not lie?” Again, why then did Jesus point the Ten Commandments when a man asked how he could find eternal life? Here it is once again:
Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Do not defraud,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.’” (Mark 10:17–19).
Look at Jesus again pointing to the Law when a lawyer (a professing expert in God’s Law) asked how to find eternal life:
And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?” (Luke 10:25).
The sinner’s understanding needs to be enlightened by the Law, in the hand of the Spirit.
The Third Commandment and blasphemy
Jesse does not agree with how I use the 3rdCommandment. He says:
The Third Commandment is probably the most troubling to me after the Sabbath. “Have you taken the Lord’s name in vain?” But the 3rd Commandment is not when you blaspheme God’s name when you hit your thumb with a hammer. That is not what the 3rd Commandment is talking about. The 3rd Commandment is only something that a so-called “believer” can violate.
When the 7th Commandment forbids adultery, it also includes all sexual sin (lust—Matthew 5:27, 28; fornication; and homosexuality—see 1 Timothy 1:8–10). When the 9th Commandment forbids bearing false witness, it also includes all lying (ibid). When the 3rd Commandment forbids the taking of God’s name it is also includes a failure to give His Name due honor, which includes using it as profanity. Consider Leviticus 19:12: “And you shall not swear by my name falsely, neither shall you profane the name of thy God: I am the Lord” (KJV).
First Timothy 1:8–10 also says that the Law was given for those who use profanity: “But we know that the Law is good if one uses it Lawfully, knowing this: that the Law is not made for a righteous person, but for the Lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane…” ( NKJV).
The Hebrew word used for “blasphemy” is nĕ’atsah. Its meaning is to have a disgust with or hatred of God, considering Him to be unworthy of respect. Consider Psalm 139:20: “For they speak against thee wickedly, and your enemies take thy name in vain” (KJV).
In commenting on the 3rd Commandment, Bible commentator Matthew Henry said, “all profane cursing is a horrid breach of this command.”
Some may argue that they don’t consider casually saying “God” to be blasphemy. In fact, the phrase “omigod” or “OMG” is so embedded in the vocabulary of youth today that it is just a meaningless word to them. In other words, they don’t esteem the name of God. The Hebrew word used for “vain” means nothingness, emptiness, vanity. According to John F. Walvoord, to misuse God’s name means literally “to lift it up to or attach it to emptiness.” The Third Commandment forbids using God’s name flippantly or in profanity. So using the Lord’s name lightly or without thinking is the very essence of taking it “in vain.”
Jesse believes “The 3rd Commandment is only something that a so called “believer” can violate.”
Focus on substitution and imputation
Jesse also takes issue with what he perceives is a lack of explanation of substitution and imputation in our gospel presentation. He says:
There is an urgency that should mark your life—people are on their way to Hell. There is a sense of danger and importance that transcends all that we do. There is a focus on imputation, on justification, on substitution—that was the Phil Johnson quote I skipped over when we talked about how in our pluralistic age, you have to explain substitution, imputation, propitiation to the lost. Some of the analogies often used don’t cut it, you know the traffic ticket story, doesn’t cut substitution, it doesn’t cut propitiation, it doesn’t carry the water there. So you have to just introduce people to Jesus and cover the basics as they come up in your conversation.
Of course the apostles expounded on the theology of substitution, imputation, and propitiation to the lost. Every time we speak about Jesus death on the cross we are speaking about a substitutionary atonement. When we use the courtroom analogy we are speaking about justification and imputation of Christ’s righteousness. Every time we tell people to flee the wrath to come we are speaking about propitiation, etc.
Ten Commandments in Evangelism?
It’s ironic that while Pastor Jesse was discouraging the use of the Ten Commandments in evangelism, at another workshop at the same conference (right across the hall) Dr. Richard Mayhue was saying:
The Mosaic Law does serve a function today, but not with the authority of the New Covenant. Anybody want to venture what that purpose is? And it’s crystal clear in the Scripture and talked about numerous times. Is it good for a believer? No. [It’s good] for an unbeliever. And it is to show them how sinful they are….And I’ll just read you one text because it’s probably the clearest and most unambiguous of any text in the New Testament; and it’s found in First Timothy. The Law mirrors man’s sinfulness….Did the Ten Commandments, in terms of expressing God’s moral character, start with Moses? When did they start? Did God start them at creation? No! They never had a beginning, because they are an expression of God’s eternal character. That’s an important point to make.
Look at Spurgeon use the conscience as an ally—because it bears witness with the Ten Commandments:
Oh! There are some of you to whom conscience is as a ghost, haunting you by day and night. You know the good, though you choose the evil, you prick your fingers with the thorns of conscience when you try to pluck the rose of sin…Oh! There is war between you and conscience. Conscience says, ‘Turn,’ but you say, ‘I will not.’ Conscience says, ‘Close your shop on Sunday,’ conscience says, ‘Alter this system of trade, it is cheating;’ conscience says, ‘Lie not one to another, for the Judge is at the door,’ conscience says, ‘Away with that drinking cup, it makes the man into something worse than a brute,’ conscience says, ‘Rend yourself from that unchaste connection, have done with that evil, bolt your door against lust;’ but you say, ‘I will drink the sweet though it damn me, I will go still to my cups and to my haunts though I perish in my sins.
The moral Law makes the message of mercy make sense. It is the bow that gives the arrow of the gospel its thrust. Jesus used it, Paul used it, Spurgeon used it, so did Wesley, Luther and many others in history. So why would he attack it when it’s so scriptural? My only answer is to look to Martin Luther’s words of warning, when it came to the use of the Law in evangelism:
And yet we would not see nor realize it, if it were not revealed to us through the Law, and we would have to remain forever in it and be lost, if we were not again helped out of it through Christ. Therefore the Law and the Gospel are given to the end that we may learn to know both how guilty we are and to what we should again return. For Satan has attacked it hard and strong from the beginning until the present, and gladly would he completely extinguish it and tread it underfoot.
John MacArthur said:
There is an interesting trend today in the Church, evangelical Church, to dismiss the Law. To get rid of it because they say it is, one, offensive, and, two, somewhat obscure to a postmodern generation that doesn’t believe in absolutes anyway. So there is a very, very, aggressive trend to take the Law out of evangelism.
Before any pastor stands in a pulpit to publically criticize another ministry, he should make sure that his concerns are justified.
I wonder how many pastors and church leaders will now feel biblically justified in discouraging faithful laborers who have picked up the sickle of God’s Law. Jesse’s concerns of my having an “over emphasis on the Law,” a “diminishing of the Spirit,” and humanity being judged by some standard other than the Ten Commandments, may just tip the scales for some.
After hearing words like “most troubling,” “I come across this fallacy often in Ray Comfort’s writings,” “equally strong error,” a “skewed emphasis in the death of Jesus,” and the bringing in of John MacArthur’s name to back him up, how many will now wrongly believe that I teach that the Law brings repentance, and other troubling errors? How many will believe that I have a “skewed view of judgment,” that “the 3rd Commandment is only something that a so called ‘believer’ can violate,” or sinners “don’t need the Ten Commandments to show them they are sinners”?
If the above accusations are true, I should be thrown out of the Church and my teachings considered heretical. But even though I strive to have integrity and sound biblical doctrine, my reputation isn’t important compared to the salvation of the lost. What Jesse Johnson has done is extremely troubling in such a light.
I wonder how many will now set aside the use of The Ten Commandments because of Jesse’s talk, and cease to mention Judgment Day, or open up the divine Law as Jesus did.
My heart breaks that many church leaders may now choose to embrace unbiblical evangelism, rather than learn how to address the God-given conscience by opening the divine Law and warning a sinful world about judgment to come. We have to face a perfect Creator (Deuteronomy 32:4) who has a perfect Law (Psalm 19:7; James 1:25) that demands perfection (Deuteronomy 18:13; Matthew 5:48). We are to proclaim that only Jesus can save us—“whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus” (Colossians 1:28, emphasis added). Look at these sobering words from the Prince of Preachers:
The doctrine of judgment to come is the power by which men are to be aroused. There is another life; the Lord will come a second time; judgment will arrive; the wrath of God will be revealed. Where this is not preached, I am bold to say the gospel is not preached. It is absolutely necessary to the preaching of the gospel of Christ that men be warned as to what will happen if they continue in their sins. Ho, ho, sir surgeon, you are too delicate to tell the man that he is ill! You hope to heal the sick without their knowing it. You therefore flatter them; and what happens? They laugh at you; they dance upon their own graves. At last they die! Your delicacy is cruelty; your flatteries are poisons; you are a murderer. Shall we keep men in a fool’s paradise? Shall we lull them into soft slumbers from which they will awake in hell? Are we to become helpers of their damnation by our smooth speeches? In the name of God we will not.
To learn more about the principles of biblical evangelism, we have a book that not only addresses concerns that some have had about this teaching, but it also shows the devastating consequences of failure to use biblical evangelism. God Has a Wonderful Plan for Your Life: The Myth of the Modern Method is available free online. You can also listen to “Hell’s Best Kept Secret” and “True and False Conversion” freely here.
May I also ask you to take just half an hour to watch “180” to see what I believe is evident Holy Spirit conviction, as God stirs the conscience through the Law. Like Felix, sinners tremble as they are reasoned with about sin, righteousness and judgment to come. Millions have watched “180” and have seen the Law give light to those whose understanding is darkened. John MacArthur said of this movie, “This is a powerful, confrontational treatment of abortion that rocks its defenders back on their heels. Don’t miss it!”
I hope what I have shared has been helpful, and that it has been received in the spirit in which it was given.