Wednesday, May 2

Converting Sinners: The Wrong Emphasis?!

How or when did the church take on John 3:16 as it's key verse? We were just talking about this in this morning's Bible study. I cannot be sure at this point, though with the loose theology of Charles Finney in the early to mid-1800s, the door was more than opened to such an emphasis. I read somewhere that the Puritans were not of such an inclination. Rather, they saw their main verse to be Genesis 1:1, "In the beginning, God . . ." Indeed, this was Paul's gospel introduction with the Athenian philosophers in Acts 17. And in an increasingly secular society fraught with godlessness and biblical illiteracy, it behooves the church to reacquire such a biblical bearing. Otherwise the church will have lost it's foundational compass pointing true spiritual north. 

My early experience of fundamentalism / evangelicalism supports that "getting people saved" was the all-important purpose of the church's existence. It was drilled into us in the Christian schools which I attended. We used to hear said, and I've repeated (though long ago), "Now that you're saved, you could go to heaven today!" (And this is certainly true). Then in order to reinforce the assurance of their salvation (not altogether a bad thing, right?), we would add something like, "The only reason God left you on this earth was to witness to others and get them saved! Otherwise, He would just take you home." But I would suggest that that is NOT the only reason God left us here. It is not even the most important! Read this from A. W. Pink (d. 1952):
ONCE a man makes the conversion of sinners his prime design and all-consuming end and NOT THE GLORY OF GOD, he is exceedingly apt to adopt a wrong course. Instead of striving to preach the Truth in all its purity, he will tone it down so as to make it more palatable to the unregenerate. Impelled by a single force, moving in one fixed direction, his object is to make conversion easy; and therefore, favorite passages (like John 3:16) are dwelt upon incessantly, while others are ignored or pared away. It inevitably reacts upon his own theology; and various verses in the Word are shunned, if not repudiated. What place will he give in his thoughts to such declarations as, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots?” (Jer. 13:23); “No man can come to Me, except the Father which hath sent Me draw Him” (John 6:44); “Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you” (John 15:14)? 
He will be sorely tempted to modify the truth of God’s sovereign election, of Christ’s particular redemption, of the imperative necessity for the super-natural operations of the Holy Spirit. [Pink, A. W. (2005). The Arthur Pink anthology. Bellingham, WA.: Logos Research Systems, Inc.]
I can hear someone respond, "Well, of course, the glory of God is important. That goes without saying!" To which I would reply (along with John Piper) that we had best NOT assume God's glory to be the pivotal doctrine in the church. The Almighty God does not deserve nor appreciate being assumed! We cannot afford for such a doctrine to go without saying, far less without embracing. It is so central and vital that we must emaphasize and reemphasize this doctrine today more than ever! This doctrine is true north among Christian doctrines. Get it wrong and no matter how sincere, no matter how correct along other lines, such a miscalculation will inevitably lead to gross detours if we even make it at all to the right destination.

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