The Reformed Gospel Proclaimed, Mixed with the Arminian Altar Call
The glorious Gospel of God is to be proclaimed to all nations, even all creation (Mt 24:14; Mk 16:15; Col 1:28; 1 Pet 2:9). The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the heralded message that declares all that God has done to save His people from their sins (Mt 1:21). The Holy Spirit fills the preacher of the Gospel of grace and demonstrates the power of God unto salvation (Rom 1:16; 1 Cor 1:18), by converting sinners into saints (1 Cor 2:4).
Despite the Gospel-of-peace-with-God being foolishness to the natural man in the world (1 Cor 1:18), the Christian preacher is not ashamed of Jesus Christ or the Good Shepherd’s mission to seek and to save His lost sheep (Ps 23; Lk 19:10; Jn 10). Without the Holy Spirit, who the world cannot receive (Jn 14:17), the hearer of the Gospel simply cannot believe the preacher’s report (Is 53:1; Jn 10:26) because the Gospel is hidden from the wise and intelligent, that is, the proud boaster of self (Mt 11:25; Lk 10:21).
It is the exclusive prerogative of Christ Jesus to make the revelation of God a known reality to those who were chosen of God before the foundation of the world (Mt 11:27; Lk 10:22; Rom 11:5; Eph 1:4–5), and who belong to Christ (1 Cor 3:23) because they were given to Him by God the Father (Jn 6:37; 17:2, 6, 24), and purchased with the precious blood of the Lamb of God (1 Cor 6:20; 7:23; 1 Pet 1:19).
There is a preacher who has a high view of God and Christ, but who has a deficient view of God’s salvation at the point where the preacher and unbelieving hearer meet. Dr. Steven J. Lawson is one case example. Lawson is steeped in Southern Baptist tradition, which includes the Arminian altar call. This call at the end of the sermon is an appendage designed to coax sinners to accept the “offer” of God embedded in the preached message. The problem for Lawson, and others in this tradition of manipulation, is that God is not offering salvation to anyone. Dead men do not consider nor act upon offers from the living, and sinners are spiritually dead men in both nature and practice (Rom 3:23; 5:12; Eph 2:1–3).
In the preaching event, God’s Spirit constrains the preacher to bear true witness of what God has done to secure His elect, redeemed, and now regenerate, believing people. Believers in Jesus are called “believers” because they actually believe the Gospel preached to them. The reason they trust Christ is that God — being the author of the believer’s faith (Heb 12:2) — made them believe in Christ by His grace (Eph 2:8–9). How? God gave His Spirit to His chosen people, as a gift of His grace (Acts 2:38; 10:45).
The Holy Spirit, after spiritual baptism, causes the elect soul to be born again of God (Jn 3:1–8; 1 Pet 1:3). Having made them spiritually alive (Eph 2:5; Col 2:13), the Spirit takes up permanent residence in the soul of the regenerate (Jn 14:17; Rom 8:9, 11; 1 Cor 3:16; Gal 4:6; 2 Tim 1:14; Jas 4:5). With the receipt of the Spirit comes the receipt of faith (2 Pet 1:1), which has been handed down to all the saints throughout history and from around the world (Jude 3).
Jesus said it best to His disciples, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He may give to you (Jn 15:16).” It is the Arminian heresy that reverses this spiritual birthright. The false preacher makes the Gospel hearer a judge of Jesus Christ and Messiah’s perfect work in life, death, resurrection, ascension, enthronement, mediation, and sovereign rule. To choose to make a decision on the merits of Christ is to be Christ’s judge.
Steve Lawson declares the sovereignty of God in salvation, professing that salvation belongs to God from beginning to end. In his very next breath, Lawson will tell his listeners that God is “offering salvation” to everyone and it is up to each hearer to decide to accept or reject God’s offer to save them if the listener will let Him. The Christian preacher, no matter his esteem in the church, has no possible grounds to imagine he or his hearers can strip God of His sovereignty in salvation.
Steve Lawson, as much as I appreciate his preaching prowess, contradicts himself because he is clearly confused as it pertains to the Spirit’s work at baptism, sealing, regenerating, and indwelling the soul of the man made new. It is the Spirit who does all the work (Is 26:12), including the opening of one’s heart to respond to the Gospel/Word preached and received (Acts 16:14).
The Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Rome and assured them that the Spirit and the Word are sufficient to accomplish the task of saving chosen vessels of mercy, to be prepared for glory that is to be revealed to them (Rom 8:18; 9:23). The justified sinner shall live by faith (Rom 1:17), and faith comes by hearing, made to be a reality by the Word of God preached (Rom 10:17). It may be in a twinkling of an eye that dead souls are brought to life (regeneration), but that is a hidden event with God alone as its witness, as when the conception of a baby occurs in his or her mother’s womb. No baby ever made the decision to accept the “offer” to be born or not born. Everyone knows there is no offer, except the Arminian preacher and his bamboozled listeners.
Men import their machinations into the work of God for selfish reasons. The Arminian preachers in the Arminian churches are so obsessed with the doctrine of salvation that they now have a long tradition of ingenious inventions to manipulate hearers (e. g. altar call). The Arminian demands visible, calculable results. Instead of being content with preaching (planting the seed of the Word) and teaching (watering the seed of the Word implanted), the Arminian will go so far as to manipulate weeds to join the wheat harvest (reprobate to pretend they are saved church members) for the sake of numerical, harvest statistics. What good are bigger barns if they are filled with tares and goats?
Let my Reformed reader be comforted in the knowledge and understanding of God’s predetermined plan and foreknowledge (for-love), of so great a salvation that assures that the full number of God’s chosen people will be gathered into Christ’s church, the Israel of God (Gal 6:16), because God promised to lose none of His adopted children who belong to Him (Jn 10:28–29; Rom 8:15, 23, 31–35; Eph 1:5). Throughout church history, seasons of spiritual famine and spiritual prosperity have been witnessed by the faithful saints. Famine is assured when anything other than the Word preached (seed sown) is in the souls of hearers (Amos 8:11).
Therefore, in our generation, let us be faithful to fulfill the commission to make disciples (Mt 28:19–20), who are the gracious product of the Holy Spirit’s work in preaching, believing, and growing the body of Christ. God set the full number of His adopted children in eternity past, and nothing, including the absence of the Arminian altar call, can separate them from the sure salvation of God the Father, who loved us in election (Eph 1:5), from Christ, who loved us in redemption (Rom 5:8; Eph 5:25), nor from the Holy Spirit, who has poured out God’s love in our hearts, where He dwells (Rom 5:5; 2 Cor 5:5)…because God chose for Him to dwell there without any decision from anyone else.
Spokane Valley, Washington
May 13, 2022