By Steven F. Deaton
Many congregations of the Lord’s people are concerned these days, and rightly so, that we are a dying number! Fewer and fewer people are taking their stand with those seeking the old paths. In the midst of all of this, some fundamental facts are forgotten about laboring in the vineyard of the Lord. The denominations shoved them aside years ago, as well as the liberals, and now some of God’s faithful are in danger of forgetting them. Lest we let them slip, let us study them.
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (Rom. 1:16). The gospel is God’s power unto salvation!
First, we see that the gospel is the key to the conversion of an alien sinner (Rom. 10:8-17). The word of faith is, “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Rom. 10:8-9). One is led to saving faith only after hearing the word of faith (Rom. 10:11, 17). Notice the following examples and how the word and the truth are connected to salvation, and vice versa.
- Word — everlasting life (John 5:24).
- Truth — free (John 8:32).
- Truth — sanctifies (John 17:17).
- Word — believed (Acts 4:4; 15:7).
- Words — saved (Acts 11:14).
- Word — eternal life (Acts 13:48).
- Truth — trust (Eph. 1:13).
- Snatch the word — non-belief (Luke 8:12).
- Have not his word — believe not (John 5:38).
- Put it [word] from — unworthy of everlasting life (Acts 13:46).
- No love of truth — perish (2 Thess. 2:10).
The gospel of Christ is not only the key to conversion, but also to faithfulness and strength. John declares that in order to fellowship with the Father and Son, one must receive the things which he writes (1 John 1:3-4). Likewise, he goes on to point out that fellowship is based upon having his (God’s) word — keeping his commandments (1 John
Moreover, the gospel is required for spiritual growth. Peter writes that the Christian was purified by obeying the truth and is strengthened by that same truth (1 Pet. 1:22- 2:2). There is no getting around it, THE gospel is essential to a saint’s edification and faithfulness! Look at the following examples and note the link between the faith and faithfulness, and vice versa.
- Word — builds up (Acts 20:32).
- Word — gives inheritance (Acts 20:32).
- Gospel — saved (1 Cor. 15:1-2).
- Truth — growth (Eph. 4:15).
- Scriptures — salvation (2 Tim. 3:15).
- Word — saves (Jas. 1:21).
- Fall away from the word — crucify the Son (Heb. 6:4-6).
- Called away from the gospel — fall from grace (Gal.1:6-7; 3:1; 5:4).
- Put away the faith — shipwreck (1 Tim. 1:19).
- Err from truth — overthrow faith (2 Tim. 2:15-18).
The Gospel Call
“Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtain- ing of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess. 2:14). Those at Thessalonica, and all others, are brought unto the “glory of our Lord” by the gospel call! Note that the Bible nowhere says . . .
1. The personality call. One is not made a Christian by some man’s personality, no matter how sharp and witty it may be. The personality of the preacher or anyone else does not save souls (2 Sam. 15:2-6)!
2. The prestige call. Some men have college degrees with initials that would choke a horse following their names. Others are well known among brethren. However, every initial and all the fame in the world will not redeem one man (1 Cor. 1:26-27)!
3. The eloquence call. At times brethren think because a man is eloquent, that he will draw people to the water. They put stock in the sweet tongued man who can turn a phrase or spout big words, but this is not what saves a man (Rom. 16:18; 2 Cor. 10:10).
4. The youth call. Some have the fantasy that if they hire a young preacher or if they have a lot of young people, it will attract young members of the community. Yet, youth has not saved one person (Phile. 9).
5. The ethnic call. There are those who are attracted to religion because of their ethnic group. However, ethnicity does not wash away sins (Gal. 2:11-14).
6. The relative call. We all know of people who associate with a certain group because their family is in it. Catholics are famous for this. Still, not one person has been forgiven because of family relations (Matt. 10:34-37).
7. The social call. The liberals bought into this one. They, and many others, think that if they have a kitchen or a sports complex or a day care center, that men, women, boys, and girls will come to salvation. But, the fact remains, not a single solitary soul has been saved by social events (Eph. 4:17-19; 1 Pet. 4:3-5).
All of that leads us to this: It is the gospel that draws sinners to God! It is the gospel that saves sinners! It is the gospel that redeems sinners!
Plant & Water
Having allowed the above to sink in, we realize that we must plant and water. “I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase” (1 Cor. 3:6-7). We are commanded to plant (Matt. 28:19-20). We are commanded to water (Eph. 4:12-16). However, it is God who gives the increase. We work with God, not in place of God (1 Cor. 3:9). Therefore, we cannot promise numbers. We cannot say that we will baptize five, ten, or fifteen people this year, that is up to God. Remember Noah? Only eight people were saved on the ark (Gen. 7). What of the perfect preacher, Jesus? Many turned their back on him (John 6:44-45, 66). More people will reject the gospel than will accept it (Matt. 7:13-14). All we can do is plant and water!
There is nothing mystical, magical, or mysterious about conversion and growth — preach the word! It is the sword (Heb. 4:12). “And so were the churches established in the faith, and increased in number daily” (Acts 16:5). Being grounded in truth led to being increased in number! We may need to remove sin from within the camp (Josh. 7-8). However, we can never compromise with error (Eph. 5:11). Fellowship with error only leads to corruption (2 Tim. 2:17; Gal. 5:7-10). Brethren, “let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Gal. 6:9). Rather, let us speak “the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31)!