By Irvin Himmel
Some religious people think that sinners are saved by a direct operation of the Holy Spirit. According to their theory God saves whom He will, the actions and attitudes of men having no bearing on God’s acts of grace, and the gospel is to be preached only to the saved to explain what God has already done for them. This theory makes the gospel food for the saved but not the means of imparting life. The theory denies all human agency in saving sinners.
Primitive Baptists cherish this view as one of the cardinal principles of their faith. In the Christian Baptist, January, 1978, Elder S.T. Tolley, Editor, states, “Primitive Baptists have always believed that it was unnecessary for the gospel of Christ to be preached in order that sinners be saved from hell.”
It is perfectly obvious that Jesus Christ did not start the Primitive Baptist Church, for Jesus taught that the gospel is to be preached to the end that the lost might be saved. The Lord said, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mk. 16:15,16).
Paul was not of the Primitive Baptist persuasion, for he taught that belief is essential to salvation and one cannot believe except he hear the word. “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? . . . So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:13-17).
Elder J.D. Holder, a Primitive Baptist, writing in his book Principles and Practices of the Church, says the gospel “must be that which nourishes or sustains life and not a means to give life” (p. 99). In that statement he flatly contradicts Paul who wrote that Christ hath abolished death “and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Tim. 1:10).
Elder Holder says Paul “was saved before he heard the gospel preached by Ananias” (p. 101). If that were the case, Paul’s sins were washed away before Ananias was sent to him, yet the Bible informs us that Ananias told him to “arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). Paul understood that sinners are made free from sin when they obey from the heart the form of doctrine delivered (Rom. 6:17,18). The role of Ananias was to deliver that form of doctrine to Paul by commanding him to be baptized.
Elder Holder argues that “Cornelius was saved before he heard the gospel by Peter at the house of Cornelius” (p. 101). This is absolutely untrue. In Acts 11:14 it is stated that Cornelius was told to send for Peter, “Who shall tell thee words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved.” Peter said later, “Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe” (Acts 15:7). The hearing of the gospel was the means of producing belief. Peter “commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord” (Acts 10:48).
In every case of conversion in the book of Acts the gospel was preached for the purpose of turning the lost from sin to salvation. Take, for example, the people on Pentecost. The gospel was preached to the multitudes `to make believers out of them. They did not believe that Jesus is Lord and Christ until the gospel was preached. Then, being cut to their heart, they said to Peter and the other apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:37,38).
God designed the gospel to be the power unto salvation. “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). It is by the gospel that people are begotten (1 Cor. 4:15). God will take vengeance on all who know Him not and obey not the gospel (2 Thess. 1:8).
God wants us to employ the gospel to reach the lost. It is through the gospel that the Holy Spirit operates to save sinners. Christ did not equip the apostles with an unnecessary message of glad tidings. Primitive Baptists misunderstand the gospel, therefore they misapply passages which discuss the purpose of the gospel. Primitive Christians (the ones who lived in the apostolic age) were eager to preach the gospel to the lost so they could be saved, but Primitive Baptists are not that primitive!
Truth Magazine XXII: 39, p. 626
October 5, 1978