Excommunication – The Abuse of Biblical Doctrine

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Today, I am writing with grief and hesitation in my heart, as I tell a story I never wanted to tell; however, I believe I must stand on the firm biblical ground to expose the problems we now see plainly. The problems that we have worked toward resolving, through conversation, leaving the church, writing blog posts, letter writing, and finally these series of articles. I am under no allusion that things will change, but it surely is my desire.

Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. 2 Corinthians 4:1-2

Grace Fellowship Church (GFC) in Davenport, Iowa is, sadly, not all that unusual. There are many churches which have an outward appearance of fidelity to the Gospel, and which have orthodox statements of faith, but which utterly fail to “practice what they preach.” GFC often does not preach what its statements of faith proclaim. It is my hope that this series of (3) articles will put a spotlight on its heteropraxy, by which I mean how it leaves the boundaries of orthodox, biblical church practices and more readily resembles a cult.

While there are countless examples and descriptions I can write about, today I am choosing to focus on one issue, I will further address specifics, in an upcoming article, and then conclude in a third article with words from those that have left GFC, only to be disillusioned and most often confused with what church life should resemble. I have chosen this issue because this beautiful biblical doctrine, is being abused, misused, and misapplied for one reason, to control people. Control, and misapplication through excommunication are what most cults or cult-like churches do to wield control, and GFC has mastered these techniques.

 

Excommunication = Restorative 

 

In dealing with the topic of excommunication we have two primary passages of Scripture to be considered, but first it is important to understand excommunication is designed, by God, to be restorative, John MacArthur, in his commentary from Matthew 18, says:

The purpose of discipline is the spiritual restoration of fallen members and the consequent strengthening of the church and glorifying of the Lord. When a sinning brother is rebuked, and he turns from his sin and is forgiven, he is won back to fellowship with the Body and with its head, Jesus Christ.

Matthew 18:15-17 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

How we deal with sin in a local church body is explained in this passage. It is clear this is to follow a process, and the first step of that process is that a brother is in sin. 1 Corinthians 5 is the second passage that deals with the sinning church member. 

1 Corinthians 4:4-5 When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.

We can see the issue with blatant, in the open sexual immorality, and Paul tells the Corinthian church this man should be put out of the church. Paul’s desire for this man is salvation, and the purpose of putting him out of the church is the last resort to reconcile him back to a right relationship with the Lord and to restore fellowship in the church.

 

Excommunication NOT Retribution

 

Excommunication is designed to be a tool, in proper biblical churches, to draw people back to fellowship, not to punish them for leaving the church, and that is the focus of this article. If a “church” consistently uses this tactic, to punish, and to alienate former members for leaving the church, is it a church, by biblical standards?

We were members of Grace Fellowship Church for nine years. In those nine years and the subsequent year and a half since our departure, and our excommunication, five more families, have been excommunicated.

Why you might ask? For leaving Grace Fellowship is the answer; all of these families are still serving the Lord; they still desire to be in a biblical fellowship and walk as Christians. According to GFC theology, it is a sin to leave a church.  According to Mike Reid (Pastor) there are only three or four ways in which you can legitimately leave a church, and if you did, he asks, “what scripture lead you to do that?”

Interestingly enough, what scripture lead him to determine those three or four ways of leaving are the only legitimate ways to leave and has anyone ever come to GFC that they have received into membership that left another local church, even against the counsel of that churches leadership? We know this to be hypocrisy because we know this to be true, and something I will address in the next article.

Last year Mike was invited to participate in a show, and his own words clearly illustrate his theology and ecclesiology. It will not take long to see you will not leave GFC very easily. This gives one illustration of a drift away from orthodox teaching, but there are many more.

GFC is a church that falls into the category of biblicism. Biblicism is a doctrine that, at its essence, teaches that you must have a scripture verse to support anything and everything you do, ultimately, allowing the leaders to control the populace. If they do not have a verse to refer to, then it is not a biblical decision. The New Testament provides no clear definition of the decision to leave a church.

The New Testament does not give direct prohibitions, NEVER to leave, as well there are no commands that one must stay. There are legitimate reasons for wanting to leave that should not involve excommunication; however, at Grace Fellowship leaving, at the time of this writing, has ALWAYS resulted in excommunication for members, with perhaps the exception of one.

According to Bob Selph, teaching Pastoral Theology for the Reformed Baptist Seminary, there are times when it is necessary to leave.

There is a time to leave a church. When, because of faulty teaching or because of authoritarianism, which robs the child of God of his liberty in Christ, a person’s soul is under harm or that of his family, he must leave that situation in allegiance first of all to his King Jesus Christ.

He goes on to discuss the role of an elder not being too authoritative, or intruding into the lives of the congregation, furthermore, he says:

You or I may not particularly prefer or agree with our brother’s and sister’s personal choices, but rules that go beyond Holy Scripture are not to be forced upon the consciences of God’s free people. The church must not go beyond the clear teaching of Holy Scripture with regard to morally neutral activities and force a code of behavior upon God’s redeemed people. These areas are not under the province of the church unless they are done in direct violation of the law of God (10 Commandments) or done to such excess that the testimony of Christ and the church is obviously besmirched. See Confession’s chapter 21 on “Christian Liberty and Liberty of Conscience” to understand a person cannot give his conscience away to the lordship of a church or of anybody else.

Here is what lies at the bottom of Mike Reid and Grace Fellowship’s theology. The elders have extensive rule and authority over the church. When their authority is threatened or challenged, they will find a way to get back; ultimately, it is an impossible situation to leave. The truth is that the only way to leave GFC is either by death or excommunication, but never in ten plus years of the life of the church, has anyone left in a manner worthy of mutual agreement.

 

Working toward Agreement?

 

November 5th, 2018, I responded to a message that Mike Reid sent me, asking to get to together and seek our forgiveness. While on the surface this may seem like a commendable thing to do, and we wanted to be gracious in our response, I needed to discover if there was any sense of wrongdoing regarding our excommunication or willingness to overturn it. I responded with a lengthy letter explaining many issues we believe continue at the church and explaining them as some of the reasons for our departure.

Here is an excerpt from that letter:

Mike,

I received your message on October 24th (2018) and wanted to take this opportunity to respond, of which I’m grateful to do so, but I must first say, the message caught me off guard.  It has created some confusion in my mind as to the reason behind it, and while I don’t want to be ungracious in my response, it urges some questions to be asked.   I also must mention that if you believe you have witnessed the manifestations of my election through the years, you will deeply contemplate the things I present.

Our last communication was a letter in which we have been excommunicated from GFC, and all those in attendance were being instructed to interact with us in accordance to a couple of scriptural references.  I assume you would also fall under this instruction.

“The members of our local assembly will be instructed to interact with you in accordance with Romans 16:17 and 2 Thessalonians 3:13-15.”

We must deal first with these two passages.

Romans 16:17 I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. 

Romans 16:18 For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naïve. 

This is clearly dealing with the unbelievers.  Verse 18 is the immediate context of the passage.  An attempt is being made by unbelievers to change and distort the gospel from what the apostles were teaching.  This is not what we were doing.  And in your message to me the other day you call me brother so, that is either untrue, or this is a misapplication of the verse.

2 Thessalonians 3:13-15 As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good.  If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.

The context of this passage is warning believer’s against idleness.  It’s distinctly clear from the preceding passages.  What troubles me is that you and (2) other elders at GFC approved this letter to justify what you didn’t like and put a blanket statement of “division” over our actions.  Individually the verses do not apply to us, nor do they have any relationship to one another.  Our shunning and excommunication were founded on the eisegesis of these texts by you, Tyler and Nick.

As I said earlier, I don’t want to be ungracious in whatever attempt this might be to reopen a line of communication, but it’s “out of the blue,” and for one, our excommunication needs to be dealt with first and foremost.  Where do the Jandt’s stand in relationship to you and GFC?  This can’t be swept under the rug. You have purposely distorted the truth, misguided the assembly, thus discrediting our family.   You further abused your role in the church, to do what seems clear you do not understand, by “excommunicating” us.  All an effort to control us and strike fear in the assembly.   We can’t simply dismiss what we believe to still be the problems that persist at Grace Fellowship. 

 

Serious Concerns

 

Are the elders ignorant of the doctrine of excommunication, or are they simply ignoring it to suit their desires? It is hard for me to imagine they are ignorant, as I have pointed this out to them in the letter, as others have pointed it out to them in the past.

Why would a legitimate man of God desire to distort the Bible’s teaching?

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Additionally, the congregation plays a role in these decisions. Is the congregation also ignorant, or are they ignoring these truths or lack of truth in order to support their leaders?

I clearly understand the persuasive powers Mike Reid has and the leadership structure he has set up, and how he has convinced the flock that the elders have been ordained by God to speak for the church. Disobedience to them is tantamount to disobedience to God himself, and once again, these tactics are consistent with cultish churches.

Is Grace Fellowship Church a cult, or simply cultish? These are legitimate concerns for those that might attend there, but these believing members that are still in the congregation need to examine the Scriptures. Are the practices of GFC biblical? If not, the members have a responsibility to stand for truth or leave. They are culpable as well, should they continue to support their leaders.

“A single witness shall not suffice against a person for any crime or any wrong in connection with any offense that he has committed. Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established.” Deuteronomy 19:15

These are serious claims, and there is no shortage of witnesses to the evidence against GFC and leadership. After our departure in February of 2018, at last count, eight other families had left, some members, some non-members, and to my knowledge, all members received excommunication letters from GFC. Many of those were long-term members, one family had been there since the very beginning, just as we had, and they desired to leave well. Leaving well is not possible. Leaving is anarchy to leadership, and it must be dealt with in a heavy-handed manner, as a warning.

I wrote a blog series on Churches that Abuse and all of the tactics described in the book by Ronald M. Enroth. Grace Fellowship utilizes most of these tactics. These are not unique. The, at best, heterodox teaching of GFC is dangerous, and one member, well-known evangelist Tony Miano, before becoming a member had engaged in working through the notorious cult Church of Wells. Tony did a three-hour interview discussing the techniques and the issues, and firmly warned those that might be in a church like this, and now, ironically, is in a similar situation himself. This link is a valuable resource as to how these places operate, and yet Tony is now a member in a place that operates in like manner.

 

Fighting for the Gospel

 

I write this knowing full-well we were at this place for nine years, we participated in the same sort of actions, doing exactly the same thing; going along without question because of the teaching. However, God in His great mercy revealed these truths to us in His perfect timing. We had gone back to those excommunicated before us, sought their forgiveness and confessed our sin of participation before them, we sought reconciliation and have received nothing but mercy and grace.

Ultimately, I always come back to the decision that this is a gospel issue. GFC is devoid of true gospel freedom for its members and attenders. The heavy hand of authoritarianism and legalistic preaching and tendencies wreaks in the place. It is a burden for the children and for those that truly have a desire to serve the Lord, and leads them into great confusion as to the balance between the law and the gospel.

I do not want to belabor what others have already said, or tried to do, but to plead with current members to look at the Scriptures and closely examine the teaching and this article, speak with those you have been told not to speak to and seek counsel outside of the leadership. When you can stand back, clear your head, and hear from others, you find amazing clarity.

 

Always Hopeful

 

Lastly, I write this out of a heart to see change. Most likely, I will never have the opportunity to stand before the congregation and bring witnesses to rebuke a sinning elder or three sinning elders, and therefore, my only hope is that this can be exposed that nobody will ever be hurt again by this misuse of church power, and unqualified leadership.

Additionally, I have offered to pursue Chapter 26, paragraph 15 of the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith, to work through this with multiple churches and their representatives.  In an email I wrote to Mike Reid December 7th, 2018, I stated:

We desire peace, yet our peace must be in the Truth.  We can have a worldly peace between us, we can say “hi” at the grocery store, but true peace at its very core is a gospel issue.  And I believe this is where the problem lies between us.  As the 1689 provides a provision for others to provide counsel, I’m willing to seek that out.  See Chapter 26 paragraph 15.  But who could that possibly be?

I still stand prepared to go through with this process and offer that challenge today, yet this must be done with great care, with well-respected, confirmed, and legitimate ministries. After all that has transpired, after many written words, after all the hurt feelings that have come and gone, we are still hopeful for those that remain. We are hopeful they will eventually see through the control, see through the manipulation, and see through the misuse of the truth of the Scriptures. We continue to pray for them by name, and in earnest expectation of great things happening, we will not give up, because those that went before us, never gave up.

My family and the recent families that have left have found the Jesus they sought, to be far more gracious than they could have ever imagined. Man-made rules and regulations do not lead to higher holiness, only self-righteousness, and lack of joy. There is freedom in Christ on the other side, and that is my plea.

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. – 1 John 4:1

May the Lord do as He sees right.

 

Kevin

The Whole Counsel of God

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Because souls are at stake, the work of an evangelist requires boldness, compassion, love, and accuracy. The gospel message is precious and must be protected, but it must also be declared accurately. Paul’s final admonition to the Elders of Ephesus included some powerful truths worthy of our consideration. If we desire to see souls won to Christ, it is imperative we labor to consider the fullness of God’s counsel.

Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.  – Acts 20:26-27

Though simple, this statement is important to dissect and digest. A gospel preacher has an incredible responsibility. Is Paul suggesting that he would be guilty if he did NOT declare the whole counsel of God? Is he saying that everyone that heard him preach (“all”), whether they come to Christ or not, and in this case, not, has received a message that is accurate enough to save their souls?

Commenting on this verse, Calvin says:

“I do not doubt but that he had respect unto the place of Ezekiel, where God denounceth that his prophet shall be guilty of the blood of the wicked unless he exhort them unto repentance (Ezekiel 3:18, 20).”

These are hard words, not only from Calvin but first and foremost from Ezekiel, and certainly should serve as a warning to those that go out to preach and teach on the streets, college campuses, abortion clinics, jails or downtowns.

If I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked person shall die for his iniquity, but his blood will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, or from his wicked way, he shall die for his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul. – Ezekiel 3:18-19

We have before us two issues. One is the warning to the unbeliever or the wicked. They are called upon to turn from their wicked ways. It is straight-forward enough. Secondly, however, and the focus of this article is the call to the preacher. Our job is to warn. Our job is to tell our hearers what will happen if they heed not the message.

One of the important elements of gospel preaching is to preach the full counsel of God. This includes the hard news. According to Ezekiel, warning people releases the gospel minister from the guilt of the hearer’s unbelief. As Paul said about himself, he is “innocent of the blood of all” because he was truthful in his gospel proclamation. He did not hold back. He warned. He declared the whole counsel.

In our day of compromise, we readily see evangelism and missions ministries with slogans that focus on the love, mercy, kindness, and compassion of God. This is true enough, but such a one-sided message is lost on sin-hardened culture like the contemporary West. Unbelievers will simply twist such a message to make it seem as though God was accepting of their rebellion. We must preach Christ and preach Him accurately, calling the lost to repentance of their sin. We must warn them of the eternal danger such a life leads to. We must warn them of hell and the judgment to come, should they reject so great a message.

This is not to say that gospel preachers should only warn. We must also point to the love and beauty of Christ. There must be a balance. There must be a pointing to the cross in all our preaching. Matthew Henry illustrates the well-rounded preacher of the gospel with clarity and force.

The elders knew that Paul was no designing, self-seeking man. Those who would in any office serve the Lord acceptably, and profitably to others, must do it with humility. He was a plain preacher, one that spoke his message so as to be understood. He was a powerful preacher; he preached the gospel as a testimony to them if they received it; but as a testimony against them if they rejected it. He was a profitable preacher; one that aimed to inform their judgments, and reform their hearts and lives. He was a painful preacher, very industrious in his work. He was a faithful preacher; he did not keep back reproofs when necessary, nor keep back the preaching of the cross.

The whole counsel of God includes God’s holiness, man’s sinfulness and impending doom, and the blood and resurrection of Christ that can save their souls from hell. It includes counting the cost. It includes hard truths. It also includes reconciliation with God and joy that surpasses all understanding. We must deliver the entirety gospel truth. It will rarely be popular. It will typically bring persecution. But for those with ears to hear, it will well up springs of eternal water. It is our joy as gospel ministers to walk away knowing we did not shrink back from declaring the whole truth, trusting in the Lord to save souls.

Kevin

 

The Joy and Privilege of Suffering

Saint Paul

For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have. Philippians 1:29-30

The concept of suffering in the Christian experience is not unique. In fact, we could argue the lack of suffering most Christian’s have experienced in recent generations is unique.  Paul had no concept of “not suffering.” It was expected, anticipated, and it was “granted.” Not only is faith a gift from God, but so is suffering. Why does it surprise us today that we would, should, or even must suffer for the sake of Christ and the gospel?

It is time we marvel at the words Paul uses to describe his situation, and consider why suffering is so beneficial to him and to those around him.

I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. Philippians 1:12-14

Paul was in jail at the time he wrote the letter to the Philippians. He is grateful for his suffering. It has given him a unique perspective. Suffering forces a person to depend upon God, and it causes the outside observer to question why one would willingly endure such things? It was no different for Paul.

So what is it about the Christian life that can take joy in reproaches, insults, and derision? For the Christian sufferer, it drives them to Christ. It weakens the bondage the flesh has over them. It leads them to more fervent prayer. It softens them when dealing with other people’s trials. It gives them a better appreciation of what Christ went through. It encourages other Christians to be more steadfast in their own trials. It encourages Christians to be bold in the proclamation of the gospel, regardless of the hardship it brings.

In all of this, Paul said, it especially serves to advance the gospel. The guards saw what Paul endured. They were shocked that he would joyfully submit to his suffering. They were shocked by his continued boldness and patience. Other Christians were perhaps the same way. They were encouraged that Paul’s faith never wavered.

Christian, do you lack boldness? Has your witness lagged? Has your spiritual life become dry? This is something that every Christian will likely go through at some point in his or her walk. We need a boost. We need a lift. Rather than turn to self-help books or gurus, perhaps it’s time we suffered for the gospel.

The gift of suffering helps us to depend on God. This is not to say we should intentionally look for suffering or hardship. As Peter stated, we should not suffer as evildoers, but suffer for doing good (1 Peter 4:15-19). But it is to say that as we live out our lives as obedient Christians, especially in the pagan West, we will meet a culture that is hostile to biblical truth. This will inevitably lead to suffering, and it is a cause for rejoicing, not shame.

A more obvious source of suffering comes from evangelism, whether it is gospel focused open air preaching or 1-1 on the streets, college-campus, abortion clinics, or even with a relative on the phone. As we expose the folly of unbelieving worldviews and contrast it with the consistency of the biblical worldview, we will incur the hostility of the lost. Spurgeon said it well: “If you really long to save men’s souls, you must tell them a great deal of disagreeable truth.”

Telling the truth has always had a way of bringing persecution, whether in Jesus and Paul’s time or our own. We are not to shrink back, but rather to press on, realizing that our Master has followed the same path. Paul and the disciples have done the same. Now it is our turn. Suffering is a gift from God, so rather than be surprised by it, let us rejoice and keep going in the good fight of faith.

Kevin

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God’s Way: Kerruso!

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My second article for Christ in the Wild Ministries.

Preaching the word of God in the open air is biblical and effective, as I established last week. Today, I want to look at exactly what it means to preach. A good place to start is by defining the term.

From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” – Matthew 4:17

κηρύσσωc: kerysso; to publicly announce religious truths and principles while urging acceptance and compliance—‘to preach.’[1]

The first public proclamation of the gospel is by Jesus himself. Yes, it was also proclaimed by the triune God in Genesis 3:15, but it is not until Christ’s public ministry that we see a clear explication of exactly what this gospel is. And, moreover, it is not until Christ’s public ministry that we see this gospel preached, as opposed to some other form of communication.

Christ’s way is not complicated; it is not fancy; it is straight-forward gospel preaching. Notice it is public, and the word emphasizes a demand to comply with what is being proclaimed. As preachers of the gospel, we are not offering an option to people, but a command to believe the message. The gospel is not meant to “improve people’s lives,” but rather to save souls from the judgment to come. The reason it is a command, not an option, is because it comes from the King of kings and the Creator of the universe. As creatures, we have an obligation to submit to this God and to do what he says. The fact that it is preached further emphasizes the urgency to obey. Paul states in Acts 17:30, “God now commands all people everywhere to repent.”

Jesus’ example provides us with all we need to know about what to do as preachers, but we see many other examples throughout the Scriptures. To deny the reality and necessity of biblical, open-air preaching is to deny the truths of Almighty God and his prescribed way of getting his message to the masses.

Repentance, Grace and the Kingdom of God

As theologian Leon Morris explains, an emphasis on repentance and grace in our open-air preaching is also imperative.

Not only did Jesus begin to preach, but Matthew mentions two topics of his preaching: repentance and the coming of the kingdom. Jesus began with the same emphasis as John the Baptist. This makes sense, because repentance and the Kingdom of God go together: if the kingdom of God is near, then clearly people cannot be complacent. They must prepare for that kingdom, and that means repenting of their sins. Jesus, like John the Baptist, calls on the people to realize they are unfit for the kingdom of heaven and to repent accordingly. Such preaching is a clarion call to action, not a recipe for slothful complacency. We should not overlook the importance of this call to repentance at the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry, since everything else follows from that. Matthew has often been seen as one who stresses the importance of good works, which is true. But this must not be held in such a form that his emphasis on grace is missed. From the beginning, Jesus took it for granted that people are sinners, and accordingly his first message was that they must repent. Only so would they know the forgiveness he came to bring.[2]

Question 76 of The Westminster Larger Catechism asks, “What is repentance unto life?” Answer: “Repentance unto life is a saving grace, wrought in the heart of a sinner by the Spirit and Word of God, whereby, out of the sight and sense, not only of the danger, but also of the filthiness and odiousness of his sins, and upon the apprehension of God’s mercy in Christ to such as are penitent, he so grieves for and hates his sins, as that he turns from them all to God, purposing and endeavoring constantly to walk with him in all the ways of new obedience.”

This is why repentance unto life must be preached. John Newton summarizes, “My grand point in preaching is to break the hard heart, and to heal the broken one.”

As open-air preachers, we have a message from the King, and we must go proclaim it. There is no further justification necessary. I will deal with the how-to of open air preaching in future articles, but let us pray that God opens our eyes to the glory of the simple proclamation of his gospel to sinners.

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? – Romans 10:14

 

Kevin

[1] Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 416.

[2] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to Matthew, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Inter-Varsity Press, 1992), 83.

Isaiah 55:11 & Evangelism

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I’ve been given an opportunity to write blog posts for Christ in the Wild Ministries, these will primarily be focused on evanglism, so please check out the ministry.

One of the consistent criticisms in evangelism regards our “success” rate. The unbelieving cynic or worse, the professing Christian, often looks to pragmatism to measure success. If it works, then it must be effective. At Christ in the Wild Ministries, Isaiah 55:11 drives us to labor for the Lord no matter the outcome, knowing that God determines success.

God’s measure of success can be summed up by one phrase: faithfulness to his Word. When proclaimed accurately, the gospel message is always “effective.”

The 55th Chapter of Isaiah is a general call for sinners to come to Christ for salvation. The faithful evangelist is 100% successful no matter the outcome. While we should seek the Lord and work diligently for souls to be saved, the outcome is in the hands of Almighty God, not the evangelist.

What could be more encouraging to our gospel labors than perfect success every time we proclaim the gospel?

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. – Isaiah 55:10-11

It is important to include verse 10 with verse 11 because we see the picture God draws about how evangelism works. Similar to the parables of Christ, we see the natural world being used to draw spiritual implications. Water falling from the sky, seeds sprouting from the earth, and bread produced for food, show us the simplicity of the evangelist proclaiming the word of God, proceeding from God’s mouth to the ears of the hearer. We act as ambassadors for Christ, pleading for the souls of the lost to be reconciled to God.

Calvin commenting on verse 11 says: This doctrine must be frequently repeated and inculcated, that we may know that God will do what he hath spoken. For this reason, when we hear the promises of God, we ought to consider what is his design in them; so that, when he promises the free pardon of our sins, we may be fully assured that we are reconciled through Christ. But, as the word of God is efficacious for the salvation of believers, so it is abundantly efficacious for condemning the wicked; as Christ also teacheth, “The word which I have spoken, that shall judge him at the last day.”

A powerful statement, to say the least, and we can have the assurance we are not laboring in vain, nor will our time be wasted, though barely a soul comes to Christ through our ministry. We can look back to Noah, Jeremiah, even Isaiah himself and understand that God was accomplishing his plan through “unsuccessful” ministries.

Go forth in the power of the Spirit, knowing that effective ministry is in the hands of a Sovereign God, no matter the outcome.

Kevin