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ERRORS OF MODERN EVANGELISM
(SERMON #2 ON EVANGELISTIC PREACHING)

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Saturday Evening, May 17, 2008

“Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life” (John 5:39-40).


I think these verses in John’s Gospel perfectly describe what is wrong with modern evangelism. The two most common modern errors are these:


1.  Eternal life comes by believing what the Bible says.

2.  Eternal life comes by believing what the Bible says, plus making a commitment of obedience.


These are generally called by two names,


1.  Easy believism.

2.  Lordship salvation.


Both errors are commonly taught today. But both of them are corrected by John 5:39-40. In this sermon I will show three things: (1) that eternal life does not come by believing the Bible, and that it does not come by believing the Bible plus making a commitment of obedience; (2) that man in his natural state will not come to Christ; (3) that all who do come to Christ receive life.

“Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life” (John 5:39-40).

I. First, eternal life does not come by believing the Bible, or by
believing the Bible plus commitment.

It is clear that the men Jesus spoke to believed the Bible. In fact their hope of eternal life rested in their belief of the Scriptures,

“for in them [the Scriptures] ye think ye have eternal life”
      (John 5:39).

This shows that their “faith” was no greater than that of a demon. The demons believe in God.

“Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils [demons] also believe, and tremble” (James 2:19).

But the demons believe more than that. They also believe that Jesus is the Son of God.

“And unclean spirits, when they saw him, fell down before him, and cried, saying, Thou art the Son of God” (Mark 3:11).

The demons also called Him,

“Jesus, thou Son of God most high” (Luke 8:28).

And the demons also believed in Hell, and they believed Christ had the power to cast them into Hell.

“And, behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? art thou come hither to torment us before the time?” (Matthew 8:29).

(These thoughts are taken from “The Demon’s Creed,” sermon idea from Wayne Jackson, Pulpit Helps, April 2008, pp. 16-17).

Thus it is plain that demons believe in God; they believe that Jesus is the Son of God, even the “Son of God most high”; and that there is a place called Hell, and Jesus has the power to send one there. So, it is clear that a person can believe all those Scriptural doctrines about Jesus, and still be as lost as a demon!

“Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life” (John 5:39-40).

What about the other alternative given so often today? The other alternative is to believe what the Bible says, plus making a commitment of obedience. But isn’t that exactly what the Pharisees did, the people to whom Jesus was speaking in our text? The Pharisees not only believed the Bible, but they also did their very best to obey the Bible!

“The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican” (Luke 18:11).

Then, of course, we must deal with the modern error of misinterpreting Romans 10:9-14, which makes salvation hinge on saying the words of a prayer. Dr. John Gill correctly said,

The apostle here [in Romans 10:10] explains the nature and use of both faith and confession; as true faith does not lie in the bare assent of the mind to the Gospel…so neither does it lie, as not in the brain, so not in the tongue, but in the heart; it is not a notional knowledge of things to be believed; nor is it saying that a man believes; but it is heart work, a believing with all the heart…it is a going out of the soul to Christ… venturing into his presence, prostrating itself at his feet… leaning and relying on him (John Gill, D.D., An Exposition of the Old and New Testaments, The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1989 reprint, volume 8, p. 521).

So, we see, that eternal life does not come by believing the Bible, or by believing the Bible plus commitment, or by saying the words of a prayer! All of these are human thoughts and human works. None of them, or any combination of them, will save anyone.

“Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life” (John 5:39-40).

II. Second, man in his natural state will not come to Christ.

The text implies that people are dead.

“Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life” (John 5:40).

This shows they had no life. Christ is not urging them to come to Him. He's not telling them to come to Him. Not at all. He is describing their condition. He says, “Ye will not come to me.” That is the condition of the natural man. The natural man is in an "I will not come to Him" state. And, indeed He was right to describe them, and all people in their natural state, this way. “Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.” That is the condition of mankind. It shows, by implication, that man is dead, that he does not have life. And in this dead condition men will not come to Him and, thus, will remain without life.

There are three ways that you are dead. First, you are legally dead. I read in the newspaper that a man was executed last week. But he was legally dead months before he was executed. The judge pronounced the death penalty. Then lawyers worked back and forth to get it repealed. They could not. So, at last, the man was executed. But he was legally dead long before, when the judge first pronounced upon him the death penalty. He was shut up in his jail cell, legally dead.

And that is your condition. It is not that you will be condemned at the Last Judgment. Oh, no! The Bible says that you are,

“condemned already” (John 3:18).

You are already condemned. In the moment you sinned your name was recorded in the black book of justice. You were sentenced by God to death in that moment. “Condemned already,” you are living out your days until that sentence is finally executed, inexorably executed, inflexibly, immovably, steadfastly, surely executed, because you are “condemned already.” You are legally dead. And in your legally dead state,

“Ye will not come to [Christ], that ye might have life”
      (John 5:40).

But you are also spiritually dead. When your first parents ate the forbidden fruit they died. And that poisonous death was passed down to you genetically.

“And so death passed upon all men” (Romans 5:12).

Spurgeon said,

And now, every man, so far as spiritual things are concerned, is “dead in trespasses and sins”…Nor is the soul less dead in a carnal man, than the body is when [it is] committed to the grave; it is actually and positively dead…You are not perfect; that great word, “ruin,” is written on your heart, and death is stamped upon your spirit. Do not conceive, O moral man, that thou wilt be able to stand before God in thy morality, for thou art nothing but a carcass embalmed in legality, a corpse [dressed] in some fine robes…Unless the Spirit of God [deals] with thy soul, thou art in God’s sight as obnoxious as [a cold and rotting] corpse is to thyself. Thou wouldst not choose to live with a [dead body] sitting at thy table; nor doth God love that thou shouldst be in his sight (C. H. Spurgeon, “Free Will – A Slave,” The New Park Street Pulpit, Pilgrim Publications, 1981 reprint, volume I, pp. 396-397).

You are dead spiritually as well as legally.

“And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life”
      (John 5:40).

Spiritual death and legal death lead to what the Bible calls “the second death.”

“But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8).

The “second death” and “the lake of fire” are identical.

“And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death” (Revelation 20:14).

“The second death” does not mean that you will cease to exist. It means that you will be fully conscious in Hell.

Your soul will have come before God at the Last Judgment. God will open His books. He will read your name. He will read your sins out one by one. But the greatest sin He will read is this,

“Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life” (John 5:40).

The preacher said, “Will you come to Jesus?” You said, “No.” Those words will come back to haunt you at the Last Judgment. “No, I will not come to Jesus.” For a thousand ages, as eternity rolls on and on, the condemnation of your soul to everlasting punishment will be marked out by those words,

“Ye [would] not come to me, that ye might have life”
      (John 5:40).

Once the shutters of this life are closed, there is no second chance. There is no hope. There is no escape. There is no deliverance.

“Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life” (John 5:39-40).

III. Third, those who do come to Christ have life.

Jesus said,

“Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life” (John 5:40).

There is no life in God the Father for a sinner. There is no life in the Holy Spirit for a sinner. Life is only in Jesus, the Son of God. Jesus said,

“I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst” (John 6:35).

“And him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out”
      (John 6:37).

There is legal life in Christ. Legally you sinned in Adam. His sin remains in you. But you also have your own sins, sin after sin piled on your record. But the moment you are in Christ, all legal debts are paid, all legal transgressions are cancelled, and you are pardoned for all sin by Christ’s substitutionary death, in your place, for your sins, on the Cross of Calvary, for Jesus went to the Cross,

“to give his life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).

In Christ all condemnation for sin is gone, paid for by Him in your place, on that Cross.

“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).

He was flogged to pay the price for your sins. Isaiah said,

“With his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).

He was nailed to the Cross to pay the penalty for your sins.

“He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:5).

“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).

When you are in Christ you have legal life.

Also, you have spiritual life in Christ. Even though you are spiritually dead in sin, God has spiritual life for you in Christ. Dead sinner, spiritually dead though you are, there is life in Christ Jesus.

You may have listened for a long, long time to the preaching of the Gospel. But there was no effect. You sat like a dead corpse, like a dead body, and all the preaching went right past you. But suddenly, as if your ears were opened by Christ inserting His fingers in them, the sound of the Gospel finally enters into your heart. The hand of God touches your heart and life flows in, crushing your pride, awakening you to your sin, melting your heart with sorrow and conviction, lifting your eyes to look upon Jesus, drawing you to come to Him in simple faith. Many of us here tonight remember, when God’s grace was awakening us from death, those pangs of conscience, those tears, the strife and agony our souls went through when we at last came to the Saviour. When we went through that resurrection from the dead, we found that it was all by grace, that it was God’s grace through Christ that drew us out of our spiritual death. Christ said to Lazarus, “Come forth,”

“And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go” (John 11:44).

And, just so, when Jesus calls you to Himself, you will, by His supernatural power, come to Him, just as Lazarus came to Him from the grave.

Finally, there is eternal life in Christ. Eternal death in Hell is horrible beyond our ability to describe in adequate human terms. But when you are in Christ there is no chance that you will ever see, much less enter, the flames of that awful place, for

“He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him” (Hebrews 7:25).

Jesus saves the person who is in Him to the uttermost extent of his sin, and to the uttermost time of his existence. In Jesus, you are saved for ever, you have life for ever, world without end. Saved to the uttermost, or as we would now say in modern English, “He is able to save [for ever] them that come unto God by him” (Hebrews 7:25).

Jesus will not give life to those who are in Him, and then take it back. In less racially sensitive times we would call someone who did that an “Indian giver,” someone who gave you something and then took it back. I never knew a Native American who did that, but it is an old saying. I can tell you for sure, that Jesus is no Indian giver. When He cancels your sin and gives you spiritual life, He never takes it back – never will He take back the life He gives to those who are in Him, for He says,

“I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish”
      (John 10:28).

No Hell awaits the man or woman in Christ, for He says,

“I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish”
      (John 10:28).

You will find, when you come to Jesus, that your soul is not free to turn away from Him again. It is kept by God in Christ,

“Kept by the power of God” (I Peter 1:5).

All of these great benefits are found in Jesus, and nowhere else. The debt of sin is paid in Jesus. Spiritual life is resurrected in Jesus. All sins are pardoned and cancelled in Jesus. Hell is no longer a threat or a fear to him who is in Jesus. But the perversity of your heart, the pollution of your nature, the deadness of your soul keep you from Jesus. This thought should enter your heart: “I am so sinful by nature that I will not come unto Jesus. My heart is so deceitful and desperately wicked that I will not come to Jesus. I deserve to be sent to Hell for it.” And if that thought doesn’t break your heart and convince you of your sin, I don’t see how any other can do so. May God humble you, convict you of sin, and draw you to Jesus, is my prayer. In His name, Amen.

 

CLICK HERE FOR SERMON #3 IN THIS SERIES ON EVANGELISTIC PREACHING.

(END OF SERMON)
You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at www.realconversion.com. Click on “Sermon Manuscripts.”

THE OUTLINE OF

ERRORS OF MODERN EVANGELISM
(SERMON #2 ON EVANGELISTIC PREACHING)

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life” (John 5:39-40).

I.   First, eternal life does not come by believing the Bible, or by believing
the Bible plus commitment, John 5:39; James 2:19; Mark 3:11;
Luke 8:28; Matthew 8:29; Luke 18:11.

II.  Second, man in his natural state will not come to Christ, John 5:40;
John 3:18; Romans 5:12; Revelation 21:8; 20:14.

III. Third, those who do come to Christ have life, John 5:40; 6:35, 37;
Mark 10:45; Romans 8:1; Isaiah 53:5; John 11:44;
Hebrews 7:25; John 10:28; I Peter 1:5.