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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Evening, May 22, 2011

“By the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation” (Romans 5:18).

I must come back again to Rob Bell’s book, Love Wins (HarperOne, 2011), because it has caused such a firestorm in the past few weeks. The heart of the book is given when Bell says, “God’s love will eventually melt even the hardest hearts” (p. 108), and when he favorably refers to “a number who insist that history is not tragic, hell is not forever, and love, in the end, wins and all will be reconciled to God” (p. 109). Those he refers to include Origen (185-254 A.D.), a Catholic teacher who castrated himself, and believed that all those in Hell, including the Devil, would some day be saved. Origen was later condemned as a heretic by the Catholic Church for his teachings. Mr. Bell says he learned a lot from Origen (Love Wins, p. 107).

But the root of Bell’s false ideas lies in the fact that he has a wrong understanding of the Book of Genesis, and the comments on Genesis given in Romans 5 and I Corinthians 15. If you have a wrong view of Genesis, everything else you teach will be wrong. Here’s what Rob Bell says about Genesis,

In the Genesis poem that begins the Bible, life is a pulsing, progressing, evolving, dynamic reality...because things are, at the most fundamental level, going somewhere (Love Wins, ibid., page 44).

What a very strange, twisted way that is to describe Genesis! Just a “poem,” mind you. Not real history. Not a description of real events. Just “the Genesis poem.” I’m sure he learned that term at the liberal Fuller Theological Seminary, where he earned a Master’s degree a few years ago. But, more to the point, Rob Bell says that in Genesis “life is a pulsing, progressing, evolving [?], dynamic reality” (ibid.). I find that description laughable. In fact I laughed out loud in my office when I read it! Why, the Book of Genesis is nothing of the kind! In fact, Genesis is one of the saddest, most hopeless books ever written. Adam and Eve sinned, and were driven from the Garden into a ruined world. Their firstborn son murdered his brother. Cain’s son built a city based on revenge and murder. Adam died. Seth died. Enos died. Cainan died. Mahalaleel died. Jared died. Enoch was taken. Methuselah died. Lamech died. Then “God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). Then God sent a flood to destroy “the world of the ungodly” (II Peter 2:5). Noah and his son sinned. Men raised the Tower of Babel in defiance of God, and God “scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth” (Genesis 11:8). The ancestors of Abraham lived and died. God called Abraham, who went through a series of failures. Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by fire. Lot committed incest with his daughters. Abraham’s wife Sarah died. Abraham died. Isaac’s two sons were sinful men. Isaac died. Jacob raised a wild bunch of sons who sold their brother, Joseph, as a slave to the Egyptians. Jacob died. And Genesis ends with these dark words,

“So Joseph died, being an hundred and ten years old: and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt”
       (Genesis 50:26).

Dr. J. Vernon McGee said, “This is the way the Book of Genesis ends. It began with God creating the heaven and the earth, and it ends with a coffin in Egypt. What had happened to the human family? Sin had intruded into the creation of God” (J. Vernon McGee, Th.D., Thru the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1981, volume I, p. 198; comment on Genesis 50:26).

How could Mr. Bell call Genesis a beautiful “poem” where life is “progressing, evolving...going somewhere”? (Love Wins, p. 44). Life was not progressing, it was regressing! Life was not evolving, it was degenerating! And the only place life was “going” was to the grave! Genesis ends with a dead man “ a coffin in Egypt”!

And that is where Mr. Bell goes wrong. He missed the meaning of Genesis completely! The message of Genesis is dark, gloomy and hopeless. And it all starts with Adam shaking his fist in the face of God and deliberately and wilfully defying the God that made him. And if you don’t get that right, you can’t understand the rest of the Bible.

“By the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation” (Romans 5:18).

Rob Bell got that wrong, and that’s why his whole book is wrong! Rob Bell doesn’t understand that “by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin” (Romans 5:12). Mr. Bell doesn’t understand that “by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation” (Romans 5:18). Mr. Bell doesn’t understand that “by one man's disobedience many were made sinners” (Romans 5:19). Mr. Bell doesn’t understand that “in Adam all die” (I Corinthians 15:22). That’s why Mr. Bell doesn’t believe that men are “dead in sins” (Ephesians 2:5). No wonder Bell thinks the whole human race has the capacity, even in Hell, to make a “decision” that will save them. Rob Bell doesn’t believe that mankind was ruined in Adam. He does not believe that all humans are “the children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3). He does not believe that the human race is under the curse of sin, that man is so blinded and ruined and corrupted that he will never seek God.

“There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God” (Romans 3:11).

None! None on earth, and none in Hell! None! Period! Paragraph! End of story!

“There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God” (Romans 3:11).

Jesus said, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him” (John 6:44).

Mr. Bell thinks man is as free as a bird to “choose” (a favorite word of his). He says, “We have that kind of freedom, that kind of choice” (Love Wins, p. 72). He thinks we “have that kind of freedom” because he doesn’t believe the Book of Genesis. To him it’s just a “poem” (Love Wins, p. 44).

Rob Bell’s position has a name. It is called Pelagianism, after a fourth century monk named Pelagius. Unitarian Universalists teach his general views. Pelagius’ theory holds that “Adam’s sin affected only himself; that every human soul is... created as innocent...and that the only effect of Adam’s sin on his posterity is that of a bad example” (H. C. Thiessen, Ph.D., Introductory Lectures in Systematic Theology, Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1963 edition, p. 260).

Pelagianism also teaches that man has the capability at all times to choose Christ and be saved, by the choice he makes. This is clearly what Rob Bell believes, that a man can be saved anywhere, any time, even in Hell, by making a “choice” or “decision.” It is the most extreme form of “decisionism.” In fact, Pelagianism is another name for "decisionism." It has infected and greatly harmed our churches. "Decisionism" ultimately leads to universalism, as in Bell's case, or to annihilationism, as with the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Click here to read my sermon, “Rob Bell and the Jehovah’s Witnesses Compared.” Click here to read our book on “decisionism” – titled, Today’s Apostasy: How Decisionism is Destroying Our Churches.

Bell says, “We have that kind of freedom, that kind of choice” (Love Wins, p. 72). That is sheer Pelagianism. It is not what the Bible teaches. It was not taught by the Reformers, the Puritans, Bunyan, Whitefield, Wesley, or Spurgeon. Pelagianism was never held by our Protestant and Baptist forefathers. They preached against Pelagianism and Universalism to the end of their lives – and so should we!

“By the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation” (Romans 5:18).

Hear how plainly and Scripturally Dr. Isaac Watts explains Romans 5:18 in one of his hymns from the First Great Awakening,

From Adam flows our tainted blood,
   The poison reigns within;
Makes us opposed to what is good
   And willing slaves to sin.

We live cut off, afar from God,
   And love the distance well;
We quickly run the dangerous road
   That leads to sin and hell.

Daily we break God’s holy laws,
   And then reject His grace;
Engaged in Satan’s awful cause
   Against God’s holy face.
(“Our Unregenerated State” by Dr. Isaac Watts, 1674-1748;
    to the tune of “O Set Ye Open Unto Me”).

Have you ever felt any of that? Have you ever felt that you have inherited Adam’s “tainted blood”? Have you ever felt that “The poison [of sin] reigns within” you? Have you ever felt that you are a “willing [slave] to sin”? Have you ever felt that you love being far away from God, that you really don’t want God to look at you or be near you? Do you “love the distance well”?

I warn you! God said, “My Spirit shall not always strive with man” (Genesis 6:3). I warn you! There will come a day when God no longer convicts you of sin. Then you are doomed while you live! That day may be here already for some of you. I warn you! God said, “My Spirit shall not always strive with man.”

“By the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation” (Romans 5:18).

How can you go on like you are? How can you stand to live with the poisoned blood of Adam coursing through your veins? How can you stand to live as a willing slave to sin? How can you go to sleep when you know you are on that dangerous road to Hell?

Yes, I know you remember some great sin you committed. One particular sin stands out in your mind. I know it bothers you sometimes. But the sword of the Spirit must probe deeper. You must be made to feel that your very heart is sinful – that you are a sinner by nature – that you ought to love God, but you don’t love Him and you can’t love Him – that you cannot please God – that you cannot change yourself. You must feel true conviction – more than wrong actions – you have a wrong nature. You must be made to feel that your heart is wrong. You must be made to feel that you need more than forgiveness – that you need a new heart and a new nature – and that you cannot make this happen to yourself. You must be made to feel what David felt. You must be moved to cry out, as he did, “Create in me a clean heart, O God” (Psalm 51:10). You must be made to feel your need for Jesus, and His cleansing Blood! You must be drawn to Christ by God Himself (see John 6:44). You must be made to feel what Dr. Watts said in his hymn. I have altered it, using personal pronouns. It is number 8 on your song sheet. Sing it to the tune of “O Set Ye Open Unto Me.”

Great God of glory and of grace, I own, with humble shame,
How vile is my degenerate race, And my first father’s name.

From Adam flows my tainted blood, The poison reigns within;
Makes me opposed to what is good, A willing slave to sin.

Daily I break God’s holy laws, And then reject His grace;
Engaged in Satan’s awful cause Against God’s holy face.

I live cut off, afar from God, And love the distance well;
I quickly run the dangerous road That leads to sin and hell.

I raise the Father’s name on high, Who His own Spirit sends
To bring rebellious sinners nigh, And turn Christ’s foes to friends.

And can such rebels be restored, Such blindness made to shine?
O let me see Thy Son, O Lord, And feel His blood divine.
   (“Our Unregenerated State” by Dr. Isaac Watts, 1674-1748;
        altered by the Pastor; to the tune of “O Set Ye Open Unto Me”).

Click here for Dr. Hymers' sermon, "Rob Bell and the Jehovah's Witnesses Compared."

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at Click on “Sermon Manuscripts.”

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or you may write to him at P.O. Box 15308, Los Angeles, CA 90015.
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Romans 5:12-19.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Lord, I am Vile, Conceived in Sin”
(by Dr. Isaac Watts, 1674-1748; from Psalm 51).