Ron, from the Old Geezer’s Blogsite left a wonderful comment on one of my posts recently. He also asked a couple of questions and asked me to respond by email, which I did. He expressed his pleasure at the extent of my answer and suggested that I turn my response into a blog to benefit others. Since it was a great idea and suggestion, I acquiesce to my brother and here goes.
His question was:
Why do I think so many of the great preachers and teachers from the past made such a lasting impact on Christianity?
I think that there are a number of reasons and I would like to share at least three (3) that I feel may have contributed to their impact on Christianity.
First – the sovereignty of God.
This is in no way designed to be tongue-in-cheek or flippant. God is sovereign over all things at all times. The early church knew this and it was a great comfort to them. The church as a whole knew this and believed it largely through the early to mid-1800s. God in His sovereignty raised up men in each generation to be heralds of His redemptive plan.
These men were driven by the Holy Spirit to understand sin, holiness, purity, and the sovereignty of God. God raised up men like John Calvin, Martin Luther, William Gurnall, Jeremiah Burroughs, Thomas Watson, Thomas Manton and others to preach God’s sovereign plan in the redemption of His elect. They understood sin and its sinfulness. They understood the enmity and hostility that existed between God and man and the need for reconciliation. God purposed to use these men to “purify” and to “reform” the church that had become “lost” in humanism, mysticism, and confusion.
God continued in His sovereign plan and raised up men like Jonathan Edwards, George Whitfield, and John Wesley. As the church drifted and lost focus from the time of the Puritans through 1700’s, God worked a great awakening through the afore mentioned men.
Since each generation needs to be “shaken”, in the 1800’s God raised up men like Charles Spurgeon to once again sound the trumpet of warning against those who would forget God. Spurgeon preached as no man had preached pleading with men to renounced their sin, to repent, and to be reconciled to a sovereign God who would cast men into hell.
So, the sovereignty of God was worked out through God’s timing and purpose which worked a great impact on Christianity through various men God chose to bless and to use.
Second – their impact was greater than today due to the on going and final consummation of God’s plans.
Jesus asked a most haunting and riveting question in Luke 18:8; “…when the son of Man comes, (returns) will He find faith on earth?”
What a question! Why would He ask such a question? Unfortunately, each generation buys into the deluding lie of Satan due to being spiritually dead in sin and blind to any means of spiritual light.
Paul reminded the Corinthian believers that that natural or the unsaved man does not receive, or actually welcome spiritual things because they are spiritually discerned. (I Corinthians 2:12)
Romans 1 makes it clear that there is no one seeking God. Those who want to believe that sensitive seekers and develop seeker sensitive movements are merely and sadly deluded. Paul wrote very clearly, “…no one understands, no one seeks for God. All have turned aside (they have deviated, turned to the wrong way). John makes an equally poignant point when he wrote in John 3:19, “…men love darkness rather than light…”
Apart from God opening the heart as He did for Lydia (Acts 16:14) and God actively drawing a man (John 6:44) no one will desire to come to the Lord. As God works His plan to a consummation, there seems to be fewer and fewer of the elect to be saved.
Men will continue to decrease in holiness. The sovereignty of God including His sovereignty in salvation will be rejected. Satan has changed tactics and as men become more and more “enlightened” men will grow increasingly as haters of God. Read Paul’s warning to Timothy in his second letter to Timothy, chapter 3.
Godless messages and methods have developed to give men just enough truth to hook them while mixing that truth with the poison of lies and deception. The majority of the church no longer looks to God as the Redeemer through Jesus Christ alone. The church has grown bored with John 14:6 and its inclusiveness. The Emergent Church which is only a church in the since that it is a gathering of hellish ideas and doctrines, ideologies from liberalism, and Pelagius are wrecking havoc in the church, jarring it from its moorings in the sovereign holiness of God.
Since the mid 1800’s, Pelagianism and Semi-Pelagianism has ruled the day. The church began to teach that men could exercise “faith” and could choose to be saved or not. Satan introduced easy believism into the church where repentance from sin was redefined as merely changing your mind about intellectual facts rather than meaning a broken, humbled, grieving attitude over violating the standards of a holy, righteous, and sovereign God. Faith was redefined as a “sinner’s prayer” that once prayed was a good as "gold", fire insurance escape plan from hell.
Becoming a disciple was redefined as no longer meaning one who, dies to self, picks up the cross as an instrument of death, and follows Christ to one who merely added “Jesus” to a selfish, narcistic and ego-centric lifestyle.
So, as the times work down to the end of this age, and as men wax even worse in their evil and wickedness their will be less and less of an impact in spiritual things. We are seeing the godless generation that Paul spoke of coming about. I think we will see more and more godlessness and less of a spiritual impact as Christ’s return draws near. Don’t get me wrong, God will save His elect, He made it clear through Peter that He is patient, not willing that any of the elect should perish, but that all of the elect will be saved. God is just as powerful and sovereign today as He was in the days of Calvin, Luther, Zwingli, Knox, Edwards, Whitfield, Wesley, and Spurgeon.
Third – I think the lessening of spiritual impact is due to ever increasing loss of bible expositors.
The Word of God is a holy and sacred thing. It is not to be handled carelessly nor is it to be trifled with. We have made the sacred mundane by racing toward a casualness of spiritual things. We have become too familiar with holy things.
The word of God (in the pulpit) is to be handled only by those who first, love it dearly, and second, who labor to discern its meaning. We have many pastors in fundamental-evangelical circles that first of all, are not even saved. Second, we have pastors in fundamental-evangelical circles that are not committed to sound hermeneutical principles of exegesis.
The men of the Reformation, of the great awakening, and men like Spurgeon, MacArthur, Piper, Sproul, Lawson, Keller, Carson, and Hendriksen knew and know that in order to make a spiritual impact on people God’s word must be handled accurately.
We are to preach the gospel to every creature in such a way that it brings no dishonor to God and to His Word. There is no guarantee, scripture, nor reason to believe that the gospel will be preached to every creature in this age. God will save His elect. Our job is not to “save” everyone by merely getting them to sign on the dotted line; our job is to be a witness to the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and to His saving power.
So, in response to Ron’s second question, why does the church today “seem” to be failing even with computers, the internet, satellite, Television, and etc? The church is not failing. The church will never fail, the church will be triumphant.
The church is that entity that is being redeemed and called out by God, it is that entity that God is cleansing and purifying by His blood, the church is what he is going to return for. The church is alive! It is vibrant! It is triumphant! It is the apple of God’s eye!
Yes, admittedly individual denominations and individual churches are failing, and failing miserably. Local churches are merely a picture of the universal body of Christ. Do not judge the universal body of our Lord Jesus Christ by individual churches. Some are failing and should fail. Lies, yea, doctrines of demons ooze out of some these so called churches. But listen, rejoice, and be encouraged, God is on the Throne! God is sovereign! His perfect and glorious plan is being worked out both perfectly and right on time even as you read these words.
So, it seems that the appearance of a lack of spiritual impact today with all of the available technology can be seen as the sovereignty of God, the working toward the winding down of this age, and the lack of true biblical scholars.
This blog is merely my opinion. It doesn’t reflect Ron’s opinions or beliefs. There may be some “holes” in my theology; unfortunately without your help I can’t always see those “holes.” I have responded to a couple of great questions asked by my brother Ron of the Old Geezer Blogsite. All responses are welcome as long as they are well thought through and supported by sound principles of hermeneutical exegesis.
Praise God for interaction, discussion, and Christian brother and sisters!