We continue our examination of the "Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God's Plan of Salvation":
Article Ten: The Great CommissionWe affirm that the Lord Jesus Christ commissioned His church to preach the good news of salvation to al people to the ends of the earth. We affirm that the proclamation of the Gospel is God's means of bringing any person to salvation.
We deny that salvation is possible outside of a faith response to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
On this article we are happy to report that there is no disagreement whatsoever. Most Calvinists would wholeheartedly join with their traditional Southern Baptist brethren in promoting the gospel and praying for the salvation of the lost. Indeed, some of the greatest evangelists and missionaries of all time have been Calvinists – we mention George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Haddon Spurgeon and William Carey, to name just a few.
|George Whitefield preaching
Nevertheless there is some reason for concern here. Today there is a tremendous amount of anxiety over the deepening social and cultural crisis engulfing our society, and this, in turn, raises the question of what exactly the Christian's response to all of this should be. To state the matter bluntly, the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade was too outrageous to ignore. This, in turn, gave rise to the "Religious Right" and the massive involvement of evangelical Christians in politics.
It could be argued, however, from a strictly biblical point of view, that all of this overlooks the real issue. The corrupt politics, the outrageous court decisions are mere symptoms of a deeper malady, man's sinful nature and his rebellion against God. And the only thing that can cure the disease is personal salvation. The individual sinner must be brought to acknowledge his sin and guilt before a holy God, and must embrace Christ as his Savior. In the final analysis society can only be changed by changing the individuals who make up society.
The consequences of sin and depravity extend far beyond the next election or the next legislative session. As sinners we are under the wrath and condemnation of almighty God, and as a result we face eternal damnation. All around us, every day, our fellow human beings are dropping into an eternity without Christ, and are facing the horrible consequences of their sinful lives. The obituary section of the morning paper is a grim testimony of the results of our rebellion against our Creator.
In a word, the only hope mankind has is salvation in Jesus Christ. "Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12; NKJV). Evangelism must be the church's top priority.
But it must be true evangelism, and we have two concerns here. First, we must make sure that it is the true gospel that we are preaching. The real issue must be clearly defined, and the true remedy clearly proposed. Too often, in our zeal to increase church numbers, we have diluted the message so that the whole point of the gospel is missed – man's sin and Christ's redemption. Multitudes have made empty professions of faith and have been added to the membership rolls of the church without any evidence of repentance or regeneration. This is a terrible tragedy, for their latter end is worse than their former, since they have been given a false assurance of salvation while they are still on their way to hell. May God have mercy on the charlatan preachers who led them to this dreadful result!
Secondly, we must make sure that evangelism is done in the power of the Holy Spirit. We cannot achieve true success otherwise. "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit and they are life" (John 6:63). "For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds. . . " (II Cor. 10:3,4).
For too long we have tried to secure results by dint of our own ingenuity and effort. The results speak for themselves. The churches that grow do so largely by "lateral transfers" from other churches, as sheep stealing is sometimes politely called. Our own young people drift away from the faith, and as our congregations age they face eventual extinction. What the Southern Baptist Convention and indeed all of American Evangelicalism desperately needs is not just a shift in theological position, but a falling down on our knees before God, a humble acknowledgement of our sins and our failure, and a plea for power from on high. Only then will we see the results for which we all long.