John's Gospel vs. Low Grace Evangelicalism

But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name. - John 20:31

     John is the only book of scripture addressed to the world at large, including unbelievers. Therefore we would do well to examine the typical methods and emphases of evangelicalism and compare them to the apostolic testimony.

     1. Pious special pleading.

     Evangelicalism is full of the use of persuasive technique, the most common of which consists of a pious special pleading for the salvation of souls. The evangelist sheds public tears over the prospect of a single soul being eternally lost, then pleads and urges all to receive Jesus Christ as the only savior from sin and hell. In some churches this occurs at every service. A strong belief exists that souls must be COMPELLED into the kingdom or we have failed in our testimony. Some go so far as to say that our own salvation lies in doubt if we do not agonize publicly and plead personally for any soul who is not yet a believer.

     The gospel of John has no such emphasis. The facts regarding Christ's identity as God and saving work on behalf of sinners are plainly stated for all to read and believe or scorn. A passionate hope is expressed that the reader will believe and enter life everlasting. An acknowledgment is also stated by Christ himself (John 10:24-26) that those not ordained to life WILL DISBELIEVE these plain facts. We should not expect that all will believe; God wants to be glorified by a damned people as well as a saved people. It is due to a miracle of God's sovereign grace that ANY person believes to whom we communicate gospel realities. There are undoubtedly Christians in history who never witnessed a single soul believing their testimony.

     2. Hell evangelism.

     Nothing characterizes evangelicalism more than the emphasis of accepting Christ to escape hell. This is really another form of pious special pleading. If the fire is heated hot enough and the extreme pain of unending torture is made vivid enough to the hearer, it is believed, the way of escape will be so desired that the message of Jesus will be welcomed with inestimable gratitude.

     Hardly anything is more disgraceful than the preaching of hell as a tool of evangelism. The word 'hell' is not even found in the gospel of John. There is only one passage focused on the destiny of reprobates:

For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; and hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man. Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.  - John 5:26-29

     This is all that the lost world needs to know about cosmology as related to the damned. Those who do evil and laugh at the gospel will face a resurrection of damnation. It is enough to state that reprobates will stand before God to receive their just condemnation. We don't need to explain further what this condemnation involves. No preaching of hell-fire ever converted a single soul. Instead, God works the miracle of regeneration through his constraining love joined to the incomparable gospel of grace in Christ! The preaching of eternal life to those that believe the gospel is the focus and message of John.

     3. Avoid election.

     Loraine Boettner is typical of evangelicalism's awful poppycock on this subject. The quotation to follow represents low-grace Calvinism at its worst, extracted from a book which is otherwise excellent on many issues:

     The doctrine of Predestination is a doctrine for genuine Christians. Considerable caution should be exercised in preaching it to the unconverted. It is almost impossible to convince a non-Christian of its truthfulness, and in fact the heart of the unregenerate man usually revolts against it. If it is stressed before the simpler truths of the Christian system are mastered, it will likely be misunderstood and in that case it may only drive the person into deeper despair. In preaching to the unconverted or to those who are just beginning the Christian life, our part consists mainly in presenting and stressing man's part in the work of salvation, -faith, repentance, moral reform, etc. These are the elementary steps so far as man's consciousness extends. At that early stage little need be said about the deeper truths which relate to God's part. As in the study of Mathematics we do not begin with algebra and calculus but with the simple problems of arithmetic, so here the better way is to first present the more elementary truths. Then after the person is saved and has traveled some distance in the Christian way he comes to see that in his salvation God's work was primary and his was only secondary, that he was saved through grace and not by his own works. - The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination (Presbyterian and Reformed, Philadephia, 1971), pp. 348-349.

     I cannot express in words what terrible nonsense this is. The statement condemns itself purely by its own utterance in light of the message of grace.

     John's gospel is very clear on the truth of election to eternal life by God's grace apart from the will of man (1:13, 6:37-40, 10:14-16,27-30, 17:6-23). Apparently, Jesus and John were not aware of the 'great wisdom' of Spurgeon and Boettner on this subject! Neither Jesus nor John tried to institute a code of silence on the doctrine of predestination when teaching the unconverted. The truth that Christ came only for his sheep given to him by the Father is openly taught. In addition, there is no teaching that the sheep were unjustified prior to regeneration. Christ proclaims that he NOW has sheep not of the Jewish fold that ALL sheep hear his voice when it is sounded. They were always sheep in God's election and predestined plan. This completely abolishes the ridiculous and absurd doctrine of common wrath. God loves and justifies his sheep TRANSCENDENT of time and at all moments WITHIN time.

     4. Avoid reprobation.

     This examination would not be complete without a look at the doctrine of reprobation in John. The evan-jellyfish world (including low-grace Calvinism) denies positive reprobation entirely. God supposedly wants all to be saved and mourns at the damnation of the lost. What saith the scriptures?

I speak that which I have seen with my Father: and ye do that which ye have seen with your father. They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham. But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham. Ye do the deeds of your father. Then said they to him, We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God. Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me. Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word. Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not. Which of you convinceth me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me? He that is of God heareth God's words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God. - John 8:39-47

Then came the Jews round about him, and said unto him, How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly. 25 Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father's name, they bear witness of me. 26 But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. - John 10:24-26

     The seed of the devil does NOT consist of the sheep of Christ in their sins and rebellion BEFORE they are called and hear his voice. The doctrine of common fall is completely absent from the teaching of John. The seed of Satan consists of reprobates who were NEVER the sheep of Christ and whom God does not purpose to save. They have the same spirit of sin and rebellion as their father Satan; not merely the substance or essence of sin and rebellion that the elect have before conversion.

     The gospel is a joyful, powerful, and simple testimony. At stake is eternal life vs. eternal death. We are to announce or publish the truth of Jesus Christ to a lost world, knowing confidently that the Lord will gather all of his sheep to the resurrection of life and all the devil's children to the resurrection of damnation. God takes pleasure in BOTH destinies!

Topics: Pristine Grace Churchianity
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