To Go Or Not To Go, Is That The Question?

Posted: November 16, 2010 in Random Thoughts
Tags: , , ,

I recently posted a statement on my Facebook wall and on Twitter that has given me reason to think through some things. The statement was a quote from Dr. M.R. DeHaan (founder of RBC Ministries) that I found in a book he wrote back in the late 40’s called Broken Things. The quote was this, “God has given us the commission… if men are not saved, it will not be His fault, but ours, and ours alone.”

The reason I posted this is simply because I thought it was a statement worth considering. You see, I believe God is doing something big within the church. What I mean is that there seems to be a very distinctive focus among many evangelical pastors and leaders (especially within the Southern Baptist Convention, my own denomination) in the area of missions. I believe God is trying to wake the sleeping giant (American evangelical churches). I’m not saying our churches haven’t been busy carrying out the Great Commission (there are many wonderful mission works going on throughout the world), I’m saying we haven’t been busy enough (there is still much to do). By and large we as American Christians have become self-centered and as a result our churches tend to be inward focused rather than outward focused. This is evident in many ways, just read David Platt’s book Radical and you’ll see what I mean. So, I posted this statement from Dr. DeHaan because it made me think about the responsibility that those of us who call ourselves Christians have to simply go and tell others.

The reason I’m writing about it now is because it solicited a couple of responses from some friends of mine; men who are pastors and are committed to preaching the gospel and are leading their churches to carry out the Great Commission of our Lord. These are men I love and respect. Their comments gave me reason to continue to think about some things so I thought I would share more.

One comment had to do with the individual’s responsibility to respond to God’s grace, with which I whole-heartedly agree. The Bible is clear that no one has an excuse for not believing because God has revealed Himself through creation (Romans 1:20). This is called “general revelation.” Everyone who has ever lived can take a look around them and know that there is a God. It’s also true that we’re all sinners (and we know it) and justly deserve hell. No one has ever been condemned to hell who didn’t deserve to go. The wonderful thing is that God in His mercy has made a way for us not to. That way is through Jesus Christ who died in our place for our sins. Here’s the thing; knowing there’s a God is not the same as knowing that He became a man and died in our place so that we can be saved. That knowledge comes through what is called “special revelation.” Paul continues to write about this in the book of Romans. I encourage everyone to read through it. God has not left us ignorant. He has revealed Himself not only in general through creation but specifically through the person of Jesus Christ, the living Word. We have the account of this special revelation preserved for us in the form of the Bible, the written Word. It is the church’s responsibility to take the knowledge we have of our Lord to those who don’t know, so that they will know. If they reject it then it will be between them and God. If they never hear it then they are still justly condemned because in their hearts they have still rejected God who obviously exists.

Now we could continue to dive into this and get into a discussion of Calvinism vs. Arminianism, predestination vs. freewill, etc; in which case we would never be through debating. Greater evangelical minds than mine stand on both sides of the issue. It’s highly unlikely that we would solve the debate here. Besides, I’m not convinced that we need to. What we need to do is continue to preach the Gospel ,  go on mission, and lead our churches to do more. The bottom line is that people are lost without Jesus, we know Him, and He has commanded us to go tell others about Him.  I’m reminded of a story our worship pastor told me about a man who took a game warden fishing. They got out into the middle of the lake and the man lit a stick of dynamite and threw it in the water. As the game warden began to discuss the legal issues involved with dynamite fishing his friend lit another stick, placed it in the game warden’s hand and asked, “Are you gonna talk or are you gonna fish?”

I left some of Dr. DeHaan’s quote out of my original post due to the limit of characters on the original format and so in all fairness to him I will share more. What he actually wrote was, “God could save every human being without the help or aid of His children, without a tract, a dollar or a missionary. But God does not do things that way. It is God’s plan that men will be saved only through the instrumentality of others. His commission is ‘Go ye, go ye, and preach the Gospel.’ ‘Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.’ God has given us the commission and placed at our disposal the only two necessities for soul-winning: the Word and the Holy Spirit, and if men are not saved, it will not be His fault, but ours, and ours alone. God has chosen to use no other way to make the Gospel known than by the telling from person to person of the blessed truth of the Word.”

Perhaps it would be better to say “If men do not hear the Gospel by which they must be saved, it will not be God’s fault, but ours, and ours alone.”

Thanks for making me think, now let’s go fishing.

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Comments
  1. Michael says:

    Good post and I do respect Dr. DeHann’s statement. Once I read the full statement I can agree with most of his thought. I also think hyper-Calvinism is foolish (the belief that God saves so we don’t need to evangelize). I am a Christian that fully believes in the great commission and Acts 1:8. However, God is saving people through Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. I know you believe that and teach that. My problem with his statement is that it is our fault if man is not saved. I believe scripture teaches that the Holy Spirit leads people to Christ and that we are to be obedient in sharing the gospel. God has used many avenues to speak his truths to his people. When I initially read the statement, it seemed to me that he was putting the emphasis on man and not the Holy Spirit. I was probably reading too much into what he actually meant.

    • Paul Bryant says:

      Thanks bro, I appreciate the comment. I have read several of Dr. DeHaan’s books and he’s written much that I would agree with and much that I would disagree with. I am certainly dispensational in my theology but I think Dr. DeHaan may read some dispensationalism into certain texts that really just isn’t there. The messages contained in his book The Chemistry of the Blood are kind of out there too. As far as his views concerning Calvinism or Arminianism I don’t know where he would place himself. There are so many variations on definitions and meanings that it’s hard to pin anyone down. I’m certainly not an Arminian but I’m not quite a 5 point Calvinist either (as Calvinism is generally defined today). I realize for many it’s either all or nothing but I’m just not there. I hold to Total Depravity, Perseverance of the Saints, and an Unlimited/Limited Atonement (which according to Mark Driscoll was actually John Calvin’s position). Irresistable Grace and Unconditional Election, I don’t know, maybe. I just think that there’s a mystery here that men will not solve. I don’t even really think that we need to. I think we can just preach the gospel and trust that God will continue save people. Dr. Malcom Yarnell wrote a pretty decent article concerning Southern Baptists and this issue. It can be read here http://www.sbclife.org/articles/2006/04/sla8.asp . I’m also looking forward to reading Dr. Timothy George’s book Amazing Grace: God’s Pursuit – Our Response. He evidently uses the acronym ROSES instead of TULIP. Should be interesting.
      Anyway, I guess one thing that I have been reminded of is to think through my own words very carefully. The words we use to express our thoughts matter, especially as teachers of God’s Word. There is theology behind our words and our students will pick up on it consciously or subconsciously. Sometimes, when we’re not careful, we can sacrifice too much to make a point. I appreciate ya bro, “As iron sharpens iron.”

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