Goal of this presentation:
To give people a way of sharing the gospel which uses man’s knowledge of guilt together with the necessity of the atonement to bring people to faith in Christ. A way to logically explain the atonement starting from naturally revealed truth accessible to the unbelieving listener.
In the world of western individualistic logic, we need to be able to play on common knowledge and accepted things to bring them to realise things they do not accept.
Why this talk?
Often the gospel-preacher doesn’t have a correct understanding of the atonement. That is why the gospel is not understood by the lost sinner and he consequently rejects it because he doesn’t understand it. What is needed is a clear representation of the sinner’s condition and the way out of this condition. We want to lead people by the hand to the knowledge of their situation and a consciousness of a need for choice.
This morning I’d like to share with you the way of thinking behind my approach of sharing the Gospel. After this, we can discuss this together if you’d like to know more and then we’ll go and share the Gospel. I’m not the one to tell you how you should think, it’s up to you to find out in the talks we will have, in your personal study time and prayer time and so on, how much of this you believe agrees with the Bible. We want people to think about the Gospel by means of friendly, apologetical discussions before they make the important decision to follow Jesus. That is why through this session I want you to think, so that you will have something to take with you to the lost.
God has basically 2 ways of revealing Himself: through natural revelation and through special revelation.
Special revelation is what God has revealed in the Bible, what He reveals by speaking to people through His Holy Spirit etc.
Natural revelation is what God has revealed in nature, our consciences etc. These are things that are in our human nature or in nature itself.
Many Christians start off from the Bible or what is known as special revelation. I personally start off from natural revelation, more specifically in the area of basic morality. I start off from common understanding in this area, which is a form of God’s natural revelation to mankind. [I would like to have one volunteer.]
Every person has a moral awareness, which can be found in the consciousness. This moral awareness points to a moral Law and this moral Law points to a moral Lawgiver; God.
If you go back in the history of the church, the church fathers who lived before Augustine and even till this day, the Eastern Orthodox Church believes that a human being is born morally innocent. Such a human being has the capacity to obey God. Precisely because every person has this capacity, the Moral Lawgiver can hold us guilty or innocent on the day of judgment. He can judge righteous judgment by sending guilty sinners to hell for their own sin. As the Bible says:
“The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him” – Ezekiel 18:20
“The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin.” – Deuteronomy 24:16
Sounds honest, right?
Also Paul understood this concept of the conscience and he even understood it to mean that non-believers understand their guilt before God by their conscience:
“For as many as have sinned without law [that is: the Law of Moses, which was given by God to the Jews] shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law; (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified. For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;) In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.” – Romans 2:12-16
So for all who have chosen to sin, we know that the law in their heads; their consciences declares them to be guilty. Therefore they know that God’s Law declares them to be guilty. And thus they know that God declares them to be guilty. They are heading for the second death, which is the death of the soul in the Lake of Fire.
So whether the sinner likes to acknowledge it or not, this is a very serious problem.
God also has a serious problem. God wants to save all those who have transgressed against His law but if He would just forgive them upon their repentance, then nobody would still respect the severity of His Law and the character of God. God wants to forgive but love also requires that He upholds His law, as to not have His whole moral kingdom perish.
Thus, He was faced with a dilemma: or I let sinners go into the second death, as my Law describes or I pardon them but then chaos will reign in my kingdom, because everyone will just go and sin.
God needed a solution by which He could uphold His Law and pardon sinners.
God invented a solution: a possibility through which He could replace the punishment and still uphold His moral Law. To explain this solution I will give an example which is found in a legend of the Greek king Zaleucus. In this legend, king Zaleucus understood that adultery was bad for his kingdom, so he made a law in His country which stated that everyone who was caught in adultery should have his 2 eyes stabbed out. Everything went well in the country until his son was caught in adultery. His son was brought before the king. The king loved his son so much that he choose to make atonement for him, in a way that upholds his law. He had one of his own eye’s stabbed out, while his own son only had to lose one eye.
The sacrifice of Jesus on the cross shows, like the legend of king Zaleucus, that God takes his law so serious and that, if people do not turn away from their sins and have themselves reconciled with God, through His bloody atonement, and stop their sinning, their punishment will fall on them inevitably.
In this way, God can change the sentence of the law put on the sinner “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” To
“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.” – Romans 3:23-26
Those who take that reconciliation are cleansed by Jesus’s blood from all sin and all unrighteousness (1 John 1:7, 9). Their consciences are purged from those dead works, to serve the living God (Hebrews 9:14). They can now say: “My soul hath sinned, I should have died… but thanks to Christ’s atonement, my soul hath sinned, but it shall live.”
What do you think would happen if Zaleucus’s son was caught in adultery after he was pardoned?
To those who will start sinning again after having accepted the reconciliation through the sacrifice of Christ, and will not repent of their new sins, the following statement stands:
“For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.” – Hebrews 6:4-8
In short or by means of summary I’ll state the following:
People have a moral awareness, an awareness of good and evil, which is found in their consciences -> people had the possibility to fulfil their duties towards God and their fellow men by always choosing to do the good –> people have sinned against the law in their head, against God’s Law and therefore against God Himself -> People are guilty -> people are on their way to hell.
Solution: the sufferings of Christ can, by faith and repentance of all sin be accepted as a substitution for their punishment -> forgiveness and cleansing of their sins -> good conscience
I made the following remark: Those who have accepted the cleansing atonement, are not allowed to sin anymore because if they do, they crucify the Son of God to themselves again and put him to an open shame. If this happens, they have to put their trust again in the vicarious atonement and repent of all their sins, or they are worse off than before they were Christians, because they add the abominable sin of apostasy to their sins.
Let’s have a friendly talk on the theory behind or the practical approaches of evangelism and afterwards we will go out to share the glorious gospel of our Lord and only Saviour Jesus Christ.
Sermon preached in a home church in Wallonia (Belgium) on April 5, 2016.