securing the salvation of sinners
“Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself and them that hear thee.” 1 Timothy 4:16.
It is essential in preaching the Gospel to secure the salvation of souls. I would thus like to express some thoughts on this.
Gospel is about Soul winning and winning them wholly to Christ. This can only occur if we win them away from themselves.
Human beings are free moral agents, of course rational, accountable. They are in rebellion against God, wholly alienated, intensely prejudiced, and committed against Him.
Thus they are committed to self-gratification as the sole aim of their life. This committed state is moral depravity, the fountain of sin within them, which leads to their sinful ways. This committed voluntary state is their “wicked heart.” Thus it is that needs a radical change.
God is infinitely benevolent, whereas unconverted sinners are supremely selfish, so they are radically opposed to God. Their committal to the gratification of their appetites and propensities is known in the Bible language as the “carnal mind”; or, as in the margin, “the minding of the flesh,” which is enmity against God.
This enmity is voluntary and must be overcome, if at all, by the Word of God, made effectual by the teaching of the Holy Spirit.
The main purpose of the Gospel is to present this fact to the soul. This is implied in our commission, “Go and disciple all nations, and lo! I am with you always, even to the end of the world.”
In preaching the Gospel, we must present those truths. Sinners must be convicted of their enmity. They do not know God and consequently are often ignorant of the opposition of their hearts to Him. “By the law is the knowledge of sin,” because by the law the sinner gets his first true idea of God. By the law, he first learns that God is perfectly benevolent and infinitely opposed to all selfishness. This law, then, should be arrayed in all its majesty against the selfishness and enmity of the sinner. This law carries the irresistible conviction of its righteousness, and no moral agent can doubt it.
All men know that they have sinned, but all are not convicted of the guilt and ill desert of sin. The many are careless and do not feel the burden of sin, the horrors and terrors of remorse, and have not a sense of condemnation and of being lost.
Thus, they are not able to understand or appreciate the gospel method of salvation. One cannot intelligently and heartily ask or accept a pardon until he sees and feels the fact and justice of his condemnation.
It is absurd to suppose that a careless, unconvicted sinner can intelligently and thankfully accept the gospel offer of pardon until he accepts the righteousness of God in his condemnation. Conversion to Christ is an intelligent change. Hence the conviction of sins must precede the acceptance of mercy; for without this conviction the soul does not understand its need for mercy. Of course, the offer is rejected. The gospel is no glad tidings to the careless, unconvicted sinner.
The preaching of the Gospel endeavors to apply the spirituality of the law to the conscience until the sinner’s self-righteousness is annihilated, and he stands speechless and self-condemned before a holy God. Though in some cases, this conviction is already ripe, and the preacher may at once present Christ, leading the sinner to accept Christ but in most cases, the great mass of sinners are careless, unconvicted.
In this, we understand the grace of God that brought salvation to sinners. The penalty for sin is death but the free gift of God is the deed of atonement which made Christ as a substitute for the sinner’s death and that this is to be received upon the testimony of God. Already convicted of sin, the revelation of the love of God manifested in the death of Christ will naturally beget great self-loathing and that godly sorrow. No sinner can forgive himself or save himself, but he is at the mercy of God who is holy and glorious; Thus the sinner is saved by sovereign grace.