Conrad Mbewe at the True Church Conference made a very succinct comment concerning the subtle forms of hyper-Calvinism when it comes to us loving sinners.
Conrad Mbewe make the point that one way to spot hyper-Calvinism in the church is to look at it’s PRAYER MEETING. He pointed out that any church which claims to be evangelistic but has a dead prayer meeting is hyper-Calvinistic. Likewise he said that any preacher who claims to have evangelistic preaching who’s prayer closet is empty is a hyper-Calvinist.
From Julius at Constrained By Grace
On both Friday and Saturday, True Church Conference 2010 offered a variety of breakout sessions in which leaders of Grace Life Church provided practical guidance on how they have implemented True Church concepts. The handout materials can be found at:
(All of the PDF’s aren’t up yet but hopefully will be shortly.)
The ninth session of True Church Conference 2010 was led by Conrad Mbewe, speaking on the Great Commission from Matthew 28:18-20. The highest reason for evangelism is because it is for the glory of God. Other reasons are: because of our love for sinners, because it is the work of a disciple to be a fisher of men, because of the power of the gospel in the lives of people. And in the Great Commission we find another reason: obedience to a command of our great Head Jesus Christ.
There is significance to the timing of the words of the Great Commission. They are His words just before His ascension. They carry the same weight as the weight of a father’s words to his children when he is on his death bed. We need to come back to this passage frequently and ask the question “Am I obeying this command?”
There is a word that appears four times in these three verses – “all”. Surely there is a revelation of the heart of the meaning of this passage in this word “all”.
The ends of these verses are the Lord Jesus Christ. They begin with Jesus, they end with Jesus. In the middle is our responsibility.
1. All authority – given to Jesus Christ. He demonstrated authority while he was here on earth in his humanity. But it would appear that a different measure of authority was given to Jesus after His crucifixion and resurrection. He was ascending to His mediatorial kingship. We should have comfort and confidence in obeying the command of the Great Commission because Jesus has all authority.
2. All nations – make disciples. This appeared to be an impossible command. How could a group of twelve ordinary Jews perform this extraordinary task? How could a Jew be expected to go to the Gentile nations? The book of Acts shows their hesitancy. God used tribulation to scatter those He used to fulfill this command. God used a vision to change Peter.
a. see Genesis 12:2-3 and Revelation 5:9-10
b. Should our goal be to have a good church, with a good pastor, and good music, in a good building? No, our goal is world conquest. Our goal is to push back the domain of darkness across the expanse of the globe.
3. Teaching them to obey all things – that Jesus has commanded. This indicates that there are those who are in rebellion against the authority of Jesus. Our job is to make these people into loyal subjects of the King. Not just know all things, but to obey all things. This is more than a cultural mandate. This is a mandate to convert the nations.
a. We are all called to obey, and all called to call others to this same obedience.
4. With you always – to the end of the age. We return here to the ideas of comfort and confidence. The efficient cause of our labor does not depend on us, it depends upon He that is with us. We need spiritual eyes to see that He is with us, and if we see that, then we would see the vigor of our obedience increase.
The eighth session of the True Church Conference 2010 was given by Dr. Michael Haykin, discussing Andrew Fuller. Andrew Fuller was a missionary pioneer and a critic of hyper-Calvinism. Andrew Fuller was a Baptist in England. Haykin’s text was Psalm 2:1-12. How did Andrew Fuller counter the hyper-Calvinism that was present in the Baptist churches of his day?
William Carey in India received help from those who were in England, in America, and in India. Fuller “held the ropes” for Carey. Fuller tied the Baptist theological heritage of the 18th century with the Baptist evangelical movement of the 19th century. Fuller was early on exposed to hyper-Calvinism by his first pastor. He had not seen a baptism by the age of 16 even though he was a Baptist. But then he was exposed to the writings of John Bunyan and realized that he was lost and undone. He had spiritual experiences (such as an experience with Romans 6:14), but was not converted. This went on for almost three years. Fuller cast his soul on Jesus Christ in 1769 just like Esther – “If I perish, I perish.”
Fuller was called into the pastorate six years later. He read Gill and he read the Puritans. He saw the Puritans preach on evangelism, but he did not see this in Gill. He decided Gill was right and the Puritans were wrong. But then he was convicted by the scriptures and the calls to believe found therein. He came to believe that the gospel was to be preached to all men within hearing.
Fuller moved on to Kettering, which was the home church of John Gill. Here he published a book which emphasized the command for unconverted sinners to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ – The Gospel of Christ is Worthy of All Acceptation. In this he took on the beliefs of John Gill. Jesus indiscriminately called the lost to believe in Him.
The preaching of the gospel must passionately exhort unbelievers to believe in Jesus Christ. Baptist churches were lethargic at best in proclaiming the gospel message. He was instrumental in the formation of the Baptist Missionary Society. He added a mark of the Baptist church – a Baptist church is a church which is mission-minded.
Fuller was a man of theological balance. He was a missionary theologian. He was an upholder of the doctrines of grace. He had the ability to sustain long-lasting friendships. Even though he was forthright in telling people his thoughts, he took censure without offense and he gave censure without offense. Fuller built his life upon the word of God.
The seventh message of the True Church Conference 2010 was delivered by David Miller. His text was Malachi 4:1-2. Propitiation is that which is required to satisfy the wrath of God. An unpropititated Lord is the Lord who has not been satisfied.
Modern-day church is a Ponzi scheme. We have to figure out a way to get enough people coming through the front door to replace those going out the back door, But there is a day of reckoning coming.
1. The destruction of the wicked announced (verse 1)
a. The reality of the wrath of God. The day shall come and shall burn like an oven.
Has the wrath of God been satisfied for the non-elect? The Universalist says yes. Jesus died for everyone and everyone will be saved. The Arminian says yes, the blood of Christ is sufficient for all but efficient for those who believe. The Calvinist says no, the blood of Christ only propitiates the sin for whom it is applied. The blood is not potential salvation, it is actual salvation.
b. The recipients of the wrath of God. The wrath of God is on all those who are proud and on all who do wickedly.
c. The results of the wrath of God. They shall be as stubble. They shall be burned up. They shall be left with neither root nor branch.
2. The deliverance of the righteous assured (verse 2).
The righteous will leap like a calf released from a stall. The lame will rise because of the healing within His wings.
The sixth session of the True Church 2010 was lead by Barry King. He is a pastor from Wood Green in London, England. Barry’s topic was the Sin of Unbelief. His text was Isaiah 45:22 (KJV). This is the same text that was used in the conversion of Charles Spurgeon. Would to God that this text would raise up a Charles Spurgeon in our generation also.
Isaiah 45:22 (KJV) sets forth the duty of all men to believe the gospel. It is a sin to fail to obey it.
1. First, there is the simplicity of the command – Look. The text looks back to Numbers 21 and the record of the poisonous snakes. The people were called to look onto the brass serpent and live. God calls for all men to look unto Him. The text also looks forward to John chapter 3. The Son of Man must be lifted up and all men are commanded to look upon Christ.
a. A form of hyper-Calvinism is to confound the simplicity of the gospel. Some are given to morbid introspection. The gospel command is to look, not lament. Some are given to intellectualism. The gospel command is to look, not learn.
2. Second, there is the exclusivity of the command – Look unto me, there is none else.
3. Third, there is the universality of the command – all the ends of the earth. God commands all men everywhere to repent and believe the gospel.
Moving to two items implicit in the meaning of the text:
4. Fourth, there is the impossibility of the command. Isaiah was to preach to those who, having eyes, could not see and look, who had ears, but could not hear, who had a heart, but could not understand.
a. How can God command someone to do something that they are unable to do? This does not address the ability of man but the authority of God. God asks men to do things they are unable to do (see Mark chapter 2 – stretch forth your hand or John chapter 11 – Lazarus come forth).
5. Fifth, there is the responsibility of the command. It is our duty, our responsibility, to preach the gospel to all men.
a. We give the people who call us hyper-Calvinist the weapon that they use to shoot at us because we do not fulfill our responsibility to do this. It is more than a general concern for the lost.
The fifth session of True Church Conference 2010 was presented by Conrad Mbewe of Zambia, Africa. Mbewe is known as the “African Spurgeon.” Mbewe’s sermon was on Loving Sinners. His text was Luke 19:41-44.
An argument of hyper-Calvinism in regards to evangelistic preaching is that preaching should be directed only to the regenerated person. The book of Acts shows this is not the case. Sermons in the book of Acts were directed to unbelievers. Hyper-Calvinism locks you away from loving sinners the way Jesus did.
The context of the text is following Palm Sunday and the excitement that that entailed. The people were praising God. It was the triumphal entry of Jesus. But instead of being joyful, Jesus weeps over Jerusalem. Why? Because Jesus saw the destruction that lay in the future of the city.
Points from the passage:
1. If you love sinners the way God loves them then it will move you into evangelism because they are ignorant of what it takes to bring peace with God (verse 42a).
a. This was the season when the Son of God was on earth, but the people did not realize it. They were chasing after things which could not satisfy.
b. The people were busy practicing the externals of religion with no change of heart.
c. Jesus spent His time with sinners. We concentrate on inward programs but have lost sight of those on the outside who need Christ’s love.
2. If you love sinners the way God loves them, then it will move you to pray for them that God will open their eyes because only God is able to do so (verse 42b).
a. Unless God speaks life into us we will remain dead. Jesus knew this, but He still wept. His heart was broken by their blindness.
b. See Romans chapters 9-10. Paul wept over the spiritual blindness of his brother Israelites.
3. If you love sinners the way God loves them it will move you to preach to them of the judgment to come (verses 43-44).
a. The judgment to come broke Jesus heart. And also for the reason for the judgment – because they had rejected the day of their visitation by God.
b. And how much greater the condemnation will be for those who reject the resurrected Savior.
c. This should move us to action.
d. See Luke chapter 16.
e. If you are rescuing people from a sinking ship, you don’t spend time looking into God’s eternal plan to see who He wills to save and who He wills to die. You put everything you have into rescuing everyone you can.
Jesus’ love for sinners held Him to the cross. What is your love for sinners causing you to do?
The fourth session of the True Church Conference 2010 was presented by Jeff Noblit concerning Altar Calls.
Altar calls are wrestled with and struggled with. An altar call is a system at the end of preaching of coming forward to receive salvation.
1. Old time religion or new fad?
The roots of the altar call go back to the 1830’s and the revivalist Charles Finney. He may not have been the first but he was the most popular, because of all of his new measures. Before Finney, there was no organized method to call people forward to be saved at the end of the sermon. Whitefield and Edwards did not do so. Spurgeon rejected the idea and warned against it. Nothing can be gotten in a private room or in front that cannot be done in the midst of the assembly.
But if there was no system, what did people do before Finney? If you don’t call people to the front, how can they be saved? Dallimore notes that Whitefield refused to count those who were saved at the end of the service. Whitefield returned months later to see if there was fruit. There were false converts, but there was a lot of lasting fruit of the First Great Awakening. But the Second Great Awakening focused on immediate results and immediate declaration of salvation. No looking for the proof of fruit. And that is the fruit of the Second Great Awakening, the lack of fruit.
Billy Graham has the same system. An immediate altar call and an immediate declaration of salvation. Graham’s invitation used the words “come” and “quickly” often. There was minimal fruit in the churches in the cities after Graham departed. The watchword is immediate pragmatism.
2. Consequences of the Altar Call
The modern invitation system has had serious consequences on the church:
a. perfection (people need a second work of grace)
b. carnal “Christians” (no change in life)
c. redundant baptisms
d. no church discipline (how can you discipline the entire church?)
e. church splits
f. loss of the glory to God
3. What do the scriptures say?
What system does the Bible give for an invitation? Nothing. The Bible has nothing about an organized invitation. Scripture tells us to make disciples. See 2 Timothy 4:3-5. The work of an evangelist is work. It shouldn’t take only a five minute invitation and three minutes of counseling.
There are invitations in the Bible, but this word “invitation” is far too narrow. We are called to beg, command, urge, preach, reason with men to be saved. We are called to tell men to repent, believe, drink. The Holy Spirit fell on people as they were standing, not those who came forward.
4. Final Considerations
a. The gospel is the invitation. Not something after the gospel is preached.
b. The Spirit gives the invitation. And He is not confined to three verses of a song at the end of a sermon.
c. If a person has heard the word, the seed may grow any time.
d. Don’t go too far into the ditch on the other side of the road. Men still need to be called to repent and be saved.
e. We must avoid works-salvation in our invitation. Walking to the front cannot make you a Christian.
f. Evangelism does not depend on giving a closing invitation.
g. Shepherd the people into sound practice. Those who believe in grace should have some. See Acts 18:24-27.
h. You cannot pull out all the tares among the wheat. Tares bring humility.
i. Maturity is the proof of doctrine. See 2 Corinthians 3:2
The third sesson of the True Church Conference 2010 “The Quagmire of Hyper-Calvinism”.
The morning session closed with a lecture by Jonathan Sims, a pastor in Shelbyville, Tennessee. His topic was urging all to repent and believe. His text was Acts 17:30-34. Why should we urge all men to repent and believe the gospel? Because that’s what God did. Because that’s what John the Baptist did. Because that’s what the apostles did. Because that’s what Jesus did.
Acts 17 is the story of Paul in Thessalonica, Berea, and Athens. In Thessalonica he preached that Jesus was the Christ. In Athens he disputed with the learned men. He urged these men to repent and believe.
1. We must urge all men to repent and believe because all men are ignorant (verse 30). All men are spiritually blind. All men are depraved. The men in Athens were ignorant. Consider their altar to an unknown God. Paul made a call to all men of Athens to repent and believe.
2. We must urge all men to repent and believe because God commands all men everywhere to repent (verse 30). He does not suggest, he commands, and his commands are meant to be obeyed. “Flee the wrath that is to come.” Repentance is a gift from God, but it is also the command of God.
3. We must urge all men to repent and believe because all men will one day face the judgment of God (verse 31). The day has been appointed. The standard is righteousness. The proof of judgment lies in the resurrection of Jesus Christ which guarantees the resurrection of man. We all fall far short of the standard of Jesus Christ. However, we also have assurance in Jesus Christ (verse 32). Men are ignorant of the wrath to come without the gospel preacher.
4. We must urge all men to repent and believe because some will repent and believe (verse 34). Some will mock (v. 32). Some will be unsure, they will procrastinate (v.32). But some will repent and believe. Just to see one cleave unto Jesus Christ is worth it. God’s plan is to save some by preaching the gospel to all. Not to save all by preaching to all. Not to save some by preaching to some. And certainly not to save some by preaching to none. It’s not about the preacher, it’s about the message.
5. We must urge all men to repent and believe because this is our calling. See Acts 9:15-16. And we must not be disobedient to the call. See Acts 26:19-20. Spurgeon sees the dichotomy. He recognizes that repentance and conversion are a gift of God. But he also sees the commission to preach to all men repentance and conversion.
The second sesson of the True Church Conference 2010 “The Quagmire of Hyper-Calvinism” was led by Dr. Michael Haykin.
The text Dr. Haykin used was Titus 3:1-8. Dr. Haykin began with the story of William Carey. The question in Carey’s mind was if the great commission was binding to all ministers to the end of time? Was baptism for believers only? Was it our job to make disciples today? He was called an “enthusiast” for asking these questions. Translate that as the word “fanatic” today. Carey’s colleagues and superiors ridiculed him for thinking he could preach to those in foreign nations. And yet Carey did just this. Carey had his friends, Carey had his supports (John Rylands, Jr.), and Carey had his detractors.
Dr. Haykin moved into a discussion of John Gill and his views of the matter of spreading the gospel. Some time was spent going over the biography of John Gill and also discussing the state of the church (Anglican and Baptist) during Gill’s time. Then Haykin began his discussion of Gill’s positions that have lead to claims of him being a hyper-Calvinist. Gill was a defender of the five points of Calvinism.
There were three points to this presentation.
1. The everlasting counsel (or Covenant of Peace) among the Trinity to save sinners
Gill had a problem with previous theologians because they had the eternal counsel only between the Father and Son. Gill argued that the Holy Spirit was just as involved. Because it is the Spirit who performs the work of regeneration. Without including the Spirit, it is possible to claim that man has something to do with his own salvation. Gill also saw this as important because there were people who wanted to deny the existence of the Trinity.
2. God’s justification before the foundation of the earth
Justification comes from eternity past. Faith of the person does not have any impact on a person’s justification. This would say that a person who is not saved but will be saved is already justified and not under the wrath of God. Gill did not separate election from justification. This would lead to claims that Gill was an antinomian. Therefore, the question for Gill was “Am I among the elect?” This leads to introspection and not focus on evangelism. The Second London Confession rejects eternal justification.
3. The free offer of the gospel
Gill rejected the idea of the free universal offer of the gospel to all men. How did the ideas of John Gill affect the church in his day? Gill is responding to the ideas of the Enlightenment and the moralism of the Anglican church. The ejection of the Puritans from the Church of England 1662 resulted in the loss of the gospel in the Anglican Church. England needed revival, but revival did not come from the Baptists. Revival eventually came from the Church of England, through the evangelistic efforts of the Methodists (Whitefield, Howell Harris). The Baptists were in their warm meeting houses while Whitefield was in the fields preaching to the multitudes. Baptist churches were stagnant while the revival in England flourished.