Text: Romans 9.10-28
(all comments initially moderated)
In our preaching through the Bible, we have come to the ninth chapter of the Book of Romans. And I have entitled the sermon today The Hardest Passage in the Bible, the most difficult passage in the Bible. Now, I say, that is what I think of it. It concerns the doctrine of election, the elective decrees and purposes of God.
The reading of the text—we shall begin at the ninth verse in the ninth chapter of the Book of Romans: “For this is the promise, At the appointed time will I come and Sarah…” who was then ninety years old, “shall have a son. And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac; (For the children being not yet born…” Esau and Jacob, “for the children, being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of Him that calleth;) it was said unto her…”—God said unto Rebecca, “The elder shall serve the younger” [Romans 9: 9-12]. That was while the children were still in her womb. They had not done good; they had not done evil. But according to the elective choices of God, God said to Rebecca: “The elder,” that is, Esau; Edom, “shall serve the younger”—that is, Jacob; Israel, “As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau, have I hated.” [Romans 9:13].
Now that word “hate” is not like we use the word hate: malicious, villainous attitude. But it means like it says in the Bible: “If a man come after Me and hate not his father or mother or brother or sister, he is not worthy of Me” [Luke 14:26]; “hate” in the sense that we love God more than we love anyone else. So if I could say, “As it is written, Jacob have I loved”—quoting God in Malachi. That’s Malachi 1:2 and 3. As it is written in Malachi 1:2 and 3, where God says, “Jacob have I loved, but Esau do I love less. What shall we say then, is there unrighteousness?” A better word would be unfairness. “is there unfairness with God? No! For He saith to Moses,” and he quotes Exodus 33:19:
For He saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, And I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy. For the Scripture saith to Pharaoh… [Romans 9:15-17]
And then he quotes again from the [ninth] of Exodus [Exodus 9:16]: Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might show My power in thee, and that My name might be declared throughout all of the earth. Therefore hath He mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will He hardeneth.
Thou will say then, unto me: Why doth He yet find fault? For who hath resisted His will? [Romans 9:17-19]
Or put it in my words:
Why does God blame men then, if God’s will is irresistible?
Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to Him that formed it, Why hast Thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor? What if God, willing to show His wrath, and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction; And that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had afore prepared unto glory, Even us—even us, whom He hath called—whom he hath elected, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles? As He saith also in Hosea [Romans 9:20-25]
And he quotes Hosea 2:23: I will call them My people, which were not My people; and her beloved, which was not beloved. And it shall come to pass, in the place where it was said unto them, You are not My people; there they shall be called the children of the living God. Isaiah also cried concerning Israel… [Romans 9:25-27]
And he quotes from the tenth and twenty-eighth chapters of Isaiah, “Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved” [Isaiah 10:22]. For God will finish the work, and He will do it quickly, “a short work, a quick work will the Lord do upon the earth” [Romans 9:28]. As Isaiah said in another place [Isaiah 1:9], quoting the first chapter before he quotes from the tenth chapter, “Except the Lord of Sabaoth, except the Lord of hosts had left us a seed, we had been as Sodom and had been made like unto Gomorrah” [Romans 9:29]. That’s the passage, the hardest passage in the Bible: He saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy… Therefore hath He mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will He hardeneth. [Romans 9:15-18]
I do not stand here in this sacred place proposing to understand this message today. Nor do I propose to explain to you the elective choices, the executive will, of the Lord God. But I do propose to do this: we can look at the work of the Almighty.
When as a boy I used to sleep once in a while out in the western part of our state, under the open canopy of heaven and look up at the sky. I don’t suppose there is a scientist in this earth that would deign to be egotistic enough to say: “Why, I can explain all of that.” He can look at it. He can mark some of its orbits. He can measure the light years, some of those spheres far away, but for him to say: “I can explain to you all of the created workmanship of God” would to proclaim himself a silly man to begin with. All he can do is what you can do: look at the great firmament of God and marvel at the handiwork of the Almighty. God’s work is inexplicable wherever it is done. All we do is just look at it and marvel.
Walking around on Oahu Island, the island on which Honolulu is built—walking around on the island, I saw an old thing of a palm tree. It was old and bent over and mostly decayed, and walking by it, I stopped and looked at it. Out of its rotten trunk there was bursting forth the most beautiful orchid I had seen. And I paused and looked at it and marveled at the workmanship of Almighty God. Who drew those diagrams and who dipped His pen in those gorgeous colors and traced those lines, and who made that beautiful thing? You explain that. You couldn’t if your life depended upon it, it is a workmanship of Almighty God.
Turning to another all together different realm of human life and history, all you can do is marvel at the workmanship of God. No man can explain any part of it, any piece of it. We can just look at it and observe it. Here is another. Whoever saw a Hittite? Whoever saw a Girgashite? Whoever saw an Ammonite? Whoever saw a Jebusite? Whoever saw a Canaanite? Whoever saw any of the ancient races and nations of the long, long ago? You never saw one, nor did anybody that you ever heard of—did they ever see one. And a thousand years ago, and two thousand years ago, and two thousand, five hundred years ago, they never saw one. But I have seen a Jew. I have seen Israel. I have seen the children of Abraham. The children of Israel and the children of Abraham were contemporary with the Hyksos and the Hittites and the Jebusites and the Canaanites.
Why is it that Israel lives today and all of those other ancient nations have perished? It is a work, it is an election, it is a sovereignty of Almighty God. Like the Gulf Stream goes through the sea, so the great race of Israel continues through the eons and the centuries and the millennium. Explain that! You couldn’t explain it; it is a part of the sovereign grace and choice and election of Almighty God.
The Lord Jesus said in Matthew 24:34-35: “This generation—this race, this genus, this tribe, these Jews, the children of Abraham—they shall not pass away until all of the promises and the denouement of God be unraveled and unfolded and fulfilled according to the sacred Word.” The Jew will be here to the end of time, and he will share in the consummation of the ages. He is beloved of Abraham, for Abraham’s sake, and he is the chosen of God. And he will always be in this earth.
That’s a part of the elective purpose of Almighty God, and all I can do is look at it. Hitler can try to destroy them. Stalin might. Through the years they have been persecuted, they have been the vagabonds in the earth, but they are still here, and God says they will be here until the end of time. That is an election of Almighty God.
I say, I do not deign to explain the work of the Almighty. All I can do is look at it. And that’s all Paul could do. All Paul could do was just to look and marvel at the riches of the grace of God, the elective purposes of God.
The ninth, tenth and eleventh chapters of the Book of Romans are all about that: God’s purposes, His elective purposes with Israel and with the peoples of the earth. And look how He closes it. Does He explain anything about it? He cannot. Paul, though he is inspired, cannot reach into the unfathomable and inexplicable depths of the wisdom of Almighty God. Look how He closes the passage—the ninth, tenth and eleventh—look how He closes. Look how He ends the eleventh chapter of the Book of Romans: “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been His counselor? Or who hath first given to Him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things; to whom is the glory forever and forever. Amen. [Romans 11:33-36]
Paul ends that glorious passage—9, 10, and 11 in Romans—with a holding up of his hands: “I cannot enter into the mystery of it. I just marvel,” says Paul, “at the glorious purposes, the elective purposes of God.”
All right, now let’s start on it. Let’s just look at it. We cannot explain it. We wouldn’t try, but we can look at it, and I think we should. I think if we had a glorious twenty thousand foot peak by Dallas, snow-crowned, towering toward God, for a man not to look at it—I think would be ridiculous; he ought to look at it! Would to God we had one here to look at; we ought to, it is a part of the workmanship of God.
So with this thing of election; I think we ought to look at it. I think it will help our hearts and our souls, and that’s the purpose of the message this morning. When we come to these things in the Bible—they’re in the Book and the preacher is preaching the Book—and when we come to this great doctrine of election, we’re going to look at it. We’re going to look at it.
All right, first of all: the Bible’s presentation of it. The Bible has no hesitancy, it does not stammer or stutter; it is not apologetic when it comes to the presentation of this whole sovereignty—the kingship, the rulership of Almighty God. Now I could be here all morning long, but out of one book, I have chosen three passages out of one book, the Book of Isaiah, that you might first—as we begin this message, that you might enter into the spirit of the Bible as it presents the sovereignty, the Lordship of Almighty God.
All right, this is out of one book, but it is all through the Bible. Isaiah 14:26-27: This is the purpose that is purposed upon the whole earth; and this is the hand that is stretched the out upon all of the nations. For the Lord of hosts has purposed, and who shall disannul it? and His hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back?
Verse 24: The Lord of hosts has sworn, saying: Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand.
That’s the Lord God speaking. Now, may I turn to two other passages in Isaiah? One is in the forty-fourth chapter of the Book of Isaiah, beginning at the twenty-fourth verse: “Thus saith the Lord, thy Redeemer, and He that formed thee from the womb, I am the Lord that maketh all things; and stretcheth forth the heavens above;”
That great canopy above us, God says, “I put it there.”
“That spreadeth abroad the earth by Myself,”
He didn’t have anybody help Him make it. He made this earth.
“That frustrateth the tokens of the liars, and maketh diviners mad”; I like that. The Lord God looked at these people who predict, and He scorns them and scoffs at them.
“and maketh diviners mad; that turneth wise men backward, and maketh their knowledge foolish. That confirmeth the word of His servant, and performeth the counsel of His messengers; that saith to Jerusalem, Thou shall be inhabited; and to the cities of Judah, You shall be built, and I will raise up the decayed places thereof; That saith to the deep, Be dry, and I will triumph thy rivers; That saith of Cyrus…” [Isaiah 44:24-28]
Now, Isaiah is speaking 250 years before this man was born. And Isaiah calls him by name, 250 years before he was born! “That saith of Cyrus, He is My shepherd, and shall perform all My pleasure; even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built.”
And Jerusalem was already built; “and to the temple, thy foundation shall be laid.” And the foundation was already laid! Isaiah, speaking 250 years before that came to pass, said 250 years hence, this city will be destroyed. The foundations of the temple will be uprooted. But, there will be a man who will come by the name of Cyrus, and he will obey the word of God, and he will cause the city to be rebuilt and the temple to be rebuilt. That’s the Bible. That’s the God of the Bible.
Now let’s take one other in Isaiah—the forty-sixth chapter of Isaiah, “I am God,” the ninth verse: “And there is none else; I am God, and there is none beside Me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times, the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure. Calling a ravenous bird from the east, the man that executed My counsel from a far country; yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I also will do it” [Isaiah 46:9-11].
Now that’s typical of the whole Bible. It makes no apology about presenting the sovereignty and the lordship of the Lord God.
The great preacher, Spurgeon, said: “No man can ever get a true view of the gospel of the Son of God unless he will take into account two lines: the line of the sovereignty of God and the line of human freedom.” And Spurgeon said this, in closing that remark: “I cannot make them unite. Neither can you make them cross.”
Broadus spoke of it like this. Broadus said, “When you approach a house, you can never see as you approach it but half of it.” This side—go around and look at the other side. But when you go around the other side; then you lose sight of this side. As you approach a house, you can never see but half of it at a time. Go around and look at the other half. But I have noticed when I fly over the city of Dallas and look straight down, I can see all four sides at the same time; look right straight down on the house and see all four at the same time. That’s the way with us and God. Here, we can never see but half of the thing at a time. When I am looking at a man’s freedom, his human moral freedom, he’s absolutely free, and I look at that. Then I turn my face toward God, and I can see the lordship and the divine sovereignty of Almighty God. And how to make them both fit, I do not know. How can a man be perfectly free and God run this thing by His sovereign elective will, I do not know—but up there in heaven, where you look down, those things are all together. I cannot enter into the mystery of it; it is just there. I am just in sympathy with this: one of the great divines at the turn of our century avowed, saying: “There could be no greater reinforcement for religion,” said he, “in our time than a return to the ancient doctrine of the sovereignty of God.”
All right, now we are going to talk about the sovereignty of God. The sovereignty of God is this: that there is a divine heavenly purpose that lies back of this world. God has a will; God has a purpose; the Lord has a goal and a destiny for the human race, for the human family. History is reaching out toward some great rendezvous, toward a vast consummation. And that purpose and that will is what we call the “elective purposes,” the “elective decrees” of Almighty God.
Now, the fact that there is a plan in this world, there is a plan of God in history, in life—in yours and mine—in all of the destiny of the nations and peoples of the earth. There is not anything great and worthwhile that could ever be accomplished without first a plan, you must have a plan; that must be first.
When General Eisenhower, and now our president, was preparing our armies for the assault of the Hitlerite bastion and when D-day came, that thing was executed after long and meticulous planning and care. Every man had this, this, this, this, and those, that, that, and everything was carefully worked out; he had a plan. When a man builds a cathedral, when he builds a great beautiful building, first there must be piles and piles of blueprints; there must be a plan. A man couldn’t paint a picture without first, in his mind and heart, he sees the thing, then he puts it on canvass according to a plan.
So with this vast universe in which we live: God has a plan; He has a purpose; He has a program. And if there were no plan and no purpose back of this universe, this universe would be nothing other than an express train driving head on without engineer, without light, without track, and would surely fall into the abyss!
God has a plan, a sovereign plan, for this world in which we live. Now what kind of a plan is that? The plan of God is always merciful. The redemptive plan of God is always turned toward the saving of the lost, toward the redeeming of a people. In God’s Word, in God’s Book, men are never appointed to damnation. There is no such language as that in the Bible! Men are appointed unto salvation. The elective purposes of God are always toward our salvation, never toward our damnation. Ezekiel 33:11 says: “As I live, saith the Lord, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked would turn from his evil way and live.” God does not delight in the destruction of any human soul. The elective purpose of God is never toward the damnation of a man and the ruining of his life and of his forever in the world to come.
The only election that I know that is full of hopelessness and damnation is the election of science. The doctrine of natural science, of the survival of the fittest, is nothing other than the doctrine of election—they call it selection, the doctrine of selection. And in natural science, the doctrine of selection is without human hope and without a vestigial remnant of pity or of care. But the doctrine of election in the heart and mind and purpose of Almighty God is filled with the love and care of someone who loves a humanity.
Now, in the expression of that sovereign will of God, the will of God, the elective purpose of God is always manifest to the end that the man might be saved. All men are lost in sin. And our aversion to the will of God is as patent and as open and obvious as the certainty of man’s damnation lies ahead.
Now in the course of the sin and the self-destruction of humanity, God intervenes. That’s His sovereign will; that’s His elective grace; God intervenes. God intervenes to restrain evil. God intervenes through His Son, and the Holy Spirit, and through the church, and through the preacher, and through the message of Christ. God intervenes, and in that intervention He chooses men who will respond to His will. As Paul mentions here in the ninth chapter of the Book of Romans, God will choose Abraham, and God will choose Isaac. And God will choose Israel, Jacob, and God will choose Moses. And God will choose a remnant of Israel.
And the Lord’s work and the Lord’s will is worked out through all of the generations and through the centuries, so much so, that a prophet could look ahead and say at an exact time, like Daniel did [Daniel 9], the Messiah will be born. And Micah the prophet could say in the exact place the Lord Jesus will be born [Micah 5:2]. And Zechariah could say, five hundred years beforehand, the exact manner that He will present Himself, riding on an ass, going into Jerusalem [Zechariah 9:9]. And Isaiah, seven hundred fifty years before, could describe the exact manner by which He will die [Isaiah 53].
God’s purposes are worked out. They are already known in heaven. They are known to God, and they are worked out in history through the years and the days that unfold. And God can see the end from the beginning. And those purposes are always good. They are always blessed, they are always merciful, they are turned to the saving of the man!
Now who are those people that He chooses? The Lord’s choice, His election of men, His choice of people is always on the basis of their willingness to respond. Could I give you an example of that? The Lord chose Abraham. Now look how God selected him, he elected him. The Lord said:
Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do; Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all of the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?
For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him. [Gen 18:17-19]
The Lord selected Abraham. He chose Abraham because God could see that Abraham would respond to the appeal and the choice and the call of God. Now over here in the passage out of which I read—the ninth of the Book of Romans—he uses an illustration here, Paul, that God’s elective choice concerning Esau and Jacob: “Jacob have I loved, but Esau, I do not love so much. And God chose the younger and said the elder shall serve the younger.”
All right, let’s look at those two boys; now that’s God’s choice in heaven. He could see what those boys were going to be like, and He made His choice, His election. Now down here, as the story unfolds, we can watch it. Those two boys were greatly different; they, vastly differed. Esau was a fine animal. He had the brute strength of an animal. He lived out in the open. He was a red, hairy man. And he was passionate in all of his appetites and ungovernable in all of his expressions. That was Esau. Jacob was a different kind of a man. Jacob was a fellow you would not have liked. He was tied to his mother’s apron strings. He was a house boy. He washed the dishes; he swept out the floor; he did exactly what his mama told him to do; he was smooth-skinned like a girl. He was sissy and effeminate; that was Jacob.
But the Lord God had a great purpose. Esau was given to animality, and his whole life, and if you read the life of Esau, the whole life of Esau was given to fleshly appetite. There was something on the inside of Jacob that God could see. And through that veneer, to that outside of deception and effeminateness and effeteness and all of those things that we don’t like, there came a time in Jacob’s life when at Peniel, on the other side of the Jordan River, he had a great experience, and he gave his heart, and he gave his life, and he gave his soul to Almighty God. And God changed his name from Jacob, which means “supplanter” or “deceiver,” to Israel, which means “the prince of God” [Genesis 32:22-28].
And from the day of his conversion until he died, Jacob, or Israel, was a stalwart patriarch, serving and walking in the will and in the elective purposes of God. God could see that. God could see that. And the Lord God chose Jacob because Jacob had what was in him: an ability to respond, and he would respond! And the elective purposes of God were carried through Jacob and not through Esau.
Now on the other side, Paul here mentions Pharaoh, “Pharaoh, for this cause did I raise thee up that My glory might be shown forth in thee” [Romans 9:17]. And God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. Well, how is that? That was like this: God chooses a man according to the man’s response. What will he do? What will he do? How will he respond? And God sees it before the man is born. It is not something new to God. He sees the end from the beginning, and this man, Pharaoh, the Lord hardened his heart. And you stumble with that, until you first read those passages where it says: “And Pharaoh hardened his own heart” [Exodus 8:15, 32]. And Pharaoh hardened his own heart—and Pharaoh promised these things to the children of Israel, and then he didn’t do it. He backed away from his promise, and finally the Lord gave him up.
And that’s how the Book of Romans begins, in the first chapter of the Book of Romans. When a man continues in aversion to the will of God—when he continues in sin and in wickedness, finally the Lord gives him up, and he hardens in his sin. He continues on until he becomes a personification of the negation of the resistance of the sin itself.
And that is a part of the development of the elective purposes of God that we see here in this world. There are those who will respond, they are the elect. There are those who will not respond, they are the non-elect. Or if I could use the word of Henry Ward Beecher, he said: “The elect, or the whosoever wills, and the non-elect, or the whosoever won’ts.” And God sees it from the beginning. And His elective purposes are wrought out in those who will respond to God’s call and God’s will. Now as briefly as I can, may I bring to our hearts what this thing means to us—the elective mercies, the purposes, the executed plan of Almighty God in our lives?
First: our only hope of ever being saved lies in the elective intervention of Almighty God. “We are dead,” the Bible says, “in trespasses and in sins—we are dead in trespasses and in sins” [Ephesians 2:1]. A dead man cannot spontaneously originate his own quickening. Somebody from the outside must quicken a dead man. It’s just the same; a thing created cannot spontaneously originate its own creation. Somebody must create it. It’s like the birth of an infant—an infant cannot originate its own beginning. There must be a prime mover; there must be a start somewhere outside itself.
So with a man, dead in trespasses and in sins. All of us are dead in sins. We are lost. We are lost and undone. There must be some outside seeker who finds us and who quickens us, and that is the elective intervention of Almighty God. The shepherd seeks the sheep; the woman searched the house for the lost coin; the father waited and prayed and pled before he left with the prodigal boy [Luke 15:3-32]. The prime mover has to be God, otherwise we all are lost.
The elective purpose of God is our hope that we can ever be saved, it starts with Him. In His mercy, He looks upon us, and He seeks us, and when we turn, He saves us.
All right, second; the continuing of our lives lies in the purposeful plan of Almighty God. If we have any hope in the life in which we live—the frame and the plan and the following of our life—that frame and that plan lies in the goodness and in the mercy of Almighty God. Oh, the things that can overwhelm us! The things that can destroy us! The terrible things that could lie await for us! But we believe in the goodness, and the help, and the mercy, and the care of Almighty God.
One of the great Christian poets of all literature is Robert Browning, and one of the poems of Robert Browning is an expression of that purposeful care of the Almighty. Could I quote its first stanza?
Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the first was made:
Our times are in His hand,
Who sayeth, “A whole I planned,
Youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid!”
“Rabbi Ben Ezra,” from Dramatis Personae, 1864; Robert Browning
That’s a Christian poet’s expression of the sovereign grace of Almighty God. Our lives are in His hands who sayeth, “A whole I planned, trust God, see all, nor be afraid.” He will take care. He will take care. I may not be able, but God will see us through. The sovereign grace of God is our hope that our lives shall be blessed in this world while we live.
And now last: our hope of a destiny to come, that someday we’ll reach glory lies in the purposeful love, in the sovereign will, in the grace and goodness of Almighty God.
How shall we ever make it? How shall we get there? We who are so little and so lost in this vast, vast universe. Our world is so tiny; our whole universe itself is tiny, compared to the infinitude of Almighty God. Maybe the Lord will overlook us, maybe God will forget us.
When a preacher stood up and preached his sermon and started off with his text in the tenth chapter of Matthew, “The very hairs of your head are numbered” [Matthew 10:30], and he said, “Why, some of you here do not believe that even your heads are numbered; that God doesn’t even know who you are. Yes, He does! Yes, He does!”
A part of the sovereign grace of God is this; that not a one of us is lost. In all of the multitude of God’s great, vast, infinite world, but He knows you, and He knows you, and He calls you by name! [John 10:3]. And you are as much an object of care in the elective purposes of God as all of His stars by which He runs the vast firmament above us. You are not lost, nor are you going to be forgot, nor will you ever be overlooked, but you are a care, and a prayer, and a love, and a revelation of the goodness of God, no matter who you are! He cares for the microscopic as well as He cares for the telescopic. He is as much concerned for the infinitesimal as He is for the infinite. And the mercy of God reaches down and touches each one of our hearts, and we are not going to be overlooked or forgotten in the great dénouement in the vast era millennium age that is to come.
I want to tell you a little thing about that, and then I have to quit. The care of God—the care of God for the little, for the tiny, for you, for you; if you live long enough, people will forget you. If you live long enough, you’ll outlive everybody who ever knew you. If you live long enough, you’ll die, and you won’t be wanted. Who wants to embalm you and put you where… No sir! You’ll be placed in the ground, you will be buried out of sight, and five hundred years from now, if the world stands, who remembers who was buried in that place? The world will forget! It does, it will. And in the vast infinitude, who remembers? Who remembers? It is the sovereign, elective grace of God that will never forget, and He cares for you….
In the vast dénouement that lies ahead, and in the course of the ages and the histories that shall yet be written and come to pass, and in God’s great firmament and His great universe by which He has made this—in it all, the Lord’s care and His elective purposes are for His children, and His children may be small and they may be weak. And His children may be you and may be me, but we are not forgot, and our hope lies in the elective purposes, in the grace, in the sovereign will of Him who made us, and sought us, and loved us, and saved us, and by His grace and the promise of election will keep us to that great and final hour.
I must quit and we sing our song. And while we sing it, somebody you give your heart to God, trust Him as your Savior. Somebody you, coming into the fellowship of His church, in that top most balcony, the last row, from side to side, anywhere, somebody you, somebody you, “Pastor, I’m giving my heart today in trust to Christ and here I am, coming. “
“Pastor, into the fellowship of the church by baptism or by letter, a family of us. Pastor, here we are—all of us, our family, we’re coming.” Or just you, just you. While we sing this song and while we make appeal, would you come? Would you come? And make it now, while we stand and while we sing.
Copyright © 2014 The W. A. Criswell Foundation.
All Rights Reserved.
Posted with permission.
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How to Close the Deal
by Unappreciated Pastor*
It’s no secret that much of church “growth” isn’t kingdom growth at all. New church members often join a church because they have either moved to a new town or are frustrated with the church they are currently in. As pastors we are aware of this. Most pastors don’t seem to mind the fish swapping aquaria. In fact many pastors just want to see the sanctuary full on Sunday mornings. And if we are not careful, we can resemble a sleazy new car salesman more than a pastor. So that’s the subject of this blog. Let’s call it “How to Close the Deal.”
Richard Land delivers inaugural
H. Ray Newman Ethics and Religious Liberty Lectures
by Norm Miller
CLEVELAND, Ga. (TMNEWS)–In honor of a Georgia Baptist statesman, lobbyist and pastor, Truett-McConnell College announced on Nov. 14, 2013, the launch of the endowed “H. Ray Newman Ethics and Religious Liberty Lectures.”
by Dan Nelson, pastor
FBC Camarillo, Calif.
The answer to the question of a public invitation’s implementation is simple: Use the type of invitation that works the best in your situation. The needs of people in your area and the personality of the preacher have much to do with the way you give a call to commitment.
We looked at great evangelists and their invitation methods in our last post. However, most pastors do not preach to that many lost people every Sunday. Certainly, the call to come to Christ must be issued somewhere in the service. Yet, what about the other 95-to-98 percent of the people who are there? Do they have to sit this one out if you give an invitation to the small percentage of non-Christians in attendance? I think that we must earnestly survey our situations and determine what the Lord would lead us to do.
I favor the public invitation and believe there are common elements of the invitation that make good sense. We should endeavor to plan these carefully.
1. Vary the approach of the invitation from time-to-time.
When people share with me, they have had no public response to the invitation for weeks or even months, then other approaches need to be explored. I think the pastor and church need to be creative. Every pastor has a response to every message he preaches; but, he needs some public expression of what people decide to do based on what they have heard. Try to get people to share with the person next to them what they have decided to do because of what they have heard. Initially, this would seem to work in smaller groups on Sunday evenings. Offer a time to dialogue after the evening message for people to declare what they have decided in an evening service.
2. Offer an opportunity for people to make some response.
I’m not talking about cheapening the invitation to have everyone who loves their mother on Mother’s Day to come forward. I’m not really in favor of having everyone who wants to see revival in the opening service of a meeting to come forward in the invitation. Rather, challenge the people to do something in response to God. This can be done publicly or privately.
If the sermon is about mothers on Mother’s Day, then suggest a response that includes thanks to God and to mothers for the ways they have blessed others’ lives.
3. Pattern the invitation after the sermon preached.
I don’t think a person should preach on tithing and not mention something about it during the invitation. The transition to the invitation will be more natural when this way. While serving as pastor of a small rural church in Mississippi, I encountered the need to do this. The church had just completed its first Vacation Bible School in years. After my message on the home during family night, I asked families to come and pray for their family at the front with their hands on the big family Bible. It was a wonderful service. This may not work everywhere. Yet, the invitation just flowed naturally from the message.
4. Coordinate the invitation hymn with the sermon’s content.
Every hymn or chorus in the service should be centered on a certain theme. This should especially be true concerning the invitation song whether a contemporary chorus or traditional invitation hymn; it should reflect the theme of the service and sermon. Above all, there must be some coordination between preacher and music director. Vary the approach to music in the invitation. The congregation may want to sing, and then you may ask them to bow their heads and be in an attitude of prayer as the choir or praise team sings. Avoid the rut of routine.
5. Be prepared to extend an evangelistic invitation.
When the time comes to give an evangelistic invitation, do it confidently and positively. If you preach an evangelistic sermon, prepare and extend an evangelistic invitation. Don’t preach another sermon in the invitation. It has helped me to study the methods of visiting evangelists as they extend the public invitation. I believe it is good from time-to-time to ask for a show of hands, while heads are bowed, from those who know they are saved. Then issue the evangelistic invitation to those who could not raise their hand. You could lead them in a prayer of commitment right then. Explain exactly what the decision to come forward means, and inform them that spiritual counseling will be readily available. This is very important for those who may be new to your church.
6. Use trained counselors as part the public invitation.
This is a necessity. Counselors must be prepared for whatever decisions those coming forward may make whether for salvation, rededication, surrender to ministry, or other personal and/or spiritual matters and issues. There are many materials for training counselors. Every church, no matter how large or small should have trained counselors.
7. Find the best time for counselors to come forward.
Some churches have counselors come forward during a prayer before the invitation hymn. Some come forward as those who are making decisions for Christ also come forward. Others have counselors waiting in rooms adjacent to the worship center. Whatever the method, it should be employed reverently and with a minimum of distraction.
A young ministerial student told Spurgeon that he was having no response to his messages. Spurgeon asked, “Do you expect a response to them?” He said, “No not every time.” Spurgeon countered: “That’s your problem.”
(All comments are pre-moderated for propriety, relevance and general content.)