Gospel Power: The Sufficiency Of The Gospel In Enabling The Lost | Conclusion

Leighton Flowers | Professor of Theology
Dallas, TX

**This article was previously posted by Leighton Flowers on his website www.soteriology101.com and is used by permission.

Leighton is: teaching pastor in his local church, an adjunct Professor of Theology, and the Youth Evangelism Director for Texas Baptists.

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Click HERE for Part One
Click HERE for Part Two
Click HERE for Part Three

Yes, we are enslaved but that is why God sent truth, which may set man free (John 8:32). I see no biblical reason to suggest that God’s inspired truth is insufficient to do just that.

In the apostolic era, some men tried to cast out a demon by invoking Jesus Christ (Acts 19:15).  Their words were essentially the same words the Apostles would use, but the invocation of the name and saving power name of Jesus didn’t work, because the Spirit, in this case, was not present in power.

So also the scriptures or message of the Gospel are not sufficient of themselves to cast from us the oppressive presence of spiritual darkness inflicted on humanity by Satan and his forces of evil. We need a Power stronger they they, which will liberate us in just an unmediated way as they afflict us.

Is there a verse which relates the unmediated work of the Spirit in driving out demonic spirits to the necessity of an unmediated work of the Spirit to enable a free moral response to God’s own inspired truth? If so, I have not found it.

I agree that the Gospel message is sufficient to enable belief, but only within a paradigm of God’s unmediated activity in the hearts of unbelievers.

Stated another way: “The Gospel brought by unmediated revelation to His chosen apostles is insufficient to enable the belief of their hearers unless God also chooses to reveal that same truth to each hearer individually by those same unmediated means used to bring the inspiration to the apostles in the first place.”

(1) Where is this taught in scripture? (2) Why even use the mediated means of the apostles writing scriptures if those means are not sufficient anyway? Why not just reveal truth directly (unmediated) to each individual to begin with and cut out the insufficient “middle man?”

With Leighton and all Christians, I believe that the Gospel message is a production of the Holy Spirit. However, it is not a procession of the Holy Spirit and must not be conflated with His personal activity in our souls.

I agree, which is why I teach God’s “personal activity” comes as a result of a faith response to God’s inspired appeal, not the other way around. This is why we disagree with Calvinists (and others) who suggest the Holy Spirit’s direct indwelling (unmediated involvement) must proceed a faith response.  The gospel is God’s APPEAL to have a personal/direct “unmediated” encounter with God. To suggest God must encounter us in that direct/unmediated way in order for us to freely respond to an APPEAL to do so seems to get the proverbial cart before the horse.

If a sworn enemy sends me a letter requesting to meet in person so as to be reconciled, does that enemy need to personally hand deliver the letter for it to have the sufficient means to enable my response? Of course not. A currier can carry the letter and it would still sufficiently communicate the intent of that enemy and the means by which we can be reconciled.  Why would God’s chosen means be less sufficient?  Where does the bible explicitly teach that such inspired means are not sufficient to enable a free response?

Jesus is the one who “enlightens every man” (John 1:9)…

How?  By what means?  Did every man get the unmediated revelation that the apostles got when writing the scripture?  I agree that God enlightens every man, but He does so through His chosen means.  See Eph. 3:2-11 quoted above.

…we are not merely made in the image of God but in some mysterious way God is in contact with each of us, for “in Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).

As believers in Him, yes, we live and move and have our being in a personal – direct – intimate – relational way. But we are not like the apostles who received direct revelation from the Spirit. Instead, we believed their message so as to receive His Spirit.

The view articulated by Leighton essentially posits that since the Bible says that the hearing of the message produces faith…

Again, not trying to nitpick, but I do not believe that hearing the message certainly produces faith, but that it enables a free response of faith. The gospel enables the lost man to place his trust in Jesus (Rm. 10:14). That is important in this particular discussion because the burden on me IS NOT to show that hearing divinely inspired truth is sufficient to save the lost, but only that it is sufficient to enable a free response of those who are lost. What’s the difference?  One cannot conflate the responsibility of the lost to respond to God’s revelation and the responsibility of God to graciously save/indwell those who freely believe.

Let me reaffirm that there is a difference between what I am calling God pressing upon the soul and God inhabiting the soul. Contra Leighton’s claim, there is no inherent danger that I might blur the distinction between God’s prevenient grace with regeneration proper.

Micah may draw that distinction systematically but the question for our discussion is whether scripture ever does. I my opinion, his perspective creates a somewhat confusing systematic by which God must work to enable his own means to work and I simply see no need for such qualification in scripture. If indeed God’s pressing upon the soul is accomplished by means of inspired revelation (rather than some unknown supernatural “unmediated” way never explicitly expounded upon in the Bible), then God still gets all the credit for those means, doesn’t He? So, what is it that we gain by making such difficult qualifications?

Is not this article sufficient means to communicate my message and potentially persuade a hearer to adopt my view? Must I show up to the hearer’s home in person to be given due credit for my efforts? Why would my mediated message be more sufficient to inform and convince a hearer than God’s?

I assert that Jesus’ words “you can do nothing without me” (John 15) are not only to the Christian but can also be applied to every act of every person, for it is in Him that “all things consist” (Col. 1:17).  We can do nothing spiritual without Him…

I agree, but then again I don’t believe someone responding to God’s inspired revelation as being “without Him?” Do you?  For instance, I spent a summer in Russia away from my family who prayed from me, spoke to me by letter or phone daily. I might say to them, “I could not have made it through the summer without you.”  Was their prayers and daily correspondence insufficient to be credited to them simply because they were not with me in person? They supported me through means, and they get the due credit for that support. As Jesus said, “Blessed are they who do not see me but still believe.”

I disagree with Leighton’s view that the gospel makes a direct contact with our souls in a way commensurate with the unmediated contact by God Himself.

That is just it. They are not commensurate.  The gospel is making an appeal for a direct intimate contact with our soul. I just believe those are sufficient means to enable the lost to respond in faith.  Only when man responds willingly to the appeal to be reconciled are we blessed with the direct “unmediated” presence of our Lord.

Based on previous discussions, Leighton believes that the Holy Spirit’s activity could have simply been paused after the writing of Scripture and people would still be able to come to faith.

This is not entirely accurate. I believe the Holy Spirit continues to work to preserve and carry His word by means of inspired Holy Spirit indwelled messengers.  We cannot assume the gospel’s preservation and continued dispersion would have happened apart from the continual work of the Spirit through His bride.  The point of the former conversation, to which I believe Micah is referencing, was only to illustrate the sufficiency of the inspired word in enabling the lost to respond to its appeal. I was not making a case that the gospel would have continued to accomplish its intended purposes absent the Holy Spirit’s work in other ways.

I would also take issue with the many quotes provided in Micah’s article of other believers and Early Church Fathers. I honestly tried to read them with full objectivity in order to understand why Micah reads them as uniquely supportive of his perspective. In order for me to give a more meaningful response it would be necessary for us to go line by line through those quotes and expound on what Micah believes the author is intending.  I simply do not see specific support for his position in those quotes.

I appreciate these brother’s sharping my iron as I hope to sharpen theirs.  Blessings to all.