Let's Be Baptists!
Matthew 16:16-1 8, "And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona:for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."
The word "church" here is the Greek word which means "called-out assembly," which, of course, refers to the local church, which is the only church in this age. There is a so-called church called the "invisible church" or the "universal church," which supposedly is composed of all believers, but all believers cannot yet be a church and will not be until the rapture because all believers have not yet become a called-out assembly. At the rapture all believers will become a church. Hebrews 12:23, "To the general assembly and church of the first born, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect."
The doctrine of the universal church originated with the Catholic denomination - the word "catholic" meaning "universal." Throughout history there has been a battle between our Baptist forefathers and the Catholic church concerning the heresy of the universal church or invisible church. I make an issue of this because the church (local, that is) is the unit of battle in the warfare against evil and for God and good. To bypass this unit of battle or make light of this unit of battle is to lessen our effectiveness in the warfare.
Now notice Hebrews 12:22 23, "But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect." The general assembly will be all the host of Heaven, and the church will be the called-out assembly of God's people. Consequently, there is only one church on the face of the earth today, and that is the local body of New Testament believers, like the First Baptist Church of Hammond and churches of like faith.
Before we enter into this study or discussion, let me say that I have the kindest feeling toward all believers, and I have no desire to be offensive, though I have no doubt that this study will offend some, perhaps many. However, if we reach the people we should reach for Christ, we will have to revive the emphasis on the local churches! Because of that, the eternal destiny of men, women, boys and girls will rest in our ability to emphasize the institution that Jesus started for the perpetuation of the Gospel and for the war against evil.
1. All believers do not form the bride of Christ. Many have been influenced by the inter-denominational teaching that has infiltrated our Baptist churches that all believers form the bride of Christ. The simple truth is, there is no bride of Christ today, nor will there be until the rapture.
The word "bride" is mentioned only five times in the New Testament. First is John 3:29, "He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom 's voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled." Even a casual reading of this verse shows that it has nothing to do with all Christians forming at this present time a bride. This is the only time the word "bride" is mentioned in the Bible until Revelation 18:23, "And the light of a candle shall shine no more at all in thee; and the voice of the bridegroom and of the bride shall be heard no more at all in thee: for thy merchants were the great men of the earth; for by thy sorceries were all nations deceived." It is also mentioned in Revelation 21:2 "And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband." It is mentioned again in Revelation 21:9, "And there came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb 's wife." Then, it is mentioned again in Revelation 22:17, "And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely."
Now follow me carefully. The only time the word "bride" is mentioned before Revelation 18 is in John 3:29 which has nothing at all to do with the church. In Revelation 18, the rapture has already taken place. We have already been called unto the marriage of the Lamb. No one is a bride until she gets married, and so we are not a bride now, and all the verses except John 3:29, which even mention the word "bride" in the New Testament, are mentioned after the rapture while we are in the air at the marriage of the Lamb. An engaged lady is not a bride. She must be married; then she becomes a bride, so all believers are not a bride until after the wedding. The wedding takes place in the air after the rapture, so all believers will not become the bride of Christ until the wedding takes place.
Again I make an issue of this because Baptists are being led astray by inter-denominational people concerning the doctrine of the local church. So, just as all believers will not become a church until we become a called-out assembly, all believers will not become a bride until this called-out assembly.
2. All believers do not form the body of Christ. The local church is the body of Christ, as I am going to show you. Notice Colossians 1:18, "And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence." Notice the words, "he (Jesus) is the head of the body, the church...." Now the word "church" is the called-out assembly. Since all Christians have not been called out to assemble, then He is talking about the only church in existence now, which is the local church. And since He is the head of the body, and the body and the church are synonymous, then the body of Christ is the local church. He is the head of the called-out assembly.
Now in what way is He the head? He is the head in the sense that He owns it - like the president of a bank is the head of the bank. Christ owns the church; He is to run the church, and the church is His body in the sense of ownership of an institution. The word "body" is used in many ways, but it is often used concerning a group of people. This called-out assembly called the New Testament church is a group of people. They are a body of people. He is the head of that body. The word "head" means that He is the "Boss-man" of the church; He is to run the church; He is the King of the church.
Notice Colossians 2:10, "And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power." It says here that He is the head of all principality and power. Now what is that principality and power? It deals with government. Paul said that we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers. Jesus is the head of all principalities and powers, and the word "head" is the same word that is used in Colossians 1:18 where it mentions that He is the head of the church.
So God is teaching us here that Jesus controls the affairs and destinies of the world. He puts up kings and sets down kings. He is the One Who is going to end up as King of the entire world. Now in the same way that He is the head of principalities and powers, He is the head of the church, as is told us in Colossians 1:18. That means He runs the church; He is the Boss of the church; He is to be the ruler of the church.
The church is His body like someone would say, "That's my coat. This is my tie. This is my pulpit. This is your microphone. This is your building. That's my home. This is my car. These are my shoes." In the same way, the church is His church, His body, because He owns it. It is a body of people who are owned by Him; it belongs to Him and He is the head.
3. There are three basic groups of fundamentalists today. Group one is what I call "American Baptist fundamentalists." These are they who came out of the American Baptist Convention; that is, the old Northern Baptist Convention. These fundamentalists are basically your Conservative Baptists and General Association of Regular Baptists. Both of these groups came out of the American Baptist Convention.
Group two I call "Protestant fundamentalists." These people came out of the Protestant denominations. They came from the Presbyterians, the Methodists, the Episcopalians, etc. Basically they are the interdenominational people today. They have started many Bible institutes, Bible colleges, etc. These are not bad people; they are fine people. I'm not trying to criticize them; I'm trying to identify them and name fundamentalism.
Group three is what I call "Southern Baptist fundamentalists." These are they which came out of the Southern Baptist convention or were influenced by someone who did. In this group we have the Baptist Bible Fellowship, the World Baptist Fellowship, those who were influenced by Dr. J. Frank Norris, Dr. Lee Roberson, and in latter years Dr. Bob Gray, myself and others who were Southern Baptists who left the convention.
These are the main groups of fundamentalists during this and the past generation.
4. Notice the identification of each of these three groups. Group number one came out of the American Baptist Convention basically because of the Bible. They got tired of the liberalism of the American Baptist Convention and withdrew. This is true basically with both the Conservative Baptist Association and the General Association of Regular Baptists. This is certainly to be admired. They did not, however, pull out because of formalism. They retained their formalism to a great extent. Likewise, they did not pull out because of church organization. Therefore, they, to a large degree, retained the same type of church organization as the American Baptists.
Group number two likewise pulled out because of the Bible, because of the liberalism in the mainline Protestant denominations and not because of church organization or formal worship.
Group number three withdrew from the Southern Baptist Convention not necessarily because of the Bible. Thirty, forty and fifty years ago when group number three withdrew from the Southern Baptist Convention, most Southern Baptists believed the Bible to be the Word of God. We withdrew because we could not put up with the worldliness, the formalism and the high church organization of the Southern Baptist Convention. We pulled out because of differences on standards, pulpit leadership, prophecy, worldliness and formalism!
This means that groups number one and two have more in common today with each other than either does with group number three. Group number three is the old-fashioned preaching crowd, the hellfire-and-brimstone group. Because of this, the action in fundamentalism has been basically in group number three. The emphasis on soul winning, evangelistic preaching, standards, separation from the world and informal worship services have come largely from group number three. Group three would agree with groups one and two on the Bible, but would not agree on type of worship, standards, separation, etc.
Since one of the main things that separated groups one and two from group three is evangelism and soul winning, most of our growing churches have come from group number three, because, whatever errors the Southern Baptist Convention had, they, at least, in years passed, preached the Gospel; they did not have the high church organization; and they had, to some degree, evangelism and soul winning.
Though there are many admirable things about groups one and two, they, nevertheless, have not had the emphasis on the old-time Gospel preaching, the old-time religion, informal services and strong evangelism and soul winning as has group number three. Again, this does not mean we should not love them or even like them, but it is far better that group number three works within its own boundaries and circumference, loving and appreciating groups one and two and thanking God for them, but basically training its own preachers and doing its own work.
5. Group three built few schools in which to train their preachers. Because of that, we sent our students to group number two to go to college and to be trained for the ministry. They came back with a belief in the Bible, but with formalism, different music on Sunday morning from that on Sunday night, error concerning the universal church and with influence from group number two. Because of this, an interdenominational influence has crept into our Baptist churches. We got the people saved, got them called to preach, sent them to schools in group number two only to see them come back, in many cases, to criticize our informality, our type of music and our soul winning and evangelistic zeal! Group number three has helped to populate the schools of group number two.
However, in the last few years, group number three has been building colleges. It is now possible for group number three to train its own preachers, and while we should have a high regard and a sincere love for those in groups one and two, we should, nevertheless, train our own, thereby avoiding the influence of interdenominationalism, formalism and oftentimes weak standards coming from the group one and two schools.
6. Group number three has failed to publish enough books and literature. I was in a church recently pastored by a fundamental preacher. He has one of the fine churches in America. I looked at his library. I picked out 15 books. To my surprise, 13 of his books were written by group number two. Two of his books that I picked at random were written by one man in group three, and I am that man. We have sent our preacher boys to group one and two schools to be trained. They have come back and diluted our Baptist heritage. They have come back mixed up on the doctrine of the church. They have come back having been taught a certain form of church organization that we believe not to be scriptural. They have been taught that churches should be operated by committees, and in some cases, they have been taught to wear a gown while preaching on Sunday morning.
Let me emphasize that I am certainly not angry, nor do I feel negative toward fundamentalists in group one and fundamentalists in group two, but there are philosophical differences that should cause each group to educate and train its own preachers and likewise to write its own literature.
I came home from this church where the pastor had 13 of the 15 books that I picked written by group two. I was shocked! So at random I picked 15 books from my library. To my amazement, all 15 were written by group two! Consequently, I have encouraged our group three brethren to write books and literature.
It's a natural thing that preachers in group three do not write. Most of us are busy winning souls and building churches, so we have left the non-aggressive people to write the books that train the aggressive people to be non-aggressive.
I'm suggesting that we coexist, but let each group stay within its own group as far as training is concerned. Let us fellowship with each other, but not organize together! Let us keep peace from a distance rather than up close.
Let me illustrate. One of the largest churches in America became pastorless. The former pastor had served for over 40 years and had built one of the great soul-winning churches in America. He was one of the founders of group three, having pulled out of the Southern Baptist Convention and having led many others to do the same. The church sought another pastor. They chose a pastor from group one. He was not a bad man. He believed the Bible, but his beliefs about church organization, red-hot evangelism, etc. were different from his predecessor, and the church was harmed greatly because of his ministry. The church certainly should have had a warm feeling toward this pastor, though he was a member of group one, but they would have been very wise to have called a member of group three to be their pastor.
We must fill our next generation with independent, New Testament Baptist churches that are informal in their services, evangelistic in their fervor, soul winning in their practice, and independent in their spirit.
At this writing I am 66 years of age. I have pastored the same church for over a third of a century. I realize that before many years I must step down. I constantly keep before my people the importance, not only to call their next pastor from the ranks of a Bible-believing group, but also from the ranks of a group that agrees with the First Baptist Church on types of public services, the King James Bible, separation, standards, soul winning, evangelism, the old-time religion and old fashioned preaching.
This church is a perfect example. First Baptist Church of Hammond thirty-five years ago was a member of group one. It was a church that had been influenced by the American Baptists and later by the Conservative Baptist Association. These were good people; my predecessor was a fine man who believed the Bible, but he preached in tails and striped pants. The church services were ultra formal. There were 22 committees. The church was highly organized, far beyond the New Testament pattern. I was not their type of preacher. They contacted me. I felt led to come, but bedlam broke loose. I was group three; they were group one. Because they loved me and believed in me, the great majority of the people went with me, though not totally understanding my position or philosophies. Now through the years we have had a strong group three church, but it took a war to make it so.
When I was a young man in Texas, we were proudly Baptists. We loved the interdenominational people but did not run with them. We loved American Baptists but did not run with them. We loved the General Association of Regular Baptists and the Conservative Baptist Association, but did not run with them. We loved the fundamental Methodists but did not run with them. We thanked God that they preached the Gospel, but the doctrine of the local, New Testament church meant something to us back in those days, and the doctrines of informality and separation and standards meant something to us. We thanked God that they preached the Gospel and rejoiced at every soul they won, but organizationally, we kept to ourselves.
7. This influence from groups one and two is basically and historically a Catholic influence. In about 313 A.D. the Catholic church was started, basically by Constantine. In the years following 1530, there was what we call the Reformation. The Protestants came out of the Catholic church. These Protestants included what we now call Methodists, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, etc. However, Baptists never came from the Catholic church. Baptists came from Jesus Himself, Who founded Baptist churches, or should I say He founded the first Baptist church!
Though the Reformation was led by some great men such as Calvin, Luther, Savonarola and others, these great men were not a part of our Baptist crowd. In fact, they persecuted our crowd. In some cases, our Baptist brethren were martyred, and in some cases they were martyred by Protestants. I teach our Hyles-Anderson College preacher boys to read the lives and biographies of the reformers but not to read the sermons of the reformers. Find their work ethic; study their character; ready their biographies, but not their doctrine. Read the doctrines of Baptist preachers!
As I understand Revelation 17 and 18, the Roman Catholic church is the mother of harlots mentioned there. Now if you are a mother, you have to have children. So, the Catholic church gave birth to some children. Who are they? The Protestants. Now with the passing of the centuries, the Protestants had some babies. Who are they? The interdenominationalists or what I called previously the Protestant Fundamentalists. Now just as the Protestants pulled out from the mother on the doctrine of justification by faith, they did not pull out from the mother in many other areas. They still favor their mother.
Now from these children of Catholicism were born other children. These are the interdenominational churches, and though they certainly are to be admired because of their stand and their withdrawal from protestantism as it became liberal, they, nevertheless, still favor mama, and in some cases, they favor grandmother!
So today we have the Baptists who have been here since Jesus started the first Baptist church. We have the Catholics, the mother of harlots; and we have the Protestants, her children; and we have the interdenominationals, the children of the Protestants and the grandchildren of Catholicism. So, as the interdenominational schools and literature have influenced our Baptist churches concerning formalism, the doctrine of the church, church organization, etc., so did the Protestant churches influence the interdenominational churches, and likewise did the Catholic church influence the protestant churches. So our formalism comes from the Catholics by way of the Protestants and the interdenominationalists.
Again let me say that we should feel no animosity toward these our brethren in Christ, and we should realize that we are brothers and sisters. We should love each other, but as far as our church affiliation and church relationship is concerned, we should stay with the churches patterned after the church that Jesus started.
There are members of Baptist churches who are at this very moment upset with me, even as you read this chapter, and I'm not surprised. You have not been trained to be a Baptist, and you are living proof of what I am teaching in this chapter.
We live in a nice neighborhood. We have good neighbors. We speak to our neighbors. We are kind to our neighbors. We love our neighbors, but we don't eat with our neighbors, live with our neighbors, or sleep in the same house with our neighbors. Does that mean we don't love them? Of course, it doesn't. In no way am I suggesting that we not love and thank God for other Christians who are members of groups one and two, or for that matter, another denomination, but we should be proud that we are Baptists, just like we are proud of our families.
8. Churches should start schools; schools should not start churches. The only institution that has been promised divine perpetuity is the New Testament church. No school has been made that promise, so if a school controls a church, there is no promise that that school can have divine perpetuity. If the church controls the school, the school is under the canopy of that promise. Christ is head of the church, not the school; so consequently, if the church has a school, that school does not have to die. It may choose to die, but it does not have to die. If a school starts on its own, it has to die. It may live for a while and serve for a while, but it does not have the promise of divine perpetuity.
Suppose a group of churches starts a school. Again, it is outside the promise. The local church should start the school, not only so it may live but because it may stay stronger. If ten churches start a school, the school will be just as strong as the weakest link. Now I'm not criticizing the school if it lives for just a while, but it does not have the promise of divine perpetuity.
9. A fundamentalist is one who believes in the faith and practice of the original purposes and doctrines of an institution. To put it another way, a fundamentalist is one who returns to the original faith and practice of any organization. You can have a fundamentalist Mason, a man who is a Masonic lodge member who returns to the original faith and practice of the Masonic lodge. You can have a fundamentalist member of the Parent-Teacher Association. You have fundamentalists in Iran.
If you are a Catholic, you go back to Constantine in 313 A.D. If you follow the faith and practice of the original intents of the Catholic church, you are a fundamentalist Catholic and go back to 313. If you are a Lutheran, you can be a fundamentalist Lutheran and go back to 1530 and the original intent of Martin Luther and the Lutheran church. If you are an Episcopalian, you can go back to the original faith and practice of the Episcopalians in 1531 and be a fundamentalist Episcopalian.
If you are a Presbyterian, you can go back to the original faith and practice of the Presbyterians when they were founded in 1540 and be a fundamentalist Presbyterian. If you are a Congregationalist, you can go back to the faith and practice of the Congregationalists when they were founded in 1603 and be a fundamentalist Congregationalist. If you are a Methodist, you can go back to the faith and practice of the Methodist church as it was founded in 1765 and be a fundamentalist Methodist.
If you are a member of the Disciples of Christ denomination, you can go back to 1812 to the original faith and practice of the Disciples of Christ denomination and be a fundamentalist Disciple of Christ.
So, if you are a Disciple of Christ, you go back to 1812 to be a fundamentalist. If you are a Methodist, you go back to 1765. If you are a Congregationalist, you go back to 1603. If you are a Presbyterian, you go back to 1541. If you are an Episcopalian, you go back to 1531. If you are a Lutheran, you go back to 1530. If you are a Catholic, you go back to 313. I am a Baptist fundamentalist, so I go back to the faith and practice of Baptist churches as founded by Jesus during His earthly ministry!
10. The perpetuity of Baptist churches does not follow the bloodline of Baptist denominations; it follows the bloodline of fundamental Baptists. The perpetuity of Baptist churches is not in the American Baptist Convention. It may have been at one time, but when the denomination grew liberal, the fundamentalists could no longer endorse its faith and practice, so the ones who left carried the bloodline of independent, fundamental Baptist churches. To be quite frank, that means that the bloodline is in the split and not in the main body that has deteriorated and often even died.
I am simply saying the hope for America is in independent, fundamental Baptist churches that preach Heaven like it is, preach Hell like it is, fight sin, go soul winning, and take a stand for what is right and against what is wrong. That is the hope!
When I was a young man in east Texas, I pastored the Grange Hall Baptist Church in the country outside Marshall, Texas. Down the road from me was the Grange Hall Methodist Church. The pastor of that church was a fine young man whose name was Edmund Robb. Ed Robb was a fundamental Methodist, not a fundamentalist as I am, for I am a fundamental Baptist who, as I see it, goes back to the time of Christ, but Ed Robb was a good fundamental Methodist. He believed in salvation by grace. He did not believe you could lose salvation. He had revival meetings. He believed in separation. He and I were good buddies. We spent some time together. We fellowshipped together. We prayed for each other. I liked him; he liked me, but he never preached for me, and I never preached for him. Our church did our best to follow what we thought the Bible taught; his church did the best to do what they thought the Bible taught. We loved each other, we prayed for each other, but we did not organize together!
I am not asking group one to become a member of group three. I'm not asking group two to become a member of group three. I am asking for us to love each other. I'm asking for us to love all believers and, for that matter, love the souls of all men. I am asking, and using all the influence I have, that each group train its own preachers, stick with its own literature, maintain its own purity, train its own preachers, and study its own literature, while loving others who disagree. Let's be loving toward all believers, but let's be Baptists!
Lifestyle Evangelism -
An Enemy of Soul Winning
Acts 5:28, "Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man's blood upon us." Acts 5:42, "And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ." Acts 20:20, "And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publickly, and from house to house."
In the beginning, let me make it plain that I am for lifestyle evangelism, but I am unalterably against ONLY lifestyle evangelism! There are those who have attacked personal soul winning. They love to use such terms as "confrontational evangelism" as they make light of and often even ridicule those who pass out tracts, witness from house to house, preach on street corners, etc. These are enemies to the salvation of men, and certainly, they are hindrances to the obeying of the Great Commission.
I have said before that I believe in lifestyle evangelism, if it is accompanied by what we call confrontational evangelism; that is, personal soul winning. Matthew 5:16, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glonfy your Father which is in heaven." It is plain that we are to live in such a way that people will want what we have and that they may glorify God because of our good works. There are examples of this in the Bible. The best was our Saviour Himself. John 3:1, 2, "There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him." Nicodemus, an unsaved man, inquired of Jesus concerning his salvation, for he could tell that He was a teacher come from God. How could he tell this? By the miracles that Jesus did. In other words, we have an example of lifestyle evangelism. On the other hand, our Saviour did not limit His soul winning to His life, but He also was a confrontational soul winner, such as is found in the very next chapter of John, when in a public place He won a woman to Himself.
I was in southern California preaching. The pastor was driving me to the morning service. On the freeway, it was obvious that a lady in a car behind us was following us. If we would change lanes, she would change lanes. She made no attempt to pass us when we slowed down. We turned onto a busy street from the freeway; she turned on that same street and stayed right behind us. We again turned onto a little neighborhood street; she likewise turned and continued to follow us. Soon she motioned for us to stop. The pastor did so, got out of the car, thinking that perhaps something was wrong with our car. The lady wanted to talk to us about her relationship with God. The pastor asked her how she knew that we could help her. She said, "I saw a Bible on the dash of your car. I thought perhaps you could help me." The very placing of that Bible on the dashboard of the car was lifestyle evangelism.
I was eating in a restaurant in Illinois recently. As I was paying my bill, the lady cashier said, "You're a reverend, aren't you?"
I said, "Yes, ma'am. I'm a pastor. How did you know?"
She said, "I feel the Spirit."
On occasion people do notice our lives and seek us out. I was in Garland, Texas, pastoring. One day I was driving north on Garland Road. I noticed a policeman following me. I turned right onto Miller Road. As I traveled east, I noticed the policeman was still following me. I turned left on Fifth Street. To my surprise and disappointment, that policeman was still following me. I turned left on a little neighborhood street. If I remember, it was a dead-end street. The policeman turned left. I finally decided once and for all that I was going to find if he were really following me. I turned right up a little alley; he turned right up a little alley! I stopped, got out of the car, wondering what I had done to warrant such apprehension. He got out of his car and said, "I want to get right with God; can you help me?" That man got right with God and today is pastoring a Baptist church.
Many years ago when I was in college I worked at J. C. Penney Company. I worked hard; in fact, I led the entire men's department in sales, though I was only a part-time worker. I tried to be nice, honest and courteous. Soon I was called to pastor a little church out in the country. Within a matter of a few weeks, the secretary in the office was saved, her mother was saved, her father was saved, her sister was saved, her sister's husband was saved, the assistant manager of the men's department was saved, his wife was saved, a salesman in the men's department was saved, his wife was saved, the manager of the shoe department was saved, his wife was saved, a lady who worked in the hosiery department was saved, and her son was saved. If I remember correctly, and I think I do, 16 people were saved who worked in that one store. I trust that my life before them had something to do with it.
Therefore, I have no axes to grind with those who believe that we should live right and make folks want what we have. The axe I do have to grind is that it is not the only way, and that you can't have one without the other! If you don't love them enough to live it, you won't love them enough to tell it. If you don't love them enough to tell it, you won't love them enough to live it. If you live it, you can't help but tell it. Romans 10:11, "For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed." Acts 4:20, "For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard." These verses tell us that if we believe, we will not be ashamed, and that we cannot help but speak what God has done for us.
Let us address the issue of lifestyle evangelism by answering the many errors connected with this enemy of soul winning.
1. The error of saying we should witness only when the Holy Spirit leads. What is meant by this is that the Holy Spirit will direct us in some mysterious kind of way to know to whom we are to speak. The truth is the Holy Spirit does lead us, but not in the way that the lifestyle evangelism folks would tell us. Notice Matthew 28:19, 20, "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen." This is a command for us to go soul winning, to witness to all nations. Notice Mark 16:15, "And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature." Here we are told to preach the Gospel to every creature.
Now read John 6:63, "ft is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profit eth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life." Notice that the Word of God is Spirit, so when God tells us to get the Gospel to every creature, this is the Holy Spirit leading us. This lifestyle evangelism heresy that says God will give you special direction when He wants you to speak a word for Him is foolishness. It is very close to the fallacious "word of knowledge" that people claim to have. Brother, the "word of knowledge" is the Word of God, and when God says something in His Word, this is the Holy Spirit leading, because the Holy Spirit is the One Who gave us the Word.
Oh, yes, I believe that God opens doors for us. Just yesterday I walked into a gift shop at the hotel where I was staying. There were several newspapers lined up in front of me. I wanted to buy a paper and did not know which was the best, so I kindly asked the little lady in the gift shop, "Which one of these papers is the one that has the good news in it?"
She replied, "I haven't read it." Then she said, "I don't know any good news, do you?"
Well, praise the Lord, it so happened that I did know some good news, and it was not long until I explained the plan of salvation to her and she prayed the sinner's prayer.
2. The error that "just the Bible is enough." These advocates tell us that the Bible is all that is necessary, as they criticize those of us who practice personal soul winning, obey the Great Commission, and, yes, even practice confrontational evangelism, as they call it.
Look at Acts 8:30, 31, "And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him." Notice especially the words, "except some man should guide me." The Ethiopian was asked by Philip if he understood what he was reading. He replied that he could not understand unless some man should guide him. The Word of God was not enough. This man was reading the best part of the Bible that was available then to deal with salvation. He was reading the clearest book of that Bible concerning salvation. He was reading the clearest chapter of that book concerning salvation. He was reading the clearest part of that chapter concerning salvation, and yet he needed somebody to guide him.
Now read Psalm 126:6, "He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him." Notice the first word is "he." Following that it says he should "go." Then it says we should weep and bear precious seed. Notice what the enemy has done; he first takes off the "he." In other words, "Let the Bible do its work." The deterioration starts when soul winning stops, so it is not surprising that once we have taken away the "he," we have taken away the "weepeth." When you stop your confrontational evangelism or soul winning, it will not be long until the burden is gone. Now the next line is "bearing precious seed." They first take away the "he," then take away the "weepeth," then they take away the "precious seed." What is the precious seed? The King James Bible, of course. The New International Version is not precious seed. The New Scofield Bible is not precious seed. The New King James Bible is not precious seed. Good News for Modern Man is not precious seed. The Reader's Digest Bible is not precious seed. The American Standard Version is not precious seed. The Westcott and Hort manuscripts are not precious seed. The precious seed is the King James Bible, preserved for us word-for-word, but, don't be surprised when they give us seed that is not precious.
So, they first took away the "he," then they took away the "weepeth," then they took away the "precious seed" and substituted for it seed that is not precious.
There are organizations that specialize in placing Bibles in public places. Certainly I am not opposed to this, but it is not enough. The Bible itself will not do its work without a soul winner. Oh, yes, there are people who have been saved in motel rooms just reading the Bible, but somewhere back yonder there was a human instrument who planted the seed. As I travel across the country, I find in some places and in some motel rooms the Precious Seed. Then there are times I find seed that is not precious, but, it is not surprising. When you take away the sower, you will eventually substitute for the precious seed.
3. The error of those who say, "If you live right, people will initiate the conversation." How foolish! Look at John 4:7, "There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink." Here is the dialogue between Jesus and the fallen woman at Sychar's well. Notice that Jesus initiated the conversation in verse 7 when He said, "Give me to drink."
Now look at Luke 19:5, "And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zaccheus, make haste, and come down; for today I must abide at thy house." Here is the story of the conversion of Zaccheus when Jesus won Zacckeus to Himself. In verse 5 the first words that were spoken were spoken by Jesus. "Zaccheus, make haste, and come down." Jesus initiated the conversation. He was the soul winner and started the dialogue.
Now notice John 5:6, "When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole?" The Saviour was at the pool of Bethesda. He was going to heal a man and win him to Himself. Notice who initiated the conversation. In verse 6 Jesus said, "Wilt thou be made whole?"
Now look at Acts 8:30, "And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest?" Here we have the story of Philip, the soul winner, winning the Ethiopian eunuch to Jesus. Notice who initiated the conversation. In verse 30 the soul winner, Philip, asked, "Understandest thou what thou readest?"
Notice Acts 16:28, "But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here." The jailor was about to be saved. Notice, the soul winner spoke first. The Apostle Paul initiated the conversation by saying, "Do thyself no harm."
As mentioned before, there are isolated instances when the conversation is initiated by the sinner, but for every one case like that, there are thousands where the conversation is initiated by the soul winner.
I was in the Dallas airport. It was near midnight. I was catching a late-night flight to Chicago. I went to the gift shop to buy a newspaper. The gift shop was just closing. One of the clerks was a young lady speaking to another clerk. She said, "I'm so tired I could just die." She did not know I was there. I was bent over picking up a newspaper. I said, "Then what?"
She said, "What are you talking about?"
I said, "Then what?"
She said, "What do you mean?"
I said, "You just said you were so tired you could die. I asked you, 'Then what?"' In a few moments she was saved.
I was in the Charlotte, North Carolina, airport. I stopped to buy a newspaper at a little newsstand that was in the hallway. I was singing and whistling. The lady selling me the newspaper said, "You sound like you are happy."
I said, "You never sold a newspaper to a happier man than the one you're talking with now."
She said, "You must have a good boss."
I said, "The best!"
She said, "Who is your boss?"
Well, praise God, in a few moments, my Boss was her Boss!
I was walking down the concourse toward my gate to catch a plane at O'Hare Field in Chicago. A man almost bumped into me coming the opposite direction. Suddenly he said, "Oh, my lord."
Instinctively I said, "You must know Him, too."
He said, "Who?"
I said, "You just talked about my Lord." He had forgotten something on the airplane. I walked with him to the gate and led him to Christ.
I have been winning souls for many, many years. I could count on the fingers of my hands the numbers of times that people have initiated the conversation, but thousands and thousands of times I have initiated the conversation.
4. The error that says soul winning is just for the preacher in the pulpit. They love to use Mark 16:15, "And he
said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature." The word "preach" simply means "evangelize," and what they should do is read the entire verse where it says every creature," which means that most of the people who are saved are won to Christ by individual, personal soul winning. It is with the tongue that people are saved as the soul winner tells them the story of Christ.
Matthew 28:19, 20, "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen." The word "teach" implies that it is the use of the tongue.
Notice again Mark 16:15, "And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature." You have the word "preach" which necessitates the use of the tongue.
Luke 24:47, 48, "And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things." You have the word "preached" and the word "witnesses." Both these require the use of the tongue.
Acts 1:8, "But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." You have the word "witnesses," which again means the use of the tongue.
We are supposed to tell people how to be saved. It is not enough to live a sweet, Christian life and expect people to flock to us asking for what we have.
Apply the same thing to other truths. Suppose the average pastor taught tithing by lifestyle tithing. In other words, he says nothing about tithing, preaches nothing about tithing, teaches nothing about tithing, but gets in front of his people with a collection plate and drops his tithe into the collection plate, hoping that someone will get the idea and follow suit. Of course, this is absurd.
Try the same thing about separation. Suppose a preacher does not preach against the Hollywood movies. He just goes to a movie house and stands outside. As people see him not going in, they will not go in. This also is absurd. It is foolishness. We are supposed to speak the things we have seen and heard.
Something wonderful has happened in our generation. The New Testament church in the book of Acts was a soul-winning church. Through the years we transferred the soul winning to evangelism, and for these many centuries, there has been an emphasis on the evangelistic church.
Now what is the difference between the soul-winning church and the evangelistic church? In the evangelistic church, the pastor stands behind the pulpit and preaches the Gospel to the unsaved people whom the folks have brought to church. In the soul-winning church, the people leave the church and go out into the highways and hedges, win them to Christ, bring them to church to walk the aisle and make public their profession of salvation. In our generation, we have seen the better churches turn from evangelistic churches to soul-winning churches. This enables people to be saved more than one day a week - every day of the week! It enables hundreds of people to preach the Gospel, rather than just one man on Sunday. It also enables the man of God to preach to the Christian people on the Lord's Day, realizing that they will be going into the highways and hedges and bringing folks to Christ.
5. The error of saying, "Just be Christlike." Yes, we are to be Christlike. I John 4:17, "Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as he is, so are we in this world." Philippians 2:5, "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus." John 14:12, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and gre ater works than these shall he do; because Igo unto my Father." Psalm 1 7:15, "As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness."
However, one cannot be totally Christlike unless he is a soul winner. Jesus was a soul winner. Oh, yes, He did some wonderful works. John 21:25, "And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the worid itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen." However, He did more than just wonderful works. He also spoke the message. He sought sinners. He did not wait for them to seek Him out; He sought them out.
Notice Luke 19:10, "For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost." He came not only to save the lost; He came to seek the lost. He sought them out and won them to Himself.
Let's read I Timothy 1:15, "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief" He came into the world to save sinners. If we are like Him, we will have to do more than just be sweet, kind and forgiving, though those things are a part also. We will likewise have to speak the words of salvation.
Let's read again John 14:12, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father." It does not say here that we should just live the life that He lived, love as He loved, though the Bible does say that. It does not say here that we are to forgive as He forgave, though the Bible does say that. It says we are supposed to do the works that He did.
What works did He do? He came to seek and to save that which was lost, so we cannot be completely Christlike until we do likewise.
Notice in this passage who it is that is supposed to do the works that He did. "He that believeth on me," said the Saviour. That means that every single believer is supposed to be a soul winner.
6. The error that says we should not win souls in public places and from house to house. We are to win souls in public places and from house to house! Acts 20:20, "And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publickly, and from house to house." Then the street preacher is right! The person who goes from house to house knocking on doors is right! The one who passes out tracts in public is right! The one who practices confrontational soul winning is right!
Notice Acts 5:42 "And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ." There are those who teach that this means we are supposed to preach salvation in the pulpit and then go to every house and preach salvation. Now I have no problem with that, though when he is talking about the temple there, he is not talking about a place where they went for preaching. The temple was a place that was used several times a year, and was a place of activity, a public place, if you please. These people were simply doing the same thing that the people were doing in Acts 20:20 - they were witnessing in public places and also in the homes.
7. The error that we should not persuade people to be saved. One verse will take care of this heresy: II Corinthians 5:11, "Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences. ' The word "persuade" means "to prevail upon." We are supposed to prevail upon people to be saved.
Now turn to Luke 14:16-24, "Then said he unto him, A certain man made a great supper, and bade many: And sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready. And they all with one consent began to make excuse. The first said unto him, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it: I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come. So that servant came, and shewed his lord these things. Then the master of the house being angry said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind. And the servant said, Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room. And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. For I say unto you, That none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper."
First, notice where we are to go. Verse 21 says we are to go to the streets and the lanes. It says to bring in the poor, the maimed, the halt and the blind. In verse 23 we are to go to the highways and hedges.
Then notice that we are to compel them to come in. The word for "compel" is a very strong word which means, "to constrain by threat, force or persuasion." At the least it means we are to plead with men to come to Christ.
Yes, we are to be a testimony through the way we live, but that is not enough, and I believe it is impossible to do only that. As was said before, if you don't love them enough to live it, you won't love them enough to tell it; and if you don't love them enough to tell it, you won't love them enough to live it; and if you live it, you can't help but tell it!
8. The error of those who call personal soul winning "easy-believism." Those who are too lazy, too indifferent or too embarrassed to go into the streets and tell about Christ and to go from house to house knocking on doors telling about Christ have coined a wicked term and attributed it to those who are soul winners. This term is "easy-believism." (I always wonder what "hard-believism" is!) These are often legalists who add things to belief and faith for salvation. Often they are people who disobey the command to baptize Christians as soon as they are saved.
When I came to Hammond in 1959, here at the First Baptist Church before a person could be baptized, he had to appear before a committee. The committee met at 6:00 on a Sunday night, right before the evening service. At this meeting they questioned all the converts who wanted to come into the church. Each convert had to give his testimony (in other words, he had to be a public speaker) so the committee could decide whether or not he was saved and ready for baptism. (Be reminded that on Pentecost they were saved and baptized at the same time. The eunuch in Acts 8 was saved and baptized at the same time. Over and over again in the Bible, baptism immediately followed salvation!)
The first month that I was pastor of the church, I did nothing to change this. Then it came time for the monthly meeting. (We had 92 people that month who wanted to join the church because they had been saved!) The committee met in my office, and in poured 92 people! (Twenty people could fill my office.) The converts were lined up outside the door, down the hallway and even out onto the sidewalk. The chairman of the committee rushed up to me and said, "We won't have time to do this! What can we do?" I said, "The best thing to do is obey the command of God and follow the plan of the New Testament church and baptize them when they are saved!" That is exactly what we did from that time on.
You see, this kind of a lackadaisical, half-hearted attempt to get people saved along with this committee system just will not work when God's people are obeying the Great Commission and going everywhere preaching the Gospel!
I was in Jamaica preaching. We had a question-answer session. A Jamaican stood up, and with perfect diction and ministerial deliverance, he asked me about my plan concerning baptizing converts. I knew what he was hoping to hear, so I gave him what he wanted to hear. I said, "My plan is that when a person gets saved, we wait for about 6 months, check him out, have him approved before a committee, and then once we feel he is sincere, we will baptize him."
Oh, the Jamaican liked that! He smiled and said, "That's exactly my plan."
Then I said, "But since my plan and God's plan differ, I decided to use God's plan instead of mine, so we baptize them as soon as they profess faith in Christ."
To be quite frank, I do not know what "easy-believism" means, but I do believe in "believism." Look at some of the Bible conversions; for example, the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch. In Acts 8:36, the eunuch asked, "What doth hinder me to be baptized?" In verse 37, Philip said, "If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest." Later on in verse 37, the eunuch said, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God." In verse 38 he was baptized. This, my friend, is believism-the only way a person can be saved.
Now notice the conversion of the Philippian jailor in Acts
16. In verse 30, the question is plainly asked, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" In verse 31, it is answered plainly, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house." This, my friend, is believism.
Now read Acts 4:4 where 5,000 men were saved by believing. "Howbeit many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand." This, my friend, is believism.
Look down to Acts 4:32, "And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common." Notice that those who were saved were those who believed. This, my friend, is believism.
Now noticeActs 8:13, "Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done." Simon believed and was baptized. This, my friend, is believism.
Now turn to Acts 10:45, "And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost." These Jews believed and were saved. This, my friend, is believism.
Now readActs 11:17, "Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was, I that I could withstand God?" Notice the words, "who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ." This, my friend, is believism.
Now turn to Acts 11:21, "And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord." It says a great number believed and turned to the Lord. This, my friend, is believism.
Now read Acts 18:8, "And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized." Crispus was saved by believing, and many of the Corinthians were saved by believing, and they were immediately baptized. This, my friend, is believism.
Now turn to the following passages in John 3. John 3:15, "That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life." John 3:16, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him, should not perish, but have everlasting life." John 3:18, "He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." John 3:36, "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him." All of these, my friend, are believism.
The word "believe" is the Greek word which means "to depend upon" or "to roll up on." It means faith. What it means is trust. As this chapter is being dictated, I am on a 737 jet, flying to Chicago; in fact, we are close to making our approach at this time. I am totally relying on this airplane to get me to Chicago. That is believism. I believe it will get me there, and I am trusting it to do so. I am sitting in a seat on that airplane. All of my weight is now on this seat. I have just lifted my feet from the floor. I am trusting this seat to hold me up. When a person realizes he is a sinner, realizes he is lost, realizes Jesus has paid the price for his sins and was raised from the dead after three days and three nights, and relies upon that Saviour because of what He did to save him, he is saved! That, my friend, is believism.
It is sad to say that you will find these enemies of soul winning (confrontational evangelism) in every fundamental movement on earth, but there are several things that are normally associated with them - formal worship services, a church controlled by committees, an enslaved pulpit, etc. There is more to it than a fervent soul winner criticizing fervent soul winners; it is a group of what I call "white gloves" Christians who don't want to get soiled by old-fashioned personal soul winning, building bus routes, etc.
Dr. John R. Rice used to say, "Everybody wants to be in the army of the Lord, but everybody wants to be in the quartermaster corps; nobody wants to be in the infantry."
These enemies of soul winning love to cast reflection upon those who are obeying the Great Commission, and they have many little cliches to try to put us in a bad light. It seems to me that if they were going to fight someone, they would fight the liberals. The truth of the matter is, these pacifist Christians seem to hate fundamental soul winners far more than they hate the liberals, but, thank God, there are hundreds and hundreds of great soul-winning churches in America who are obeying God's command to take the Gospel to every creature - the halt, the maimed, the blind - to the highways, the hedges, streets and the lanes of the city, etc. May their tribe increase, and may they not be thwarted or hindered by those who like to coin phrases to be used as a shield for their indifference.