SWEET THEN BITTER
Many people appear to have a very positive response to the Gospel upon hearing it for the first time. I am not speaking of those who lay no claim to the name Christian, but those who have been calling themselves Christian for years. Arminians who deplore even the so-called doctrines of Calvin, call those who believe in the Gospel of sovereign grace ‘hyper-Calvinists’. Yet these, too, are not the people I am referring to. Those of whom I am speaking are the people who proudly call themselves ‘Calvinists’, who ‘rejoice’ when they hear the doctrines of grace and who often refer to themselves as ‘reformed’. The majority of church going folk have become so accustomed to, so familiar with, Christian terminology such as ‘saved by grace’, ‘Jesus is my all in all’, ‘born again’ and ‘there but for the grace of God go I’, that whenever such language is read or heard it is automatically presumed that the Christian Gospel is being taught. Many are blinded to the truth by the words they have become so familiar with. They are encouraging, at first, in their comments to those who teach the only Gospel of God. The taste of the Gospel is sweet in their mouths; these people themselves are very sweet as they express their ‘brotherhood’ with those who teach and believe the true Gospel and are very friendly, happy to have ‘found another brother’. Yet when the Gospel gets down into their bellies, when it has been digested, a sour expression is formed on their faces and the Gospel they believed was what they had been adhering to is promptly spewed out!
It is not the individual doctrines of the Gospel that these people detest. They have no problem with Sovereign election, with Christ’s exclusive death upon the tree for all those God had given Him. No problem with the glorious news that God in His great Mercy and Wisdom has blessed a chosen few with an undeserved salvation or that none who are saved can ever perish. One man wrote to me after reading some of my writings on the Gospel and said, "I felt compelled to write to you and tell you your presentation of the Gospel is the clearest most precise declaration of Truth I have ever heard aside from the scriptures themselves." After sharing my delight with him at hearing of his receptiveness to the truth, and the ramifications of God’s great Gospel, I have never heard from this man again! And that’s the sticking point for such people—the ramifications of God’s Gospel, as one man made perfectly clear in the following quote: ‘Its not the doctrines I disagree with but the ramifications’. These people have a natural born hatred of the truth that before hearing and believing THE one and only Gospel of Jesus Christ, they were never saved!! This is what they simply cannot and will not accept. Men such as Whitefield and Spurgeon, the latter calling John Wesley’s gospel ‘another gospel’ yet at the same time maintaining that Wesley was nevertheless a saved man—something which is in complete contradiction with Paul’s words recorded in Galatians 1:8,9—are two examples of men who are revered in Reformed Calvinistic circles as great and staunch defenders of the doctrines of grace that also believed that one could be equally saved as an Arminian or Calvinist. All their religion (including their belief even in some right doctrine) counting for nothing is something that lost religious people will not acknowledge, all the while insisting that, whilst in ignorance of the Truth, they were saved. Paul the apostle spoke about a people who were extremely zealous for God, but, notwithstanding his love for these people, he did not compromise the truth of God by giving way to emotion or sentiment and claiming them to be saved nonetheless. No, Paul in no uncertain terms declared that though their zeal was great, it was not in accord with right knowledge of God and therefore counted them among the lost: "Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, THAT THEY MIGHT BE SAVED. FOR I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, BUT NOT ACCORDING TO KNOWLEDGE. For they being IGNORANT of God’s Righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the Righteousness of God" (Rom. 10:1-3). Greatness of zeal and sincerity of faith is no guarantee that one is the bearer of, and believer in, Truth. If one’s zeal for God is not aligned, in accord, with right knowledge of God, which is only revealed in God’s only Gospel, God Himself declares that such a person is in ignorance of the Righteousness of God and lost, which is why such a person is still going about, just like any lost man be he religious or not, trying to establish a righteousness of his own. Quite remarkably, many who profess to be Christian vehemently maintain it was the true God they worshipped even though they had never actually heard the true Gospel! The Scriptures say, "But if our Gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost" (2 Cor. 4:3). In other words no one who does not know and believe the Gospel can be in a saved and justified state. There is no conversion without the Gospel of God: "The law (doctrine) of God is perfect CONVERTING THE SOUL: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple" (Psa. 19:7 cf. Jas. 1:21). The saved and justified people of God, who are all elected by grace, far from being ignorant of God’s Gospel, are begotten by His Truth, the Gospel: "Of His own will begat He us WITH THE WORD OF TRUTH....being born again...by the Word of God...and this is the word which by THE GOSPEL is preached unto you" (Jas. 1:18; 1 Pet. 1:23,25). The ignorant insist they worshipped the true God, even though He had not delivered them from the darkness of ignorance that their souls were still enveloped by even though the Gospel was still hid from them. Such people cannot stand the thought that for years of religious zeal and strict adherence to moral laws and sincere ‘devotion to God’ they were not saved, even though they had been very religious and sincere in their ‘faith’. Some cannot understand, and others will not believe, that a man who does not abide in the doctrine of Christ cannot be in Christ and is therefore without God in the world (see 2 Jn. 9). NO MAN CAN BE SAVED BEFORE, OR WITHOUT, HEARING AND BELIEVING THE ONLY GOSPEL THAT SAVES. This is what religious man hates and, as a consequence, the very doctrine of Christ. Yes, these people who claim to sincerely believe God’s only Gospel, who say that they love the doctrine of sovereign election, the doctrine of Christ’s atoning for the sins of God’s chosen and even the doctrine of the Righteousness of Christ, turn their backs on these truths and in reality despise these truths because they insist that they were saved before they had any right knowledge of these and other doctrines that make up the Gospel of God.
When it comes right down to it, doctrine, to these people, is something secondary to a person’s salvation. It isn’t something that is all that essential to ‘have right’ at the outset of one’s spiritual life, but something that a person may or may not gradually grow into! Spurgeon said as much when he made clear that he believed a person first becomes born again and then either goes down the Arminian road or the Calvinist road. What matters to these people is sincerity of belief. Belief in what, exactly, is obviously not too important. One man told me, ‘No one can tell me that so and so isn’t saved because they hold to Arminian doctrine’. But if Arminian doctrines say one thing about Christ and what He has done and for whom He has done it and the true Gospel of God says another, then my friend what better way to judge a person saved or lost than by what that person says the Gospel is!! Paul the apostle judged this way. The Scriptures are filled with such reasoning. Even Spurgeon recognized that the Arminian gospel was another gospel, yet he failed to judge accordingly. Believe the Gospel and you will be saved, believe it not, deny it by believing in another gospel, and you are lost. The Gospel of God does not declare that one can be saved before or without it, but only WITH IT! A so-called pastor from the Presbyterian denomination once complained bitterly about the Gospel I proclaim because it exposed his false claim to have been saved after ‘calling out to God for mercy’ when he knew little to nothing about God! Scripture states quite clearly: "How shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And HOW SHALL THEY BELIEVE IN HIM OF WHOM THEY HAVE NOT HEARD? And how shall they hear without a preacher?" (Rom. 10:14). Everyone who has ever ‘called out to God’, be he of whatever religious persuasion, automatically presumes he is speaking to the true God, little realising that he has no scriptural basis for believing much of what he thinks God is like and how He saves, and that the person next door to him is also thinking that he is crying out to the true God though what he believes and knows about God is vastly different, and even diametrically opposed, to what his neighbour believes. And the saddest part of all this is that neither person has ever heard about the true God because the Gospel is hid from them. "EVERYONE THINKS THEY’RE SAVED, BEFORE THEY’RE SAVED, UNTIL THEY’RE SAVED!" God’s Gospel will have no concord with, no fellowship with, anyone who insists that they were saved before believing it and also with those who say they do not even need to hear and believe all the doctrines that make up the Gospel to be saved. ‘Just love God’, or ‘just love Jesus’, is what they say. Yes, but which god are you loving? Which jesus are you loving? Only what you believe about God, only what you believe about Jesus, will show whether you love the true God or not. DOCTRINE is the principal method of identifying and distinguishing the True God from the false. That will show whether you believe in the genuine or the counterfeit. Its like a man telling a woman he is married to her when she has never even met the man, let alone the fact that no ceremony has taken place, no conjugal rights have been fulfilled etc.! What the ignorant are saying is that to be saved, all a man needs is to believe that God exists, that He is Love and that His Son Jesus went to the cross, but above all one just needs a simple and sincere faith and a pronounced moral reformation to assure one of being saved. Or they simply conclude that one needs but to call out to 'God' for mercy and all will be well. This is NOT what the Scriptures teach.
Such ‘thinkers’ accuse Gospel preachers of making knowledge a condition for salvation, but they never actually explain from the Scriptures just exactly how a man can be saved without saving knowledge!! Paul certainly counted the Jews lost people based on the fact that their zeal for God was not in accord with right God-given knowledge of God, but with ignorance. No true Gospel preacher has ever or will ever claim that knowledge is a condition for salvation, but they, along with the apostle Paul, will tell you that none have ever been or can ever be saved without it. True saving knowledge of the true Lord Jesus Christ, His Person and His Work, is something that is given by God and which the Scriptures clearly teach a saved man simply is not without. No man can remain in ignorance of the Gospel of Christ and simultaneously be said to be a saved man, for saved men are those who have been brought out of the darkness of ignorance and into the Light of God. All true believers "...are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvellous Light" (1 Pet. 2:9). It is clear from the Scriptures that those to whom the Gospel is hid have had their minds blinded by the god of this world, Satan, and are in a lost state. These people, the Scriptures say, "...believe not, LEST THE LIGHT OF THE GLORIOUS GOSPEL OF CHRIST, Who is the image of God, should shine unto them" (2 Cor. 4:4). Paul goes on to state that for every true believer, "...God, Who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, HATH SHINED IN OUR HEARTS, TO GIVE THE LIGHT OF THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE GLORY OF GOD IN THE FACE OF JESUS CHRIST" (2 Cor. 4:6). Now does this sound like there is any room for the slightest bit of ignorance or darkness to reign in a true believer’s heart when it comes to what the Gospel is? Of course not! Throughout the Scriptures, darkness is associated with ignorance and lostness, and light is associated with truth and salvation. It is not Gospel preachers who came up with ‘believe or perish’ (see Mk. 16). It is not we who have concocted some tale about no one being saved who believes or preaches a gospel other than the one Paul the apostle preached (Gal. 1:8,9). It is not we who have invented some tale about there being another jesus, another gospel and another spirit (2 Cor. 11:4). No my friend, it is Jesus Christ, through His Holy Word, Who has said all of this and much, much more. Knowledge is not the condition, or even a condition, for salvation, yet one cannot be saved without it. Most religious people today would find it difficult to believe a man is saved if there has not been a major moral reformation in his life, yet these same people insist that a man can be saved without any evidence that his religious zeal is according to the God-given knowledge of the Gospel of salvation. On the other hand, Paul the apostle prayed for the salvation of a people who were very zealous for God but whose zeal was not according to right knowledge of God (Rom. 10:1-4).
The issue is not knowledge, in terms of one needing to have a certain amount of intelligence and ability to study and comprehend, the issue is REVELATION!! Which god has revealed himself to you? If it is the true God, you will love His Gospel and only His Gospel; you will love what He has to say and declare about man and about His Son Jesus Christ, AND YOU WILL KNOW THAT YOU WERE NEVER SAVED BEFORE HEARING AND BELIEVING THE GOSPEL! The Gospel is the truth; the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation! Without it a man is helpless and without hope for he is obviously without God, seeing that he does not know and therefore cannot be abiding in the Gospel/Doctrine of Christ. If it is a false god who has revealed himself to you, then you will hate the truth. You will never judge saved and lost based on truth and falsehood. Your hatred may not be seen as a direct and overt hatred of the particular doctrines of the Gospel, but in the fact that you hate the teaching that all the Gospel doctrines are prefaced by: HE WHO DOES NOT BELIEVE THIS GOSPEL IS LOST and NONE ARE SAVED PRIOR TO BELIEVING THIS GOSPEL!
One might as well not have believed a single truth about God and His way to salvation than be under the delusion that one is believing the Gospel way of salvation whilst insisting that a person can be saved before hearing it, before believing the specific doctrines of life, before abiding in the doctrine of Christ! Ephesians 1:13 sounds a clear warning to all that it is only AFTER hearing the Gospel that a person can rightly and savingly trust in Christ and that before the Gospel, or without the Gospel, there is NO salvation, NO life in Christ. Writing to true believers, the apostle Paul taught: "In Whom (Christ) ye also trusted, AFTER that ye heard the word of truth, THE GOSPEL OF YOUR SALVATION in Whom also, AFTER that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise." Salvation does not come before the Gospel is heard and believed but ALWAYS AFTER THE GOSPEL IS HEARD AND BELIEVED!! The plant does not come before the seed. So too, there can be no believer without the Gospel Seed of God, for the true believer is born of the Gospel. No justified believer ever ‘comes to the Gospel’, but rather comes FROM the Gospel, just as no plant ever precedes the seed but rather sprouts from it. No one has ever been savingly sealed with that Holy Spirit of Truth before they heard and believed the only Gospel that the Holy Spirit testifies to. ONE CANNOT TRUST IN THE TRUE CHRIST BEFORE HEARING AND BELIEVING IN THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST—The only Gospel that reveals the true Christ and His saving and justifying Righteousness.