Jan 17, 2013

Gospel Invitations

That the bible contains invitations to men is undeniable. The very word "come" is used perhaps more than two thousand times in scripture. As an example, let us read Isaiah 55: 1-3

"Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David."

"You all come to the waters!" That is an invitation, gracious and merciful, and it is extended to all who are "thirsty." Further, all men are "thirsty," in the sense of this text, whether they know it or not.

Some Hyper Calvinists say that the "thirsty" mentioned here in the text, are they who are already spiritually alive because "thirst" is an evidence of "life." Dead men do not thirst, it is argued. But, an investigation of the scriptures relative to this "thirst" will show them that spiritual death, not spiritual life, is what is alluded to by the descriptive word "thirsty."

"Thirsty" is a term denoting our condition outside of Christ, our condition in sin and death. Regeneration, or being born again, on the other hand, is described as a being saved from thirst. Notice these words of Christ:

"But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life." (John 4: 14)

"And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst." (John 6: 35)

Notice how Jesus associated being made spiritually alive with drinking the water of life, and with being saved from "thirst," or a "thirsty condition." Salvation is to partake of Christ, his flesh and blood, the bread of life, the water of life. And, how does one drink? Is it not when he believes? When he has Christ and truth revealed to him?

This invitation to the thirsty to come and drink Christ is an invitation to salvation. It is a call to those who have not drunk Christ, and who are therefore lost, to come and drink Christ in order that they may have life.

Thirsty land is dry land, land where there is no moisture, and where there is no moisture there is death and barrenness. The heart that is thirsty has not come to the waters and drank. They are parched in heart and soul. Their mental life is a desert wilderness.

But, it is, of course, more than an invitation. The invitation is in what we call the imperative mood, that is, it is a command to do something, and a command is more than an invitation. The thirsty are urged, exhorted, authoritatively told to do something in order for salvation from thirsty condition.

The invitations of the gospel are nearly always couched in compelling words. Jesus compelled men with his words, even men who did not believe or heed his words. Jesus said that his emissaries were to "Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled."  (Luke 14: 23) People are compelled with words, words of truth, words of revelation and inspiration, the words of the gospel. Preaching the gospel to sinners involves urging and exhorting them, begging and pleading with them, and commanding them. It also involves persuading sinners. The Holy Spirit persuades through the preaching and teaching of his evangelists. Some are not persuaded, others are, and we know that divine election is the reason.

"King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest. Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian. And Paul said, I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds." (Acts 26: 28, 29)

The Holy Spirit, through Paul, was in the persuading business, on this occasion. Paul habitually persuaded unbelievers and sinners to become Christians, and be saved in doing so. Notice also how he wants "all who hear me this day" to become Christian and be saved. Surely most who heard Paul testify of the gospel on that day, in Agrippa's court, were unbelievers, were not Christians. Paul indiscriminately called upon his audiences to believe in Christ, to become Christian, and to be saved. He taught, urged, pleaded, commanded, and persuaded men, in the way of salvation.

"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." (II Cor. 5: 11)

We have looked now at two passages that use the word "persuade" in relation to gospel preaching. What does it mean to "persuade"? Well, it means to "succeed in causing a person to do or consent to something." It means "to win someone over," or to prevail. It means to "convince" or to "convict" someone about something. It is from the Greek word "patho" from which we get our word "pathology."

"And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment..."  (John 16: 8)

The word "reprove" here carries the idea of convicting, or convincing, of refuting, of confuting, with the added idea of exposing erroneous belief or conduct. The Holy Spirit does this, and he does it through the medium of his revealed word, or by the truth of the gospel.

"Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers." (Titus 1: 9)

It is the Holy Spirit who "exhorts" and "convinces" the gainsayers of the gospel. Who are the gainsayers? Are they not the non Christians? The pagans? The unbelievers? The dead in sin? What does it mean to "gainsay"? It means to "declare false, to deny, to oppose, especially by contradiction."

In the words of our opening text, the Lord says "hear and your soul shall live." Notice then how the words of the invitation are to people who are both thirsty and dead. He is inviting and urging the spiritually dead and thirsty soul to hear the gospel in order that they may "live."

"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (Matt. 11: 28-30)

This invitation is similar to the one in Isaiah 55. It is an invitation to lost sinners who are not only parched in spirit, but to those who are weary and depressed with their sinful lives. It is a call to come to Christ made to those who have not come to Christ, to those who are without saving knowledge of Jesus. It is a call to sinners who are slaves to sin to become slaves to Christ, an appeal to change masters and lords.

I see Christ uttering these words of invitation with urging, with pleading, with strong compelling spirit, with persuasion, as did Paul to king Agrippa.

Invitation & call to a wedding feast, Matt. 22:1-10.

"The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son, And sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come. Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage." (Matt. 22:1-4)

Notice several important words in this parable concerning the work of evangelists. First, the word "call," secondly, the word "bid," the word "come."

We to invite, urge, plead and beg, exhort, persuade, command, sinners, to come to Jesus for salvation. Our preaching will be filled with addresses to dead lost sinners, as was the preaching of Jesus and the apostles. Of course, Hyper Calvinists will not preach to dead sinners.

Evangelists are like Ezekiel preaching to the dead, dry, thirsty, bones. God asked Ezekiel "can these bones live?" Can they come to life by your preaching them? By your commanding them to "hear the word of the Lord?" Yes, they can, when that word is accompanied by the power of God, by a demonstration of the Spirit. (II Thess. 1: 5)

Who can deny that Jesus was addressing dead sinners in John 5: 40 when he said - "you will not come to me that you might have life"? Notice these words of Paul to the Ephesians.

"Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness." (Matt. 23: 27)

Notice how Christ speaks of the heart condition of dead sinners as being like "dead men's bones," the very kind we read about in the story of Ezekiel and the valley of dry dead bones. We preach to men's hearts, knowing that their hearts are dead to our message, to a valley of dry dead bones, as did Ezekiel. We preach knowing that the word alone cannot effect resurrection and bring life. But, the words of the evangelist, when attended with supernal power of the Holy Spirit, will effectually bring to life the barren soil of men's hearts, bring to life the heart that is like dead dry bones.

"Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light." (Eph. 5: 14)

When we preach in the name of Christ to lost dead sinners, we are to command them to believe, to repent, to "arise from among the dead" and live. And, just like Ezekiel, dead sinners come to life by the power of God attending the exhortations.

When Paul said that his "persuading" of men resulted from a knowledge of the "terror of the Lord," he connects preaching with opportunity of salvation from the judgment and terror of the Lord. When Paul witnessed to king Felix, Luke tells us that "he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come," and, specifically, the preaching of the terrible "judgment to come" caused Felix to "tremble."

"Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus..." (Col. 1: 28)

Notice several important points of truth in these words. First, preaching the gospel is the preaching of Christ. If there is no Christ in preaching, then there is no gospel preaching. Second, preaching includes "warnings," warnings to the wicked to flee from the wrath to come, as did John the Baptist. Third, this gospel preaching is directed to "every man." We do not, like the Hyper Calvinists, think it a waste of time to preach to the dead, and therefore only preach to those who are already saved. Fourth, our preaching and teaching to every man is for the purpose of saving every man, or as Paul said, "that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus."

When we are warning people of real impending danger, do we not do it in the imperative mood? Do we not say "flee" with a sense of urgency? Do we not say in in compelling words of speech?

"Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God." (II Cor. 5: 20)

Notice a few things of importance from these words of the apostle. First, evangelists are ambassadors of Christ and his kingdom. They are his representatives and have authority to speak in his name. Second, God speaks through his ambassadors. God beseeches through the ministers of his word. When one is beseeched by a teacher of the word, he should see past the messenger to the one who sent him. We talk a lot about hearing God speak to us and we often leave the impression that this speaking of God to us is only direct speaking. But, most of God's speaking to us is done through his spokesmen, his ambassadors. Third, God not only "beseeches" but he also "prays," or "pleads with," sinners, with those who are not reconciled to God, to be reconciled. Paul is saying to the Corinthians, "I beg you," and "I plead with you," or "I urgently request you."

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