The Folly of Modern Preaching
by Ernest L. Martin, Ph.D., February/March 1993
Edited and expanded by David Sielaff, August 2007
Read the accompanying Newsletter for August 2007
There are many sincere and dedicated preachers actively engaged in preaching the Gospel to the world — or, at least, what they consider to be the message of Christ. But often their approach is the very opposite of what the Bible says should be done. This article explains. 1
There is one Scripture that should be memorized by everyone interested in preaching the Gospel of Christ to the world. It is a Scripture, however, that is seldom quoted in sermons — and it is almost never emphasized. But it represents the bedrock of New Testament teaching and unless it is understood correctly, the teaching of the Gospel is completely misunderstood. That scripture is 2 Timothy 1:9. Let us look at it carefully:
“Who [God the Father] has saved us and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began [Greek, “before times eonian,” or the times of the ages].”
2 Timothy 1:9
That scripture tells us in no uncertain terms that our salvation was something granted to us by grace before any of us was born — indeed, before our own world system that we presently know came into existence! 2 This concept of predetermination might be hard to conceive, but that is the clear statement of Paul.
This is further backed up in Paul’s other writings. They also need to be believed and preached. Notice Ephesians chapter 1:
“According as he has chosen us in him before the foundation of the world [Greek, kosmos], that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, ... In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who works all things after the counsel of his own will.”
Ephesians 1:4–5, 11
This teaching of Paul about predestination is reaffirmed in Romans chapter 8:
“For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.”
God the Father’s foreknowledge of us led Him to predestinate us, even before the world’s foundation, to be called, justified, and glorified! That is why Paul said in 2 Timothy 1:9 that our salvation was predeterminately awarded to us even before we were born.
It must be understood, on the other hand, that our salvation in Christ was finally confirmed and made certain by His works, crucifixion, and resurrection from the dead which were performed almost 2,000 years ago. But the fact that our calling, justification, and glorification (in other words, our salvation in Christ) was an accomplished fact before the world commenced is the plain teaching of Paul about predestination and should be believed by Christians.
Where so many preachers go wrong today is their insistence that one must perform works in order to be saved. But Paul in a score of scriptures insisted that a non-works method was the means by which any type of person is saved. 3
The “folly” comes down to this: Modern preachers are normally in the business of trying to tell people what they themselves must do to be saved rather than teaching them that THEY ARE SAVED ALREADY. 4 They have got the cart in front of the horse! Christ actually obtained a salvation for us before the foundation of the world. What we ought to do now is to tell those in the world what Christ has done for them so that they might love Him and respond to His ways.
There are no works to gain salvation, but one should always perform good works to please God and man. We should always do good because salvation is certain.
“For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Paul had such utter confidence because he was aware that Christ’s salvation was something already secured for us by Him long ago. It is not what we do or do not do that gets us saved, it is what Christ has already done FOR US which accomplishes the task. And this is what preachers, and all who love the New Testament teachings, ought to be telling the world. When this is done properly, people will begin to comprehend that salvation is not of our works, but solely dependent on the works and grace of God the Father. With this being understood and preached, the folly of most present day preaching (though often honest and sincere) would disappear — and the truth would shine like a beacon light of glory for God and His Son Jesus Christ!
Ernest L. Martin,
Edited by David Sielaff, August 2007
2 In fact, you and I were chosen even before the ages (time) began (Hebrews 1:2 [worlds is eons in Greek], Christ created time). The ages did not begin until the moment of creation. See the articles “The Time Periods for Salvation, Part 1” at http://www.askelm.com/doctrine/d041101.htm, “The Time Periods for Salvation, Part 2” at http://www.askelm.com/doctrine/d041201.htm. DWS
3 See Romans 4:4, 5:15–18, 11:5–6; all of the Book of Galatians; Ephesians 2:8–10; 2 Timothy1:9, etc. ELM
4 This is the basic focus of Dr. Martin’s book The Essentials of New Testament Doctrine. The entire book describes from the Bible how you, and me, and all of mankind were saved from before the foundation of the world. DWS
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