“A faithful witness will not lie: but a false witness will utter lies.” (Proverbs 14:5)
“A true witness delivereth souls: but a deceitful witness speaketh lies.” (Proverbs 14:25)
As I was reading through Proverbs 14 recently, I came across both of these verses in succession, and got to meditating on them a bit. Both are pretty much straightforward, declarative statements, much like many of the rest of the proverbs. But simple as they may be, they pertain greatly to some important truths about certain of today’s popular views on evangelism.
Specifically, I got to thinking about the wicked “evangelistic” methodology of easy-believism which has unfortunately even penetrated into some segments of fundamentalism, especially through the influence of Jack Hyles’ teaching. These two verses above help us to discern the truth about easy-believism, that “pray-this-prayer-and-you’re-saved” mentality that has done so much harm to American Christianity, and which has sorrowfully served to condemn many souls to hell.
To begin, what are some common arguments from those who defend easy-believism?
- 1) God loves aggressive soul-winners. Criticising the easy-believism style of soul-winning is tantamount to criticising soul-winning in general.
- 2) Jesus said to “compel them to come in” (Luke 14:23), and that is what we’re doing when we urge them to pray to get saved.
- 3) Salvation is easy, so when Christians argue that easy-believism is, well, too easy, they are denying the power of God’s grace, or are even adding to grace for salvation!
- 4) It is not our place to judge the sincerity of a person’s profession of faith. All we can do is preach and bring them in and get them to the place where they will accept Jesus into their hearts.
All this is well and good, but it misses the real point to the criticism of easy-believism – the lack of preaching and teaching on REPENTANCE. When I was saved, it was because I was drawn by God (John 8:44), placed my faith in God’s grace through Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9), AND repented of my sins (Acts 3:19). I wasn’t saved just because God loved me, or Jesus wanted to be in my heart, or whatever. I was saved because God loved me, AND gave me the faith to REPENT and trust on Him, grace which I freely responded to while yet being also drawn. Without repentance, the soul is not converted, and sin is not blotted out – there is no salvation without repentance. Repentance of sin is an integral part of the fact of faith. If one does not repent of one’s sins, then one is completely ignoring the whole reason why a soul needs to be saved in the first place, which is the fact of spiritual death caused by our sin, which can only be remedied by the spiritual life given by Christ. Repentance is not a work, it is part and parcel of the gift of grace and faith. Repentance is an evidentiary outflowing of the inwardly placed belief and trust. And as the Lord said,
“…this is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.” (John 8:29b)
If a person prays a prayer, but has not really repented of their sins, then they have not really put their faith and trust in Christ, because they are sidestepping the whole reason for Christ’s coming, His death, and His resurrection. They are attempting to have the benefits of grace and eternal life without trading in the dust and ashes of their former ways.
It is this lack of emphasis on (or even teaching against) repentance that negates the real validity of the supposedly pious arguments listed above as being typical of those who promote easy-believism. Yes, God DOES love aggressive soul-winners. But He loves aggressive soul-winners who preach the WHOLE Gospel, including the need for repentance on the part of the lost sinner, not a half-truth (which is a full lie). Yes, Jesus told us to compel them to come in, but He didn’t want us to do so with a smooth and easy false gospel that ignored the fact of sin. Yes, salvation IS easy, but the Scriptures indicate that repentance is a part of that salvation for which we cannot work, but only believe. And while we cannot make the judgment that someone is saved or not, let us remember what this means. It means that we cannot DECIDE that someone is saved or not – that sort of definitive judgment rightly belongs to the Lord alone. But, we CAN see the outwardly manifested evidences of a person’s life, and have a good idea of whether someone is saved or not. If a person lives in sin with no evidence of repentance or brokenness for sin or a desire to put it away, then “by their fruits ye shall know them” (Matthew 7:20).
And this brings us back to the verses given at the start of this post. The witness that is being given, far too often, in the easy-believism camp is not a true witness. It is a witness that speaketh lies, it is deceitful, and it does not truly deliver souls from the judgment of God against sin. It means nothing to fill out your card with the 600 names of people you got to pray a prayer last month if none of them start coming to church, stop getting drunk at the bars every weekend, stop fornicating with their boyfriend or girlfriend, etc. etc. Indeed, it is often worse than meaning nothing. Leading a person in a rote prayer after telling them God loves them, but never addressing their sin or need for repentance, is giving a false assurance to that person. Telling them they’re saved because they prayed a prayer, even though no fruit ever becomes evident in their life and they evince no desire for the things of God, only served in reality to harden that soul even more. For the next time a soul-winner knocks on their door, they’ll just say, “Oh, hey, I already did that, I’m set”, as they dangle the beer bottle from their fingers and hide their live-in girlfriend behind the door. I’ve seen it happen on visitation, so it does happen.
Hence, easy-believism, while portraying itself as a zeal for souls, is a soul-killer. It is a false gospel that leaves out a very, very necessary part of the truth of salvation through Jesus Christ – repentance. That makes it another gospel from the one given us in the Bible, and is thus accursed,
“But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:8-9)
Let us be careful that in our presentation of the Gospel witness, we are diligent to present the FULL Gospel of Jesus Christ, repentance included!