– by Deji Yesufu
AFRICHURCH MONTHLY SUMMIT (August 2019): DAY THREE
DO NOT REJECT THIS GREAT SALVATION
Text: Hebrew 2:1-4
There are two instructions in this text that we should not overlook in the light of the need not to neglect the great salvation given to us. The first is in verse one that says: “…to pay closer attention to what we have heard…”; the second in verse three is what forms the title of our sermon today: do not neglect this great salvation that has been given to us. To prosecute this subject today, I would be looking at the subject from a positive point of view: how not to neglect so great a salvation. Then I would conclude with how many are neglecting this great salvation through false preaching.
What We Have Heard
The Bible teaches that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. Saving faith is bestowed on the saints as they hear the gospel preached. This brings us to my first examination of “what we have heard”. Which has to do with the matter of conversion. In yesterday’s sermon I went to a great length to explain the security of the believer in Christ Jesus. Well, I usually do not engage in debates around the doctrine of “Once Saved Forever Saved” because the problem in that doctrine is not whether believer’s can be lost; the problem is whether the person we are referring to is a believer at all.
Brethren, the foremost trouble with the church is the problem of false conversions. It is often too common for people to refer to each other as Christians while no one bothers to find out whether the person being referred to as a brother is in Christ at all. With time, we would examine the matter of false doctrine but suffice to state hear that if a people have listened to a false message they cannot be saved. It does not matter the altar call they went through, it doesn’t matter the man of God that prayed over them, it doesn’t matter the vision they saw; what converts men is the message they hear and if the message that is preached in a gathering is a false Christian message, the people in that gathering are likely not to be saved. This is the reason why we contend earnestly for the message that the apostles delivered to the saints. What people hear is what would lead to the kind of faith they possess. A false message will lead to a false faith which would inevitably lead to false conversions.
Sound gospel preaching has given place to making an altar calls. A man would preach the most outrageous message one has ever heard but he would think that he can solve the whole problem of his false preaching by simply making an altar call. He forgets that it is not the act of altar calling that converts sinners; it is the message he has preached. The duty of the minister is to preach the gospel. When the message is preached in the power of the Holy Spirit, it converts the hearers. This is why the writer to the Hebrews enjoins us to pay attention to the things we heard that brought our salvation. But woe betides him who heard a false gospel and then experienced a false conversion.
Now, I wish to make a suggestion. I am usually wary of making direct suggestion to God’s people because one cap does not always fit all heads. But kindly consider this with me. In the light of the manner of the gospel we have heard, we would realize that when the writer of Hebrew wrote in Hebrew 2:1 “to pay closer attention to what we heard…”, you would agree with me that this clearly was the apostolic message that was preached to these Jewish believers and that brought them to faith. In Acts 2:42, we read what happened: “…And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers…” These were the first converts to the Christian faith after Pentecost and they were all Jews. It is possible that some of the readers of this epistle were some of those converts. What however cannot be disputed is the manner of the apostolic practice in the beginning: they devoted themselves to hearing what the apostles had to say.
Today, the apostles are dead. But the Bible is a record of apostolic teachings. In fact it was the apostles that approved the reading of the Old Testament in the churches and they are the ones that recorded the life and teachings of Christ. They are the ones that wrote the epistles. What then should we be hearing today?
Brethren, I wish to warn us against a practice in churches that even those of you in the AfriChurch congregation could be guilty of. I wish to warn against “topical preaching” as against “expositional preaching”. Topical preaching is preaching a sermon based on a given topic. You would realize that this is what we are doing here in this conference. It is not sin. But where there is a gathering of saints, wishing to hear the word of God, it is better we preach expositionally. Expositional preaching is teaching the Bible word for word, verse by verse, text by text, chapter by chapter, until a congregation has concluded preaching through the whole Bible. A congregation like the one John MacArthur pastors in California, did not conclude this until about thirty years after MacArthur assumed pastoral duties there. This is what led to the publishing of the John MacArthur Study Bible. That Bible is a compilation of his preaching notes along with the text of scriptures.
My point in bringing this distinction between topical and expositional preaching is to draw our attention to the matter of what we are hearing in preaching. Where two or three are gathered in Christ’s name, our Lord is present. When Christ is present in a congregation, a sensitive preacher does not want to preach his own opinions through some given topics; rather, he wants to preach what Christ authored through his apostles. This is the only way we can give heed to what was heard in the beginning. And this is the best way to pay attention to the great gospel that was delivered to us lest we forget.
As a congregation is committed to expositional preaching, the Holy Spirit would take the preached word and birth new life in the hearts of hearers in the congregation who are not saved. Those who are saved are continually refreshed to walk the path of sanctification of life. A congregation could however still assume topical preaching for special programs like conferences, like this one that Africhurch is doing here. But by and large, expositional preaching is still the best form of preaching. It has a way of building a congregation up into the very stature of Christ for the time. And a wise minister would know how to tailor his message to edify the church and insulate them against the prevailing false philosophies of their time.
This brings us to the vital subject of false doctrine which cannot be overemphasized. Let us understand straight away that the duty of the church is to preach the gospel and to preserve it. The preservation of the gospel is as important as preaching the gospel because we cannot imagine the waste of human time, effort and resources that goes into preaching a false gospel around. Have we ever taken the time to look at Jehovah Witnesses and the sheer effort that goes into their preaching? Would any of us want to be in their shoes? This is the reason why preserving the preached word is vitally important. The first step to preserving the gospel is simply to preach what the apostle taught as we heard seen in our first point regarding “what we heard”.
The next point about preserving the gospel is to know these false doctrines. Every generation has a prevailing false doctrine that the church of that time must contend with. All these false doctrines however have one common factor: they all reject a sufficient, inerrant, and inspired scriptures. In the days when Luther led the reformed efforts in Germany, he was contending against a Romish church that held that the scriptures and church traditions were of equal importance. The reformers rejected these; they said scriptures were enough – scriptures were sufficient. In the days when Spurgeon and other ministers waged war against Liberal Theology, it was the inerrancy and inspiration of the scriptures that were being contended for. Today, I wish to show you that we have come back full circle. The leading purveyor of false doctrine today in the Christian churches are the Charismatic churches and in the process they are contending against a sufficient scripture. I would want to use the rest of our discussion to look at how Christians today deny the sufficiency of scriptures. First we must define what we mean by a sufficient scriptures.
When we say “sufficiency of scriptures”, we mean that the Bible, scriptures, are sufficient to direct the Christian in all matters of life and faith. We are saying that the words of God to us today are fully contained in the Bible and we do not need new revelations from the Spirit. Sufficiency of scriptures means exactly what it says: the scriptures are enough! Paul’s words to Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 come to mind here:
“All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent (perfect), equipped for every good work”.
When the Apostle Paul wrote that scriptures are “breathed out by God”, he was saying that the Holy Scriptures were God’s inspired words. Though they were written by men, God was in these men making them write his own counsel. So that the whole Bible, although written through a 4,000 year history, is one story that do not contradict. It is the redemptive story. In the same vein because God inspired the scriptures, the Bible does not contain any errors: it is inerrant. Lastly the word of God is sufficient to make the man of God competent in all areas of ministry, whether it be teaching, correction or training. The man of God does not need word of knowledge or word of wisdom, he does not need miracles, he does not tongues and their interpretation; this scripture states quite clearly that the inspired scriptures are all that the man of God needs for ministry and for every good work.
The Westminster Catechism of 1648 and the London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689 agree with these assertions when they wrote in their opening confessions under the title “The Holy Scriptures”:
“The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down or necessarily contained in the Holy Scripture, to which nothing is to be added at any time, either by new revelations of the Spirit, or by the traditions of men.”
The fathers who wrote these documents went on to provide the following scriptures to back up their position here: 2 Timothy 3:15-17, Galatians 1:8-9, John 6:45, 1 Corinthians 2:9-12, and 1 Corinthians 14:26,40.
When the fathers say the “the whole counsel of God” they are referring to what God is saying to us at the moment. They are saying all of God’s words are contained in the Bible. God’s words are sufficiently contained in the Holy Scriptures. So when the Bible says “do not commit adultery”; it means that. But there are other areas of life where the Bible is not so clear about. Someone may ask “…but God has not stated in the Bible whether I am to marry Sister Mary or Sister Vero…” That is where the phrase “necessarily contained” comes to play. It means that by healthy deduction, meditation and prayer on the word of God, we all can find answers to every direction we need to take in life. It is a discipline that we all must learn and learn very fast. I confess that since I began to see the Bible as the only word of God to me, my ears have opened to hear the Spirit speak to me in his word. Many years ago, in the midst of trying to know whether or not the Lord had called me into ministry, I read the words: “And say to Archippus ‘see that you fulfil the ministry that you have received in the Lord…’” (Colossians 4;17). For a brief moment, I thought what I read in those lines were “…say to Deji…” Of course it took years of waiting on the Lord and other providential circumstances for God to prove the reality of his call upon my life. And even up till this day God is still proving his word to me in that area of my life.
Brethren, I must commend the large heartedness of the organizers of this conference to have me on this platform. Just last month, I was with you guys in a larger conference and when I saw something that one of the ministers posted that violated this basic principle of “sufficiency of scriptures”, I left the conference. Yet you guys have me back on this platform, this time not as a listener but as a preacher. The Lord bless you for your charity but I would not be doing you any good if I do not explain why I needed to carry out such a step.
Brethren, if any comes to you today with “a word from the Lord”; if any man claims that “God has spoken to me”; if any claims to be receiving fresh visions from heaven and so and so forth; that person is denying a sufficient scripture. That person is saying God’s word is not enough and it is a grave danger. Our fathers who gave us the Protestant confessions say that nothing is to be added to the scriptures either by a revelation of the Spirit or by the tradition of men. Why do we think they said that? Because the whole of the errors they were contending against in Rome was based on this simple fact. The Romish church will tell you that they believe the Bible; and indeed they do. In recent times I have found Roman Catholics more faithful to scriptures than many Pentecostals! The errors in their churches came from new revelations of the spirit and traditions of men. Worship of Mary, purgatory, use of relics, etc, were mostly inculcated into the Catholics system by men who received fresh revelations from God; particularly their popes.
It does not end there. The biggest challenge against the Christian church today, Islam, came by a clear violation of Paul’s warning in Galatians 1. Paul said even if an angel were to appear to you today and give you fresh words from heaven, different from what you heard from the Apostles, let him be accursed. In the sixth century, a little over 500 years after Paul penned those words, an angel appeared to Mohammed and dictated the Quran to him. Mohammed was not learned but he taught these words to his followers, who in turn memorized them. After his death, they wrote them down and compiled them into the Quran today. Islam is the biggest perversion to Christianity and it came by a new revelation of the spirit – a word supposedly from an angel.
So when the Protestant reformation began, their battle cry was “sola scriptura” or Only Scriptures. The Bible is enough for life and for ministry.
The biggest perversion in Pentecostal churches revolves around this same thing: “God told me…” And all kinds of evil are running around because of it. Is God still speaking today? Yes. Where? In the Holy Scriptures. But what about things God does not say directly in the Bible? By necessary deduction, by study of scriptures, by prayer, by providence, by meditation and by waiting on the Lord, God would make his counsel clear to every one of us on every issue of life. God is not saying anything anywhere else outside the Holy Scriptures!
What is the implication of rejecting a sufficient scriptures? Exactly the point of our discussion: we would neglect the great salvation that has been given to us. How? I would explain as I conclude:
The word of scriptures are not just inspired, they contain the account of the person of Jesus Christ. Both the Old and New Testament are talking about Jesus Christ. A commitment to hearing God in his word is a commitment to hearing the gospel of Christ contained in the Bible and this of a necessity yields one to always remember the salvation from God. Jesus Christ is God’s messiah. As we read the word of God and receive counsel for life and ministry, all of our lives are tailored around the whole matter of the salvation of men. While we worship God for a sure salvation, we are continually committed to bringing the gospel to the unsaved and ensuring that it is not perverted by world philosophies.
Brethren, in my little years observing Christendom I have come see this phenomenon play out in very practical terms. There are the Pentecostal churches who believe in miracles, signs and wonders, God speaking, etc. But watch what has happened to them over the forty years period since Benson Idahosa brought this religion to our climate in full swing. They have gone from bad to worse. How many of these churches still have the gospel preached in them? I can say very confidently: very little. How did they get to this point: by neglecting a sufficient Scripture. By neglecting Bible Studies. By neglecting the place of sincere prayers – not this babble that they utter and call speaking in tongues. On the other hand, check out historic Protestantism. See how men have endeavored to preserve the gospel through a five hundred year period. And these men have been preaching the same thing: the Bible. They do not work miracles; they do not speak in tongues; they never claim to hear God; they simply stayed faithful to what the Bible is saying.
If we shall be part of a generation that would be found faithful to gospel of Christ, the gospel that brings salvation, if we shall be part of a generation that would not neglect the great salvation that Christ has wrought for us, we must remain faithful to the scriptures. In one hand we must develop the discipline of teaching scriptures to the congregation of Christ every time we meet in fellowship. On the other hand, we must endeavor to allow God speak to us from the Bible alone; while silencing every word that may claim to be speaking directly from God outside the Bible.
What happens when people stop regarding the scriptures as sufficient? The fathers provided Galatians 1:8-9, which reads:
“But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: if anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.”
When people begin to say things like “God has spoken to me…” it may sound spiritual and many times they produce results at first. But eventually it leads to false doctrine. So when I walked out of that conference the other day, I was protesting the biggest trouble in the churches today: people’s inability to abide by a sufficient scriptures. If God would say anything to the churches, let it be either by the plain reading of the Bible or by careful exposition of his word. Amen.
Let us pray…