As scripturally sound and right as it is to seek to draw the lost to Jesus Christ for salvation, that directive is not a mandate to override all other considerations in order to accomplish that end. Much of the modern church has become so enamored of gaining converts that it has compromised other essential requirements of God in its attempt to achieve this end. What it often fails to realize is that human efforts that supplant the way of God as revealed in the Word of God will not achieve godly results. The pews may swell with bodies for a time, but though the number of bodies may grow, the souls inside still will be shrunken and shriveled by sin. God’s work must be done in God’s way or, regardless of how impressive momentarily, the ultimate result will be nothing but loss. The point is this: the power to attract is also the power to repel. That is, when the gospel is preached in accord with the Word of God, it will attract those whom God has chosen, but it will also repel others. That all (or most, or even many) do not come (when the Word of God is adhered to faithfully) should not be regarded as a failure of the church but as a fulfillment of the sovereign purposes of God.
Few would dispute that the inception of the church witnessed an unsurpassed period of genuine growth. In its early days, increases were exponential. What might be remarkable to the modern church is that this growth occurred, not because the message was tailored to the natural needs and desires of its auditors, but despite that. It was a message that emphasized sin, its consequences, and the need for repentance lest judgment fall (see any of the early messages in Acts). But the truth that draws some repels others. And one of the purposes of a clear biblical message is to separate real believers from pretenders. The message of the church must emphasize the heinous, prevalent, and inherent nature of sin and the dire consequences that lie ahead of its practitioners. True saints will want to hear this message because they will want to avoid that which offends their Lord, robs them of personal victory and blessing, and destroys their fellowship with their Savior and God. By the same token, those who are merely professors will find such preaching repugnant.
The account of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts, chapter five, occasioned just such a response in the early church. When this couple conspired to lie against the Holy Spirit and God judged them with immediate death, Luke records the fact that as a consequence “great fear came on all them that heard these things” (v. 5). Much of the modern church would tell us that we should amend our ways to avoid such a response, but the Spirit-led early church knew otherwise. Several verses later, we read that “by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people; and they were all with one accord in Solomon’s porch. And of the rest durst [“dared”] no man join himself to them” (vv. 12, 13). As attractive and compelling as were those miracles, only those who understood the nature and consequences of sin remained “with one accord” in the church. The merely curious or superficially religious had been forced by the work of God to recognize the existence of sin and the sober consequences of practicing it. And they fled the church.
Sin should never be sugar-coated or ignored by the church. The message of the church should not make sinners comfortable in the midst of the congregation but compel them to deliverance from sin, and failing that, impel them to flee from its midst. The true message of the church is never attractive to everyone. On the contrary, it repels those who persist in sin. A message that leaves unrepentant sinners feeling comfortable in the church is from the devil not from God. And a preacher whose message is universally attractive is not preaching the Word of God. Faithful ministers and concerned saints should avoid a belligerent, self-righteous, or offensive spirit, but the true message of the Word of God must not be compromised. And those who preach and live it faithfully should expect those whom God has called to be attracted to the truth and those whom He has not to be repelled. It has ever been thus—and should be. The church is not called to win the world or mollify sinners; it is called to proclaim the whole counsel of God faithfully. When the early church did so, “the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47). Our work is to be faithful to His truth; His work is to draw and add.
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