Why ARP Preaching Must Always Contain a Gospel Call to Faith
As announced last week we are beginning a new series here on Tuesday talking about the distinctives of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, and what makes Bethany, Bethany. We introduced the conversation with the Free Offer of the Gospel. We’ll continue to look into how this characteristic identity marker is who we are. As noted the doctrine is about how we understand the nature and centrality of preaching in the life of the congregation of God’s people, and especially how this should effect the ordinary week-to-week ministry of the local church.
If you’ve been around the ARP for any time at all you will be familiar with the name Erskine. It’s what our denominational college is called and what our denominational seminary has as its title. The history of our church begins with the determined stand against the authorities of his day of Ebenezer Erskine and his friends. We’ll actually get into what they were rebelling against (hence the name Seceders) in a coming installment. But for our purposes at the moment we are going to use a couple quotations from Ebenezer’s sermons to talk more about the Free Offer and what it means for us today. Here’s the first:
“So the gospel is published by heralds I mean ministers of the gospel who are ordered to proclaim it from the tops of the high places and in the entry of the gates and places of public concourse Yea our commission bears us to intimate it to men and the sons of men to preach this gospel to every creature that none may perish through ignorance of the way of salvation” — Ebenezer Erskine
There Rev. Erskine is testifying again about how it is the gospel is to be declared and when, where, and why ministers of the good news of Christ should be the ones letting others know of the way to Heaven. There is an urgency here which can only be produced by those who truly desire that men be saved. It’s not a gimmick nor is it something a person can fake until they make it. When the preacher remembers that his call is from the God of all might what reason can he give but to prosecute the case for salvation every chance he gets, especially in the pulpit made available to him by providence. Something to consider here when it comes to what should be known about men in ARP congregations is that they know deeply themselves the nature of what they are saying. Richard Baxter was fond of saying that a minister of God’s word should preach as a dying man to dying men. One of the more sobering passages of Scripture that brings conviction on that point is Acts 24. In that scene Paul is giving a defense of the faith before a Roman governor by the name of Felix. Each time they talk the apostle is clear to tell Felix about his need for Christ, yet Felix is never thus persuaded. The reason why he never comes to a full knowledge of the truth is because Felix did not grasp his own sin. As a minister properly recognizes his own weakness and dependence on grace the more he will be moved to offer that same grace to other sinners, especially those outside the kingdom.
A word needs said at this point about something else about the free offer, and that is the danger of thinking we need to do something in order to our coming to Christ. Ebenezer Erskine offers this statement on the subject:
“Do not say, I am not prepared for coming to Him; for I know of no preparation a sinner can make for Christ, but that of seeing himself lost and undone without Him.” — Ebenezer Erskine
When I was a kid my mom would often get in a tizzy about picking up the house before her mom came. She rightfully wanted everything right and put together. To look and be their best at grandma’s arrival. The good news of what Ebenezer says above is that unless a sinner embraces and recognizes the dirtiness of their abode, and their inability to do anything about it than they will never truly understand why it is they need a Savior. Any attempt to “clean one’s self” to be ready for the Lord is guaranteed to end in failure. You can’t do it, but you also cannot ignore the fact you are unclean either. Strutting around with a cologne of your own stank ain’t going to cut it in the day of judgment. Only those who are readily willing to lay down their own life as it really is at the foot of the cross will see their blemishes covered by the blood of the Lamb.
In closing, we are going to go to Ebenezer’s brother Ralph to give us a word on the urgency of why every sermon preached in an ARP church should contain a gospel call. Our Lord gives witness to it in His own ministry, how much more so should Christ’s Bride be known as a place where the lost will be found and brought safely into the arms of Jesus? Yet, as the below quotation shows every person in attendance on the Sabbath being freely offered the life of the Redeemer should either know it or be so convicted by their disobedience that they feel it days after. For the gospel is a serious matter, not to be trifled with. For to ignore it’s truth is to welcome danger for your soul. As noted here is Ebenezer’s older brother with a testimony of caution for any man or woman who enters an ARP church on the Lord’s Day:
“O sinner, there is not a day you hear a sermon, and hear Christ offered, but if you slight Him, you go away with a new load of guilt; hence the hell of [false] professors shall be the greatest and the hottest places in Hell: the likes of Coraizin and Bethsaida, the like of Dunfermline, and the places about, where Christ is preached shall go straight to the center of Hell, when others shall not have so hot a Hell.” — Ralph Erskine
Be warned, and comforted, for the same Christ who condemns the unrighteous, has been made those unworthy of grace, righteous in the eyes of God. See the offer. Rest in Him. Find peace.
For more to consider:
Blessings in Christ,
Rev. Benjamin Glaser
Pastor, Bethany ARP Church