A Transcript Of The Video Study
In our previous study, I aligned the Five Points of Calvinism with the Framework of Sovereign Grace, demonstrating that they both set forth the same set of teachings. For this study, I would like to explain how the Five Points of Calvinism can be used as a tool for evangelism and discipleship. Of course, I assume many of you may already be using them for these purposes, but there are still be some helpful points to make on this subject, which I hope will prove useful to you.
First, let me say something about the meaning of evangelism and discipleship.
There is a lot of talk today about both of these words. Churches speak about evangelizing the world, getting the gospel out to the nation, telling all of your family and friends about Jesus, winning people to Christ. They also speak about discipleship programs, discipleship courses, discipleship groups, discipleship seminars. One would think, because there is no much talk about evangelism and discipleship, that every church is doing them. Well, let’s examine the meaning of the terms.
We will look first, at evangelism. The Greek term from which we get the English word evangelism means “to announce good news”. The verb occurs 61 times in the New Testament. For example, there were shepherds abiding in the field when the Lord Jesus Christ was born, at which time an angel appeared unto them—Luke 2:10: “And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.” “I bring you good tidings of great joy”—that is evangelism! After the Lord Jesus Christ entered His earthly ministry, we read in Luke 8:1: “And it came to pass afterward, that he went throughout every city and village, preaching and shewing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God.” “Preaching and shewing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God”—that is evangelism! We read of Peter and John visiting Samaria—Act 8:25: “And they, when they had testified and preached the word of the Lord, returned to Jerusalem, and preached the gospel in many villages of the Samaritans.” “Preached the gospel”—that is evangelism! Do you know, all of the 61 references to evangelism throughout the New Testament scriptures express the work as a good message that is preached, or declared. Not once is it expressed as a free offer to be accepted, or a gospel command to be obeyed. Evangelism is the declaration of the gospel, or the setting forth of the good news of glad tidings in Christ Jesus.
However, nowadays, that which goes by the name of evangelism is actually proselyting, and there is a vast difference between the two. Evangelism seeks to preach the gospel to all sinners, for the purpose of discovering which sinners are exercising saving faith; Proselyting seeks to offer the gospel to all sinners, for the purpose of convincing sinners to exercise natural faith. Evangelism seeks to draw out from the regenerate sinner (saving faith), what the Spirit of God has put into the sinner; Proselyting seeks to put into the unregenerate sinner (saving faith) what the Spirit of God has not put into the sinner. Evangelism is designed to be a proclamation of the gospel to sinners. It has absolutely nothing to do with free offers or gospel commands. It is pure and simple, a gospel declaration, and those who labor and are heavy laden; those who are thirsting and hungering after righteousness; those who have ears to hear and eyes to see, are invited by Christ to come unto Him Who alone is able to give rest unto their souls.
Now, as I have just indicated, when the Spirit of God is pleased to regenerate the souls of His elect people, it is at that time they are given ears to hear and eyes to see. It is at that time they will respond with joy and peace in believing, for saving faith will have already been imparted to them by virtue of their union with Christ. It is at that time their eyes will be opened to behold the glory of God in Christ, for having been born again, they become recipients of the things of the Spirit of God, and will be brought experientially under the personal teachings, or mentorship, or instructions, of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 2:13,14). And, it is at that time these persons stand in need, not only of evangelism, or to have the gospel preached to them, but of discipleship, or to have the gospel explained to them.
What, then, is discipleship? If evangelism seeks to preach the gospel to all sinners, for the purpose of discovering which sinners are exercising saving faith, then discipleship seeks to teach the gospel to regenerate sinners, for the purpose of building them up in their most holy faith. The Greek term translated disciple means, “a learner; a pupil; a student.” This is a masculine noun which occurs 269 times in the New Testament. Every student has a professor, every learner has an instructor, every pupil has a teacher. The term appears in Luke 6:40: ”The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master.” The disciple, or student, is not above his master, or teacher. That is, a student by nature knows less than his teacher, and therefore remains in a subordinate position within that relationship. However, everyone that is perfect, or, everyone that has fully matured in his knowledge and understanding, will be as his master, or teacher. And that is the whole purpose of the discipleship process—it is to impart to the student the necessary knowledge and understanding in order that he/she might become proficient in that field of teaching.
It is from this term we get the word “discipline”. Discipline is the curriculum under which the student is taught by the teacher. The teacher is disciplining, or instructing, the student in some particular field of knowledge. It is from these ideas we get the word “discipleship”. Discipleship is the process through which a student is disciplined, or discipled, by the teacher.
Now, there are two types of teachers the Lord gives to His people. The first teacher is the Holy Spirit, and as I pointed out a few moments ago, this work begins in the heart of a disciple at the point of regeneration. Thereafter, the Spirit of God indwells the disciple, working in him both to will and to do of His good pleasure. Ultimately, it is the Spirit of God who teaches the disciple, or the regenerate sinner, the things of Christ. The second teacher is an under-shepherd. An under-shepherd is also a disciple, but by virtue of his maturity in the faith, is in a position to instruct or disciple those who are younger or weaker in the faith. We say this person is an under-shepherd, because the Lord Jesus Christ is the chief Shepherd, and He remains the shepherd and bishop of the souls of each of His people. This is where Pastor-teachers as office bearers fit into the lives of the Lord’s people. Christ has gifted and called certain men to serve as under-shepherds to His church. These men are set apart for the work of the gospel ministry, and it is particularly their duty to instruct and disciple the Lord’s people. And you see, this is the main work of discipleship—it is the building up of the Lord’s people in their most holy faith; it is the nurturing of the Lord’s people that they might grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ; it is the grounding and the settling of the Lord’s people in the gospel of the blessed God; it is the maturing of the saints, the edifying of the church, that the Lord’s people be no longer children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into Christ in all things, Who is the head of His church, and of each member in particular. This, my friends, is discipleship.
However, nowadays, that which goes by the name of discipleship is actually indoctrination, and there is a vast difference between the two. Discipleship is that which is done with regenerate sinners, having the Holy Spirit teach the heart; whereas indoctrination is that which is done with unregenerate sinners, having man teach the head. Now, don’t get me wrong, The word indoctrination usually carries a negative connotation, but that is not how I am using it in this context. I do not see anything wrong with instructing the unregenerate in the ways of the Lord. Godly parents do this with their children, faithful friends do this with their unbelieving friends, and caring pastors do this for those who sit under their teaching ministries. But it is important to bear in mind, that when we impart gospel knowledge to the unregenerate, it falls under the category of indoctrination, rather than discipleship. All we are doing is filling their heads with information; their heats have not been conquered by the Spirit of God and therefore it is impossible for them to be discipled. Therefore, we must not speak to the unregenerate as if they are true disciples of Christ, neither should we ever exploit them, in an effort to “win people to Christ”, by manipulating them into “making decisions for Jesus”.
Alright, so I better draw a line here under my comments regarding the meaning of these terms. Evangelism seeks to preach the gospel to all sinners, for the purpose of discovering which sinners are exercising saving faith, whereas discipleship seeks to teach the gospel to regenerate sinners, for the purpose of building them up in their most holy faith. Assuming we have a clear idea on the meaning and distinction between them, let’s consider how the Five Points of Calvinism may be used as tools for evangelism and discipleship.
If you have been following this series of studies, and/or if you have been exposed to any type of “Evangelical” church, then you will be familiar with the Roman’s Road to Salvation. The basic outline looks something like this:
1. You are a sinner.
2. The penalty of your sin is death.
3. You cannot earn your salvation.
4. God loves you so much He sent His Son to die for your sins.
5. All you have to do to be saved is believe on Christ and repent of your sins.
I regret to say, this outline tends to be the leading curriculum or discipline taught by churches worldwide in their so-called evangelistic efforts and discipleship programs. What chaff is to wheat, this outline is to the gospel. It is void of substance, having little to no gospel value. Although there is truth sprinkled throughout, yet as a summary of what the good news of glad tidings is suppose to be, it is the opposite of gospel truth. As a whole, the gospel of free grace is substituted for a message of free will works religion. My dear friends, it is better you don’t even evangelize or discipleship if this is going to be your message to sinners.
Of course, this leads us to the Five Points of Calvinism. As you see, the Roman’s Road to Salvation and the Five Points of Calvinism are entirely different gospel messages. Unlike the Roman’s Road, the Five Points of Calvinism sets forth the full and free gospel of Christ. And so, with the time we have left, allow me to give a few suggestions on how these points can be used as a tool for evangelism and discipleship.
First, you can follow the outline of these points, from first to last, which provides a logical order of setting forth the gospel of Christ.
We begin with Total Depravity, which of course, is not the gospel, but the law. And that is the place to begin with the unregenerate sinner. We show them their current standing before God. Total Depravity sets forth the unregenerate sinner’s relationship to God, under the authority of the covenant of works, and therefore his/her accountability to God according to the law inscribed upon the heart. It is here we explain how Adam is the federal head of the covenant of works on behalf of the human race, whereby, as a result of his sin, each of us are brought under judicial condemnation and come into this world with a sinfully corrupted heart. We point out to the unregenerate sinner this is the reason why he/she by nature is a rebel of God and under His wrath. We explain that so long as he/she remains in an unregenerate condition, it is under the terms of this covenant that he/she is responsible to God. The unregenerate sinner should be exhorted to believe on the one true and living God, to love Him supremely as their Maker and Lawgiver, to love their neighbor as themselves and to repent of their sins. However, we must emphasize to them that none of these things are able to earn them favor with God or deliver them from their sin and His wrath. So long as they are under the authority of the Covenant of Works, they are without help and hope of salvation. That, my friends, is the law, and that is the first message that should be set forth to the unregenerate sinner.
We may then come to the next three points which is the good news of glad tidings in Christ, otherwise called the gospel of God. There are three branches to the gospel. First, the Unconditional Election of the Father; Second, the Particular Redemption of the Son; Third, the Irresistible Grace of the Holy Spirit. This is the full and free gospel of God, and this, therefore, is the message that is to be declared or preached to sinners. The three branches of the gospel are referred to in the scriptures as the covenant of peace, or the everlasting covenant, which we often call the covenant of grace. It is an agreement drawn up by the three persons of the Godhead, from eternity, on behalf of those set apart by the electing love of the Father, redeemed by the precious blood of Christ and regenerated by the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit.
We then highlight the final point—the Perseverance and Preservation of the saints, explaining how the gospel law is the rule of conduct for the regenerate sinner’s walk with God, and how nothing shall ever separate the regenerate sinner from that bond of union with Christ sealed by the Holy Spirit.
Now, let’s say you have exhausted what you want to say about these points by following the outline, the second way you can use them as a teaching tool is to explain the structure.
You begin by linking together the first and last points, which speak of the nature of man, and his relationship to and with God. The first point speaks of the nature of man in an unregenerate condition, dead in trespasses and sins, under the authority of the covenant of works and responsible to God according to the heart law. The last point speaks of the nature of man in a regenerate condition, made alive unto God through the Lord Jesus Christ, under the authority of the covenant of grace and responsible to God according to the gospel law. This dichotomy distinguishes between the unbeliever and the believer; between the non-christian and the Christian; between the ungodly and the godly; between the unrighteous and the righteous; between the unregenerate and the regenerate. Having made this distinction, you may then answer the question—How can an unregenerate sinner be regenerated? Or, how can the unrighteous be made righteous? Or, how can God be just, yet the justifier of the ungodly? Or, how can the unbeliever become a believer? Or, how can a non-christian become a Christian? All of these questions are different ways of asking the same thing—in essence, how can a sinner be made right with God? The answer is the gospel of God; the good news of glad tidings in Christ Jesus. You set forth each of the three branches of the gospel—the Father setting His unconditional and electing love upon a remnant of the human race; the Son agreeing to redeem this people from their sins; the Holy Spirit agreeing to regenerate this people by His sanctifying power. If explained in the right way, then using the structure of the Five Points of Calvinism is a helpful teaching tool for evangelism, and especially, discipleship.
And so, my dear friends, you should never be at a loss on what to say to your unconverted family members and friends. In a nutshell, the Five Points of Calvinism is the message you are to set forth and preach to them. Well, I say the message, but actually, it is a twofold message—the first message you preach is that of the law, under the covenant of works; the second message you preach is that of the gospel, under the covenant of grace. The law is applicable to unregenerate sinners for it is under the covenant of works they are in relationship to God; the gospel is application to regenerate sinners for it is under the covenant of grace they are in relationship with God. Both messages are to be preached, without mixing them or misapplying them, to all sinners unto whom the Lord is pleased to bring under your influence and care. And with reference to your duty to disciple your brothers and sisters in Christ, let me emphasize that you should never be at a loss on how to go about that important work either! The centerpiece of your fellowship and interactions with the brethren should always be the gracious covenant of the TriUne Jehovah. This alone will ensure you will neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. May the Lord be pleased to grant us the grace and opportunity to evangelize and disciple those whom He brings into our lives!
Jared Smith served twenty years as pastor of a Strict and Particular Baptist church in Kensington (London, England). He now serves as an Evangelist in the Philippines, preaching the gospel, organizing churches and training gospel preachers.