The Lord has been working on my heart this past year concerning the way in which I preach the Gospel.
When I first began my street ministry in earnest, I would use terms like "God doesn't want you to go to hell" when talking with people personally and when open-air preaching.
I would also say phrases like...
"Jesus died for YOUR sins..." (again, when talking to those on the streets and when open-air preaching)
"Your sins have been paid for IN FULL..."
To be honest, I was using those terms because I initially heard other preachers using them, and then using the same faulty interpretations these preachers were using to justify saying phrases like these.
Verse such as this one...
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
(2 Peter 3:9)
...would be cited to explain why evangelists should tell all sinners that "God doesn't want them to go to hell" or "it's not God's will that you go to hell."
Then I read the entirety of 2 Peter and realized that Peter was writing to the church. This was an epistle written to churches, and his use of the word "you" in verse 9 indicates that Peter knew who his audience was--generally speaking. The "you" in 2 Peter 3:9 is not mankind in general, but the church (the elect) specifically.
So, would it then be Biblically accurate to tell everybody that "God doesn't want you to go to hell" based upon that verse?
I also heard this verse used to explain that it is not God's will that anybody to go hell...
This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
(1 Timothy 2:3-4)
So we see that God does indeed desire people to be saved, but again, is it Biblically warranted to then "take a leap" and proclaim that it's not God's will for anybody to go to hell?
We need to realize what it is we're actually saying when we use terms like "it's not God's will that anybody go to hell."
The most fundamental problem with such a statement/sentiment is that presents a god that punishes sin against his own will.
Hell is a place of eternal punishment for sin (Rev 21:8). God considers lawbreaking to be sin (1 John 3:4) and He punishes lawbreakers JUSTLY (Romans 6:23). Does it make any Biblical sense to proclaim the God of the Bible as a God who executes justice AGAINST His own will?
Not at all.
The same logic would apply to the phrase "God doesn't want you to go to hell."
Now, it is not unreasonable to believe that a holy, righteous, all-powerful God can accomplish exactly what He wants. So if a sinner is in hell, it would be because God WANTS the sinner to be there, right?
Now, He obviously doesn't derive any kind of sadistic pleasure in meting out eternal punishment.
Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord GOD, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?
I am not saying that God is some sort of sadist. Scripture is clear that God doesn't take pleasure in the death of the wicked (and their corresponding judgment).
However, does that then mean that God doesn't "WANT people to go to hell?"
Does a judge not "WANT" to execute justice? Of course a judge should WANT to execute justice. That doesn't mean he takes any pleasure in it, nor does it mean he gets his kicks by handing down punishment.
But if the God of the Bible is a God of JUSTICE (Psalm 7:11; Prov 16:11), then He indeed WANTS justice to be done and the guilty to be punished.
At this point, you might be asking..."Mr. Blogger, what is the point of all of this, anyway?"
Good question. My point is that we as street evangelists (and all Christians who preach the Gospel) need to be more apostolic in our gospel preaching. By "apostolic" I mean that we should--simply--preach the Gospels as the apostles preached the Gospel.
Thankfully, conservative Christianity has publicly criticized the "modern-day revivalism" mentality of evangelism which teaches--among other things--that we as Christians should invite sinners to "pray a prayer" and "ask Jesus into their hearts."
The Biblical response to such teaching is..."where in the Bible does it teach that we are to ask sinners to pray a sinner's prayer or invite Jesus into their heart?"
The obvious answer is...there is no such teaching in the Bible.
I would submit to you that there is so such Biblical precedent for Christians to tell sinners that "God doesn't want anybody to go to hell" and "Jesus died for you."
Of course, many Christians would argue that they are justified in telling all people that Jesus died for them because of John 3:16...
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
And 1 John 2:2...
He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.
(1 John 2:2)
Now, God DOES have a specific, electing love for certain people ALL OVER the world.
That being said, look at the term "propitiation" in 1 John 2:2. That word means "a complete satisfaction" or "appeasement" with the idea of a "complete turning away of wrath" (specifically in the case of Christ's atonement).
So, if Christ is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world, and the term "propitiation" means "a complete satisfaction of payment" and "appeasement", and the "whole world" means "everybody who ever lived and who will ever live on planet Earth,"
...then universalism is the ONLY conclusion to draw from this.
If Christ died for everybody, and His death FULLY PAID for everybody's sin and actually had the effect of TURNING AWAY God's wrath for everybody's sin (if we are going to be accurate as to what the term "propitiation" really means)...
...then EVERYBODY is saved because everybody's sins are paid for and God's wrath has been turned away.
If we continue telling all sinners that "Jesus died for them," then it makes no sense at all to think that anybody would go to hell.
How could somebody have their sin FULLY paid for at Calvary....how could somebody have God's wrath turned away COMPLETELY from them at Calvary...
...and yet STILL spend an eternity in hell for sin that has already been paid for?
Talk about double jeopardy!
Of course, the apostles never preached to anybody that "Jesus died for you!"
This is how Paul preached...
The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.
(1 Timothy 1:15)
Must we tell everybody that "Jesus died for you?"
Isn't it enough to preach that Jesus died for SINNERS? After all, NOBODY is saved unless they first personally acknowledge that they're a sinner..,.
And Jesus answered them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance."
Jesus gave up His life for His sheep, NOT the goats.
just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.
We know the fate of the goats.
When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.' Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?' And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.' "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.' Then they also will answer, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?' Then he will answer them, saying, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.' And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.
The fate of the goats is the "eternal fire" or "eternal punishment." Again, if the goats sins were paid for at Calvary by Jesus Christ, exactly WHY is this goat paying for his/her sins AGAIN in the lake of fire?
Let us preach the law.
Let us preach sin, judgment, hell.
Let us preach the holiness of God.
Let us preach the excellencies of Christ.
Let us preach His love that was shown on the cross.
Let us preach His mercies in commanding ALL PEOPLE to repent.
And let us preach as the APOSTLES DID.
I conclude with an encouargement to you the reader who might be grappling or struggling with this issue (as I did for a long time)...
Search the Scriptures.
Just consider what I have written. Don't believe me because I'm writing in a blog. Measure what I am saying against God's word.
The Gospel is a weighty doctrine and the call of the preacher is SERIOUS business. I know we all want to make certain we are doing what we are doing in accordance with the Scriptures.
And I thank God for all of you who faithfully preach the Gospel on the streets...on your jobs...during your errands...and in your own homes.