Recently, a reader challenged my use of the Steve Lawson video on my What Is The Gospel Anyway? page, charging that Lawson seemed to emphasize personal responsibility in his presentation. My reader generally likes Lawson, but she thought that this particular video made him sound more Arminian than Reformed. She made her comment several weeks ago, and since then I’ve been preparing to respond in a full-sized blog post. Her difficulty with Lawson’s presentation, as well as my decision to feature it on an obviously Reformed blog, deserves more than a brief reply in my Comments section.
Again, my reader felt that Lawson emphasized a person’s free will instead of God’s sovereignty. I agree! He begged non-Christians to willfully commit themselves to the Lord Jesus Christ, trusting only in His shed blood to atone for their sin. He pointed out that if they reject His free offer of eternal life they by default choose eternal damnation for trampling the precious blood of Christ under their feet. He said nothing about God’s sovereignty in electing His own from the foundation of the world, nor did he say that they could believe in Him only if the Holy Spirit gave them the faith to believe.
But let’s go to back to the passage I quoted in my last article, and from there do a little reasoning.
18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. ~~2 Corinthians 5:18-20 (ESV)
Notice the word “implore” in verse 20. Vines New Testament Dictionary, in writing about the Greek word used here says:
It is used for every kind of calling to a person which is meant to produce a particular effect, hence, with various meanings, such as “comfort, exhort, desire, call for,” in addition to its significance “to beseech,” which has a stronger force than aiteo (see ASK).
Paul, who in no way denied God’s sovereignty, implored people, wanting his words to result in their actions. He saw no contradictions between trusting the Lord to act on their hearts and expecting them to act on his urging. From this instance, as well as numerous other New Testament passages, I believe we can fairly conclude that God’s sovereignty does not preclude human responsibility. On that basis, I think Lawson was within Scriptural bounds in his insistence that his hearers make a response to the Gospel.
Additionally, Lawson knew that his words had no chance of persuading anyone to come to Christ in and of themselves. He was trusting neither in his oratorical skills nor in the free will of those who heard his message to effect anyone’s salvation. But he knows that the preaching of the Word softens the heart of the elect and hardens the heart of the damned. Those who are not elect cannot therefore claim that God unjustly condemns them. They have heard the Gospel — and heard it forcefully — but have turned away from it in favor of their own pursuits. Therefore, God’s justice is confirmed.
While I appreciate the concerns of my reader, I stand by my decision to include Lawson’s video on that page. If God uses it to produce faith in just one person, I will praise Him for sovereignly working through Lawson. Rather than focusing on Reformed doctrine, we should all focus on the power of the Gospel to save those who are elect.