Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
NUMBER 39, PAGE 1,12

February 7. 1963

The Gospel And Human Effort

Robert H. Farish

The gospel is the "power of God" to save men (Rom. 1:16); yet the gospel is powerless to save one apart from human effort. The power of God unto salvation is brought to bear upon the hearts of men through human agency. Human action must also be taken, by the one upon whose heart the gospel is brought to bear, before the gospel can accomplish his salvation. There are also some human actions which adversely affect the gospel, preventing its accomplishing God's design. These actions are condemned in the Bible. What a sobering thought it is that a human being by his actions, or by his failure to properly act, can prevent the power of God accomplishing its purpose in his own life or in the life of another. A study of the gospel and human effort or action should be highly profitable.

Preach The Gospel

"Preach the gospel to every creature" (Mk. 16:15) was Christ's command to the apostles. "Preach" is an action with reference to the gospel which the Lord has assigned to human beings. The gospel is powerless to save if it is not preached. The chief reason for lack of conversions is now and always has been the failure upon the part of human beings to preach the gospel. There has been no deterioration experienced by the gospel; it is as powerful now as the first time it was preached.

Preaching the gospel is fraught with responsibilities. The preacher of the gospel must preach "the whole counsel of God." (Acts 20:7) No perversion of the gospel whether by addition or subtraction will be tolerated by God. Paul, an apostle of Christ, wrote "but though we or an angel from heaven, should preach unto you any other gospel than that which we preached unto you let him be anathema" (Gal. 1:8) Perhaps few, if any, who claim to accept the gospel as from God, would deliberately pervert the gospel, but there is grave danger of one's being so blinded by prejudice or by excessive zeal for some principle of truth that his disproportionate emphasis results in perversion of the gospel. No doctrine of the gospel should be emphasized to the neglect of any other doctrine of the gospel. Excess of zeal or enthusiasm for any isolated doctrine leads to fanaticism. A fanatic is extremely liable to pervert passages in his efforts to point up and emphasize his favorite doctrine. The whole counsel of God must be believed, preached and practiced if fanaticism is to be avoided. But where is there a case of admitted fanaticism? The fanatic fails to recognize himself as a fanatic. He, like the contentious man and elder who is "lording it over the charge allotted to him," etc., is self deluded as are they. It seems that none of these types of character visualizes himself other than as one highly favored of God. They evidently judge themselves as spiritually and intellectually superior to most other men. Lack of respect for any doctrine of the gospel is lack of respect for God.

Paul was "ready to preach the gospel." "Ready" is not here used in the sense of preparedness but rather in the sense of willingness or eagerness. Paul was eager to preach the gospel. There are many people eager to preach but this does not necessarily make them like Paul. He was eager to preach the gospel; his eagerness was based upon his confidence in the gospel to accomplish its design. He was not ashamed of it for he knew that it was God's power to save. The human action of preaching will be ineffective if the preacher doesn't preach the gospel in full assurance of its divine origin.

Hear The Gospel

In addition to the human responsibility to preach the gospel there is also the human action of hearing the gospel every expression of the requirement to preach the gospel carries with it the complementary requirement that the gospel be heard. Hearing the gospel is a necessary human action. The "power of God unto salvation" must be heard in order for it to effect its design. The language of the apostle Peter recognizes the need for people to hear the gospel: "Brethren, ye know that a good while ago God made choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe." (Acts 15:7) One must hear the gospel before he can believe.

This responsibility to hear the gospel is seriously neglected. The grave responsibility which rests upon the preacher of the gospel is generally acknowledged, at least lip service is given to the idea. The need of men to hear and the grave responsibilities of the hearer are not as generally acknowledged. The same authority which imposed the human action to preach and set forth the attendant responsibilities also imposed the human action to hear and set forth the responsibilities of the hearer. All men must function in the capacity of hearers, hence, the action and the responsibilities attached to the action are common to all. This is a human action which all must take. All men are required to "take heed what ye hear" (Mark 4: 24) and to "take heed how ye hear." (Luke 8:18)

Surely no argument is necessary to prove that in the average audience few people in the audience manifest by their actions that they recognize any personal responsibility to the situation. Apply this simple test: at the next meeting of the church count the "hearers" who are asleep — talking — playing with babies — gazing about over the audience--smiling even as the preacher talks of the terror of the Lord and all others who by their actions show that they are aware of no personal duty other than being present in the body. Subtract these from the total number of "mature" people present. (Mature is in quotes to indicate a limited sense in which the word is used. A truly mature person regardless of his physical age is alert and reverential in any audience where the gospel is preached.) What percent of the audience will be found to be approved hearers? Why do those who fail to measure up as approved hearers misbehave as they do? Is it because their hearts are gross? If grossness of heart is not the cause of their misbehavior, what is? This is a matter which merits some sober consideration.

Certain types of meetings are referred to as "audience participation" meetings. By this phrase a meeting is described in which members of the audience ask questions and perhaps make comments. Now certainly the practice of some of "speaking out in church" is not recommended, this does not make for orderly worship. If people have a question, they should wait until the proper time and raise their question to the speaker and not interrupt him in the midst of his sermon. Yet a certain audience participation is essential to a successful meeting. The audience participation here recommended is members of the audience taking part in the service or participating as intelligent hearers. They take part by avoiding any action that would interfere with someone else's hearing. It is not enough for one to merely get the lesson for himself; he must avoid anything that might prevent another from getting the lesson. It is high time people learned that the individuals in an audience have responsibilities beyond the mere fact of physical presence in the audience.

Obey The Gospel

Another human action that can, yea must, be taken with reference to the gospel is "obey." Peter raises the question "what shall be the end of them that obey not the gospel?" (1 Peter 4:17) From this it is seen that there is human action, expressed by the word "obey," that can be taken. It is not only possible for men to obey the gospel; it is imperative. Paul wrote that the Lord Jesus at his revelation from heaven would render vengeance to them that know not God and to them that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall suffer punishment even eternal destruction from the face of the Lord and from the glory of his might." (2 Thess. 1:7-9) Failure to obey the gospel commands will result in eternal suffering. Any responsible creature who has failed to obey the gospel in being baptized for the remission of his sins is condemned. (Mark 16:18; Acts 10:48) The same is true with reference to repentance (Acts 17:30) and any other command of the gospel.

Hindering The Gospel

Although the gospel is the power of God unto salvation, it can be hindered by human action from accomplishing its design. Paul refrained from exercising certain rights in order "that we cause no hindrance to the gospel of Christ." (1 Cor. 9:12) Every Christian must give conscious attention to avoid causing hindrance to the gospel. What a sobering thought! A Christian can by his actions hinder the gospel from saving souls. Yes, that which is the power of God unto salvation can be hindered by a human being.

The gospel, the power of God unto salvation, accomplishes the salvation of no one apart from proper human effort.

— Lufkin, Texas