The “clearest Gospel presentation”?
In my recent posts here at SBF, I have been responding to the October 8, 2006 sermon of Dr. Jerry Vines given at First Baptist Church Woodstock, GA. I have been specifically focused on the Dr. Vines’ remarks against the doctrine of “Limited atonement,” or “particular redemption”- the teaching that by His death on the Cross, Jesus secured specific benefits (forgiveness of sins and a renewed heart) that would certainly be applied to a specific people. The last few posts have been dedicated to demonstrating that particular redemption is a doctrine based on careful exegesis of the biblical text.
In this post, I would like to indicate a practical outcome of denying the doctrine of particular redemption.
During the “announcements” time of the October 8, 2006 FBCW worship service before Dr. Vines preached his sermon, Johnny Hunt, the pastor of FBCW, encouraged his flock to go and see the movie, Facing the Giants. He encouraged them to use this movie as an evangelistic opportunity with these words,
“It’s the clearest Gospel presentation… it gives the presentation of the Gospel… It’s not just that He died, was buried, and rose again, but it tells what you need to do.”
Now, I’m glad that Hunt wanted his congregants to use a trip to the movies as a chance to present the Gospel- if Christians go to the movies at all, we should use this activity along with all our other activities for a Gospel witness. But when Hunt says that this movie gives a clear Gospel presentation, he is clearly in error. As I pointed out in my review of that movie, the objective facts of the Gospel are absent from FtG.
Hunt is correct in that Gospel proclamation is more than the objective facts that Jesus died on the Cross, was buried, and rose again, but Gospel proclamation is certainly not less than these facts, which are absent from the movie altogether. (See I Corinthians 15:1-4).
So, how could Hunt have missed the fact that the Gospel is absent to the point of even declaring this movie to be “the clearest Gospel presentation”?
In a word, it is because he, like Dr. Vines and the other leaders at FBCW, denies particular redemption.
You see, if Jesus did not die to secure specific benefits that would certainly be applied to a specific people, but He only died to make people generally savable, then the work of Jesus becomes background information, less important than it should be from a biblical perspective. The focus is subtly (and, sometimes, not-so-subtly) shifted from what Jesus has done on behalf of sinners to, as Hunt said, “what you need to do.”
And so, I hope that the readers of SBF see, when we write concerning particular redemption, we do so not to focus on doctrine for the sake of getting puffed up with knowledge, but our focus is on the Gospel- the work that Jesus has done to accomplish the actual salvation of sinners.