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WE MUST NOT FEAR TO MAKE OUR HEARERS FEAR
by Philip Owen

Some of us find ourselves fearful of offending someone with the gospel.  Because of that fear, we wind up giving a watered-down version of the way of salvation.  Perhaps we speak of the good news that Jesus died and rose again, or that if someone believes on Jesus he will be saved, or that if someone takes Jesus he will go to heaven.  In so doing, we may salve our conscience that we have fulfilled our responsibility to witness, but we have failed to provide enough truth to actually allow the Holy Spirit to bring the person we have thus addressed through conviction of sin to a saving knowledge of Christ.  But inasmuch as Scripture does not provide a textbook formula for presenting the gospel, we will not do so here either.  Rather, we will note one example of how an “expert” gave the gospel.  The account is surprisingly brief:  “Felix arrived with Drusilla, his wife who was a Jewess, and sent for Paul and heard him speak about faith in Christ Jesus.  But as he was discussing righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix became frightened and said, ‘Go away for the present, and when I find time I will summon you’” (Acts 24:24b, 25).   Please observe the four points Paul pressed home.

1.  Faith in Christ Jesus.  There is neither gospel nor salvation if Christ is not preached.  It is not enough to talk about God, even where the God to Whom we refer is the one true God as revealed in the Word.  Untold millions of people believe in God—not just a god, but the God they have learned about in the Bible.  Nevertheless, they are still lost in sin.  The necessity of the Person and work of Christ is such that Paul could write to the Corinthians:  “For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (I Cor. 2:2).  We must determine, like Paul, not to be wishy-washy, generic, or vague about Who it is that provided salvation and how He did so.  “Jesus saves” is the thrust of Scripture.

But He does not save apart from Spirit-engendered faith.  Knowledge of Christ and His saving work will not save, nor will mental assent to the reality and truth of the facts of Christ’s death, even including mental assent to His stated purpose for coming and dying:  “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (I Tim. 1:15b).  Salvation demands a personal trust, a confident dependency on Christ and His cross-work alone.

2.  Righteousness.  In order to drive home the reality of sin and the necessity of salvation, Paul broached the topic of righteousness.  Doubtless he touched on the fact that God is perfectly holy and demands absolute righteousness of any who would escape the punishment of hell for their sins, enter heaven, receive eternal life, and enjoy the fellowship of His Presence.  Doubtless he made it clear that no one, not Caesar, not Felix, not Paul himself, no Gentile, and no Jew can meet God’s standard.

3.  Self-control.  Perfect self-control would be required to meet God’s holy standard.  No man has ever achieved such absolute self-control.  And as Felix had coaxed Drusilla away from the man she had married originally, it was evident that Felix had failed miserably in that instance alone to measure up to God’s standard.

4.  Judgment to come.  No human or governmental authority might condemn Felix for his sins, but Paul assured him that, though he might not seem to experience any consequences for his transgressions in this life, there is a final judgment coming at which time he would stand before God in the Person of His Son, and hear pronounced his final and eternal damnation.  No escape clause.

Responding to Paul’s testimony, Felix laughed and was happy.  No, “Felix became frightened.”  Those who reject the gospel ought to fear.  We must become uncomfortable with sin and its sure end before we can become comfortable with salvation and its blessed deliverance.  May we not shortchange the truth and give the lost false hope because we have failed to give them “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”   

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