Category Archives: Evangelism

‘World’ does not mean ‘world’ in John 3:16 to some Calvinists

By Spencer D Gear PhD

‘For God so loved the world’ (John 3:16) should be a straightforward statement but it is not so when I get into discussions with some Calvinists. Let’s see how it worked out on a Christian Forum.

A. Changing the meaning of ‘world’

I encountered this Calvinist who wrote:[1] ‘Your accusation was that I changed the definition of the word, which I did not do’.[2]

I responded:[3] There is no other language to use than to call this a lie. You have changed the definition of the word ‘world’ in relation to John 3:16 and who God loves. How do I know? Here’s your evidence in this directory:
clip_image002 Please go back to #418[4] where you stated: ‘It’s not unjust for God to not love everyone. It would only be unjust if He was obligated to do so’.
clip_image002[1] Now go to #425[5] where you stated: ‘Yes, God loves His CHOSEN people. That’s the reformed view’.
clip_image002[2] In #430[6] you wrote: ‘I have a biblical view that says God actually saves those He loves, not that He sends some that He loves to hell for disagreeing with Him’.
So you have misinterpreted ‘world’ in John 3:16 and made

  1. world = not everyone (#418);
  2. world = his CHOSEN people (#425);
  3. world = those God actually saves and loves (#430).

Please don’t kid us into believing that you haven’t changed the meaning of ‘world’ and who God loves in John 3:16. I’m not falling for your tactics when you have provided the evidence to refute yourself.

B. ‘No’ does not mean ‘yes’

Hammster continued: ‘I have not misrepresented “world” in John 3:16. I just disagree with your use of it. That’s not the same thing as changing the definition. If I had said “world means Calvinists”, or something similar, then you’d be correct’.[7]

I continued:[8] No amount of calling it ‘yes’ when your posts have documented ‘no’ to God’s loving the whole world, will convince me that you have not misinterpret Scripture by adding to what is stated.

And have a guess what?

Another Calvinistic Reformed commentator, Don (D A) Carson, in his commentary on John’s Gospel refutes your perspective on the meaning of ‘world’ with your applying it to God’s chosen people in John 3:16. Of this verse, Carson wrote:

More than any New Testament writer, John develops a theology of the love relations between the Father and the Son, and makes it clear that, as applied to human beings, the love of God is not the consequence of their loveliness but of the sublime truth that ‘God is love’ (1 Jn. 4:16).
From this survey it is clear that it is atypical for John to speak of God’s love for the world, but this truth is therefore made to stand out as all the more wonderful. Jews were familiar with the truth that God loved the children of Israel; here God’s love is not restricted by race. Even so, God’s love is to be admired not because the world is so big and includes so many people, but because the world is so bad: that is the customary connotation of kosmos (‘world’; cf. notes on 1:9). The world is so wicked that John elsewhere forbids Christians to love it or anything in it (1 Jn. 2:15-17). There is no contradiction between this prohibition and the fact that God does love it. Christians are not to love the world with the selfish love of participation; God loves the world with the self-less, costly love of redemption (Carson 1991:205, emphasis added).

I continued:[9]

FreeGrace2 wrote, “No, the heart is that God created the human race antagonistic to Him” (#441).
You (Hammster) responded:

This is not the heart of Calvinism. That you think so shows that, despite all your time here on CF, you still only know your straw man view of Calvinism. I honestly cannot see how trying to correct you further will be of any benefit. You may continue to call this a dodge. I frankly do not care.[10]

I could not let him get away with this one.[11] That is factually untrue for some Calvinists. It is the heart of Calvinism for some like John Piper, the double-predestinarian, when he stated this?

It’s right for God to slaughter women and children anytime he pleases. God gives life and he takes life. Everybody who dies, dies because God wills that they die.

God is taking life every day. He will take 50,000 lives today. Life is in God’s hand. God decides when your last heartbeat will be, and whether it ends through cancer or a bullet wound. God governs.

So God is God! He rules and governs everything. And everything he does is just and right and good. God owes us nothing.

If I were to drop dead right now, or a suicide bomber downstairs were to blow this building up and I were blown into smithereens, God would have done me no wrong. He does no wrong to anybody when he takes their life, whether at 2 weeks or at age 92′ (‘What Made It OK for God to Kill Women, Children in Old Testament?‘, The Christian Post, February 6, 2012, emphasis added).

By application, is it right for God to slaughter 3,000 people and leave 3,000 victims on September 11, 2001 in the USA? What about the cause of all rapes of children around the world? How about the suicide bombers and the deaths caused by Muslims? Who is the cause of these ‘calamities’? Is it right for God to do this ‘anytime he pleases’ (Piper’s words)?

So did God slaughter all those people on September 11, 2001? What about the carnage that is going on today in Syria and the South Sudan? What about the children who are being raped by paedophiles in your country and mine? Is it right for God to do these things ‘anytime he pleases’ (to use John Piper’s words)?

C. Conclusion

A Calvinist such as Hammster is an example of how the Calvinistic Reformed deliberately change the meaning of ‘world’ in John 3:16 to make it mean ‘not everyone’, ‘his chosen people’ or ‘he saves those he loves and that is not the whole world of all people’.

This is a classic example of distortion or lying about the truth of ‘world’ in John 3:16.

We know that God’s love for all of the people throughout the world was manifest when Jesus died on the cross, not for the elect but for the whole world. This is stated clearly in 1 John 2:2 (ESV): ‘He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world’.

D. Works consulted

Carson, D A 1991. The Gospel according to John. Leicester, England / Grand Rapids, Michigan: Inter-Varsity Press / William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

E. Notes

[1] Christian Forums 2014. In Arminianism, God excludes some people from salvation. OzSpen#459. Available at: (Accessed 209 April 2014). I, Spencer Gear, am OzSpen.

[2] Ibid., Hammster#458.

[3] Ibid., OzSpen#459.

[4] Hammster #418, Christian Forums, General Theology, Soteriology DEBATE, ‘In Arminianism, God excludes some people from salvation’, available at: (Accessed 29 April 2014).

[5] Ibid., Hammster#425.

[6] Ibid., Hammster#430.

[7] Ibid., Hammster#461.

[8] Ibid., OzSpen#462.

[9] Ibid., OzSpen#468.

[10] Ibid., Hammster#460.

[11] Ibid., OzSpen#468.


Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 7 August 2016.

Can world not mean world?


By Spencer D Gear PhD

Do you think that it is possible for people to argue over the meaning of ‘the world’? Yep! I was engaged in such a discussion on an Internet forum where world was made to mean other than world.

What’s the meaning of ‘world’ in John 3:16?

This is probably the best known verse in the whole of the Bible for evangelical Christians. Many regard it as a summary of the Gospel message. It states: ‘For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life’ (ESV).

Calvinists often make ‘world’ in John 3:16 not mean the total world of all people. Here’s a sample from Calvinists on a leading Christian forum on the subject, ‘John 3:16 – is it important what the average Joe understands by ‘world’?’[1]

blue-corrosion-arrow-small ‘What matters is what the Apostle John intended not what the reader understands. It is the duty of any reader to pay attention to context and try to understand what John meant. It is intellectually dishonest and lazy to take his words (or any words) at face value and assume a surface-level meaning’.[2]

blue-corrosion-arrow-small ‘Of the 10+ uses of "world" that John uses in his writings, why did you pick that one?’[3]

blue-corrosion-arrow-small ‘I guess you misunderstood the question. Of the 10+ uses of "world" that John uses in his writings, you chose the one that means every person who’s every lived. Why is that?’[4]

I asked this Calvinist:

1) Would you please document where those 10+ meanings of ‘world’ are found in John’s Gospel?
2) Would you please document from a Greek lexicon there are 10+ meanings of ‘world’ in the Gospel of John?[5]

How to avoid answering the question

This person’s immediate response was: ‘No. But if you’d like to, go ahead’.[6] Do you see what he was doing? He was the one who made the claim of 10+ meanings of ‘world’ in John’s Gospel, but he doesn’t want to provide the evidence. He wants me to do the hard work for him. I won’t fall for that trick. It’s his responsibility to provide the evidence for the claim he is making.

How should I reply to him? ‘Why are you prepared to assert that there are 10+ meanings of ‘world’ in John’s Gospel and not be prepared to demonstrate where they are in John’s Gospel and how those 10 different meanings are defined by a leading Greek lexicon? If you are not prepared to document them, it becomes your assertion with no proof.’[7] His retort was, ‘I’m sorry that you think John only uses one definition for "world" in his writings. How did you determine which one John uses?’[8] My reply to this lie about my position was: ‘Not once have I ever said that. It is your false accusation against me. Please withdraw that statement against me immediately’.[9]

He continued his avoidance of providing the 10+ definitions of ‘world’ in John’s Gospel: ‘So if [you] don’t believe that, then why do you need a list of definitions?’[10] I continued: ‘I asked you to remove your false statement against me. Why have you not removed your false statement and given me a red herring fallacy here? When will you remove this false statement about my view of ‘world’ in John’s Gospel?’[11]

There was more and more avoidance from this Calvinist: ‘On what basis did I know that it was a false statement? It sure seemed true when I said it. You are free to refute it. When you do, however, please explain why you needed me to provide definitions’.[12] My response was to repeat what I’d raised previously:

It was a false statement by you against me because I have never ever stated that there is only one meaning of ‘world’ in John’s Gospel. Thus your statement about my one meaning of ‘world’ was an invention.
You need to provide definitions because so far you have only made assertions that ‘world’ has 10+ meanings in John’s Gospel. You have not demonstrated this to be true. Please provide the evidence that I have asked.[13]

He came back with further goading of me: ‘If you honestly believe that John only uses one definition for "world" in his writings, I’ll provide you a link to the various examples’.[14] At this point I reported him to the moderators for his going against the rules of the Forum with his goading of me. To goad means, ‘to prick or drive with, or as if with, a goad; prod; incite’ (

Further tactics for not answering questions

Image result for clipart question mark public domainThis fellow (and he has done this a number of times to other people and me on various topics) uses a standard tactic when he doesn’t want to answer my question. He changes topics. This is called a red herring logical fallacy.

This is how he did it:

Oz (me): ‘When will you quit your goading me with your repetition of a false statement about my view of ‘world’ in John’s Gospel?’[15]

Hamm (my Calvinistic opponent): ‘Do you believe that John uses more than one definition for "world" in his writings? If so, how many definitions does he use?’[16]

Notice what he did. He did not answer my question about when he was going to quit goading me by a false statement about my view of ‘world’ in John’s Gospel. He got back to what he wanted to talk about: Do you believe that John uses only one definition of ‘world’? I have denied it post after post, but this is what he did when he didn’t want to answer my questions of him re goading me.

The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Watch for this tactic by people in debate and conversation. What is a red herring logical fallacy? The Nizkor Project describes it as:

Also Known as: Smoke Screen, Wild Goose Chase.

Description of Red Herring

A Red Herring is a fallacy in which an irrelevant topic is presented in order to divert attention from the original issue. The basic idea is to "win" an argument by leading attention away from the argument and to another topic. This sort of "reasoning" has the following form:

1. Topic A is under discussion.

2. Topic B is introduced under the guise of being relevant to topic A (when topic B is actually not relevant to topic A).

3. Topic A is abandoned.

This sort of "reasoning" is fallacious because merely changing the topic of discussion hardly counts as an argument against a claim.

The discussion on the forum was closed by a moderator who considered the discussion ‘is getting more and more toxic’.[17]

Let’s check out a couple of commentators

What would a leading Calvinistic commentator say that the meaning of ‘world’ is in John 3:16?

Don Carson


(D A Carson, courtesy Trinity Evangelical Divinity School)


D A Carson is a Calvinist[18] and his commentary on John’s Gospel describes the meaning of ‘world’:

‘It is atypical for John to speak of God’s love for the world, but this truth is therefore made to stand out as all the more wonderful. Jews were familiar with the truth that God loved the children of Israel; here God’s love is not restricted by race. Even so, God’s love is to be admired not because the world is so big and includes so many people, but because the world is so bad; that is the customary connotation of kosmos (‘world’; cf. notes on 1:9). The world is so wicked that John elsewhere forbids Christians to love it or anything in it (1 Jn. 2:15-17). There is no contradiction between the prohibition and the fact that God does love it. Christians are not to love the world with the selfish love of participation; God loves the world with the self-less costly love of redemption’ (Carson 1991:205, emphasis in original).

So God’s love is not restricted to one particular group of people, according to Carson, but God’s love is admired because the world is so wicked but God loves it with the costly love of redemption. So Carson is interpreting ‘world’ to mean the whole world of wickedness.

Carson’s comments on John 1:9 are:

‘If the phrase "coming into the world" is understood to be masculine and attached to "every man", then we must translate this verse as in NIV fn. [footnote]: "This was the true light that gives light to every man who comes into the world" (similarly AV). If this is the correct rendering, then there is nothing here or in v. 10 that requires us to go beyond the illumination granted to the entire race in the Word’s creative activity (cf. vv. 4-5). This view is reinforced by a common rabbinic expression, "all who come into the world", used to describe "every man". But that expression is always plural; the construction here is singular. It is best to take "coming into the world" as a neuter form attached to "light", adopting the translation of NIV: The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. The most convincing support for this rendering is the fact that "coming into the world" or being sent into the world is in this Gospel repeatedly predicated of him who is the Word. Moreover the peculiar Greek syntax this translation presupposes is a common feature of John’s style (cf. 1;28; 2:6; 3:23; 10:40; 11;1; 13:23; 18:18, 25). What this means is that in this verse it is the Word, the light, that is coming into the world, in some act distinct from creation. If incarnation is not spelled out as forcefully as in v. 14, it is the same special visitation that is in view. Few could read the Fourth Gospel for the second time without recognizing that the coming of the Word into the world, described in the Prologue, is northing other than the sending of the Son into the world, described in the rest of the book’ (Carson 1991:121-122).

In his explanation of the meaning of ‘world’ in John 3:16, Carson referred back to commentary on John 1:9 where Carson emphasises that ‘world’ means that Jesus’ coming into the world to be a light was to be a light ‘to every man’ (i.e. to every human being), ‘the entire race’, and ‘than the sending of the Son into the world, described in the rest of the book’.

So D A Carson, a Calvinist, regards ‘world’ in John 3:16 as ‘God’s love is to be admired not because the world is so big and includes so many people, but because the world is so bad; that is the customary connotation of kosmos’. So how much of the world is so bad that God’s love needs to send a Saviour? The whole wicked world – every person in the world.

Leon Morris


(Leon Morris, courtesy Wikipedia)

Leading Greek exegete and commentator, the late Leon Morris, in his commentary on John 3:16 wrote:

‘God loved "the world"…. The Jew was ready enough to think of God as loving Israel, but no passage appears to be cited in which any Jewish writer maintains that God loved the world. It is a distinctively Christian idea that God’s love is wide enough to embrace all mankind. His love is not confined to any national group or any spiritual elite. It is a love which proceeds from the fact that He is love (I John 4:8, 16). It is His nature to love. He loves men because He is the kind of God He is. John tells us that His love is shown in the gift of His Son’ (Morris 1971:229).

That is as clear as crystal for Leon Morris: ‘God’s love is wide enough to embrace all mankind. His love is not confined to any national group or any spiritual elite’. All human beings are included in God’s love articulated in John 3:16.



Some Calvinists on this Christian forum want to distort the meaning of ‘world’ to comply with their narrow version of God’s atonement – limited atonement. When God ‘gave his only begotten son’ (John 3:16) to die as an atonement, it was based on God’s love for the whole world – every person in the world. This does not teach universalism (all will be saved) but God’s love extending to every human being so that when he sent his Son to die on the cross, it made provision of salvation for the whole world.

We know this as it is confirmed in:

  • I John 2:2, ‘He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world’ (ESV),
  • Titus 2:11, ‘For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people’, and
  • 2 Peter 3:9, ‘The Lord is not slow to fulfil his promise as some count slowness, but is patient towards you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance’.

Works consulted

Carson, D A 1991. The gospel according to John. Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press / Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Morris, L 1971. The gospel according to John. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.


[1] Christian Forums, General Theology, Soteriology, janxharris#1, 3 January 2014, available at: (Accessed 6 January 2014).

[2] Ibid., Skala#4.

[3] Ibid., Hammster#7.

[4] Ibid., Hammster#17, available at:

[5] Ibid., OzSpen#84, available at:

[6] Ibid., Hammster#85.

[7] Ibid., OzSpen#89.

[8] Ibid., Hammster#90.

[9] Ibid., OzSpen#96, available at:

[10] Ibid., Hammster#97.

[11] Ibid., OzSpen#98.

[12] Ibid., Hammster#100.

[13] Ibid., OzSpen#102, available at:

[14] Ibid., Hammster#

[15] Ibid., OzSpen#105, available at:

[16] Ibid., Hammster#106.

[17] Ibid., Edial#111, available at:,

[18] In this article, ‘Characteristics of New Calvinism’, D A Carson is associated with New Calvinism. Available at: (Accessed 6 January 2014).


Copyright © 2015 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 18 November 2015.

How do you find a suitable church?

 By Spencer D Gear

When somebody moves to a new community and seeks to find a church, what qualities should one seek? This will be based on a person’s view of God and the Scriptures. If the Scriptures are taken seriously, what features will be in the church one seeks. My wife and I experienced this issue/problem in mid 2011 when we moved to a northern Brisbane (Australia) suburb. What do we seek since we have a high view of the Bible and are not interested in singing unmemorable choruses driven by a contemporary rock beat?

This is a brief, but practical, example of what two mature Christians encountered in search for a group of evangelical believers who affirmed the Scriptures and worshipped God in the songs they sang, the Word preached from the pulpit, and in their fellowship with one another.

I was participating in a Christian Forum discussion online when I came across this request:

1. One person’s view

I have been attending a local Baptist church for almost a month now and thought the people in there are extremely friendly and welcoming.

I was so excited that i started telling my friends about my discovery and one of them said that she hasn’t been going to church since she moved out of her mom’s! Her reason was that she found that most of the churchgoers at her church were nice only during Sundays…and then from Mon-Sat they were “a**holes” she was very put off by this and generally stopped going every week and eventually stopped altogether.

My question to you guys is if you are noticing similar things? Are church goers judgmental? Are they just actors/actress on Sundays?[1]

2. Some qualities essential for any church[2]

Our worldviews ought to deal with what is happening not only in churches but also our approach to the world in which we live. We need to be people of discernment:

a. Discernment

All Christian are called to exercise discernment about what is happening in a church (and the world).

  • Romans 12:2, ‘ Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect’ (ESV).
  • Ephesians 5:10, ‘and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord’ (ESV).
  • Hebrews 5:14, ‘But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil’.

b. Christians who care for one another

All Christians are to care for one another, pray for one another and minister to one another. This is what the Scriptures state:

  • James 5:16, ‘Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working’ (ESV);
  • Ephesians 6:18, ‘Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints’ (ESV).
  • 1 Corinthians 12:26, ‘If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.’ (ESV).

We need to be a functioning body of Christ, a Community of the King of Kings. Are these things happening in your church? We are the body of Christ and we need to be caring for one another when we meet as well as other times (as able and as time permits).

If there is an atmosphere like this in your church, then it will be fairly easy to pick the fake from the genuine through discernment and then counsel of these people should happen and this may even lead to discipline of them if they are not in line with your church’s statement of faith and practice.

There’s another factor to look for:

3. The church’s discipline of Christians

Yes, discipline! That’s what the Scripture says:

  • 2 Thessalonians 3:14 ESV, ‘If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed’;
  • Romans 16:17 ESV, ‘I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them’.
  • Matthew 18:15-20 ESV ‘If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven’.

4. Wheat and weeds will grow together in your church

Weeds In Field (


We can expect the wheat and the tares (weeds) to grow together until harvest. See Matthew 13:24-30.

Please don’t seek to find the perfect church with perfect people who always treat you perfectly. If they are anything like me, they will make mistakes and sin against one another and in other ways. Please don’t give up on them, but the areas I have mentioned above are important in Christian growth. Is the church you are attending also practising evangelism and discipleship?

5. Every church must be committed to evangelism and discipleship

Rejecting Help



This is self-evident from Matthew 28:18-20,

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Have you had opportunity to meet with the pastor and/or church leaders to address your concerns?

Most importantly, are you the genuine, loving, caring Christian that will make a Christ-like difference in your congregation?


[1] Christian Forums, Baptists, ‘Fake people in churches? What do y’all think?’, Fobulous#1, available at: (Accessed 22 August 2012).

[2] This is part of my post as OzSpen#2, in ibid.


Copyright © 2015 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 30 October 2015.

To evangelize or not to evangelize?

Who am I?

(courtesy ChristArt)

By Spencer D Gear

A Christian friend wrote to me recently and asked, ‘I’m wondering if you believe all Christians have a duty to evangelise? I’m trying to find someone who can explain the Scriptural case for it’. This is a penetrating question.

I had not thought too deeply about it of late but have taken it for granted from my evangelical church tradition that it is the responsibility of all Christians to engage in evangelism. My friend’s question got me to thinking about biblical support for my position.

Those supporting every-person evangelism

My friend summarised the understanding of the basic message of the people in his church who believe that all should engage in evangelism:

1. Evangelism is a universal command stated in Scripture.

2. Therefore all Christians should evangelise.

3. All Christians don’t evangelise.

4. Therefore those who don’t are less virtuous (e.g. lazy, scared, excuse-making, not prioritising the Kingdom, ignorant) at best, deemed immoral at worst (NB, disobedient or rebellious to Christ’s command).

5. Therefore it is the responsibility of other Christians to exhort the non-evangelising Christians to evangelise.

He provided no biblical references to support this view.

Those supporting evangelism as a special gift

The other group of the congregation promotes the view which he supports, that the evangelism is to be done by those with the gift of evangelism. He stated his position:

1. God uses the Church to accomplish His mission.

2. God equips individuals differently for ministry according to His purposes.

3. The Church body is to value diversity of ministry, valuing each member’s ministry as equally important to the whole.

4. The Scriptures records the Church leadership discouraging others imposing or elevating their personal faith commitments and understanding onto others due to the risk of creating disunity.

5. The Scriptures does not record the church leadership exhorting entire congregations to evangelise. (I may be ignorant here and will happily be proved wrong)

6. Therefore it seems biblically inconsistent to place explicit or implicit expectations onto all Christians that they should be exhorted by other believers to evangelise.

Please note that he provided no biblical references to support his position.

What does the Bible emphasize?

a. Some have the special gift of being an evangelist.

These Scriptures emphasise that gift:

  • Ephesians 4:11-12, ‘And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds[1] and teachers,[2] to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ (ESV).
  • Acts 21:8, ‘On the next day we departed and came to Caesarea, and we entered the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, and stayed with him’.

There are only three uses of the word ‘evangelist’ in the entire Bible. They are Acts 21:8; Eph 4:11, and 2 Tim 4:5. This latter verse exhorts Timothy to ‘do the work of an evangelist’ and is not speaking of the gift of an evangelist. However, the few mentions of ‘evangelist’ do not diminish the fact that it is one of God’s special ministry gifts to the church.

Charles Spurgeon once asked in a sermon:


First, a very great part of that necessity springs from the call itself: If a man be truly called of God to the ministry, I will defy him to withhold himself from it. A man who has really within him the inspiration of the Holy Ghost calling him to preach cannot help it. He must preach. As fire within the bones, so will that influence be until it blazes forth. Friends may check him, foes criticise him, despisers sneer at him, the man is indomitable; he must preach if he has the call of heaven….

I think it no more possible to make a man cease from preaching, if he is really called, than to stop some mighty cataract, by seeking, with an infant’s cup, to drink its waters. The man has been moved of heaven, who shall stop him?… I think if God has called a man, he will impel him to be more or less constantly at it, and he will feel that he must preach among the nations the unsearchable riches of Christ….

I have preached this sermon especially, because I want to commence a movement from this place which shall reach others. I want to find some in my church, if it be possible, who will preach the gospel. And mark you, if you have talent and power, woe is unto you if you preach not the gospel (Preach the Gospel, Sermon No 34, 3.1).

Spurgeon himself was one of those with this special gift.

b. Everyone to evangelize

1. Paul wrote to Timothy whose primary gift was pastoral and said, ‘As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry (2 Tim 4:5, emphasis added).

Timothy, who did not have the gift of evangelism, was commanded to ‘do the work of an evangelist’. This has application to every believer, no matter what their gifts, to engage in evangelism – sharing the Gospel with unbelievers.

2. Matthew 28:18-20 (emphasis added), ‘And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age’.

So these disciples were to teach disciples to observe (i.e. put into practice) all that Jesus commanded them. What did he command them in these 3 verses? To go and make disciples of all nations. Evangelising is a prerequisite of discipleship. To make disciples among the nations means that ALL disciples need to put Matt 28:18-20 into practice. Yes, the original message was given to 11 disciples (Matt 28:16), but to be in the NT should mean that it is there for all Christians to put into practice, ‘Make disciples of all nations’, baptising and teaching to put into practice what Jesus commanded his original disciples.

Matthew 28 should be the most convincing as we are told to disciple all nations and teach them to put into practice what Jesus has commanded – evangelism and discipleship. It’s everyone’s responsibility. Obviously some have the special gift of evangelism (I’m not one of them), but I’m told to evangelise.

3. Second Corinthians 5:17-20 (emphasis added), ‘

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 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’ (ESV).

Verse 17 gives the context of ‘anyone’ who ‘is in Christ’ – anyone who ‘is a new creation’. So this applies to all Christians. What is one of the roles of these Christians? God ‘gave us the ministry of reconciliation’ (v 18) and ‘we are ambassadors for Christ’ (v 19). So the ministry of reconciliation (we can call it witnessing or evangelism) is a requirement for ‘anyone’ who is ‘in Christ’ and ‘is a new creation’.

I consider that this is further evidence to demonstrate that sharing our faith – the ministry of reconciliation between rebel sinners and God – belongs to all believers, anyone who is a new creation in Christ.

c. Preaching the gospel by deeds?

There’s a challenging article by Duane Litfin in Christianity Today, ‘Works and words: Why you can’t preach the gospel with deeds‘ (30 May 2012). Part of this article states:

So let us say it again: The belief that we can “preach the gospel” with our actions alone represents muddled thinking. However important our actions may be (and they are very important indeed), and whatever else they may be doing (they serve a range of crucial functions), they are not “preaching the gospel.” The gospel is inherently verbal, and preaching it is inherently verbal behavior. If the gospel is to be communicated at all, it must be put into words.

Living for Jesus, being a light for him, or doing good deeds are not considered the Gospel. They may attract people to Jesus through your life, but words are needed to proclaim the Gospel.

The role of the gift of an evangelist

There is definitely a special calling to be an evangelist, e.g. Eph 4:11-14; but please note what the role is for these specially gifted people – including the evangelist:

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes (Eph 4:11-14 ESV).

Let’s use the role of the special gift of evangelist as an example. The job description is:

  • ‘to equip the saints for the work of ministry’. It doesn’t say the role of the evangelist is to equip other specially gifted evangelists for their role as evangelists.
  • This equipping of the saints builds up the body of Christ, and in thus doing it leads to….
  • ‘unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God’, and it leads to….
  • maturity, which is a measure of the fullness of Christ in our lives.
  • By being equipped in this way, we will not be tossed about by false doctrine, cunning and deceitful schemes (i.e. we will be equipped in polemics).

I hope I’m not drawing a long bow here. One of the greatest deficiencies in the contemporary church, from my observation, is its inability to take these equipping verses seriously and do the job of equipping all believers for ministry. The practical questions could include:

(1) How do I know who are the gifted people in our church groups? I have generally found that they will become self-evident. Get me in any small group and it should become evident through my participation that my gift is that of a teacher. An evangelist’s gift will shine wherever he goes. My friend, Pastor Chuck Parrot of Covenant Baptist Church, Union, South Carolina, USA, has an obvious gift of an evangelist. Go with him to any store and you’ll soon find out, as we discovered when he visited us in Australia.

clip_image002Covenant Baptist Church (Union SC)

(2) Which people will agree to being equipped? In the church I currently attend, I don’t know of any evangelist who would be able to equip people in evangelism. We would need to bring in an evangelist to do that. Or, should that be done by the pastoral team? I doubt it, knowing the current range of gifts.

(3) For much of the equipping in my ministry I have sought help from outside sources for Child Wise, How to parent your out-of-control-teenager, domestic violence counselling and prevention, preaching (homiletics), systematic theology, etc.

You also might be interested in John Stott’s view in his sermon, ‘Preach the Gospel: 2 Timothy 4).

Conclusion: Why are these emphases in the New Testament?

An issue for me in all of these verses is: Why are they in the New Testament if they are not to apply to the whole church? Originally they might have been addressed to 11 or 12 of Jesus’ disciples or Paul’s audiences, but they are in Scripture because we need to practise this teaching.

I conclude with these biblical emphases:

(1) There are those who have the special gift of evangelism. They should exercise that gift AND use it to equip other believers for their ministries of evangelism. Some will need to ‘do the work of an evangelist’ even though their special gift is not evangelism.

(2) There are enough verses to emphasise that all those who are new people in Christ (i.e. all Christians) should be proclaiming the message of reconciliation through Christ and being ambassadors for Christ.

The Lost
(courtesy ChristArt)


[1] The ESV footnote was, ‘Or pastors’.

[2] The ESV footnote was, ‘Or the shepherd-teachers’.


Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 18 November 2015.

Acts 17:18, Unbelievers and the apostle Paul’s preaching[1]

Street Preacher

(image courtesy ChristArt)


By Spencer D Gear


I find it distracting when I see the lengths to which some Calvinists will go to try to demonstrate their theologies of unconditional election, limited atonement (particular redemption) and irresistible grace (the ULI of TULIP).

Is the Gospel to be preached to all sinners or only to the elect?

Here is an example where a Calvinist on Christian Forums wrote: ‘He [Paul] didn’t preach to unbelievers. He witnessed to them. Find in Acts where he presented the gospel in the manner that you suggest’.[2]

I was asked by an Arminian, ‘Did Paul preach the gospel to unbelievers?’[3] Let’s go to the book of Acts for one substantive example.

Did Paul preach to unbelievers?

Let’s use Acts 17:16-21 as an example with Paul in Athens and provoked by its idolatry:[4]

16 Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols. 17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the market-place every day with those who happened to be there. 18 Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said, “What does this babbler wish to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities”—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. 19 And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20 For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean.” 21 Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new (ESV, emphasis added).

It’s a BIG stretch of the imagination to say that there were no unbelievers among:

  • people ‘in the market-place every day with those who happened to be there’.
  • ‘Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers’. Were these all Christian philosophical believers that Paul preached to in Athens?
  • Who would address this preacher with the question, ‘What does this babbler wish to say?‘ Are you telling me that a person who heard preaching on Jesus and the resurrection who was a believer would accuse Paul of being a ‘babbler’?
  • I am dumbfounded to think that a born-again, regenerated, atoned-for believer would say: ‘you bring some strange things to our ears’ with preaching on Jesus and the resurrection;
  • all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there’ were all believers???? That’s a stretch.

And I haven’t dealt with Paul’s audience at the Areopagus (Acts 17:22-34). Among Paul’s audience at the Areopagus were those who, ‘when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked’ (Acts 17:32). So these mockers of the resurrection of the dead were all believers, were they?

We could continue with evidence of unbelievers among the audience where Paul preached, as recorded in Acts. When Paul and Silas were in Berea, it states that ‘many of them therefore believed’ (Acts 17:12). So is it saying that believers now believed? That again is stretching my imagination beyond belief.

How would a Calvinist respond?

John Calvin Image

John Calvin (image courtesy

When this Calvinist claimed that Paul did not preach to unbelievers and I supplied this information from Acts 17, how do you think he might respond? He didn’t deal with the content of what I wrote, but asked a further question, ‘Where does it say he preached?’[5] He also stated:

It’s been my understanding that preaching is for believers. It’s the work if (sic) the preacher/teacher. Witnessing is what you do with unbelievers.

I also understand that these terms can be a bit ambiguous. So it won’t be a hill I’m dying on.[6]

The Calvinist’s persistence and dogmatism on Paul not preaching to the unbelievers is exposed by careful exegesis of Acts 17.


Paul did preach to unbelievers!

Therefore, I provided this exegesis:[7]He preached in Athens to unbelievers about Jesus and the resurrection, according to Acts 17:18.

In the portion I quoted from Acts 17:18, it stated: ‘ Others said, “He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities”—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection‘ (ESV).
clip_image002The Greek word translated ‘preacher’ (ESV) is kataggeleus, which is a masculine noun, based on the verb, kataggellw.[8] What is the meaning of kataggellw?

According to Arndt & Gringrich’s Greek lexicon, it means ‘proclaim (solemnly) … the gospel 1 Cor 9:14’. In Acts 4:2; 13:5; 15:36 and 17:13 the meaning is ‘proclaim in the person of Jesus the resurrection from the dead’ (Arndt & Gingrich 1957:410).

It is straining at a gnat to make ‘proclaim’ not mean preaching today as with Billy Graham’s preaching/proclaiming the Gospel. It meant ‘proclaim’ in the Book of Acts, just as it does today.
clip_image002[1]‘Preaching’ (ESV) is the imperfect, middle, indicative verb of euaggelizw. What is the meaning of euaggelizw? It means ‘bring or announce good news … mostly specifically of the divine message of salvation, the Messianic proclamation, the gospel … proclaim, preach’ (Arndt & Gingrich 1957:317). According to the ‘bible’ of Greek dictionaries (lexicons), Arndt & Gingrich, when Paul was in Athens he proclaimed, preached the good news of the Gospel of salvation, according to Acts 17:18.

Therefore, it is incorrect to write that Paul did not preach to unbelievers according to the Book of Acts. The unbelievers knew he was proclaiming / preaching, and claimed he was ‘a preacher of “foreign divinities” – because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection’ (Acts 17:18). It is this Calvinist who is wrong by claiming that Paul did not preach to unbelievers in the Book of Acts. The etymology of the Greek words confounds that understanding.

Works consulted

Arndt, W F & Gingrich, F W 1957. A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature.[9] Chicago: The University of Chicago Press (limited edition licensed to Zondervan Publishing House).


[1]This is my post as OzSpen #410, Christian Forums, General Theology, Soteriology, ‘What did Paul preach to the Corinthians?’ available at: 23 November 2013).

[2]Ibid., Hammster #327,

[3]Ibid., janxharris #364,

[4]Ibid., OzSpen #391,

[5]Ibid., Hammster #395.

[6]Ibid., Hammster #394.

[7]Ibid., OzSpen #410,

[8] I have used ‘w’ to transliterate the omega, to differentiate it from ‘o’, as a transliteration of omicron, as the regular transliteration of omega  is not accepted by the html of Christian Forums website. The usual transliteration of the Greek omega is o with an ellipse, but this translates as ? in my html, hence the use of ‘w’ to transliterate omega.

[9] This is ‘a translation and adaptation of Walter Bauer’s Griechisch-Deutsches Wörtbuch zu den Schriften des Neuen Testaments und der übrigen urchristlichen Literatur’ (4th rev & augmented edn 1952) (Arndt & Gingrich 1957:iii).


Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 10 October 2016.

What hope is there in hopeless situations?


(courtesy ChristArt)

By Spencer D Gear

If you watch the nightly TV news in Queensland, you’ll know about the bikie violence on Queensland’s Gold Coast[1] and a police officer shot in the face.[2]

But you won’t hear about this very often:

designRed In Australia about 100,000[3] babies are murdered each year, with 45-50 million slaughtered annually worldwide by abortion.[4]

But where is that on the TV news?

designRed In the state of Victoria, Australia, about 20,000 unborn babies ‘are mercilessly cut to pieces, poisoned, burned or butchered each and every year. And in 2008 one of the world’s most liberal abortion laws was passed: the Abortion Law Reform Act 2008 (Vic)’.[5]

I’ll be surprised if you heard too much of that on TV, radio or newspaper news here in Australia.


Where in Africa is Guinea? ( African history)

Have you heard about this on your TV news?

Christian families in the African nation of Guinea are in a desperate plight, having been forced to live in makeshift shelters in the bush after their homes were destroyed in a severe outbreak of violence. Churches and Christian properties were targeted by a Muslim tribe in N’Zerekore and two other towns in the south-eastern Forested Guinea region in mid-July [2013]. Within the space of 24 hours, 11 church buildings were destroyed and the homes and shops of many Christians looted and torched.

Christians suffered horrendous violence during the rampage. One woman was seized by the Muslim attackers, who tortured her and covered her in petrol before setting her alight. They left her screaming in agony, saying, “She is dead, let us not waste our time here.”

Miraculously, she survived, after hiding in an abandoned building for three days with severe burns to her head, back, shoulders and arms before being taken to hospital (The Barnabas Fund). [6]

This was just one of many shocking cases that you probably didn’t hear on your nightly TV news.

Where is hope?

How can hope be found in these kinds of hopeless circumstances? To be honest, the hope that comes to bikies, those who shoot policemen, women (impregnated by men) having abortions of unwanted babies, Christians being persecuted in Guinea and many other parts of the world and others, is found in this:

cubed-iron-sm Jesus said, ‘The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly’ (John 10:10 ESV).

cubed-iron-sm  ‘His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire’ (2 Peter 1:3-4).

cubed-iron-sm ‘Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come’ (2 Cor 5:17).

God calls this kind of change …

From God’s side, this change of heart is called regeneration, the new birth, being born again. From the side of human beings, it is called conversion to Christ.

matte-red-arrow-small ‘We may define regeneration as the communication of divine life to the soul’ (John 3:5; 10:10, 28; 1 John 5:11, 12),

matte-red-arrow-small as the impartation of a new nature (2 Pet. 1:4) or heart (Jer. 24:7; Ezek. 11:19; 36:26),

matte-red-arrow-small and the production of a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17; Eph. 2:10; 4:24),

matte-red-arrow-small Henry Thiessen put it this way, ‘The term heart in Scripture means the soul, the self. It is that which thinks, feels, wills and acts. It is clear from this that regeneration involves the whole soul’ – the entire person (Thiessen 1949:367).

What needs changing?

Bikies, police chasing bikies, doctors killing unborn children, those persecuting Christians here and abroad, are doing that because by nature, human beings cannot have fellowship with God.

murky-arrow-small A moral change needs to come to all human beings and that can only happen if God regenerates the human hearts of bikies, police, doctors, pregnant mothers, persecutors – in fact, all human beings.

murky-arrow-small The Scriptures call this the new birth by which rebels become children of God. It happens this way: ‘But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God’ (John 1:12).

murky-arrow-small Why oh why do all people need this change? Because by nature all people are ‘children of wrath’ (Eph 2:3), ‘sons of disobedience’ (Eph 2:2), ‘sons of this world’ (Luke 16:8) and ‘children of the devil’ (1 John 3:10).

This is the HOPE!

John 3:36

(courtesy ChristArt)

Seeing the evil around us and all over the world has placed a big sign of HOPE in my vision. This is the HOPE:

snowflake-red-small Bikies need the Gospel;

snowflake-red-small Police need the proclamation of Christ;

snowflake-red-small  Pregnant mothers planning abortion need the hope of change through regeneration that only Christ can bring.

snowflake-red-small Persecutors in Africa need to find new life, from the inside out.

snowflake-red-small There is only one way that I know that will absolutely guarantee that Christians will not be slaughtered and persecuted – that’s through the change of hearts of persecutors that only Jesus can bring.

snowflake-red-small How will they hear without a proclaimer? Romans 10:14 in the New Living Translation states, ‘But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?’ How will we make Christ known to people in your suburb?

snowflake-red-small Our city desperately needs everyday people who will do what Paul said to Timothy, ‘But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry’ (2 Tim 4:5 NIV). It would seem that Timothy’s primary gifting was not evangelism, but Paul said to him what he says to us today: Even if you don’t have the primary gift of evangelism, do the work of an evangelist, evangelise your community. Church leaders! Equip your people – all of them – to do the work of an evangelist.

snowflake-red-smallThat’s the only hope I can see for bikies, police, persecutors of Christians around the world, pregnant women wanting to kill their unborn babies. It’s God’s only message for all kinds of rebels. Jesus changes people. God regenerates antagonists. He changes them from the inside out. People need to be born again; regenerated by God through receiving Christ.

snowflake-red-small Will you do the work of an evangelist in your community, with your neighbours? How about it?

snowflake-red-small It’s God’s only hope for our depraved world.

Globe The Content of the Gospel (and hope)

Works consulted

Thiessen, H C 1949. Introductory Lectures in Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.


[1] See, 18 charged after bikie gang brawls on Gold Coast’ (ABC News, 28 Sept 2013); ‘National anti-gang squad formed to fight bikies amid fear of backlash against Queensland crackdown’ (ABC News, 3 October 2013); ‘Scores of bikies arrested as gang war looms’ (, 28 September 2013)

[2]Qld cop shot on force’s most sombre day’ (7 News, 27 September 2013).

[3] ‘”Somehow up to 100,000 abortions a year is accepted as a fact of life, almost by some as a badge of liberation from old oppressions,” Abbott told parliament’, The Australian, ‘Don’t mention the A-word: Abortion’, August 14, 2010, available at: (Accessed 8 October 2013).

[4] ‘According to WHO [World Health Organisation], every year in the world there are an estimated 40-50 million abortions. This corresponds to approximately 125,000 abortions per day’, Worldometers: Abortion, available at: (Accessed 8 October 2013, emphasis in original).

[5] Bill Muehlenberg, Culture Watch, ‘This is why we march’, 7 Oct 2013, available at: (Accessed 8 October 2013).

[6] The Barnabas Fund, 4 October 2013, available at: (Accessed 8 October 2013).


Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 3 November 2015.

The Content of the Gospel . . . and some discipleship [1]

Gospel Feet
(image courtesy ChristArt)

Compiled by Spencer D. Gear [2]

Two rather different experiences came out of the communist experiment with trying to create a classless society. Both examples point to a need for something in life that goes beyond what our senses interpret.

6pointblueRomanian pastor, Richard Wurmbrand, spent 14 years in a communist prison – three of these years were in solitary confinement. Later, he was able to say,

“We prisoners have experienced the power of God, the love of God which made us leap with joy. Prison has proved that love is as strong as death. We have conquered through Christ. Officers with rubber truncheons came to interrogate us; we interrogated them, and they became Christians. Other prisoners had been converted. . . The Communists believe that happiness comes from material satisfaction; but alone in my cell, cold, hungry and in rags, I danced for joy every night… Sometimes I was so filled with joy that I felt I would burst if I did not give it expression. . . I had discovered a beauty in Christ which I had not known before.”[3]The other experience is told by Christian journalist, Philip Yancey who said,

“I remember vividly a meeting with the editors of Pravda, formerly the official mouthpiece of the Community Party… Pravda’s circulation was falling dramatically (from eleven million to 700,000) in concert with communism’s fall from grace. The editors of Pravda seemed earnest, sincere, searching–shaken to the core. So shaken that they were now asking advice from emissaries of a religion their founder had scorned as ‘the opiate of the people.’ “The editors remarked wistfully that Christianity and communism have many of the same ideals: equality, sharing, justice, and racial harmony. Yet they had to admit the Marxist pursuit of their vision had produced the worst nightmares the world has ever seen. Why? “‘We don’t know how to motivate people to show compassion,’ said the editor-in-chief. ‘We tried raising money for the children of Chernobyl [who had suffered badly from radiation sickness when the nuclear reactor exploded.], but the average Russian citizen would rather spend his money on drink. How do you reform and motivate people? How do you get them to be good?’ “Seventy-four years of communism had proved beyond all doubt that goodness could not be legislated from the Kremlin and enforced at the point of a gun.” [4] How can we obtain joy and hope in the here and now, even when in prison? What will bring motivation to show compassion to the unlovely and suffering? It is the same inner change that brings eternal life. How can we experience this salvation that comes with an eternal guarantee?Here’s an outline of some of the essentials!

A.    You must understand God’s holiness.

“God’s holiness means that he is separated from sin and devoted to seeking his own honor.”[5] See Proverbs 9:10; Psalm 111:10; Job 28:28; Proverbs 1:7; 15:33; Micah 6:9.

1.    God is utterly holy and His law, therefore, demands perfect holiness.
See Leviticus 11:44-45; Joshua 24:19; I Samuel 2:2; 6:20.2.    Even the New Testament gospel requires this holiness.
See I Peter 1:15-16; Hebrews 12:14.

3.    Because the Lord God Almighty is holy, He hates sin.
Exodus 20:5.

4.    Sinners cannot stand before Him

  • What is sin? “Sin is any failure to conform to the moral law of God in act, attitude, or nature. . . Sin is more than simply painful and destructive — it is also wrong in the deepest sense of the word. . . Sin is directly opposite to all that is good in the character of God.”[6]

See Psalm 1:5

B.    You must understand God’s righteousness/justice.

    In English, the terms “righteousness” and “justice” are different words. This is not so in the Hebrew Old Testament and the Greek New Testament. There is only one word group behind these two English terms.[7]

1.    What is God’s righteousness/justice?

  • “God always acts in accordance with what is right and is himself the final standard of what is right.”[8]
  • What is right or just? “Whatever conforms to God’s moral character is right.”[9]

Deuteronomy 32:4; Genesis 18:25; Psalm 19:8; Isaiah 45:19; Romans 9:20-21.

2.    Christ’s sacrifice was to show God’s righteousness

  • When God sent Christ as a sacrifice to bear the punishment for sin, it was to show God’s righteousness. See Romans 3:25-26.

C.  You must understand that you are a sinner who sins & God hates sin.

  • Gospel means “good news.”
  • What makes it truly “good news” is not only that heaven is free, but also God’s Son has conquered that sin.
  • Jesus said: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17). What do you think Jesus meant by that?

1.    Sin is what it is that makes true peace impossible for unbelievers.

    Isaiah 57:20-21

2.    All have sinned.

    Romans 3:10-18

3.    Sin makes the sinner worthy of death.

    James 1:5; Romans 6:23

4.    Sinners can do nothing to earn salvation.

    Isaiah 64:6; Romans 3:20; Galatians 2:16; Revelation 21:8

D.  You must understand the wrath of God.

    “If God loves all that is right and good, and all that conforms to his moral character, then it should not be surprising that he would hate everything that is opposed to his moral character. God’s wrath directed against sin is therefore closely related to God’s holiness and justice.”[10]

1.  What is the wrath of God?

“God’s wrath means that he intensely hates all sin.”[11]

    Exodus 32:9-10; Deuteronomy 9:7-8; 29:23; 2 Kings 22:13; John 3:36; Romans 1:18; 2:5, 8; 5:9; 9:22; Colossians 3:6; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 2:16; 5:9; Hebrews 3:11; Revelation 6:16-17; 19:15.

2.  God is slow to inflict his wrath on people. Why?

    See Psalm 103:8-9; Romans 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9-10.

E. How can God’s wrath be pacified/appeased?

1. God has provided a way through blood-sacrifice.

Leviticus 8:15; 17:11

2.  By Christ’s death (blood-sacrifice), he appeased the wrath of God.

Hebrews 9:7, 12, 20, 22, 24.

3.  God calls this “propitiation” and it makes God favourable towards sinners.

Romans 3:25; Hebrews 2:17; I John 2:2; 45:10 (atoning sacrifice/sacrifice of atonement = propitiation)
  • Propitiation is important “because it is the heart of the doctrine of the atonement. It means that there is an eternal, unchangeable requirement in the holiness and justice of God that sin be paid for. Furthermore, before the atonement ever could have an effect on our subjective consciousness, it first had an effect on God and his relation to the sinners he planned to redeem. Apart from this central truth, the death of Christ really cannot be adequately understood.”[12]
  • “The atonement is the work Christ did in his life and death to earn our salvation.”[13]

F. Who is Christ and what has He done for you?

    The solution for the sinner is found in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ.

1.    Christ is eternally God

John 1:1-3, 14; Colossians 2:9

2.    Christ is Lord of all

Revelation 17:14; Philippians 2:9-11; Acts 10:36

3.    Christ became man

Philippians 2:6-7

4.    Christ is utterly pure and sinless

    Hebrews 4:15; 1 Peter 2:22-23; 1 John 3:5

5.    The sinless one became a sacrifice for YOUR sin

    2 Corinthians 5:21; Titus 2:14

6.    He shed His own blood as an atonement for sin

    Ephesians 1:7-8; Revelation 1:5

7.    He died on the cross to provide a way of salvation for sinners

    1 Peter 2:24; Colossians 1:20

8.     Christ rose triumphantly from the dead

    Romans 1:4; 4:25; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4

G. What does God demand of you?

“Repentant faith is the requirement. It is NOT merely a ‘decision’ to trust Christ for eternal life, but a wholesale forsaking of everything else we trust, and a turning to Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour.”[14]

1. Repent

What is repentance? “Repentance is a heartfelt sorrow for sin, a renouncing of it, and a sincere commitment to forsake it and walk in obedience to Christ.”[15]

Ezekiel 18:30, 32; Acts 17:30; 26:2; Luke 13:32.  Turn your heart from all that you know dishonours God
Thessalonians 1:9

3. Follow Jesus
Luke 9:23, 62; John 12:26

4. Trust Jesus as your Lord and Saviour
Acts 16:31; Romans 10:9

5.  Repentance and faith continue throughout your life

Repentance and faith must start together at the beginning of the Christian life. See Acts 20:21. Repentance and faith must be lived by Christians throughout their lives.
  •    Concerning faith, see Galatians 2:20; I Corinthians 13:13.
  •    Concerning repentance, see Revelation 3:19; 2 Corinthians 7:10

“Conversion is a single action of turning from sin in repentance and turning to Christ in faith.
“Therefore, it is clearly contrary to the New Testament evidence to speak about the possibility of having true saving faith without having any repentance for sin.  It is also contrary to the New Testament to speak about the possibility of someone accepting Christ ‘as Savior’ but not ‘as Lord,’ if that means simply depending on him for salvation but not committing oneself to forsake sin and to be obedient to Christ from that point on. . .
“Some prominent voices within evangelicalism have differed with this point, arguing that a gospel presentation that requires repentance as well as faith is really preaching salvation by works.  They argue that the view advocated [here] that repentance and faith must go together, is a false gospel of ‘lordship salvation.’  They would say that saving faith only involves trusting Christ as Savior, and that submitting to him as Lord is an optional later step that is unnecessary for salvation.  For many who teach this view, saving faith only requires an intellectual agreement with the facts of the gospel. . .
“The source of this view of the gospel is apparently Lewis Sperry Chafer. . . [who says], ‘the New Testament does not impose repentance upon the unsaved as a condition of salvation. . .’  Chafer recognizes that many verses call upon people to repent, but he simply defines repentance away as a ‘change of mind’ that does not include sorrow for sin or turning from sin”[16].

H.  You must count the cost of following Jesus with much thought.

  • Salvation is absolutely free.
  • So is joining the army; you don’t have to pay to get into it. Everything you need is provided.[17]
  • Following Christ is like joining the army. It will cost you daily. It will cost you freedom, family, friends, doing things your own way (autonomy), and possibly even your life.[18]
  • I must tell you, a prospective believer, the full truth and nothing but the truth.
  • Read what Jesus said about this in Luke 14:26-33; Matthew 10:34-38; Romans 6:6.

A.W. Tozer wrote:

“The cross is the most revolutionary thing ever to appear among men. The cross of Roman times knew no compromise; it never made concessions. It won all its arguments by killing its opponent and silencing him for good. It spared not Christ, but slew Him the same as the rest. He was alive when they hung Him on that cross and completely dead when they took Him down six hours later. That was the cross the first time it appeared in Christian history. . . The cross effects [i.e. brings about] its ends by destroying one established pattern, the victim’s, and creating another pattern, its own. Thus it always has its way. It wins by defeating its opponent and imposing its will upon him. It always dominates. It never compromises, never dickers nor confers, never surrenders a point for the sake of peace. It cares not for peace; it cares only to end its opposition as fast as possible.
    With perfect knowledge of all this, Christ said, ‘If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.’ So the cross not only brings Christ’s life to an end, it ends also the first life, the old life, of every one of His true followers. It destroys the old pattern, the Adam pattern, in the believer’s life, and brings it to an end. Then the God who raised Christ from the dead raises the believer and a new life begins.
This, and nothing less, is true Christianity. . .
    We must do something about the cross, and one of two things only we can do – flee it or die upon it.”[19]

  • Read Mark 8:35-37.

I.  I urge you to trust (have faith in) Christ alone for your salvation.

  • 2 Corinthians 5:11, 20; Isaiah 55:7; Romans 10:9-10;

What will you do with Jesus?

J.  After you trust Christ alone, what should you do? Where do good works fit in?

  • Good works: See Hebrews 5:9; Titus 2:14; Ephesians 2:10; James 2:10-26;
  • Baptism: See Acts 2:28; 8:36-39; Mark 16:16; Romans 4:10-11;
  • Join with a local church. See Hebrews 10:25.

K. What was the first creed of the early church?

    See Romans 10:9-10; 1 Corinthians 12:3; 2 Corinthians 4:5.

L.  How will you know that you are a Christian?

1.    You presently continue to trust Christ for salvation

Colossians 1:23; Hebrews 3:14; 6:12; John 3:16 (“believes” means “continues believing in him.”[20])

2.    There will be evidence in your heart of the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit[21]

  • Through the subjective testimony of the Holy Spirit within your hearts. Romans 8:14-16; 1 John 4:13.
  • Your life will produce the fruit of the Spirit. Galatians 5:22-23
  • You continue to believe and accept the sound teaching of the church. 1 John 2:23-24
  • You will have a continuing relationship with Jesus Christ. John 15:4, 7
  • You will have a life of obedience to God’s commands. 1 John 2:4-6, 10, 19; 3:9-10, 14, 17, 24; 4:7; 5:18; James 2:17-18.
  • You will give to needy people. Matthew 25:31-46

3.    You will have a long-term pattern of growth and obedience in your Christian life

  • 2 Peter 1:5-7, 10; John 6:40

4.    You will demonstrate you have genuine faith by your good works

  • See James 2:14-26; Matt 25:31-46.

M.  How will other people know that you are a Christian?

 1.  By the fruit in your life

  • Galatians 5:22-23; Matthew 7:16-20; 25:31-46; James 2:17-18

N.  Do you want to repent and trust Christ alone for your salvation and live eternally for and with him?

O.  What happens to those who reject God’s offer of salvation?

Because God is an absolutely just God, if you reject his offer of salvation you will receive the consequences that God, the Maker, Sustainer, and Ruler of the world, has decided. At death, God sends you to hell.

1.    Hell forever

    “Hell is a place of eternal conscious punishment for the wicked.”[22] David Kingdon wrote: “Sin against the Creator is heinous to a degree utterly beyond our sin-warped imaginations’ [ability] to conceive of. . . Who would have the temerity to suggest to God what the punishment . . . should be?”[23]
    Matthew 25:30, 41, 46; Mark 9:43, 48; Luke 16:22-24, 28; Revelation 14:9-11; 19:3

2.    Is hell just?
Revelation 19:1-3

“Be under no illusion.  Unbelievers deserve to go to hell.  And it is fair for God to send them there.  Don’t blame God or say it is unfair.  Man it is who has sinned.  He is the rebel who continues to defy God and break his holy laws.  In his heart he hates God and refuses to honour or serve him.  He does not want God to interfere with his life or tell him how to live.  And man is without excuse.  The evidence stares him in the face.  Even creation tells him that God exists and that God is powerful as well as eternal.  Man’s conscience also tells him of his duty to obey God.  There is the Bible, too, which reveals God to man.  But man ignores the evidence.  He continues to sin without realizing that God, in his holiness and anger, must punish him for his disobedience.  ‘The soul who sins is the one who will die (Ezekiel 18:4).” [24]

W. G. T. Shedd said, “If there were no hell in Scripture, we should be compelled to invent one.” [25]  C. S. Lewis wrote: “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done’.  All that are in hell choose it.” [26]

See my article, Is hell fair?

Matthew 11:28 (ESV):  Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.


  1. This summary of the content of the Gospel is based on John F. MacArthur Jr., Faith Works: The Gospel According to the Apostles. Milton Keynes, England: Word Publishing, 1993, p. 247ff.

2.  Spencer D Gear PhD is an independent researcher, Bible teacher and Christian apologist living in Brisbane, Qld., Australia. He completed his PhD in New Testament (University of Pretoria, South Africa) in an aspect of the historical Jesus and is ordained with the Christian & Missionary Alliance of Australia.

  3. Richard Wurmbrand, In God’s Underground (Diane Books), in David K. Watson, How to Find God. Wheaton, Illinois: Harold Shaw Publishers, 1974, p. 65.

  4. Philip Yancey, The Jesus I Never Knew. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1995, p. 75.

  5. Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994, p. 201

  6. Ibid., pp. 490, 492.

  7. Ibid., p. 203.

  8. Ibid.

  9. Ibid., p. 204.

10. Ibid., pp. 205-206.

11. Ibid., p. 206.

12. Ibid., p. 575.

13. Ibid., p. 568.

14. MacArthur., p. 252.

15. Grudem, p. 713.

16.  Ibid., p. 714,  including note 5.

17. MacArthur, p. 253.

18. Ibid.

19. Ibid., pp. 254-55, from A. W. Tozer, The Root of the Righteous. Harrisburg, Pa.: Christian Publications, 1955, pp. 61-63.

20. Grudem, p. 803.

21. Ibid., p. 803-806.

22. Ibid., p. 1148.

23. In ibid., p. 1151.

24.  Eryl Davies, Condemned For Ever! What the Bible teaches about eternal punishment.  Welwyn, Hertfordshire, England: Evangelical Press, 1987, pp. 77-78.  This quote is taken from Davies’ chapter, “Is it fair?”  He is asking the question about the justice and fairness of God sending unbelievers to hell.

25. In John Blanchard, Whatever Happened to Hell?  Darling, Co. Durham, England: Evangelical Press, 1992, p. 148.

26. In ibid., p. 149.

Copyright (c) 2007 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 12 March 2018.

Can the worst of people be changed – without God?

Ribbon Salvation Button

By Spencer D Gear

In my work with abused children and abusers, I often hear statements like, “There is no hope for the paedophile. Once a molester, always a molester.” As I see it, rebellious behaviour is in plague proportions in the cities in which I work as a youth and family counsellor.. Parents say things to me like, “She’s been a difficult child from birth, a rebel all her life. She’s heading for the clink. She’s out of control. You fix her.”

Can a leopard change its spots? Definitely not! But there is Someone who can change paedophiles into people with true love. Prostitutes are being remade. The dishonest can become people of integrity. Rebels can be turned into law-abiding citizens and cons into upright, Christian citizens. But self-effort won’t do it.

I am reminded of an event in the life of Dr Harry Ironside[1], an evangelist and Bible teacher of renown in the USA in the early part of the 20th century. He was walking past a Salvation Army open-air meeting in San Francisco when he was recognised by the Salvos. They invited him to share how Christ had changed him.

As Dr. Ironside finished his testimony, a known lecturer on socialism provoked the doctor with this challenge: “Sir, I challenge you to debate with me the question ‘Agnosticism vs. Christianity’ in the Academy of Science Hall next Sunday afternoon at four o’clock. I will pay all expenses.”

Dr. Ironside agreed, but on two conditions. First, the agnostic must promise to bring with him one man who was once a no-hoper. The exact nature of what wrecked his life did not matter. He could find a drunkard, criminal, sex pervert, or any other such person. That person had been changed into an upstanding citizen by becoming an agnostic. Righteousness and goodness came flooding into his life through pursuing the ideals of “I don’t know if there is a God.”

Second, Dr. Ironside asked the agnostic to promise also to bring with him one woman who was once an outcast, slave to evil passions and a victim of corrupt living. She was ruined and wretched but had been turned around. She had attended a meeting where the agnostic was proclaiming the benefits of agnosticism and was ridiculing the message of the Bible.

As she listened to him, new hope was born in her life. She concluded that the agnostic message could deliver her from her ways and she has now become an intelligent agnostic who no longer lives in her depraved lifestyle. She now lives a clean, virtuous and happy life — all because she is an agnostic.

Dr Ironside offered the challenge: “If you will promise to bring these two people with you as examples of what agnosticism can do, I will promise to meet you at the Hall of Science at 4 o’clock next Sunday. I will bring with me at the very least 100 men and women who for years lived in just

such sinful degradation as I have tried to depict, but who have been gloriously saved through believing the gospel which you ridicule. I will have these men and women with me on the platform as witnesses to the miraculous saving power of Jesus Christ and as present-day proof of the truth of the Bible.”

Dr. Ironside turned to the Salvation Army officer in the open-air meeting, a woman, and asked, “Captain, have you any who could go with me to such a meeting?” The Captain offered at least 40 such people from just one Salvation Army Corps and said she would bring a brass band to lead the procession.

Dr. Ironside said that he would have no difficulty picking up the 100 radically changed people from the Salvos, other missions, gospel halls and evangelical churches. He said that the Salvation Army band would play “Onward Christian Soldiers” as they led the procession to the debate.

The enthusiastic agnostic who wanted to big-note himself at the open-air meeting and brashly challenged Dr. Ironside to the debate, smiled wryly, waved his hand and left the meeting, as if to say, “Nothing doing!” He edged his way through the crowd as these bystanders clapped enthusiastically for Ironside and the other Christians.

The power of the living Christ is changing lives today, even the lives of the most wicked. He has done it throughout history. John Newton, the British slave trader, became a preacher of the gospel. Chuck Colson, former President Richard Nixon’s hatchet man, was sent to jail for his part in the Watergate scandal in the USA. He met the risen Christ and has been engaged in an active prison and public ministry since then.

I wish you could have met my Bundaberg, Qld. (Australia) friend, the late George Clarke. He’s in heaven now. This gangster was changed into a child of God and an honourable family man. Talk to his family members and they’ll verify that Jesus Christ does change lives.

The worst of people can be changed. Many people can confirm that. The apostle Paul, the persecutor of the early Christian church, was threatening to murder believers. Then the turning point came. He tells how it can happen for anybody: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”


[1] Details of Dr. Harry Ironside’s challenge to the agnostic can be found at, “A Challenge By An Agnostic To Debate Dr. Harry Ironside:Agnosticism vs. Christianity,” available at: [Accessed 25 December 2009].


Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 9 October 2015.

Just accept it by faith — a No! No!

Take Flight



Spencer D Gear

Time Australia magazine, 10 January 2005, published this letter: As a “Sunday-School teacher, I tell my students what most of us here in the Bible Belt [USA] believe: the Scripture is the inerrant word of God, given by inspiration to the writers of the Bible. That Matthew and Luke record different details makes neither of them inaccurate. Nor does the fact that some of this cannot be corroborated by other sources. That’s why we call it faith.”[1a]

This was a response to a liberal theological view in Time that debunked the Christmas story.Is this teacher’s response the way to go with Aussies who don’t care about God and the Bible?This view seems to be a blind leap of Bible-Belt faith that accepts the inspired, infallible word of God.

When the apostle Paul was dealing with those in the synagogue, the marketplace and with the pagan philosophers at Mars Hill (the Areopagus), Athens, he took a different line (see Acts 17:16-34).

If they didn’t care about God, he started where they were with their issues.He got to know his audience: “He was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols” (v. 16). If God was not at the forefront of their views, he reasoned daily with them – even in the marketplace (v. 17).This was no one-way communication.It was a vigorous question and answer dialogue.

On Mars Hill, the apostle showed us how to do it:

Know people and their “idols” (vv. 16-22);

Nature of God and human beings (vv. 23-27);

Ordinary quotes from life (vv. 28-29);

Word of God (repent, judgement, resurrection, vv. 30-31).

This is hardly a politically correct method in these days of so-called tolerance toward many things – except tolerance toward born-again Christianity.

One contemporary apologist says that we need to unmask the “intellectual bluff” of people and “follow-through” with an exposé of their ways.[1b]What are some of these Aussie idols that need to be unmasked?

Following the events of Sept. 11, 2001 and the tsunami in Dec. 2004, I received comments such as: “What a monster of a God you have who would allow such slaughter!””Did your God cause this?He’s a cosmic Saddam Hussein.”We need solid answers to the problem of evil.

J. B. Phillips wrote: “Evil is inherent in the risky gift of free will. . .Exercise of free choice in the direction of evil is what we call the ‘fall’ of man, is the basic reason for evil and suffering in the world.It is man’s responsibility, not God’s.He could stop it, but in so doing would destroy us all.”[2] So, do you want God to wipe out all evil?Also take a read of Genesis ch. 3 to understand the origin of evil. Check out Ron Rhodes, Why Do Bad Things Happen If God Is Good?[3]

Around Christmas & Easter times, trusty old chestnuts are trotted out.

Recently, flack against the Bible has been fuelled by the mass media coverage given to the Jesus Seminar Fellows and others of their kind.These Fellows concluded that “eighty-two percent of the words ascribed to Jesus in the gospels were not actually spoken by him.”[4]

Dr. John K. Williams, retired Uniting Church minister, wrote in The Age, January 19 2004: “An evangelist who preaches the ‘old time religion’ is asking hearers to stake the living of their lives upon beliefs for which there is no evidence whatsoever and that fly against humankind’s painfully acquired knowledge of the world and of themselves. That is not simply, as we today are taught to say, a ‘big ask’ but an outrageous ask.”[5]

In responding, we could examine: (a) What are a writer’s presuppositions about the nature of God and the supernatural?Has he/she reached conclusions before considering the evidence? (b) What is the evidence in support of the reliability of any document from history, including Julius Caesar, Captain James Cook, the Old & New Testaments?

F. F. Bruce, formerly of the University of Manchester, investigated the accuracy of the New Testament and concluded: “The earliest preachers of the gospel knew the value of this first-hand testimony, and appealed to it time and again.’We are witnesses of these things,’ was their constant and confident assertion.And it can have been by no means so easy as some writers seem to think to invent words and deeds of Jesus in those early years, when so many of His disciples were about, who could remember what had and had not happened… The disciples could not afford to risk inaccuracies.”[6]

All of us can be guilty of assuming the truth or otherwise before we deal with the evidence.Check out these resources: F. F. Bruce[7], Walter C. Kaiser Jr., The Old Testament Documents: Are They Reliable & Relevant?[8] and K. A. Kitchen, On the Reliability of the Old Testament.[9] Kitchen concludes: “In terms of general reliability . . . the Old Testament comes out remarkably well, so long as its writings and writers are treated fairly and evenhandedly.”[10]

Biblical Christianity does not say, “Just believe!”It provides evidence for faith: “After his suffering, [Jesus] showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3). Unthinking Christianity is sick Christianity.

To God Be the Glory!

[1a]  Available from:,9171,1013262,00.html [cited 18 June 2009].

[1b] J. Budziszewski 2003, “Off to College: Can We Keep them?” in Ravi Zacharias & Norman Geisler (gen. eds.), Is Your Church Ready?  Grand Rapids, Michigan:  Zondervan, p. 121.

[2] Cited in Paul E. Little 1987, Know Why You Believe, Victor Books, Wheaton, IL., pp. 115-116.

[3] 2004, Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, Oregon.

[4] Robert W. Funk, Roy W. Hoover and the Jesus Seminar 1993, The Five Gospels, Macmillan Publishing Company (A Polebridge Press Book), New York, p. 5.

[5] Williams, J. K. 2004, ‘It’s not good enough for us’, The Age [Melbourne, Australia], January 19 2004.

[6] F. F. Bruce 1960, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?Inter-Varsity Press, Leicester, pp. 45-46 (a revised 2003 edition is available).

[7] Ibid.

[8] 2001, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL.

[9] 2003, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI.

[10] Ibid., p. 500.