Are you confused or questioning the preaching you are hearing?
Have you listened to a sermon but gone home confused? Did you recognize many familiar biblical expressions but were puzzled by the explanation or conclusions? Have you noticed a difference between contemporary “mainstream” ministers and preachers from the time of the Reformation?
Maybe you have asked questions of your church elders or deacons or family members but have not received answers that are clear, simple, and biblically sound. It can feel very confrontational to ask questions about preaching. At the same time, it’s critical to examine the Scriptures to see if what you hear from others is reliable, like the Bereans Jews did in Acts 17.
Some churches seem very devoted, conservative, well-meaning, reverent, Scriptural, Reformed, and Calvinistic. However, they may have strayed quite far from Biblical truth, their confessional statements, and the strong stands of the Reformers, the Puritans, and their church founders when it comes to preaching the gospel.
Johan Blauuwendraad was a lay elder in the Netherlands Reformed Church in the Netherlands, called the Gereformeerde Gemeenten. Due to concerns he saw with the preaching in his denomination, he wrote a little booklet in Dutch, called “Het is ingewikkeld geworden: Pleidooi voor gewoon gereformeerd” (Heerenveen: J.J. Groen en Zoon, 1997). This book was translated and published by Reformation Heritage Books to benefit English-speaking readers as “Salvation has become complicated.” Read to the end of this page to download a free copy of the English version, which was made available by the publisher.
Salvation Has Become Complicated
Here are some expressions that some Reformed (but also some Baptist) preachers use, which are not biblical, tend towards twisting fundamental doctrines in hard to perceive ways and keeping sinners away from Jesus. Instead of preaching the cross, they tend to surround the cross with barbed wire to protect it. This keeps sinners out of the Kingdom and withholds assurance from doubting believers.
- Progressing from one stage of grace to another, like milestones in the believer’s experience.
- The need to be first quickened, and then confronted with a condemning law, and then having the way unveiled, and then having Christ revealed.
- The step of knowing that you are acquitted in a court-of-conscience
- Needing to be fully stripped and learn to despair of all your own righteousness, and to feel like the chief of sinners.
- Chronological gap between implantation into Christ and embracing Christ.
- Differences between a concerned soul, a beginner in grace, and an established believer.
These kinds of expressions are not to be found in Scripture, the Reformed confessions, Calvin, or Olevianus (one of the authors of the Heidelberg Catechism).
I’m so confused… who and what can I believe?
Here is some advice if you are pondering these topics of the nature of sin, the way of salvation, the gospel, what it is to believe, and how to think critically and with discernment about preaching.
- Immerse yourself in the Scriptures, like the Bereans.
- Recognize the authority of Scripture. Churches, ministers, confessions, and catechisms are all fallible and are subordinate to the Scripture.
- If warranted by a valid interpretation of Scripture, don’t be afraid to arrive at a conclusion that is contrary to your church’s teaching.
- Pray that the Holy Spirit would give light to enable you and others to understand the Scriptures better (Eph 1:17-18).
- Read more church history.
- Read old reformed pastors and authors who have been used greatly in the history of the church, such as Calvin, Luther, Whitefield, Spurgeon, Lloyd-Jones and more.
- Do what is best for your soul. Find a church that faithfully teaches the whole counsel of God. (Nehemiah. 8:8).
- Remember that the devil loves to blind the eyes of sinners and keep them bound up in false teaching, which appears to be true.
Got questions on how to be saved?
If you have any questions about the gospel or what the Bible says about how to be saved, please fill out the contact form. Our pastor would be happy to have a conversation in person, phone, Zoom or another method. Acts 8:31
Related Blog Posts on FreeGrace.ca:
- What is “Easy Believism”?
- What does Biblical Preaching Look Like?
- How to find out if you’re one of the elect
- Are There Few That Be Saved? (ebook)
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