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.

  1. Immerse yourself in the Scriptures, like the Bereans.
  2. Recognize the authority of Scripture. Churches, ministers, confessions, and catechisms are all fallible and are subordinate to the Scripture.
  3. 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.
  4. Pray that the Holy Spirit would give light to enable you and others to understand the Scriptures better (Eph 1:17-18).
  5. Read more church history.
  6. 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.
  7. Do what is best for your soul. Find a church that faithfully teaches the whole counsel of God. (Nehemiah. 8:8).
  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

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The Bible teaches what has been commonly referred to in the history of theology as “Calvinism.” The second point of the Five Points of Calvinism is called “unconditional election,” which means that God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world (Eph 1:4) according to His good pleasure (Mt 11:26). He did not choose us because we were “holy and without blame,” but so that we would become “holy and without blame” by virtue of our union with Christ (Eph 1:4). As John Gill wisely commented, “Election does not find men in Christ, but puts them there; it gives them a being in him, and union to him.”[1] The comfort this doctrine affords is obvious: If God had not chosen men unto salvation, they would have never chosen Him and would have perished under the just judgment and wrath of God forever.

The challenge this doctrine affords is also obvious: How does a sinner know that he is elect? In 2 Peter 1:10, the Apostle Peter writes, “Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure…” This text, however, does not address the challenge concerning election, for Peter writes to Christians, those already saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, and he essentially calls them to live in light of the salvation they already experience. As far as unbelievers are concerned, the Bible never calls on them to determine whether or not they are elect before coming to the Lord Jesus Christ. Rather, God in the Bible calls sinners to come to Him immediately, without first trying to determine whether or not they are elect. For instance, in the Prophet Isaiah, the Lord God declares, “Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” (Is 55:1) The Lord does not call men to look inside to see if they may or may not be elect, He calls them to come and live. In Matthew 11:25-30, the Lord Jesus highlights the sovereignty of God in salvation (including election) in verses 25-27, and then calls sinners to “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (verse 28). The Lord Jesus does not call sinners to determine whether or not they are prepared to come to Him, He calls them to come to Him and He will give them rest (verse 28). In Acts 16:25-34, there is the situation of the Philippian jailer who fears judgment at the hand of the civil authority for what would have been considered dereliction of duty in his part if the prisoners had escaped (verses 25-26). Instead of facing the wrath of his superiors, the jailer reckons he will commit suicide (verse 27) but is thankfully interrupted by the Apostle Paul (verse 28). When the jailer asks Paul and Silas, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (verse 30), Paul and Silas do not respond, “make sure you are one of the elect” or “make sure you are prepared to meet God.” Rather, Paul clearly tells the man, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household” (verse 31).

A good rule of thumb concerning the challenge of election: On the way to the cross, sinners should not concern themselves with it, they should simply look to Christ in faith for the salvation that God promises to those who believe. After having come to the cross, believers should endeavor “to make [their] call and election sure” (2 Pet 1:10) by living in a manner that is consistent with their salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

[1] John Gill, A Body of Doctrinal and Practical Divinity (reprint, Paris, AR: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 2007), 181.