The most common message that is taken to the lost in our day is the message that God loves them. While it is true that God loves the world (John 1:16), and that this means He loves each and every person including the lost, this is not the message that needs to be communicated to the lost. The message that the lost need to hear is the message of God’s wrath against all ungodliness and unrighteousness.
The whole idea of love in its modern interpretation is that one who loves will never punish. Nothing could be farther from the truth. God loves all of His creation, and because of this love, He must separate all that would harm it. This includes Satan and his hordes and all those who would live contrary to His righteous laws.
Numbers 14:18 tells us, “The LORD is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.”
We forget that letting someone get away with doing wrong is unjust. If someone were to murder someone close to you and the judge was to let them go free you would call him an unjust judge. God is a holy, righteous, and just God. He cannot allow sin to go unpunished. This is not a sign of His lack of love, it is a sign of His perfect love.
Romans 1:18-19 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them
Most of the new Bible translations change “hold the truth” into “suppress the truth.” The Greek word translated “hold” means to have something in your possession. It does not mean to suppress. Those who hold on to something, those who have it in their possession, may very well suppress it, but this is not the meaning of the Greek word. The context doesn’t deal with suppressing anything, it deals with being without excuse (Verse 20) because they know the truth (Verse 21).
Everyone has (holds in his consciousness) that measure of truth which may be known by the natural man. Many refuse to profit from the light they have and love the darkness rather than the light. All who do not live up to the knowledge they possess, who do that which they know they should not do, hold the truth in unrighteousness.
Verse 32 supports this interpretation. It says, “Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.”
They know the judgment they deserve and instead of turning to righteousness, the encourage others to live in unrighteousness. I suppose it makes them feel less guilty if everyone is doing it.
While on the subject of guilt, let me explain what it is. Guilt comes from the law that God has written in the hearts of all of us. It is that part of us that makes us know that some things are wrong. We don’t need anyone to tell us that it is wrong to kill someone just because we don’t like something they have done or because they have we want. We call this the conscience. The conscience is the policeman in our lives. It brings conviction when we do wrong.
John 8:9 And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.
The sad thing is the conscience can be rendered useless:
1 Timothy 4:2 Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;
When we refuse to listen to God and deliberately go against His precepts He does something that makes it very difficult, if not impossible, for us to turn back from our sinful ways. Listen to the following verse:
Romans 1:28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;
A reprobate mind is a mind that is void of sound judgment. It is a mind that can no longer tell right from wrong. It is a mind that is seared with a hot iron.
It is important that we give the lost the right message before they reach this point. You and I cannot tell for sure when someone has reached this point so we need to try to reach even the most unrighteous among us. But you can be sure that those who have a seared conscience and a reprobate mind are pretty much unreachable.
We need to understand where we came from. We were once the children of wrath just like the lost in the world today. Here is what Paul had to say about this:
Ephesians 2:1-3 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.
Notice in whose way we walked. It was the course of the world according to Satan, the prince of the power of the air. He is the spirit in those who are disobedient to God’s precepts. Notice also that it is in the past tense for those of us who are saved. A true Christian walks according to the precepts of God. He is not perfect, but when he stumbles, he is quick to confess his sin to his heavenly Father who cleanses him (1 John 1:9).
We are told in Ephesians 2:8-9 that we are saved by grace, through faith, without works. This does not mean that we are not to work. It simply means that we don’t work for our salvation. We are to work because we have been saved (Ephesians 2:10).
Let’s look at some other verses that deal with what we should be telling the lost.
John 3:36 He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.
This verse contains two very important thoughts. The first is that those who believe on the Son have everlasting life. Believe on does not simply meant to believe He existed, or even to believe what He said. It means to put one’s trust in Him totally for salvation. Those who do so have, right now, everlasting life. That is a life that will never end.
You will note that it says “he that believeth not the Son,” it doesn’t say believeth not on the Son. This tells us that those who don’t believe what He says shall not see life. Of course, the main point I want us to see is that the wrath of God already abides on them. This also is present tense. The lost person needs to be taught this before the love of God will mean anything to him.
Ephesians 5:6 Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.
The context of this verse is dealing with our conduct and obedience to God. It tells us that those who disobey God will fall under the wrath of God. The lost don’t need to know that God loves them, they need to know that they are in danger of the condemnation that comes with God’s wrath.
Colossians 3:6 For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience:
This verse, like the one before, tells us that those who disobey God will be subject to the wrath of God. This is the message the lost need to hear.
My whole purpose for writing this article is to point out that we are giving the wrong message to the lost. The message most are communicating to the lost is that although they are sinners, God has provided for the free forgiveness of sin because He loves us.
It is true that God loves everyone, including the lost. It is also true that forgiveness of sin is free from our point of view. However, it is not true that salvation places no obligations on the saved as the love-centered message implies. The depth of God’s love cannot be understood until the sinner understands the horror of his sin and the danger of his position.
The one thing that the “love” message fails to communicate is the need for repentance. Repentance essentially means to change one’s mind. Most who preach repentance say that we are to repent of our sins to be saved. Although there will be a change of mind concerning sin if one comes to Christ for salvation, the Bible never says that sin is what must be repented of. I have looked at every reference to repentance in any form in English, Greek, and Hebrew and I have not found any reference to repenting of sins for salvation.
There is a passage that tells us what one must repent of for salvation. It is found in Hebrews 6:
Hebrews 6:1 Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God,
Notice that we are told that part of the foundation is “repentance from dead works.” What are the dead works that we are to repent of? They are the works we try to do for our salvation. Every religion in the world except biblical Christianity teaches some kind of works for salvation.
Until the lost understand they will face God’s judgment there will be no real conviction of sin. Without the conviction of sin, there will be no seeking the solution to their dire predicament. When they understand their sin and God’s justified wrath, they will realize that they cannot be good enough to earn their own salvation. They will then turn to God for mercy. Then they are ready to hear about God’s love and to put their faith in Christ for salvation. They will then have a grateful heart that will work a change in their life.
The fact that we are putting the emphasis on God’s love instead of God’s wrath when we talk to the lost is resulting in many false professions of faith. This explains why it is so difficult to get new “converts” to be faithful to the precepts of God. They are like those in the parable of the sower which are represented by the stony ground.
Matthew 13:18-23 Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower. When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side. But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended. He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful. But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.
The stony ground is those who are only interested in the Gospel because they think it will solve all of their problems. This is why they receive the word with joy. They have no root in themselves. There is no possession of the new life in Christ. They are just looking for a Santa Clause god who will give them what they want. As soon as the trials come they are offended and turn their backs upon the things of God.
Some professing Christians don’t believe God will send the lost to eternal punishment in the Lake of Fire, but here is what the Scriptures say on the subject.
Revelation 20:11-15 And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.
The destiny of the lost is too important for us to risk leading them astray. We need to follow the example of the Scriptures and present the Gospel in a way that brings conviction of sin and works repentance in the hearts of those we speak to.