FORGET NONE OF HIS BENEFITS
volume 17, number 45, November 15, 2018
“Behold, now is the acceptable time. Behold, now is the day of salvation.”
-2 Corinthians 6:2
Asking for the Order
As I listen to most Reformed preachers today, I hear a very weak appeal in their preaching for people to be saved. Perhaps there are several reasons for this weakness and shall we say, reluctance, to “ask for the order.” Any salesman knows that eventually he must ask for the order or he will starve to death. While evangelistic work is not selling a product, surely we can agree that there are some strong similarities.
One reason for our reluctance to press home a decision for Christ is our wrong assumption that all who are hearing us are already saved. First of all, an unregenerate person may wander into a church worship service on any given Sunday or be brought by a church member. But second, not everyone in your congregation who has professed faith in Christ is truly regenerate. The plethora of pastoral problems stemming from ungodly behavior by our members surely proves this point. Secondly, we are severely affected by postmodernism (though we prefer to deny that reality) which tells us that we should never speak boldly or in absolute terms about anything. This, after all, makes people nervous. Thirdly, due to medical advances we generally assume that people will live a long, healthy life and have plenty of time, later on in life, to make a decision for Christ. I have heard well known, Reformed preachers say, “Go home today and think about what I have said to you.” Do we, however, have any guarantee that our hearers will be alive tomorrow? And fourthly and probably most significantly, our Calvinism is getting in the way of asking for the order. This should not happen, but it does. We all know of the excesses through music and anecdotal stories which pull at the heart strings of people, and the manipulation of people’s emotions and wills which seek a decision for Christ. Many of us once preached in that theological milieu and have seen the error of it. So when we discovered the doctrine of election and the total inability of anyone to believe the gospel unless the Holy Spirit draws him, we gladly and most earnestly latched onto those doctrines of grace. We generally, however, are not balanced in our preaching. We have gone way too far toward the sovereignty of God in salvation, and moved away from the human responsibility of everyone to repent and believe the gospel. We are woefully weak in asking for the order.
I will expand on this issue in the next couple of weeks by looking at a few Calvinistic preachers in the past, noting how they “ask for the order.” But let’s start first with that great prince of Baptist Calvinistic preachers, Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892). Spurgeon unequivocally believed in the doctrine of election, that God chose His people for Himself before the creation of anything. He said, “He that perishes chooses to perish; but he that is saved is saved because God has chosen to save him.”Further, Spurgeon said, “Whatever may be said about the doctrine of election, it is written in the Word of God as with an iron pen, and there is no getting rid of it.”
So, on the one hand Spurgeon believed in the doctrine of election and the total inability of anyone to repent and believe the gospel in their own strength or according to their own free will. On the other hand, however, he makes one of the most impassioned, powerful, and urgent appeals I have ever read, urging people to run to Christ today to be saved. I counted at least 157 times in this sermon that he uses the word “now.” I urge you to read the marvelous sermon preached by Spurgeon when he was thirty years old entitled “Now,” based on 2 Corinthians 6:2, “Now is the acceptable time. Now is the day of salvation.”
Consider, then, this brief excerpt from this preacher of election, urging people that very moment, to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ to be saved.
But here comes the beauty of my text. As a sinner under the gospel, I pray thee to recollect that “Now is the accepted time.” The most of my unconverted hearers do not believe this. I know what you are saying. You say “I have had a great many thoughts about religion;” but why dost thou not believe in Christ now? “Well,” you say, “I will endeavor to think seriously of it:” but what will be the result of your thinking? After you have thought ever so much, do you imagine you will think yourself into salvation? If the gospel command were “Think, and be saved,” I would cheerfully allow you a month’s thinking; but the command is, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ,” and “Now is the accepted time.” “But, sir, I do not think such things should be done in a hurry.” A hurry! What does David say? “I made haste, and delayed not to keep thy commandments.” A hurry! when a man is on the edge of damnation and on the borders of the grave! Do not talk of hurry, sir; when it is a case of life and death, let us fly swift as a flash of lightning. “Well, but I do not feel prepared.” Do you think that disobeying God will make you more prepared? If you have lived a month without believing, you have lived a month in sin; do you think when you have sinned more, you will be better prepared to obey the command which comes to you, “Believe now in the Lord Jesus Christ”? “Yes, but my heart feels so hard.” Dear friend, dost thou think thou wilt be able to soften it between this and next week, or next month, or next year? Is there anything in the Word of God which leads thee to believe that thou canst in any way soften thine own heart? Is not this a mighty work of grace? and when the text says, “Now is the accepted time,” does not this suppose that even if you have a hard heart, still it is true that now is the accepted time? “Well, but,” saith one, “I do not feel convinced enough.” That is to say, dear friend, you do not think that “now is the accepted time:” you think that another time when you get more convicted will be the accepted time. Here is a quarrel between God and you. He says “Now;” you say, “No, no, it cannot be true;’ when I am more convicted, then will be the time.” My dear friend, are you not altogether mistaken? The likelihoods are that you never will be more convicted than now, if you are brought now to think upon these things. Your heart will certainly grow harder in course of time; but softer, never. I never heard the case of a man whose heart was made softer by delay. “Yes, but I should like to get home and pray.” My text does, not say it will be the accepted time when you get home and pray; it says, “Now,” and as I find you are “now” in this pew, “now is the accepted time.” If you trust Christ now, you will be accepted: if now you are enabled to throw yourself simply into the hands of Christ, now is the accepted time between God and you. “Well,” says another, “it does seem strange to think that I shall be saved this morning: there must be a little time occupied in it surely?” The text says, “Now is the accepted time;” it does not say, “There is an accepted time lasting through a period of weeks, and months, in which we pump ourselves up into a state of grace,” but “now,” in a moment, acceptance is given. “But do you really mean it” says one, ” that I, as I am, trusting Christ this morning, without any previous preparation whatever, shall be accepted?” My dear friend, it is not what I mean; it is what the Scripture means. “Now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” The moment a sinner trusts in Christ, he is saved, and if thou trustest him now, it is the day of salvation to thee.
Will you kindly look at that text-just open your Bibles now, and look at it-you, especially, who are unconverted, whet her my hearers or readers? It has two fingerposts to point to it: two beholds. ” Behold, now is the accepted time.” Now, stop and look at that. Do you believe it? Say “Yes,” or “No.” There is another “Behold”-“Behold, now is the day of salvation.” Do you believe that? I have asked you to look at the text, because I want you to look in its face, and, if you dare, say “That is a lie.” No, you do not dare to say that. Then if you do not dare to say so, away must go in a single moment all those excuses which you make about a hard heart, not being convinced enough, praying, reading, preparing, and so on. Now, just as the clock ticks, not as an event to take place during a quarter of an hour, but in a moment the whole thing is done: “Now is the day of salvation.” And what dost thou say to this? Does God the Holy Spirit now lead thy soul to say, “Gracious Lord, I trust my soul with thee now”? Oh! it is all done. Fly up to heaven, angels! bear the tidings, tell the spirits who look down anxiously watching for the spreading kingdom of the Savior, that another heir of glory is born, another prodigal has returned to his Father’s house. Now! now! now! O God, let conquering grace get the victory! How my soul has longed over this text! and now when I get at it, I cannot handle it as I would; but, if I might, I would fain take some of you by the hand-think that I have your hand now-and I would put this to you, I may never have another opportunity of preaching this text in your ears, for you may be gone before there is another season to hear. “Wilt thou be made whole?” “Canst thou believe?” “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.” Old Nabal said to David, “There be many servants now-a-days that break away every man from his master.” A bad old fellow, but he spake a good sentence there without knowing it. Are there not some here who will break away from their old master? Are there not some who would fain be servants of Christ and no longer servants of the devil? O souls, if God has made you willing to break with Satan, to lay hold on Christ, this is not a day in which Christ will deny you, for he has expressly said, now he will accept you, for “Now is the accepted time.” “But, sir, I am a harlot steeped up to the throat in vice.” Still “Now is the accepted time.” “Ah! but I have grown grey, sir, I am seventy or eighty, and have lived in sin all these years.” Yes, but “Now is the accepted time.” Do you believe it or not? “Oh! I have refused the invitation a thousand times over.” Yes, but still, still the abundant grace of God says, “Now, is the accepted time.” I would to God some of you would decide this very morning, this very morning in your pew where you are now sitting. Now, O Spirit of the living God, waken those whom thou hast chosen and set apart unto eternal life.
Shall we not all, therefore, preacher and evangelist alike, ask for the order. Urge people, on the spot, to repent and believe in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Today is the day of salvation.
1. Charles Spurgeon on Calvinism-Unconditional Election, <ligonier.org> Nathan Bingham, March 21, 2012. This article cites the book by Steve Lawson, The Gospel Focus of Charles Spurgeon, which states emphatically Spurgeon’s commitment to the doctrine of election.
2. <www.spurgeon.org/resource-library/sermons/now#flipbook/> preached December 4, 1864.