Calvary Road Baptist Church


Luke 5.18-20


Turn in your Bible to Luke 5.17. When you find that verse in God’s Word, please stand and read along silently while I read aloud:


17     And it came to pass on a certain day, as he was teaching, that there were Pharisees and doctors of the law sitting by, which were come out of every town of Galilee, and Judaea, and Jerusalem: and the power of the Lord was present to heal them.

18     And, behold, men brought in a bed a man which was taken with a palsy: and they sought means to bring him in, and to lay him before him.

19     And when they could not find by what way they might bring him in because of the multitude, they went upon the housetop, and let him down through the tiling with his couch into the midst before Jesus.

20     And when he saw their faith, he said unto him, Man, thy sins are forgiven thee.

21     And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, Who is this which speaketh blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone?

22     But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answering said unto them, What reason ye in your hearts?

23     Whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Rise up and walk?

24     But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power upon earth to forgive sins, (he said unto the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy couch, and go into thine house.

25     And immediately he rose up before them, and took up that whereon he lay, and departed to his own house, glorifying God.

26     And they were all amazed, and they glorified God, and were filled with fear, saying, We have seen strange things to day.


We looked at this passage last week when considering the topic of forgiveness. This evening I want to direct your attention to the part you and I are supposed to play in getting someone saved.

There is a great difference that exists between the way a decisionist seeks to bring the lost to Christ and the way the Bible shows us how to bring the lost to Christ. The decisionist is, after all, is an externalist. He believes that the way to get someone saved is by persuading them to “pray the prayer” or to “believe that Jesus died for him,” as if those external deeds and intellectual realizations could possibly substitute for the miracle of the new birth.

Doing evangelism the Bible way, on the other hand, takes into account the factors over which no Christian has control, such as the mind of the sinner, the convicting work of the Holy Spirit, and this very important matter of the miracle of the new birth.

Who tells God when to perform miracles? Certainly not me. As well, on what basis does anyone presume that mouthing the words of a prayer that is not found in the Bible (or even a prayer that is found in the Bible) will result in sins being forgiven and a new heart being wrought?

We have observed the sad consequences of trying to reduce evangelism to a formula first hand. The tragic results are huge numbers of sinners who have been pronounced Christians by so-called soul winners based upon a bowed head, closed eyes, and repeated words, as if that is how a sinner becomes a Christian.

Though some sinners do become Christians that way, most Christians I have known who have shared their testimonies with me were not saved when someone directed them to bow their heads, close their eyes, and mouth the words of a prayer, no matter how sincere they were at the time.

John R. Rice, the great proponent of personal evangelism in the 20th century, was careful to remind those who read his Sword of the Lord that most sinners were saved as the result of sitting under gospel preaching. His words seem to have fallen on deaf ears these days, since most evangelistic efforts take place beyond the four walls of church auditoriums, and since most pastors studiously avoid preaching gospel sermons.

Let us take a fresh look at our text for this evening, Luke 5.18-20, seeing here a picture of our own calling to labor for the salvation of the lost:


18     And, behold, men brought in a bed a man which was taken with a palsy: and they sought means to bring him in, and to lay him before him.

19     And when they could not find by what way they might bring him in because of the multitude, they went upon the housetop, and let him down through the tiling with his couch into the midst before Jesus.

20     And when he saw their faith, he said unto him, Man, thy sins are forgiven thee.


Notice three things:




What could this man do of himself? Is it not obvious that the whole picture painted with words in this passage before us is a picture of complete inability, of total helplessness? In other examples found in the gospel accounts we are shown a blind man, a dead girl, a diseased leper, a possessed demoniac, an arrogant ruler, an ignorant teacher, a thieving tax collector, or a boisterous fisherman.

Does not each example show us but another aspect of what we see with this palsied man, the sinner’s total inability to save himself because he is powerless, because he is blind, because he is dead, or because he is hopelessly defiled?

That palsied man represents all lost men, in one respect. His crippled body speaks of the depravity of sinners, their complete inability to make their way from where they are to where they need to be to cross paths with the Lord Jesus Christ’s primary means of saving the lost, which is the preaching of the gospel.

Thus, while the sinner you are dealing with may be a fit athlete, he is still a sinner. He is still dead in trespasses and sins. He is still a blind wanderer. Perhaps you do not need to carry him on a mat, or hoist him with others using a stretcher. However, he just as surely as the palsied man needs to be brought to the place where an encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ is likely.




It is remarkable to everyone that reads this passage that the Lord Jesus Christ took note of the four men who carried the palsied man and commended their faith instead of his. Verse 20 reads, “And when he saw their faith, he said unto him, Man, thy sins are forgiven thee.” However, this should be no surprise to anyone familiar with the Bible. James tells us that faith without works is dead, being alone. These men were simply exhibiting a lively, energetic faith in Christ by their efforts to get this crippled man to Him.

As well, there is no necessary suggestion here that their primary goal was to see this man healed. It may very well have been that their desire was to see him granted forgiveness for his sins by the Savior, since our Lord did not heal his physical infirmity except to prove a point to His detractors. Thus, these four men who carried the man on his bed were every bit the soul winners, knowing full well that their task was done and their duty performed to its fullest when the sinner on the pallet was brought into the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Oh, to be sure, they did their best to extol the virtues of the Savior, and to urge the man to accompany them to see Him. As Paul writes, “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord we persuade men.” However, appropriate persuasion stops short of the manipulation and arm-twisting that is sometimes passed off as evangelism these days.

The danger that can result from our refusal to engage in the unethical and unscriptural bullying of the lost to perform some external act, to submit to the so-called soul winner so they can be free from coercion, is to think that we have no responsibility at all, to think that our efforts as individuals are not important enough to warrant us inconveniencing ourselves enough to work with others to reach the lost.

You have heard me enough to know that I place very little stock in present practices these days. I simply do not believe an ill-informed zealot with a gospel tract can knock on someone’s door, talk to him for fifteen minutes without once seeking to discover his grasp of vital truths about God, about Jesus, about sin, and about salvation, and presuming the Holy Spirit will convict the sinner of his sins in that same time period, bringing his heart to a proper preparation to embrace Christ at the precise moment the soul winner has completed his presentation of the gospel.

Neither do I believe that a so-called positive message, in which sinners are convinced that life is better with Jesus, and that Jesus solves life’s problems, is the answer. Paul is very clear in Galatians when he asserts that the Law is our schoolmaster to direct sinners to Christ, and that the Law needs to be preached to the lost, since without the Law there is no knowledge of sin.

In short, I am of the opinion that reaching the lost typically takes much longer, with the Spirit of God convicting much deeper, with the sinner’s understanding of the important issues being much deeper. In short, I am convinced the soul winner’s efforts to bring a sinner to a real encounter with the Savior are much more involved, requiring much greater devotion and effort, than decisionists typically exhibit.

That is why it takes an entire congregation working very hard to make contacts, to then cultivate those contacts into friendships, to then communicate care and concern for the lost, all the while praying and working together as a team to get that sinner to there he is exposed to the primary means of grace, which is the preaching of the Word of God. Furthermore, when sinners do sit under the preaching of the Word of God they need to have accurate facts and details presented to them, then they need exposure to the Law so they will come to grips with their sinfulness, at which time they should hear the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and the challenge to come to Christ.

What should all this mean to you and to me? It means that if you refuse to exert yourself on behalf of the palsied man he simply will not be reached. What would have happened had one of the four who ended up carrying him on his bed said, “You don’t need me on Saturday night. There are three men who can do the job.” I dare say three men would not have been able to get the palsied man up the stairs, or have been able to lower him down through the hole they made in the roof. Thus, if you are not up the task illustrated by these four men in our text, the encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ simply does not take place, the man is not carried up the stairs, and he is then not lowered through the hole in the roof.

Applying their actions to our day, might I suggest that your efforts to reach the lost include the coordinated activity of our members to get the word out, to proclaim our church’s name and times of services, to meet and befriend people outside, and to warmly greet and be hospitable to those we are able to bring in? Walk with them next door to share with us in food and fellowship. Arrange times to cultivate friendships. Do what is appropriate so they will want to come back to our church, sit under the preaching of the gospel, and perhaps someday embrace our Savior!

The four men in our text illustrate every activity that helps to achieve these goals and work toward these ends, without whom humanly speaking, there would be nothing to rejoice for.




I have gotten ahead of myself somewhat, but during this era in which we live the physical encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ has been replaced by the preaching of the gospel. This has been necessary for two reasons: First, Christ’s ascension to the Father’s right hand makes a physical encounter with Christ impossible at this time. Second, the sending of the indwelling Spirit of God could not have occurred apart from Christ’s glorious ascension to the Father’s right hand on high.

What happens now is that sinners are brought, much as the palsied man was carried by the four men, to a place where a spiritual encounter is prepared for, is prayed for, and is anticipated. That spiritual encounter is the preaching of the Word of God, where it is hoped the Spirit of God will take the Word that is preached and will apply it in a powerful way to the hearts and minds of the lost who are there to hear.

Though our text gives us no clue concerning the spiritual opposition that always occurs at such times, other portions of scripture reveal to us that Satanic opposition will work to blind unbelievers to the truth, and that the sinner’s own spiritual deadness will hinder his reception and grasp of the truth. On top of that, you have distractions of people, and distractions of other types, all working to interfere with the Holy Spirit’s efforts at convincing of sin, righteousness, and judgment to come.


The text that we have looked at tonight really focuses on the role that you play in seeing someone converted to Christ, rather than the role the preacher plays, or the role played by the Holy Spirit. What we see here is four men working to overcome the obstacles created by other people who are simply in the way, blocking access, interfering by their dullness and inattention to the spiritual needs of those around them.

Is it any different these days? How are you different from one of the four who would carry the crippled man to Jesus? How will he be transported, how will he be persuaded to come, how will he be brought, if one of the four had listened to a family member and decided do something else, or had concluded he was not really needed enough and decided to stay home?

How is our task to get visitors in any different from the task of those four men? “They sought means to bring him in, and to lay him before him.”

You are not required to be a theologian. Neither are you required to demonstrate unusual skills. The Christian life is really quite simple. Like those four men, you are to work with others to accomplish the task of getting the sinner to where an encounter with Jesus will take place. Just find the means to bring him in and lay him before the Lord.

It may be the guy will hear the gospel and will not be saved. That is his problem. You have done your part. You have fulfilled your duty. You have discharged your obligation. Come next week, do it again, either by getting that lost man back to church once more, or by getting another lost man into church.

What percentage of the crippled men, the blind men, the leprous men, the dead men, did the Lord Jesus Christ save, or heal? We will not know this side of heaven. That is between the Savior and the sinner.

Our task is to do our very best to bring about an encounter between the sinner and our Savior. Is persuasion a part of it? Yes. Is hard work required? To be sure. Will our church’s efforts be affected should I decide to stay home? You know they will be.

We each have a part in getting someone saved. What kind of a man are you who will not do your part because your wife will not do hers? What kind of a woman are you to stop doing your part in an effort to play to your husband or to play to your children? That is not Christianity. Do your part, and let God deal with everything else.

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