“THE PREACHER’S GREAT SIN OF PRESUMPTION”

Deuteronomy 18.20

 

Delivered during the watch night service, December 31, 2003

 

EXPOSITION:

1.   Please turn in your Bible to Deuteronomy chapter 18, where we will begin reading from verse 15.  Before we stand to read from God’s Word, allow me to state without proving that the prophets of the Old Testament were preachers.

2.   I am not alone in drawing this conclusion from a study of God’s Word.  Dr. John A Broadus, second in reputation only to A. T. Robertson among the towering figures who taught at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky during that school’s glory years, wrote these words in his History of Preaching:  “The prophets were preachers.”[1]

3.   If Old Testament prophets were preachers (and they were), then it is reasonable for New Testament era Christians, and especially New Testament era preachers, to pay careful attention to whatever pronouncements God has made in the Old Testament regarding the prophets. 

4.   Why so?  Our marching order is the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who said in Mark 16.15, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.  So, what God said to the prophets who were preachers in Old Testament times we should pay close attention to.

5.   Please stand now for the reading of God’s Word:

15     The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken;

16     According to all that thou desiredst of the LORD thy God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, neither let me see this great fire any more, that I die not.

17     And the LORD said unto me, They have well spoken that which they have spoken.

18     I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him.

19     And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him.

20     But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die.

21     And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the LORD hath not spoken?

22     When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him. 

6.     I believe it to be universally held among trustworthy Christian commentators that the “Prophet” spoken of in Deuteronomy 18.15-19 is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ.  On this passage, listen to what some of the old timers had to say.  Adam Clarke wrote, “This prophet is the Lord Jesus.”[2]  Jamieson, Fausset and Brown wrote in their commentary, “the prophet here promised was pre-eminently the Messiah.”[3]  Matthew Henry, quite expectedly, also writes on this passage, confirming in his comments that “this Prophet has come, even Jesus; it is he that should come, and we are to look for no other.”[4]  Finally, from that venerable old Baptist John Gill we read, “a single person is only spoken of; . . . the Messiah, . . . and upon this the expectation of a prophet among the Jews was raised.”[5]

7.   Even modern commentators are agreed that this prophecy concerns the Lord Jesus Christ.  The Scofield Reference Bible notation above this passage reads, “The great prophecy of Messiah the Prophet.”[6]  Tim LaHaye, in his Prophecy Study Bible, writes, “Jesus fulfills this prophecy.”[7]  And I conclude this survey of commentator’s opinions by reading a portion of what John Mac Arthur says in The MacArthur Study Bible:  “Both the OT (34:10) and the NT (Acts 3:22,23; 7:37) interpret this passage as a reference to the coming Messiah . . . .”[8]

8.   Therefore, I think we are quite safe in concluding that justice is done to the first half of our passage when we state that the Lord Jesus Christ is here in view.  But what about the last three verses?  Read them again:

20     But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die.

21     And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the LORD hath not spoken?

22     When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him. 

9.   These three verses are clearly a warning to the people of God about the false prophets who would come.  False prophets, who presume to speak in God’s name, saying things God has not commanded them to say, deserve death, verse 20.  So, there is no denying that this is a very serious sin, indeed.

10. How can it be determined that a man is saying things God has not commanded him to say, verse 21 asks?  Verse 22 declares, “When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.”

11. It is quite clear that God wanted to draw a clear line of demarcation between those prophets sent by God, and ultimately the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, on one side and the false prophets who would certainly come, and who the Lord Jesus Christ warned against a number of times, on the other side.[9]

12. But my purpose this evening is not to preach a message about false prophets.  Instead, I want to raise the alarm against an extremely dangerous practice that comes far too close to the practices of those false prophets, who presumed to speak a word in God’s name.

13. Therefore, let me not, this evening, presume myself to know the motives of church members who earnestly seek to bring the lost to Christ.  Neither let me presume to know the motives of spiritual leaders, evangelists, missionaries, and pastors who labor in the Lord’s vineyard.

14. I seek in my sermon, this evening, to do my duty as a watchman on the wall, to warn and cry in an effort to turn Gospel preaching people away from a practice that is inadvertently presumptuous and profoundly counterproductive to their goal of bringing the lost to Jesus Christ.  More specifically, I will seek in my sermon to warn you about the modern day preacher’s great sin of presumption.

15. At this time brother Isenberger comes to lead us in song before the sermon. 

INTRODUCTION:

1.   Let no man be so proud as to deny the possibility, even the likelihood, of committing sins without knowing he has sinned.  Indeed, the trespass offering under the Law of Moses was an offering to atone for known sins, while the sin offering was an offering to atone for unknown sins.

2.   So you see, it is possible to be wrong, to commit sin, even grievous sin, without any conscious awareness of that sin or of wrongdoing.  Therefore, it is not an attack on anyone’s motives to properly and humbly point out a sin of ignorance, but is our Christian duty to point out such sins of ignorance.[10]

3.   The text that I preach from this evening is lifted from Deuteronomy 18.20:  “the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak.”  Allow me to paraphrase these words:  “The preacher, who presumes to speak or to preach in my name, things I have not authorized him to say.”

4.   My friends, I am persuaded that contemporary evangelism is undertaken by men who are terribly guilty of this sin.  Whether they be evangelicals or fundamentalists, whether they be Baptists or Bible church people, whether they be charismatics or non-charismatics, whether they be Calvinists or Arminians . . . or even self-described Biblicists, I am convinced that they unknowingly but grievously sin against God by their habitual presumption when they are dealing with people about salvation.

5.   Allow me to make observations that are applicable to preaching as well as soul winning, to dealing with sinners who have come forward during an invitation as well as dealing with sinners whose door you have knocked on.  Whether a Romans Road tract is used, or the Evangelism Explosion method is employed, or the Four Spiritual Laws booklet is relied upon, the sin of presumption reigns supreme in almost every church’s and in almost every preacher’s approach seeking the salvation of the lost.

6.   Let us be agreed that the sin of presumption is a terrible sin.  It is the sin of presumption that promises the false prophet terrible trouble with God in our text.  You will remember, as well, that it was the sin of presumption that got Nadab and Abihu, Aaron’s sons, into trouble with God.  I read Leviticus 10.1-2 to refresh your memory:  “And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the LORD, which he commanded them not.  And there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD.”  They presumed to do in God’s service what they were not authorized to do in  God’s service, with tragic consequences.

7.   It breaks my heart that for many years I was terribly guilty of this wicked sin of presumption in my own approach to bringing the lost to Christ.  For this reason I want to caution you, by showing you the presumption preachers and soul winners are guilty of when they say and do things above and beyond what God has told them to say and do.

8.   You see, as your pastor, I want to protect you from the terrible and destructive sin of presumption, at least in this area of your life, as well as protecting you from preachers who are guilty of this terrible sin of presumption.

9.   Seven ways in which this wicked sin of presumption unconsciously shows itself in the preaching and soul winning practices of our day: 

1A.   First, IT IS PRESUMED THAT THE HOLY SPIRIT OF GOD IS CONVICTING THE SINNER YOU ARE WITNESSING TO OR PREACHING TO

1B.    Imagine yourself in a typical preaching service.  Or you can imagine yourself knocking on someone’s door and presenting the Gospel to that person.  Do you believe anything of eternal value will happen without the involvement of the Holy Spirit of God in what is being done?  Will the sinner get saved under that preacher’s sermon if the Holy Spirit does not convict him of his sins?  Will you be able to win that sinner to Christ in his doorway without the convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit?

2B.    To both questions, we are expected to say the answer is “No.”  No preacher would admit to thinking sinners get saved without the convicting work of the Holy Spirit.  Neither would any experienced and accomplished soul winner.  We all claim to believe what Jesus said in John 16.8:  “And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.”  As well, we all claim to believe that absent that ministry of the Holy Spirit folks simply would not be persuaded they were sinners and would not, then, flee to Jesus Christ for salvation from their sins.

3B.    Yet, despite what people will say, from an observation of prevailing conduct it is almost universal that either in the preacher’s sermon or in the soul winner’s presentation of the plan of salvation, the assumption is made (and that is presumption) that the Holy Spirit is busy convicting the sinner while the preacher is preaching and while the soul winner is presenting the plan of salvation.

4B.    Now, I know that the typical response to this charge is that “God has promised to bless His Word.”  I know that He has and I believe that He will.[11]  But God has not promised to bless His Word while the preacher is preaching, or while the soul winner is presenting the plan of salvation.  The Holy Spirit convicts of sin, but He has no Biblical obligation whatsoever to deal with the sinner during the preaching or during the soul winner’s presentation of the plan of salvation.

5B.    Someone will protest, “But that fellow was crying while he heard what was being said.”  The tears and sobs of a sinner are no necessary indication that he is under conviction from the Holy Spirit.  Esau cried and he is described as a profane man by the writer of Hebrews.[12]  Even Judas cried and felt guilty, but there is no indication in God’s Word that during those hours leading up to his suicide that he was convicted by the Holy Spirit.

6B.    My point is, it is wrong and it is unscriptural to assume that someone sitting in the pew during the preaching, or someone standing in the doorway listening to the plan of salvation, is necessarily being convicted by the Holy Spirit, even when some kind of emotional display is evident.

7B.    If you presume that the Holy Spirit of God is convicting that sinner sitting in the pew, or that sinner standing in the doorway, you will inevitably say things and do things based upon that presumption that God does not authorize you to say or to do.  If you fear God, and if you love the lost, you will seek to avoid such a sin of presumption. 

2A.   Next, IT IS PRESUMED THAT THE HOLY SPIRIT HAS CONCLUDED HIS MINISTRY OF CONVICTING THE SINNER WHEN THE DELIVERY OF THE PLAN OF SALVATION OR THE SERMON IS COMPLETED

1B.    We have already established that the Holy Spirit of God must deal with the sinner before it is possible that sinner will be converted.  The Holy Spirit’s involvement in the lives of sinners prior to their conversion is indispensable.  Only the Spirit of God can effectively deal with each soul’s depravity to prepare the heart for conversion.

2B.    We ask, then, how long does the Holy Spirit take to convict sinners?  Does He take fifteen minutes?  Does He take thirty minutes?  Does He take forty five minutes?  How about an hour?  If the Spirit of God is finished convicting a sinner in ten minutes, why preach longer?  If the Spirit of God is finished in twenty minutes, why is it that all sinners standing in their doorway do not get converted?

3B.    Is it possible that the Spirit of God is not finished working in that sinner’s life in that time span?  Is it possible that sinner is not being dealt with at all by the Spirit of God?  What if the Spirit of God deals with different sinners for different periods of time?  What if the Spirit of God sometimes convicts for hours, or for days, or for weeks?

4B.    Would the preacher do anything differently if he thought the Spirit of God might deal with one sinner for one hour and another sinner for one month?  Would the soul winner do things differently?  Does the preacher ever think about the futility, or the harm, of trying to accomplish something in a sinner’s life before the Spirit of God is finished convicting him?

5B.    Soul winners will sometimes talk about picking green fruit.  That means they have noticed that sometimes they have led someone to a premature profession of faith in Christ.  That would be trying to lead them to Christ before the Holy Spirit was ready, would it not?  Is such a thing harmful to a sinner?  Is such a thing grievous to the Holy Spirit?

6B.    Is it not presumptuous to assume the Holy Spirit has finished convicting a sinner just because you are finished with your presentation of the plan of salvation, or just because the preacher is finished with his sermon?  And would not such presumption risk you saying or doing something you should not say or do?

7B.    I am persuaded that the Holy Spirit of God is oftentimes grieved by preachers and so-called soul winners who never even consider whether He has finished convicting a sinner before saying and doing certain things that ought not to be done, that ought not to be said. 

3A.   Third, IT IS PRESUMED THAT THE SINNER’S HEART IS PREPARED TO TRUST CHRIST WHEN THE DECISION HAS BEEN MADE TO CLOSE

1B.    I will just come right out and tell you that I think the Spirit of God must prepare a sinner’s heart before that fellow will come to Jesus Christ by faith for the forgiveness of his sins. 

1C.   The 3000 men listening to Peter on the day of Pentecost “were pricked in their heart” by the Holy Spirit of God as He applied the truth of Peter’s sermon to their consciences.[13]

2C.   Of Lydia, we are told in Acts 16.14, “whose heart the Lord opened.”  I am persuaded that was done by the Holy Spirit of God, without Whose preparation work she would not have been converted.

3C.   With the Philippian jailer we see some evidence of this heart preparation.  He had been despondent.[14]  He trembled with fear.[15]  He humbled himself before Paul and Silas.[16]  He pleaded with them to give him direction to be saved.[17]  And the last three of these four symptoms are markedly uncharacteristic of a man in his position.  Paul and Silas, in my opinion, based upon this and other evidence, concluded that the Holy Spirit had completed His preparation work in the Philippian jailor’s life.  Therefore, seeing sufficient evidence that he was properly prepared by the Spirit of God, they answered, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved,” Acts 16.31.

4C.   Thus, I have illustrated with these three examples of what I believe to be the norm, that the Holy Spirit of God must engage in preparation work prior to a sinner coming to Christ.

2B.    But what is the typical practice of preachers and soul winners seen in these modern times?  The pastor operates on the assumption that when the sermon has been delivered the Spirit’s work in the sinner’s life is completed and it is now time to direct him to come to Christ.  The soul winner operates on the assumption that when he has completed his spiel, or has led the sinner through the brochure, that the Spirit of God is now ready to perform the miracle of the new birth.

3B.    But hold on a second!  Are we not agreed that the new birth is a miracle?  I hope so.  Are we now to conclude that the Spirit of God works the miracle of the new birth on a schedule set by the preacher or some soul winner?  Are we to presume that when we decide the sinner is ready he is, therefore, ready to come to Christ?

4B.    Some might say, “Pastor, it is always appropriate for a preacher or a soul winner to urge sinners to come to Christ.”  I would not argue with that at all.  But I would insist that the manner in which you urge sinners to come to Christ is not always appropriate.

5B.    Remember what Jesus said, in Matthew 11.28:  “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  Rightly understood, the Lord Jesus Christ’s directive that sinners come to Him is predicated upon them being already prepared by the Holy Spirit, Who has so convicted them that they labor and they are heavy laden with their sins.

6B.    The point that needs to be made here is this:  Just because I decide that a sinner needs to bow his head and pray the sinner’s prayer is no indication that his heart has been so prepared that he will come to Christ at that point.  The same is true of a soul winner.  My friend, you do not decide when the miracle of the new birth is to be performed.  Neither do I.  No preacher or soul winner makes that decision.  That is the Holy Spirit’s decision.  No one tells God when to work a miracle.  To do otherwise in your dealings with the unsaved is presumption.  And presumption is a sin no godly Christian wants to be guilty of. 

4A.   Fourth, IT IS PRESUMED THAT THE SINNER IS GENUINELY CONVERTED BECAUSE HE HAS PRAYED A PRAYER OR SOME SUCH THING AS THAT

1B.    Our church is full of people who prayed a prayer and then, sometime later, became fully and properly aware that they were not born again.  Every church has people with such experiences.  That is my own experience.  A profession of faith and baptized at 13 and then genuinely converted at 24.

2B.    What more proof is needed, then, that just because someone has prayed a prayer he is not necessarily born again?  Yet how many millions of poor unsuspecting souls were baptized in the last half of the 20th century within minutes of praying a prayer after coming forward during an invitation?  And how many more were baptized on a Sunday who prayed a prayer the day before?  No wonder our churches are full of lost people!

3B.    As well, just because some fellow was baptized a week later, or a month later, after he prayed a prayer does not mean he is truly born again.  A person is no more born again because he prayed a prayer than something is a car because you put gasoline in it.  It could be a five gallon can, a motorcycle, or an airplane.

4B.    Where did anyone get the idea that a fellow is saved by praying a prayer?  You will not find Jesus instructing sinners to pray to get saved.  You will find nowhere in the book of Acts where a sinner is directed to pray in order to get saved.  And none of the epistles contain such information.  I guess what I really want to know is why so many people are said to be saved because they prayed a prayer when no such example or instruction is to be found anywhere in the Bible.

5B.    Besides, is not praying a prayer a work?  And is not salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, and not of works?[18]  As well, prayers in the Bible are all directed to God the Father, as the model prayer of Jesus which is given for our example shows us.[19]  This is really confusing.  Preachers and soul winners claim that sinners get saved by praying, though prayers are rightly directed to God the Father and not Jesus Christ.  Yet prayer is a work, but people are saved by grace.  And Jesus told His apostles that “no man cometh unto the Father but by me.”[20]

6B.    So, despite the fact that prayer by a sinner might be an attempt to save himself by works righteousness, and despite the fact that the sinner might be attempting to come to the Father instead of come to the Son in such a prayer, the assumption is made that someone who prays is saved.

7B.    My friends, I am not denying that sinners can sometimes get converted to Jesus Christ by means of a heartfelt and sincere prayer.  But I challenge the assumption that whenever a sinner prays some kind of prayer, be it the sinner’s prayer or some other kind of prayer, he is necessarily saved.  That is pure presumption.  Most who pray the sinner’s prayer are no more saved than the man in the moon. 

5A.   Fifth, IT IS PRESUMED THAT A SINNER HAS BECOME A CHRISTIAN BECAUSE HE SAYS HE HAS, OR BECAUSE THE PREACHER OR SOUL WINNER SAYS HE HAS

1B.    I have heard the question asked many times.  Perhaps a good pastor walks into a hospital or someone comes into his office.  Burdened for the lost, he asks, “So, are you a Christian?”  If the other person says, “Yes, I am,” that pastor thinks his obligation has been met.  The same is true with most Christians.  You presume that a person is a Christian because he says he is a Christian.

2B.    But even worse is what happens when a sinner responds to an invitation, or a fellow standing in his doorway bows his head and prays a prayer.  “Did you just pray and ask Jesus to save you?”  That question, or one like it, seems to be all that is necessary for most preachers or soul winners to conclude that a person has just been converted.

3B.    Experience shows, however, that this is not the case.  Since justification is by faith, there is no sensory evidence that a sinner has gotten saved.  Thus, there is no way that a mature and responsible Christian can naively take the word of a hopeful convert just because he says he just got saved.  How would he know he got saved?  The lost are both self deceived and deceived by the devil.  What if his profession of faith in Christ is just another self deception or a Satanic trick?

4B.    What if the fellow knows that he is no more saved than the man in the moon, but he lied to you?  Sinners do lie, you know.  How many police officers would just take the word of a guy standing outside a liquor store with a broken window after closing hours who says he didn’t do it?  Not many.  How many airlines just take the word of a passenger boarding the flight who says, “I don’t have my ticket, but you can take my word that I paid for my airfare”?  Why is it, then, that only preachers and soul winners take the uncorroborated testimony of a witness, whose reliability is unknown, about the most important issue known to man?

5B.    The Bible teaches, in both the Old and the New Testaments, that testimony has to be corroborated.[21]  Therefore, to accept uncorroborated testimony, even from a fellow with tears in his eyes who has just prayed a prayer, is presumptuous. 

6A.   Sixth, IT IS PRESUMED THAT A BAPTISMAL CANDIDATE IS QUALIFIED BECAUSE HE IS WILLING TO BE BAPTIZED OR BECAUSE HE HAS BEEN PERSUADED TO BE BAPTIZED

1B.    There are many ministries that are geared up in such a way that they have an efficient machinery established to get those who come forward for salvation into the baptistery, whether those people are genuinely converted or not.  The assumption is made that everyone who comes forward will get saved, and that they should, therefore, get baptized.

2B.    Still other ministries are set up in such a way that it is assumed that everyone who prays to receive Christ has actually received Christ.  And they make this assumption without any real examination of the baptism candidate, without anyone with real skill and discernment spending anything approaching quality time to discern the spiritual condition of the candidate.

3B.    Is everyone who is willing to be baptized actually born again?  Is there no situation in which a person would pretend to be converted, would deceive people about being a legitimate baptismal candidate?  No one would fake becoming a Christian and get baptized to get in the good graces of a church girl?  No one would pretend to repent of his sins so the pastor would put in a good word with a judge?  No one would get baptized to establish an identity with a baptismal certificate issued by the church?

4B.    History tells us that emperor Constantine converted to Christianity and then made Christianity the state religion of the Roman Empire, the result being a flood of unconverted members into the churches.  But we have gone Constantine one turn better in our time.  Instead of sprinkling all those unsaved people to make them church members, our churches immerse all those unsaved people to make them church members.  The result is still the same, with churches all over our country filled with unconverted members.

5B.    This happens because the real criteria for baptism in our churches has nothing to do with whether they are born again, has nothing to do with whether they have a credible testimony of Christian conversion and a corresponding change in lifestyle that corroborates their carefully examined conversion testimony of how they came to Jesus.  It has only to do with whether or not the candidate is willing to get baptized, ignoring the fact that there are many reasons why a person might want to get baptized other than the Scriptural reason of obeying Christ’s command.

6B.    Some want to get baptized because they want to be in the in group.  Others, because they want to be able to vote in church business meetings or participate in communion.  Still others, because they secretly believe in baptismal regeneration and think their sins will be washed away in water.  Still others want to be baptized for no other reason than to please the personal worker they have come to like who so obviously wants them to be baptized.

7B.    My point is, it is presumptuous to assume that the only reason a person would want to be baptized is because it is God’s will for his life, it is Christ’s command for him as a new disciple, it is the first step of obedience for a person whose sins have just been forgiven.  Lost men are exceedingly wicked, and they will say and do anything.  Saved men are oftentimes foolish, and they will say and do almost anything.  The result is sinful presumption on the part of preachers, on the part of soul winners, and on the part of those who are still lost.  In the end, all that is accomplished is that God is greatly sinned against. 

7A.   Finally, IT IS PRESUMED THAT THE WAY YOU DEAL WITH SINNERS IS THE RIGHT WAY TO DEAL WITH SINNERS BECAUSE YOU KNOW OF NO OTHER WAY TO DEAL WITH SINNERS

1B.    Especially among the ranks of the Baptists, we claim that we are not tradition bound.  We claim that we owe allegiance only to the Bible.  We claim that we are not influenced by pride and the fear of embarrassment from having been very wrong about things we should have been right about.  But we are not immune from presumption.  And our presumptions are oftentimes based upon tradition, pride, and fear of embarrassment, rather than allegiance to the Bible.

2B.    It is wrong to presume that the Holy Spirit is dealing with someone you are preaching to or witnessing to.  It is wrong to presume that the Holy Spirit is finished dealing with someone just because the sermon has ended or the brochure has been read.  It is wrong to presume the sinner’s heart has been prepared to trust Christ just because you are ready to lead him in prayer.  It is wrong to presume a sinner has gotten saved just because he has prayed a prayer, or some other such thing.  It is wrong to presume a sinner is a Christian just because he says he is, or because someone else says he is without a careful consideration of the facts and cautious conversations with the hopefully new Christian.  It is wrong to presume a baptismal candidate is qualified to follow the Lord in believer’s baptism just because he is willing to be immersed.

3B.    Finally, it is presumptuous to think that the way you deal with sinners is the correct way because it is the way you deal with them, and because you know of no better way of dealing with them.  My friends, the Pharisees were guilty of presumption precisely because they thought they were right because it was them, and because they just could not imagine things being otherwise.

4B.    For most of my Christian life I was guilty of the terrible presumptions that I have dealt with in this sermon.  It has been a very painful process to discover how very wrong I have been about many, many things that I was previously so sure about.  And I am sure that I have numerous other areas of my Christian life where the sin of presumption weighs heavily.

5B.    This understanding has caused me to walk more softly than I used to when dealing with the lost, to work harder at discovering what I can and cannot be sure about concerning a professing Christian’s real condition, and to be much more cautious than I used to be about this sin of presumption. 

CONCLUSION:

1.   One of the secondary themes that you may have detected running through this sermon is the involvement of the Holy Spirit of God in our evangelistic effort, or should I say the absence of any consideration of the Holy Spirit’s involvement in our evangelistic effort.

2.   Zechariah 4.6 reads, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts.”  The Holy Spirit is always intimately involved in whatever God does among men.  No Holy Spirit, no working of God.

3.   Speaking of the Lord Jesus Christ, John the Baptist said of Him:  “For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him.”[22]  Thus, even the Lord Jesus, during His earthly ministry, conducted a Spirit-empowered ministry among us.

4.   And Paul wrote, in Ephesians 5.18:  “be filled with the Spirit.”  That is, a Christian should consciously and constantly submit to and be dominated by the Spirit of the living God.  Paul is not suggesting a pseudo-mystical experience for believers, but a straightforward and conscious decision to submit to the will of that Third Person of the triune Godhead Who indwells them in every area of life, including evangelism.

5.   However, it has been my observation that the Holy Spirit of God is woefully uninvolved in most evangelism these days.  Either the assumption is made that He is working when He is not, or no attention is paid to the work He is doing, and preachers and soul winners end up working at cross purposes to Him.

6.   This sermon is not the place for elaboration of these points, but there are ways to discern when the Holy Spirit is working in some sinner’s life.  As well, there are ways to surmise when the Holy Spirit has prepared a sinner’s heart to come to Christ.  And finally, there are ways to examine a professing Christian to arrive at some basis for concluding that he is or is not genuinely converted.

7.   Now, please understand that I am not claiming 100% certainty in anything.  But any improvement in caution and carefulness when dealing with precious souls is better than the present state of affairs.  After all, a sinner’s eternal and undying soul really is worth a bit of extra effort.

8.   Sadly, the rule of the day with preachers and soul winners seems to be presumption.  But presumption is a dangerous sin, fraught with danger to all involved.  Let us, therefore, first become aware of the sin that is being committed, and then seek to bring people to Jesus Christ without committing these sins of presumption.


[1] Quoted in Edwin Charles Dargan, A History of Preaching, Vol 1, (Birmingham, Alabama: Solid Ground Christian Books, 2003) page 18.

[2] Adam Clarke, Adam Clarke’s Commentary (Bronson, MI: Online Publishing, Inc., 2002), [email protected]

[3] Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Commentary, (Bronson, MI: Online Publishing, Inc., 2002), [email protected]

[4] Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary On The Whole Bible, (Bronson, MI: Online Publishing, Inc., 2002), [email protected]

[5] John Gill, The John Gill Library, (Paris, AK: The Baptist Standard Bearer, Inc., 2000)

[6] The First Scofield Reference Bible, (Iowa Falls, Iowa:  Barbour and Company, Inc., 1986), page 237.

[7] Footnote on Deuteronomy 18.15-19, Tim LaHaye Prophecy Study Bible, (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000), page 221.

[8] Footnote on Deuteronomy 18.15-19, John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, (Nashville: Word Publishing, 1997), page 276.

[9] Matthew 7.15; 24.11; 24.24; Mark 13.22; Luke 6.26;

[10] Galatians 6.1

[11] Isaiah 55.11

[12] Hebrews 12.16-17

[13] Acts 2.37

[14] Acts 16.27

[15] Acts 16.29

[16] Acts 16.29-30

[17] Acts 16.30

[18] Ephesians 2.8

[19] Matthew 6.9-13

[20] John 14.6

[21] Deuteronomy 17.6; 19.15; Matthew 18.15ff; John 8.17; Second Corinthians 13.1; Hebrews 10.28; First John 5.7-8

[22] John 3.34

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