Baptists And Evangelism: Passion For God, Passion For Truth, Passion For Souls -- By: Chad Owen Brand
JBTM 1:1 (Spring 2003) p. 17
Baptists And Evangelism:
Passion For God, Passion For Truth, Passion For Souls
Assistant Professor of Christian Theology
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
2829 Lexington Road
Louisville, KY 40280
Gospel proclamation has always been a central theme of Baptist life. Among the children and stepchildren of the Reformation tradition in the seventeenth century, Baptists, with their believers’ church convictions, were in the vanguard of those who emphasized the necessity of hot-hearted evangelism. Not every one of them was fully evangelical, and not every one was heartily evangelistic, but with the Baptists who have been the most spiritually virile and theologically healthy, three tenets have fueled their passion for souls. They were convinced, first, that God was mighty unto salvation and that he certainly could and would save a great multitude, since he is sovereign in his providential guidance and in his saving authority. Second, they affirmed that evangelism entailed the articulation of doctrinal verities, “gospel truths,” which sinners must understand and affirm if they are to be unbelievers no longer. Theological truth claims are not subordinate to the gospel but are integrally wedded to it. Third, their conviction about the believers’ church fostered a doctrine of voluntaryism that impelled them to issue the promiscuous call to all to repent and believe the gospel message. They were convinced that only that person who actually repents and believes will be saved, regardless of his relationship to a territorial or state church. These advocates of the believers’ church saw themselves, thus, finishing what Luther started with his ringing cry of sola fide. This triumvirate
JBTM 1:1 (Spring 2003) p. 18
of convictions is easily viewed in the lives and writing of great Baptists all through history. This essay will briefly examine these three convictions concerning evangelism in the first three hundred years of Baptist life.
God Is Mighty To Save
Most Baptists have affirmed God’s sovereign work in salvation, even if they have not all agreed about the fine print. This conviction was not unanimous, though, either in England or America. From the earliest days men such as John Smyth, Thomas Helwys, Daniel Taylor, and Benjamin Randall have staked their claim to a thoroughgoing Arminian confession in which God has inaugurated salvation in Christ, but not necessarily in the lives of specific individuals. John Smyth argued that justification consists partly in the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, “and partly on inherent righteousness, in the holy themselves, by the operation of the Holy Spirit, which is called regeneration or sanctifi...
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