NEW ORLEANS (BP)–A clear understanding of precisely what Christ accomplished in his atoning work — his redeeming a particular people to himself on the cross — is critical to carrying out the task of evangelism in power and confidence, said Bill Ascol June 12 at the Southern Baptist Founders breakfast.
Ascol, pastor of Heritage Baptist Church in Shreveport, La., said a proper biblical view of Christ’s work inflames evangelistic efforts and gives them a properly biblical foundation. Ascol is a leader of Founders Ministries, an organization that holds to the biblical “doctrines of grace.”
It is a great misconception, Ascol said, that the view which holds the cross as having accomplished the salvation of the elect stands at odds with vibrant evangelism. Instead, the words of Christ that “he has completed the work the Father has given him to do,” combined with the evangelistic imperative of the Scriptures and the effectual work of the Spirit, guarantee evangelistic success, he said.
“I have talked to people from time to time who have embraced these doctrines and they have become complacent,” Ascol said. “I’ll tell them, ‘You haven’t been gripped by the things that gripped the Lord Jesus Christ. You haven’t been gripped by the things that gripped the apostle Paul because these truths, once gripping the heart and mind, inflame evangelism.’
“There is a confidence and a boldness that we can go to the tomb of any son of Adam, any daughter of Eve, and say ‘Lazarus come forth,’ and if the life-giving Spirit attends the Word, you’ve got to loose him [the sinner] and let him go because he’s coming out.”
When Christ uttered his final words at Calvary as quoted in the Gospel of John, “It is finished,” he was referring to the actual accomplishment of salvation for those whom the Father has given to Christ, Ascol said. Salvation was not made possible, but made a reality, he said. To say the atonement merely made salvation hypothetical and not effectual is to say much less than do the Scriptures regarding the work of Christ, he said.
Said Ascol, “To some who would say [of] such an idea of the atonement, ‘I want nothing to do with that picture,’ I think we need to respond, ‘It’s time to debate the atonement. I’m going to take the position of its effectuality, an effectual atonement, an effective atonement, an atonement that atones. You’re welcomed to take the position of its futility and debate an atonement that wants to atone, that makes salvation possible. We’ll debate its effectuality, its power. You can debate its futility, its hypothetical aspects.’
“The problem is, when you search the words of Scripture and you find [words such as] ‘redeemed,’ ‘purchased,’ ‘saved,’ ‘reconciled,’ add to the list ‘propitiate,’ [and] hardly one of them is spoken hypothetically. They are spoken matter-of-factly. ‘While we were yet sinners, we were reconciled.’ ‘He purchased us with his own blood.’ ‘He was a propitiation for our sins.’ When he said, ‘It is finished,’ it was a great cry of victory. Your evangelism should be informed and inflamed by Jesus’ understanding of his atonement in doing the will of God.”
In grasping the grace and mercy of God in choosing to save sinful men, Ascol said it is critical to understand that no person deserves to have his sins atoned for, and it is by the sheer loving kindness and mercy of God alone that sinners are saved. It is the opposite of a salvation that is owed because of deeds done, he said.
Jesus clearly taught the twin truths found in the gospel of John that “all that the Father has given Christ will come” and “all who are weary and heavy laden may come and find rest,” Ascol said. These truths may not be reconciled by the human intellect, but Christ did not hesitate to assert both. In doing so, he displayed confidence in his finished atoning work for those whom the Father has given him, and compassion so that all who come to him in faith will be saved, Ascol said.
“Jesus understood and Paul understood that when you talk about grace, you cannot talk about works or obligation,” Ascol said. “The first time obligation comes into the discussion you have neutralized, you have dismissed grace. How many people does God owe salvation? The answer, biblically, is zero. If he gives it to all or to a million or to a multitude that no man can number, who are we to say anything against that? Now, if it is works and he owes it, then we have a charge to lay.
“And Christ made a sincere, earnest appeal to come. Some will say, ‘That doesn’t make sense to me.’ It doesn’t have to make sense to me. I know this, my Savior was right comfortable with it and I want to be comfortably nestled in him and be comforted by the things that were a comfort to him. … [A]ll the Father gives shall come. … Whoever comes, whoever sees the Son and believes will have everlasting life. The given ones will be raised up in the last day.
“The believing ones will be raised up in the last day are two groups, two perspectives on the same group. If Jesus did not do the Father’s will as he states it, then our evangelistic efforts will meet with nothing but defeat, and it can be argued that we are on a fool’s errand.
“But, if Jesus did do the Father’s will, and I am persuaded that he did, he perfectly obeyed the Father and perfectly accomplished what the Father gave him to do and he was right when he said, ‘I have finished the work you have given me to do.’
“Then our evangelistic efforts will meet with nothing but success and victory.”