Henry Mahan

"What kind of church is this?" During a recent Bible conference this question was asked by a visitor who had dropped in for the service. I had just finished preaching a message on the subject "In Search of Truth" and the visitor turned to one of the members and asked, "What kind of church is this?"

How refreshing! In this day (when practically every form of religion is so pigeon holed and typed that it appeals to some segment of our natural society) to preach the gospel of the mystery of Christ in such Bible terms that a natural man is shut up to divine revelation and is unable to identify us with some particular brand of religion! It was said of Spurgeon that no organization could really brand him and say he belongs to us! The hypercalvinists called him an arminian, the arminians called him a hypercalvinist, the legalists called him an antinomian, and the antinomians called him a legalist. The established churches hated him and the Baptists finally disowned him, but true believers of every persuasion loved him and understood his message.

The natural man understands logical Calvinism. He can easily identify with the cooperative redemption presented in arminianism. He has no difficulty with modern fundamentalism! But the free gospel of the grace of God through the merits and death of the Lord Jesus Christ must be revealed to the heart by the Spirit of God. Barnard used to say, "Preachers are wrapping salvation up in a neat little package and selling it to unsuspecting men and women. Preachers are trying to present the great mysteries of redemption in language which 'the natural man can understand and approve of, so that he can make his peace with God and go on about his regular routine and fleshly pursuits."

Blessed is the preacher who can shut men up to free and sovereign grace, and yet lovingly, sincerely invite all men to look to Christ and be saved. Blessed is the preacher who knows that "salvation is of the Lord," who has the patience to wait upon the Lord to regenerate, awaken and call his hearers, yet he prays for their deliverance, urges them to close with Christ, and beseeches them to "be reconciled to God." Blessed is the preacher who can preach with equal force and confidence both the preservation and perseverance of believers. He will not "turn away from us and we will not depart from Him." Blessed is the preacher who can rejoice in imputed righteousness, "with His holy garments on, I am as spotless as His dear Son;" and yet along with his congregation hunger and thirst for spiritual growth and personal godliness. Blessed is the preacher who can find and preach both justification and sanctification at Calvary. We do not go to Calvary for justification and then to Sinai for sanctification. We are "complete in Him." Blessed is the preacher who can preach prophetical truth in such a way that his hearers are looking for the returning Christ and not only the return of Christ! Blessed is the preacher who administers believers' baptism, presides at the Lord's table, and oversees the business of the Lord's church, not according to the "way we do it in our circles and according to our custom and tradition," but according to the Word of God! It may be, if preachers and people return to the Scriptures, someone will ask, "What kind of church is this?" And we can answer, "It is the church of the Lord Jesus Christ which He loved and purchased with His own blood and of which He is the sole Head."

Henry Mahan, Pastor
Thirteenth Street Baptist Church
Ashland, Ky.

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