Sunday, March 02, 2008

The Power of the Gospel to Transform the Nations

One of the motivating factors for being a part of any cooperative effort to take the gospel of Jesus Christ to the ends of the world is the power of the gospel to transform the nations. It is unfortunate that most of evangelical Christianity is driven by a pessimistic eschatology that sees the world growing worse and worse. The sacred Scriptures give indication throughout that the gospel is powerful enough to transform the nations, and according to God's plans, will ultimately effect such positive change. Lest the positive view of the gospel age be considered novel, it is interesting to read what Charles H. Spurgeon, the great nineteenth-century Baptist preacher, had this to say on this subject in his The Treasury of David: Containing the Book of Psalms

“David was not a believer in the theory that the world will grow worse and worse, and that the dispensations will wind up with general darkness, and idolatry.

Earth’s sun is to go down amid tenfold night if some of our prophetic brethren are to be believed.

Not so do we expect, but we look for a day when the dwellers in all lands shall learn righteousness, shall trust in the Saviour, shall worship thee alone, O God, and shall glorify thy name.

The modern notion has greatly damped the zeal of the church for missions, and the sooner it is shown to be unscriptural the better for the cause of God. It neither consorts with prophecy, honours God, nor inspires the church with ardour. Far hence be it driven.”

Amen, Mr. Spurgeon, Amen.

Wade Burleson


Jack Maddox said...


"The sacred Scriptures give indication throughout that the gospel is powerful enough to transform the nations, and according to God's plans, will ultimately effect such positive change."

A question. Is your position on the Millennium Pre, Post or amillennial ?

jrm said...

I'm not sure I have a position. When I teach eschatalogy I teach the four major views and the non-traditional partial preterist view and let people decide for themselves which they wish to believe. As for me, I figure it is the gospel that transforms the nations and will focus my energy on that

James Gibson said...

It's good to see some of our Baptist brethren rethinking the implications of their denomination's predominant eschatological position on the mission of the church. Premillennial dispensationalism is a fatalistic worldview which makes the church, the Gospel, and even Christ himself a failure. Spurgeon preached a message of hope and the ultimate triumph of righteousness, in continuity with the historic tradition of the church. It's good to hear this voice from the past to point the way to the future.

Anonymous said...

I wish Spurgeon was around today. I would love to read his latest article on "The Down Grade" of the SBC and the Antioch Network.

One question? What ever happened to the Doctrine of Seperation?

Not seperation from the world... but as it says in Romans 16:17... 1"Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them."

Joe W.

Bob Cleveland said...

It seems to me you'd have to define who it is, that's causing division. Is it...

Those who may disagree with us over some issue, even though they are scripturally sound...

Or is it..

Those who refuse to cooperate, or exclude those, who disagree with them over secondary issues?

You know where my vote goes.

greg.w.h said...

A fairly thorough paper on Spurgeon's own position

One of the key findings of the paper is that the current terminology wasn't fully developed then. Also pointed out that post-millenialism was the predominant American view until the two world wars put a damper on the optimism implicit in post-millenialism.

I mention that because B. H. Carroll was a post-millenialist. And part of the fervor of Southern Baptist missions traces to post-millenialist views for ushering in the Kingdom through evangelism. That is the same kind of optimism that Spurgeon expresses in that statement, though that paper refutes a direct connection to post-millenialism as his prevalent view on eschatology.

Greg Harvey

P.S. It feels good to sleep at a Holiday Inn Express every now and then!! Either that or Google makes me look smarter than I really am.

greg.w.h said...

Ok...I need to correct:


...that paper refutes...


...that paper, on a quick reading seems, to refute...


Paul Burleson said...

Joe W.,

I'm assumming you're asking of anyone since your question does not address a person.

My thoughts only..Paul seems to use "doctrine" to reference the subject any particular letter is addressing. In 1 Corinthians, for example, the 'divisions' being cautioned against and the 'one mind' being asked for has as it's context the Person and message of the gospel. Not doctrine in general.

In fact Paul mentions baptism and 'who did it' are not to be the issue and the message and 'who preached it' [Apollos. Paul, Peter] are not to be the issue. He is referencing the gospel there too.

In Romans his emphasis is again, the gospel. He is encouraging the Romans to not 'Lose the doctrine' [of the gospel] as they were taught it.

He DOES speak to the conduct and character of the people from whom we're to withdraw. Those who cause separation or create stumbling blocks for young believers because of that changed gospel they preach or teach are to be avoided. Those who are consummed with self are to be avoided also according to that Romans 16:17-18 reference.

It is very similar to his words of 11 Corinthians 12:10 where he shows that false leaders [those challenging his apostleship] are recognized because they compare themselves to themselves, which I believe leads to competition which they were certainly involved in with Paul and even a conspiracy to bring him [Paul] down.

Comparison/competition/conspiracy...I would call that the "big C' wouldn't you?

I guess I would conclude that ANYTIME a person is guilty of comparing themselves with others.. to show how much better "I am than you are" and competing for a position in the hearts others.. that one is certainly to be viewed as false, to be avoided, and is headed for trouble.

I guess we will all have to examine ourselves here. I will. I hope you will too.

Paul Burleson said...

I would assume anyone thinking will assume I know it is assuming not assumming. I would assume so. :)

Jack Maddox said...


"Premillennial dispensationalism is a fatalistic worldview which makes the church, the Gospel, and even Christ himself a failure."

Careful James...that doe snot sound very irenic and tolerant of a second tier issue in which you disagree!


Thanks for answering!


Wayne Smith said...


Very Wise Words and Council for a Sheperd / Biker.

In His Name
Retired Biker
Wayne Smith

Wayne Smith said...

Sorry for the misspelled SHEPHERD

DL said...


I wonder how many pastors actually know enough about all five of the views you listed to teach them accurately. :) I appreciate the Gospel focus over eschatological focus because I believe if we read all Scripture through Gospel-colored glasses, God is glorified, and man is motivated to joyful love of others.

Dave Miller said...

Strangely, contrary to the implications of this post, premilleniallists have been avid missionaries. Look at the dispensational, premillennial denominations and you will often find a passion to reach people with the gospel.

The difference would be that premillennialists believe that Jesus, not the church, will transform the nations.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for telling me you were not sure of your position on Millennium Pre, Post or amillennial. I was in a meeting with some very fine Christens. At the break time someone came up to me and ask what was my position on Millennium? I told the man I had no position, and at that he question my salvation, because I had not took a stand. Thank you Wade for telling me, that I did not have to have a position on this subject.

“Old Gray Fox.”

Rex Ray said...

Old Grey Fox,
You may agree with me in being a ‘pan millennialists’. That’s where you believe things in the end are going to pan out.

Lin said...

"Thank you Wade for telling me, that I did not have to have a position on this subject."

We will know the answer the second it happens. :o) Until then, it is NOT the most important thing.

"Strangely, contrary to the implications of this post, premilleniallists have been avid missionaries. Look at the dispensational, premillennial denominations and you will often find a passion to reach people with the gospel.

The difference would be that premillennialists believe that Jesus, not the church, will transform the nations."

Very good points and very true.

Only By His Grace said...


We part on this subject this time; however, I think I will allow you stay in the Convention-- and the Lord be with you tomorrow night.

Every dispensation ends in absolute failure from the Edenic state, the Patriarchal state, the Mosaic State, the Church State, the Tribulation of Israel State, the Millennial State except the Eternal State.

I know of no Christians that do not believe in a least five of these states or dispensations (Edenic, Patriarchal, Mosaic, Church and Eternal). They just do not call them Dispensations. It is only a word.

There have been great missionaries in all three major eschatological schools whether Post, Pre or A.

And again this is a tertiary doctrine for only that He is coming again is a primary belief or am I missing something.


What you said is grossly illiterate and unfair about Pre-millennial Dispensationalism. I can say even harsher things about A-millennialism that it replaces Israel with the Church leaving the door of persecution of the Jews wide open which would be about as fair to A-millennialism as you are being to Pre-millennial Dispensationals. As far as missionary minded, do you know that Primitive Baptist are A-millennial or those I have met are?

And you think the world is getting better and better or going to get better? Come walk downtown Oklahoma City with me tonight at midnight or any night or Dallas or Houston or any major US city.

The Lord is coming soon. Please, hurry, Lord Jesus.

Phil in Norman,

Only By His Grace said...


That should have a question mark, "or am I missing something?"

Phil in Norman

Bill said...

Who believes the church will transform the nations? The post clearly speaks of the Gospel transforming the nations. And it is the church who preaches the Gospel.

I have often wondered if one day pre-mil will be the official position of the SBC. I hope not. We have enough troubles as it is.

B Nettles said...

Having taught physics courses for 25 years, I can correlate my students' attitudes and perspectives toward physics problems to the att. and perspec. of groups that watch and act in society (Church, parachurch, politicians, news media, etc.)

Here are assumptions that I run into that cause difficulties:
1) The current situation is unique in its magnitude, being worse or better than it has ever been. (almost everybody today.)
2) The current trend (getting better or getting worse) will continue forever. (Post-mill's attitude before WW1/WW2.)
3) If number 2 proves false, then my whole system is false. (Post-mill's attitude after WW1/WW2. NOT saying I'm post-mill, just using them as an example.)
4) If the solution is not immediately evident, then my whole system is false or at best, flawed.
5) If my system presents a difficult path to the solution, it's not worth the effort.
6) An incorrect solution means the system is a failure.
7) A system which doesn't protect me from mistakes has nothing to offer and is completely wrong.
8) One solution or description of a problem ALWAYS excludes any other solutions or descriptions.

What system of man would predict that the only Hope of mankind would spring from the wombs of a harlot and a Moabite? That the harlot Rahab would appear at the high point of Israel (Joshua leading the conquering of the Promised Land)? That the Moabite Ruth would appear during the (localized) low point of the Judges?

While these systems of eschatology are "fun," they are still attempts to schedule God (admittedly based on His written word), and we ALL bring a bias to the building of our system. Pronouncements that "this" system always leads to "that" conclusion are filled with that bias. My first serious Bible studies were under R. B. Thieme, so I fully comprehend the struggle with biases. there's a subject that we all agree on. "God saves sinners." :D

BTW, what's the 'non-official' position on general relativity? If you have a GPS, be very, very careful in how you answer that.

B Nettles said...

Why a Retired Biker? Were you riding the wrong brand?

Gary said...


I'll see your "general" and raise you a "special"! ;-)

Now, if we can equate general and special to a millennial viewpoint, then it should be easier to educate physics majors about eschatology!

That said, I do not have to fully comprehend what is going on in the world of physics to trust that my humble Garmin will faithfully guide me to Starbucks. By the same token, I do not have to fully understand all the myriad facets of eschatology for my 'instruction in righteousness' to be sufficient. Hallelujah!


(I've had good physics teachers and bad ones. Unfortunately while the ones with PhDs had more to offer, they were the worst instructors in "my universe". Thankfully, I remember the most about the good ones!)

E. Goodman said...

Thanks for this post.

This has great implications for our work on the field. Many of my colleagues here in Western Europe seem to approach their ministries as though the gospel were something that saves people from culture rather than something that can transform the entire people group.

Jesus is hope for the nations.

B Nettles said...

That said, I do not have to fully comprehend what is going on in the world of physics to trust that my humble Garmin will faithfully guide me to Starbucks.

Exactly! We can function appropriately in the necessities of life without understanding internal combustion or general relativity (GR). On the other hand, SOMEBODY has to understand them so that repairs can be made when my "user system" goes haywire. And it's not the principles of internal combustion or GR that we "refine;" it's the end use (the human understanding, description and implementation) that gets refined.

Is it important for an individual to have a definite and complete position on all categories of systematic theology?

Wayne Smith said...

Bill Nettles.
Harley didn’t make good Bikes during the 60’s / 70’s, so I like many other played it safe and rode Honda’s. Harley Davidson didn’t start making good Bikes until the 80’s and then I could not afford one of these Great Bikes with the Serpentine Belt. Sold my 83 Wing when we retired and moved from S.Calif to Texas in 2001. All those years with my (CHRISTIANS are NOT PERFECT, JUST FORGIVEN) sign on the back of my Bike, bring back many stories and memories.

In His Name
Retired Biker
Wayne Smith

greg.w.h said...

GPS and Relativity

Greg Harvey

B Nettles said...

It is unfortunate that most of evangelical Christianity is driven by a pessimistic eschatology that sees the world growing worse and worse.

Maybe I'm not reading or seeing the same things you are. I don't have this perspective, and I'm curious as to where you specifically see this. In other words, give me some data!

What I see from Piper, McArthur, Swindoll, Giglio, Carson, Nettles, etc. is a call to take the Gospel to the nations. This seems to be separate from whether the current trend is up or down.

Or maybe I do see it a bit. I would say that as the number of individuals who are Christian changes, so changes the moral aspects of the culture. But the introduction of the Gospel should NOT have the aim of improving the culture (Colson and Dobson seem to take this position, possibly unconsciously)--it should be to bring individuals to Christ. The improvement of the culture is the by-product of God's grace.

From Rankin's and Piper's writings I would conclude that they perceive the evangelization of the nations will "hasten" the return of Christ. My difficulty with their positions is that the world has repeatedly been evangelized.

Rather than fixing culture or hastening the 2nd coming, we should be driven to evangelize by the reason the Son came in the first place, to seek and to save that which is lost.

Gary said...

Greg and Bill,

To Greg: the OSU site is a wonderful 'blurbette with links to the hard stuff' on the subject.

To Bill: re: Systematic Theology. No. I sat literally in Boyd Hunt's hip pocket (my chair was on the platform immediately to his right) for a semester of Systematic Theology at SWBTS in the late 70s. I just hung on for dear life but enjoyed it tremendously. I know that I would enjoy it even better now in my dotage, but alas that is NOT going to happen. BTW we had about 200 pages of reading each night. Drop that on your undergrads at Union and see if they howl!

No, a complete understanding of Systematic Theology is not required for entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven. Grace and Faith are enough. What I do not need are folks trying to be my High Priest. No thanks. I already have one. ;-)

Hope the community at Union is healing in all aspects. My choir has continued to lift Union up each week since the tornado.


Pastor Bob Farmer said...

Spurgeon was a pre-millennialist.

greg.w.h said...

Caught in a Google cache:

Unprecedented progress is being made to give all people an opportunity to hear, understand and respond to the gospel in their own cultural context. We don't work to advance the Father's timetable and to hasten the Lord's return but to be obedient in the task to which He has called us.

Some interpret Matthew 24:14 in eschatological terms of fulfillment in the millennial reign of Christ, rather than as a result of our mission efforts.

Nevertheless, if it is the Father's desire to be exalted among the nations and His ultimate purpose is for every tribe, people, tongue and nation to be represented among the redeemed around His throne, then we should strive with all diligence to fulfill our Lord's command and make disciples of all nations.

--Jerry Rankin "Does missions have anything to do with end times?" Aug 13, 2001

Greg Harvey

greg.w.h said...

Pastor Bob Farmer:

Just curious: did you read the article I linked at the Spurgeon site? I came away from that article with a healthy respect for the argument that he understood eschatological positions of his day, but that he, like Wade, didn't argue for any of them and was actually rather silent on the advantages of each.

On a decidedly separate topic, in an attempt to confirm that position with other articles or pages, I performed a Google search on the search phrase "spurgeon pre-millenialist" and came across this gem from a forum:

My old teacher, Dr. O. Talmadge Spence, always used to talk about "The Whitefield Spirit". Wesley and Whitefield were on polar opposites regarding Calvinism, yet they greatly respected each other. One thing I have always tried to do is to acknowledge a brother who has the right heart, even if I don't agree with all of his doctrine.

Now I'm a KJV, Baptist, local-church, premillennial, dispensational preacher and make no bones about it. But I hope I have enough grace to be able to fellowship with someone who may not be any of those as long as he loves the Lord, takes the separatist/fundamentalist position on the issues and lives right. I just hope a brother can afford the same courtesy to me as I would try to extend to him. You're not a dispensationalist? Don't infer that my theology is antichristian then. You don't like the KJV? Don't accuse me of being "KJV-Only" or a follower of Peter Ruckman. Show some grace. I'll try to treat you as a Christian brother. All I would ask is for you to do the same. We will agree to disagree on some issues. The early fundamentalists did, yet they managed to work well together, until the Baptists hijacked the movement in the late 1950s. Then everything got repackaged into a "Baptist-only/KJV/premillennial" mentality, which did great harm to the movement.

I've noticed quite a bit of disagreement among the brethren here. Some of you use the ESV. I wouldn't. But I won't make that a point of fellowship if you won't. Some of you may hold to a different form of baptism than I do. God give me grace not to blow that out of proportion. Some men recommend BJU or Pensacola or Hyles-Anderson. I don't, but who am I to condemn if you love the Lord and are trying your best to be faithful to the will of God as you understand it?

God give us grace in these areas! I think we have been so pre-programmed to think that we are compromising or "going liberal" if we adopt a genuine fundamentalist attitude and "Whitefield Spirit" in these areas, but I think it is simply getting back to a genuine fundamentalist spirit. A good example would be Spurgeon. Afer all, he had pedo-baptists on his staff at his college!

--John Cereghin, July 25, 2006

I don't know John from Adam (or Eve for that matter), but the pedo-baptist reference was what drew my initial attention, then I read the whole comment and just thoroughly enjoyed it. Thought I'd share!

Greg Harvey

Chris Johnson said...


Paul was teaching his young pastor Timothy and giving some fairly strong hints to the distinction of the gospel in this world and evil….

“2 Timothy 3:1-17 But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come.

And then to those at Colossae,….seems to be a consistent message. Not one of despair, but of the sobering reality of sin in the world. His encouragement is the success of the Gospel without dependence or indications within the world.

Colossians 2:1-4 For I want you to know how great a struggle I have on your behalf and for those who are at Laodicea, and for all those who have not personally seen my face, (2) that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God's mystery, that is, Christ Himself, (3) in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (4) I say this so that no one will delude you with persuasive argument.

I think I hear what you are trying to say in the beginning of this post…in that possibly some have wrong motive for preaching the Gospel. The wrong way is from fear, where in opposition the Gospel is fearless.

Paul certainly understood the reality of evil and where the world is heading because of sin. But there is little doubt from his lips, that the Gospel was the water that quenched the wrathful dry ground now and to those that would struggle later.

You have dashed the hopes for all the churches planning their Halloween Programs! Shame on you! :)

Interesting angle,

Anonymous said...

="">a good book.

I hope our focus will always be God's glory to all the Nations. It's His and we can join Him... be "co-missioned" with the King, to advance the Kingdom. Amazing.

Bryan Riley said...

oops... must have mistyped something in that code. sorry. you can delete that wade..

greg.w.h said...

Reposting Bryan Riley's comment:


Bryan's link

I hope our focus will always be God's glory to all the Nations. It's His and we can join Him... be "co-missioned" with the King, to advance the Kingdom. Amazing.


Bryan: you can delete your own comments if you're logged in when you're on the page where you normally enter new comments. It's the trashcan underneath the date at the bottom of the post.

Greg Harvey

david b mclaughlin said...

When I teach eschatalogy I teach the four major views and the non-traditional partial preterist view and let people decide for themselves which they wish to believe.

Great answer Wade. Exactly what I do. (And was once nearly crucified on this blog for stating such, but not by you.)

However-I am curious how you would define the Four Major Views. Do you mean the Four Major Dispensational views and then throw in the "non-traditional" partial-preterist view, or do you mean the Four Major Views, ie:

(Partial) Preterism
Futurism (Dispensationalism)

Just curious and thanks!

David Mc

ps-IMHO, no serious eschatology student can do without Steve Gregg's "Revelation: Four Views, A Parallel Commentary." It is a masterpiece.

B Nettles said...

Thanks for the prayers for us here at Union. The support has been amazing, as has been the rebuilding progress. I believe the only students who dropped this semester were the ones in the hospital. Recruiting interest has increased greatly.

Returning to class has been challenging, but I've decided I won't lose my salvation if I don't "finish the book."

That's a great cache catch. Thanks.

I'm still interested in who Wade was referring to in the post.

Tim Greer said...

What David Mc said.

Wade, I wish more pastors would take the view of you and David. In my experience, one interpretation gets preached as if it were the settled, main and plain word of God, and the others get a full media blackout.

And Spurgeon was not premill.


Only By His Grace said...


I hate to burst your baloon, but like it or not, you and I are not far apart. I preach out of the AV, I am a Pre-Mil Dispensationalist, and I, too, only want the respect and give the respect one Christian brother or sister should give to each other.

I make a strong difference between Fundamentalism and fundamentalism. I am not a KJ Only either. I did have a couple in my church Sunday.

Since your theology and attitude is just about straighten out, I will keep working on your secular politics.

Phil in Norman,

PS. I hope you are a traditional Baptist and not a modern Baptist on Separation of Church and State.

Have to go watch Beowulf with my wife.

greg.w.h said...


I spoke in gentle opposition to a change to a platform plank at the 17th (State Senatorial) District Republican Convention in 1996 as a delegate from the 9th US Congressional District that sought to restrict the wording of laws to using only the word "church" and not also use "synagogue, mosque, and other places of worship."

I told the delegates that my parents had served as missionaries and that it seemed to me that the acceptance of pluralism in the United States gave us access to evangelize people who often then returned to their nation of origin. I suggested it was short-sighted from a Christian perspective and that it failed the Constitutional establishment clause as well.

Judge Pressler came up afterwards and invited me to lunch. I regret that I wasn't able to follow up and join him, but I think I've lived a full life anyway.

Not trying to pander or anything, but the best argument against state churches is Europe.

Greg Harvey

Only By His Grace said...


I do not know if the Downgrade Controversy where British Baptist led by Alexander McClaren reprimanded Spurgeon was the beginning of the end of evangelistic and mission minded England or not, but something happened that long before the start of WW I.

Spurgeon withdrew from the Association. He was never the same after that. It literally broke his heart. He soon left for a sabbatical to Southern France to recoup his health. While he was there a delegation of four men showed up to ask him to reconsider withdrawing led by McClaren. Spurgeon refused because it would have been an admission that he was wrong about his preaching that the churches in England were on a "Downgrade". England was never the same. No longer did they lead the world with Missionaries sent out, great Bible centered churches and great expositors of Scriptures.

One of my weaker church history areas is England and Europe after 1900. I have about twelve years of monthly news letters going from early 1890 to about 1907 or 08, it is fascinating to read these Christian newsletters: operas in the Baptist churches, magicians, séances, levitation and the whole bit. I do not think those things killed the British Baptist. I think they were just the vultures gathering around an already dead corpse.


Rex Ray said...

Wayne Smith,
Hi, neighbor. I didn’t know you were a Retired Biker. My biking career was short. I’d never ridden a bike (we called them motorcycles), but after buying an Indian Chief for $50, and four weeks later, I almost made a round-trip from Denton, TX to Roswell, NM. My troubles started when the light went out while facing bright car lights. Full speed in total darkness is no fun. Got the light working by holding it with my right hand which left the gas grip unoccupied. When I had to stop, the gas was stuck open as the grip had fallen off. No fun again. Now my left hand had a job of holding a bailing wire to the carburetor, and in that position I went to sleep. I woke up in a ditch with a railroad track rushing at me. My last thought was: “This is going to be exciting!” Wrong. My front wheel caved flat, and the rider became the rideeee. Many hours later, I woke up and spent three months in the college hospital. (Made better grades there than when I attended class.)

Rex Ray