Recently Pastor Ken Smith addressed the Reformation Society of Pittsburgh on the topic of justification by faith alone. As an application of this doctrine, he addressed the subject of the gospel call. Ken graciously agreed to let us share that important portion of his address below.
I want to pose a question which has troubled me for a long time. Why do there seem to be so few conversions among reformed churches? There could be, I suppose, a number of answers. But having puzzled over this for many decades, I want to pose one very strong possibility. Have we in our zeal for proclaiming the sovereignty of God in salvation with the Bible’s doctrine of predestination, election, and irresistible grace slipped into thinking that saving faith is passive? After all, say many, doesn’t Ephesians 2:9 say “…it (thinking faith) is the gift of God….”? So, if that’s the case, is it not after all a passive matter?
It is significant to recognize that when the Lord Jesus Christ began His ministry, He called on men to repent. In talking with Nicodemus, he made it clear that unless one was born again (from above), he had no part in the kingdom of God. Later in that same passage Jesus spoke of the serpent in the wilderness, raised up in God’s mercy, so that by looking at it persons with fatal snakebite could be healed. When Jesus called men to Himself, He called on them to deny themselves, take up the cross, and follow Him. His gospel call came in a variety of ways, but he always called for a response. And the point of this consideration is that unlike regeneration (the inner call) which is indeed passive, faith in the Scripture is always active. The sinner MUST respond. So while we hold to sola fide, faith alone, we must never confuse it with a passive attitude. Read more