Question:

I understand there is a sin of omission, James 4:17. I attend a congregation where the preacher never preaches the gospel, hear, believe, repent, confess and be baptized for remission of sins. He preaches the truth and is very scriptural in all of his lessons; however, he very rarely, if ever, extends an invitation to be baptized. He is very intelligent and presents very good lessons. I know there is no scripture that mandates an invitation be extended at the end of a sermon, but I personally feel the gospel plan of salvation should be connected to every sermon. Is it a sin of omission to not have the plan included in all sermons? I know Paul told Timothy to "preach the word, be instant in season and out of season." In fact in the years we have attended this congregation I have probably only heard the invitation extended a couple of times. Typically when the minister finishes his sermons with, "let's pray" and he says a prayer and we sing. I personally feel this could fall into the category of the "sin of omission". Am I wrong?


Answer:

A sin is when a law is being broken. "Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness" (I John 3:4). You admit that there is no law requiring an invitation at the end of a sermon; therefore, there cannot be a sin committed when no law is being broken. There is nothing wrong with inviting people to respond to the Gospel message, but nothing says it must be done every time a sermon is presented.

James 4:17 follows a section talking about the uncertainty of the future.

"Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin" (James 4:17).

Notice that this verse starts with "therefore." It is a conclusion or summary of the points made before. This is not an independent statement, but what naturally follows from the arguments previously presented. So let's look at the point before:

"Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit"; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that." But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil" (James 4:13-16).

We have a lot less control over our lives than we might imagine, but people make plans as if they are in complete control of the world. If we realize how little control we have, then we won't put off doing what is right because we might not have another opportunity. Have you heard someone say, "After I get ... done, then I can serve the Lord, but right now I'm too busy"? This is a person who thinks he has control of the future. The point James is stating is the we need to take advantage of the opportunities we have. We should never expect that they will remain available tomorrow because too many other things can happen.

What you are doing is trying to bind your personal preference on another person, and that is wrong. "For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ" (Galatians 1:10). I know preachers who offer invitations, and I know those who don't because it leads to a belief that the only time a person can be saved is when the church is assembled.

Thank you for your reply. I've just always felt that when there's opportunity to teach, promote and offer people the chance to obey the gospel, it should be taken advantage of and to not do so when we have opportunity is neglectful and wrong. I fully understand and should be pointed out to all assemblies that obedience to the gospel can take place at any hour of the day.

Perhaps the problem is thinking that the Gospel message is only about becoming a Christian. It is certainly a part of the message, but all the Bible is the good news from God. Talking about the Israelites who perished, the writer of Hebrews said, "For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard" (Hebrews 4:2). We tend to forget that the gospel message has been being revealed since the fall of man. "And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!" But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed our report?" So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. But I say, have they not heard? Yes indeed: "Their sound has gone out to all the earth, And their words to the ends of the world"" (Romans 10:15-18).

When a preacher teaches lessons from the Bible, he is teaching the Gospel. See: What Is the Gospel About? Obedience is not limited to becoming a Christian. For example, avoiding sin is a part of the gospel. "But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted" (I Timothy 1:8-11). To charge a preacher as being neglectful when he is teaching the full Gospel is a serious charge. What you have indicated is that the preacher in your area is doing his duty in teaching all the Gospel and I'm positive that anyone wanting to become a Christian is not turned away, even if happens during a worship service.