Daniel 12:3 And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.
Proverbs 11:30 The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise.
That we believers have been called to a holy vocation which includes witnessing to the world the good news of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone is without question, as the above verses and numerous New Testament teachings make plain. We have been given a title consistent with our calling (“ambassadors for Christ” - 2 Cor 5:20), the message we are to declare (“the word of reconciliation” - 2 Cor 5:19, 21), and the definition of the audience to which we are to speak (“whosoever” - Rom 10:13, in other words, everyone to whom the Lord grants us opportunity to witness). Our commission, then, is plain.
Unfortunately, in their zeal to “win the lost,” most in professing Christendom, even many true believers, have reduced evangelism to a “numbers game.” Failing to properly understand the relationship between the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man in salvation (both of which are plainly taught by Scripture), they devise man-centered evangelical approaches which ultimately measure success according to the quantity of mere professions they generate. Without realizing it, they minister according to the error of “The end justifies the means.” Consequently increasing error creeps into their well-intentioned but misguided efforts to “win the world for Christ.” Believing themselves to be accomplishing God’s will, they don’t realize that they may very well be working at cross purposes with the sanctifying and saving work of the Holy Spirit and, if so, will not be rewarded for their work as they believe.
1 Corinthians 3:7-10 then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. 8 Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour. 9 For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building. 10 According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.
2 Timothy 2:5 [For] if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully.
The following are two troubling evangelistic appeals that have been brought to my attention recently. According to the plain teaching of the Word of God, neither is scripturally sound nor God-honoring. I share my thoughts regarding these not to suggest that all who may use (or have used) either of these appeals is lacking in sincerity of purpose or love for God, but simply to point out the inherent errors of the appeals and, therefore, their potential dangers.
Appeal #1 - Hedging Your Bets: “What have you got to lose?”
Blaise Pascal, a Roman Catholic physicist and religious philosopher from the mid-1600s is quoted as having said “If you choose to place your faith in Jesus Christ, and after death you discover that he was not real, you have lost nothing. However, if you choose not to place your faith in Jesus Christ and after death, you discover he was real, you have lost everything.” Though Christians should know better, some have been impressed by this shallow human rationalization and turned it into something they consider to be an evangelistic appeal. Though the words take many forms, this vain appeal goes something like this…
“Look, if what I (the witnesser) have told you is true and you believe it, you’ll go to heaven. On the other hand, if it is not true and you believe it, you will be no worse off than you are right now. So, what do you have to lose? Just believe.”
This is, without doubt, a product of modern evangelism’s emphasis on measuring evangelical effectiveness on the basis of “quantity,” i.e., the gross number of professions gained, rather than “quality,” i.e., biblical evidence of regeneration as evidenced by a professing believer’s new life and lifestyle in Christ, i.e., the “new creature” (2 Corinthians 5:17). This appeal makes the mistake of equating mere mental assent or intellectual acknowledgement of the facts about Jesus, with real faith which is trusting absolutely in Jesus’ finished cross work. What those who use this appeal fail to understand is that everyone who “believes” in the facts of Jesus’ life and work is not saved!
John 2:23-25 Now when he was in Jerusalem at the passover, in the feast day, many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did. 24 But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, 25 And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man.
Matthew 7:21-23 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
Mere words are no measure of true faith. God does not measure a man’s faith by the words that come out of his mouth, but by the works that come forth from his heart, the fruit of his life.
Galatians 6:7 God is not mocked.
Hebrews 4:12b-13 [God is] a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 13 Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.
This is an appeal to human sight or natural understanding, not divine faith. It is an appeal to unregenerate man to use his desperately wicked mind (Genesis 6:5; Jeremiah 17:9) to logically evaluate the pros vs cons of agreeing with the claims of Christianity. But unregenerate man cannot understand spiritual truth, so his logic is useless in understanding and obtaining God’s salvation.
1 Corinthians 2:14 … the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
God is not a commodity that can be manipulated by man according to his own will for his own self-defined gain. To attempt to deal with the infinitely holy and sovereign God and the immensely important realities of heaven and hell with such lightness is not evidence of saving faith. Rather it is a manifestation of one’s eternal lostness, of unbelief. And perhaps most importantly, to use such an appeal in witnessing brings into question one’s own understanding of both God and the nature of true salvation.
2 Corinthians 13:5 Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?
2 Timothy 2:15-16 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 16 But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness.
Appeal #2 - Challenging One’s Personal Intelligence or Common Sense: “Don’t you want to be saved?”
This appeal is less offensive to me than is the first. Nevertheless, it is based on some measure of human reason rather than on God’s truth alone. In that, it represents error which needs to be exposed.
Like the first erroneous appeal, this one also assumes that unregenerate man has the ability to understand spiritual realities and make a right choice. However, without diminishing in any way man’s responsibility to respond to God’s Word by believing unto salvation, it is obvious from the Word of God that before God gives him “eyes to see” and “hears to hear” unregenerate man cannot respond to spiritual truth for he is “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). Dead men cannot see, hear, or understand.
Romans 3:11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.
Matthew 13:14-16 And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: 15 For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. 16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.
In short, until God moves on his heart through the sanctifying work of the Spirit to bring the sinner to saving faith in the Truth (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14), the unsaved man has no desire for God whatsoever. He does not seek God. He has no desire to be saved. It is only when God blesses his eyes and ears with spiritual sight and hearing that faith is ignited, and holy desire and saving belief is manifested.
This appeal, then, denies the sovereignty of God in salvation by assuming that salvation is a matter of human choice. But if God is sovereign, He is sovereign over all things. If He is not sovereign over all things, He is not sovereign at all. God is sovereign over all. He is sovereign in salvation.
John 1:12-13 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: 13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
John 6:44-45 No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.
God is not waiting with “bated breath” to see if unregenerate man “wants” His most precious gift of salvation. He draws, sanctifies, and saves men according to His infinitely wise and loving will to fulfill His infinitely holy and eternal purpose (Ephesians 1:3-6, 11-14). God is not subject to man’s will, man is subject to His. The true believer is a humbled and thankful recipient of God’s abounding grace (His unmerited favor) and priceless mercy, not a procurer of that grace and mercy through his own ability or wisdom.
This appeal is spiritually dangerous. It is dangerous because it may provoke an emotional response to a form of peer pressure and encourage mere mental assent to facts presented and accepted by others, resulting in a superficial profession of faith and, thereby, contributing to the population of the “many” of Matthew 7:21-23. Further, it can easily devolve into an evangelism that emphasizes mere religious externalities and ceremonialism. In other words, the naïve can come to believe that their repeating certain words as they were instructed, or saying a prayer that was provided for them, and/or submitting to certain actions required of them purchased for them their “ticket” to heaven. “Faith” in such cases becomes a work of righteousness generated by man rather than a gift given by God (Ephesians 2:8-10).
And this appeal is especially dangerous when addressed to children who are very impressionable and easily influenced by authority figures. These young souls love to please. Because of this they can be persuaded to comply with authoritative instructions whether or not those instructions are truly wise or scripturally sound.
Men are saved by the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit through the preaching of the finished cross work of Jesus Christ. The believer’s role, then, is to declare plainly and uncompromisingly that “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them… be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him [to be] sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Corinthians 5:19b, 21). This “word of reconciliation” delivered to the heart of the hearer by the Holy Spirit saves (1 Peter 1:22-23).
Be faithful to your vocation as ambassadors for Christ. Sound out the message of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone with clarity and confidence. But don’t add to your witnessing your ideas as to how you can accomplish the work of the Spirit for Him. It is His work to convince the lost of sin, righteousness and judgment. Don’t get in His way. Let God be God.
1 Corinthians 2:1-2 And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
Previous Page | Next Page