by A.E. Knoch

GOD was in Christ, conciliating the world to Himself, not reckoning their offenses to them. This is the evangel. It begins with God, and continues with Christ, and ends with our offenses. That is the relative importance of those concerned. In heralding it as ambassadors we beseech, "For Christ's sake be conciliated to God!" For the One not knowing sin He makes a Sin Offering for our sakes, that we may become God's righteousness in Him (2 Cor.5:19-21). Viewed from the standpoint of modern evangelism, there are two striking differences. The emphasis is on God and Christ, not on the sinner, and nothing is said about the soul.

Not only in this passage, but throughout Paul's epistles, which give us the evangel for the nations, not a word is said about the salvation of the soul. Indeed, Paul did not count his own soul precious to himself (Acts 20:24). The "salvation of the soul" is connected, by Peter, with the words spoken of Israel by the prophets of old (1 Peter 1:9). It will be fully realized at the unveiling of Jesus Christ in the kingdom, when the holy nation will be blessed with soulish blessing on the earth. At that time we will be enjoying every spiritual blessing among the celestials (Eph.1:3).

Paul speaks of the salvation of the spirit (1 Cor.5:5). Speaking of the immoral, soulish man, he does not seek the salvation of his soul, but rather the reverse. He gives him up to Satan for the extermination of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. Here we may see the character of our salvation clearly exhibited against the background of the soul. The illegal, immoral pleasures were not replaced by proper physical sensations, as would be the case if the soul were saved. Rather the flesh, the medium used by the soul, was destroyed. In its place we will receive spiritual, rather than soulish blessings.

In my boyhood there were several great evangelists touring the country. One came to our city and held meetings in a large "tabernacle," which was specially put up for the occasion. I did not want to go, but was taken there by relatives against my will. Only a few points in his sermon made a permanent impression on my memory. He told that he had been a pugilist, and was so tough that he used to go into a butcher shop and buy meat and eat it raw. All the rest soon faded from my memory. After he finished, personal workers took over and dragged me to the inquiry room, back of the stage. I looked around and noticed that all those who signed the cards were allowed to go. So I signed, and became one of hundreds of converts. But I kept clear of all such meetings thereafter.

After I became a believer through reading the epistle to the Romans, I was greatly impressed by the work of Moody, the evangelist, and went to hear him when he came to our city. By this time I had seriously tried to understand the evangel, as I hoped to make it known to others. So I was sadly disappointed with Moody's impassioned denouncement of the drink evil, and wished I had not gone. I was by no means opposed to reforms and civic betterment, but it seemed to me that, for the believer, this should come only through the power of God's spirit working in him. The unbeliever should be brought into relationship with God and His Christ, not encouraged to reform himself.

The foregoing was brought to my mind by a tract which was handed to me with the request that I give my opinion of it. Would it be a good one to distribute? It seems to be an honest effort on the part of a man who had achieved some earthly fame, but had made a failure of his life, to tell his experience, before and after he believed. The emphasis is on the man, his misery and his happiness. Christ and God are mentioned casually near the close, as the medium of his present happiness. A closing exhortation is an appeal to the human will, and reads, "Friends, let go of the sins of the world. Let God guide your life and you will never be sorry." The accompanying poem, however, is much better, as it includes such lines as, "Jesus died for you on Calvary," although it closes with the exhortation, "Friend, Oh give your heart to Jesus!"

Now I do not doubt that God can use tracts like this, and I pray that He will use this one to His own glory. But I prefer to use those which put God first and Christ next, and the sinner and his feelings last. Such tracts are essentially soulish, not spiritual. They, and the gospel preaching with which they are associated are correctly termed "soul saving," for their burden is to relieve the sinner's feelings, to make him forget his misery and his depression, and fill him with hope and happiness. The center around which all revolves is the sinner. His sufferings in the past, and especially in the future, rather than the sufferings of Christ, are stressed. His happiness, rather than God's, are the great object of it all. It gives excitement or many would not respond.

Before I saw the great truth that God was conciliated to the world, I thought that we had the best definition of the evangel in first Corinthians fifteen, verses one to six, for Paul distinctly states that he is making known to them the evangel which he had brought to them, that is, "that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was entombed, and that He has been roused the third day according to the Scriptures." I still consider this vital to the evangel, but by no means the whole of it, for it says nothing of God's part. What I did not see is that Paul is bringing up that aspect of the evangel which deals with resurrection. There were some in Corinth who denied the resurrection (1 Col.15:12). He shows them that the very evangel through which they were saved involved the resurrection of Christ from among the dead.

Because I could not find any tracts which gave the attitude of God and the sacrifice of Christ and His resurrection the first place in the evangel, I wrote a few along these lines, such as "Be Conciliated to God!" and "How Can a Man be Just with God?" But the very fact that these are not soulish keeps them from being very popular in these last days.

As I earnestly wished to conform my gospel addresses to the Scriptures, yet was much tempted to use the accepted "revival" methods on account of their apparent success, I searched the Scriptures with the hope of finding some warrant for them. But I found nothing like it, especially not in Paul's preaching. It seemed to be based on psychology rather than the Bible. Of course there were illustrations, such as "drawing in the net." I once heard a very intelligent evangelist warn against drawing in the net until the audience was in the right mood. They must be abnormally excited.

The temptation to adapt our service to methods which bring apparent success, rather than conform to the Scriptures, is very great. I doubt if anyone has fully escaped this snare. It seems "impractical" to do otherwise, especially in heralding the evangel. The popular song, "Have you any Stars in your Crown?" expresses the attitude of most of us. We want something in which we can glory. When we are asked, "How many souls have you saved?" we would like to give the answer in thousands. But where, in God's Word, are we the Saviour, or where is there any hint that we shall wear a crown with such stars? Those in Israel at the time of the end who justify many shall be as the stars (Dan.12:3). But this has no application now, or to us, at any time.

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