8. THE TYPICAL SOUL-WINNING PROGRAM DOESN’T DEPEND ON GOD ENOUGH AND ISN’T GEARED TO LOOK FOR GOD’S WORKING.
Our part in evangelism is to proclaim the gospel properly, to warn people of the judgment of God, and to urge them to be saved and to pray for them. That is all that we can do. We cannot save anyone. We cannot manipulate them into being saved. We cannot speak the gospel to them in such a way that they get saved without hardly knowing it.
Salvation is a divine miracle from beginning to end. We don’t believe that God “sovereignly chooses” who will be saved or that He has elected only some to be saved, but we do believe that salvation is 100% the work of God. It is God who must convict (John 16:8-11), enlighten (John 1:9), draw (John 12:32), regenerate, and impart the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:7). What we do in evangelism is to look for this miracle-working power of God in individual’s lives. If that work is not present, there will be no salvation. God does this work of regeneration in answer to repentance and faith, but the only way that we can know that the repentance is real and the faith is true saving faith is by the miracle-working power of God in the individual’s life.
Quick Prayerism typically focuses on the technique and program of getting people to pray a prayer and ignores what is happening in the person’s life. This is why it is not unusual for Quick Prayerists to get people to pray a sinner’s prayer when they aren’t interested enough even to invite the soul winner into the home. A Bible College teacher told me recently about a student of his who continues to put pressure on people while door-knocking even when they have indicated that they aren’t interested in getting saved. You don’t see that in the Bible. When I was in Bible College I was often amazed when I was with “successful” soul winners and they would lead people in a prayer when in my mind the individuals were disinterested, perhaps just willing to say the prayer to get rid of us or to say the prayer as life insurance and a ticket into Heaven but with no real conviction and no intent to change directions.
The objective of biblical evangelism is not to get people to pray a sinner’s prayer. The objective is to see the miracle-working power of regeneration in people’s lives.
Repentance is both something that God has commanded man to do (Acts 17:30) and it is a miracle work of God in the heart (2 Timothy 2:25). I believe both of these things come together for salvation. God seeks to give repentance but man must respond. Salvation is man agreeing with and responding to the work of God in his heart, the work of spiritual enlightenment, conviction, drawing, and repentance.
9. THE TYPICAL SOUL-WINNING PROGRAM PROMOTES THE ERROR OF IMMEDIATELY GIVING ASSURANCE.
I have often cringed as I have observed a soul winner giving assurance to someone who has just prayed a sinner’s prayer, even when there was no evidence that the person was truly saved or that he was more than vaguely interested in what the soul winner was talking about.
What is wrong with assurance, you ask? Nothing is wrong with it, but it is only for those who are saved.
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand” (John 10:27, 28).
God promises eternal life to those who are born again, but He certainly does not promise eternal life to those who merely pray a sinner’s prayer. Verses 27 and 28 in John 10 are connected. Verse 28 says Christ gives eternal life to His sheep, but verse 27 says His sheep follow Him. Verse 27 is the evidence of salvation, while verse 28 is the eternal blessing of salvation. You cannot take the promise of verse 28 unless you display the evidence of verse 27.
Consider also the following passage:
“And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled, In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister” (Colossians 1:21-23).
Those who are reconciled to Christ and who therefore have eternal life are those who continue in the faith and are not moved from the gospel. Those who merely pray a sinner’s prayer and do not continue in the faith demonstrate that they have never been born again.
Consider Hebrews 6:9-11:
“But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak. For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love, which ye have shown toward His name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister. And we desire that every one of you does show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end” (Hebrews 6:9-11).
Note that there are “things that accompany salvation.” An empty profession is not biblical salvation, and those who have an empty profession, who do not care about the things of God, do not have eternal life no matter how many prayers they have prayed or how many times they have been baptized and no matter who has given them assurance. True salvation is accompanied by works and labors of love, which are the products of the indwelling Spirit. Hebrews 6:11 reminds us that full assurance is only for those who give evidence that they have been born again.
Consider 1 John 3:2-3:
“Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifies himself, even as he is pure” (1 John 3:2,3).
Verse 1 tells us that those who are born of God have eternal life and will be like Christ in Glory. Verse 2 goes on to warn that those who are truly born of God purify their lives. The purifying is not the means of their salvation; it is the evidence of their salvation.
All of these passages teach that we must be careful about giving assurance of salvation to those who have merely prayed a prayer.
We can tell them that IF they have repented toward God and exercised faith toward Christ they have eternal life, but if they have merely prayed a prayer, they are still lost in their sins. To tell a person dogmatically that he has been saved and now has eternal life when we do not know if he has been saved is unscriptural and harmful.
The Bible gives us many examples of those who were interested in the things of God and were even zealous for God and who appeared to be saved but were not. Judas is a prime example. Those in Matthew 7:21-23 who prayed “lord lord” and who did many wonderful works were not saved. The Jews mentioned in Romans 10 had a great zeal for God but they were not saved. The false teachers of 2 Peter chapter 2 professed Christ but were not saved. Those mentioned in Titus 1:16 professed that they knew God but they were not saved.
A sinner can have many false motives for calling upon the Lord other than for salvation from his sin. He can call upon the Lord because He wants help with some immediate problem in his life, or to get rid of the soul winner, or because he wants a ticket to Heaven when he dies (though he has no intent to know or serve God in this life), or because he thinks that the sinner’s prayer is another of the many religious things he must accomplish in order to be saved eventually, etc.
It is one thing to tell a person that he can have assurance from God and from the Scriptures if he is truly saved; it is quite another thing for the soul winner to give a stranger assurance and promise him a home in Heaven simply because he has prayed a sinner’s prayer.
Yes, Romans 10:13 says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved,” but that verse cannot be isolated from the rest of the passage and from the rest of the book of Romans and from the rest of the Bible. It must be a certain kind of calling upon the Lord, a calling from the heart, a calling that is based on sound repentance toward God and proper faith toward the Lord Jesus Christ.
In the final analysis, giving assurance to a sinner is not the soul winner’s job; it is the job of the Holy Spirit and He accomplishes this through God’s Word. “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God” (Rom. 8:15-16).
10. THE TYPICAL SOUL-WINNING PROGRAM IS GEARED TO NOT DOUBTING THE REALITY OF EMPTY PROFESSIONS.
In the environment created by the Quick Prayerism program, it is typical not to doubt the reality of salvation no matter how empty the profession. To doubt that people are really getting saved would destroy the entire program and the enthusiasm of those who are getting the “decisions.”
I recently talked with a Bible College student who told me that he had led perhaps 100 people to the Lord, but when I asked him how many of those were serving the Lord today he could only point to two. When I questioned the reality of the salvation of the 98, he argued with me that they could be saved even though seemingly nothing happened.
I once met a missionary in England who told me that they were seeing “many” come to Christ through their tract work on the city sidewalks. When I asked him about the attendance at his church services, though, he said the number was very small. When I asked him why he thought that many people were actually getting saved when they weren’t interested enough even to attend church, he got upset and told me that “we can’t judge who is saved or not.” This man had recently attended Hyles’ Pastors School where Hyles had said that repentance is necessary for salvation and the missionary told me that he believes in repentance! Obviously this so-called “repentance” is meaningless as far as any practical effect in people’s lives.
While it is true that we cannot know for absolute sure who is saved, and while it takes time for people to grow spiritually, and while some demonstrate more enthusiasm for Christ than others, and while we can be deceived about a Judas here and there, it is not true that people can be saved without evidence. The Bible is as clear on this as it is only any doctrine. Consider the following Scriptures:
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, AND THEY FOLLOW ME” (John 10:27).
“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
“Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity” (2 Timothy 2:19).
“They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate” (Titus 1:16).
“But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and THINGS THAT ACCOMPANY SALVATION, though we thus speak” (Hebrews 6:9).
“He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:4).
There is not one example in the New Testament of an individual who is saved and does not give clear and even dramatic evidence thereof. Consider the Woman at the Well in John 4 and the Jews who repented on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:42) and the Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts 8:26-39) and Cornelius and his household (Acts 10) and the converts at Antioch (Acts 11:20-23) and Lydia (Acts 16:14-15) and the Philippian Jailer (Acts 16:23-34).
Quick Prayerists typically confuse backsliding and carnality with unregeneracy. There is such a thing as backsliding in the Christian life, but a backslider is one who has first experienced the reality of spiritual life. Someone who has made an empty profession and has no evidence whatsoever that he has been regenerated is not a backslider. The same is true for carnality. A truly born again believer still has the old man living within him together with the new man and it is possible to walk after the flesh to some extent and therefore to be carnal (Gal. 5:16-25), but there will still be plenty of evidence of one’s salvation. Take the members of the church at Corinth, for example. Paul said they were carnal (1 Cor. 3:1) but they showed all sorts of evidence of salvation. They had been converted from dark idolatrous paganism and loved the things of Christ; they were zealous of spiritual things, zealous in ignorance, but zealous nonetheless (1 Cor. 14:12). And the best evidence of all that they were truly saved is the fact that they responded to Paul’s reproof and repented of sins they were guilty of in the church (2 Cor. 7:9-11).
What about Demas? He forsook Paul because of his love for this present world (2 Tim. 4:10). But Demas is not an example of someone who is saved but has no evidence. Demas had shown plenty of evidence of salvation. He had even been a co-worker with Paul and had preached the gospel and helped plant churches (Col. 4:12; Philemon 24).
BUT ISN’T IT GOOD THAT PEOPLE ARE BEING SAVED EVEN IF THERE ARE LOTS OF EMPTY PROFESSIONS?
We thank the Lord for every soul that is genuinely saved, even through the means of Quick Prayerism, but we cannot ignore the destructive nature of this practice.
Those who aren’t saved have not only prayed a sinners prayer, they have been told that they are saved and have been given assurance of salvation. By this means they become almost inoculated to genuine salvation.
The churches that have adopted this unscriptural method of evangelism have produced millions of false professions. There are many churches that can show only a handful of new creatures in Christ for every hundred or even thousand converts they claim. There is something extremely wrong with that picture. It is a great confusion.
For years I have observed the sad fruit of this technique: multitudes of false professions, confusion about salvation, indifference to biblical truth, agnosticism, reprobate living, and blasphemy against God. In many communities across the land, a large percentage of the population has prayed a sinner’s prayer under the ministry of churches practicing Quick Prayerism. Vast numbers of these have never been born again and they are now almost inoculated against biblical salvation. When challenged about their lifeless spiritual condition, they commonly reply, “I have done that,” meaning they have prayed a prayer and have been given assurance of eternal life. Since they were not told that God requires that they repent of their sin and idolatry and that there will be a change of life, they are comfortable and self-assured that they have a ticket to Heaven. Those who observe these things are made to think that salvation means little or nothing in relation to one’s manner of life.
We conclude with the testimony of an evangelist about the danger of multiplying false professions through faulty soul-winning techniques:
“Many years ago, in order to answer the criticism of the mounting number of false professions, I heard a brother say, ‘I would rather lead 100 souls to Christ, knowing that 95 of them were false professions, and see five of them go to heaven than to not attempt to be a soul-winner.’ The first tragedy of that statement is assuming that those are the only two options: either to rack up false professions while winning a few, or to not witness at all. How about the option of being a witness within the guidelines of scriptural teaching, which produces very few false professions! The second tragedy is the flippant attitude about the 95 people to whom you gave assurance of salvation that will one day wake up in hell! Most of them will not allow a genuine witness to approach them about their souls, because they’re banking on that false assurance that you gave them.”
SOWING AND REAPING: A COURSE IN EVANGELISM.
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