Calvary Road Baptist Church

“PERSUADING MEN”

Second Corinthians 5.11

 

Turn in your Bible to Second Corinthians 5.9-11. When you have found that portion of God’s Word, stand as we read scripture together. You read silently while I read aloud:

 

9      Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him.

10     For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.

11     Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences.

 

Let me set the stage for my sermon by explaining a few things to you from these three verses, things that provide for us a clear understanding of the Apostle Paul’s ministry and those who served with him, what drove them to serve Christ as they did, and what compelled them to seek the salvation of the lost as they did. I would like us to deal with one verse at a time.

 

VERSE 9: “Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him.”

 

The Apostle Paul was a man who looked to the future. He and his companions in ministry knew that this physical life would not last forever. Someday they would enter eternity, and after that would come a certain resurrection. Because he had an eye on eternity at all times, he wrote this about himself and his co-laborers: “Wherefore we labor.” Albert Barnes writes, “The word here used (filotimoumeqa, from filow and timh, loving honour) means, properly, to love honour; to be ambitious. This is its usual classical signification. In the New Testament, it means to be ambitious to do anything; to exert one’s self; to strive, as if from a love or sense of honour.”[1] A. T. Robertson indicates that Paul and his companions in ministry are here indicating that they are acting from a love of honor, and are ambitious in a good sense.[2] In other words, Paul and the others were compelled by a high and noble sense of purpose to accomplish something, whether they are in Christ’s immediate physical presence or not.

What was their ambition, whether present with Christ or absent from Him? “that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him.” That is, they wanted to be well-pleasing to Christ, to be approved by Him. Folks, this does not weaken the doctrine of justification by faith in any way. To be sure, Paul understood that God made him accepted in the Beloved, Ephesians 1.6. Being made accepted in the Beloved, he now wants to so serve Christ that, by His grace, he will be found acceptable to the Beloved. This should be the heart’s desire and ambition of every child of God, every blood bought Christian; to be found acceptable to Christ, once you know you are accepted in Christ. As well, notice, before we move on, that in this verse Paul acknowledges that he is absent from Christ in a physical sense, and will not actually be in Christ’s presence until he dies or until the resurrection, whichever comes first. This is a matter those who claim a sinner can ask Jesus into his heart to be saved from his sins fail to properly address.

 

VERSE 10: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.”

 

Whereas, the “we” of verse 9 refers to Paul and those in his party who traveled about and planted churches under Paul’s apostolic direction and authority, the “we” of this verse is expanded to include all Christians. Every single believer in Christ will someday appear before His judgment seat. When that day comes, and it will come, everyone who is a blood-bought child of God will be judged “according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.”

Several things about this judgment seat of Christ need to be properly observed:

 

·         First, the judgment seat of Christ is not the Great White Throne judgment. The judgment seat of Christ is the judgment of Christians, while the Great White Throne is the judgment of unbelievers.

·         Second, the judgment seat of Christ does not occur at the same time as the Great White Throne judgment. The judgment seat of Christ occurs just after the Rapture, while the Great White Throne judgment take place after the tribulation and after the millennium, fully 1007 years later.

·         Third, the judgment seat of Christ takes place in heaven, while the Great White Throne judgment does not. Therefore, Christians are already in heaven when they are judged by Christ, convincing the honest student of God’s Word that no one’s salvation is at stake at that point.

·         Finally, the outcome of the judgment seat of Christ does not determine whether a person goes to heaven, since people who will already be in heaven by then are the ones judged. Rather, it is a judgment of a Christian’s life and ministry to determine rewards for the Christian’s life and service.

 

VERSE 11: “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences.”

 

Look carefully at this opening phrase, “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord.” There are two ways to consider this phrase, from the perspective of the Christian and from the perspective of the unsaved. Our Lord is terrible in majesty, and that terrible majesty manifests itself differently, depending on your reception of Him or your rejection of Him. Let us now focus exclusively on Paul’s consideration of himself and his co-laborers, since, sadly, not all Christians seem to know the terror of the Lord. What is the terror of the Lord that Paul and his men knew with respect to Christians? The Greek word is foboV, meaning fear, and the word from which we have derived our word phobia. Paul knew a judgment was coming, a judgment of Christians . . . and he was frightened, and it was a healthy fright, about the thought of coming up short and being a disappointment to his Savior. For the unsaved, this fear would be an appropriate fear of damnation. However, for the Christian, this fear would be a holy dread of letting your Master down.

The next phrase reads, “We persuade men.” This is what Paul and his men did, what they engaged in, what they were prompted by their fear of Christ’s judgment to do. What, precisely, does the word “persuade” mean? Let me read to you another comment by Albert Barnes:

 

“Observe here the peculiarity of the statement. It is not, we drive men; or we endeavour to alarm men; or we frighten men; or we appeal merely to their fears; but it is, we PERSUADE men--we endeavour to induce them, by all the arts of persuasion and argument, to flee from the wrath to come. The future judgment, and the scenes of future woe, are not proper topics for mere declamation. To declaim constantly on hell-fire and perdition--to appeal merely to the fears of men--is not the way in which Paul and the Saviour preached the gospel. The knowledge that there would be a judgment, and that the wicked would be sent to hell, was a powerful motive for Paul to endeavour to “persuade” men to escape from wrath; and was a motive for the Saviour to weep over Jerusalem, and to lament its folly and its doom, Lu 19:41. But they who fill their sermons with the denunciations of wrath; who dwell on the words hell and damnation for the purpose of rhetoric or declamation, to round a period, or merely to excite alarm; and who “deal damnation around the land” as if they rejoiced that men were to be condemned, and in a tone and manner as if they would be pleased to execute it, have yet to learn the true nature of the way to win men to God, and the proper effect of those awful truths on the mind. The true effect is to produce tenderness, deep feeling, and love; to prompt to the language of persuasion and of tender entreaty; to lead men to weep over dying sinners rather than to denounce them; to pray to God to have mercy on them rather than to use the language of severity, or to assume tones as if they would be pleased to execute the awful wrath of God.”[3]

 

Our text closes with the words, “but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences.” Some were suspicious of Paul’s motives, and those of his men. However, Paul is here confident that God clearly sees what makes him tick, what moves him, what compels him. As well, he knows that though some would question his motives, the Corinthians did not.

 

If we examine these three verses carefully, it becomes obvious that Paul was a wise man. His co-laborers were also wise, wise enough to fear God, and wise enough to know the terror of the Lord.

How Paul must have feared the Savior, he loved so much. Remember, Paul had seen Christ in all His glory on the Damascus road, as well as when he was caught up to the third heaven, and the memory of those encounters were forever etched on his consciousness. Having, therefore, a real and palpable fear of Christ, a proper and holy fear of His majestic Lord, what was Paul moved, driven, compelled to do? To persuade men.

I submit for your consideration this thought: If a man is not motivated by the terror of the Lord, is not moved by a holy and healthy and honorable fear of Christ, can it not be questioned whether such a man’s persuasions will be the same as the persuasions of the man who is moved by holy fear?

I think the question is a fair one. I think the consideration is a proper one. I think it likely that the man who does not know the terror of the Lord is also the man who will not persuade men, or will not persuade them in the same way or toward the same end as the man who does fear the Lord.

 

SERMON:

 

Some years ago, a number of our Christian school’s teens flew with our Christian schoolteachers, Lee Moyer, and me to Kansas City, Missouri, and then drove to Columbia, Missouri, to take part in a Christian school convention. There were 4001 students there from about two dozen countries, as far south as Paraguay, and as far away as South Africa, Australia, and the Philippines.

While in Columbia, Missouri, our students were exposed to a sickening display of confusion that served to dishearten me and challenge me at the same time. I was first disheartened by the church service we attended, which featured a very nice pastor’s wife who presided over the service, a very nice pastor who delivered what he loosely called a sermon, which he titled “Hakuna Matata,” and some very nice and hospitable church members. Then I was disheartened by the preaching at the rallies each night of the convention, in which some wonderful and sincere men preached their hearts out, and tried their hardest to serve God. However, when they stood up at the plate and took their cuts they struck out. Whether at the church or at the convention rallies, I was convinced that the preachers did not know who they were preaching to, how to preach to them, or what they wanted to accomplish.

However, on that trip, the pastor of the church assumed that everyone in the auditorium he was speaking to was already converted, and that they only needed to be encouraged to not sweat the details of life, because Hakuna Matata, it will all work out. The preachers at the rallies at that convention seemed to me uncertain as to how to preach to the kids. One fellow preached to them as if they were saved kids, then as if they were lost bikers. Another preached to them for a while, and then grabbed a basketball and served to the kids a warmed over comedy routine, closing out the service by thinking that some kid would be benefited by having a basketball that he signed. The last preacher seemed to presume every kid there to be converted and was seeking to elicit from each kid a surrender to serve God in some capacity.

Only the first preacher preached against sin, only him. Moreover, he preached, strangely enough, against the sin of gossip, which is hardly the most serious sin teens are guilty of. I left that rally with the impression that he was not preaching to the teens, but to the staff members present, to the school administrators attending, and to the sponsors. Imagine my frustration, then, at seeing 4001 teens assembled night after night after night, with not one single preacher preaching the gospel, with no one exhibiting any semblance of the terror of the Lord at the prospect of someday standing before Christ at His judgment seat and giving an account of their ministries.

However, as I said, I was not disheartened only. I was also challenged by that sad spectacle. The convention, you see, was overall quite wonderful. It was marvelous. It had only one thing wrong with it. There was no gospel preaching. There was no real effort on the part of the preachers to “persuade men.” Do not think, then, that with those frustrating experiences behind me, and with that challenge behind me, that I am not going to spend the rest of our time together persuading you, and in the future doing my best at persuading men to in turn persuade men.

In the time left to me, I have two questions for your consideration:

 

First, WHAT SHOULD YOU BE PERSUADED TO DO?

 

First, you are not to be persuaded that God is. He is simply to be declared. He could have sought to persuade men that He is, when He inspired scripture. However, He did not. He simply wrote at the beginning of the Bible, “In the beginning God . . . .” Neither did God charge His preachers with the task of persuading sinners that He is. No, He left that to His creation. “The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament showeth His handiwork.”[4] Therefore, if you are so foolish as to deny the existence of God, and if a look up into the night sky or a glance at a blossoming flower does not convince you, then there is little hope that I will be able to convince you.

Next, you are not to be persuaded that you are sinful. It is simply to be declared. “For by the law is the knowledge of sin,” Romans 3.20. God is the Lawgiver. Though there are good and valid reasons why God’s Law is right, proper, and good, none of those things is especially convincing to any sinner. My job is to declare God’s Law to sinners, not persuade you that you are sinful. It is actually the Holy Spirit’s responsibility to convince you of sin, John 16.8. Therefore, when I have preached to you that lying is a sin, that fornication is wickedness, that refusing to obey the gospel is a heinous crime punishable by eternal damnation, then I must in a sense step aside for the Holy Spirit to drive the truth home and impress your soul with it.

Third, you are not to be persuaded that Jesus saves. He is simply to be preached. How can a sinner be persuaded that Jesus saves? In what way can I convince you that Jesus saves? There is no way I can persuade you, or convince you, that Jesus saves. The task before me is to declare the fact to you, to preach it to you repeatedly. Then, should the Holy Spirit reprove you of sin and create a sense of desperation in your soul, then He will hold up Christ as your only hope, as the only Savior of sinful men’s souls. When, under the preaching of the gospel, God mercifully gives you faith, if He gives you faith, then you will be saved, you will be converted, you will be justified by faith in Christ.

Fourth, though there are a number of truths that I must necessarily declare to you, I am charged with persuading you to do only one thing. I am charged with persuading you to close with Christ, to come to Him, to trust Him, to believe on Him, to flee to Him from the wrath to come. I urge you to obey the call to come to Christ today, to come to Him now, to obey the Gospel this morning. Listen to the things that must be declared to you: the holiness of God, your transgression of His Law, the certainty of your punishment, the utter damnation of your soul, the willingness, and capacity of Jesus to save you. However, be persuaded by the preacher’s urgings. Be moved by the pastor’s pleadings. Be prompted by the cajoling that you hear from this pulpit, having considered these truths that have been declared, and with the Holy Spirit bearing witness in your heart to the truth of them, to then seek safety for your soul in that safe haven which is Jesus Christ.

 

Second, HOW ARE YOU TO BE PERSUADED TO DO IT, TO COME TO CHRIST?

 

First, you are not to be manipulated with emotional devices. One boy’s mother died while he was at that convention we attended. That boy was then brought to the platform and put on display for 4000 students to feel pity for and to feel sorry for. Whether the preacher was aware of what he was doing or not, he was using sentiment to evoke a reaction from the rest of the students. He was emotionally manipulating the audience using that poor boy. That kid should have been on a plane bound for home at that hour. He should not have been put on display for people to feel sorry for. In addition, he should not have been used for manipulative purposes to evoke tears from fearful children in the hopes that it would move them to Christ. My friend, you are not to be persuaded to come to Christ in response to emotional manipulation. I will never bring before you an evangelist in a wheelchair that shows his stubs to you to get you converted. Neither will I have the evangelist with the afflicted wife, or the evangelist with the afflicted child, who uses his loved ones like circus acts to evoke sympathy for them in an effort to move you to Christ. Excuse me, but it is the truth that should move you to Christ. It is consideration for the salvation of your own soul that should move you to Christ. It is a desire to escape the wrath of God that should move you to Christ, not sentimental feelings toward folks who are afflicted, who are suffering, or who are grieving. Illustrations and tales have their place, certainly, but they are to be used to lead you to a consideration of the truth.

Next, you are not to be manipulated with scare tactics. Look, Hell is a scary place, and the lake of fire is even more frightening. I have not and I will not use the frightfulness of those places of damnation and eternal torment to try to scare you into coming to Christ. What I will do is preach a hot Hell and a tormenting lake of fire to scare you into a consideration of the facts of the gospel. Why so? Hell and the lake of fire are real places, and every soul needs to be informed and to be challenged with the fate that awaits you if you do not find safety in Christ. However, the construction of a fright house results in no conversions. Neither does the construction of a fright sermon. Those who are overcome with holy fear and the terror of the Lord are those whose souls are set upon by the precious Holy Spirit of God, Who makes reality real to the sinner, who removes the veil so that you who are lost can see what is really so. Therefore, for fear to play a real part in the salvation of your soul, it will have to be a fear that comes from the Holy Spirit dealing with you, convicting you, reproving you, so that you will be inwardly motivated to seek safety for your soul in the cleft of the Rock, which is Christ.

Third, you are not to be manipulated with false promises. There is no scriptural authorization to promise you long life and wealth if you become a Christian. Neither is there any guarantee found in the Bible that you would be healed of all your physical problems and maladies if you were converted. In fact, Job’s physical afflictions came upon him precisely because he was godly. As well, Paul informed Timothy that all those who live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution, Second Timothy 3.12. Therefore, fiery trials are not strange and unusual occurrences for the child of God, but are normal and frequent occurrences, First Peter 4.12, and should be viewed as God-given opportunities for ministry and evangelism. The only promise that is to be extended to the sinner in need of Christ is this: If you will come to Jesus, He will save you from your sins: past, present, and future. Any other promise is bogus. Any other offer is unauthorized. Any other hint or suggestion is a fabrication. Jesus is the Savior of sinful men’s souls. Come to Him and He will cleanse you in His blood and save your wretched soul.

Fourth, you are not to be manipulated to submit to the preacher’s will. It is an unconscious tactic employed by decisionists since Finney came on the scene, to portray conversion as if it was the result of doing what the preacher tells you to do, as if it is the result of submitting to the preacher, as though I have any right to place my demands upon you. Understand, I must give direction and guidance to sinners. Recognize, it is unlikely that a sinner will ever come to Christ who refuses to be guided to Christ by a competent minister. However, that said, it is obedience to the gospel that results in sinners being saved, not obedience to the preacher. Therefore, it is necessary for the preacher to keep before the people what Jesus says to do to be saved, not what I say to do, or what some other man says to do to be saved. Paul said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.”[5] John wrote, “But as many as received Him. . . .”[6] Jesus said, “Come unto me.”[7] Therefore, whether it is Christ, Himself, or His choice servants and spokesmen, the apostles, they and they alone tell us how sinners are saved. Not me. Not you doing your own thing. Not some television preacher.

Fifth, you are not to be manipulated to employ devices or methods. Where in the Bible are sinners urged to come forward to trust Christ? Where in the Bible are sinners urged to bow their heads and raise their hands as a prelude to trusting Christ? Where in the Bible are sinners urged to pray a certain prayer, or to repeat certain words after the preacher, in order to be saved? I submit to you that urging sinners to do something as a means of coming to Christ has unconsciously degenerated over the past two centuries into actually urging sinners to do something that may very well interfere with them coming to Christ. I base this conclusion on years of carefully and cautiously interviewing those who claim and who think they were saved by doing those various things. I have found that a sinner who thinks he was saved through the means of praying a prayer frequently thinks he was saved by praying the prayer, and will think that the prayer saved him. As well, those who are urged to come forward will tend to think that coming forward played a part in their conversion. Can good and cautious men make use of those means to bring the lost to Christ? Of course, they can. I do not dispute that at all. However, most that employ such measures are not so cautious, and end up with far too many in their churches who think such means are soul saving. My friend, practical necessity requires that you and I sit down and discuss matters related to sin and salvation, matters related to conviction and conversion. However, there is nothing about sitting down with me that necessarily results in you or anyone else being converted, just as there is nothing about raising your hand, or bowing your head, or closing your eyes, which in any way necessarily helps or increases the likelihood of your conversion. All of these devices and methods can be seen by sinners to be intermediate steps that must be taken toward Christ. However, my friend, there are no intermediate steps between the sinner and the Savior. Christ is not so far away that conversion is a two-step process. Christ is immediately accessible by faith, and conversion is a single, simple, act of faith.

Therefore, you are to be urged, pleaded with, begged, to come to Christ by faith. Do not do anything besides that. Do not consider anything other than that. In addition, do not listen to anyone who suggests anything other than that. Christ is all you need. Christ is all you need. Christ is all you need. He has made it possible, though He sits at the right hand of God on high, for you to come to Him by faith in simple fashion and to do so immediately. Anything, and I mean anything, short of that will result in you remaining lost, unconverted, undone, and in your sins. So, my friends, there are two things the preacher must do, and which every preacher who understands his call and his commission will do: I must declare certain things, then I must plead one thing. Declare and plead, declare and plead. I must tell you what things are so, and then I must urge you to move in response to those truths. I must lay before you the reality concerning eternal things and illustrate them to your situation as best I can. Then I must urge you, beg you, plead with you, cajole you, to lay hold of my Savior so that He will become your Savior.

 

You say you are converted. It is unlikely. Why so? Because what happened to those 4001 kids at that school convention some years back is what happens everywhere these days. People are persuaded, all right. But they are persuaded to come forward, they are persuaded to bow their heads, they are persuaded to dedicate their lives, they are persuaded to join the church, they are persuaded to submit to the preacher, they are persuaded to surrender to full-time Christian service, they are persuaded to raise their hands, they are persuaded to repeat prayers.

What they are not persuaded to do, and what I am seeking to persuade you to do today, for the salvation of your own eternal soul and for no other reason, implied or otherwise, is to come to Christ.

Won’t you come to Christ today? Won’t you flee God’s wrath and come to the safety of the Savior today? Won’t you seek Him who is the Savior of sinful men’s souls and find Him today?

Jesus died on the cross to pay for your sins, and rose the third day as proof that He succeeded. However, it will do you no good unless you turn from your sins and come to Him. Come to Jesus now.



[1] Albert Barnes, Albert Barnes’ NT Commentary, (Bronson, MI: Online Publishing, Inc., 2002), bible@mail.com

[2] A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures In The New Testament, Vol IV, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1930), page 229.

[3] Barnes

[4] Psalm 19.1

[5] Acts 16.31

[6] John 1.12

[7] Matthew 11.28



Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org