Chafer circa 1929
(For the biography, see “Lewis Sperry Chafer” in the chapter “Interdenominational Fundamentalism” in The History and Heritage of Fundamentalism and Fundamental Baptists, available in late June, 2020, from www.wayoflife.org.)
True Evangelism was a warning about “false forces in evangelism.”
When he published the book, Chafer was 40 years old and had worked in evangelism for 17 years. He was the singer and choir director for evangelist Arthur T. Reed of Ohio from 1890 to 1896, and he had his own evangelistic ministry from 1897 to 1907. Chafer had worked with prominent evangelists, including J. Wilbur Chapman. Chafer had opportunity to study the evangelistic ministries of D.L. Moody, R.A. Torrey, and other prominent evangelists.
Chafer understood that modern evangelistic techniques had been developed specifically to get the largest possible number of “professions of faith.” Chafer argued that conversion should be tested, rather, by the “reality of a changed life afterwards.” He was a strong believer in the necessity of the Spirit’s work in enlightenment, conviction, repentance, and saving faith, and apart from that work there is no salvation. He did not believe salvation could be manipulated and produced by man-made tactics. He considered these things to be dangerous and to produce large numbers of false professions. He got this thinking directly from Scripture, as he proved in his book.
Chafer did something that very few men have done in modern times and that is to put the work of evangelism under the light of Scripture and to critique the ministry of “successful evangelists.” This was largely taboo then, and it is still taboo today, but it is scriptural and right.
Chafer’s True Evangelism did not name any names. It was gracious in spirit. But there was no question that Chafer was deeply disturbed by many aspects of modern evangelistic revival work. He had observed that a great many of the professions of faith were not real when tested biblically. He mentioned “the appalling percentage of failures in the ranks of supposed converts.”
True Evangelism was not a blast against evangelism. It was a call to be concerned about empty professions; a call to evaluate every methodology by the Word of God; a call for the churches to walk in revival rather than “have revivals,” and this requires the ongoing ministry of pastors and teachers and the effectual functioning of every member of the body; a call for churches to be engaged in evangelism all of the time. True Evangelism was a call not to substitute human requirements for divine ones, not to substitute physical actions for heart faith. It was a call to acknowledge the primacy of the Holy Spirit in evangelism in practice as well as in principle; a call to understand the necessity of using the Word of God as the Sword of the Spirit; a call for intercessory prayer as the ministry of the royal priesthood and as the human element in the work of the Spirit; a call for believers to live holy lives and to walk in close fellowship with Christ so as to be effectual in intercessory prayer and fruitful in evangelism.
In the last half of the 1940s John R. Rice published articles in the Sword of the Lord against Chafer’s book and led a campaign to stop its publication. This was occasioned by its reprinting in 1944 by Moody Press. Rice was based in Wheaton, Illinois, at the time, just west of Chicago, and was associated with Moody. Rice called Chafer’s book “a direct attack [upon] evangelism itself, as known and practiced in America by the greatest soul-winners.” He called upon Moody Press to pull the book, but they refused. He called for a boycott against it. He gathered signatures of evangelists who were opposed to it.
Chafer was right. He was standing on biblical ground, and had John Rice heeded the warning it very well could have saved fundamental Baptists from the damnable heresy of Quick Prayerism which has been so destructive to the character of its churches.
But in the 1940s, John Rice took his stand for unquestioning loyalty to modern evangelistic techniques, regardless of how unscriptural, and the fruit has been terrible.
Refusing to join John Rice’s crusade, Harry Ironside wrote a strong defense of Chafer’s book. He said, “[I]t shows the folly of pressing men to make professions of salvation who give no evidence of a work of the Spirit of God in their souls. It points out the evil of trying to count up large numbers of converts rather than of looking to God to work in the power of the Holy Ghost in bringing people to see their need of Christ and trusting Him as their own Savior” (quoted from Bauder and Delnay, One in Hope and Doctrine: Origins of Baptist Fundamentalism, p. 326).
Chafer’s True Evangelism is a call to acknowledge the primacy of the Holy Spirit in evangelism.
The main message of True Evangelism is that the unsaved sinner is blinded to the gospel by Satan and only by the operation of the Holy Spirit can he come to true repentance and faith. Every soul winner and every preacher of the gospel must be 100% dependent upon this supernatural work. It cannot be neglected, imitated, or presumed upon. We must pray for the Spirit’s work and look for its effects. We must not be hasty; we must not be manipulative. We must make every effort to avoid creating false decisions. We must not pick unripe fruit. We must not forget that salvation is a supernatural thing and it is 100% God’s business. It is God’s secret and mysterious work in the inner regions of man’s soul.
“It will be found, in the course of these studies, that there are successive aspects of the divine seeking of the lost to be traced in the Scriptures, and every phase of this work, is undertaken and wholly accomplished by GOD the HOLY SPIRIT. To recognize these divine movements and to be willing humbly to co-operate with them is the true basis of all soul-saving work.”
“A true decision must depend upon the action of the will of the individual as he is moved by his own clear vision of his place in the saving work of CHRIST, and that vision must be created by the Spirit. When this is accomplished, there will be little occasion to argue and plead, and methods which are calculated to force a decision will be found to be superfluous; and any method which is superfluous is usually resented by intelligent people. Such methods create a sense of unreality where there should be a growing reality.”
“The aim of all public demands in modern evangelism is to terminate indifference and hesitation by a positive decision. But this is sometimes undertaken without due regard for the whole process of preparation by the Spirit for the intelligent exercise of saving faith. Thus the all-important work of the Spirit for the unsaved has often been neglected and the Spirit dishonored in the vain attempt to hasten decisions and to secure visible results. A true decision must depend upon the action of the will of the individual as he is moved by his own clear vision of his place in the saving work of CHRIST, and that vision must be created by the Spirit. When this is accomplished, there will be little occasion to argue and plead, and methods which are calculated to force a decision will be found to be superfluous; and any method which is superfluous is usually resented by intelligent people. Such methods create a sense of unreality where there should be a growing reality.”
“One of the greatest foes to modern evangelism, which has been treated far too lightly, is described in the following passage: ‘But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them’ (II Corinthians 4:3, 4). ...
“[The Gospel is] the exact grounds of salvation by the Cross of CHRIST and through the grace of GOD. It is the whole revelation of the divine propitiation for sin. ... It is simply the offer of redemption and the statement of those conditions under grace, by which a soul may ‘turn from darkness unto light and from the power of Satan unto God’ (Acts 26:18); and being the point of deliverance "from the power of Satan unto God," it is veiled by Satan and is opposed to all Satanic wisdom and strength.
“Satan's doctrine (I Timothy 4:1-2; Revelation 2:24; Cf, I Corinthians 2:10-12) has always been one of moral perfection secured by self-effort or personal works (Isaiah 14:14; Genesis 3:4, 5). His program of self-fitting, resulting only in self-glory, is in complete contrast to the true principle of saving faith, through which one depends on GOD alone for all needed transformation (Romans 8:29; I John 3:2).
“True to this revealed fact of Satanic blindness, we find unregenerate men unable to conceive of any relation to GOD other than that based on the merit of their own self-made character (John 3:1.8; I Corinthians 2:1-16). They do not comprehend that ‘Christ has become the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth,’ and that it is only Satanic blindness which leads them to ‘go about to establish their own righteousness’; rather than to come under the bestowed righteousness of GOD (Romans 3:21, 22: 4:1-6; 10:3, 4; Philippians iii 8,9; I Corinthians 1:30; II Corinthians 5:21).
“Saving faith may thus be defined as a voluntary turning from all hope and grounds based on self-merit, and assuming an attitude of expectancy toward GOD, trusting Him to do a perfect saving work based only on the merit of CHRIST.
“Such an attitude of anticipation toward GOD alone is reasonable in the light of the fact that salvation is a divine creative act, and therefore, humanly impossible. But the reasonableness of the case is of no force to one whose reason is blinded at this vital point. It is this solemn fact that evangelism must face. A divine illumination is demanded. No human power or argument is sufficient to enlighten a darkened soul concerning the necessary steps into the way of life. This is a part of the work assigned alone to the all-sufficient Spirit.
“It is clear from the Scriptures that the Gospel of the substitutionary sacrifice of CHRIST is the only possible ground of salvation and escape from ‘the power of Satan unto God.’ It is therefore suggestive that Satan is imposing his blindness upon the unregenerate mind only at this one point. In addition to the exercise of his own power in directly blinding the unsaved as to the value of the Cross, Satan is increasingly active, through his ministers, in attempting to exclude this central truth from the Christian faith. To do this he is now, as predicted, forcing great counterfeit religious systems and restatements of doctrine upon the world. It is also suggestive that in all these the only revealed basis of salvation is carefully omitted.
“The blinding or veiling of the mind, mentioned in II Corinthians 4:3, 4, causes a universal incapacity to comprehend the way of salvation, and is imposed upon unregenerate man by the arch enemy of GOD in his attempts to hinder the purpose of GOD in redemption. It is a condition of mind against which man can have no power.
“Yet GOD has provided a means whereby this Satanic veil may be lifted, the eyes opened (Acts 26:18), the eyes of the understanding enlightened (Ephesians 1:18), and the soul come into the illumination of the Gospel of the glory of CHRIST. Then, after this ‘opening of the eyes’ is accomplished, the way of life, which is the Gospel, will seem to the enlightened person to be both desirable and of transcendent import.
“This great work is accomplished by divine energy, and is one of the mightiest movements of the ‘power of God unto salvation.’ It is spoken of in the Scriptures as the drawing of GOD and the convicting of the Spirit: ‘No man can come unto me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him’ (John 6:44). ‘And when he [the Spirit] is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment’ (John 16:8).”
True Evangelism is a call to understand that the Holy Spirit’s work in the unsaved sinner is not only conviction of sin but illumination of the fundamentals of the gospel.
In his study of John 16:7-11, Chafer shows that the word “reprove” not only refers to conviction of sin, but it refers to the illumination of the sinner about every aspect of the gospel. To reprove “of sin, because they believe not on me” is to illuminate the sinner that Christ has fully paid the price of his debt and that the sin of not believing on Christ will send him to hell and keep him from heaven. It is to illuminate the sinner about why he should believe on Christ and what this means. To reprove “of righteousness, because I go to my Father” is to enlighten the sinner about righteousness and the free righteousness available in Christ, and it is to enlighten the sinner about Christ’s resurrection and ascension, that Christ died for his sin, that the payment was accepted by the Father, that He rose from the dead and ascended to heaven. To reprove “of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged” is to illuminate the sinner about his lost condition in bondage to Satan and the fact that Satan has been defeated.
“‘Nevertheless I tell you the truth; it is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they believe not on me; of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged’ (John 16:7-11).
“In considering this passage it may first be noted that the word "reprove" [convict] is not limited, as is often supposed, to the first word ‘sin,’ but applies to the words ‘righteousness’ and ‘judgment’ as well.
“This suggests a much larger meaning to the word than an acute mental agony for sin, though that might follow. The word ‘reprove,’ as here used, suggests a process of illumination concerning three distinct facts, rather than the creation of a feeling of remorse for sins that have been committed. There is no warrant for assuming that this three-fold divinely wrought vision is divisible, or in any way subject to a partial fulfilment. It would, therefore, be unreasonable to limit our thought of this ministry of the Spirit to any one aspect of this work.
“A careful study of, in all, about sixteen passages where the Greek word translated ‘reprove’ is used will reveal that it is usually descriptive of a condition of mind resulting from the impartation of truth, and that this convicting work of the Spirit for the world is identical with the enlightenment by the Spirit already considered.
“At this point much depends upon an adequate understanding of the whole scope of the action of the Spirit as suggested by the three words, ‘sin,’ ‘righteousness’ and ‘judgment. ...
“[‘He will reprove the world ... of sin, because they believe not on me’] It is just this incapacity and blindness of the unregenerate mind which is stated in these passages that demands the illuminating work of the Spirit in ‘convincing of sin.’ It is evident from the words ‘because they believe not on me’ that they do not comprehend the way of life in CHRIST JESUS, nor has the light of the glorious Gospel of CHRIST dawned on them. The only sin to be revealed, according to this passage, is the sin of personally rejecting CHRIST (see also John 3:18). ...
“The Gospel demands a special revelation for its understanding; since it announces to all humanity a perfect freedom from the penalty of sin, and also presents the corresponding fact that there can be but one reason for condemnation; and that, the rejection of the Saviour, Who bore the sin. Man's relation to GOD on the question of sin, in the light of the Cross, is so unnatural to the unregenerate mind, and is so much the object of Satanic blinding, that there can be no understanding of this truth apart from a direct and personal illumination by the Spirit. ...
“[‘He will reprove the world ... of righteousness, because I go to my Father’] In the vision of the Righteous One Who died upon the Cross it will be revealed to the unsaved by the Spirit that ‘God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself,’ and that He, the Righteous One, bare the curse of the sinner's unrighteousness ‘in his own body on the tree.’ That it was the Righteous One Who died is forever assured by His resurrection and present place in glory.
“This is the all-important vision; for the Righteous One upon the Cross is the sinner's only point of contact with the saving power of GOD. ... CHRIST is ‘made unto us . . . righteousness.’ It is rest to a sin-conscious soul to know that there is a perfect righteousness for him in CHRIST. Such knowledge cannot be gained apart from the illuminating work of the Spirit.
“‘[‘He will reprove the world .... of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged’] The Spirit thus also enlightens the darkened mind concerning the complete and sufficient judgment of all sin in the Cross of CHRIST. This judgment not only met all possible condemnation for sin (Isaiah 53:4-6; Romans 6:10; II Corinthians 5:14, 21; Hebrews 10:2-18; I Peter 1:18, 19; 2:24), but broke all claim and authority of the rulers and powers of darkness (Colossians 2:13-15).
“Through the dying CHRIST it is possible to be forever delivered out of Satan's darkness (Colossians 1:12-14), and through the living CHRIST it is promised that the child of GOD shall be forever saved and kept unto the ‘kingdom of God's dear Son’ (Romans 5:10).
“This is the plan of GOD's redeeming grace, and it may be concluded, in all confidence, that as certainly as Satan is blinding the minds of the unregenerate men at the point of the redemptive work of CHRIST, so certainly it is the purpose of GOD that the Spirit shall unveil their minds concerning that same truth. ...
“In this connection it is not claimed that an unsaved person must come to know every phase of truth about the atonement of CHRIST before he is divinely prepared for salvation; but it is claimed that the Spirit proposes to make the meaning of the Cross sufficiently clear to that person as to enable him to abandon all hope of self-works, and to turn to the finished work of CHRIST alone in intelligent, saving faith.”
True Evangelism is a call to understand the necessity of using the Word of God as the Sword of the Spirit.
Chafer emphasized the necessity of preaching and teaching the gospel by the Word of God, which is the instrument that the Spirit uses to do His convicting, enlightening work.
“As has been seen, the convicting work of the Spirit involves a radical change in the deepest part of man's being, where his motives and desires are first formed; so that an entirely new conception of the God-provided grounds of redemption and a vision of the glorious Person of CHRIST are created. As both the Person and the work of CHRIST are presented in the Scriptures, it is only necessary for the Spirit to vitalize His own Word, either upon the printed page, or through the lips of His messenger, to bring a new light and possibility into the hitherto blinded mind.
“It is, therefore, said of the Word of GOD: ‘For the word of God is quick, and powerful [living and active], and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart’ (Hebrews 4:12). The Word itself is however but the sword, and must be wielded by the Spirit to be effective.”
True Evangelism is a call for intercessory prayer as the ministry of the royal priesthood and as the human part in the work of the Spirit, and it is a call to expect God to answer our prayers.
“That there is a royal priesthood under grace is revealed in the following Scriptures:
- ‘But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises [virtues] of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light’ (I Peter 2:9).
- ‘Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ’ (I Peter 2:5).
- ‘And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever’ (Revelation 1:6). ...
“The New Testament priest is also an intercessor, which, as the word implies, differs from a supplicator who may pray wholly for himself. The intercessor bears the burden and need of others before GOD, and intercedes in their behalf. No human wisdom is sufficient for this ministry in the holiest place; for ‘we know not what to pray for as we ought’; but GOD has anticipated our inability and provided the energizing Spirit Who ‘maketh intercession for us,’ and ‘according to the will of God’ (Romans 8:26, 27). ...
“All evangelism must begin with prayer. And no human service, or device, can take the place of the intercession of a priest who is cleansed, and ‘acceptable to God,’ even in the holiest place ‘by Jesus Christ.’ While the believer-priest may intercede in behalf of his fellow-members in the body of CHRIST, it is a privilege of his co-partnership with CHRIST to intercede for the lost; and the answer to that prayer will be the going forth of the Spirit to convince them of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. ...
“The reason for human intercession in the divine plan has not been wholly revealed. [But the] repeated statements of Scripture that it is a necessary link in the chain that carries the divine energy into the impotent souls of men, in addition to its actual achievement as seen in the world, must be the sufficient evidence of the imperative need for the prayer in connection with the purpose of GOD. Thus in the Scriptures and in experience it is revealed that GOD has honored man with an exalted place of co-operation and partnership with Himself in His great projects of human transformation. ...
“[God] is pleased to work through preaching; but his mighty undertakings are conditioned on prayer. ... It is said in Romans 10:13, 14, that the unsaved cannot hear without a preacher; yet it is equally true that the preaching, to be effective, must be in the ‘demonstration and power of the Holy Spirit.’
“It should be noted that, under these conditions and relationships, stated in John 14:14, every true prayer is not only an acknowledgment of GOD as the only sufficient One, but it demands an attitude of entire expectation from Him on the part of the supplicant. This is essential if normal relations are to exist between GOD and man. ... The marvellous, and so little experienced, movings of the Spirit upon the unsaved are at the command of the least of GOD’s children, if that one be cleansed; for such a believer is a priest unto GOD, and no limitation of times and seasons is set in the New Testament upon his intercession.
“How little the stupendous fact of this individual power in prayer is realized by Christians today! The present failure on the part of Christians to enter the holy place in intercession according to the appointment of GOD is sufficient to account for the present lack of HOLY SPIRIT conviction and conversion in the church.
“The neglect and ignorance of the facts regarding the believer's privileges in prayer, when those facts are so clearly stated in the Scriptures, can be explained only in the light of the revealed Satanic opposition to the purpose of GOD; for intercessory prayer is a strategic point for the attack of this arch enemy, inasmuch as the mighty movements of the Spirit for salvation are, for the present time, awaiting this human co-operation. ...
“Not only are the priceless results of the saving power of GOD hindered, but the individual believer has suffered unmeasured loss in his possible reward, when the prayer of intercession has for any reason ceased. Prayer presents the greatest opportunity for soul-winning, and there is precious reward promised to those who bring souls to CHRIST, and are found to be suffering with Him in His burden for the lost.”
True Evangelism is a call for believers to live holy lives and to walk in close fellowship with Christ so as to be effectual in intercessory prayer and fruitful in evangelism.
Chapter six of True Evangelism is “The Cleansing of the Priests.”
“‘If ye abide in me and my words abide in you,’ is a condition which demands a relation to GOD on the part of the individual, wherein both the present leading of GOD is realized and His written will is known. To abide in CHRIST is to keep His commandments (John 15:10), and to be in close fellowship with Him. To have His Word abiding in us is to be instructed in the Scriptures; and to one who has thus been brought into full sympathy with the purpose of GOD, it can safely be said, ‘Ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.’ ...
“This cleansing has been typified by the laver that stood at the entrance to the ‘Holy of holies’ in the tabernacle of old. The necessity for that special cleansing of the priest before he approached the presence of the Lord ‘in the tent of meeting’ was emphasized by the penalty of death if the cleansing was neglected [Exodus 30:17-21].
“The restatement of this truth is found in several passages in the New Testament in which the cleansing and refitting of the believer-priest is set forth [John 13:3-11] ...
“On this passage, Dr. C. I. Scofield gives the following note in the Scofield Reference Bible:
‘The underlying imagery is of an Oriental returning from the public bath to his home. His feet would contract defilement and require cleansing, but not his body. So the believer is cleansed as before the law from all sin once for all (Hebrews 10:1-12), but needs ever to bring his daily sins to the Father in confession, that he may abide in unbroken fellowship with the Father and with the Son (I John 1:1-10). The Blood of CHRIST answers for ever to all the law could say as to the believer's guilt, but he needs constant cleansing from the defilement of sin. (See Ephesians 5:25-27; I John 5:6.) Typically, the order of approach to the presence of GOD was, first, the brazen altar of sacrifice, and then the laver of cleansing (Exodus 40:6, 7). See, also, the order in Exodus 30:17-21: CHRIST cannot have communion with a defiled saint, but He can and will cleanse him.’
“The Aaronic priest met the penalty of instant death if he attempted to enter the Holy of holies without the laving that was prescribed by the law, and while that penalty is not continued under grace, it is evident that there is no prevailing power in prayer or effectiveness in ministry so long as the believer's sin and defilement are not put away. As the priest of the Old Testament failed in his office through unfitness before GOD, so the priest of the New Testament, from the same cause, may lose much of his privilege in holy service and communion with CHRIST.
“His priestly ministry of sacrifice, in which he presents his body, his praise and his benevolence, may go on in their outward forms, he being under grace; yet it cannot be effectual when, because of sin, it is a ministry that is not acceptable to GOD. So also his priestly ministry of intercession may become of no avail through defilement. ...
“The following Scriptures warrant the conclusion that sin directly hinders prevailing prayer:
- ‘If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me’ (Psalm 66:18).
- ‘Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy that it cannot hear: but your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear’ (Isaiah 59:1, 2).
- ‘If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you’ (John 15:7).
- ‘For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world’ (1 Corinthians 11:31-32).
- ‘I will therefore that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting’ (I Timothy 2:8).
- ‘Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered’ (I Peter 3:7).
- ‘If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin’ (I John 1:6, 7)” (True Evangelism, “The Cleansing of the Priests”).
True Evangelism is a call to be concerned about empty professions.
Chafer notes that a great many of the professions of faith made in evangelistic campaigns were not real when tested biblically. He mentions “THE APPALLING PERCENTAGE OF FAILURES IN THE RANKS OF SUPPOSED CONVERTS.”
This should be a deep concern by anyone involved in evangelism, but it wasn’t taken seriously enough in Chafer’s day, and it isn’t taken seriously today, when the number of false professions are even greater.
True Evangelism is a call to evaluate every methodology by the Word of God.
“The sincere evangelist who fearlessly judges, before GOD, every method he employs--judging them as to their exact value or possible harm in their influence on immortal souls--will find that many methods in evangelism are more a habit than a necessity, or that they have been employed in an effort to produce visible results, rather than to create a means by which sin-burdened souls may find rest and peace through a personal and intelligent faith in CHRIST as Saviour.”
True Evangelism is a call for the churches to walk in revival rather than “have revivals,” and this requires the ongoing ministry of pastors and teachers and the effectual functioning of every member of the body.
“The modern ‘revival’--the work of the ‘revivalist’ who comes under the title of an evangelist, but works as a religious promoter in the organized church--is unexpected in the Scriptures, except as the word ‘revival' is used to denote a forward movement in the spiritual life of the church, without including the idea of attempting to regain some spiritual position once held, but now lost. The use of the word usually means, however, a getting up after having fallen down, or a waking after sleeping, or a coming to strength after a period of weakness; while, on the other hand, the Scriptures pre-suppose a continual erect, wakeful and aggressive position for service on the part of every Christian (Ephesians 6:10-17).
“A ‘revival’ is abnormal rather than normal. It may have a function when needed, but in no way should become a habit, much less a sanctioned method of work. Having regained vitality, believers are not warranted in returning habitually to an anemic state.
“The re-adjustment of a powerless church into a normal position of fruit-bearing fellowship with GOD is, without question, an undertaking that is warranted in the Scriptures. Such a transformation, however, can be accomplished only through a ministry of teaching and pastoral care. Thus it falls naturally within the sphere of service committed to the pastor and teacher ... Such a ministry may be undertaken by a pastor and teacher who is a specialist in such work, and who may visit the field to assist temporarily the resident pastor in his work. If this adjustment of the church is accomplished, the pastor or special assistant may then ‘do the work of an evangelist.’ ...
“The efficiency of the whole company of believers must depend upon their proper adjustment to GOD in the cleansing and fitting of their individual lives. Just here there is a grave danger lest the church shall ignore her God-appointed work, and the necessary individual preparation for it, and attempt to substitute the wholesale machinery and appeal of the modern "revival" in its place. ...
“The unfruitful condition of the church has created a great temptation for the evangelist to be superficial in his aim and undertakings. His reputation, and often his remuneration, are dependent upon apparent results. If the evangelist understands the divine program in soul- winning, and proposes to be thorough with unspiritual churches, he must do a teaching work that he may build the necessary Scriptural foundation for abiding fruit. In undertaking a thorough foundation work in the churches, the evangelist would thus be forsaking his own calling, and would be assuming the work of the pastor and teacher; and might be a disappointment to those who had called him and upon whom he depends, humanly speaking, for his support. His temptation is to secure the apparent results that are expected.”
True Evangelism is a call for churches to be engaged in evangelism all of the time.
“Frequent gatherings may be of unmeasured value in the life of any company of believers; but such meetings should not become the only time of soul winning expectation. The conditions are most unreasonable when the unbelievers of any locality have come to realize that to avoid the spasmodic solicitude of the church for a period of a few days is to be free from such appeals for the rest of the year, or for, perhaps, a term of years. This unreality is one of the fruits of an evangelism that depends upon times and seasons.”
True Evangelism is a call not to substitute human requirements for divine ones, not to substitute physical actions for heart faith.
“In coming to a positive decision, the human mind is undoubtedly aided by some physical action which serves to strengthen the impression. This psychological fact usually underlies the demands that are made for public acts in connection with the acceptance of CHRIST. The only issue which is raised here concerning the combining of public acts with the acceptance of CHRIST, is that such acts, if urged at all, should be so presented that they could not be thought of by any individual as forming a part of the one condition of salvation.
“To believe on the Lord JESUS CHRIST is the very opposite of doing anything: it is resting in the work and saving grace of Another.
“Because of Satanic blindness to the Gospel of Grace (II Corinthians 4:3, 4), unregenerate man cannot comprehend the true basis of salvation, and is therefore ever prone to do the best he knows. This is to attempt to work out his own standing before GOD by his own efforts. It is this natural tendency to do something of merit that prompts many to respond to any appeal for a public action. It was an expression of sincerity that inquired of JESUS: ‘What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?’ And His answer then is His answer now: ‘This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent’ (John 6:28, 29).
“It may be conceded that genuine results are sometimes obtained even where misleading methods are employed; but there may be great harm done as well. Far too little has been said on this point. Some of these evils should be mentioned. Let it be remembered, however, that this is a discussion of the possible evils that may follow the wrong use of methods in which a public action is demanded as a necessary condition of salvation.
“The leader who has accustomed himself to years of public service can hardly realize the almost impossible task that is placed before the majority of people when they are asked to do some conspicuous act. People usually find such acts very difficult; and while they might be willing to receive CHRIST as a personal Saviour, they often shrink from taking a public step because of their natural timidity. Thus the real issue is many times subordinated to another; and that new issue is not only unreal, but is entirely foreign to the all-important question.
“In this connection it is often urged that the unsaved should be sufficiently in earnest to comply readily with any method or custom that may be employed. But is it not evident, in addition to the fact that such demands may be a denial of the doctrine of grace, that they are both unwarranted and unreasonable, since GOD has provided no enabling power whereby unregenerate people may do commendable acts for Him? A public confession is a far different task to the same timid person after he has received the new divine life; for he can then say by faith, and in all humility: ‘I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me’ (Philippians 4:13).
The one necessary step--the acceptance of CHRIST as Saviour--can be performed only in the secret of the heart itself, by a personal choice and action of the will. This is a dealing with CHRIST alone, and as the time of this decision is the most critical moment in a human life, reason demands that it should be guarded from every distracting and confusing condition.
“A leader with a commanding personality may secure the public action of many when the issue is made one of religious merit through some public act. Under such an impression, a serious person may stand in a meeting who has no conception of what is involved in standing by faith on the Rock CHRIST JESUS; or he may be persuaded to abandon his natural timidity when he knows nothing of abandoning his Satanic tendency to self-help, and resting by faith on that which CHRIST has done for him. If questioned carefully, the basis of assurance with all such converts will be found to be no more than a consciousness that they have acted out the program prescribed for them.”
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