When God summoned us to His way of life, He persuaded us with various proofs that He exists, desires a relationship with us, and rules not just the universe but also the affairs of men. As often happens during our first love (Revelation 2:4-5), we desire to share our joy and newfound truth with others. Most of the time, our early evangelistic efforts fail to produce any new converts to the faith—instead, our efforts usually cause problems in our relationships.
Most lay-members, after one or two failures of this sort, get smart and desist in trying to convert their relatives and friends. They realize that nothing will ever happen without God first calling the other individual and changing his heart by His Spirit to accept the truth (John 6:44; Romans 2:4-5; 8:7; I Corinthians 2:10-14; Hebrews 8:10; Ezekiel 11:19). All our preaching and cajoling will accomplish nothing unless God moves to initiate a personal relationship with him.
Ministers do not have such an easy out. Certainly, in their personal relationships they can quit trying to "save" those unconverted members of their families, but in their professional capacity, their job is to "persuade men." In personal conduct, counsel, sermons, and articles, they must devote their energies to showing and explaining why God's way is true and will lead to eternal life in His Kingdom.
Today, that is not an easy task. It has never been easy, really, but the current environment makes it harder than it has been historically. For starters, though a high percentage of people say they believe in God, most people are no longer religious but secular. Religion is not a high-ranking concern, and because of this, religious issues fly under their radar and over their heads. They just do not care, and even when they inquire about them, they do not understand them because they lack the background and education necessary to evaluate them properly.
Another problem is competition. It used to be that most people at least treated Sunday, the so-called "Lord's day," as a Sabbath and devoted most or all of that time to religious pursuits. No longer. Sunday, though it is not God's Sabbath day, is used just like any other day: for work and entertainment. If God receives a few hours on Sunday morning for worship services, most Americans—and Europeans to an even greater degree—think He should feel satisfied that they could spare Him even that much!
Yet a third hindrance is the way moderns think. Too many people, especially younger adults, have absorbed the postmodern, values-neutral approach. This way of thinking considers every idea and belief as equally valid, neither right nor wrong. A person can believe anything he likes—even that the moon is made of green cheese—and he should not be judged as right or wrong. Any god one worships, or for that matter, if one chooses to worship no god, is fine, and no one god or belief system is better than any other.
In such an environment, how can we persuade anyone of the truth? Our success certainly looks bleak.
The answer lies in what Paul writes in II Corinthians 5:9-11: "We make it our aim . . . to be well pleasing to Him." Our judgment does not rest on how many men we persuade but on whether we do the job. We are called to make the witness for God and Christ to the best of our ability and strength. Christ will judge us "according to what [we have] done, whether good or bad." How others react to us and what we say or write matters little; it is "God who gives the increase" (I Corinthians 3:5-8). As Paul says, one plants and another waters, but what happens to the sprout is not under their control but God's.
Thus, we cannot quantify the results of our persuasion as others can. We cannot see the growth of our "business" in statistical form. The true measure of our success will be revealed in God's Kingdom, and even then, we will be unable to claim the glory for it. For in persuading men, we "do all to the glory of God" (I Corinthians 10:31).
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
We Persuade Men
These verses state a reality we all face: We are accountable to the Creator for our conduct. We know that standing between us and God is an internally generated pride that, if allowed, will greatly hinder our desire to please Him by submitting.
We must understand that God's calling of us, His granting of repentance to us, and His providing us with His Spirit have given us a valuable power, an "edge." He has not given us an impossible challenge. Receiving the Holy Spirit has given us the wherewithal, the powers, to meet our responsibility to submit voluntarily to Him. What is the solution? In short, it is to exercise humility before the Holy One of Israel. Humility can defuse pride's power.
There is a major difference between pride and humility. Because of exposure to Satan and the world, pride is within us almost from birth. Humility, though, is not part of us from birth. Spiritual humility is most definitely a developed characteristic, derived because of contact with God and our choosing to be humble before Him.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Living By Faith and Human Pride
If anything is certain about the future, there is a judgment according to works for all who live and die. How can anyone who says he believes the Bible claim that works are not required of the Christian when God emphatically declares that they are required of us, even though they do not justify us before Him?
The truth is plain. If a Christian does not work, there will be nothing for God to judge and thus no evidence the person is prepared to inherit His Kingdom. God will not give him salvation because there will be nothing to verify that he belongs there. The lack of evidence proves that he does not belong there! Such a one is not a son of God. A faith that does not work is dead (James 2:17, 20, 26). God is the God of the living, and according to James 2:22, faith is perfected, brought to completion, by works. Sanctification is necessary as a witness to the Christian's character as he passes before the judgment seat of Christ.
Do we not all desire to inherit the Kingdom of God? Certainly, we must if we are at all impressed with the glory to which God has called us. However, have we considered deeply whether we would enjoy being there, should we be given that privilege? God's Kingdom will be a holy place inhabited by holy people. Is it not apparent that those who inherit God's Kingdom will have spent a great deal of time being prepared, trained, and formed and shaped for living there?
The concept of deathbed repentance and absolution is a lie palmed off by Satan. Likewise false is the belief in a purgatory following death, in which a person prepares for living in paradise. These are nowhere found in Scripture, nor is the idea that one needs only to be justified through Christ's blood. If these things were so, Romans 5:9-10 would not declare:
Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.
The false concepts above do not take into consideration that God's purpose includes more than just atoning for our sins through Christ's blood. God's purpose includes the work of Jesus Christ as our High Priest, perfecting our character by means of living in us through His Spirit (John 14:18-23). It is our High Priest, Jesus, who intercedes in our behalf (Romans 8:26-27). As Head of the church, He inspires and corrects us, and He gives us gifts to fulfill our responsibilities (Ephesians 4:7). He labors to create in us a clean heart, purified and in the character image of the Father (II Corinthians 3:17-18).
We need to be sanctified as well as justified. Sanctification requires the works of submission to and cooperation with Almighty God to bring to completion His purpose for us. King David writes in Psalm 16:11, "You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures evermore" - a brief snapshot of what life will be like in the Kingdom of God. No one can be happy where he is not in his element. An unsanctified person would not find God's Kingdom congenial to his tastes and character. Being there would be a condemnation rather than a blessing.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Is the Christian Required To Do Works? (Part Four)
It does not matter how much prophecy we know, whether we can recite from memory large portions of Scripture, or know perfectly every doctrine's technicalities (I Corinthians 13:1-3). In terms of judgment, what matters is whether we are striving to live what we know to be the way God lives because it is how those in His Kingdom will live. His way is the way of love, and love is something we do.
Humanly, the opposite of love is hate. This is because we judge things largely according to the senses. Love, therefore, is a strong feeling for a person or thing; hate is a strong feeling against. However, this definition is not biblical. Biblically, the opposite of love is sin. Like love, sin is also something we do. According to I John 5:3, love is keeping God's commandments, and sin, then, is the breaking of His commandments. Though feeling is certainly involved in biblical love, the will of God and truth play a far larger part.
Seriously consider this: If we sin, then biblically, we do not love God, our fellow man, or for that matter, ourselves, because sinning means we have taken steps toward committing spiritual suicide! If we do this, it also means that we do not appreciate that God has given us life and has given His life so that we can claim His awesome promise of living eternally with Him.
Stripped of all possible nuances that might affect God's judgment, this is the stark reality of what faces us once God has opened our eyes and revealed His purpose to us. It brings to the fore that, if we love what He has revealed, then we must hate sin because it destroys everything God's wonderful revelation stands for.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Elements of Motivation (Part Seven): Fear of Judgment
Teachers who say that works are unimportant are spreading lies—by confusing the issues, by blunting the incentive to keep the commandments of God and to make the right kind of choices, by making people think that they do not have to do any works. Understand, however, that works are not required to save us but to ensure that we are changed!
What does God want to see when we come before the judgment bar, as we are now during our Christian lives? He wants to see evidence to prove that we are indeed His children. His judgment is based upon what we have done; the Bible says repeatedly that judgment is according to our works.
I am not qualifying here the quantity or the quality of our works. God is so merciful! Paul tells us in I Corinthians 3:15 that, even though our works are burned up, we ourselves will be saved. Even though the works are of poor quality, at least we have worked! We did not just sit there, dead in the water. We apparently pleased God enough to show that we wanted to be in His Kingdom.
That judgment is in His hands. But we should recognize that He does require works. The works are not for justification but for sanctification. The works aid in the transformation of our character to the image of God. The works aid in our growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. The works help to produce change. It is a cooperative effort that we do with God.
And I can guarantee you that, if a person does not make the efforts to change, he would be totally unhappy in the Kingdom of God. He would be like a fish out of water, because everybody in that Kingdom is going to be holy. Everybody in that Kingdom is going to do—they are going to live holy lives. (An unholy person wouldn't fit, and so he won't be there.)
Satan is trying to destroy God's purpose by subtly confusing the necessity of good works, and therefore stopping the process of sanctification through a perverted teaching on grace, law, and covenants. But remember this: Hebrews 12:14 tells us that without holiness—a holiness that we have to strive for—"no man shall see the Lord."
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part Nine)
God judges true Christians today by how well they live by His Word, and He will judge those who rise in the second resurrection exactly the same way. They will be given enough time to live a life of overcoming and obedience, just as God's firstfruits are doing in this age.
Martin G. Collins
Holy Days: Last Great Day
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing 2 Corinthians 5:10:
2 Corinthians 5:9-11
2 Corinthians 5:11