Gaining Others To Christ.
We all subscribe to this statement.
It is another question whether we are very conscious of this doctrine and whether we diligently practice it.
In our Catechism the question is asked why we must still do good works, since we are delivered by grace. The Catechism cites three reasons. One of these reasons or purposes is expressed in the title given above.
The Catechism says “that by our godly conversation others may be gained to Christ”.
We need not debate about whether we reformed people may speak of gaining others to Christ. We all confess the truth and the calling of it. We may not force an unscriptural idea upon this statement from our Catechism, but neither may we neglect the thought emphasized therein.
First it is well to discuss:
As clearly as possible our Confessions bring home to us the Scriptural truth that only the regenerate can do good works, and they therefore are the only ones who are in a position to gain others unto Christ. In Ans. 86 the Catechism teaches plainly that deliverance by Christ’s blood and the renewal of His Spirit are necessary before man is capable of good works. The Belg. Conf. Art. 24 emphasizes that the unbelieving never do anything out of love for God but out of self-love and fear of damnation. Therefore their works are corrupt. The Confessions teach this because Scripture has said the unbeliever is “unto every good work reprobate, while it says that the elect were created unto good works.
Hence, the redeemed, the saints only are capable of good works.
Involved in those good works are also the good motives which underlie them. He who created us unto good works is He Who also prepared the good works so that we might walk in them. That involves our motives. If the works shall be good the motives must be good. Among the motives which lie in back of our good works, or, among the reasons why we want to do good works—don’t neglect your Catechism instruction—see that one of the motives be that you may by your godly conduct, gain others to Christ.
We reject the term when men use it as a receptacle for their Arminian ideas. It simply is not reverent, it is an error, when we ascribe to man that which only Christ Himself can do. Man cannot gather the Church, the Son of God does this. Neither is Christ a helpless one who needs the assistance of men in recruiting followers for Him. It is pride when we even imagine that the Lord needs the service of men’s’ hands as if He depended thereon. Never yet has Christ needed us. Even when it pleases Him to call His disciples “fishers of men” () before He leaves them He explains this term and lets them know that they depend for fishers, for fish and for fishing entirely upon Him ( ).
In the good work of gaining others therefore we must crucify the Arminian that is in us, or we are condemned before we start.
Condemning and crucifying the Arminian that is in us, we must with equal determination root out the careless which is in us. Having been redeemed we become zealous of good works, says Paul. And we shall become zealous also of seeking by our good works to gain others to Christ. By His grace we have received the privileged position of being friends and servants of Christ. It pleases Christ to constitute us willing instruments through which He sets forth His work among men. Christ said, when He stood before the Cross, that when He was lifted up He would draw all unto Him, that is, He would draw unto Himself His people out of all nations. Yet it pleases Him to use His Church unto that end.
The instrument through which Christ works and therefore the only instrument the Church has received to partake in this work of Christ is the Holy Gospel. It is always that Word which gathers, gains and wins others unto Christ. Daily there are being added to the Church such as should be saved.
And when the Catechism speaks of our gaining others to Christ the meaning evidently is that not only the Church in her official preaching of the Gospel, but also the saints in their office of all believers, in their daily walk and conversation, hold forth the Word of God before men. Listen how pointedly Paul speaks of this “that ye be blameless and harmless, sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world. Holding forth the Word of life. Every one of us, both by our testimony as well as by our works, holding forth the Word of life. Sustaining our testimony by a godly conversation.
How many and who shall be gained by such a godly walk, we cannot tell. We know that many shall be repelled, many shall break forth in blasphemy at our testimony. Many who come into contact with our good works break out in ridicule, hatred and persecution. Neither does Christ want all. He wants only those whom the Father has given Him. We ought not therefore to imagine that we shall gain the whole world for Him. But we must carry forth our good works and Christ Himself is free to use it unto whatever end it pleaseth Him. We must see to it that we maintain good works.
The Other Side.
The opposite of gaining others to Christ is evidently set forth in when we live and walk ungodly and by our conduct cause the name of God to be blasphemed. The Catechism refers to this in Qu. 122 when we pray: hallowed be Thy Name, and we pray that we may so order our lives, our thoughts, words and actions, that Thy Name may never be blasphemed but rather honored and praised on our account”.
When a person, under the name of being a Christian engages in unchristian practices, and conducts himself carnally, the result is that the Name and truth of God is blasphemed on his account. David, in must lose his illegitimate child because he has given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme. And Paul, in enjoins the servants to count their own masters worthy of honor, that the Name of God and His doctrine be not blasphemed.
Gain Others Then.
In it evidently is possible through our humility and righteousness to gain the erring brother. In Paul says he is made all things to all men that he might by all means save some.
In he exhorts the wives to be in subjection to their own husbands, that, if any obey not the word they may, without the word be won by the conversation of the wives. The wives themselves obey the word and their disobedient husbands may sometimes be gained to Christ by the good works of the godly woman.
If our lives show a consistency, a constancy, a subjection to Christ, our very conduct forms a tremendous testimony. If our lives reveal that we not only have the Protestant Reformed truth, but do it also, if our lives show a sincere reverence for God and love for our neighbor, there is an influence going forth from us.
Others may become convinced and may bow before the truth. Others may covet your world-and-life outlook, your truth, your peace of heart, your hope for the future, and Christ may send them repentance.
May our truth be well spoken of by those among whom we have our conversation. That God’s name may be praised on our account and the Cause of Christ prosper through us His servants.