This is the order of Scripture: The Word of God is proclaimed, heard or read; the Spirit of God convicts the sinner, bringing him to the place where he desires to be saved, and is ready to receive Christ. Believing the gospel, he is justified by faith.
Let me give a word to those who seek to win souls: Do not try to rush people into confessing Christ; do not try to make them say they are saved. Endeavor to find out if there is any real exercise about their sins, if the Spirit of God has awakened them. The reason a great many people make a profession of Christianity and appear to come out for Christ in revival meetings, and then soon afterward drift back into their former ways, is that there is no real work of God in the soul. They have never been sanctified by the Holy Spirit; they have never known divine conviction. The first consideration is that men might be awakened to see their need of Christ. Then give the gospel to them.
That is the divine order: sanctification by the Spirit which leads to a belief in the truth. The purpose for which God is sending His gospel out into the world is that the Holy Spirit might awaken men and lead them to believe it. When they believe the gospel message, they may be assured of eventually sharing the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. When people have been really born again, they will go on in the Christian life.
The Privilege of Preaching
Paul repudiated any selfish motive in his own preaching. There should be no hidden evil, nothing unclean in his life, nothing that grieved the Holy Spirit of God. When ministers preach Christ simply as a means of livelihood, they have missed their path altogether. Paul declared that there was no deceit, no uncleanness, with him and his companions. They were perfectly open about everything; they had no hidden schemes. Paul was very careful about this. He did not go out preaching in order to make money, but to exalt Christ and to win souls. The Lord will support those who faithfully carry on His work, but if they make personal gain their object, their ministry becomes obnoxious to God. There should be a holiness of life that characterizes one who proclaims the message of God.
Paul looked upon the business of gospel preaching as a privilege. He says “As we were allowed of God (permitted by God) to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which tries our hearts”(1 Thess. 2:4). Notice this: they were put in trust with the gospel, and that is the one great message which the servant of Christ has to give to a lost world. We find people suggesting all kinds of themes to ministers on which to preach, but it is his business to preach the gospel and the Word of God. Paul’s object was not to give a political address or a scientific lecture. He had but one object, and that was that men might know the gospel of the grace of God. Paul was so deadly in earnest that he went through real agony of soul if people did not come to Christ; he felt keenly responsible for them.
No one who really wants to count for God can afford to play at Christianity. He must make it the one great business of his life. Whether he is set apart for special ministry, as a missionary who is going to a foreign land or a laborer in the gospel at home, or whether he remains in business, he needs to give himself entirely to a life of devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Editor’s Note: This article is compiled, edited, and revised from Harry A. Ironside’s commentaries on 1 Thessalonians and 1 Timothy, (Loizeaux: Neptune, NJ, 1946) and from C. H. Mackintosh’s articles “The Soul and the Book” and “Five Words “ found in Short Papers, Vol. 2 (Sunbury, PA: Believers Bookshelf, 1975).