The Appeal of the Gospel

Brent Lewis
Culver City, California

To deny that the gospel appeals to the emotions of men would be a conspicuous error. Webster defines emotions as "a departure from the normal calm state of an organism of such nature as to include strong feeling, an impulse toward open action."

The unbeliever sometimes reaches the point where he is incapable of emotion; thus, the scripture says of this state: "He hath blinded their eyes, and he hardened their heart; lest they should perceive with their eyes, and perceive with their heart, and should turn, and I should heal them" (John 12: 40). The application of this statement is given in the next few verses: "Nevertheless even of the rulers many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess it, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: for they loved the glory that is of men more than the glory that is of God" (John 12:42-43). So, from this we can see that the incapability of proper emotion will render a man inactive, and, therefore, disobedient to the gospel.

The seed of the kingdom is the word of God (Luke 8:11). When that seed falls into a good and honest heart, emotions are necessarily aroused, and fruit is brought forth (Lk. 8:15). The man whose heart is hardened does not have the proper soil for the seed to take root and grow. Thus, the writer of Hebrews says: "Take heed brethren, lest haply there shall be in you an evil heart of unbelief, in falling away from the living God: but exhort one another day by day, so long as it is called Today; lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin" -(Heb. 3:12-13). Paul also speaks of those who are "past feeling" (Eph. 4:19); hence, incapable of having their emotions aroused with reference to right doing.

In the light of the above, it is axiomatic that the emotions of man have their proper place and function in connection with the gospel of Christ. Any man who can learn of Christ as He gave up the glories of heaven, and came and lived as a man, who was rejected by men upon the earth, and finally openly was crucified upon the crossyea, any man who can know of this and still be unmoved by it is completely and totally devoid of sufficient emotion to render himself obedient to the gospel.

However, the primary appeal of the gospel is not an emotional one. There are those who are sometimes aroused by the gospel, but drift into action on the basis of emotion to the exclusion of knowledge. As a case in point, we find Paul exclaiming: "Brethren, my heart's desire and my supplication to God is for them, that they may be saved. For I bear witness that they have zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For being ignorant of God's righteousness, and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God" (Rom. 10:1-3)

Now, here we have it: knowledge is superior to zeal; God's righteousness is superior to man's. So it was in the case of King Saul. His emotions guided him, rather than God's will; hence, he failed to destroy all of the Amalekites and kept part of the animals to sacrifice to God. God's response, given through Samuel, was: "Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams" (1 Sam. 15:22). God's commandments are our guide, not our thinking or emotions.

For years we have recognized the appeal of a large segment of denominationalism as being basically emotional. Particularly is this true with reference to those who believe in the direct operation of the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues (known today as "glossolalia"), and other open manifestations of the emotions of men. Likewise, the only appeal of the modern-day "faith healers" is an emotional one. I recently read an article in a magazine that came across my desk. This magazine is called "Voice," and is published by the Full Gospel Business Men's Fellowship International (whew!), a group devoted to the arousal of the baptism of the Holy Spirit and speaking with tongues. The article is entitled, "Didn't Our Hearts Burn Within Us." It tells of the fantastic experience of a man who was supposedly "baptized with the Holy Spirit" and then began to babble in "unknown tongues" (unknown to himself or anyone else, we might add). Undoubtedly, this person sadly mistook a bad case of heartburn for the indwelling of the Holy Spiritbut it was quite an emotional experience.

Unfortunately, our brethren are not completely exempt from this kind of reasoning. Granted, it may not be as extreme a case as the one previously mentioned, but, nevertheless, the similarity in thinking is present. The main appeal in defense of the orphan "homes" and like institutions among us has been an emotional appeal. The motives of a great number of these brethren are unquestioned; but we might say, "They have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge." Some brethren even have gone so far as to say that knowledge is not important! About three years ago I heard Mid McKnight, preacher for the Highland Church of Christ, Abilene, Texas (alias Herald of Truth missionary society), speak in Abilene. He was talking about the brethren who objected to various sponsoring church arrangements, and said that the trouble in the brotherhood was that "too many people want to stand around arguing about the rules, and not enough people want to play the game." Now, reallyI must say that this kind of reasoning is worthy of nothing short of a Solomon! My Bible says (if that makes any difference): "And if also a man contend in the games, he is not crowned, except he have contended lawfully" (emphasis mine, BL, II Tim. 2: 5). Now, it sounds like to me that the rules are importantat least to God! No, friends, the appeal to man's emotions will not justify us before God.

A few nights ago, I attended a debate in "home" question. The brother defending "home question. The brother defending church contributions and maintenance of the orphan "homes" incessantly attempted to play upon the emotions of the audience. He told about little Lee, an Indian orphan boy; he said that if the church did not take care of Lee, and all the other orphans, that the Catholics and the Mormons would get them. He said that when the church rejected anyone (saint or not) who was in need, that it was contrary to the spirit of Christ;" and on and on he went. The sad thing was that he was in the affirmative, and his proposition stated, "It is scriptural . . ."

Brethren, God's word must guide us in all that we do or say. We cannot justify ourselves before God on the basis of an emotional appeal. God said, "My people are destroyed for lack of Knowledge" (Hosea 4:6). In the final analysis, we must ask, "Do the scriptures authorize what we practice?" Even though we may be doing that which seems right and good to us, we must have God's approval: "There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death" (Prov. 14:12). Paul says, shall we "do evil, that good may come?" (Rom. 3:8). Let us not seek to justify ourselves by an appeal to the emotions. The gospel is not an emotional gospel, it is a spiritual gospel; the emotions are of the flesh. "And they that are of Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with the passions and the lusts thereof. If we live by the Spirit, by the Spirit let us also walk" (Gal. 5:24-25).

TRUTH MAGAZINE X: 3, pp.14-16 December 1965



Certain persons, in whose hearts the spirit of the age seems to be supplanting the Spirit of Christ, are bold to say, in substance, that they who do no more than, the Lord Commands, and who positively refuse to countenance innovation, are schismatics. But this is the doctrine, not of reason and Scripture, but of folly and papal apostasy. It is he who makes a new institution and contends for it that makes the schism! These words ought to be pondered by every progressionist in the land. No matter what the institution is be it infant sprinkling, instrumental music, or "societyism," he who introduces it and contends for it, without the express authority of God's Word is a schismatic, all the protestations he may make to the contrary notwithstanding. It is not they who are obeying the Lord's commandments, but they who are fashioning the golden calves, and setting them up in the camp, that are making the present confusion in Israel.

L. F. Bittle in Apostolic Messenger June 1,1918