Tomorrow at 3:00 P.M. is your annual review. Sweat pops out on your forehead. Will you be able to sleep tonight? What's your boss going to say? Is he pleased or disappointed? There's reason for concern. Your first year hasn't been as productive as he expected. You think, I wish I were giving the evaluation, instead of the one being evaluated.
What does a boss look for in an employee? Results. Employees have to be worth their salaries. Otherwise, the people on the payroll cost more than they produce. Stated or unstated, the employer is saying, "I want to see results."
Many think that God says the same thing about evangelism. The number of people whom we share Christ with doesn't matter because we think that God expects us to lead others to Him, not just tell about Him.
As a result, several things happen. Our approach becomes more high pressure. It doesn't matter whether non-Christians come to Christ of their own will or ours, just as long as they make the list. We can't afford the wasted time of sharing the gospel if we don't see a response. We think that God is keeping records. We need a yes from the lost, so we pressure and manipulate to get it. The problem is, that's not a Holy Spirit produced convert. It's a human spirit produced one, which is no convert at all.
The second thing that happens is we get discouraged. If we have few results, we think we haven't merited anything with God, so why keep trying? We're doomed to fail in evangelism, we think we're a disappointment to God, and we fear seeing Him face to face.
What's the error in this thinking? Why is it a misconception?
Where do we get the idea that we're responsible for winning the lost? No such verse exists. Nor is there a hint that when we stand before God to be rewarded, He will ask, "How many have you led to Me?" He wouldn't have to ask such a question—He already knows.
But what about 1 Corinthians 9:19-23?
For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. Now this I do for the gospel's sake, that I may be partaker of it with you.
Paul uses the term win five times here. Closing the paragraph, he says, "That I might by all means save some." Wasn't it Paul's thinking that God expected him to save people, not just witness to them?
The context, though, clears up any confusion. "Those … under the law" refers to Jews; "those … without law" refers to Gentiles. Coming to Christ, Paul, as a Jew, recognized that he wasn't under the Old Testament law. He also recognized some Jews would feel scandalized if he didn't observe the law. Because he loved them, he accommodated them, observing many of their feasts and festivals. In doing so, he led Jews and Gentiles to Christ.
When Paul speaks of liberties he's willing to forfeit in order to "win the more," he's actually talking about the winning of a hearing. One commentator makes the point, "He was willing to subject himself to the scruples of the Jews in order to gain a hearing for the gospel and to win them to Christ. Yet he never compromised the essence of the gospel, at the heart of which was salvation by faith, not works and freedom from legalism."' Win and save refer to gaining acceptance and a hearing; nothing indicates that God held Paul responsible for the salvation of any Jew or Gentile.