Am I Too Proud To Beg?

Am I Too Proud To BegWhen it comes to evangelism, there is much debate as to how we as Christians should go about it. Some say get a soap box and let it rip, others say that we should just let evangelism happen naturally as we live our lives.

But in my preaching class something was brought up that made me think. It is what Paul said in Second Corinthians:

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” (2 Corinthians 5:20)

The key phrase of focus is, “we beg you.”

Do I beg people to be reconciled to God? Am I too proud to beg?

Spurgeon said this:

“If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our bodies. If they will perish, let them parish with our arms about their knees. Let no one go there unwarned and unprayed for.”

I am much too passive in my evangelism. May the Lord grant me the grace to beg, to plead with the lost to be saved from the wrath that is to come.

This book was suggested by my exposition professor, and I thought I would post it here.

It is called “Words to Winners of Souls” by Horatius Bonar

Download it in pdf format here: Words to Winners of Souls by Horatius Bonar



  1. Interesting. I’m going to write more about the real topic in a minute, but from a purely exegetical standpoint, could 2 Cor 5:20 really be talking about evangelism? Though he speaks about reconciliation, he is talking to people who are already in Christ and that he already has spiritual authority over / responsibility for.


  2. I think the word “reconcile” is not to believers – I think Paul was concerned for their salvation. But I do think you are right, Paul is not saying “ok, now a lesson in evangelism.” But I think the principal applies to our hearts desire for the lost as we live our lives. I think the concern that Paul has for the Corinthians is what I am pointing out, that he would beg them to be reconciled.
    The ministry of reconciliation is the ministry of the Gospel in this context from what I can tell.

    “For if while 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.” (Romans 5:10)

    “…and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach— if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister.” (Colossians 1:20-23)


  3. Ok, so as to the actual topic:

    Why beg? Is it because our actions affect salvation?

    If each believer is chosen unconditionally before they are born, irrespective of anything they or anyone else does, why would you need to beg? If our actions affect salvation, though, Calvinism is in trouble.

    Should we or should we not be discriminating in our appeals?

    Should we beg everyone? In the NT, evangelism is very different than we practice it today. In Acts, I think you can see a few times this pattern: preach to the masses, condemn those who reject, reason with those who are interested, baptize those who accept. I’m not advocating condemnation, just saying that if a person’s not interested in following God, do you have an obligation to beg them?

    Wouldn’t repentance be the ultimate responsibility of the repenter (with the HS)? Further, wouldn’t a conversion given as a result of “begging” be lessened somehow?

    It seems like the idea you described might stem from this thought: “It is the goal of a Christian to save souls”, just as “It is the goal of the fisherman to catch fish” … which is in a sense true, for some Christians at least. But doesn’t the analogy break down when you examine the act of conversion itself — that is, isn’t repentance a little fake if you’re repenting under duress of someone begging you to do it? Doesn’t the HS bear more responsibility for their conversion than you do? Christ sacrificed everything, but He didn’t beg anyone to follow Him … so should we?


  4. en re Reconcile: so you think, in this context, Paul is addressing non-believers? Wouldn’t he be addressing the baptized church at Corinth?

    Certainly reconcile is used salvifically in other contexts, but in this situation it’s important to evaluate who he is talking to and why, because the other situations don’t use the word “beg”.

    I’m not saying that the ideas aren’t good or ok, just that in this situation Paul is specifically referring to people with whom he is in Christian fellowship, so to use it to support the statement “We should beg non-believers to be saved” doesn’t really work.


  5. “Is it because our actions affect salvation?”
    I’m curious Ben, does anyone ever become saved if they do not believe?
    You are not talking against Calvinism with that point.

    “Should we beg everyone?”
    Christ made general appeals “come to me all you who labor, I will give you rest” etc.
    In the context of Cor. it is “the world” who God reconciled – therefore the begging I believe is yes, to all.

    “Wouldn’t repentance be the ultimate responsibility of the repenter”
    Yes, but do we who hold the truth have no responsibility?
    It is like the watchman – I think we talked about that a while back.
    If the watchman warns, he is free from guilt. But if he fails to warn, he is guilty.
    Paul refers to that in Acts 20 in his own ministry.


  6. Did my talking points make you mad? I’m just trying to stimulate discussion.

    1) I was under the impression that most Reformed schools of thought on conversion indicate that belief is a gift given by God at conversion through the Holy Spirit, and irrespective of any human action. This would seem to be relevant, wouldn’t it? This is why Jonathan Edwards read his sermons in a monotone — he believed that the HS responded only in conjunction with the preaching of the gospel, and no human factors were positive. JE certainly wouldn’t seem to advocate begging a person to become a Christian.

    2) It seemed to me like you were making a more personal case here — as in, begging anyone you met (at the checkout, the bus stop, in the mall) or anyone you knew (neighbors, friends, relatives) to become a Christian. So my question was along the lines of “should you beg the person who has repeatedly made it clear that the things of God hold no interest for them, or the person with whom you have no relationship whatsoever?”

    3) Oh, sure, we definitely have responsibility. With you there. Maybe this question would be more clear if you changed it to conversion by the sword. Does your possible obligation to “save souls” make conversion by the sword acceptable — and if it did, would the conversion be genuine? Obviously the cases are not 100% analogous but when I think of “begging” there seems to be some level of coercion involved.


  7. Oh, here’s another great one. Do you go into a 3rd world country and offer someone money to become a Christian? Why not? And why would that be different from begging?


  8. I think that the whole point is that we implore people to seek Christ with everything we got. People usually beg when their survival depends on it… right? I am not going to go around begging for food because I have my debit card and a safeway down the street… if I was on the street it would be a different story. Paul is addressing a weird church… one that (in 1 Cor) he says is filled with people who are “enriched in him… not lacking in any spiritual gifts” – which caused Paul to give thanks in 1 Cor 1:5-6… yet are only able to be fed with milk and not solid food (3:1-2) because they are filled with divisions and fleshly issues.

    Couldn’t the idea of reconcile be more apt to referring to a different sense of salvation…? The idea that part of salvation (which is often neglected) is actually growing in Christ? Putting away the things of the flesh and growing in the Spirit – which is another huge theme of 1 and 2 Corinthians.

    My biggest problem with evangelism is that no matter how you slice it, it always ends up as a “sign your name here:______” type conversation or idea, when people come to faith through the process of following Jesus as well. The Corinthian church was a weird church… (actually probably typical, but you get what I mean)… they had a lot of “potential”, yet many many rough edges and needed to be reconciled to God in a lot of ways like many of us do as well.

    It is true that we approach evangelism half-heartedly, but I think that Paul here may be referring to something else… specifically the sanctification of believers and the putting off of the flesh since he has made his followers a new creation.


  9. no, i’m not mad – I was in a rush ;)

    In your first point, I don’t agree with your evaluation. Edwards himself said, “If true religion lies much in the affections, we may infer, that such a way of preaching the word…as has a tendency deeply to affect the hearts of those who attend…is much to be desired” (Religious Affections, p. 244).

    “If a minister has light without heat, and entertains his auditory with learned discourses, without a savour of the power of godliness, or any appearance of fervency of spirit, and zeal for God and the good of souls, he may gratify itching ears, and fill the heads of his people with empty notions; but it will not be very likely to reach their hearts, or save their souls” (True Excellency, p. 959).

    Your second point again just feels like an over generlization – obviously I am not saying all my time must be spent in begging people to turn to Christ. There is no example of that in Scripture. But in my sharing of the Gospel, I am more talking about my care for their soul – for their benifit, that they would escape the fires of hell, what is my attitude in my discourse? Do I argue? Or do I beg?
    Do I cry? Or do I just not care?

    As for your third point, I guess I’m having trouble seeing any connection with pleading with someone to be saved and holding a gun to their head saying that I will kill them unless they are saved.
    Giving someone money to believe is not the same as begging them to be saved in my mind – they are totally on two different plains.

    Do you think the Bible says we should not even speak to people about the Gospel because that is some type of evil?

    Again, I think your understanding of at least what I believe about God’s sovereignty in salvation is making these objections – Biblically I don’t see merit in your comparisons.

    But maybe I just don’t understand what you are pointing out.



  10. Yeah, I think we’re talking past each other …

    1) Touché. Good job finding some very pertinent Edwards passages so quickly — perhaps the story I heard was apocryphal, or was about someone else.

    2) I think you misunderstand me, because I have a few particular cases in mind from my own life. One of my co-workers, for instance — an agnostic. I’ve been very clear on what I believe and why it’s important. I’ve invited him to church. He’s just not interested in seeking God or changing his life. Should I beg him to come to church with me?

    I’m also thinking of a problem facing Muslim missionaries — some who come to Christ are on the fringes of society, and embrace Christ less because they are true seekers than because they are bad Muslims. But they are easier to reach than devout, God-seeking leaders in the community. So the question becomes — do you focus on those who are seeking God, or not? It’s not entirely analogous, but maybe this will help you understand why I think “should we focus our energy on people who are seeking God” an important question.

    3) The forced conversion example may not be a good one, but I think the money one is. If I beg you to become a Christian, couldn’t someone say that you only became a Christian so as not to hurt my feelings, or to “go with the flow”? To me that seems very similar to the questions I’d ask if you told someone “I’ll buy you a motorbike if you become a Christian.” On the one hand, impressing people with the depth of your conviction is good, and so is impressing them with the seriousness of the issue. On the other, pressure and inducement both seem to be frowned upon, and “beg” for me brings out that connotation.


  11. It seems that the Edwards story is halfway apocryphal. Edwards did indeed “read” his sermons, not wanting his delivery to get in the way of the message. Some have described it as a “monotone” but there doesn’t seem to be anyone who knows anything saying it was because he simply wanted “the gospel to be preached so that the qualifications for the Spirit to work could be met”, although I’m sure that I remember being exposed to that aspect of Reformed theology in the past. It seems more like he viewed his preaching as “prophecy” and thus didn’t want to interfere with the prophetic nature by making it personal or extemporaneous.

    Some quotes I found.

    “Jonathan Edwards preached his famous sermon, “SINNERS IN THE HANDS OF AN ANGRY GOD” on July 8, 1741 at Enfield, Connecticut. God used it in such a mighty way that it became the defining sermon of the Great Awakening. It is said that Edwards read his sermon in somewhat of a monotone yet the convicting power of the Holy Spirit came over the congregation assembled that morning, so powerfully that the deacons began to hold onto the pillars of the church feeling that they were actually sliding into Hell.”

    “Upon reading “Sinners,” modern readers might assume that Edwards was a particularly angry or vengeful man, but it is important to remember that “Sinners” was simply a product of a genre – it was fire-and-brimstone, preaching at its most eloquent and effective. Readers may be shocked to learn that it was Edwards’ habit to preach his sermons in a measured monotone, which he did in the hopes that his own intonations would not distract from the divine messages being conveyed by the words of the sermon. We can, therefore, be fairly sure that “Sinners” was not screamed at the many audiences that it was preached to.”


  12. “I think ‘should we focus our energy on people who are seeking God’ an important question.”

    That is a different issue. Like I said, I’m not saying that in every situation, and at every moment that Scripture is saying we should beg and cry (weep) for people to be saved.
    Read the prophets and God’s attitude towards Israel – He totally pleads with them

    As far as your feelings against “begging” someone to come to Christ. Should we go off of our feelings, or off the example of Scripture?
    I’m being direct :) But shouldn’t we rather interact with what Paul is saying, rather than say, I don’t think begging is a viable option?

    In that line of thought here’s something:
    ““In regard to all the things of which I am accused by the Jews, I consider myself fortunate, King Agrippa, that I am about to make my defense before you today; especially because you are an expert in all customs and questions among the Jews; therefore I beg you to listen to me patiently.” (Acts 26:2-3)

    Here’s something I read today about the “Calvinism” you have in mind (I think):

    “Can a Calvinist Like Edwards really plead with people to flee hell and cherish heaven? Do not total depravity and unconditional election and irresistible grace make such pleading inconsistent?
    Edwards learned his Calvinism from the Bible and therefore was spared many errors in his preaching. He did not infer that unconditional election or irresistible grace or supernatural regeneration or the inability of the natural man to led the conclusion that the use of pleading was inappropriate. He said, ‘Sinners…should be earnestly invited to come and accept of a Savior, and yield their hearts unto him, with all the winning encouraging arguments for them…that the Gospel affords.’
    I recall hearing a preacher in the Reformed tradition several years ago preach from 1 Corinthians 16, which ends with the fearful threat, ‘If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed’ (v. 22). He alluded to it in passing, but there was no yearning or pleading with the people to love Christ and to escape the terrible curse. I marveled that this could be. There is a tradition of hyper-Calvinism that says that God’s purpose to save the elect gives preachers warrant to invite to Christ only those who give evidence that they are already quickened and drawn by the Spirit. It breeds a kind of preaching that only informs but does not plead with sinners to repent.
    Edwards, like Spurgeon after him, knew that this was not authentic Calvinism; it was contrary to Scripture and unworthy of the Reformed tradition.
    In fact, Edwards wrote a whole book, The Freedom of the Will, to show that
    ‘God’s moral government over mankind, His treating them as moral agents, making them the objects of His commands, counsels, calls, warnings, expostulations, promises, threatenings, rewards and punishments, is not inconsistent with a determining disposal of all events, of every kind, throughout the universe.’
    In other words, pleading with our listeners to make a response to our preaching is not at odds with a high doctrine of the sovereignty of God.
    When we preach, to be sure, it is God who effects the results for which we long. But that does not rule out earnest appeals for our people to respond…” (The Supremacy of God in Preaching by John Piper, p.94-95)


  13. “It seems more like he viewed his preaching as “prophecy” and thus didn’t want to interfere with the prophetic nature by making it personal or extemporaneous.”

    In my winterim on Jonathan Edwards, Dr. Hannah said that later in life Edwards usually spoke extemporaneously by combining 2 or 3 sermon manuscripts as he spoke.

    I only found this one source which kind of hints at that:

    Dr. Hannah also said that Edwards didn’t speak in monotone…
    but I couldn’t find a source for that.


  14. Different issue: possibly. That was the issue that struck me as I read your post, so that’s what I talked about :)

    Feelings or Scripture: I don’t think that’s really fair … sometimes you must appeal to reason to decide things the Bible doesn’t mention explicitly, and I’m fairly confident I could come up with scriptures to support the idea that coercion in conversion is bad. I’m wondering, though, how you could prove that something is or isn’t coercion using only the Bible? It’s not a dictionary … some concepts must be intuitively grasped and/or applied.

    Again, I read your post as “we should be humiliating ourselves constantly to win souls even when it is counterproductive or (maybe, somehow) working against God’s will.” I don’t mean that’s what you said (it’s not) but rather that the two ideas might be related. So I thought I’d take the opportunity to talk about it. Sorry if I hijacked your post … but those are the ideas that were swimming around in my head in response to what you said.

    Hyper-calvinism: I knew I had heard that somewhere. Of course, from my perspective, moderate (well, moderate from Piper’s viewpoint) Calvinists are trying to have their cake and eat it too :)

    People can kind of get into doublespeak sometimes with this stuff, where you make a statement which logically has certain repercussions, but deny those repercussions. Maybe that’s not what happens with Piper-Calvinism, but that’s always how it looks to me.


  15. Some of the people I read talking about Edwards took issue with the word “monotone” … thought it was an unfair characterization of what was really just a dry reading. Perhaps that’s what Dr. Hannah was referring to; although we’re talking the 18th century here, something like that might be hard to confirm.

    Later life: yeah, didn’t he start his theological career in his teens? It wouldn’t surprise me if he changed it up a bit later on.

    Book link: Hm, well, avoidance of extemporaneous preaching was a guess, maybe I guessed wrong. I do remember reading about the prophecy thing today, but I moved through the articles kinda fast.


  16. I just came across this post/thread…. For the time being, I’ll just point out that the author is “Horatius Bonar” – your pdf even shows “Bona” for some reason (which is probably why you spelled it that way in your post).

    More later.


  17. Ben – why are we instructed to pray? (Not a rhetorical question.)

    Could it be that what we should learn from Paul’s “begging” is not necessarily the nature of Paul’s action (not that I’m saying we should ignore it), but the state of his heart? The heart that was willing to be “all things to all men” so that he might win some sounds like a heart willing to plead and implore people to be reconciled to God.


  18. Not at all. I’m saying that perhaps the charge to beg has as much to do with how we view the need for reconciliation as we view those who need to be reconciled.


  19. Tsk tsk, there’s no “charge to beg” … all we know is that Paul himself says (to the Corinthians) “I beg you, be reconciled to God”.

    But in the broader sense of evangelism, you definitely bring up a good point … you might rephrase Nathan’s question thus: “Is my view of the need for God’s reconciliation such that I am not willing to debase myself to draw people in?”


  20. Interesting you bring up prayer Lee – because actually, the Greek word here (δεόμεθα from δέομαι) is used many times in the NT to refer to prayer (Matthew 9:38; Acts 4:31; Romans 1:10 etc.).

    There is a charge Ben, in as much as Paul imitates Christ:
    “Therefore I exhort you, be imitators of me.” (1 Corinthians 4:16)
    “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1)
    “Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us.” (Philippians 3:17)


  21. Well, yes, there is a charge … three or four times removed … but not explicitly in that passage. You could almost as easily say that Paul charges us to shout to authority figures, “God will strike you, you whitewashed wall!” or take “Imitate me” to mean that you have a command to write more books of the New Testament :)

    Meaning, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ” is not necessarily referring directly to this instance. It could be, it might not. Yes, I’m splitting hairs, but that’s my job.


  22. :-) That’s what comes from quickly scanning posts and comments and doing 5 things at the same time! Sorry about that. I’d agree that there’s no direct charge to beg others to be reconciled – but Nathan does bring up a good point. In this case, of all the many ways in which we might imitate Paul (imitating Christ), we would do well to imitate him, I’d say.

    Thanks for that, Nathan – I was just going to look up the word! It’s interesting to note that KJV uses “pray” (and NKJV/ESV use “implore”) rather than beg; elsewhere, the word is variously translated as beseech, make request, ask (between the KJV and NAS). I think you might be getting hung up on the connotations of the English word, Ben – “debase” is not a synonym of these other words, at least to me.


  23. Or perhaps I should say, on certain nuances of the English word. Depending on context, “beg” can connote pleading/imploring or it can connote panhandling…


  24. Probably true. I got the impression, though, that that’s where Nathan was going … i.e., are you unwilling to humiliate yourself to evangelize others etc.? What do you think.


  25. You brought in the nuance of humiliation, Ben. I don’t think that is what is being described in the passage, nor do I see Nathan using it about the attitude he wishes to cultivate within himself.

    (You’re welcome, Nathan!)


  26. Yeah, I wasn’t thinking “pan-handle” with the word “beg”
    Like I said, the word is used in Greek to refer to “I pray”

    But as far as who Paul was speaking to when he was begging.

    I still think it was because he felt the Corinthians were in danger of hell-fire.

    “For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully.” (2 Corinthians 11:4)

    Also in the near context:
    “ And working together with Him, we also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain— for He says, “At the acceptable time I listened to you, And on the day of salvation I helped you.” Behold, now is “the acceptable time,” behold, now is “the day of salvation”— giving no cause for offense in anything, so that the ministry will not be discredited,” (2 Corinthians 6:1-3)

    It seems there was major concern that, at least some of the Corinthians needed to do some soul-searching, as to whether or not they were in Christ. For their actions were not matching their said belief.


  27. Of course, I guess that opens another can of worms … that is, perseverance vs. losable salvation. Well, for me it does, maybe not for you.

    I do see what you mean about them being “in trouble”.

    I didn’t mean “pan-handle” … but I do think beg might be a bad translation there if the right word is “pray”. “Beseech” or “implore” might be better … but I guess people nowadays might not know those words. “Beg”, even in the sense that is synonymic with “implore”, carries a connotation that “implore” doesn’t.

    So, if you aren’t panhandling for Christ, what does “begging” look like in your life?


  28. Wait, hold on a second!

    “Am I too proud to beg?”

    How is that not “bringing in the nuance of humiliation”?

    Definitely an unfair riposte.

    I’m so misunderstood. :)


  29. Well, you were the first to use the words humiliate and humiliation explicitly – hence my riposte.

    And Nathan has disavowed the pan-handling or alms-seeking aspect of beg.

    But I do see where you can get to that from “Am I too proud to beg?”… (Not to mention the picture, which I only just really looked at!) So I’ll grant you an initial mixed message ;-)


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