Save Them That Believe


Elder Mark Green


 “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” Now, if that was true in the days of the apostles, it certainly is true today. If that was true in the gospel work of the first century, it is equally true today in the Foreign Mission work. Paul says they were saved through his preaching. He declared that they were begotten through the gospel. He claims them as his children. In all his writings to this very church he represents the laborers for Christ as co-laborers with God. [Mr. H. Clay Yates, a Cumberland Presbyterian minister, from his debate with Elder Lemuel Potter in 1885 on Foreign Missions].


Brother Paul did say that it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe; but he did not say that it pleased God by preaching to regenerate them that believe. It pleased God to save (at some point in the past) them that now believe. If the “saving” is regeneration, as Mr. Yates claims, then believing must be before it or after it. If the believing was before the saving, then we have a fruit of the Spirit existing before the Spirit had acted; we have the fruit before the tree. If the believing was after the saving (which would be true), then the believing, and therefore the gospel, was not what did the saving, since the saving came first. Mr. Yates must choose which of these situations he will have, but do not think he would have liked either one.


If, however (which is the truth), the gospel saves believers, and not unbelievers, and therefore saves those who already have spiritual life, then the gospel does not regenerate them. We agree that Paul saved the Corinthians through his preaching, but we deny that he was involved in regenerating them. When they were regenerated, it was by the voice of Him that shall raise the dead in the final Day. The voice that quickens the dead in sin to a life in Christ is the same voice that shall call forth our bodies from the graves in the Resurrection – and that is not the voice of poor preachers like me. The truth of the gospel does nothing for a man who does not have ears to hear it, but when a man is brought to a condition where he can and does believe it, he is saved or delivered from any number of things – fear, confusion, ignorance, etc. Until a man believes that the gospel is true, it will not help him in this way; but once he does believe it, a wonderful field of truth is opened for him and he is able to rejoice in that which was already true before he believed it.


Mr. Yates seems to think that he has made a great point by saying that the Corinthians were begotten through the gospel, and that Paul claims them as his children. He is referring, no doubt to First Corinthians 4.15: “For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.” Mr. Yates needs to watch himself, for he is claiming here more than he wants to claim. I begat six children, but when I did, I did not make them God’s children, but my children. The one who begets is the father. When Paul begat the Corinthians, he did not make them children of God, but children of Paul. Spiritual life is not bound up in whether or not Paul or some other preacher is our father, but whether or not God is. When a preacher declares the gospel to a people and they believe it and follow his example and teaching in gospel paths, he does indeed become a sort of gospel father to them, and they become his children in that sense. By his preaching, however, the man does not make them children of God. When they were made children of God, it was God that did the begetting, not the preacher, and that divine begetting had to happen before any man could beget them in the gospel.