What you save them with, you save them to

I remember James Boice often saying, “What you save them with, you save them to.” His point was that any evangelism that is not centered on Christ’s atoning work and its biblically-defined results, leaves our “converts” still alienated from God. People “saved” with sentimental appeals or therapeutic promises may join our church, joyfully regard themselves as Christians and embrace our evangelical sub-culture, and even have beneficial changes in their lives. But until they confess their sins and trust the cross of Christ, the wrath of God remains on them. There is but one way to God, and the one gospel He has provided for true evangelism is marked red with the shed blood of Christ.
Rick Phillips

As much as that is a skeptical view of contemporary approaches to evangelism (seeker-friendly methods), I think there is some truth in James Boice’s words. I read the same words on some lecture notes online saying “Theology determines methodology; worship determines witness.” We cannot dissect the methods from the goal. 

Anecdotally, this quote might not seem true but it is worth a thought. It is often the ones who quietly leave or get left behind that slip our minds.


In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was fully God. Now the Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We saw his glory – the glory of the one and only, full of grace and truth, who came from the Father.
John 1:1, 14

(Christ Jesus) who though he existed in the form of God did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, but emptied himself by taking on the form of a slave, by looking like other men, and by sharing in human nature.
Philippians 2:6-7

The incarnation is one thing that never fails to amaze me. The event of an all-powerful God becoming all-human with all the human limits and inabilities and yet remaining all-God (John 1:1) with all the omnipotence and is simply inconceivable. In fact, it might be seen as a logical error – to be powerful and weak at the same time. But that is our God functioning beyond our understanding. Yet Jesus didn’t function as God, He functioned as a human – with all of humanity’s limits. He was hungry, he was thirsty, he felt pain and suffering.

See Jesus wasn’t contextualised as human, he was fully human. Contextualise means he clothed himself as human, surrounded himself as human. But Christ wasn’t God clothed as human, He made Himself fully human. Leaving “equality with God”, He shared in our human nature. As a human, He was contextualised by the particular time and place in which he lived – the culture, his family, his environment, etc, as we are.

For since I am free from all I can make myself a slave to all, in order to gain even more people. To the weak I became weak in order to gain the weak. I have become all things to all people, so that by all means I may save some.
1 Corinthians 9:19, 22

Look at what God has done through the incarnation: by becoming fully human, Jesus exemplified what it meant to be “all things to all people, so that by all means I may save some”. Not in a deceptive or fake way of contextualising or clothing Himself with humanity, but being all that He is and all that we are at the same time. Christ was relevant, real and authentic. He suffered real human pain, thirst and hunger; yet as God, he offered the world a chance to be restored to Himself (John 14:6, John 17:3) and to enjoy everything that God is (John 17:6-11).

Christ is our example and “incarnation” is our call. Not that we are gods embodied in human form, but that we embody God’s Spirit in the places and times that we live that we might save some. We are not of this world (Philippians 3:20) but still live in this world (John 15:18-19; 1 John 15:15-17). His incarnation gives me the basis by which I “become all things to all people, so that by all means I may save some.”