Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men, but we are made manifest to God; and I hope that we are made manifest also in your consciences. – 2 Corinthians 5:11
I have sometimes heard this sentence (from Paul) used as justification for manipulating a person to decide to follow Christ. After all, if Paul used the powers of persuasion, then why not us? Wouldn’t we rather “scare someone into heaven” than “lull them into hell?”
I believe it was Dr. Adrian Rogers who once said, “If you win them with a circus, you’ll just have to keep them with one.” While it is true that the word for “fear” can point to true terror and God’s certain judgment on the lost, the word for “persuade” does not speak of manipulation. It means to present a convincing argument. Of course, people are not converted by our convincing proofs or arguments, the Holy Spirit will use those arguments (His truth) to bring conviction and conversion by His power.
While gospel proclamation is necessary and we should seek to be persuasive, no one has ever been “tricked” into authentic faith. The Good News of Christ is enough.
Other men may preach the gospel better than I, but no man can preach a better gospel. – George Whitefield