He That Winneth Souls Is Wise (1)
One Must Be Wise To Win Souls
The Psalmist also said, "He that winneth souls is wise." Of course, in that passage he was showing that the man who considers the value of the soul and sought to win the soul rather than something else, was indeed exercising wisdom. However, there is another aspect that I would like to mention to you: namely, that a person must be wise in order to be successful in winning souls. Here are some things that are necessary to be successful in winning souls which show that wisdom is needed.
1. A man must have a working knowledge of the Bible. Truth sometimes suffers in the hands of the unlearned. When men abuse the scriptures, quoting passages out of context or failing to teach the whole counsel of God, truth suffers, souls are led astray, and untold damage is done to those who are seeking knowledge of God. The scriptures mention that the sword of the spirit is the word of God (Eph. 6:17). A man needs to become skilled in the use of the sword of the spirit so that he will know when to administer exactly which portion of the scripture to meet the spiritual needs of the given individual.
There are many times when people have spiritual questions that, if answered, would remove the obstacles preventing them from obeying the gospel. They sometimes ask, "Does a man have to be baptized in order to be saved?" "Is baptism an immersion in water?" "Don't you think all churches are acceptable before God and that some people out of each one will be saved?" The list of questions that could be mentioned as having been asked by those interested in the gospel of Christ could be extended to a length that would be tiring to read. The person who is going to try to win souls will be confronting such questions frequently in his life. He is going to need a working knowledge of the Bible in order to give answers to these questions. Hence, a person must have enough wisdom to spend his time studying God's word so that he can learn to teach others the gospel of Christ.
2. He must be one who practices godly living. A man who is going to try to win others for Christ recognizes that he can not live the hypocrite's life. He knows that whatever moral blemishes are in his life will be quickly spotted by those whom he is trying to convert. Consequently, he makes quite an effort to be sure that his life is morally pure so that those who speak against him as an evil doer can be openly shown to be lying about him (1 Pet. 2:11, 12). He knows that the manifestation of good works will cause men to glorify God in heaven (Matt. 5:13-16) and, consequently, he spends his life trying to do good works.
3. He manifests a zeal for the Lord. A dead saint never won anyone to Christ. The man who is bored with worship and has no desire to study his Bible or to pray to God regularly, will not be the kind of person interested enough in the Bible to lead someone to the Lord. Consequently he will begin by being full of zeal himself, loving truth and souls enough that he is constantly looking for someone to whom he can talk about Christ.
4. He will adjust himself to the customs of the people. Paul made every effort to fit to the customs of the people with whom he worked. He became a Jew to Jews and a Gentile to those who were Gentiles (1 Cor. 9:21f). An individual who is trying to win someone to Christ will do everything he can to avoid things that will unnecessarily prevent him from talking to someone else about the gospel. If there is something in his life that he can quit doing which might cause someone else to avoid studying with him or listening to him less willingly, he will quickly remove that from his life so that the gospel might run and be glorified as much as possible. Hence, he will do everything that he can to get along with people in such a way that he can lead them to Christ.
5. He will use all the diplomacy he can. When Jesus sent the disciples out on the limited commission, he charged them saying, "Be ye therefore wise as serpents and harmless as doves" (Matt. 10:16). This instructed the Christian who was trying to lead someone else to Christ to use every form of diplomacy he could without compromising truth to avoid being unnecessarily offensive with the gospel of Christ. In a similar way, Paul said, "Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man" (Col. 4:6). We, as Christians, have a responsibility to do our best to study not only what to answer but how to answer. Not all people are to be answered in the same way or taught in the same way. Paul alluded to this fact whenever he wrote the following. He said, "Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men" (1 Thess. 5:14). The person errs who thinks that he ought to come on as strong as he can with every person whom he confronts with the gospel of Christ. We need to learn exactly which approach is the most effective with each individual character. Thus, Paul was teaching us, as also Christ had done, to learn not only what to say but how to say it.
The Word of God Is Powerful to Salvation
Lest someone get the impression that everything depends upon saying the right thing at the right time and in the right tone of voice, we need to emphasize the fact that the word of God is effective to salvation. We need to be concerned with preaching the word and letting it sink deep down into honest hearts. I have never felt during the time that I have been preaching the word of God that everything depended on me saying the right thing at the right time.
Some of the articles which I have read on personal evangelism emphasize saying the right thing in the right way to such a degree that one would get the impression that the conversion of a soul rests upon wording the question about baptism in the right way. For example, some tell us, "You are not to say `Would you like to be baptized?', rather you are to say `Would you like to be baptized tonight or on Sunday?"' Now frankly, I am just not persuaded that the conversion of an individual depends upon such a trivial thing. Rather, Jesus taught that the power of salvation was the gospel. If we would be careful to preach the gospel, the gospel itself would produce the conversions.
Read the parable of the sower and the parable of the kingdom being compared to a man casting seed into the ground in Mark 4:3-20, 26-29. These verses emphasize that if we will be careful to preach the word of God, the seed of the Kingdom, it will bring forth the fruits in its time. Though I am going to do everything I can to learn the best ways and techniques I can to teach someone and to do everything I can to avoid being offensive to them, I am still going to preach and emphasize that the power for conversion is in the word of God. If I will be busy planting and watering the seed, God will take care of producing the increase.
Busy In The Lord's Kingdom
Let each of us resolve in his heart that he is going to be diligent in spreading the glorious gospel of Christ. Let us not depend on someone else, such as the elders, preachers and deacons, to do the winning of the lost to Christ for us. Rather, let us understand that we each, individually, have a responsibility to do all that we can to spread the gospel of the kingdom of God. And, as much as within us is, we are going to be busy doing the Lord's work.
Truth Magazine XXIII: 47, pp. 755-756