The Need for Personal Evangelism (II)
The Need of the Christian
The need each lost person has for the gospel calls for a personal commitment to personal evangelism from each Christian. But the need each Christian has to become a personal evangelist is equally demanding. While Christians sometimes fail to be as concerned as they should about the need of the lost, they also fail many times to recognize their own need for personal involvement in trying. to win lost souls. There are many reasons why the Christian must be a soul-winner. In many respects these reasons may be called "needs." Simply stated, every Christian should be a winner of souls because it is primarily through this work that he accomplishes some things he must do. We shall give attention to only three of these. The Christian needs:
1. To Bear Fruit
Jesus says, "Every branch in me that beareth not fruit, he taketh it away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he cleanseth it, that it may bear more fruit" (Jno. 15:2). In verse.5, He says, "He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same beareth much fruit." Again, in verse 8, "Herein is my father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; and so shall ye be my disciples." It is quite clear that the test of discipleship here is fruit-bearing. First among all else in fruit-bearing is the winning of souls.
"It is here where our whole modern Christianity needs to be reconstructed. The Church must preach the great truth that every branch is to bear fruit because Christ needs him, and chose him for this purpose, and because this alone is the true life of Christ in us. Bringing forth fruit, doing work for Christ, living to save and bless men, must not be regarded as a matter of choice, or special devotion, or as the payment of a debt of gratitude: it is the one aim of redemption. It is the one proof that God is having his way with us, that the life of God is taking full possession of us, that we are, like Him, finding our joy in beneficence and love. Would God that believers would only take time to think what a branch is! They would begin to see-I repeat of set purpose what I have said before-and be amazed that they did not sooner see it, that the Heavenly Vine exists as absolutely as the vine on earth only for bearing fruit, that the branch exists just as much as the vine itself only for bearing fruit, AND THAT THE BELIEVER LIVES AS ABSOLUTELY AND EXCLUSIVELY AS CHRIST HIMSELF FOR BEARING FRUIT, AND BRINGING GOD'S LIFE AND SALVATION TO MEN" (Andrew Murray, The Fruit of the Vine, p. 30).
2. To Win Trophies
Paul looked upon his converts at Thessalonica as the ground of his hope, joy and crown at the coming of Christ. "For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of glorying? Are not even ye, before our Lord Jesus at his coming? For ye are our glory and our joy" (I Thess. 2:19-20). If Paul's converts meant this much to him, must not our converts also be the ground of our hope at the coming of Christ?
Paul seems to use the word "crown" here, as in other places (I Cor. 9:24-27; 2 Tim. 4:7-8), in the sense of the wreath or chaplet won by athletes in the Grecian games. As an athlete in Paul's day won a wreath, an athlete today wins a trophy. McGarvey says: "The full thought then, is this: As an athlete, who, in the absence of his king, had entered the contest, competed for and won the crown, would on the king's appearing, rejoice to lay his trophy at the king's feet; so Paul, having won the Thessalonians for Christ, hoped that he might joyfully present them to Christ at his coming."
"O ye saints arouse, be earnest,
Up and work while yet tis day;
Ere the night of day ore-take thee,
Strive for souls while still ye may.
"Must I go, and empty-handed?
Must I meet my Saviour so?
Not one soul with which to greet Him:
Must I empty-handed go?"
3. To Be Wise
To both the Old and New Testament writers alike, the wise man is the one who seeks to obey the will of God. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Prov. 9: 10), and Solomon, the outstanding wise man Of the Old Testament, concluded that to fear God and keep his commandments is the whole of man (Eccl. 12:13). Jesus said the wise hear and do His word (Mau. 7:24-27). This divine wisdom is so much higher than human wisdom that it may be said, "There is no wisdom . . . against Jehovah" (Prov. 21:30).
The wisdom that comes from above finds its highest expression in soul-winning: "The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that is wise winneth souls" (Prov. 11:30). One cannot be wise and not win souls, for "he that is wise winneth souls." This American Standard rendering is to be preferred to the Authorized Version, "he that winneth souls is wise." The Revised Standard translation of this verse completely destroys the sense. It renders the second part of the couplet, "but lawlessness takes away lives." Jones and Walls, in the New Bible Commentary, say: "True, the verb 'to take' when used with nephesh (soul) normally means 'to take away,' but that would be nonsense here. The meaning surely is that the wise man by his example gains the lives of other men, so that his righteousness is a tree of life to others as well as himself (cf. Matt. 4:19)."
But why does the wise man win souls? There are undoubtedly many reasons, but because of our limited space we shall refer to only three, First, he wins souls because it gives glory to God, his maker, sustainer, and redeemer (Jno. 15:8, 16). One glorifies God by knowing and acknowledging his divine perfections so as to be influenced by them with respect to his whole manner of life. Only those who in this manner seek to glorify God themselves will attempt to win souls. They bring the souls they win to glorify Him too. As Joseph Benson said, "Being themselves wise unto salvation, they are instrumental in making others so." (Sermons, p. 128)
Second, a wise man wins souls because his heavenly Father desires that they be saved (Matt. 18:14; 2 Pet. 3:9; 1 Tim. 2:4).
Third, as the finding of sheep or cattle that have gone astray is a good, and therefore a wise action, so the efforts to find God's creatures who have gone away into sin is the expression of the highest kind of wisdom (Lk.15:3-7). The greater wisdom is found in the greater value of the object sought and found. The soul of man is more valuable than the whole world; much more valuable than one lost sheep (Matt. 16:24).
TRUTH MAGAZINE, XV: 7, pp. 10-11