By Irvin Himmel
The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise (Prov. 11:30).
Every life is like some kind of tree. A righteous life is like a good tree bearing good fruit. A wicked life is like a bad tree bearing bad fruit. Jesus said, “Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit” (Matt. 7:17,18).
Fruit of a Righteous Life
A righteous person produces fruit that may be considered “a tree of life.” This includes the following:
(1) Good Influence In Word and Deed. The faithful child of God, “by his good deeds, is as a tree of life to those whose lives he sustains” (Whiteside). Many around us can be uplifted by the power of a good example. The Christian wields a wholesome influence as the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world” (Matt. 5:13-16). Good words have added weight when backed by good deeds.
(2) Food For Souls Through Teaching. The truly righteous man is more than a “Good Samaritan.” He feeds hungry souls the bread of life. While people of the world often perform humanitarian acts that aid the temporal man, the Christian sees his main task as helping the spiritually destitute.
(3) Encouragement That Helps Weary Souls. “Tree of life” means “that tree which bears fruit that contributes to the life and happiness and good health of those who eat it” (Lanier). The righteous have the right to the tree of life, that is, access to heaven (Rev. 22:14). And each life which reaches out to help others who have grown fainthearted is lifting them from death to life.
“The effect of a righteous life on others is like that of a tree of life; and the result which flows from a life of wisdom is the winning of souls” (L. G. Thomas).
Wisdom of Winning Souls
The winning of souls is a wise thing to do, and the winning of souls requires wisdom. Where is the wisdom of winning souls?
(1) Souls Are More Precious Than Gold. Every human being is endowed with a soul which dwells in a physical body.
However, that which kills the body does not kill the soul (Matt. 10:28). The soul is one’s most priceless possession. “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” said Jesus (Matt. 16:26).
(2) Souls Won Are Saved From Death. While the soul does not die physically, it can die in the sense of being separated from God. “The soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezek. 18:20). “Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins” (Jas. 5:19,20).
(3) Winning Souls Increases The Influence of Good. Every time one soul is won to the Lord the influence of good multiplies just that much on this earth. Each soul won to the Lord becomes a potential for winning additional souls. I can think of no better way to improve conditions in this world than by turning men and women from darkness to light, from the power of Satan to God.
(4) Winning Souls Brings Joy. The New Testament tells about people who rejoiced when they were baptized (Acts 8:39; 16:33,34). Sometimes people weep for joy when they obey the gospel. But there is joy in the heart of the soul winner as well as in the heart of the converted-sinner. Paul referred to his converts at Philippi as his “joy and crown” (Phil. 4:1). It is a great thrill to have a part in leading someone to the Savior.
How Souls Are Won
The New Testament teaches Christians how souls are brought to Christ. Here are some truths to consider in this connection:
(1) By The Gospel, Not A Direct Operation of the Holy Spirit. No apostle, no evangelist, no teacher in the New Testament instructed sinners to pray for God to send the Spirit to save them from their sins. In every case of conversion the gospel was presented, and by the power of God’s word sinners were drawn to the Lord. Jesus said, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me” (Jn. 6:44,45). Indeed, the gospel of Christ “is the power of God unto salvation” (Rom. 1:16).
(2) Through Persuasion, Not Force. God does not attempt to coerce people against their wills to serve him. We should use every righteous means to convince people to accept the gospel, but we cannot force them to turn to the Lord. Paul said, “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men” (2 Cor. 5:11). To “persuade” means to prevail upon or win over by bringing about a change of mind by the influence of gospel promises, warnings, and exhortations. People who are baptized because of high pressure tactics turn back as soon as the pressure is removed. To pressure a person is one thing; to win him to the Lord is another thing.
(3) Through Godly Living. Peter advised women whose husbands were not Christians that they might be won by the conduct of the wives (1 Pet. 3:1-4). Many who will not listen to the oral presentation of the gospel can be influenced when they see the gospel in action. We should live daily with the thought of winning others who may be watching our behavior.
Bearing fruit is inseparably connected with winning souls in a righteous life. God does not want us to be barren or unfruitful (2 Pet. 1:8).
Guardian of Truth XXXIV: 3, pp. 70-71
February 1, 1990