By Mike Willis
A lot of people have a very shallow concept of what it means to become a Christian. To some people, being a Christian means that you are expected to be at church on Sunday. With others, who seemingly have a more dedicated spirit, Christianity is a time-clock religion of being at church at 10 o’clock for Bible Study, l I o’clock for worship, 6 o’clock for evening worship, and 7:30 on Wednesday evening. But being a Christian is more than just attending worship services, more than giving of your means, and more than just keeping a pure tongue, although all these are essential for the person to live pleasing to God. Being a Christian also means leading someone else to Christ.
Solomon wrote in Proverbs 11:30, “The fruit of the righteous is the tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise.” Even then, the importance of winning souls was understood. I would like us to look at this proverb in light of New Testament Christianity.
When we think about the word “soul,” we understand that it is used in many different ways. Sometimes it is used just to refer to an individual (Ex. 12:4; Acts 2:41; Acts 7:14). At other times, however, it refers to that immortal part of man (Matt. 10:28; Jas. 2:26; Psa. 19:7; Jn. 3:5, 6). On the occasions when it is referrring to that immortal part of man, it is referring to that part of man that is created in the image of God that has the capacity for enjoying eternal bliss in Heaven with God or eternal punishment in Hell. The soul of man is what differentiates him from any other animal of God’s creation. The wise man said, “He that winneth souls is wise.” But we ask, “Why is it wise to win souls?” In response to that, let us notice a number of reasons why it is wise to win souls.
1. Because of the worth of man. Unlike modern evolutionists, Jesus realized that man was worth more than a sheep (Matt. 12:9-12). To an evolutionist, one animal is no different from any other animal except in the advancement on the scale of evolution. But man is different from any other animal because he is made in the image of God. The eighth Psalm praises this marvelous creation that God has made. In Psalm 8, David wrote,
What is man that thou are mindful of him? and the son of man that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honor. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet . . . .
Man’s preciousness does not consist in the monetary worth of the body of man. Actually, man’s body is worth very little; man is valuable because he has a soul that is created in the image of God.
Jesus recognized the value of a soul when He said, “For whosoever will save,his life shall lose it: and whosoever shall lose his life for my sake shall find it. 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?” (Matt. 16:25, 26). Jesus recognized that man’s soul was more precious than the material universe, more precious than anything that there was to be had on this earth.
The soul of man is precious because of the divinity of its origin. In Ecclesiastes 12:7, we read that at death the soul goes back to God who gave it. It is God who formeth the spirit of man within him (Zech. 12:1). Indeed we are the off-spring of God (Acts 17:28). Hence, one can see the need for winning souls when he considers the importance and the worth of the human soul.
2. Because of the immortality of the soul. Unlike the body which shall die, the soul shall live forever. Jesus taught us that the death of the body does not mean the cessation of existence. He argued from what the scriptures taught, as is recorded in Luke 20:37, 38, that man lives after his body dies. In this passage, Jesus said,
Now that the dead are raised, even Moses shewed at the bush, when he calletlk the Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. For is is not a God of the dead, but of the living: for all live unto him.
This passage shows us, conclusively, that when a man dies his soul does not cease to exist. Though Jesus said that God is (in the present tense) the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, He recognized that God was not the God of the dead but of the living. Hence, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were still living though their bodies had been dead for centuries. We see, then, that the spirit continues to have conscience existence following the death of the body. Hence, it is wise to win souls because of the immortality of the soul. We see other passages that teach us this same truth.
For example, Paul was in a twixt between choosing life and death. He wrote, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain. But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labor: yet what I shall choose I wot not. For I am is a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you” (Phil., 1:21-23). Notice that if Paul died, he simply went to live with Christ. He did not cease to exist, but rather continued to exist and to live with Christ. Hence, we should want to save the soul because of the immortality of the soul.
3. Because of what God has done to save the soul. The scriptures are clear that God had a love for mankind because He saw that man’s soul was precious: The scriptures teach us in one of the most familiar verses of the Bible that “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Paul commented on the infinite love of God for mankind when he said, “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). We see the value of the human soul and our need to try to save souls from the preciousness which Christ and God attached to it by the sacrifice of Jesus for our souls. If the soul had been something worth very little, God would not have sent Jesus to save it. The fact that Jesus came to this earth to seek and save sinners who were lost, such as you and me, shows me the preciousness of that soul.
4. Because our salvation depends on our efforts to save souls. The Great Commission charges Christians with the responsibility of going into the world and taking the gospel to every creature (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15, 16). Paul even warned of the danger of becoming so wrapped up in the affairs of this world that we neglect to do what God had commanded us. He wrote, “And the things which thou hast heard of me among many witnesses the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach other also . . . . No man that warreth entangles himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him that has chosen him to be a soldier” (2 Tim. 2:2). We have been charged with the responsibility of going into the world and winning the lost for Christ Jesus.
One of the passages that shows to me the responsibility that we have to win the lost for Christ is the statement that Paul made when he spoke to the Ephesian elders. In Luke’s account of that speech, Paul said, “Wherefore I take you to record this day that I am pure from the blood of all men” (Acts 20:26). Paul recognized that he was pure from the blood of all men because he had not shunned to declare unto them all of the counsel of God (Acts 20:27), that he had labored diligently to teach them both publicly and from house to house (Acts 20:20), and he had kept back nothing that was profitable unto them (Acts 20:20).
This passage also shows that the principle that was revealed by God to Ezekiel is also applicable to New Testament Christians, In Ezekiel 3 the following quotation occurs:
When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Yet if thou warn the wicked and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul. Again, when a righteous man doth turn from his righteousness, and commit iniquity, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die: because thou has not given him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he hath done shall not be remembered; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Nevertheless if thou warn the righteous man, that the righteous sin not, and he doth not sin, he shall surely live, because he is warned; also thou has delivered thy soul (3:16-21).
This passage throws the responsibility for preaching the gospel upon the shoulders of every Christian. Not only does it show that there is a responsibility to preach, but more importantly it shows that one’s personal salvation is dependent upon his effort to reach the lost with the message from God. If I am not active trying to lead others to Jesus Christ, I am not faithful in my responsibility to God. Consequently, I should want to try to reach others with the gospel of Christ because my own salvation depends upon it.
Truth Magazine XXIII: 46, pp. 739-740
November 22, 1979