The Faith for the Message
As an evangelist, I love to see people come to the LORD! However, over the past few years I have become increasingly concerned about people who make multiple decisions for Christ or who do not live a godly life after salvation. It concerns me when I hear a testimony of someone who thought he was saved when he was young, but struggled for years with assurance before actually coming to know the LORD. I have oft wondered, “Why the doubt or lack of desire to follow the LORD?” When Saul of Tarsus believed, he immediately asked, “What wilt Thou have me to do?” (Acts 9:6) The Ethiopian eunuch was reading Isaiah when Philip the evangelist came along and asked him what he was reading. When he asked, “What doth hinder me to be baptized?” Philip said,
“… If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he…said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” (Acts 8:37)
All that was necessary for this man was the simple statement, “I believe.” Likewise, the Philippian jailor (Acts 16) saw the testimony of Paul and Silas in prison and God’s power in creation through an earthquake, and he asked, “What must I do to be saved?” None of these notable situations involved a “sinner’s prayer” and none involved a “soul winner.” Rather, the LORD used a combination of His Word, His works, and His workers to impact the hearts of men so that they might believe on Him.
“That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus and shalt believe in thine heart…” (Romans 10:9)
Words said in a salvation prayer MUST be based upon belief. Without belief, words are just words and there is no inner change in the heart. Words and belief are inseparable.
The Foundation for the Message
“The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise.” (Proverbs 11:30)
In His Word, God often related the sharing of truth in planting terms. One cannot plant a tree one day and see fruit the next day. Throughout life, there are many influences that help to “grow” faith before one is ready to trust Christ as Savior. Jesus said:
“Behold, a sower went forth to sow; And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up: Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them: But other fell into good ground, and brought forthsome an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear. (Matthew 13:3-9)
It is interesting to see that God did not record a “soul winning” endeavor in which an individual leads someone to Christ in a “sinner’s prayer” for salvation. Rather, His emphasis for believers is on witnessing…sowing the seed or watering it, allowing God to give the increase. For an unbeliever, the emphasis is a belief in the heart. A prayer is not life-changing without belief. Paul explained:
“How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent?” (Romans 10:14-15)
Paul traced the foundation of the salvation prayer (“call,” v. 14) to God as Creator. Take a building, for instance. Its floors, walls, trusses, and roof must ultimately be based upon a solid foundation. Paul, after a series of “how” questions, brought the entire “salvation prayer structure” to its bedrock foundation by stating that the ultimate basis for the salvation prayer was creation. The prayer (“call”) must be based upon belief and belief upon hearing; the hearing must be founded upon the preaching, and a preacher that is sent must have an authoritative message. What is the ultimate authority? The Creator!
“But I say, Have they not heard? Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world.” (Romans 10:18)
In bringing salvation to its ultimate foundation, Paul quoted from Psalm 19:4,
“Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.”
Creation is the message that goes to the end of the world! In other words, the design of the Great Designer is clearly shown to all mankind so that everyone is without excuse in recognizing Who He is! (Romans 1:20)
Does the fact of God’s creation message to the “heathen” in “deepest, darkest Africa” mean that they do not require a missionary since they are “without excuse” and can seek their Maker through His creation? No! The message of creation is not enough for salvation! The same Creator Who made everything has instructed His servants to “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel…” (Matthew 28:18-20). The problem of “heathen” not knowing the name of Christ is believers’ disobedience! God did His part in sending His Son. Are we doing ours?
The Fruit from the Message
“Winning” in modern terms is often associated with games and points. “Sowing seed” may therefore seem to be contrary to “soul winning,” but it isn’t. As already mentioned, Jesus used the sowing of seed in His teaching. Also, Paul used “planting terms” to illustrate the sharing of truth:
“Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.” (1 Cor. 3:6, 7)
Using the term “winning” as we seek to have people make decisions for Christ may dangerously promote an abnormal and un-Biblical emphasis upon numbers in church activities such as visitation or evangelistic services. Due to a variety of factors, people may think that if they don’t achieve so many “points” (i.e., salvation decisions), God isn’t blessing them or that they may not be “doing it right.” Such an emphasis couldn’t be further from a Scriptural approach to witnessing! (See Acts 8, Romans 10, and 1 Corinthians 3) Believers must simply sow the seed and water it, leaving the increase up to God. Biblically, “winning souls” is any part of the process of sowing, watering, or picking the “fruit” (the “increase”). Is one part in this process more important than another? No.
“Come now and let us reason together, saith the LORD.” (Isaiah 1:18)
What about the results? It is certainly Biblical to invite folk to Christ, for God Himself invites us to come to Him. However, through comparing different Scriptures, we see that His emphasis for believers is to faithfully sow and water the seed (the Word), all the while trusting God to give the increase. It is not up to us to “twist an arm,” to “clinch a deal” (as a salesman), or to “win” a sinner (as in getting points in a game).
As an evangelist, I have always given an invitation and sought to see responses to the Word. I regularly go “soul winning” and “visiting” many times a year. However, I have come to realize that faithfulness to preach the Word is just one part of winning souls. Whatever one may do to sow the seed or to water it is all a part of the entire process of “soul winning.” Was Noah faithful to God? Was not he faithful as a “soul winner”? Certainly, for God’s testimony of him affirms that he was a “preacher of righteousness” (2 Peter 2:5) and a faithful servant. How many did he “win” other than his family? He was successful before God (for we are all here!) and that is what counts! Noah was a faithful soul winner.
How can we faithfully win souls? There are numerous tools available today, from websites and email, to pamphlets, video, text messaging, radio, and more that can be used in a multitude of ways to impact people with the Word of God. Faithfully sharing God’s Word, coupled with a godly life, is the key. Any way of doing so is a part of the entire process of winning souls to the LORD–producing “fruit” on the “tree” of eternal life!