SOUL WINNING: Another Look

Some of the following will probably contradict what you have been taught about soul winning, but before you dismiss it as nonsense, please remember it is scriptural. It is not the purpose here to condemn what you may have been doing. Certainly millions have been led to salvation via the Roman Road and other similar presentations. GOD can and often does honor HIS WORD in the many ways it can be presented. Our concern is with the large number of people who are alienated, perhaps for eternity, because of the traditional witness so frequently used. If we are to be more effective in GOD's work we should focus more on HIS WORD.

The Bible gives us at least 3 good examples of one to one witnessing/soul winning. They are:

  • John chapter 3 - JESUS dealing with Nicodemus
  • Acts 8: 26-37 - Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch
  • Acts 16: 25-31 - Paul & Silas and the Philippian jailer

  • In each case, JESUS/SON of GOD was the principle figure and belief was the principle activity. Baptism did follow for both the jailer and the eunuch, but a soul saving belief had preceded it! Few if any, who are well versed in scripture, would ever doubt that JESUS and belief/faith are essential to salvation. You may, however, be surprised to realize what is missing from these examples. There are at least 3 words that most people use in presenting the gospel, that will be the focus of this study. We refer to them as red flag words because of the adverse result they can have on the proceedings.

    The first of these villainous 3 not mentioned in any of the records above is the word SIN; neither the sin of mankind nor that of the individuals involved. CHRIST would have been well understood had HE discussed sin with Nicodemus, who as a Pharisee was educated in the Law, its references to sin, its punishment and the sacrifices it required. In spite of this prior knowledge, JESUS did not even mention sin nor did HE ask Nicodemus to confess his sin. Rather HE told him a new birth, a Spiritual birth was necessary to enter the kingdom of GOD. HE later explains in verses 15, 16, & 17 that belief in the SON of GOD was the requirement for eternal life.

    In the conversions with the Philippian jailer and the Ethiopian eunuch, once again, the word sin is not mentioned. Because of the countries of their origin, both of these men were probably Gentiles and not raised with the Jewish law. The eunuch it seems, had at least converted to Judaism because he had been to Jerusalem to worship and was at the time of this encounter, reading the prophets. In spite of this possibility, Philip said nothing to him about sin; his only charge to the man was a heartfelt belief. The eunuch expressed such a belief that JESUS CHRIST (who Philip had been telling him about) was the SON of GOD.

    The omission of the word sin in witnessing to someone immediately brings to mind Paul's references to it in his letter to the church at Rome. In particular the often used verse 23 of chapter 6, "For the wages of sin is death . . . . ." Remember, however, this letter was written to a congregation of believers, many it is supposed were converted Jews from Jerusalem displaced by the scattering of the church. They, like Nicodemus, were raised with a knowledge of sin and the penalties there of. The Bible is full of things that we as believers are supposed to learn, but a prior knowledge of most of them is not prerequisite to our salvation. The sin nature of mankind is part of the post salvation knowledge we are to acquire. As humans we are not capable of explaining how the sin of Adam has affected all generations of all time and often we're unable to convince individuals that they are sinners. For this we must rely on the HOLY SPIRIT as Paul outlined to the Corinthians (I Cor. 2: 13 & 14) and a measure of GOD given faith.

    The bottom line is CHRIST did not tell Nicodemus that he was a sinner nor have him confess any sins. The same is true of the Philippian jailer and the Ethiopian eunuch. The simple truth is all of us are born being unworthy of heaven or eternal life, period! Why we are not worthy is not the point; it could be because we're red headed, obese or drive a Ford. The point is we become worthy or acceptable in the sight of GOD only through HIS SON, JESUS. If it wasn't required in scripture to state why we're unacceptable, is it important that we do so today?

    The next word that is conspicuously absent from our examples is BLOOD! Again, with Nicodemus and perhaps the eunuch, the introduction of blood might have been in order. Their training in the law included the blood sacrifices of animals as well as identifying sin. But, in none of our 3 examples was the word ever mentioned.

    If we as soul winners point out that the blood of JESUS atones for the sins of the world, past, present, and future, we are simply inviting the question that may or may not be voiced, "How"? This is a question that we cannot answer. Our acceptance of this fact is based on the indwelling of the HOLY SPIRIT and the faith that GOD has given us. The unforgiven sinner in our presence does not yet have the HOLY SPIRIT within and we cannot know how much faith GOD has given him/her.

    In our 3 examples, the subjects are told to:
  • believe in the SON of GOD - John 3: 16
  • believe with all his heart - Acts 8: 37
  • believe on the LORD JESUS CHRIST - Acts 16: 31

  • Along with each of these expressions of belief was the promise of eternal life or salvation. None of them had a part B telling how JESUS saves us. If none of these accomplished soul winners introduced blood into the conversion process, why do we feel compelled to do so?

    Finally, our last noteworthy word that is not used is HELL or any of its other forms of expression - hades, eternal torment, etc. The nearest thing to it was "condemnation" used by JESUS in verse 17 of John chapter 3, but to most people that word does not have the same meaning as hell. There is a growing number of people who do not believe in a literal hell. Surprisingly enough, many of them are church going people who profess to be Christians. Heaven is good, it is scriptural, it is believable, but not so 'hell'. It's strange the ability some have to believe in love, heaven and the blessings of life, but at the same time reject judgement, hell and all that goes with it. To take the same Bible and determine which parts are true and which are not is an extraordinary ability.

    Regardless, of one's acceptance or denial of hell, it was not a part of the examples we are studying. No one said, "If you believe in hell, you will be saved".

    Nor did they say, "If you believe in JESUS it will save you from hell"

    The effort to frighten someone into 'believing' was not part of the dialog we are given. Most of the scripture relating to hell is the teaching of JESUS and often to no one but HIS disciples who were already believers. Could hell be another one of those post-salvation subjects we are to learn?

    In your efforts, to witness to someone, when you use a word or phrase that is unacceptable to that individual, the session may be over right then. The 3 words we have been studying are just such red flag words to a lot of people. For example, if you're witnessing to me and suggest that I am a sinner, it is quite possible that I will resist and resent that accusation. With most people it is natural to deny sin in their lives. As Solomon expressed it many years ago in Proverbs 21: 2,

    Every way of a man is right in his own eyes:

    Depending on how much you dwell on the sin issue, you may lose my attention completely. Some very extensive works have been done on how to convince people that they are sinners. These works are contradicting human nature. With some people, you won't make the point that they are sinners, but it is not that important. The fact is, I'm unacceptable to GOD only because I do not know HIS SON as SAVIOR. The focus point here is JESUS and believing in HIM not how good or bad I am!

    In attempting to lead me to the LORD, depending on my background, you may be asking me to believe a number of things that are new to me.

  • That there is a GOD
  • That the Bible is HIS WORD
  • That there is life after death
  • That there is a heaven

  • The primary fact that I must accept is that JESUS is the SON of GOD and HE alone provides for our eternal life. When you tell me that HE provides it by having shed HIS blood 2000 years ago and it covers or atones for my sins today; that may be asking too much. The soul winners in our examples thought it was enough to call for a saving belief in JESUS without elaborating on how HE does it. We might do well to follow their lead since we are warned in several scriptures not to add to GOD's WORD.

    True enough to lead someone to JESUS, we need the help of the HOLY SPIRIT to overcome our inadequacies. If we are able to convey any part of GOD's WORD, it will not come back void, (Isa. 55; 11) and it may only be a planted seed that someone else will water at a later time (I Cor. 3: 6). Certainly many individuals have been led to JESUS even when these red flag words were used. The big question, however, remains, how many times do we close the door on our own efforts and possibly the efforts of someone else in the future because of their use? When these closures happen, satan has won that battle, hopefully, he doesn't win the war!

    For what our witness should include, see: Scriptural Belief in JESUS

    Other sites to see: Home, Shepherds not Leaders, Water Baptism, Scriptural Prayer