"The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise (Proverbs 11.30)."
Soul-winning, also known as soul-saving, is a big business among the daughters of Mother Babylon, loosely described as churches. On this one enterprise hangs most of the success or failure of their whole institutions. From the day the simple convert is brought into their dark secret he is admonished to "win souls". "You have been saved to save others" is the basic instruction given him, and all manner of stern cajoling is employed to assist the convert in accepting this edict.
We well remember how that many years ago, only several days after uniting with an Arminian assembly, we were sent out for an evening of soul-saving. It didn't matter that we knew not one syllable of gospel truth; out into the highways and hedges we must go, to make sheep out of goats. "Soul-winning", it was called. Thus, we were in the soul-saving business before barely getting dry from the baptismal waters. We knocked at the first potential convert's door for the evening, and a man holding a can of beer answered. We nervously explained to him that were he to die with that can of beer in his hand, he would wake up in hell. "There," he informed us, "is where you can go!" From that moment on, the soul saving business was to us little more than an intrusion on the affairs of others.
Various "big name" preachers we knew at that time would exult, with a pompous manner befitting their standing, that they set goals each year to win a certain number to Christ. It seemed too, that they fully expected us to believe them. Some of them went so far as to stake out a thousand souls a year, and not so much as blush when pronouncing their claim. Others allowed that they never passed up a "chance" to "lead souls to Christ." All manner of subtle devices were told us of their tricks of the trade. These were souls that otherwise would burn in hell, to hear them tell it. One weasly-looking, and acting, huckster informed us from the pulpit that he always won at least seven souls to the Lord before going to church. He jauntily described them as trophies. This, and many, many other similar incidents engaged our early religious life. However, the Lord dealt with us far better than the daughters of Babylon did, and we were soon freed from the deathly blasts of false doctrine regarding soul-winning.
According to our text at the heading of this piece, he that winneth souls is wise; not just any religious clod, void of spiritual discernment, sent out to enlarge the membership of some Arminian assembly, or like movement. And too, the text reads, "He that winneth souls", not "they that winneth souls" as the text is often wrongly quoted. A casual glance at the current gang of prominent soul-winners running amuck about the land should satisfy any honest inquirer that something is dreadfully foul in this business. We knew of none then, or now, that might qualify as the "He that winneth souls is wise." Several "Big-Name" soul-winners have lately been so devoid of wisdom that they landed in jail, and are now racking up time instead of souls. Others have, probably from moral bankruptcy, sunk to the very bottom of public opinion, even among their own close following, thus bringing down scorn and criticism on religion in general. This is, to any honest observer, a totally unwise manner of conduct, and not a trace of the wisdom one might expect from those supposedly doing business for the Lord has been seen in the whole lot of "soul-winners."
Still other "soul-winners," much like the swarms of lice, flies, and frogs that vexed Pharaoh and Egypt, have for years tormented all they came in contact with as they roamed the country in search of prey, or as they call them, souls for the harvest. Some have even been so noxious in their soul-winning methods that the results much resemble the effects of the murrain and blains that devastated Egypt in the time of Moses. It is well to point out in making this comparison, that the murrain and blains brought no harm or loss to any of God's chosen ones; only the Egyptians were affected. The strangers and pilgrims bound for Caanan were spared.
If you asked any of these self-anointed witnesses for the Lord just what is soul-winning, most of them would tell you it is what transpires when a "saved sinner" leads a "lost sinner" to the Lord so that they (the lost sinner) may become a child of God. However, this is not what the word of God says about it. "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, the yare the sons of God (Rom. 8.14)." If then, the Spirit led are the sons of God, the ones the "soul-winner" led must not, yea, cannot be the sons of God, unless the Lord has two ways of gathering in His elect; one by fleshly effort, and the other by the leading of the Spirit. "And he led them forth by the right way, that they might go to a city of habitation (Psa. 107.7)." The right way, according to David, is the way He, the Lord, leads them. Have we need then for other leaders? "Soul-winners", these leaders call themselves.
Leaving then the modern crop of "soul-winners" to their interpretations and devices, we suggest that the Bible is as clear on the subject of soul-winning as the water of life proceeding from the throne of God (Rev. 22.1). The humble follower of the Lamb has no reluctance to ascribe to Jesus only the glory due for winning his soul, for both the Bible and his experience agree on the matter. He is the captain of their salvation, and trod the winepress alone to get the victory, as there was none to help (Isa. 63.5). Paul, in writing to the Corinthians, thanked God for giving us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (I Cor. 15.57). To the Philippians Paul said he that had begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ (Phil. 1.6). Jesus told His disciples "It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life (John 6.63)." The angel informed Joseph "And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shall call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins (Matt. 1.21)." Peter testifies to this same thing in the following. "Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot (I Pet. 1.18,19)."
It is to us very clear then, as we do indeed see from the Scriptures, and learn from our experience, that the Son of God alone performs the work necessary to the saving of a soul. He alone has sufficient wisdom to know the Father's will, and divide between the sheep and goats, as the sheep are members of the election of grace, and the goats are not. If, then, the view of the soul-savers were correct, wisdom would not be necessary, for all men, without exception, are potential children of God, and may be foolishly pursued with the goal being the saving of their soul. "Wisdom is too high for a fool: he openeth not his mouth in the gate (Prov. 24.7)."
It is also clear as the noon-day sun that men are dead in sin (Eph. 2.1). Until the dead are made alive by the quickening work of the Spirit all the efforts of soul-winners will not budge them one inch toward salvation. Since soul-savers do not know this, or at least do not believe this, then it is apparent they are unwise.
Of all the apostles we might look to for evidence of soul-winning, Paul surely would be the most logical, for he could wish himself accursed from Christ for his brethren, were that possible (Rom. 9.3). Such love for his kindred would no doubt elicit all manner of labor on his part' within the limits of that which God had shown and taught him. Did, then, Paul resort to the methods so prevalent today among the daughters of Babylon? "And I, Brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God (I Cor. 2.1)." Since the text at the heading of this article affirms that the soul-winner is wise, and Paul came to the Corinthians without wisdom, we hardly see how there was any intention on his part to get into the soul-saving business among these Gentiles. "And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God (I Cor. 2.4,5)." Clearly the mighty apostle avoided anything that might distract from the glory of God in the drawing forth His little ones from among the idolaters in Corinth. Paul acted not in ignorance, however, as he sought the welfare of these Gentile sinners called to be saints (I Cor. 1.2). "Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought: But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory (I Cor. 2.6,7)." Yes, Paul was wise, but his wisdom, unlike the supposed learning of the Harlot's daughters, was a hidden wisdom; and that ordained from eternity. And too, he spoke wisdom among the perfect, not so-called lost sinners.
Finally, Paul totally disavowed the carnal plan of men by setting forth the following "Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual (I Cor.2.13)." Paul did say in I Cor. 3.10 that he was a wise masterbuilder, but that, we affirm, is far, far different from being a wise soul-winner.
Who then, is the wise soul-winner of which Solomon spake? "But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God (I Cor. 1. 24)."
J. F. Poole
July - August 1992