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DOING THE IMPOSSIBLE – LEADING A SOUL TO CHRIST

Curtis Pugh

Poteau, Oklahoma

 

            Whenever this preacher hears someone say that he or she led someone to Christ – or that they were led to Christ by someone – he is immediately overwhelmed with suspicion and fear. My suspicion is aroused because there is no such thing in the Bible as a person leading a sinner to Christ. This idea of “leading sinners to Christ” is a false one with modern easy-believe-ism roots. My fears rise up because anyone whose only experience is that of having been led to Christ by another human being has not come to Christ. How dare this preacher write that? Because the Bible is quite clear on the matter. In fact, the Lord Jesus Himself 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,” (John 6:44). There is no room in the Bible for the idea that one person can lead another one to Christ! Neither is there any room here for the idea that the Holy Spirit uses saved folk to lead others to Christ. In fact, as far as the Bible is concerned, the Holy Spirit does not lead lost people to Christ, the Father does. Oh! But brother-so-and-so says... - Yes, but the Bible says that the Father does the drawing! Let us be safe and correct and say what the Bible says!

            Somebody says, what about John 1:41-42 where Andrew led his brother Simon Peter to Christ?  Let us examine what the Bible says: “He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ. And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone.” This was a physical bringing of Peter (called Simon and Cephas here) by Andrew. Those disciples whom Christ called to be with Him had already been saved (and baptized by John the Baptist). Andrew did not “win” his brother's soul by bringing him physically to Jesus! This passage has nothing at all to do with the modern heresy of “soul winning.” The Lord Jesus was physically  in a place and Simon Peter was in a different place. Andrew went and got Peter and told him of finding the prophesied Messiah and physically escorted him to where Jesus was at that time. 

            Here is a quotation from the website of the Thousand Oaks Baptist Church, Thousand Oaks, California: “If you’ll allow me, I'd like to introduce you to the wonderful ministry of leading souls to Jesus Christ. For most of you who have been saved for quite a while, this probably will be mostly review. For others - especially for those of you who are relatively new Christians - this may be the first time you've ever heard about this. First of all, let me say this: God has called and chosen and ordained every Christian to learn how to lead people to Jesus Christ.” This presentation is typical of the easy-believe-ism camp. No Scripture is cited for these assertions. It is assumed they are true. After this sales pitch, the author goes on to misapply the Scriptures regarding bearing fruit. Our answer in part is this: the fruit about which the Bible speaks is not a Christian reproducing himself or herself as if they could birth someone into God's family or even lead someone to Christ.  The Bible tells us what the fruit of the Spirit in our lives is in Galatians 5:22, 23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” In Ephesians 5:8-11 Paul writes to the congregation of Christ at Ephesus and further identifies the fruit of the Spirit as being holy  living – living that is separated from that of the world.  There he wrote: “For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light: (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;) Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.  And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.”

            This preacher was in his youth enrolled in two or three “soul winning classes.”  In Bible college the name was more intellectual sounding: the class was entitled “personal evangelism.”  In each of these courses instructions were presented in the least offensive ways to get lost people to admit that they were sinners. We were taught to ask the “candidate for salvation” if they had ever stolen a cookie from their mother's cookie jar or perhaps taken a pencil or crayola from another child in elementary school. If they admitted to having done such a thing, we were taught we were well on the way. If we handled the matter right, we could usher a soul into salvation! The “candidate” had admitted that he or she was a sinner. Now all we needed to do was tell them that such a thing was a sin and that sin would keep them out of Heaven, but that if they would pray and ask God He would forgive them and they could go to Heaven. In this way we were taught to lead people to Christ. Reader: if you really think that seeing yourself as a sinner is admitting to stealing a cookie or a crayon, you are in peril. If you think praying a prayer based on that kind of sin is coming in a saving way to Christ you ought to examine your own experience. If you see no deeper than that, there is something seriously wrong with your experience of grace. 

            This kind of soul-winning idea is pumped from the same bilge as that of the preacher who used to boast that he could stop at a red traffic light, put his car in to park, set the parking brake, unfasten his seat belt, get out of his car and speak to a pedestrian – a stranger - at the crosswalk and lead him to Christ, get back in his car and be ready to drive off by the time the light changed to green. Bilge water! In fact that kind of talk is more harmful than bilge water.  At the worst bilge water will only kill a person physically. This kind of  “soul winning” nonsense is in the same category as the evangelistic efforts of the Pharisees. To them the Lord Jesus said, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves” (Matthew 23:15). Wrong methods produce wrong results!

            Only the Giver of Life can give life! Only the Father can lead/draw a lost person to Christ!  Regeneration is a work of the Holy Spirit! The Lord Himself said, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit,” (John 3:6). Whatever happened to the preaching of repentance toward God and faith toward the Lord Jesus Christ? Whatever happened to witnessing to others about what Christ did for you and leaving the results in God's hands? These are the things Paul testified to everywhere he went according to his words in Acts 20:21. There his words are: “Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” Whatever happened to godly sorrow – that absolutely necessary thing that produces repentance? “For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death, (2 Corinthians 7:10).  Does God have a new way by which He produces repentance? Does He have a new way in which lost people are brought to Christ? Is looking back upon past sins and feeling bad about them godly sorrow? Or is there a brokenhearted-ness worked by God wherein the sinner is enabled to see himself as a helpless and hopeless continual offence to a holy God? What about “...I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes?” (Job 42:6). What happened to repentance? Have things changed since the days of the apostles?  Has the Word of God changed?  Or is it that many Baptists have changed?

            Preachers who promote this soul-winning nonsense lay heavy burdens upon their members. The reason their church is not “a growing church” is because the people are not out “soul winning.” God called their church to have a “bus ministry,” and a “gun club ministry,” and a “basketball ministry,” and a “Corvette club” ministry (ad infinitum, ad nauseum): all to “win souls!” But these things are not working! “It's all the fault of the members! They need to be out door-knocking and leading souls to Christ!” A favorite text of the “lead-a-soul-to Jesus” crowd is Proverbs 11:30 which says, “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise.”  How are your mental gymnastics?  It is quite a mental jump to think that Solomon, in that verse, is talking about the modern idea of “leading souls to Jesus,” is it not? Are you up to such a jump?  No less a Bible commentator than Albert Barnes says this about the words “winneth souls,” “The phrase is elsewhere translated by 'taketh the life.'”  Barnes refers the reader to 1 Kings 19:4 where the phrase “winneth souls” is translated in our King James Bibles by the words “take away my life.”  And again in Psalm 31:13 where the phrase is rendered by the King James translators as “to take away my life.”  It is quite clear that the Hebrew does not mean “winneth,” but better “taketh” or “captures” or “gains.”  The phrase means something like “to gather” or “to take souls unto oneself.” Is not this same idea found in Genesis 12:5 where the Bible speaks of the servants Abraham brought from Syria down to Canaan?  In that verse we read: “And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran; and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came.”  Did you notice the phrase, “the souls that they had gotten?” The ownership of servants was a measure of wealth. Abraham was a wise man and got many souls – i.e. servants. His wealth in part was measured by the number of servants he had gotten. He was a wealthy man! Is not Solomon in Proverbs 11:30 stating that a wise man in that day will increase his wealth by by “taking lives” in the sense of gathering souls to himself as servants?  Is that not more according to the context of the Book of Proverbs? Does not Proverbs deal much with wisdom and practical matters of living? Further to the point, Young's Literal Translation renders the last phrase of Proverbs 11:30 as: “And whoso is taking souls is wise.”  One thing for sure: if the easy-believe-ism idea of “soul winning” is to be found in the Scriptures, it is not found in Proverbs 11:30. 

            We would say one thing more about this idea of leading souls to Christ: it is a shortcut that leads nowhere.  Talk is cheap and anyone who can in a few moments talk a person into “making a profession of faith” in Christ has accomplished nothing other than the deception of himself and his “convert.” In doing so, he may have made his convert “twofold more the child of hell” than he himself is.  Paul tells us in no uncertain terms how Christians are used of God in bringing others to Christ.  In 1 Corinthians 9:19-22 Paul wrote these words: “For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more. And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.”  Do you want to “gain” men: i.e. to “save some?” (Those are Paul's words!) To the saints in Corinth Paul wrote: “...in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel,” (1 Corinthians 4:15). Anyone who thinks Paul's ministry in Corinth was taken up with the modern easy-believe-ism method of “leading souls to Christ” needs to read about his stay in that city. The Bible tells how, “...he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks.,” and how “...he  continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them,” (Acts 18:4 & 11).  It is by right living, service, and a willingness to meet people where they are as well as teaching the gospel that God uses His saints to point others to Christ. It is not by psychological maneuvering and herding the unsuspecting into praying a little ditty that sinners come to Christ. 

            A brother in Christ was imprisoned by the Communists in Romania several years ago because of his service to Christ. The Communists confined him along with all sorts of criminals and other men. These men had never heard the gospel. They had never before met a Christian. No Bibles were allowed these prisoners. After repeatedly telling these men about Christ, a younger one of them asked him, “What is this Jesus like?”  Having no Bible from which to tell the man about Jesus Christ, the faithful believer said, “Jesus is like me.”  Upon hearing this, the young man declared his desire to have Jesus as his Lord and Savior: “If Jesus is like you, I want to know Jesus,” was the substance of his words.  Upon first hearing of this I was shocked.  Was this brother not blaspheming?  But upon more consideration, I think the brother was right. If we are born again will we not be like the Lord Jesus Christ and will we not display to the world the Lord Jesus Christ? Does not God use us when we reflect His glory by behaving like Christ? Our lives and our words together are our testimony to Christ! Speak earnestly about Christ and His finished work to the lost around us, yes! But back up  your words with your life! Is this very thing not what Paul wrote about in the last quoted passage above: “For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more...?” May God use His people to “gain the more!”   


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Denham Springs, LA 70726

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