The Lost Art of Soul-Winning
by Steven Chan
While there are many activities that a church is engaged in, there is one specific work that cries out for more involvement from all of us who profess to be disciples of Christ – and that is the art of soul-winning. By this is meant a personal study or discussion with a truth-seeker, using the Scriptures as the guide, to help the truth-seeker find the truth so that he or she can be saved or set free (John 8:31,32) by the obedience to the truth. This does not necessarily involve multi-sessions stretching over months and years – contrary to many situations that we see today.
Let’s consider one such “soul-winning” session as recorded in the Bible for our learning – and that is the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:26-40.
Philip the evangelist (Acts 21:8) had been very busy preaching in Samaria and many were baptized as a result of his preaching as stated in Acts 8:12: “But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized.”
Yet in spite of him being very busy in his work of preaching, the Bible tells us in Acts 8:26-27 that an angel of the Lord to “arise and go toward the south along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is desert. So he arose and went.” When he was asked to go Philip did not know who the angel of the Lord wanted him to study with; yet he went. He could have excused himself and said: “Send someone else as I am already very busy winning many souls in Samaria”. But he did not give that excuse. He just went as he was told. Are we too busy to go?
In Acts 8:27-29, we are introduced to a religious man, a man who had come all the way from Ethiopia to worship in Jerusalem, and evidently a bible student for he was reading “Isaiah the prophet”. “Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go near and overtake this chariot.”
Sometimes we think that we should only look for those who are not Bible-believers to study with. Why bother with Bible-believers? After all, they already believe the Bible. And in the case of the Ethiopian eunuch, he was already a worshipper of God!
God is telling us that being a Bible-believer is not sufficient to be a saved person. Being a worshipper of God is not sufficient to be a Christian. One needs to know the truth and obey the truth so as to be saved (Rom 6:17; Heb 5:8, 9).
At the urging of the Spirit, Philip went near to the eunuch and heard reading the prophet Isaiah, and he said, “Do you understand what you are reading?” Brethren, this is an excellent way to start a conversation with truth-seekers. While, we were visiting in Johor Baru a few weeks ago, we noticed three young school girls studying the Bible sitting at a table next to ours. So, I went over and commended them for their interest in studying the Bible as it is not often these days that we see young people interested in studying the Bible. Although I was a complete stranger, they were not taken aback by my approach. In fact, I spent a brief period of time with them as they asked me questions such regarding how to convince their friends that they should believe in the God of the Bible. I encouraged them to enrol in our free Bible Correspondence Course and they exchanged phone numbers with the brethren in Johor Baru for further follow up in the Bible study. How I wished that we had more time to spend with them as they were truly seekers of the truth.
The truth is that many are seeking for the truth but they do not fully understand what the Bible says just like the Ethiopian eunuch who answered Philip: “How can I, unless someone guides me?” (Acts 8:31) This provides us with great opportunities to study the Bible with them and guide them to the truth just as Philip did: “So the eunuch answered Philip and said, “I ask you, of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of some other man?” Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him.”(Acts 8:34-35) There are many people who want to know the truth but they do not know the truth and are groping around to understand the truth.
It is important to note that Philip did not go into a discourse on the authorship of the book of Isaiah and quoting authorities on the canonicity of Isaiah, etc…and parading his credentials as an Evangelist…he was focused on Jesus and the gospel of salvation. Bible study is not to be engaged in just to be knowledgeable and to show how much we know about the Bible. It is always for the purpose of leading souls to the obedience to the truth so as to be saved (I Tim 2:4).
The study of the prophecy of Isaiah was geared/directed by Philip the evangelist towards the need for the eunuch to obey the gospel so as to be saved. This was the end in mind of Philip the Evangelist and it should be the end in mind for every teacher of the Word (Matt 28:18-20). It was not a religious or bible discourse with some other objectives other than the urgent need for the eunuch to obey the gospel.
The afore-said end objective is evident when we read of what happened when the eunuch understood the truth: “Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?” Then Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him. Now when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away, so that the eunuch saw him no more; and he went on his way rejoicing.” (Acts 8:36-39)
Consistent with the Great Commission of our Lord as stated in Matt 28:18-20, Philip preached the gospel to the eunuch (starting from where the eunuch was reading in the book of Isaiah) and after the eunuch was baptized for the forgiveness of his sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16), the Spirit of the Lord took Philip away and the eunuch went on his way rejoicing!
Brethren, this account is recorded for our learning today. We do not have the luxury of spending days, weeks, months and years to study the Bible with truth-seekers – we need to emphasize the urgency of obeying the gospel – the sooner the better because of the need to obey the gospel.
Brethren, we need to sharpen our skills in winning souls to Christ in the most effective manner and not unduly prolong our Bible studies and thereby losing the end objective of helping the truth-seeker obey the gospel as soon as possible.
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