Topic: The Act Of Soul-Winning
MEMORY VERSE: “The Lord gave the word: great was the company of those that published it” (Psalm 68:11).
TEXTS: Acts 16:1-10
1 Then came he to Derbe and Lystra: and, behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timotheus, the son of a certain woman, which was a Jewess, and believed; but his father was a Greek:
2 Which was well reported of by the brethren that were at Lystra and Iconium.
3 Him would Paul have to go forth with him; and took and circumcised him because of the Jews which were in those quarters: for they knew all that his father was a Greek.
4 And as they went through the cities, they delivered them the decrees for to keep, that were ordained of the apostles and elders which were at Jerusalem.
5 And so were the churches established in the faith, and increased in number daily.
6 Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia,
7 After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not.
8 And they passing by Mysia came down to Troas.
9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us.
10 And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them.
The New Testament opens with the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. They mirror the life and ministry of Jesus Christ on earth as He “went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil” (Acts 10:38) and preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God. The revelation of Christ in the gospels shows how He died, was buried and resurrected so that the world through Him might know God and be saved (John 14:6; 17:3).
Question 1: What is the central task Jesus gave to the Church and the consequences of neglecting it?
At the end of His ministry on earth, Jesus emphasised to His disciples – representatives of the church – the task He was committing into their hands. This, simply expressed, is evangelism, or the Great Commission, which imposes on the church the responsibility of going into all the world and preaching the gospel to every creature. The Lord expects that the whole church, with no member exempted, would take the challenge of spreading the gospel.
The importance of the gospel is stressed by all four books – Matthew 28:19,20; Mark 16:15,16; Luke 24:46-48; John 20:21. Mark emphasises the eternal destiny of everyone. If they hear and believe, they would be saved; if not they will be damned. The assignment of the church to the world, Luke says, will not be complete without the preaching of the gospel of repentance and salvation from sin. This became the sole activity of the early church. The story in the Acts of the Apostles was therefore not of the building of their meeting places nor of mere church administration or social involvement in the various places where the disciples were scattered; it was the story of their evangelistic activities in obedience to the commandment of Christ: “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.”
THE PASSION OF THE SOUL-WINNER (Acts 15:36; Psalms 78:38; 111:4; Micah 7:18,19; Ezekiel 33:11; Matthew 9:36; 14:14; 15:32)
Passion or compassion for the sinful and dying world is characteristic of our loving God and the Lord Jesus Christ. It is not surprising that this virtue was found in Paul the apostle; so it should be with believers. When we repent of sin and are converted to Christ, the Spirit of God imparts to us the nature and moral characteristics of God the Father and Jesus Christ our Lord (John 1:12,13; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 4:4-7; 5:22,23; Romans 8:29). The secret and propelling force of Paul’s evangelistic activities was his passion for souls. His passion undermined the hazards associated with preaching the gospel. Although he was aware of the dangers of returning to the regions of Galatia where, in his first missionary outreach, he had been opposed and expelled (Acts 13:44,45,50), stoned and beaten (Acts 14:19), he determined to “go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they do”.
Question 2: What characteristics can we identify with the right kind of passion for the gospel work?
Passion for souls enables the soul-winner to express godly interest and friendship to people (Romans 15:24; Philippians 1:3-8; 1 Thessalonians 2:17; Proverbs 17:17; 18:24). A real soul-winner, like Paul, cannot be a recluse. It is therefore not a good practice to stay away from people on grounds of their sins. A soul-winner loves sinners, though he hates their sins. He, like Jesus Christ, loves and delights to see and help sinners find the way of salvation as well as help confirm and establish new babes in Christ (Luke 19:5-10; 1 Thessalonians 3:5-7; Mark 16:15). The command of Christ in the Great Commission is to “go into all the world, (the world of sinners) and preach the gospel to every creature.” If indeed you have been saved and know the truth, then you must take the saving gospel out to wherever man is found. Go and tell somebody about the Saviour. Talk about Him lovingly, simply, but firmly. Be enthusiastic about it. Speak of the gospel like you would tell a lovely and delightful story.
THE PRIORITY OF THE SOUL-WINNER (John 4:4-26,31-36; 9:4)
The priority of preaching the gospel was never in doubt in the ministry of Jesus Christ. He stopped at the well on the way to Samaria knowing that a woman would come for water, to whom He was ready to provide living water. “Give me to drink,” the Saviour asked her, not only to quench His thirst, but also to open up the way of presenting the gospel to the adulterous woman. In the ensuing conversation, she, ignorant of the truth, was distractive. She spoke about the Lord “being a Jew”, and she “a woman of Samaria”, thereby pointing to the racial discrimination between them; she spoke about “the well (being) deep” and “from whence then hast thou that living water”, the Lord having nothing in His hand to draw with. She spoke about Jacob, the precursor of their race, and about Jacob’s cattle drinking from the well; she also spoke about the right place of worship, etc. But none of these could dissuade the Lord from the priority of the gospel, which He wanted to present to the woman for her salvation.
Question 3: What necessary precautions must we take in order to save more people?
Sinners in their ignorance pose many distractions in our attempts to reach them with the gospel. Even within some believers may be found distracting actions, which conflict with the main goal of preaching the gospel. But the believer, like Jesus, must set his eyes on his goal, yielding no grounds to any distractions. We can see in Paul, who having set his heart to “go again and visit our brethren in every city” where he and Barnabas had preached the gospel in their first missionary journey, the refusal to be distracted with the companionship of John Mark (Acts 15:36-39). Paul chose Silas for the journey and they were recommended by the brethren.
THE PERSONS FOR SOUL-WINNING (Acts 16:1-3; 1 Timothy 3:1,7).
Paul and Silas were now set to accomplish the task of the gospel (Barnabas, having departed with John Mark to Cyprus). They came to Derbe and Lystra where Paul met and chose Timothy to accompany them on the work. Question 4: Why are sinners not permitted to preach the gospel?
Timothy proved to be a fit person for the task of the gospel. An early salvation experience under the tutelage and instruction of his mother, Eunice and grandmother, Lois, had both grounded him in the knowledge of the Scripture and prepared him for the ministry (2 Timothy 1:5,6; 3:15; 1 Thessalonians 3:2). We learn from Paul’s choice of Timothy that God pays great attention to the character of preachers and ministers of the gospel. He will not permit sinners to bear His holy Word (Psalm 50:16; 2 Timothy 2:21; Isaiah 52:11).
PRECAUTIONS OF SOUL-WINNERS (Acts 16:3; 1 Corinthians 9:19-22; Matthew 10:16)
Like a shrewd businessman takes some investment precautions to enable him maximise profit, so the soul-winner has certain precautions to take as he takes the gospel among unwilling, hurting, resentful and careless sinners. Paul must have seen that Timothy represents a bridge into the world of the Jews, his mother being a Jewess and into the world of the Gentiles, his father being a Greek. But seeing the Jews would not accept Timothy being yet uncircumcised, Paul fulfilled the rite by circumcising him in order to reach the Jews. There is merit in Paul’s action when seen in the light of the counsel of Jesus Christ that among the heathen with whom we share the message of the gospel, we should be wise as serpent, yet harmless. We learn also that Paul’s action was not a weakening of his belief in total salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, and not by mere circumcision as the Jews claim (Ephesians 2:8,9). “I am made all things to all men”, Paul says, “that I might by all means save some” (1 Corinthians 9:19-22).
PRESENTATION OF SOUL-WINNERS (Acts 16:4,5; Jude 3; 2 Timothy 3:16,17; Revelation 22:18,19; Jeremiah 26:2; Deuteronomy 4:2; 2 Timothy 4:1-5)
At the close of his first missionary journey, Paul had resorted to Jerusalem, the seat of the apostles and elders, to certify certain doctrinal issues as it pertained to the Gentiles. There a decree or letter was sent to the churches of the Gentile world, which Paul had helped to establish. On his return, in full obedience to the charge of the apostles and elders in Jerusalem, Paul and Silas “delivered them the decrees for to keep, that were ordained of the apostles and elders which were at Jerusalem.”
Question 5: How do we contend for the faith once delivered unto the saints?
What we present as the gospel is very important to God. Anything short of the total gospel of repentance and remission of sin by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone and the teachings or doctrines of Christ, contravenes the essence of the cross of Christ (Mark 16:15,16; Luke 24:47; Ephesians 2:8,9; John 14:6; Acts 4:12; Matthew 28:19,20). We do not dethrone Christ to elicit support or faith in our local assembly or church nor do we present our pastor or any man as saviour. Jesus alone is our message. To the word of God, we must neither add nor subtract a jot. By preaching the Word with the total doctrines of Christ and nothing else, “the churches [were] established in the faith, and increased in number daily” (Acts 16:5).