The Art Of Winning A Soul For Jesus
Notes of a message preached by Pastor Alan Redpath on Sunday, January 20, 1957.
Perhaps to many of you, this subject of witness and soulwinning brings almost a blush to your face in the recognition that you have never really seriously attempted to lead anyone to know Jesus Christ as his Savior. To others it brings a sense of shame because so often we have failed. Perhaps there was a time when we began to speak a word, but maybe from the derision of the one to whom we were speaking or the laughter or the jesting of others, or the opposition which we faced, we somehow were quickly silenced. Others perhaps are conscious that they have sought to witness for Christ but their witness has been so ineffective and people, instead of being drawn to the Lord, have been driven away. This subject is a very vital one for each one of us. It is the key to blessing in the whole Christian life.
In Acts, chapter 8, verses 26–40, there is a classic example from the life and lips of a man called Philip. Philip was not one of the apostles. He was a deacon. Strange to say that the Gospel first reaches the uttermost parts of the earth, not through an apostle, but through a deacon. Philip apparently has soon left the serving of tables so that he may preach the Word. He has been commissioned to this task and now he is the first one to announce the good tidings to the great continent of Africa. There are many precious lessons that we may draw from this example of soul winning. It is something that concerns every one of us because the principles are the same whether God desires us to be in Africa or whether He desires us to be witnesses here at home. No soul is won for Christ without someone having paid a price, without travail, without sacrifice, and here is an example of it. Here are some principles of witness in Philip’s life.
He was in a position to hear the voice of God: Verse 26: “The angel of the Lord spake unto Philip saying,” Philip was in a position to listen to God’s voice. That may seem a very insignificant thing to say, but I consider it supremely important. Philip was a busy man; he was the leader of a great movement of revival, he was living under extreme pressure. He was constantly being sought out for counsel, and for advice. There was the excitement of the movement of God’s Spirit, there were hundreds of people being converted and he was literally living in the whirl of all this, amidst the tremendous pressure of the work of God. A significant uprising of the Spirit had occurred in Samaria and he had preached Christ in that city and there had been a mighty turning to God through his ministry. Now this man, therefore, living in all the excitement of blessing, living amidst all the thrill of seeing a work of God, was yet in a position to hear God’s voice. Philip in the midst of a life, under pressure, never lost the spiritual tone, never lost the sense of the nearness of the Lord Jesus, never lost the consciousness of his walk with God. He was not too busy. He listened to the voice of God. Are you in a position today to hear God’s voice? It is so easy in the business of Christian work to lose the reality of the Word of God; so easy in the pressure of it all to become desperately barren; so easy to be so busily occupied in study, in books, in theories, in administration, in service, that if God speaks we would be too busy to hear, and what God has to say we would lose. Philip in the midst of pressure preserved spiritual tone. He listened to God’s voice.
The second thing about this man is—he obeyed God’s command. “The angel of the Lord spake unto him, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert. And he arose and went.” That is all! Do you see the significance of that tremendous obedience? It is expressed here so simply. To Philip, Samaria was the place of fellowship, the place of Christian friends, the place where loved ones assembled, the place where perhaps he often received help and counsel himself from others. In the midst of it all, he is the very center and leader of it. Surely this man is indispensable in such a situation when suddenly the voice of God speaks to him and says, “Philip, go down to the way that leads toward the south which is desert.” Here is the leader of a revival being sent away from preaching to a crowd, away from a multitude, away from the context of all the surroundings to which he had been accustomed and all the Lord said was, “Go in that direction and all I am going to tell you about it is that it is desert.” Philip had nothing to fear. He had learned a secret in his life and it is the only secret that will keep a man in such a situation living victoriously—instant obedience.
It was the angel of the Lord who spoke to him in Samaria, and when he went into the desert and met one man, it was the Spirit of the Lord who spoke with him and told him to link himself with the chariot. Philip was independent of crowds because he was dependent upon the Holy Ghost. He had so grown and so preserved his spiritual integrity that he knew that he need fear nothing, even in a desert. Because God sent him there, God would go with him. The same Spirit who had spoken in the pressure of Samaria, spoke to him tenderly in the loneliness of the desert. He obeyed God’s command.
He hurried after one unsaved soul. Verse 30, “Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Isaiah and said, Understandest thou what thou readest?” If God gives you the privilege of ministering to a crowd, ask Him to deliver you from losing your love for the individual soul; ask Him to save you from becoming professional; ask Him to save you from becoming used to it; ask Him to save you from being careless or indifferent to the needs of one person.
The Ethiopian eunuch is a tremendous character who flits across the page, as it were, in God’s Word. He is come and gone in a chapter and we do not hear of him again. Here is the first person to whom the Gospel has been preached in the uttermost parts of the earth and he is a negro. He is the chancellor of the exchequer in Ethiopia; he is over all the queen’s treasure; he is under her supreme authority; he has command of all her riches and all her wealth.
Three hundred years before Christ, history tells us, a very cultured civilization had built itself up in that part of Africa. Greek culture had reached that country. Certainly there was no question on his part of being illiterate. He could read and as he read, he began to wonder. As he wondered, he began to sense hunger in his heart and a desire in his soul. He heard in the Book about Jerusalem and decided to make a 1200 mile journey across a desert to reach it. I can picture the chancellor of the exchequer with his servants and with his retinue moving away from the queen’s courts for this long journey. He was a key to the continent of Africa. Unquestionably he was a man of great authority and intellect and education, but all these things fall aside as I think of him as a man with a hungry heart, a longing soul—dissatisfied. He had been to Jerusalem, to the temple, to the place of worship and he is more mystified than ever on his return trip for he has had no light, no understanding and he is sitting in his chariot reading the prophecy of Isaiah. Here is an Ethiopian who has traveled 1200 miles to learn the truth and is going back from the place where he thought he would receive light, still completely in the dark, when suddenly a messenger from heaven speaks to a Christian and says, “Go and attach yourself to that chariot, and Philip ran.” He hurried after one unsaved soul.
He used the Word of God in soul winning. Verse 35, “Philip opened his mouth at the same Scripture and preached unto him, Jesus.” What Scripture? That Ethiopian had been searching and had come to Isaiah, chapter 53, and as he read it with a mind that was utterly in the dark and a heart that longed to have understanding and understand truth, perplexed about it and reading aloud, Philip comes to him and says, “Understandest thou what thou readest?” “How can I,” he said, “except some man guide me?” Philip had one theme in his soul winning, he preached from the same Scripture—Jesus. This lovely disciple, this unobtrusive character had one passion in his heart, it was to preach Christ and to preach a full Jesus, and from this precious portion of the Word he sits down with the Book open and preaches the One “who was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities.” As Philip preached Christ, that man’s heart was melted and the tears began to fall down his face as he understood for the first time, and his hungry soul was satisfied and he knew now the truth which had been hidden to him. For the first time in his life, there came into his heart the peace of God that passes understanding.
Philip led this convert to the next step, verse 38, “He commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.” Here was a man going back into a pagan, heathen, dark country the only Christian in the whole continent, and before he went back he was burning his boats behind him. He was making a public confession of his faith in Christ. Philip was not content to leave him until there and then, out in the open before his whole company of servants and soldiers, he had made his stand for the Lord Jesus and confessed Him in the waters of baptism. Philip was doing the job thoroughly.
Then perhaps the greatest of all arts in soul winning, he left the convert to the care of the Holy Spirit. Verse 39, “When they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing.” Rejoicing? What had that man to rejoice about, going back to a continent where he would meet no other Christians, going back to face ridicule and persecution? But he went on his way rejoicing! We have no reference here to the coming of the Holy Spirit on him, we have no reference here about tongues or the laying on of hands. Here is another indication of the sovereign working of the Spirit of God. This man has gone away rejoicing. Just in the same way that Philip could face a desert, this new convert could face a continent in the name of Christ. He went back rejoicing. Philip had faith to believe that the work was done and that the Spirit of God would care for this young child in the faith.
Centuries before this incident the psalmist said, “Ethiopia shall haste to stretch out her hand to God.” From the throne in heaven one day the Lord Jesus—ascended, risen, triumphant—saw the chancellor of the exchequer of Ethiopia becoming conscious of his ignorance and of his need, and the Spirit of God began to work in the life of this man who could revolutionize the whole country by his influence. God saw this man in an isolated, heathen land with nobody to help him, nobody to point him to Jesus. God looked down upon another country and saw a man in Samaria, called Philip, a man living in close touch with his God, and takes hold of Philip and sends him to the desert. At the same moment, God has timed it so that the Ethiopian eunuch should make that journey, and the two meet. That heart, filled with longing and unhappiness, is satisfied.
Supposing Philip had not gone and supposing he had not obeyed! Millions of people like this Ethiopian chancellor are stretching out their hands to God for light, and how shall they hear if they have no preacher? They are to be found on the Amazon, South America, Europe, China, Russia, Philippines, Malaya, Far East, all over the world, not least here in Chicago. Men and women with hearts that are dissatisfied, hungry, empty—and God sees them.
Does it matter—one man with an empty heart and no disciple? In the sovereign plan of God, His whole plan of redemption is frustrated for that individual, and God holds us responsible for the man’s eternity. “If the wicked shall not hear, his blood shall be upon thy head.”
Are you prepared to obey God’s command and stir yourself from your nest of comfort and seek a soul for Christ?