The Soul Winner
May 12th, 1963 @ 7:30 PM
1 Corinthians 9:19-23
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Corinthians 9:16-27
5-12-63 7:30 p.m.
We invite you on the radio to get your Bible and to turn with us to the letter of Paul to the church at Corinth, 1 Corinthians. In the auditorium of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, in the meeting house of God’s people, there is a vast throng tonight. And you who could not be with us, take your Bible and share the reading of God’s Word with this vast audience, 1 Corinthians chapter 9, beginning at verse 16 and reading to the end of the chapter. First Corinthians chapter 9, and we read to the end of the chapter, and if your neighbor does not have his Bible, you share your Bible with him, and all of us read it out loud together. First Corinthians chapter 9, beginning at verse 16, now everybody:
For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!
For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me.
What is my reward then? Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel.
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 the 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.
And this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you.
Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.
And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.
I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air:
But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.
[1 Corinthians 9:16-27]
The last Sunday night that I preached here, the message was an exposition of the first verses that you read this evening, 1 Corinthians 9:16-17. Now the message tonight is an exposition of verses 19 through 21, and it is entitled The SoulWinner, the winner of souls. And these messages are prepared and delivered in preparation for the great gospel effort in the Southern Methodist University coliseum, the last week in June. June 23 through June 30, Sunday night through Sunday night, every night from Sunday night through the following Sunday night, we shall be out there in that great coliseum, preaching the gospel of the Son of God. It will seat eight thousand people, and with God’s help, our people, our church, is to lead in the filling of that great coliseum and holding up the hands of young Buckner Fanning as he preaches the message of Jesus. And we’re getting ready in prayer and in preparation and in every way we know how for that tremendous gospel message out there. We’re having a meeting tomorrow night with all of our superintendents, and our Training Union directors, and our Brotherhood and WMU leaders, getting ready for that tremendous appeal. And the message tonight, in this passage from Paul, is in keeping with that great program we’re offering unto God, believing that the Lord will be with us, and that He will bless us.
Now the passage:
Unto the Jews I became a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to the Gentiles, to those without the law, I became a Gentile, that I might gain them that are out beyond the scope of the ministry of Israel, that are not under the law. I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.
[1 Corinthians 9:20-22]
This is the approach and the attitude, this is the introduction, this is the presentation of God’s soulwinner. "I am made all things to all men. To the Jew, as a Jew I am; and to a Gentile, as a Gentile I am." Now that is simply this: as the apostle Paul approached his Jewish brethren, he did not accost him or talk to him in a belligerent pugnacious spirit. He didn’t go to the Jew and criticize his ritual, and make light of his ceremonies, and do despite to what he believed in the law of Moses. But when he spoke to the Jew, he did it in the spirit and in the attitude of one who appreciated what the Jew does, and what he’s meant, and what God has done with him in the world.
You could not know the letters I receive and the telephone calls that I receive of people who criticize me because of our Jewish Evangelism Week. Why, they say, "These Jews," and then all kinds of things about them – how are you going to win Jewish people by castigating everything that they do and belittling everything that they stand for in the earth? That was far from the spirit of Paul. He was not like that in any minutiae, not in any particular. Paul said, "Through these people have come the oracles of God. Our Scriptures were written by them, the name of God was preserved by them, and the gospel message came through one of their number." It was a Jew, who according to prophecy and according to its fulfillment became God incarnate [Matthew 1:20-25]. And to be filled with appreciation for what they have done for us in bringing God’s message and God’s Scriptures in the world is no other thing that you find in the Bible itself and in the example of the apostle Paul. "To the Jew I became as a Jew" [1 Corinthians 9:20].
Now what he would do would be this: the identical thing that young Tom McCall did when we had our Passover dinner in our Christian Jewish fellowship. "This is bread and the second of the loaves is broken." Why not the first? Why not the third? Why the second is broken? That’s our Lord Jesus: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It was He whose body is given for our sins. That’s what Paul would do. "And this is the cup of the new covenant, and a new dispensation, and a new grace and contract and promise of the Lord Jesus [1 Corinthians 11:25]. This is a new testament, sealed in the blood of the Crucified One." And so Paul would take all of the rituals of the Jews, and all of the types of the Jews, and he would point out how Christ is figured in every one of them. And he did it in loving appreciation, "to the Jew, as a Jew" [1 Corinthians 9:20].
Then he says, "To the Gentiles, as a Gentile I am" [1 Corinthians 9:21]. All you have to do to see the genius of this apostle Paul in soulwinning is to turn to the message that he delivered to a congregation of Gentiles. On the Areopagus, before the highest court of the Athenian people, Paul stood and he said, now listen to him as he talks to a Gentile, he says, "Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious" [Acts 17:22]. Now wouldn’t that beat you? Wouldn’t that beat you? That, why, that would have insulted them. What he said here – this is the way it was translated – what he said here was this, now look at him, "Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are very reverent, ye are very religious" [Acts 17:22]. That’s the way he started off, translated here "too superstitious." Ah, well whatever that meant to the people who lived in 1611, back there when Paul delivered the sermon, that’s what he said: "Ye men of Athens, I see everywhere an instance of your deep reverence with the things of God. For," he says,
As I pass by, as I was walking down the street, I beheld your devotions, your reverential offerings unto God, your oblations and sacrifices. As I passed by and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with the inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly . . .
Now there’s another word that, it’s a good translation, I suppose, of the exact way that the Greek word is put together, but what we would say, "What ye therefore worship without knowing"; it has here "ignorantly"; "without knowing, Him declare I unto you" [Acts 17:22-23].
Then as he continues in his message, he quotes from half of the hexameter of two of their Greek poets. They were Stoic philosophers. Aratus lived in about 270 BC, and Cleanthes lived in about 300 BC. And Paul quotes from those two Greek poets, Stoic philosophers. Do you think had he been speaking to the Jews he would have approached them like that? Would he have taken a text from two heathen Greek poets? Would he have taken a heathen altar as a type and as a figure? Not if he’d been preaching to the Jews. But here he’s preaching to the Gentiles; and there preaching to those Athenians, he quotes from two of their poets, and he uses one of their altars as a starting place to declare the unknown God, who now is revealed to us in His Son Christ Jesus [Acts 17:23-31]. Why, it’s a magnificent thing that Paul does.
And this is our exhortation and example: to the rich Paul spoke, to the poor Paul spoke, to the old and to the young, to kings and to peasants, and everywhere with a vocabulary and a manner and a gesture befitting each one, whether it was King Agrippa [Acts 26:1-29], or the Philippian jailer [Acts 16:30-32], they’re all alike; he had a message. You know where that comes from? When a man loves the souls of other men, just automatically, automatically he says the thing that God in His Holy Spirit would have him say; he just does. When your heart is in it, and you are thirsting after the souls of other people, you’ll just automatically say that right thing, and you will make that correct approach. And that’s God’s will for us. Not that the wounded Samaritan be brought to us [Luke 10:30-37], because he can’t or won’t come; but we go to where the wounded man is. And that’s our message; that’s our ministry. And it was committed to us of the Lord God.
Now may I speak of that commitment God has given to us, winning souls? You see, Paul says here in that passage, "To the Jew I became as a Jew; to the Gentiles I become as a Gentile; I am made all things to all men, that I might save some" [1 Corinthians 9:20-22]. Well, what an unusual thing for him to write, "that I might save some."
"Why, I thought, pastor, I thought Jesus saved us. I thought He was the Alpha and the Omega of our salvation [Revelation 21:6-7]. And what does Paul mean here when he says ‘that I might save some’?" [1 Corinthians 9:22]. You know there are several facets to this thing of being saved. For example, over here in the sermon of Simon Peter in the second chapter of the Book of Acts, he closed his message at Pentecost with these words, "And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this perverse generation" [Acts 2:40]. And then Paul himself wrote over here in 1 Timothy 4, and the last verse, 16, he says, "Take heed to yourself, and to the doctrine; and continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and thou shalt save them that hear thee" [1 Timothy 4:16]. Isn’t that a remarkable thing? I thought Jesus did it all. Well, it depends upon how you are saying it. Now may I illustrate it?
Suppose walking down a road in a park I were to see a man walking by a great precipice like you see in Yosemite. And as he walks by the precipice, why, I see the great danger that is developing, and the possibility of his being plunged over into that great abyss; for underneath his feet I see the great crack in the ground beginning. He’s standing there in jeopardy. So, I raise my voice, and I say, "Man, man, look, look!" And as he looks the ground falls from the beneath him, and by my calling to him he has time to grab a shrub, and he’s hanging by that shrub over that great abyss. And I rush over to him, and I grab his hands, and I pull him up to safety.
All right, watch us talk. I, I say to him, "I tell you, fellow, I tell you, if you hadn’t clung to that shrub you’d have been lost; if you hadn’t have grabbed hold of that bush, you’d have sure been lost."
And then he says to me, he says, "Listen, stranger, had it not been for you, I’d have been lost for sure." And then later on at a testimony meeting, he’s up there telling about it, and he says, "I thank God for His mercies that preserved me that hour from death."
Why, we all had a part in it didn’t we? I had a part in it: I hollered at him, "Say man, look!" I had a part in it. And he had a part in it: he grabbed the shrub; he held on to the little bush. And then of course God had a part in it, for it was the mercies and kindnesses of God that saved him.
That’s what Paul’s talking about here; that’s the way people are saved. All of it in the ableness and adequacy and provision of God, but we save souls, and they save themselves; we all have a part.
Now I want to speak of our part. Paul says, Paul says in the text, "I became all things to all men, that I might save some" [1 Corinthians 9:22]. God uses instrumentality in saving the lost. That is one of the great fundamental things that the Bible teaches us. God uses instruments in saving the lost. And God doesn’t save the lost apart from instrumentality. That’s why everything we can do in advertising, in visiting, in knocking at a door, in handing out a tract, in invitation, everything anybody can do, do it; God blesses instrumentality! God has given to us the responsibility of saving souls [Luke 24:47]. We preach the gospel. We warn, we exhort, we make appeal, we invite, we do it. God didn’t have to do it like that; men could be saved by a voice from the Excellent Glory. Men could have been saved by angels coming down, flying over this world and preaching the everlasting gospel to lost men. But He didn’t do it that way; didn’t do it that way. It pleased God in His elective choice that we save the lost; we do it [Matthew 9:37-38].
And may I pause here to avow that glorifies God; that we do it glorifies God. Did you ever pause to think what God has done in pitting our feeble, humble lives of clay and worm; ever think about what God has done in pitting us against Satan? But He did it, and He does it. It’s Satan that afflicted Job [Job 1:13-19, 2:4-8], it’s Satan that made Peter cry [Luke 22:56-62], it’s Satan that put that thorn in the side of the apostle Paul [2 Corinthians 12:7]; but those men of God were more than a match for Satan. And it pleases God in warring against the kingdom of darkness and evil, it pleases God not to do His work by panoplies of armies and prelates and pageant and all the things that go with worldly display and might and power. But it pleases God to do His work in the world and to batter down the gates of hell by hearts that are broken, by knees that are bent, by eyes that weep, by lives that are crushed into the ground, crying and pleading unto God. Those tears that fall, and those prayers that are said, and those knees that are bent, these are the artillery of God! And with them the Lord subverts the kingdom of darkness and does away with the power of Satan. By answered prayer, and by looking on tears, and by listening to God’s people intercede, and by seeing their efforts however feeble in the earth, God takes province after province away from Satan, and He unfetters these that are bound, and He opens the doors to those that are captive. That’s God. That’s the Lord and His blessings upon His people who do His work in the earth.
Now in the few minutes that remain, I want to say some words about why I think God has given to us this assignment: that we are chosen instruments in His hands to win people to Jesus. All right, I have several reasons. We’ll just go through them rapidly.
One, one, in the wisdom of God, the fact that He is committed to us that souls be born into the kingdom: first, it makes of us a family; it makes a family of us. Now let me illustrate it. Suppose a young man and a young woman at the breakfast table were deciding that they wanted a baby. "We’ve decided at the breakfast table over the coffee cup that we want a baby." So they go down to the Woolworth’s Store and they plank down fifteen cents, a dime for him and a nickel she pitched in, and they buy a baby. Oh brother, I just wonder what kind of a household it would be! I just wonder, I just wonder. Man, you don’t get a baby like that. And they don’t come like that. You don’t go to the Woolworth’s Store and buy the child. Well, how do they come? Here’s the way they come: there will be months of prenatal care, and all the things that are attendant watching over God’s building that little life in the secret of the womb of a loving mother, months. Then there will be travail and labor and pain, and then into this world the most helpless little thing you ever looked on in your life. And in the nighttime and in the daytime and all in between time, caring for that little fellow, caring for him, and watching over him, and looking in loving tender care every moment, day and night. I want you to know it isn’t long until that little life represents you. Beyond anything that God could have arranged, this little thing represents your tears, and your love, and your life, and your care, and your days, and your nights, and you’re bound up in that little heart and that little life. That’s the way God does it. That’s the way the Lord does it, and that’s why the enormous, indescribable devotion to the ordinary father and mother to a little babe and a little child that’s born into their home.
And that’s what I’m talking about in the kingdom of Jesus. We don’t go out here and buy souls nickel apiece. And we don’t go to the counter and plunk down a few pennies and buy them. We don’t purchase them like that. Well, how are souls born into the kingdom of God? The Book says, "When Zion travailed, sons and daughters were born into the kingdom of God" [Isaiah 66:8]. They come just like babies are born into this world: they are a-born, they come in tears, and in blood, and in sacrifice, and in travail. And that’s what makes us a family. God puts us together like that, and we belong, and there’s a gratitude in it, and there’s a thanksgiving in it, and there’s a holy devotion to God in it; these are our children that God hath given to us. That’s one thing: makes a family of us. And we must hasten.
A second thing: this instrumentality of soulwinning God hath given to us, a second thing, it makes us like God. It makes us God-like, winning souls. If a man loves the lost [Luke 19:41], he’s like God; God loves the lost. If a man weeps over the lost, that’s like Jesus; He wept over the lost. If a man fears and dreads the damnation of the wicked, that’s like God; God takes no pleasure and no delight in the damnation of the wicked [Ezekiel 33:11]. And if a man seeks to win people from the abyss and to pluck brands out of the burning, that’s the Lord; He came seeking for those that are lost [Matthew 9:13; Luke 19:10]. That’s what it is to be like our Lord.
I copied this out of Spurgeon. I guess sometimes you wonder, "Well, does he do anything else but read Spurgeon?" Well, could I say, if I didn’t do anything else but read Spurgeon, I’d be doing mighty good? Oh my, oh man! Now listen to Spurgeon. Spurgeon is talking about how it was when he was converted. He was sixteen years old when he was saved, and he’s talking about his timidity. You’d never think a glorious man like that was ever timid. He was talking about his timidity and what he did. All right, now listen to it, as I copied from his word: here’s what Spurgeon said:
I was restless for others. I did not know that I could speak to assemblies. I was timid in conversing upon religious matters. Therefore, I wrote little notes to different persons, setting forth the way of salvation. And I mailed them with tracts, or I slipped them under the doors of homes. My heart would have burst if I had not found some way.
That’s like the Lord. That’s like the Lord. He had it in his heart; he had it in his soul. "And my heart would have broken," he said, "if I had not found some way." That’s like God; that’s the Lord. When you love lost souls and love to see people saved, that’s the Lord; that makes us like God.
All right a third thing, and we must hasten. A third thing: the instrumentality God put in our hands, the winning of souls, like Paul says, "that I might win some" [1 Corinthians 9:22]. Here’s another thing: it puts us together in the same heart and mind of the Holy Spirit of Jesus. You listen to me, my brethren, you listen to me: whenever a church turns aside from soulwinning, it turns its face to cold indifference; it turns its face to worldliness; and many times it falls into all kinds of dissension or indifference and disintegration. But give me a people anywhere whose hearts burn and yearn that men be saved, that families be won to Jesus, and I’ll show you a people that are together in heart, and in spirit, and in prayer; they have the mind of the Holy Ghost Himself. That’s what the Lord Jesus will be leading us to do; that’s what God will be putting on our hearts. When we pray, that’s what He will be whispering to us. And when we make our programs, that’s the way He will be guiding us. God puts us together in the mind of the Holy Spirit when we win people to Jesus.
Now briefly, a last thing: that revival, that’s what it is; it makes us alive and quickened and sensitive unto God. Now I mean it like this: did you know, every time somebody comes down that aisle and gives his heart to Jesus, did you know that almost unconsciously, and many times consciously, you live through again the day of your conversion? You just do. There as that fellow standing there, confessing his faith in Jesus; I remember the time when I went down that aisle, and I confessed my faith in the Lord Jesus. And we kind of live through that experience again seeing others following the blessed and gentle Jesus. You’ve heard me say, oh how many times, when children come down the aisle, like a little boy, ten years of age, when he comes down the aisle, and he’s just so broken up and so crying that he can hardly tell me why he’s here, I live through, every time it happens, I live through the day of my conversion. When I gave my heart to the Lord I could hardly see the preacher for crying. And when a little fellow comes down the aisle and gives me his hand and his heart to Jesus, and he’s so full that he can’t say the words, I live through that experience again. I live through it again. And how infinitely more is it filled with the joy and gladness and glory of God when it’s somebody you have invited to the Lord and for whom you have prayed? This is my Sunday school pupil. This is my neighbor. This is a member of my family. That dear, fine, wonderful member of our church came down the aisle this morning with her aged mother, and I baptized her tonight. Ah, that’s like a little bit of heaven. That’s revival. That’s revival. And it pleased God to do it that way. Ah, this is His assignment, this is a heavenly task; and in it is bound up all that the kingdom of Jesus means to us, to Him, and to the lost in this world.
Now we’re going to sing our hymn of appeal. And while we sing it, somebody you, tonight, giving your heart in trust to Jesus, would you come and stand by me? "Pastor, I give you my hand; I give my heart to the Lord, and here I am, here I stand." Is there a couple you to come tonight, maybe putting your home together in the blessed Lord Jesus? You come, you come. Is there a family to put your life with us in the church tonight? "This is my wife, these are our children, all of us are coming." Or one somebody you, as the Spirit of God shall open the door, shall lead in the way, to that topmost balcony, that last seat up there, if the Lord bids you come, make it tonight. Make it tonight, while we stand and while we sing.
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Corinthians 9:16-27
A. "All things to all men" – the approach and attitude, the presentation of God’s soulwinner(1 Corinthians 9:22)
1. Approached Jewish brethren in spirit and attitude of one who appreciated what the Jew does, what he’s meant and what God has done with him
2. To the Gentiles, as a Gentile – quoted their poets, used one of their altars as a starting place to declare the unknown God(Acts 17:22-23)
B. "That I might save some"(1 Corinthians 9:22)
1. Several facets of being saved(Acts 2:40, 1 Timothy 4:16)
2. Thought Jesus saved us? – depends on how you are saying it
a. Man standing over great precipice
II. God uses instrumentality in saving the lost
A. He has given us the responsibility of saving souls
B. It pleases God to save souls by His people
C. He is glorified in the effort
III. The divine wisdom in committing the task of saving souls to the hands of men
A. The love of them grows in our hearts – makes a family of us
1. Don’t buy our children at dime store – come in sacrifice and travail(Isaiah 66:8)
B. It makes us God-like(Ezekiel 33:11, Matthew 9:13)
1. Spurgeon’s conversion
C. It makes us of one heart in the Holy Spirit