Chapter 1.
The Successful Soul-Winner

Scriptures for Study

And behold, there was a man who had a withered hand. And they asked Him, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?“—that they might accuse Him.

Then He said to them, “What man is there among you who has one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep? Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” Then He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and it was restored as whole as the other. Then the Pharisees went out and plotted against Him, how they might destroy Him.

But when Jesus knew it, He withdrew from there. And great multitudes followed Him, and He healed them all. Yet He warned them not to make Him known, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying:

“Behold! My Servant whom I have chosen,

My Beloved in whom My soul is well pleased!

I will put My Spirit upon Him,

And He will declare justice to the Gentiles.

He will not quarrel nor cry out,

Nor will anyone hear His voice in the streets.

A bruised reed He will not break,

And smoking flax He will not quench,

Till He sends forth justice to victory;

And in His name Gentiles will trust.” (Matthew 12:10-21)

The Lord Jesus Christ is our supreme Example in the ministry of soul-winning, as indeed He is in every other aspect of Christian life and service. We cannot study His life without being impressed with the qualifications that Marked Him out as the wise Winner of souls. From the manward aspect of His life and work, soul-winning was His first concern. He could say, “The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).

And again, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28).

The apostle Paul later could add, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15).

When He taught men and women, it was with the studied object of bringing them into right relationship to God. When He healed the sick, it was in order to prepare their hearts for the experience of His forgiveness and pardon. It was just the same when He fed the crowds. The motive behind it all was to win them to Himself, as Savior and Shepherd. The consuming passion of His soul was to seek and to save that which was lost. In every sense of the word, He was the successful Soul-Winner.

If we would be successful in soul-winning, we must study Him until the characteristics and spirit that Marked and motivated His life are reproduced in us.

With this in mind, we wish to draw your attention to a word portrait of the perfect Soul-Winner, as given in the “Scriptures for Study.” While this passage includes a quotation from the Old Testament (Isa. 42:1-4), which in some senses is prophetic of a day to come, it is at the same time a remarkable disclosure of God's perfect Servant, the Lord Jesus Christ, and therefore an abiding pattern for us.

It is important to observe that the context in which these verses are set is one of hatred, antagonism, and hostility. The Lord Jesus had just healed a man with a withered hand, with the evident intention of winning him to God. This at once aroused bitter opposition, insomuch that the Pharisees went out and held a council against Him to discuss how they might destroy Him (v. 14).

Then follows this remarkable description of God's perfect Servant. The lesson is obvious. As soul-winners we shall ever be opposed by Satan's fierce attacks. He will never release his victims easily. Because of this we dare not be anything less than Christlike in our reactions, or we cease to be true soul-winners.

What, then, are the characteristics of the soul-winner? Let us turn again to Matthew 12:18-21 and notice what is said of the Lord Jesus. God sets Him forth with the words, “Behold! My Servant.”

Consider these characteristics of the Servant of the Lord:

His Appointment

“Behold! My Servant whom I have chosen” (Matt. 12:18).

All true soul-winners are divinely appointed. In the counsels of eternity, the Lord Jesus was appointed to be the Seeker and Savior of men. So He came forth from the Father's side, saying, “Behold, I come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me. I delight to do Your will, O my God, And Your law is within my heart” (Ps. 40:7-8; compare Heb. 10:7, 9).

What was true of the Lord Jesus applies also to us. We cannot engage in this soul-winning work unless we have been divinely called and chosen.

Having called Peter, James, John, and the rest, Jesus later could say to them, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain” (John 15:16).

If we have heard His “come unto Me,” then we must not be deaf to His “go.” His word is clear: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:19-20).

And again, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me” (Acts 1:8).

While these words were spoken initially to the eleven disciples, the New Testament makes plain that their application extends to Christian men and women of all time (see Eph. 4:7-12 and 2 Tim. 2:2). The common notion that soul-winning is the exclusive work of full-time ministers of the gospel is erroneous. The apostle Paul states clearly that the gift of the evangelist in Christ's church is “for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry [or serving]” (Eph. 4:12). In other words, the motto and mission of every local church should be “Every Member Evangelism.” Note how the early disciples, having been scattered abroad because of persecution, “went everywhere preaching the word” (Acts 8:1, 4); or, as the phrase has been freely rendered, “gossiping the gospel.”

His Approbation

“Behold!...My Beloved in whom My soul is well pleased” (Matt. 12:18).

Before a life can be a power for God, it must be a pleasure to God. This was always true of our Savior, as evidenced by the Father's words of approval at the baptism and transfiguration of His well-beloved Son (see Matt. 3:17; 17:5). We can merit that approval only by complete submission to the Father's will. The Master could say, “I always do those things that please Him” (John 8:29).

Let us never forget that the will of God is the salvation and sanctification of men and women (see 1 Tim. 2:3-4 and 1 Thess. 4:3). When Jesus “needed to go through Samaria” (John 4:4) to win a sinful woman to God, He could explain His action in the following words: “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work” (John 4:34).

No wonder He merited the Father's pleasure!

His Anointing

“Behold! My Servant.... I will put My Spirit upon Him” (Matt. 12:18).

This is the anointing for service and soul-winning. It is important to recognize that there was never a moment in our Lord's experience when He was not full of the Holy Spirit. John declares, “God does not give the Spirit by measure” (John 3:34).

At the same time, while He knew the fullness of the Holy Spirit from birth, it was not until His public ministry that He experienced the anointing of the Spirit. As He stepped out of Jordan after His baptism, the Spirit came upon Him like a dove (Matt. 3:16). Later, referring to this, He could testify, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed” (Luke 4:18).

To be successful soul-winners, we too must know not only the fullness of the Holy Spirit but also this holy anointing. After Calvary, Jesus told His disciples that this anointing was the promise of the Father and that they were to tarry in the city of Jerusalem until they were “endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49).

The word endue is one of rich significance. The original meaning carries the thought of being invested or clothed upon with a new power. After Pentecost the disciples were to wear this power like a garment.

While this clothing with power took place simultaneously with the baptism, the two must not be confused. Baptism was an immersion in the Spirit, while the clothing with power was an investment of the Spirit. Baptism was initial and final (1 Cor. 12:13) while the clothing with power was initial and continual. This continual clothing with power is the result of a life of prayerfulness (Acts 1:14; 2:4) and yieldedness (Acts 5:32).

The anointing of the Spirit has to do particularly with service or responsibility while the baptism has to do with sainthood or relationship. Later, when expanding the thought of this clothing with power, Jesus said, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

As we have seen, the anointing must not be confused with the baptism; nor must it be regarded as synonymous with the filling of the Spirit. While the baptism has to do with relationship and the anointing with responsibility, the filling has to do with realization. The anointing represents something outward while the filling of the Spirit denotes an inward experience. The anointing is for special service while the filling is for daily living.

The evidence of the anointing of the Spirit is a spiritual authority in the work of God and a spiritual knowledge of the Word of God. In a context where Paul is speaking of the authority of his ministry, he says, “Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee” (2 Cor. 1:21-22).

In the Old Testament the ceremony of anointing was related to all important offices and ministries of the servants of Jehovah. The prophet was anointed that he might be the messenger of God to the people (1 Kings 19:16). The priest was anointed that he might be holy unto the Lord (Lev. 8:12). The king was anointed that the Spirit of the Lord might rest upon him in power (1 Sam. 16:13). No servant of the Lord was considered qualified for his ministry without this holy anointing. Indeed, as we have seen, the Lord Jesus was anointed with the Spirit and with power at the outset of His ministry (see Acts 10:38). So Paul applies this same principle to the believers at Corinth when he reminds them, “He who ... has anointed us is God” (2 Cor. 1:21).

The further evidence of the anointing of the Spirit is spiritual knowledge of the Word of God. So the apostle John tells us, “The anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him” (1 John 2:27).

There is a distinct difference between “the tuition of learning” and “the intuition of the Spirit.” One is intellectual knowledge while the other is spiritual knowledge. While we should never undervalue the former, the Bible puts the weightier emphasis on the latter. “‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.’ But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.... No one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God” (1 Cor. 2:9-11).

If the soul-winner would be characterized by such spiritual authority and knowledge, he must know this anointing with the Spirit. Only thus will he be effective in his holy task of faithfully representing the living Christ.

His Announcement

“Behold! My Servant.... He will declare justice to the Gentiles” (Matt. 12:18).

In quoting this Old Testament passage, Matthew anticipates the preaching of the gospel to the Gentile world after Pentecost.

The word justice has a wide range of meanings and includes the thought of “life-giving truths of the righteous Judge.” Our message, in personal conversation or public discourse, must be that of righteousness made available through our Savior, who is just and the Justifier of all who believe in Him (Rom. 3:26).

That master soul-winner, the apostle Paul, could announce, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16).

His Approach

“Behold! My Servant.... He will not quarrel nor cry out, nor will anyone hear His voice in the streets. A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench” (Matt. 12:18-20).

These words describe the pervading calmness and composure that characterized our Savior's approach to men in His work of soul-winning. Indeed, His quiet and gentle manner so impressed itself upon the mind of the Evangelist that he could not help but recall Isaiah's prophecy of Him. To Matthew, the Master's approach stood out in Marked contrast to the wrangling of the Jewish scribes, the violence of the Roman officers, and even more the ravings of the false prophets and leaders of revolt such as Judas of Galilee. When confronted with broken and smoldering humanity, Jesus was tender with the broken reed and trustful with the smoking flax. This must ever be our approach if we are to succeed as soul-winners.

Writing to Timothy, the apostle Paul says, “A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient” (2 Tim. 2:24).

His Assurance

“Behold! My Servant.... He sends forth justice to victory” (Matt. 12:18, 20).

The Lord Jesus was never a pessimist or a defeatist. He was confident of the ultimate victory of God's purpose of grace. This secret assurance gave Him poise and positiveness when dealing with men and women.

Such assurance must also characterize us if we would succeed in the work of soul-winning. True love for souls “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor. 13:7).

His Acceptance

“Behold! My Servant.... In His name Gentiles will trust [or hope]” (Matt. 12:18, 21).

The reality and radiance of the Savior's faith called forth hope and trust from sin-stricken humanity. In our contact and conversation with people, we, as soul-winners, must be characterized by a reality and radiance of faith if we would have acceptance with souls who are hungry for God. The early disciples had favor with all the people; therefore, the Lord was able to add to the church daily such as were being saved (see Acts 2:47).

Let us never forget that, while those who refuse the gospel may hate and persecute us, thousands upon thousands of men and women respond at once to Christian reality and radiance when they encounter the good news.

We have seen the sevenfold characteristics of the successful soul-winner. If we had to copy them, what failures we should be! But, thank God, in wisdom and love He has devised a more excellent way: it is by the power of the Lord Jesus who lives and works in and through us.

The great apostle knew this secret, for his testimony was, “It pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb and called me through His grace, to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles” (Gal. 1:15-16).

And again, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).

And yet again, “We preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily” (Col. 1:28-29).

If truly born again, we too have within us the wonderful secret of successful soul-winning. God's perfect Servant and Soul-Winner lives in our heart and longs to express Himself through our lives. Our responsibility is to recognize His indwelling presence and then to reckon on His inexhaustible power. Then we will be able to say with the apostle Paul, “We labor according to His working, which works in us mightily” (see Col. 1:29).

For Reflection and Response

  1. “The Lord Jesus Christ is our supreme example in the ministry of soul-winning, as indeed He is in every other aspect of life and service.” Take a few moments to reflect on this statement. Write down or discuss some ways we can learn from His example.
  2. What is the anointing of the Holy Spirit? How does the anointing of the Holy Spirit relate to your life and witness?
  3. How does the fact that Jesus Christ lives in our hearts and longs to express Himself through our lives impact the way we view soul-winning?