By Dr. John R. Rice: My message is on the “Sevenfold Sin of Not Winning Souls.” I said sin! If you are a Christian and don’t win souls, it is a sin like getting drunk, lying, hate, murder or adultery. It is a wicked, terrible sin! Every preacher and every Christian ought to win souls. Any Christian who does not win souls is sinning. And we who win a few are sinning if we don’t do our best all the time to win more souls.A man running for office said to his business manager, “Do you know what my opponent said about me? He accused me of lying.”
“He ought not to have done that. That’s bad.”
“He did worse than that.”
“He proved it!”
That is what I plan to do tonight—not only to preach that it is a sin not to win souls, but to prove it by the Bible, the precious Word of God.
“And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”—Matt. 28:18–20.
We call this the Great Commission, and it contains three teachings. First, go and teach all nations the Word—that means make disciples of men in all nations by teaching them how to be saved. Second, baptize them. Third, teach them to observe all things that Jesus commanded us.
Soul winning is the main thing with God. If it isn’t first with the preacher, the preacher isn’t right. If soul winning isn’t the first thing with the church, the church isn’t right. If soul winning isn’t first for a Sunday school teacher, he or she is not a good Sunday school teacher. If soul winning isn’t the main reason for a Christian school, it is not a very good Christian school. If soul winning isn’t the main thing for a Christian newspaper like the SWORD OF THE LORD, then it is off the track and not what a Christian paper ought to be. The first and main thing with God is soul winning.
In I Timothy 1:15, Paul said, “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation.…” That sounds like it was a saying often repeated among New Testament Christians. What was the saying? “…that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” Jesus came to save sinners.
Jesus said, “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32).
Again, He said, “The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). This is what Jesus came for, what Jesus died for. That is why the Bible was written, why churches are organized, why preachers are called to preach.
Some preachers say, “But I don’t feel led to win souls.” That means you are not led of the Lord. If God were leading you, He would lead you to do what the Bible says. A Christian ought to win souls. That is the most important thing with God.
He gave the Great Commission in each of the four Gospels with slightly different words. The same day He rose from the dead, Jesus entered into the room where the disciples were shut up for fear of the Jews and breathed on them and said, “As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you” (John 20:21).
Another time He came to the disciples as they were eating and said, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). Again, Jesus met the disciples on a mountain in Galilee and gave the Great Commission to them in the words of our text. Then in Luke He said that “repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things….but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:47–49).
Forty days after His resurrection when He was preparing to ascend back into Heaven, He gave the Great Commission yet a fifth time: “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judæa, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8). He had already given the command four times (and perhaps many unrecorded times during the previous forty days); but in the last minute before He went away to Heaven, Jesus repeated it. These were the last words of Jesus on earth.
When a person is departing, his parting words are likely to be about the thing that is most on his mind, the thing that is most important to him. I’m saying that this is the one main thing Jesus left for us to do in these ages after He went away. This is His Great Commission.
There is a sevenfold sin in not winning souls.
I. Sin of Disobedience to Christ’s Main Command
The first sin is the sin of disobedience to the main command that Jesus Christ ever gave. We have an all-inclusive command for every Christian in the Great Commission. Not to obey that is not to obey Jesus on the one thing He died for, the main thing He gave instructions about.
Jesus told His disciples, ‘All of you go out here and get the Gospel to every creature. Take it into all the world and make disciples in all nations.’ I can imagine they might have thought, Well, we’re only twelve men. We can’t go to every nation. If we put one in Africa, one in South America, one in the continent of North America, one in Eastern Europe, one in the Balkan states, one in Russia, one in China, one in India, one in Indonesia, one in the Philippine Islands, one in Japan and one in Australia, that uses up all twelve apostles. But He said, “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” (Matt. 28:20).
Now all the original twelve disciples are dead. But let’s see what happened because they obeyed His commission.
He said to Peter, “Go get people saved.”
“All right, Jesus, and then what?”
“Now get them baptized and grounded.”
“All right, Jesus, then what?”
“Then send them out to do just what I am telling you to do—observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.”
Jesus is saying, “The command I give you today, you pass on to everybody you get saved.” So the Great Commission is as much to everybody here as it was to Peter or any one of the twelve.
But you say, “I’m not called to preach.” You’re called to be a Christian, though, and this is a part of being a Christian. If you were taught what Jesus said, then you were taught you ought to be a soul winner. In Revelation 22:17 we read, “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come.” If you’ve heard it, then you are supposed to tell it.
Have you been scripturally baptized? If not, you have missed a joy and a blessing. If you have, then they ought to have told you, “Now, I’m passing on to you the Great Commission that Jesus gave the twelve apostles.”
Somebody says, “The Great Commission is given to the church.” Is that so? Chapter and verse, please! We are to get people saved, and we are to get them baptized, and we are to teach them to do what Jesus told the apostles to do. The Lord Jesus didn’t save church houses or have them baptized or call them to preach.
The Lord Jesus didn’t call denominational headquarters or baptize them or give them the Great Commission. Why doesn’t somebody say “Amen”?Every preacher, if he is saved, has this Great Commission. If you don’t win souls, you have failed in your Christian life. No one is a good Christian who doesn’t win souls. You are not doing the first things He said you were to do after you got baptized. Those who do not win souls are disobedient in the main command of Jesus Christ, and that is not a small matter.
II. The Sin of Lack of Love for Christ
Sin Number Two is the sin of lack of love for Jesus Christ. You say, “I love Jesus so much.” Oh, do you? Let us see what the Lord says about it. “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). Isn’t that a fair, honest statement? He says in verse 21, “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me.” And then verse 23 says, “Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words.”
So in proportion to your love for Jesus Christ, you will win souls. Not winning souls is proof of the coldness of your heart.
“Brother Rice, I don’t know much Bible.” That isn’t your trouble. “But don’t you use the Bible in soul winning?” Can you learn John 3:16? I have won hundreds of souls with John 3:16. Your real trouble is heart trouble.
You say you don’t have gifts. Well, do the best you can with what equipment you have. When I was called to preach, I said, “Lord, I don’t have a great voice like Dr. Truett, and I don’t have a personality like some other people, but I will do the best I can.” Your trouble is not poor equipment. It is heart trouble. You don’t love Jesus enough to do what He said. The Lord Jesus said three times in this chapter that if we love Him we will keep His commandments.
“Well, I’ve been taught different.” Yes, I know. You are talking about your head, but your trouble is not your head; it is your heart. You don’t love Jesus Christ enough to do what He said.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if God would give us such a floodtide of love in our hearts, shed abroad by the Holy Ghost, that we would beg Jesus for power to win souls?
In the letter to the Ephesians in Revelation 2, the Lord said, ‘I know you have worked. You have been patient. I know you have borne burdens and didn’t faint in hard times. But I have somewhat against you because you have left your first love!’
Wouldn’t it be good if you had the honeymoon again—you and Jesus? Wouldn’t it be good if you just came back to the first wonderful love you had when you were first saved?
I remember when I went down the aisle and trusted the Lord and was converted at the First Baptist Church of Gainesville, Texas. My dad was preaching out in the country that day. I went home and told him I wanted to join the church. I didn’t say I had been converted—I didn’t know what you called it. He said, “Son, when you are old enough to be really convicted of your sins and repent and be regenerated, then there will be time enough to join the church.”
Well, I guessed so. All of those were nice big words—only I didn’t know what they meant. My dad didn’t know I’d gotten saved, and I didn’t know how to tell him. So the next morning as I went to school and crossed the creek, I knelt under a willow tree in the sand and prayed, “Lord, maybe I’m too young to join the church or get saved, but So-and-so is not, and this one is not, and that one is not.” I cried and prayed under that tree for other people to be saved.
I didn’t know it then, but that was mighty good evidence the Lord had done a work of grace in my heart. I had the first love that Christians ought to have. You are backslidden if you don’t have that first love that makes you concerned about lost sinners.
In a campaign in Spearman, Texas, a French girl came night after night. She spoke in very broken English with a French accent. When I would ask, “How many are Christians?” she would hold up her hand. She had gone to mass regularly back in France and said her prayers, “Hail Mary, mother of God,” etc.
One night I preached on “You Must Be Born Again.” That was news to her. When I asked, “How many of you know you have been born again?” she didn’t hold up her hand. Then when I asked, “How many want to be saved?” she did hold her hand up; but when we gave the invitation, she didn’t come.
The next morning her husband brought her to the home where I was. She wanted to be saved, and I showed her how. She said, “There were a lot of churches in France; why didn’t anyone ever tell me I needed to be born again?”
I said, “Are you ready to ask Jesus to save you?”
She said, “I don’t know English very well. Can I pray in French?”
“Yes, God understands French just as well as English.”
I prayed in English, and she prayed in French and trusted Christ. I read to her John 3:36: “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life.” We shook hands and cried and laughed. But I said, “Now, I’m glad that’s settled. I have to go now to see two young men I promised to meet.”
As we parted, she said, “Oh, Brother Rice, I do hope you save those boys!” She had that first love that is normal for a good Christian. She had what the Lord Jesus was talking about.
If you don’t have it, then you don’t love Jesus like you ought. Lack of love for Jesus is one of the sins of not winning souls. God forgive us for a cold heart.
III. The Sin of Not Following Jesus
Those who do not win souls are guilty of not following Jesus. We sing, “Trying to walk in the steps of the Saviour,” and talk about following Jesus, but in Matthew 4:19 Jesus said to Peter and Andrew, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Those who followed Jesus turned out to be soul winners.
Aren’t you glad God makes soul winners? If I were going to make them, I would pick men with real culture, training and personality. But then they would likely speak to the minds, not necessarily to the hearts. But Jesus makes soul winners, and, thank God, He can make a soul winner out of people not fit for much else in the world.
“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
Isn’t this a short, simple, easy way to get to be a soul winner? I follow Jesus, and He does something wonderful in my heart. It gets to where I love sinners as He does and want to go after them like He does. He puts His power on me to get people saved and makes me a soul winner.
If it is true that when you follow Jesus He makes you into a soul winner, it follows that if you are not a soul winner, you are not following Jesus. “Brother Rice, I joined a church long ago.”
Yes, the churches are full of dead wood like you. Part of the curse of our churches is we have too many Christians of that kind. I would gladly have just one-tenth as many people, if they were all red-hot for God. Brother, we can’t drag sinners over your dead carcass. But if you follow Jesus, He will make you into a soul winner.
Soul winning costs something. During one blessed revival, a woman said to me, “Brother Rice, religion is like the measles. It’s catching.” I said, “You’re right, but you can’t give someone measles unless you have a fever.” We surely need people with fever. And if you follow Jesus, you will have it. He will make you into a good soul winner.
I started preaching before I knew I was called to preach or surrendered to preach. I was in Baylor University, studying to be a college English teacher, when a country pastor, Brother R. H. Gibson, wrote me a postcard asking me to lead singing for him in several one-week revivals. They ran from Friday evening through Thursday evening, with a baptismal service on Friday morning.
I liked to sing, and I wanted to win souls, so I went with him. We started under a brush arbor with a pump organ and sang the old-time songs. We had a wonderful meeting.
On Wednesday night, Brother Gibson said, “This is wonderful. It would not be right to close this meeting tomorrow night.”
I said, “No sir, I don’t think you ought to quit now. New people are getting under conviction all the time.”
“You go to the next place and start that on Friday night, and I’ll stay here and preach through Sunday afternoon. Then I’ll come over there where you are.”
“What is that?” I asked. “I’m no preacher! I’m not called to preach.”
“That’s all right. Just tell them you’re not a preacher and you’re not called to preach. But go ahead.”
I said, “I can’t do it. I don’t know how to preach.”
He said, “Are you saved? Do you know how to tell somebody how to be saved?”
“Yes. But I can’t preach.”
“Haven’t you been speaking some for the Red Cross and raising money for the boys in the army?”
“Weren’t you in the Connally Debate in Baylor University and president of your literary society?”
“Yes. I won a scholarship in oratory.”
“And you gave your high school commencement address, but you can’t talk for Jesus! That’s a funny kind of Christianity!”
That stumped me. He sent me on over there to start the meeting. I walked up and down the creek bottom all day. I didn’t know much Bible. I was studying English; I could tell them about Shakespeare and Tennyson all right. I tried to remember all the Scriptures he had preached on and the things I knew. I preached, and when he got there, we were having people saved, and a revival had broken out. He went on with the revival, and everything went fine.
The next week he did the same thing, and I started the next meeting. It happened that way every week. The whole summer was nearly over before it dawned on me that he had planned it that way.
If you ran with R. H. Gibson, the first thing you knew, you’d be preaching.
And if you run with Jesus, you will be going after sinners. Your trouble is you are not following Jesus. If you were, He would make you into a soul winner.
God, put a burning in the heart of people and made them soul winners!
IV. The Sin of Not Abiding in Christ
Those who do not win souls are guilty of not abiding in Christ. You say, “That sounds like we are not even good Christians.” You’re catching on! Christians who do not win souls are not abiding in Christ.
In John 15 Jesus said, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.”—Vss. 4,5.
But you say you thought the fruit He was talking about is the fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance. Bringing forth fruit is one thing; the Christian graces the Holy Spirit produces in you are another matter.
You may brush the old cow and spray some fly powder on her, but the fruit of the cow is either a calf or milk. The Bible speaks of the fruit of the womb—a woman’s baby. Proverbs 11:30 says, “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life.” A tree? You mean the fruit of a peach tree is another peach tree? Don’t you mean the fruit of the peach tree is a peach? No. Plant the peach and you get another peach tree. The fruit of a Christian is another Christian, and the fruit of the soul winner is another soul winner. The Great Commission is not only to get one saved but to get him baptized and to tell him to do what Jesus told us to do. So if you don’t bear fruit, you are not abiding in Christ.
There are a lot of false teachings about abiding in Christ—consecration, sanctification, baptized of the Holy Ghost, entered into the rest of God. “Oh, I have found in Him the key for life. I’ve had a testing experience.” A lot of people have been brainwashed. Nobody is sanctified or consecrated who doesn’t do what God wants him to do about soul winning. Any so-called Keswick experience that doesn’t make you a soul winner is a fake. If you don’t win souls, you’re not a good Christian and you are not abiding in Christ. If you were, you would bring forth much fruit.
In a Toronto revival, we had back-to-back services to accommodate the crowds. After a service where fifteen adults had come to Christ, we had a brief intermission. A man came up to me and said, “Brother Rice, have you been baptized with the Holy Ghost?”
“If you mean some holy anointing enabling me to win souls, then, thank God, yes.”
He said, “I didn’t mean that.
I meant, have you talked in tongues?”
I said, “Why didn’t you say what you meant?”
“Well, I meant where you just let go. Something comes on you, and you just feel light as a feather. You don’t know what you are saying, but you feel so good.”
I said, “If I can get enough sinners to come down the aisle; keep people out of Hell; see drunkards made sober, harlots made pure, convicts made into decent citizens and homes reunited, I’ll be happier than if I felt light as a feather with electricity coming in my head and going out my fingers and toes. I was talking in the English tongue tonight. Do you think everyone could understand me?”
I said, “If I have a message from God and everybody understands English, what is wrong with preaching in English? Now let me ask you one. Did you ever win a soul?”
He said, “I’ve witnessed to them.”
I said, “Did you ever win a soul?”
“I’ve prayed for them”
I said, “Quit dodging. Did you ever get your Bible out and show a man he is a sinner and show him how to be saved and get him to trust Jesus and start out to live for Him? Did you or not?”
“I guess I never did.”
“Then don’t you ever again pretend you have something better than some man who preaches the Bible, who weeps over sinners and who in God’s mercy is being used to win souls.”
I’m tired of these deeper-life conferences. The pastor of a church that for years has had only a handful attending, mainly children, wanted me to run several articles in the SWORD OF THE LORD on the deeper life. I wrote that every time we put something in the paper about soul winning, we’re teaching about the deepest life there is. D. L. Moody and R. A. Torrey and Billy Sunday had the deeper life. You can tell, because they bore fruit.
The deeper life is keeping people out of Hell. That is what brings eternal rewards and causes rejoicing and hand clapping and bell ringing and singing the “Hallelujah Chorus” up in Heaven. If you don’t win souls, then you are not abiding in Christ.
V. The Awful Sin of Dishonesty in a Sacred Trust
Those who do not win souls are guilty of dishonesty in a sacred trust. Dishonesty? Brother Rice, that sounds like one is crooked. That is exactly the point. Anybody who does not win souls is crooked.
In Romans 1:14,15 Paul says, “I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise. So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also.” You are in debt, Paul?
“Yes,” Paul said. “I got salvation which I didn’t earn and couldn’t pay for. I got it on credit, on the mercy of God. I’m going to Heaven when I ought to be in Hell. He called me to preach. I’m not worthy.”
If you are saved like Paul, you got salvation by God’s mercy. You didn’t deserve it. How much in debt you and I are!
Will you admit that you got salvation you didn’t deserve, couldn’t pay for and didn’t earn? Well, you are in debt then, aren’t you? This is a Gospel for the rest of the folks too, and you are dishonest if you don’t pass it on.
Matthew 25 tells of a man who took a far journey and he left his goods with his servants and provided for them.
“For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods.…every man according to his several ability” (vss. 14,15). When the man returned, one servant told him, ‘I worked hard. I made five talents into ten.’
“Well done, thou good and faithful servant…enter thou into the joy of thy lord” (vs. 21).
The second servant came and said, ‘I worked hard and made two talents into four.’
The lord said to him also, “Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord” (vs. 23).
Another fellow with one talent returned it, saying, ‘Here is your talent. I knew you were a hard man, so I took your talent and hid it in the earth.’
And the lord said to him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant. If you didn’t want to risk this money, why didn’t you put it in the bank so I could at least have earned some interest on the money?’ He called him wicked and slothful—crooked and lazy! He didn’t bring anything in on the investment made on him.
If you don’t win souls, you are wicked. God has a lot invested in you—the precious blood of Jesus, the wooing of the Holy Spirit, the writing of the Bible, the preaching of the men of God, Mother’s prayers. Shouldn’t God get a little back on His investment? If you do not pay some back to God by spreading the Gospel, then you are dishonest in a sacred trust.
Dr. H. A. Ironside once sent a sermon for the SWORD OF THE LORD with a note on the back of a handbill that was advertising some meetings he was going to have. The note said, “Just trying to pay my debt to my brethren.”
You have a debt to pay too, and you are dishonest if you don’t pay it. God has a right to some soul-winning effort from you. Don’t be dishonest in a sacred trust.
VI. The Sinful Folly of a Shortsighted Fool
You mean a man is a fool if he doesn’t win souls? Yes sir. He is putting his money, his time, his energy where it won’t bring much reward or do much good. Listen to Proverbs 11:30, “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise.” The soul winner is wise, because he is going to reap for eternity.
We read in Daniel 12:3, “And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.” Who are wise? They that win many souls!
I may be nobody much now, but if God in His mercy be willing, I will be somebody in the next world. Somebody will be at the gate to meet me. When some of you get there, you will have to hire a taxicab and get a map of the city to find your shack out in the suburbs. I want to have a brass band of praise when I get there.
At a filling station in Dallas one day, I asked the attendant, “How are you today?”
He replied, “Well, if you really want to know, I’m the biggest fool in Dallas.”
I asked, “Why is that?”
“I got my pay last night and went on a big bender. I don’t remember a thing, and when I woke up this morning, this was all I had from a week’s wages.” He pulled out a few coins. “I have to pay my landlady today, and I don’t have the money. All I’ve got is a guilty conscience and a dark brown taste in my mouth. Of all the fools in Dallas, I’m the biggest.”
I said, “I’ll say amen to that.”
A lot of you Christians are like that. You think of food for the belly and clothes for the back and a new-model car and wall-to-wall carpeting and four bedrooms and two baths. A heathen has that much sense. You had better put your money and your time where you will have a real reaping someday.
I’m only an evangelist, and everybody knows an evangelist isn’t anybody much. I don’t have money laid aside, and I don’t have life insurance, but I have some put away where thieves don’t break through and steal.
In Japan some years ago, I preached through an interpreter in a revival meeting for a missionary. I preached on the Prodigal Son, and God was there in power. Five people came forward to be saved. Only one of them had ever heard the Gospel before, so we took about half an hour to make sure these five understood it. They had come to the meeting after working for eleven hours in a rice paddy, and now it was late.
As we went outside, the missionary said, “I want you to meet this young man who interpreted for you. He is your grandson in the ministry.”
My booklet “What Must I Do to Be Saved?” had been translated into Japanese, and we had about four million copies of it published in Japan. In the first six months after the first printing, missionaries received letters from 2,800 Japanese who had trusted Christ as Saviour, and they followed them up.
One of those booklets had gotten into the hands of a man who was serving a life sentence in prison. He read that he could be born again and could have a new heart, that God would forgive him, that he could be a Christian and go to Heaven.
He believed it and trusted the Lord and was saved. A wonderful transformation took place. The guard began to say, “You ought not to be in jail.”
It wasn’t long until the warden and the guards all talked about him: “He is a better man than any of us. He shouldn’t be here.” The warden went to the judge and recommended that they turn the man loose, and they did.
One afternoon the former convict came upon a young man in the park who had his head in his hands. He asked, “What is the matter?”
“I wish I were dead! I slashed my wrists, but they rushed me to the hospital and saved me. I then got out of bed and beat my head on the brick wall. I was put in a straight jacket and strapped in bed until I got well. I’m an alcoholic, but I wish I were dead.”
This former prisoner said, “You need what I got.” He showed him this booklet and began to tell him about how to be saved.
“That doesn’t sound reasonable.”
“Come to the missionary, and he will tell you.”
He talked to the missionary and was saved. That is the man who interpreted for me that night.
While the missionary was telling me that, the young evangelist was talking in Japanese with his hands held high. The only word I could understand was “Hallelujah!” He rejoiced to meet the man who had written the little booklet that won his friend and him to Christ. My spiritual grandson! Bless God!
Many people curse me now. I preach plain and make people mad. But I’m going to have people who will be glad to see me when I get to Heaven! What a fool anybody is who spends his time making money and on these other things! It is the folly of a shortsighted fool not to win souls.
VII. Not to Win Souls Is the Sin of Bloodguilt—Spiritual Manslaughter
“Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me.
“When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand.
“Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul.”—Ezek. 3:17–19.
If Ezekiel did not warn the Israelites about their iniquity and they died in their sins, God required their blood at his hand. What a staggering thought that God says to a man about sinners, “His blood will I require at thine hand”! But if Ezekiel warned the wicked, even if the wicked did not turn, then God said, “Thou hast delivered thy soul.”
That strange commission was given to Ezekiel for the nation of Israel, but surely it implies that God still holds people to account for the souls of those that they do not warn! Surely we are guilty of the blood of every poor lost soul who goes to Hell if we had a chance to warn him, to weep over him, to woo him tenderly and win him and get him to come to Christ, and we did not!
Paul had this in mind when he came to Miletus and had the elders of Ephesus meet him there. Solemnly facing these preachers, Paul told them that they would see his face no more, and then said, “Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God” (Acts 20:26,27). Then he said again, “Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears” (Acts 20:31).
Paul could solemnly say, ‘After three years in Ephesus, I have no blood on my hands! I have gone night and day with tears, publicly and from house to house, carrying the whole counsel of God. I am not to blame if anybody goes to Hell!’
O Christian, is there blood on your hands? Are you guilty of the death of immortal souls for whom Christ died, because you did not warn them?
When a boat overturned in a Chinese river, a missionary urged some nearby Chinese fishermen to bring their boat quickly and help him rescue a man who was drowning. The fishermen insisted on a price of fifty dollars before they would come. The missionary gave them all he had and at last persuaded them to help him, but it was too late. The callous hearts of the fishermen took no responsibility for their drowning countryman, but they were guilty of murder, as certain as there is a God in Heaven to hold men to account!
But are you much different, Christian, when you let people near you go to Hell and never warn them, weep over them and see that they have the Gospel?
In Roosevelt, Oklahoma, I promised to go see a dying woman who was distressed about her soul. But I waited until the second day, and she died before I ever saw her.
In Dallas, Texas, an elderly man wrote, saying, “I am dying with cancer, and I am not ready to die. Brother Rice, please come and pray with me.” But I had so many burdens that I postponed it. After two weeks I sent a young preacher to visit the old man, but a neighbor told the young preacher that the old man had died and the family were then gone to his funeral!
I hope that in their extremity these two people turned to the Lord, but I have no certainty at all. What will I say to the Lord Jesus when I see Him, if He asks me to give an account for the souls of these two who sent for me and I did not get there in time? The sin of not winning souls is the bloodguilty sin of soul-manslaughter. I beg you in Jesus’ name, consider how guilty you must be in God’s sight if you do not put your very best and all your heart’s strength and love into the one precious business of soul winning!
So, Christian, if you do not win souls, you are not right with God. You may be saved, but you are not a good disciple. If you follow the Saviour at all, you follow afar off.
Consider again this sevenfold sin of failing to win souls. It is the sin of disobedience, of lack of love, of failing to follow Christ, of not abiding in Christ, of dishonesty in a sacred trust, of shortsighted folly, and of bloodguilt for which we must give an account.
May God convict us of our sin in not winning the souls who are dying all around us!
[box]By Dr. John R. Rice
Preached at a Sword of the Lord Conference in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, 1964[/box]