Wisdom of Soul Winning
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Open your Bibles to the book of Proverbs, that portion of the Word of God that we have been studying together for some time. We remind you that we have been studying the second division of the book of Proverbs, known as The Personal Proverbs of Solomon , of which there are three hundred and seventy-five. The record of them begins in chapter 11 and goes through chapter 22, verse 16. We have been looking at these proverbs primarily from the standpoint of principle; that is, we have selected some principle and then have gathered around that principle the other proverbs which will enable us to understand the truth of the series itself.

Of late, we have been selecting the proverbs that are described as texts . These are special verses of Scripture which have been used by ministers down through the ages to convey definite truths. There are not necessarily any other proverbs that would fit in with them, and that is the reason we have been using them as we find them by themselves.

The text to which we invite your attention is Proverbs, chapter 11, verse 30. If we were going to give it a title we would refer to it as the Wisdom of Soul Winning because we read in this verse:

Proverbs 11:

30 The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise.

Because the verse is short, I would like to read it again that the words might slip deep into our minds. Notice again:

Proverbs 11:

30 The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise.

If you were to examine this verse of Scripture in all of the many renderings which are made available to you, you would find scarcely any two of them rendering the verse the same. The reason for that is that it is difficult to give the full sense of the verse in any one rendering because there is much more involved in this simple statement than appears on the surface. However, I think there are two renderings which pretty well convey the idea, particularly if you consider the first part of one rendering and the last part of another. We offer the renderings to you before we have a discussion of the actual words of the text because we want them to stay with you.

The Living Bible presents the truth this way: “Godly men are growing a tree that bears life, and all who win souls are wise.” In this rendering we are interested in the first part of the verse: “Godly men are growing a tree that bears life…” That is of interest because of the reference to the tree of life within this verse itself. As you have read the verse, have you stopped to consider why the Spirit of God would say, “The fruit of righteous is a tree of life,” not is as , but “is a tree of life, and he that winneth souls is wise.”?

The New American Standard version presents the verse this way: “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who is wise wins souls.” We are interested in this rendering because of the last statement. The King James version says, “He that winneth souls is wise,” and that places the emphasis in the wrong area. The New American Standard places it where it should be: “…and he that is wise wins souls.”

The significance of that, I trust, will become more evident as we go along in our discussion, but I think it would be wise for us to recognize what is said in this verse and elsewhere concerning the tree of life. It is mentioned three more times in the book of Proverbs in addition to the verse at which we are looking: Proverbs, chapter 3, verse 18; Proverbs, chapter 13, verse 12; Proverbs, chapter 15, verse 4. In addition to its being found in the book of Proverbs, it is found in the book of Genesis, chapter 3, verses 22-24; Revelation, chapter 2, verse 7; Revelation, chapter 22, verse 2. The references which I have given you, plus the one we are considering as a text, reminds us that the tree of life is referred to eight times in the Scripture.

I have referred you time and time again to the law of first mention , which should always be kept in mind when you are studying the Word of God. The law of first mention simply states that the manner in which a certain thing is mentioned the first time in the Bible determines its significance every other time that it is mentioned in the Word of God.

The first time that you have the tree of life mentioned in the Bible is in Genesis, chapter 3, verse 22. You recall the incident. Adam and Eve had sinned. God cast them out of the Garden of Eden, but not for punishment. Their punishment is described in the book of Genesis. He did not cast them out of the Garden of Eden for punishment; He cast them out of the Garden of Eden as an act of mercy, for we are told in Genesis, chapter 3, verse 22, that had they remained in the Garden of Eden, they would have eaten of the tree of life and would have lived forever. It would have been a sad thing indeed if we, in our fallen state, as was Adam, in his fallen state, could not die, or if we did not have the hope of the Lord to return.

None of us look forward to death particularly, and most, if not all, of us are grieved at the time the death angel visits and takes any of our loved ones, but, Beloved, death in itself is a mercy. If we had to live in these bodies that begin their march to the grave as soon as they are born and live in these bodies eternally, we would be of all men most miserable. That is what would have happened had Adam and Eve eaten of the tree of life. From this, you can see that the significance of the tree of life is that it is to be the source of hope and of life.

Look back at Proverbs, chapter 11, verse 30, and recognize the reason that the Holy Spirit of God is pleased to say what He said. We read:

Proverbs 11:

30 The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise.

Wisdom is a Tree of Life

If we wanted to be very literal, we could say that the righteous man is the only man in the world who has the source of hope. The righteous man is the only man in the world who has the source of life. I would like to verify that by calling your attention to what is mentioned in the three places in the book of Proverbs in which the tree of life is mentioned. Notice, please, Proverbs, chapter 3, verse 18:

Proverbs 3:

18 She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her: and happy is every one that retaineth her.

Who is a tree of life? Read the verse in its context and you find that wisdom is a tree of life, and wisdom, as it is presented in the Word of God, is doctrine. The plain teaching of the Word of God is a tree of life. The teaching of the Word of God is the hope and the source of all life.

Fulfilled Hope is a Way of Life

Turn to Proverbs, chapter 13, verse 12, and notice another reference which verifies what I am saying to you:

Proverbs 13:

12 Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life.

This passage of Scripture emphasizes that fulfilled hope is a tree of life. Hope that is fulfilled is a source of life. That is the reason our redemption purchased upon Calvary's cross is not complete. Oh, yes, the work is done, and you cannot add one item to it; but it is not complete, and it will not be complete until these bodies in which we live are redeemed, for, “This vile body,” said the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Philippians, “must put on immortality.” They must be changed and must be made like unto the body of Christ. Until that is done, hope is deferred; but hope fulfilled is indeed a tree of life.

A Wholesome Tongue is a Tree of Life

Notice the third reference, which we find in Proverbs, chapter 15, verse 4, to verify what we are saying to you:

Proverbs 15:

4 A wholesome tongue is a tree of life: but perverseness therein is a breach in the spirit.

A wholesome tongue, as we are going to see further in our discussion, is a tongue that speaks the truth about eternal life. So a wholesome tongue is indeed a tree of life because a wholesome tongue has in its power the hope and the source of all life. It is in the power of your tongue to give the hope of eternal life. With that statement you will understand why, if you go back to Proverbs, chapter 11, verse 30, the tree of life is so closely related to the matter of winning souls. We read again:

What Kind of Tree are You?

Proverbs 11:

30 The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise.

We look again at the first phrase of The Living Bible translation that we brought to your attention at the very beginning of our discussion: “Godly men are growing a tree that bears life.” What kind of tree are you growing? Perhaps, more accurately, what kind of tree are you? It is interesting to see how the Word of God dovetails together both the Old Testament and the New Testament. Here is Solomon giving us this emphasis, and in the Gospel of Matthew, the Lord Jesus Christ presents the same truth in exactly the same way. It might be wise for us to turn to the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 7. The Lord Jesus speaks, in verse 15:

Matthew 7:

15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.
18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

Notice the difference: a good tree and an evil tree; good fruit and bad fruit. What is the fruit? Quite often we have drifted into the habit of assuming that the fruit of a good tree is the souls that are won to Christ; but if you look at the verse closely in its context, beginning with verse 15, you would find such an interpretation could not be true, for there you read:

Matthew 7:

15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.

False prophets win their converts by their false message. True prophets win their converts by a true message, so the fruit that we bear does not represent the souls that we win, but rather the message that we give. Godly men are growing a tree. What kind of fruit is that tree producing? If there is a tree of life within you, the power, the source of eternal life—not in the sense that you humanly are responsible for it, but that you humanly are able to convey it—what kind of success are you having in conveying the truth?

He Who is Wise Wins Souls

We would like to call to your attention the last statement of The New American Standard version, which reads: “…and he who is wise wins souls.” We call your attention to that rendering because we believe that it puts the emphasis on the right place. The King James text would have you believe that winning souls would make you wise, but that is not so. He who is wise wins souls. I trust that you are letting the emphasis sink deep into your hearts, for if you are, you recognize immediately that we are not talking about whether you want to win souls or whether you can win souls. We are emphasizing the fact that the wise man wins souls.

Listen carefully: The wise man must be interpreted in light of the context of the book of Proverbs, as must the foolish man be interpreted. When we speak of a wise man in the book of Proverbs, we are not speaking of a man with a high degree of intelligence; we are not speaking of a man who has a great ability in learning; rather, we are speaking in the terms of the context, suggesting to you that a wise man is a surrendered, saved man—a saved man in fellowship.

The wise man and the foolish man are presented in the book of Proverbs, as you have learned, and they are compared and contrasted. The foolish man is the rebellious, unsaved man. Whenever you see the word wise and the word fool in the book of Proverbs, you will want to keep that in mind. We could say, in the light of what we have suggested to you, “…he who is saved wins souls. He who is a Christian wins souls. He who has been regenerated wins souls.”

I am emphasizing that purposely because, Beloved, if you are not interested in winning souls, then you are inconsistent with the very purpose of your redemption. If some of you have good memory, and if you have paid very much attention to the things that I have said from time to time, you probably are saying, “I am a bit confused because I believe I heard you say one time that the Bible nowhere commands you to win souls.” I did say that. Perhaps you are saying, “I believe I heard you say one time that no believer ought to count converts because no believer has actually ever made a convert. Now, isn't what you are saying in the book of Proverbs, chapter 11, verse 30, inconsistent with those statements?” My answer is, no. It isn't inconsistent if you consider with me the word winneth . “He that winneth souls is wise.”

If I were to ask you to give me the meaning of the word winneth , I suppose that there would be a great many suggestions as to its meaning, and I am sure that somebody would say that it means to make a convert, or it means to convert somebody to Christ. I would like for you to notice with me that the word winneth comes from the Hebrew word laqach , which is translated by the word bring , which is translated by the word mingle , which is translated by the word seize . Each of these words describes methods which are used as effective means of witnessing.

We have some Scripture references. The Scripture references we present to you are not presented with the idea that you will find this word laqach in any of these references because you recognize that the references are from the New Testament, and the word that we have given you is a Hebrew word. As you know, the New Testament is written in Greek, not in Hebrew, but we offer you these references as illustrations of what the real meaning of the word win actually is.

Turn to the Gospel of John, chapter 1. You will recall that John the Baptist with his disciples pointed out the Lord Jesus Christ in the words we read in verse 29:

John 1:

29 The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.

The disciples who were following John ceased to follow him and began to follow the Lord Jesus Christ, and they wanted to go home with the Lord Jesus Christ and learn everything they could from Him and about Him, and that they did. So wonderful were the things that they learned that they could not contain themselves, so we notice in verse 40:

John 1:

40 One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother.
41 He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ.
42 And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone.

You will notice in verse 42: “…he brought him to Jesus.” When you win a soul, what do you do? You bring him to Jesus, for He is the only One who is able to save. Beloved, may I remind you that if you don't bring him to Jesus, all of your efforts are in vain. Oh, it is all right to bring him to church, hoping that in church he will hear the Gospel; but it is rather foolish to wait until Sunday to bring him to church, when you could bring him to Jesus right there where you are—in your car, in or at your work, or at your table. That is the reason you need to be well grounded in the Word of God, lest you take him somewhere else than to Jesus.

Turn with me to the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 9, and notice an illustration of another meaning of this word win . What does it mean to win a soul to Christ? It means to mingle with those who are unsaved that you might win them to Christ. Notice verse 10:

Matthew 9:

10 And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples.
11 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?
12 But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.

Why is Jesus mingling with the publicans and the sinners? The answer was that those were the people who needed Him. Beloved, it is important for you—and I shouldn't have to say this to you—to study the Word. It is important for you to see that people get under the sound of the Word, but remember, you will not find the sinners in the church and you will not find them willingly coming to Bible classes. You will find them where they are, and if you would show yourself a friend to them more often than some of us do, you might be able to bring them to Jesus.

One other meaning of this word that I think is worthy of our consideration is found in the epistle of Jude, that brief little book that comes just before the book of Revelation. Notice verse 21:

Jude:

21 Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.

Keep in fellowship. Keep looking for the Lord, and then spend your time winning souls. Don't try to win them all the same way. Notice verse 22:

Jude:

22 And of some have compassion, making a difference:
23 And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.

Notice the phrase: “…pulling them out of the fire…” The picture is literally seizing them and snatching them quickly. There are some folk with whom you will be able to have some empathy and show some real compassion and spend a lot of time with. There are others with whom you will not be able to spend that amount of time, and it would be very unwise if you did. You need to snatch them out of the fire, lest you yourself become involved in the thing that is bringing them to eternal damnation.

“He that winneth souls is wise.” You see, there is a great deal more involved in winning souls than simply giving a testimony, and certainly no one could claim that he has the responsibility for any convert in the light of what I have suggested to you.

I would like to take a few moments with you and look at a few other proverbs which, if we make the spiritual application related to them, emphasize other things related to the matter of winning souls. You do understand that the book of Proverbs is an earthly book, and the proverbs that we call to your attention could have an application other than a spiritual one, but we call these to your attention because we believe that the best way to consider them is to relate them to the matter of the wise man who is winning souls because he is wise. The responsibility of the wise is to win souls as is verified by what you read in Proverbs, chapter 13, verse 17:

Proverbs 13:

17 A wicked messenger falleth into mischief: but a faithful ambassador is health.

The first part of that verse is not as happy a translation as it might be. The Amplified Version presents it in these words: “A true witness saves lives, but a deceitful witness speaks lies and endangers lives.”

The Living Bible suggests: “An unreliable messenger can cause a lot of mischief. Reliable communication permits progress.” I would have you think, especially now, about the statement, “an unreliable messenger can cause a lot of mischief…” It is your responsibility to win souls, but be sure that you are a reliable witness before you begin. If it is your responsibility to win souls, then it is your responsibility to absorb that truth which will make you a reliable witness.

A True Witness Saves Lives

Further responsibility is indicated in Proverbs, chapter 14, verse 25:

Proverbs 14:

25 A true witness delivereth souls: but a deceitful witness speaketh lies.

Here the Amplified rendering would be the better: “A true witness saves lives, but a deceitful witness speaks lies and endangers lives.”

Would you accept it if I said that some people, in their efforts to win men to Christ, do more harm than they do good? That is what this verse says: “…a witness who speaks lies endangers lives.” You may say, “I certainly would not dream of lying to anybody.” Perhaps not. You wouldn't dream of telling a falsehood deliberately; but could it be that you are so careless about your preparation for this responsibility to which we have made reference that you are speaking lies and thus endangering the lives of those to whom you witness?

I know what is usually said when I make a statement such as this: “Well, if I believed that, I would never open my mouth for Christ,” or “How can you ever be sure that you ever ought to say anything for the Lord Jesus Christ?”

Beloved, you are begging the question. It is not your responsibility to say whether I am ready; it is your responsibility to get ready. The reason a great many people today say something similar to what I have just repeated is that they don't want to apply themselves to learn the reason for the truth of the Word of God which they should be ministering.

Ignorance of the Unsaved

There is another proverb that speaks of the importance of the wise man discharging his responsibility. It is related to the ignorance of the unsaved. The unsaved man is a horribly ignorant man in relation to spiritual things. That is why you read in Proverbs, chapter 16, verse 25:

Proverbs 16:

25 There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.

One translation suggests: “There is a way that seems right and appears straight to the unsaved, but the end thereof is the end of all the ways that are wrong.” Because the unsaved man is ignorant of the way of eternal life, it is the responsibility of every believer to use the wholesome tongue that God has given and present the way of life.

The Righteous Man Seeks the High Tower

I want to give two alternatives which are suggested here in the book of Proverbs for that ignorant, unsaved man that you may present to him, and this would be one of the ways that you could bring him to Jesus. The first one is found in chapter 18, verse 10:

Proverbs 18:

10 The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.

This does not mean the righteous man runs. It means he is righteous because he has run. The man who has run into this tower is safe. In the day in which this was written, the only safe place a person could be from his enemy was in a high tower, the walls of which were unscalable; so the Spirit of God said that the name of Jesus is that high tower, for it is the name of the Lord Jehovah, the name of Jesus, the name at which every knee shall bow, the name above every name.

The Man Who Rejects Truth Passes on to Punishment

I speak of alternatives. Notice what is recorded in chapter 22, verse 3:

Proverbs 22:

3 A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished.

A wise man, a man who is willing to believe the truth of the Word of God, a man who is willing to accept God's message of salvation, hides himself in the high tower to which we have made reference; but the simple man, the man who rejects the truth of God's Word, has but one other alternative and that is to pass on and be punished, for believe me, punishment awaits at the end of the road.

Conclusion

May I remind you that you are a tree of life. You have the hope and the source of life for all men, and may I remind you that you who are wise have the responsibility of winning souls. I would ask you, how you are discharging that responsibility?


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