What Shall Man Profit
Dr. Joe Temple


We are going to consider another question which demands an answer. Some time ago we began thinking about these questions which demand answers. These are not questions related to Bible information that you might turn to a certain chapter and verse and find the answer. They are questions which are found in the Word of God, but questions which are more related to life and responsibility than they are to biblical information.

The question which we are going to consider with you today is found in Matthew, chapter 16. As you turn to that portion of the Word of God, let me say to you that I have given serious thought and prayer as to whether or not we should even consider this question. It is a favorite text for evangelists, and I don't say that critically. It is a favorite text for nearly every preacher. Consequently, nearly everybody has heard some discussion of the passage.

If you have, then I hope you will have good groundwork for what we are going to say to you today and even be more alert to what the Spirit of God would have to say to you in a new fashion. If you have not heard any discussion along this line, then certainly you need to hear it, because the question which we are considering today which demands an answer is certainly one of great importance.

Glance at verse 26:

Matthew 16:

26 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

Notice the words carefully again. Fix the question firmly in your mind so that we will all know exactly what we are talking about:

Matthew 16:

26 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

At the very outset, let me point out to you that the question is a two-pronged one. The first thrust of the question measures profit against loss in regard to the soul: “What shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?”

The second thrust of the question deals with the pricelessness of the soul itself, and I daresay that most of us have not fully considered the pricelessness of the soul. Notice what I am saying—the pricelessness of the soul.

A.T. Robertson said that the soul had no price in the market even though the Devil thinks it does, and that is well put, for oftentimes we try to value the soul in various ways when really it is beyond all value and beyond all price.

I think it would be helpful for us if we notice a bit about the context in which the question is found because we will be better able to understand the question if we notice the context, so let us glance at chapter 16 without attempting to read all of the chapter, just pointing out several facts that are contained therein.

Resurrection is Sufficient Proof

You will recall that in the first part of the chapter, the Pharisees were asking for a sign concerning the authenticity of the claims of Christ that He was the Son of God. The Lord Jesus Christ answered and said, “There will no signs be given to you or anyone else save the sign of the prophet Jonah.” Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so will Jesus Christ be three days and three nights in the earth.

It is interesting for us to seek signs of the proof of the deity of Christ, but after all, we need only one and that is that Christ died and Christ arose again. The Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ is sufficient proof that He is the Son of God. I repeat, though it may be interesting to find various things that prove that He was, it isn't important at all—for example, the Shroud of Turin. I don't know whether that was the shroud in which Christ was wrapped. I don't know whether anybody else knows. I don't know whether they ever will know, but it makes very little difference to me. It doesn't prove a thing. The Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ is the only sign that is needed that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

Then the Lord Jesus Christ took His disciples across the sea for a little session alone with them, and a little later when they came into the coast of Caesarea Philippi, down in the paragraph which begins with verse 13, He asked His disciples:

Matthew 16:

13 …Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?

They made various suggestion as to who He was, and finally in verse 16:

Matthew 16:

16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.

Jesus answered and said, “Peter, this is not a revelation of your own; this is a revelation from God. I am going to build My Church on the testimony that you have given that Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God.” After that declaration, in verse 21, we are told:

Matthew 16:

21 From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.

Because the disciples had the materialistic interpretation of the Kingdom of Heaven in their minds, that was a thought abhorrent to them. Why should the Lord Jesus Christ be killed? He had come to be King, and they protested mightily about that. Peter, speaking more outwardly than the others, said, “You are not going to do it. You are not going to go there to die.”

The Lord Jesus Christ said, “Satan, you get behind Me because these things are contrary to the will of God. You cannot expect Me to do that which belongs to Satan.” Peter uttered the words; Satan inspired the words; the Lord Jesus Christ said, “I must do the thing that God wants Me to do.” Then down in verse 24, the Lord Jesus Christ said:

Matthew 16:

24 …If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

Do you see what He is saying? “You don't like what I have just suggested to you, but I want you to know that if you are going to follow Me, you must take up your cross and follow Me.” Then comes the statement:

Matthew 16:

25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.

Then, the question. Here is the challenge: “Take up the cross and follow Me. If you try to avoid it, you are going to lose everything. If you lose everything, if that is necessary in taking up your cross to follow Me, then really you will gain everything.”

In the light of that statement:

Matthew 16:

26 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

On the surface, this question would seem to be a hypothetical one because actually no one could gain the whole world. Yet, it becomes more than a hypothetical question if we keep in mind that the whole world, in our text, is not a reference to geographical territory; it is not a reference to someone's gaining control over all the world's vast expanse. The world here is a translation of the Greek word kosmos , which describes the world system. That brings it down home to us a bit more closely. It makes it even something practical to consider; for example, I know that I would never be able to gain the world, not even a small part of the world, but I know from experiences past and present that I can become involved in the world system, and I know from experience past and present that I can become involved in this kosmos which makes its inroads upon every life.

You hear today of peer pressure and you are told that one of the reasons that our young people are unable to stand true to the things they have been taught is the peer pressure with which they are faced. This is what I am talking about. Even though you and I, for whatever reason and by whatever means, seem to find a very good place in the world system, we must consider what the profit will be if we gain that place and lose our own soul in the process.

Turn with me, please, to I John, chapter 2, and notice verse 15. This verse of Scripture describes the world system to which I have just made reference. In verse 15, the exhortation is:

I John 2:

15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

Here John is issuing the very same warning, facing us with the very same question with which the Lord Jesus Christ faced us in the Gospel of Matthew. Notice verse 16:

I John 2:

16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.

Lust of the Flesh

What did the Lord Jesus Christ have in mind when He said, “You must be careful that you do not get so involved in the world that you lose your soul.”? He was talking about those things which are described by these three phrases in this particular verse of Scripture—the lust of the flesh, the desires of the flesh.

It is well to keep in mind that the word lust does not have exclusively a meaning or connotation of that which is evil. It certainly can include that which is evil, but it includes desire as well. Oftentimes individuals desire something and want it badly enough that they completely forget their responsibilities to God and to Christ and pursue that particular desire at the expense of their soul.

I would like for us to pause long enough right here to inject something that you might include in your thinking. I hope that you will not be confused by what I say, but when you noticed the word life back in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 16, verse 25, and the word soul in verse 26, you must recognize that the word soul and the word life are the translation of the same Greek word, to the extent that some of the newer translations have placed in their margins a number that when you look at it, you will find the words soul life , indicating that it is difficult to determine exactly why the words soul and life, coming from the same word was at one time considered soul and another time considered life .

The reason for that does not bother me, but the thing that I think we must take into consideration, which we don't often do, is that the life and the soul are involved in our relationship to Jesus Christ, and though you have received the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, when you are out of fellowship, you may do some of the things to which we have made reference and will make reference. Whether you should feel this way or not, your reaction is, “I am not going to lose my soul over that. I am saved and that is not going to send me to Hell.”

Thank God for the security of the believer. Thank God for it, but wait just a moment. Though you may not lose your soul in the practice of some of these things, you could well lose your life, not only in the sense that God disciplines His disobedient child and takes his life, but in the sense that your whole life could be ruined because you failed to follow that which God has planned for you. So when we ask the question, “What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and ruin his whole life?”, we are thinking of something that is vital for every one of us to consider. When we come to I John, chapter 2, verse 16, and recognize that in gaining the whole world, we could be gaining a place in the world's system because we desire something that we do not necessarily need, which is not necessarily in God's plan and purpose in our life, but we will have it whether or not.

Lust of the Eye

Look again here in I John, chapter 2, verse 16—the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eye. Here again, though the word lust does include that which is evil, it includes far more than that. Many people sit in comfort today when we mention the lust of the eye and say, “I have never looked upon a member of the opposite sex to lust after them so I am not particularly concerned.” Remember, there is much that meets your eye besides members of the opposite sex. Remember that the lust of the eye brings before your mind a wide range of vision, and there are many folk who look upon things and desire them and will to have them regardless of what the cost may be.

The Pride of Life

The third thing that is mentioned here in verse 16 is the pride of life . How many people are there today who are on their way to losing their soul because of pride? How many people are there today who have heard the truth of God's Word and know what God wants them to do but because of pride are going to take those steps which result eventually in the loss of their life?

The Bible speaks of three areas in which men have to fight this battle—three areas which may cause men to lose their own lives. This is what the Lord Jesus Christ had in mind in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 9, verse 26. The Lord Jesus Christ said:

Luke 9:

26 For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father's, and of the holy angels.

“For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words….” Individuals will lose their lives, will lose their souls in order to gain recognition of the world. Pause for a brief moment and ask yourself this question: “How often have I remained silent so that the world would approve of me? How often have I entered into various things so that the world would approve of me?”

You carry that further in your thinking and recognize that God says in His Word that there will come a time when He will be ashamed of those of us who are ashamed of Him. Many individuals, because they want the recognition of this world and the approval of this world, are not willing to endure the shame of the Cross.

Turn with me, please, to the book of Hebrews, chapter 12, as I remind you, today, that the Cross, in our thinking, does not bear the reproach that it did at one time. We have managed to wear crosses around our necks and other parts of our bodies and we have made some beautiful pieces in the form of a cross, and we don't think of it as the Word of God describes it symbolically to be, but when in Hebrews, chapter 12, we are encouraged to run the race well we are told, in verse 2:

Hebrews 12:

2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him [notice carefully now] endured the cross…

There is nothing pleasant about the Cross, but notice the added phrase:

Hebrews 12:

2 …despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

“Despising the shame…” We cannot escape it. There is a shame related to the Cross and of course, at the moment, you should know that I am not talking about the emblem. I am talking about that for which it stands. How many times have people disassociated themselves with a little group of Christian people and gone to another group of Christian people where the shame of the Cross has somehow been covered over? How often in individual relationships have you and I refused to have to suffer the shame of the Cross and have even changed our friends and ignored our friends so the shame of the Cross might not be endured?

Turn to II Timothy, chapter 1, and notice verse 16. You will recall that in this letter to Timothy, the Apostle Paul is giving him some personal messages concerning some individual friends. In verse 16, he said:

II Timothy 1:

16 The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus; for he oft refreshed me, [notice this] and was not ashamed of my chain:

Let's do a little heart-searching. Are we ashamed of some believers, the condition which they are in because of their relationship to Jesus Christ? In the verse prior to the one we have just read, Onesiphorus stayed while others left because they simply would not ally themselves with the Apostle Paul and bear the reproach that was his because of his relationship to Jesus Christ.

Don't let us get away from the question, “What shall it profit a man if he shall gain the recognition of the world for himself, but in the process lose his own life?”

A Relative Consideration

There is another area in which the question must be considered and it is a matter of a relative consideration. Just as certainly as men lose their lives in trying to gain the recognition of the world, men lose their lives in trying to gain the riches of the world. I say this is relative because how rich is rich? There are individuals who have in their possession untold wealth. They are not wedded to it. They are not tied down to it. In the grace and providence of God, it has been made available to them. There are other people who couldn't begin to talk about wealth, but are so wrapped up in what they have that they have fallen prey to the riches of the world.

Turn, please, to Luke, chapter 18, as I suggest to you that even though you may not have a great deal of money, you can be so wedded to it that you will give your life for it. There are individuals so bent on making their way in the world financially that they literally lose their lives in the process.

Do not sit back and say, “That does not apply to me because I don't have that much.” It isn't a matter of how much you have; it is a matter of how you feel about what you have. Luke, chapter 18, verse 22, is the climax to the story of the rich, young ruler who came to the Lord seeking what he might do to please Him, and everything that the Lord Jesus Christ has said to him, he could readily say, and I believe honestly, “All these things I have done from my youth up.” Then we read in verse 22:

Luke 18:

22 Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.

We will not belabor the point. This passage of Scripture certainly does not suggest that you can buy your way into Heaven. Wealth was standing between what God wanted this man to do and what he would do. Notice verse 23:

Luke 18:

23 And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich.
24 And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, he said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!
25 For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

What is He saying? “If you are rich, you have to go to Hell.”? No, what He is saying is that if your whole life is wrapped up in material things, regardless of the extent of those material things, then you are well on the way to losing your life and perhaps even losing your soul.

It is a rather foolish thing, I think, for us to be so involved with material possessions that we lose our lives entertaining them. Notice what is recorded in the book of Proverbs, chapter 23. May I remind you that there are husbands and fathers who are pursuing the quest of material goods, and when they have attained them, they have lost their life. They have lost their life in the sense that their families are ruined. The relationship with their children is gone and they have nothing really upon which they can depend.

Likewise, there are mothers who want additional comfort at home and leave the home where they ought to be in the pursuit of what they want—to gain material things. In the process, they lose their home and lose their life. Foolish? Yes, oh so very foolish because here in Proverbs, chapter 23, verse 4, you have the exhortation:

Proverbs 23:

4 Labour not to be rich: cease from thine own wisdom.
5 Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven.

Isn't it interesting that some of the things that we want, some of the things that we work so hard for, some of the things that we decide we are going to have, when we get them, we really don't have them? No sooner than we have laid our hands upon them than they take wings and fly away. What is our question? “What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?”

Refuge from Suffering and Death

There is another area in which men could well lose their lives, their souls—all that they have stood for—because they seek refuge from suffering and from death. How often when you knew that your stand for Jesus Christ was going to involve suffering have you had at least a momentary thought, “I don't believe I can do it. I don't believe I can manage that,” and you think you will just keep quiet about your faith in Christ?

No one, at least in my acquaintance, has ever been faced with death because of their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, but if you gain refuge from death by denying the Lord, by refusing to accept all that is involved in the Cross, what have you gained?

Let me say that I believe that the time will come when judgment most certainly will begin at the house of God as Peter has suggested in his first epistle. I don't know when that will be, but I am not at all going to be surprised when it comes. This I know: Individuals who have refused to receive the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior will remain on this earth for a period of time that is called the Tribulation . In Revelation, chapter 13, verses 16-17, we are told that during that period of time, individuals will try to save their lives by seeking refuge from death. When that passage of Scripture is compared with Revelation, chapter 20, verse 4, we will find that during this period of time that is coming upon this earth, men who do stand up for Christ, men who do let folk know where their faith lies, will be beheaded. The guillotine will be the official means of execution. Men may live during the Tribulation for a time by denying their Lord, but what will they have gained?

The question is “What shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?” I beg of you today to give careful consideration to your manner of life and see if perhaps you have slipped into the rut which so many have slipped of gaining the world. Then look on the other side of the ledger and see if perchance in the process of gaining what is so valuable in your eyes at the moment, you are actually losing your life and perhaps losing your soul.

Pricelessness of the Soul

I said there were two thrusts to the question, two prongs—one in the matter of profit and loss which we have discussed with you. Now I want you to think with me about the pricelessness of the soul. You remember how the question read in Matthew, chapter 16, verse 26:

Matthew 16:

26 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? [That is what we have been talking to you about, but we now have the second thrust of the question.] or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

“What shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” I do not believe that most of us keep constantly before us the pricelessness of the soul. I think if we did, we would have a greater burden for those who do not know Jesus Christ. We would be greatly more concerned than we are that folk have not received Him. Certainly we would bow humbly before our God and express our great gratitude to Him for the redemption of our soul.

You recall what the Apostle Peter said in I Peter, chapter 1, verses 18-19:

I Peter 1:

18 Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers;
19 But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:

Silver and gold, in the mind of the Apostle Peter, at least at that time, was the most valuable thing he could think of, and he said, “We are not redeemed with the most valuable thing that can come to the minds of men, but we are redeemed with the precious blood of Christ.” What is he saying? Think, if you will, about the most valuable thing known to men and recognize that there is no way that that can pay for a soul.

Turn with me, please, to Psalm 49, as there the Spirit of God sums up what I am saying to you in words that are very simple and very definite and puts all men to silence if they have even the faintest thought that they can do something relative to the redemption of their soul. Notice the paragraph which begins with verse 6:

Psalm 49:

6 They that trust in their wealth, and boast themselves in the multitude of their riches;
7 None of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him:

Pause there and recognize the most important person on this planet is helpless to help you. How often we turn to men instead of God. The most important, powerful leader on this earth is helpless to help you. Then will you notice in verse 8:

Psalm 49:

8 (For the redemption of their soul is precious, and it ceaseth for ever:)

That verse in the King James translation does not convey all of the thrust that it might, so let me remind you of how the Amplified translation presents it: “For the ransom of their life is too costly and the price they can pay can never suffice.” Whatever they pay, it just will not get the job done.

Then a paraphrase: “For the soul is far too precious to be ransomed by mere earthly wealth. There is not enough of it in all the earth to buy eternal life for just one soul to keep it out of hell.”

What shall it profit you today if you gain all those things that you want and in the process lose your life? Christians, think carefully about your life. Review your manner of life and try to arrive at the correct place that God would have you by asking yourself how much emphasis, how much time, how much real energy am I putting into that which is material instead of that which is spiritual?

If you are here today without the Lord Jesus Christ, you need to well heed the question, “What will it profit you if you continue on in your way without Jesus Christ and gain the whole world and lose your own soul?” What do you think you could give in exchange for your soul?


That the Word of God will continue to have free course throughout the world and that God will continue to raise up believers to carry on His work. Our prayer is to have the Word of God available to any who are seeking it, and as believers, it is our responsibility to help make it available to others. If you are convinced that Dr. Joe Temple's and Tim Temple's expositions of the Bible are worthwhile, let your friends and neighbors know about it. We will be happy to put them on our mailing list at their request.

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