14 I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. 15 So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:14-17)
If you are a true Christian, you want to be a soul winner. Further, you are probably aware of the Great Commission (Mat. 28:18-20).
But did you know that just as Jesus was sent by the Father “to seek and to save that which is lost” (Lk. 19:10), Jesus likewise commissions us to be soul winners? Jesus said, “As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you” (Jn. 20:21). This sending surely involves soul winning!
How does a person become a soul winner? What if a person is timid and shy? What if talking to strangers about the Lord is way outside one’s comfort zone? What practical steps can a person take to become a soul winner?
Let’s explore these questions and seek some Biblical answers. Perhaps the best place to begin is with Romans 1:14-17. According to Paul, there seem to be three indispensable elements necessary to be a soul winner. Let us now consider them.
A Soul-Winner Must Have a Burden for the Lost
“I am debtor” (Rom. 1:14)
How does one become “burdened” for the lost? I think the term “burdened” misguides many people. Isn’t a burden something heavy, something that weighs you down emotionally and spiritually?
The imagery of tears, groans, and heaviness of spirit comes to my mind. For years I prayed for such a burden; and because it did not happen, I figured I must be spiritually defective. I was concerned for the lost but could not manufacture or sustain for any length of time what I thought a burden should be.
Then I read a helpful explanation of what Paul meant by the phrase, “I am debtor both to the Greeks and to the Barbarians, both to the wise, and to the unwise.”
THE EXPLANATION FOR PAUL’S BURDEN: WHY DID HE FEEL INDEBTED?
Every Christian is grateful for his or her salvation. None of us feel that we deserved to be saved or in any way could earn our salvation. It is truly a gift of grace (Eph. 2:8-10). We know and feel our debt to Christ. We owe Him everything!
I had no trouble understanding and feeling this truth. It is this next statement that greatly helped me: “Debt to the Christ who died involves debt to them for whom Christ died.” That one sentence changed my understanding of what it means to have a “burden” for the lost. Being a “debtor” (i.e., having a “burden”) is not primarily a feeling. Rather, it is embracing the concept that we are not saved in a vacuum. We are saved so that we can share the Good News with others. This is what Christ wants us to understand. We are saved so we can tell others of the Christ of Calvary.
“Debt to the Christ who died involves debt to them for whom Christ died.”
That one sentence changed my understanding of what it means to have a “burden” for the lost. Being a “debtor” (i.e., having a “burden”) is not primarily a feeling. Rather, it is embracing the concept that we are not saved in a vacuum. We are saved so that we can share the Good News with others. This is what Christ wants us to understand. We are saved so we can tell others of the Christ of Calvary.
Rather, it is embracing the concept that we are not saved in a vacuum. We are saved so that we can share the Good News with others. This is what Christ wants us to understand. We are saved so we can tell others of the Christ of Calvary.
THE EXTENT OF PAUL’S BURDEN: TO WHOM DID HE FEEL INDEBTED?
When Paul speaks of being debtor to “the Greeks, and to the Barbarians,” he is speaking of all races—those who lived where Greek was spoken and those who lived outside the geographical boundaries and influence of Greek culture and language.
The “wise and the unwise” speaks of all ranks—those educated and those not privileged with education. Jesus died for them all, and debt to Him who died involves debt to them for whom He died. Understanding this, I could echo with Paul, “I, too, am debtor.” In other words, “I do have a burden for the lost.”
A Soul-Winner Must be Bold in Sharing Christ
“I am ready…. I am not ashamed” (Rom. 1:15–16)
“I’m not comfortable sharing my faith with people I don’t know.” “I’m afraid of saying the wrong thing.” “What if my mind goes blank!” “I just don’t know what to say.” These are a few of the intense thoughts and feelings people like me have when they think about soul-winning. The only way I know to get past these barriers is to do what Paul did.
HE EQUIPPED HIMSELF TO KNOW HOW TO SHARE CHRIST
The reason Paul could say that he was ready to share the Gospel (Rom. 1:15) with the people in Rome was because he had made the necessary personal preparation. That is what he means by the statement “so as much as in me is.”
This means that we must do more than pray for the lost. We must learn how to share Jesus with others. The term “ready” speaks of an eager desire. It involves more than a momentary emotional stir.
HE EXPERIENCED THE POWER OF THE GOSPEL
Paul was not ashamed of the Gospel (Rom. 1:16), because it had powerfully transformed his life. What is the Gospel? It is the Good News about Jesus—His birth, His life, His death, His resurrection, and His love for all people.
Paul found the courage to share it with others because he was thoroughly convinced that the Gospel itself is “the power of God unto salvation!” It had changed his life. It had broken the chains of sin that had enslaved him and had made him miserable (Rom. 7:14, 25).
Paul found the courage to share the Gospel with others because he was thoroughly convinced that the Gospel itself is “the power of God unto salvation!”
In like manner, it can change the life of the worst sinner. It is a sufficient Gospel: “to everyone … to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” It is a simple Gospel offered “to every one that believeth.”
Equipping himself to know how to share Christ and personally experiencing the power of the gospel contributed to Paul’s boldness in sharing Jesus with others.
A Soul-Winner Must Have a Biblically Based Belief About How Mankind Becomes Righteous in God’s Eyes
“therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith” (Rom. 1:17)
RIGHTEOUS IN GOD’S EYES
Paul’s belief was based on a revelation from God about how to become righteous in God’s eyes
“For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith” (Rom. 1:17a). The reason the Gospel is God’s saving power is that in it God’s righteousness is revealed. The phrase “righteousness of God” (dikaiosune theo) has traditionally been interpreted in at least three ways:
Some say this refers to God’s divine attribute, that is, His personal righteousness. In other words, the “righteousness of God” is God’s personal character together with his actions (which are in keeping with His character).In Romans, God’s personal righteousness is supremely seen in the cross of Christ. When God presented Jesus as a sacrifice of atonement, He did it “to demonstrate his justice” (dikaiosune, i.e., righteousness, Rom.3:25, repeated in 3:26), and in order that He might be both “just” (righteous) and the “one who justifies” (i.e., declares righteous) those who have saving faith in Jesus (3:26b).
Throughout Romans, Paul is careful to defend the righteous character and behavior of God. Paul is convinced that whatever God does –in salvation (3:25) or in judgment (2:5)—is absolutely consistent with His righteousness. 1
Others say the term refers to God’s divine activity — His saving intervention on behalf of His people. God’s “salvation” and His “righteousness” are frequently coupled in the parallelism of Hebrew poetry.For example, “the LORD has made his salvation known and revealed his righteousness to the nations” (Ps. 98:2; cf. 51:14; 65:5; 71:2, 15; 143:11). Again, God declares: “I am bringing my righteousness near … and my salvation will not be delayed” (Isa. 46:13; cf. 45:8; 51:5f; 56:1; 63:1).
God’s righteousness denotes His loyalty to his covenant promises, in the light of which He may be implored to come to the salvation of His people. 2
Still others say the “righteousness of God” revealed in the Gospel is God’s divine achievement. This view would take the phrase “of God” to refer not to God’s character and activity (a subjective genitive), but to refer to a righteousness from God (an objective genitive—as the NIV renders the phrase in both Rom 1:17 and 3:21).It would therefore refer to a righteous status which God requires if we are ever to stand before Him, which He achieves through the atoning sacrifice of the cross, which He reveals in the Gospel, and which He bestows freely on all who trust in Jesus Christ. 3 Which of these three views is best?
I agree with Stott when he says, “For myself, I have never been able to see why we have to choose, and why all three should not be combined.” It is at one and the same time a quality, an activity, and a gift. 4
Thus the “righteousness of God” speaks of God’s righteous character, His righteous activity, and His righteous gift—justification by faith.
REIGN OF FAITH IN THE BELIEVER’S LIFE
Paul’s belief is inseparably tied to the on-going reign of faith in the believer’s life
“from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith” (1:1b).
The righteousness God bestows on a repentant, believing sinner is secured by faith and sustained by faith. And what is faith? Hebrews 11:6 teaches that faith has three elements:
- Faith believes what God says (He rewards those who seek Him);
- Faith commits to do what God requires (diligently seek Him); and
- Faith trusts in and rests on what God promises (that He will reward those who seek Him).
Until you have completed all three elements you have not exercised Biblical faith. In our next message we will provide step-by-step information on how to share Jesus. Why not begin now by asking the Lord to prepare your heart and mind in order to learn a method of sharing Christ?
Ask Him to increase your courage and to enable you to become a personal soul winner. Remember what Jesus said, “As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you” (Jn. 20:21).
Originally published in God’s Revivalist. Used by permission.
- John Stott, Romans: God’s Good News for the World. (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press), 1994, 62.
- Ibid., 62-63.
- Ibid., 63.