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A sermon written by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr., Pastor Emeritus
and given by Jack Ngann, Pastor
at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Afternoon, February 20, 2022

“When he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them” (Matthew 9:36; p. 1008 Scofield).

The Greek word translated “compassion” means “to feel sympathy, to pity, to be moved with tender-hearted mercy” (Strong). Spurgeon said that this Greek word “is a very remarkable one. It is not found in classic Greek. It is not found in the Septuagint [the Greek translation of the Old Testament]. The fact is, it was a word coined by the evangelists [Matthew, Mark, and Luke] themselves. They did not find [a word] in the whole Greek language that suited their purpose, and therefore they had to make one. It is expressive of the deepest emotion; a striving of the [heart] – a yearning of the innermost nature with pity...[Christ’s] heart was ready to burst with pity for the sorrow upon which his eyes were gazing. He was moved with compassion...for the sufferers before him...If you would sum up the whole character of might be gathered into one sentence, ‘He was moved with compassion on them’” (C. H. Spurgeon, “The Compassion of Jesus,” The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Pilgrim Publications, 1979 edition, volume LX, p. 613; text, Matthew 9:36).

I think I know the reason there was no word to describe “compassion” in the Greek language. The Greco-Roman world didn’t need such a word because it did not feel that emotion. It was a civilization that had degenerated into heartless cruelty. The Apostle Paul described these heathen people as being “without natural affection [unloving], implacable [unforgiving], unmerciful [without compassion]” (Romans 1:31). Unloving, unforgiving, without pity and compassion – that sums up the Greco-Roman world of the first century. Dr. Charles Hodge said, “Dark as the picture here drawn is, it is not so dark as that presented by the most distinguished Greek and Latin authors, of their own countrymen [in the first century]. Commentators have collected a fearful array of passages from the ancient writers, which more than sustain the account [in Romans 1] given by the Apostle” (Charles Hodge, Ph.D., A Commentary on Romans, The Banner of Truth Trust, 1997 edition, p. 43; note on Romans 1:29-31).

In this brief sermon I can only remind you of the heartlessness of the Romans, and their bloody cruelty in the coliseums, where the people cheered in drunken revelry while gladiators, and even small children, were torn to pieces by wild bears and lions. I can only remind you that it was a common practice for these pagans to “expose” newborn infants, leaving thousands of unwanted babies to die in the fields and forests, in a crude form of abortion.

But when Christ came His followers saved many who lived through the cruelty they experienced in the arenas. And it was common for those early Christians to go into the fields and forests to rescue crying babies, left there to die. The compassion of these early Christians was a new thing in the Greco-Roman world of the first century. And it was one of the great features of the new religion that drew tens of thousands of people into the churches. Those early Christians had learned to have compassion from Christ Himself! Now I will bring out two points on soul winning from our text,

“When he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them” (Matthew 9:36; p. 1008).

I. First, to be a soul winner you must feel what Jesus felt.

“Well,” someone says, “that was Jesus. I am not Jesus.” I know you are not Jesus. But I also know, if you are truly converted, you will want to have Him as your model, because he came, “leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps” (I Peter 2:21; p. 1313). Christ is our example. We should try to follow Christ as our model. We should even have the same attitude as Christ. The Apostle Paul said, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5; p. 1258). We should strive to think and feel as Jesus did,

“When he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them” (Matthew 9:36; p. 1008).

Over and over in the synoptic Gospels we read about the compassion of Jesus, His sympathy and pity toward the lost.

“And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them...” (Matthew 14:14; p. 1019).

“Then Jesus called his disciples unto him, and said, I have compassion on the multitude...” (Matthew 15:32; p. 1020).

“So Jesus had compassion on them...” (Matthew 20:34; p. 1027).

“Jesus, moved with compassion” (Mark 1:41; p. 1046).

“And Jesus, when he came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them...” (Mark 6:34; p. 1053).

“I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now been with me three days, and have nothing to eat”
     (Mark 8:2; p. 1055).

“And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not” (Luke 7:13; p. 1082).

When Dr. Hymers was thirteen years old circumstances made it impossible for him to live with his dear mother anymore. Reluctantly his uncle let him stay in his house. But Dr. Hymers did not feel welcome there. Also, the house was full of fighting and arguing. So after school, in the late afternoons, he would go out the back door, walk behind the house, climb over the fence and play with the son of Dr. and Mrs. McGowan, the people next door. As the sun went down Mike and Dr. Hymers would go inside their house to watch TV. Very often Mrs. McGowan would say, “Robert, why don’t you have dinner with us?” Countless times he ate dinner with them in their kitchen. One afternoon Mrs. McGowan said, “Robert, would you like to go with us to the revival meeting tonight?” Dr. Hymers said, “Sure,” and went with them that evening to the First Baptist Church of Huntington Park, California. After that he went with them every Sunday. Dr. Hymers wasn’t saved for several years, but he kept on going to church with them.

Dr. Hymers has said that he would not be a pastor today, nearly 70 years later, if Mrs. McGowan had not fed him dinner and said, “Robert, would you like to go with us to the revival meeting tonight?” No one in our church, including myself, would be here if not for Mrs. McGowan. The compassion that Dr. and Mrs. McGowan had for a lonely, lost thirteen-year-old boy has resulted in three churches being started, many people saved, and these sermons going out to thousands around the world in 46 languages on the Internet, all because of one family’s compassion.

“When he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them” (Matthew 9:36).

Make me a blessing, Make me a blessing,
     Out of my life may Jesus shine;
Make me a blessing, O Saviour, I pray,
     Make me a blessing to someone today.
(“Make Me a Blessing” by Ira B. Wilson, 1880-1950).

Soul winners must feel what Jesus felt. If you feel no compassion, no sympathy or pity for a lost person, there is little chance that you will win him.

II. Second, to be a soul winner you must do what Jesus did.

Jesus didn’t just feel compassion for the lost – He did something about it! The Disciples left Jesus by Jacob’s well in Samaria while they went to buy food. When they got back Jesus was surrounded by Samaritans who were being converted. The Disciples tried to get Jesus to stop and eat. He said He had food already. Jesus said,

“My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work. Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest”
     (John 4:34-35; p. 1119).

When Dr. Hymers was 17 God called him to preach the Gospel. They licensed him to preach at the church in Huntington Park. Dr. Hymers started preaching right away, but he was still lost. He preached a memorized Gospel, but he did not know Christ. God called him to preach before he was saved! Later he moved back with his mother in the Echo Park area of Los Angeles.

Dr. Hymers read a little book about Hudson Taylor, a great pioneer missionary to China. He felt that he should become a missionary to the Chinese. Dr. Hymers joined the First Chinese Baptist Church of Los Angeles in January, 1961. He was 19 years old. He didn’t realize it, but he was still unconverted. There were very few young people his age in the church at that time. It was a very small church then, before Dr. Timothy Lin became the pastor. But Murphy and Lorna Lum, a young couple in the church, made him feel welcome there. They took him out to eat after the evening services, with Mr. Gene Wilkerson. They took him to their home. In the fall Dr. Hymers went to Biola College (now University). Murphy was taking classes at Talbot Seminary, connected with Biola. Dr. Hymers was sitting beside Murphy Lum the morning he got saved, on September 28, 1961.

As Dr. Hymers looks back over more than half a century, he realizes that he would not be a Christian or a pastor today if it had not been for the compassion of Dr. and Mrs. McGowan and Dr. and Mrs. Lum. They cared enough for his soul to help him until he was strong enough in Christ to stand alone. Dr. Hymers can say with great conviction that those four people won his soul for Christ. They didn’t just get him to say a quick “sinner’s prayer,” and then let him go. No, they did much more than that! They cared for his soul! They won his soul by their compassion for a lonely, lost teenager. That’s not “life-style” evangelism. No! That’s Christ-like evangelism! They were kind to him and they helped him stay in church to hear the Gospel preached each Sunday.

Dr. Hymers has continued this example through the years and decades. He has opened his heart and his home, and had compassion on many people, including me. I came to church when I was 18 years old. Now I am 37 and the pastor. I attribute this to the compassion of Dr. and Mrs. Hymers.

“When he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them” (Matthew 9:36).

Dr. John R. Rice said,

The Gospel message naturally requires compassion for the lost...The supreme sacrifice of the Lord Jesus, His dying love, ought to melt our hearts. The story of how the Saviour left Heaven, of His poverty, His humility, His betrayal, His bloody sweat in Gethsemane, His dying agony on the cross, are such themes as cannot be discussed properly except with the deepest moving of the soul. What floodtides of love, of gratitude, of holy surrender, of glad service they awaken in the true believer!...

We hear it frequently said by lost sinners, “There are so many hypocrites in the church.” Well, I am sorry to say that I fear they are right. No doubt there are many hypocrites in the church. One of the twelve Apostles was a hypocrite...Do you know the one thing more than anything else that makes Christians appear like hypocrites?...I believe that unsaved people sense what they do not fully understand nor put into words, that if Christians were what they ought to be...they could not be indifferent about such holy matters as the salvation of sinners. I think that lost sinners everywhere know that if there is a Heaven to gain and a Hell to shun; if death and eternity and salvation and damnation are the themes of such magnitude as the Gospel of Christ teaches, then surely every born-again child of God any price to keep poor, doomed sinners out of Hell! (John R. Rice, D.D., The Golden Path of Successful Personal Soul Winning, Sword of the Lord Publishers, 1961, pp. 123, 124, 125).

Indifference in compassionate soul winning brands church members as hypocrites in the eyes of the world. People sense, “If these church people really believed what they say, they would do more to help others become Christians.” You know they think that! Let us strip away this reproach by loving and caring for the lost people that come into our church each Sunday!

Make me a blessing, Make me a blessing,
     Out of my life may Jesus shine;
Make me a blessing, O Saviour, I pray,
     Make me a blessing to someone today.

This hymn is actually a prayer. May this become the prayer of our own hearts. In Jesus’ name, Amen.