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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, January 28, 2024

“The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise” (Proverbs 11:30; p. 680 Scofield).

It seems to me that the key word in the second half of the text is “winneth.” If you understand what “winneth” means the rest of the verse unfolds naturally. Dr. Strong points out that the Hebrew word translated “winneth” is “laqach.” It means “to bring in,” to “draw in,” to “receive.”

I really hate to criticize men that I quote favorably on other matters, but it seems to me that some of the commentators miss the meaning of this verse because they do not focus on the main word “winneth.” Dr. Ryrie, whom I greatly respect, says, “Not winning to salvation in this context, but attracting others and imparting to them wisdom” (Ryrie Study Bible; note on Proverbs 11:30). So, he separates “winning to salvation” from “attracting others and imparting to them wisdom.” But what is “winning to salvation” if not that? Attracting people and imparting to them wisdom concerning Christ is winning them to salvation! I don’t see how you can separate the two like that! Again, Dr. McGee, whom I also greatly respect, in his note on this verse, says, “Today a great deal of attention is being given to personal witnessing. That is good” (Thru the Bible; comment on Proverbs 11:30). But Proverbs 11:30 doesn’t say anything about “personal witnessing.” There is no word here about “personal witnessing” or any other kind of “witnessing.” The text says, “he that winneth souls is wise.” It is not talking about “witnessing” but rather about “winning,” that is “bringing in,” “drawing in,” “receiving.” I think the problem of Dr. Ryrie and Dr. McGee on this verse is that they were not Baptists. They did not have the Baptist view of the importance of the local church. If you interpret this Old Testament text in the light of New Testament teaching on the centrality of the local church, the verse is easy to understand. “He that winneth souls” is the person who “brings in,” “draws in,” and “receives” lost sinners in the local church. This is made clear in Acts 2:47,

“And the Lord added to the church [at Jerusalem] daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47; p. 1152).

I take it, then, that our text refers to those whom the Lord uses to win souls by drawing them into, and receiving them into the local church.

“The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise” (Proverbs 11:30).

Let us consider the negative side – what soul winning is not; and then we will consider the positive side – what soul winning is.

I. First, what soul winning is not.

It is not witnessing. I am not against witnessing at all. I am simply saying that this verse does not speak of witnessing. It is good to give your testimony, and it is often helpful for the lost to hear a real Christian testimony. But Proverbs 11:30 is not talking about witnessing or giving one’s testimony. Instead, it says, “he that winneth souls is wise.”

Again, winning souls does not refer to passing out tracts. I am not against passing out tracts. Not at all. I am simply saying that Proverbs 11:30 is not talking about tract passing. Sometimes Christian people use tract passing as an alibi, as an excuse, for not doing the much harder and more difficult work of soul winning.

“The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise” (Proverbs 11:30).

Yet again, winning souls does not refer to going door to door and praying the “sinner’s prayer” with lost people. In my opinion this has often done more harm than good. Many people have a false hope that they are saved because someone has led them in a prayer like this. I don’t see the basis for it in the New Testament. Where is the “sinner’s prayer”? It seems to me that this comes out of Finney’s thought rather than the Bible itself. No, there is no “sinner’s prayer” in Proverbs 11:30. It does not say that. It says, “he that winneth souls is wise.”

One more time – soul winning is not getting names and phone numbers for “follow up.” We do that in our church. It is quite effective in getting a group of people to attend a church service. We do a lot of that, and we have many lost people in every service as a result. But I must say, once again, that this is not soul winning. The text does not say, “he that gets names to follow up on is wise.” No, it says, “he that winneth souls is wise.” He who draws them in and receives them in the local church is wise.

“The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise” (Proverbs 11:30).

It seems to me that the modern techniques of evangelism fall short of actually receiving lost people and incorporating them into the local church. I think one of the reasons evangelism is now neglected is because we see so little fruit from it. So few people are added to the local church that we have a tendency to give up evangelism today.

II. Second, what soul winning is.

“The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise” (Proverbs 11:30).

I have already told you that the word “winneth” means “drawing in” or “receiving.” There is a natural human tendency not to want anything or anyone new. Our old Adamic natures like to have everything smooth and predictable. Unconsciously we really don’t want to have our lives disturbed by sinners. We will go and get names, or pass out tracts, but we really, deep down inside, do not have a strong desire to receive sinners into our churches! Doesn’t that make us just like the Pharisees?

“The Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners” (Luke 15:2; p. 1096).

The Pharisees were content with the people they already had in their synagogues. They did not want to receive sinners into their lives or hearts. They criticized Jesus,

“saying, This man receiveth sinners” (Luke 15:2).

Isn’t that what Christ was talking about in the Parable of the Good Samaritan? The Pharisee said, “Who is my neighbour?” Jesus told about a man lost and dying, and a Samaritan who took “care of him” (Luke 10:34). Then Jesus said, “Go, and do thou likewise” (Luke 10:37).

No you don’t! I’m not talking about liberalism. I know first-hand what they say. I’m not talking about that at all! I’m not talking about “life-style” evangelism, or anything like that! I am talking about Proverbs 11:30!

“He that winneth souls is wise.”

Dr. B. B. McKinney was no liberal. He was an old-fashioned soul-winning Southern Baptist. And B. B. McKinney said,

Lord, lay some soul upon my heart
     And love that soul through me;
And may I gladly do my part
     To win that soul for Thee.
Some soul for Thee, some soul for Thee,
     This is my earnest plea;
Help me today along life’s way,
     To win some soul for Thee.
(“Lord, Lay Some Soul Upon My Heart” by B. B. McKinney, 1886-1952).

We have to love the person we are trying to win! That is not liberalism! That is Bible-believing soul winning! D. L. Moody said, “Love them in.” Dr. McKinney said, “Love that soul through me.” I am asking you to pray today that God will make you a “channel of blessing” to those lost people who come to church. That is the only way we can “win” them! There is no other way to actually “win” the lost!

Is your life a channel of blessing?
     Are you burdened for those who are lost?
Are you helping those who are sinners
     Find Jesus who died on the Cross?
Make me a channel of blessing today,
     Make me a channel of blessing, I pray;
My life possessing, my service blessing,
     Make me a channel of blessing today.
(“Make Me a Channel of Blessing” by Harper G. Smyth, 1873-1945).