There have been many great soul winners throughout man’s history, men and woman. One could name men such as Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Billy Sunday or Jack Hyles. Even though these men are widely known in the fundamental circle as great men of God, there was a man who was a far greater soul winner then any of them. Saul of Tarsus, known as the Apostle Paul, was the greatest soul winner ever known to man.
Saul was born in Tarsus and was a citizen of Rome, yet he was raised in Jerusalem and most likely lived there until he was the age of eleven or twelve. Paul was the son of a Pharisee and Acts 22:3 tells how he was brought up and trained by a man named Gamaliel. It is mentioned in scripture that Saul’s family were tent makers, a profession that aided Saul later on in his ministry. When Saul grew up, he was at the scene when Stephen was stoned to death. Saul was the man who held the coats of all the men that murdered Steven. From there Saul began persecuting all men and women who believed in Christ. He mercilessly arrested and imprisoned Christians for the church of Rome. Saul went to the High Priest and desired letters of permission to imprison Christians from the synagogues in Damascus. On Saul’s way to Damascus God appeared unto him in the form of a bright light. Out of the light God spoke, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” Saul was left there on the road blind and amazed. Saul arose and went to Damascus until Ananias came unto him and Saul was saved and baptized. After Saul’s conversion to Christianity God changed his name to Paul. Paul went on to become the first man who was apostle to the Gentile nation. He went “soul winning” all over the known world. In the first chapter of the book of Romans, Paul called himself a servant of Christ. Paul was not only a soul winner, he was a servant.
Paul went on his first missionary journey accompanied by Barnabas. They went from Antioch to Cyprus to Asia Minor and then back to Antioch. While they were in Cyprus, Paul preached in the synagogues at Salamis giving the Gospel to the people. He also confronted the sorcerer Elymas who criticized his teachings. From there the Paul went to Antioch where the prophet rulers asked him to speak on the Sabbath. During this public speaking Paul announced his plans to evangelize the city and when he finished speaking, many gentiles besought of him to preach unto them.
One can compare Paul’s first missionary journey to everyday soul winning. He started out simply giving the Gospel to the people of Cyprus. When Elymas criticized him it could be compared to a Jehovah Witness or another religious group criticizing Christians who are out door knocking. Paul responded by calling him a child of the Devil. When Paul was in Antioch the Gentiles were begging him to tell them the Gospel, he went where there was a need. Paul’s second missionary journey took place around A.D. 49 after the meeting of the Jerusalem Council. Barnabas started out with Paul until while in Antioch they had an argument over John Mark. They parted ways and Paul took Silas with him instead. During this trip they went to Tarsus, Derbe and Lystra. While in Lystra they met Timothy, who joined them for the remainder of their journey. A woman named Lydia was one of their first converts. The scriptures record that she was a seller of purple. In Acts 16:14 it says that the Lord opened her heart, he had prepared her for Paul to witness to. Paul also cast out demons from a certain damsel who made money for her masters with her evil powers. When her masters discovered that she no longer possessed those powers, they became very angry with Paul and Silas and had them thrown in prison. While they were in prison they did not complain, instead they sang. At midnight while Paul and Silas were praying and singing God sent an earthquake that shook the prison and opened all the doors. Paul and Silas did not attempt to leave and because of their testimony none of the other prisoners left. The prison guard awakened from the earthquake and almost killed himself because he thought everyone had escaped, but Paul called out and stopped him and showed him that all the prisoners were still there. Paul led the jailor to Christ and his family. Paul’s and Silas’ actions were a witness to the jailor of their true belief in God. Soon They were released from prison and traveled to Thessalonica where Paul conversed with the Jews in the Synagogue. He discussed with them Christ’s death and resurrection. Some of them believed but others were envious and sought to hurt Paul and Silas. In Berea they saw many souls come to Christ, they discipled them and taught them the scriptures. Paul had to converts while in Corinth, Aquilla and Priscilla who were loyal to Paul and helped him in several of his other mission trips. They eventually went to Ephesus and started one of the greatest churches in history.
Even though Paul went through trials during this second trip he was still blessed by God. Paul did not give up after the first “door slam”. Not all of those he witnessed to were open to hear the Gospel, but God had prepared the hearts of many of the people Paul reached. Churches were started because of Paul’s devotion to soul winning. If he had given up at the first disappointment God could not have blessed him like he did.
Paul’s third missionary journey was mostly a discipleship trip. He traveled around to teach and admonish believers. Paul went to Ephesus again and remained there for nearly three years. During that time he wrote letters to the church at Corinth rebuking them for there sinful actions. He preformed many miracles in Christ’s name during this trip. Finally Paul visited Ceasarea before he returned home to Jerusalem.
Paul’s third trip would be like present day Christian visitation, a check up on his converts. He returned to the cities where his converts were. Paul instructed the churches in there christian lives and practices. and he rebuked the sinfulness that he saw. At several churches Paul collected offerings which the people willingly gave to him. Paul consistently prayed for the churches that he wrote to. One of the main reasons Paul saw so much fruit was the discipleship he gave his “baby converts.”
At the end of Paul’s life he was accused of treason and arrested. He was in prison for two years and then transported to Rome. While sailing to Rome he was shipwrecked on the Island of Melite. Paul then arrived in Rome around A.D. 60 and spent two years under house arrest, a total of around six year spent as a prisoner of Rome. Finally Paul died. The scriptures do not recall the actual events of Paul’s death, but it is believed he was beheaded in Rome during the reign of Nero.
Paul was the example soul winner for every Christian. Paul started out as a persecuter of believers, but even though the beginning of his life was evil, after his conversion Paul thrived. God used Paul to save many people and that shows that God can use anyone. No Christian can use hardships in their life as an excuse not to witness to people. Any trials that one has had should drive him even more to share God’s truth and save people from Hell. Soul winning was Paul’s passion, he traveled the world just to give out the Gospel. Then he traveled back to visit his converts and helped them grow in Christ. No man’s life in history compares to the sold out life that Paul had for Christ. If Christians now could have the vision that Paul had there would be much less of a need. Christ commanded that ye “Go into the world and preach the Gospel.” That Command was not just for those men and women who ar called to missions. His command was for everyday Christians to go soul winning. Paul saw the need of the Gentile nation for Christ then he followed God’s command and saw thousands of sinners saved.
written by Lyndsey Cunningham