This post is to somewhat tongue-in-cheek, to have a little fun but at the same time help us all think about the things we say and do. Let me explain.
Over the years of being a Christian, I have heard and read, as you have too, the use of words and phrases that we could call “Christian jargon.” The use of these “Christian clichés” are used, it seems, without much thought to what they really mean. I decided to write about some of these, but only one in this post, simply because I had been thinking about them recently.
Not only that, I have used them over the years until I realized that what I was saying did not line up with what the Bible said. Though stated in innocence and probably with not much thought to the meaning behind them, I discovered that some of my clichés and words simply did not reflect what the Scriptures taught on whatever I was verbalizing.
I would not say they are heretical. I think sometimes the jargon we use as Christians needs to be thought through before we utter the words that we do. I have been trying to look at some of them from a Biblical perspective since I have used them over the years and decided that I had to step back and take a look at what I was saying.
Also, this is not intended to pour “coals of guilt” on anyone and call into question someone’s doctrine or beliefs. It is to help us think through some of what we say to make sure that when we are stating something that has a theological ring to it, that we have thought through what we may have spoken or written. That’s all that is behind this post.
It may also seem petty and it could be. I am just sharing with others what I have been thinking about over the years. Some of what I believed has changed (not in the essentials of Christianity) and I have also tried analyzing the words and phrases I have used in conversations with others, both those who know Christ and those who are open to discussing Him.
So, let’s begin, keeping in mind as we look at one of these “Christian clichés” in particular, that there is no attempt to bring guilt or to “work ourselves over” because we use them or have used them. Remember, this is a guilt free zone.
Our first cliché is one that I used to describe people who were good at evangelism, or anyone who led someone to Christ. We referred to them as a “soul winner.” Over time, though, as I thought about this in more detail, it dawned on me. And here is the reality - we lead no one to Christ. That may be a shock to hear, but it is true. In fact, a study of the Bible reminds us of the entire process of salvation, including our part in telling others about Jesus.
Before going further, let me say that the phrase noted is sometimes used simply to describe someone’s activity of sharing the Good News about Jesus with someone. But this two-word phrase, in its essence, is not supported by Scripture.
Jesus told those who are followers of His that we have a job to do. We are to make disciples of all nations (Mt. 28:18-20). That includes sharing the Gospel (1 Corinthians 15) with those around us. When someone decides to follow Christ by turning from their sins (the Biblical word “repent” means this) and by faith giving their life to Christ and asking Him to forgive them and come into their life, they become a Christian.
After someone becomes a follower of Christ, they begin the process of growing as a disciple. A disciple is one who not only is a student of their Teacher, but they also are determined to model their life after the one they are sitting under. Thus, a disciple of Christ learns the Word of God and conforms their life to be like Jesus. But it begins with the message of the Good News about Who Christ is.
Romans 10:14-17 reminds us of our responsibility to preach the Gospel. That is our part. Share the message of Jesus with others. John 16 tells us that one of the works (jobs) of the Holy Spirit is to convict the world of sin. The Spirit of God, when the message of the Word of God is given, works in people’s lives, and through that work, people may listen to what has been said and give their lives to Christ. Or they may choose to not.
Only God saves someone. That is the clear teaching of John 3, for example. We give the message, the Spirit convicts, and people can say “yes” or “no” to God and the offer of salvation. God, in His Sovereignty, as the Ruler of all, has allowed man the freedom to either accept or reject Him. That is the clear teaching of Romans 1, beginning at vs. 17 and going through the end of the chapter.
Our responsibility is to share the message. But we do not win souls. God alone does that. In addition to this two-word phrase, one of the verses that was often used as an encouragement to evangelize was Proverbs 11:30. Depending on what translation you may have, it says something like this – “he that wins souls is wise.”
The context where this verse is found in Proverbs, and this is important, has nothing to do with winning souls to Christ. Vs. 30, upon reading the context, is a contrast to the person mentioned in Pro. 11:29. It tells us in this latter verse that the person who causes trouble to those in their own house, receives nothing. As the ESV puts it, they “inherit the wind.”
It also indicates that in their attempt to gain things, they end up on the losing side, if we could say that, and in the end, their life is empty. In fact, in the long run this type of person will be a servant to the wise of heart.
In Pro. 11:30, the writer contrasts the righteous person with this individual. Instead of causing trouble in the home or with others, the righteous person will live in such a way that people are drawn to see and hear about the wisdom that leads their life.
In that, we could have opportunity to tell others about Jesus. But the context of the passage does not focus on “soul winning”, but on living in such a way, contrasted with the fool of vs. 29, that we may have occasion to share with others the wisdom taught in God’s Word and how it has affected our life.
The “fruit of the righteous” is inward, but it is seen by others. Take care, keep learning and may God richly bless you.