Study 3 PHILIP: THE MOST WORTHWHILE WORK IN THE WORLD
Ten New Testament Soul-Winners
by Francis Dixon
(Scripture Portion: John 1:35-51)
In this study we see how Philip brought Nathanael to Jesus, and how we, as followers of Christ, are to engage in the task of soul-winning. There is a very significant sequence in John 1:35-45. First we read that John and Andrew found the Lord through John the Baptist (verses 35-37); second, Andrew found Peter (verses 40-42); third, Jesus found Philip (verse 43); and fourth, Philip found Nathanael (verse 45). Each of these individuals was found by someone. What do we learn as we look at Philip who found Nathanael?
1. THE MOST IMPORTANT AND WORTHWHILE WORK IN THE WORLD IS TO SEEK THE SALVATION OF OTHER PEOPLE.
There are three tremendous words in verse 45: “Philip found Nathanael”. Have you ever done the equivalent of that? If so, you have never done anything greater, for the greatest work is that of seeking the salvation of a soul. Think what it meant for Nathanael when Philip found him: it meant he was saved, brought into fellowship with the Lord, transformed and thrust out into His service. Think what this work means in the light of James 5:19-20 and Daniel 12:3. An evangelist once asked himself, “What shall I, in thousands of years’ time, wish I had done?” Spurgeon once said, “Even if I were utterly selfish and had no care for anything but my own happiness, I would choose, if I might, to be a soul-winner.” Brainerd said, “I cared not where or how I lived, or what hardships I went through, so long as I could but win souls for Christ.” We may judge the importance and greatness of this work when we remember that Jesus left Heaven and went to Calvary - to win souls.
2. THE MOST RECENTLY-CONVERTED PERSON CAN AND SHOULD ENGAGE IN THE WORK OF SOUL-WINNING.
Philip had only just found the Lord himself, and at once he set out to seek Nathanael (verses 44-46). He certainly lost no time, but why should he lose any time? He had made a tremendous discovery. How long should he have waited before sharing his discovery with someone else? Philip had the prime qualification for being a soul-winner - he knew the Lord personally; and if you know the Lord as your own personal Saviour you are at once qualified to begin this work of soul-winning. The best preparation for this is a heart full of love for the Lord Himself, so do not imagine that you are too young a Christian or do not have the necessary gifts to tell someone what you know of the Lord and to commend Him to them - and the best time to start is now!
3. THE MOST POWERFUL MEDIUM THAT GOD BLESSES IN THE SALVATION OF SINNERS IS THE PERSONAL TESTIMONY OF BELIEVERS.
The Lord always uses His Word to produce the miracle of conversation - look up Psalm 19:7, and compare 1 Corinthians 1:21; but very often the first contact or impression is made upon a soul by the personal testimony of a Christian. It was so here, and verse 45 tells us about the kind of testimony we should give:-
- 1. Our testimony should be INFORMAL, as Philip’s was. There was nothing sophisticated or clever about it; it was given in simple, heart-to-heart language.
- 2. Our testimony must be INFORMED. Verse 45 indicates this. Philip knew his man, but he also knew the scriptures and he was therefore able to draw upon his knowledge of the Word of God when seeking to make a point of contact with Nathanael.
- 3. Our testimony must be INFECTIOUS. It is obvious from verse 45 that Philip was passionate in his appeal to Nathanael; he meant business, and doubtless when he spoke his eyes flashed, his face lit up and his words were warm and moving.
If all God’s people had a testimony like this and gave it like this there would soon be a very wonderful movement of the Spirit of God upon the hearts and lives of many who are now dead in their trespasses and sins.
4. THE MOST EFFECTIVE WAY OF MEETING OBJECTIONS IS FOR THE ONE WE ARE TRYING TO WIN TO COME AND SEE FOR HIMSELF.
See what it says in verse 46. Nathanael was a sincere thinker, what might be called “an honest doubter”, and Philip knew this. He knew that argument would not win him, but he also knew that if Nathanael could meet with Jesus that would do it! Most people whom we seek to win to the Lord have problems, but the important thing is never to argue with them! Do what the man born blind did - look up John 9:25; say to the soul you are seeking to win, “Come and see for yourself!”
5. THE MOST GLORIOUS ASSURANCE WE HAVE AS WE TRY TO WIN SOMEONE TO THE LORD IS THE CONFIDENCE THAT HE KNOWS ALL ABOUT THEM ALREADY.
This is brought before us in verses 47 and 48. Long before Philip thought of Nathanael the Lord knew all about him and longed for his salvation - look up and study Mark 16:19-20 carefully. Soul-winning work is not primarily man’s work but the Lord’s, and He does that through us, His servants.
6. THE MOST THRILLING MOMENT THAT CAN COME TO US IS WHEN THE PERSON WE ARE DEALING WITH CONFESSES THE LORD.
Read verse 49, and try to picture the joy that must have filled Philip’s heart at this moment. It is important to remember, however, that even if we have been faithful in our witness for the Lord it may not be our privilege to lead that one to Christ. Sometimes He uses us just as a link in the chain before He finally brings that soul to Himself.
7. THE MOST ENCOURAGING INCENTIVE TO WIN OTHERS IS THAT THE LORD HAS A GLORIOUS PURPOSE FOR THAT PERSON.
Read verses 50 and 51. When we set out to win anyone we never know what the Lord will make of that one. Nathanael became a disciple of Jesus, one of the Twelve. We may be winning a Wesley, a Hudson Taylor or a David Livingstone - but what matters most is that we should be trying to win one more soul for whom the Saviour died.