The value of a soul lies at the heart of Christian discipleship. Jesus Christ, our Savior, was sent to a sin-sick and dying world by a benevolent God "to seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19:10). The Lord's mission was transferred before his Ascension first to the apostles within the framework of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) and then to others (2 Timothy 2:2). The apostles were charged to "make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 18:19, ASV) and that responsibility has now passed from them to contemporary disciples, much as runners pass a baton to their fellow team members in a relay race.
It is a grievously sad day, however, when many children of God seem to care little for the welfare of their souls and exhibit even less concern for other souls! Planet Earth is now home to several billion souls, the vast majority of whom will cross the threshold of eternity unprepared to meet man's Creator and God. It is evident from Scripture, though, that all heaven is keenly interested in the spiritual welfare of humanity. Also, godly disciples are concerned about the souls of fallen brethren and sinners besides their own souls.
A single human soul is more valuable than all this world's wealth were every bit of it gathered together (Matthew 16:26). Man's soul is so valuable that its purchase price is not silver and gold, but the precious blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:18-19). The only source, therefore, from which the soul of man could possibly derive its incomparable value is God himself. Hence, each soul possesses an inherent value established by God. Thereby, every soul is priceless, even if men fail to realize this fact. There is no more valuable possession or commodity available to a man than his own soul. Furthermore, every soul is as equally valuable as every other soul upon the face of the earth, irrespective of dissimilarities such as race, ancestry, social status or any other worldly distinction.
God's intention before the creation of the world to redeem man once he fell away shows that God is deeply concerned about the souls of men. Before the creation, before Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden of Eden, and obviously then, before man ever sinned, God saw through his foreknowledge that mankind would sin and be lost. He, therefore, devised a scheme of redemption for mankind even before man was created (1 Peter 1:18-20; Titus 1:1-3). (Though the word "world" may be variously interpreted, the American Standard Version of the Bible renders it in Titus 1:2 as "before times eternal.")
The same scheme of redemption in Ephesians 3:1-12 is repeatedly called a "mystery." Verse ten names the church as the institution by which this former "mystery" or Gospel is to be proclaimed. Verse eleven includes the "mystery" (Gospel) and the church in the "eternal purpose" of God. The coming of Jesus Christ to save lost men was in the "eternal purpose" of God! God planned for the redemption of man before man's fall. Only God's intense love for valuable, human souls would prompt him to devise the salvation of his creation before the world began. God knew too well that his human creation would be rebellious and he planned for its redemption anyway.
God further demonstrated his love for mortal souls by preparing mankind for the coming of the Messiah. Whereas God formerly sent his law to mankind, Jesus Christ personally brought the Gospel to earth from heaven (John 1:17). At a divinely appointed time, after many centuries of interaction between God and man, the Savior came to earth (Galatians 3:22-29; 4:1-5) to reveal the "mystery" of the Gospel (Colossians 1:26). The ages preceding the Gospel Age were preparatory to the deliverance of the Gospel by our Lord; therein were figures and shadows of the Gospel Age (Hebrews 9:9; 10:1). If the human soul were not so valuable, God would not have painstakingly prepared man for the reception of the single, holy and divine plan by which he could redeem his soul.
A third way in which God exhibited his supreme love for souls was by sending his only begotten son to earth to die for a sin-laden, unworthy world (John 3:16; 1 John 4:9-10; Romans 8:32). Furthermore, while men were content in and enjoying the pleasure of sin, enjoying all the gusto one time around and otherwise unconcerned about eternity, God loved men's souls enough to offer up Jesus for sins (Romans 5:8; Hebrews 9:28).
Jesus also greatly values the human soul. Hence, he willingly fulfilled the mind of the Father and came to earth and shed his blood on the cross (John 4:34; 6:38). Every disciple should endeavor to possess the will or mind of Christ (1 Peter 4:1-2; Philippians 2:5), which mind will compel him to also fulfill the mind of the Father.
Second, the compassion and tears of the Lord also show his concern for souls. Jesus once grieved over lost souls in Jerusalem who would not harken to the Gospel (Luke 19:41-42). Even when being crucified by those for whom he came to save, our Lord expressed unparalleled love of souls; he said, ". . . Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do . . ." (Luke 23:34).
The final facet of our Lord's earthly ministry, the giving of the Great Commission, also shows divine care for man's most valuable possession, his soul. The Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:46-47; Acts 1:8) represents the transferal of Christ's mission to save souls (Luke 19:10) to "earthen vessels" (2 Corinthians 4:7). The object of Christian discipleship is to save souls. Begun by the Lord, this mission of discipling the nations is so important that it has been willed to each successive generation of disciples to complete and fulfill. Herein do the value of a soul and discipleship merge. The cost of discipleship must be vigorously borne because souls are priceless.
Angels rejoice when souls obey the Gospel (Luke 15:7, 10). By implication, the angels are grieved or sorrowful at the loss of souls. As heavenly messengers, angels have often been party to the redemption of men by revealing God's will to man. When men obeyed those heavenly messages, they were saved in prospect of Christ's coming. (The primary function of angels was to serve as a medium of revelation of God's will to man, Daniel 10:1-21; Revelation 1:1.) At least once, an angel also directed a preacher to a lost soul who needed to hear the Gospel (Acts 8:26).
The apostle Paul acknowledged the inherent value of the human soul. All his Christian life and godly service were predicated upon the value of souls. So, Paul made many personal sacrifices and endured multiple afflictions to preach the Gospel to lost souls. Had he not been completely convinced about the value of souls, he doubtless would not have suffered as he did for the cause of Christ (2 Corinthians 11:23-28). The apostle to the Gentiles also willingly suffered the forfeiture of his station in life as a Pharisee and a Jew for the preaching of the Gospel to lost souls (Philippians 3:4-11). He counted as nothing his educational, cultural and birthright advantages because he valued the lost souls of men more than all these.
Like Christ, as the apostle Paul neared the conclusion of his ministry and life upon the earth, he passed the Gospel baton to others. In anticipation of his death, yet acutely aware of the value of souls, he charged others with the responsibility to herald the blessed Gospel of our Lord (2 Timothy 2:1-2; 4:1-8). The Great Commission which the Lord passed to the apostles is also the commission and responsibility of the contemporary disciple by inheritance. Every child of God who inherits the blessings of the Gospel also inherits the Great Commission, given by the Lord, first received by the apostles and lastly given to each successive generation of faithful disciples.
God is concerned about and places an immense value on the souls of men. Then, why do Christians and sometimes whole congregations appear to idly watch friends, neighbors and loved ones depart this life completely unprepared to meet God? Why do the children of God often appear to be little concerned about even their own spiritual welfare? The answer may be that: (1) We do not really believe that non-Christians are really lost, or (2) We do not really care enough.
Christians cannot really sense that non-Christians are lost while adopting the philosophy: "We are Christians only, but not the only Christians." As long as the children of God believe that there are faithful Christians in the denominations around us, the church will not take the Gospel to its friends, neighbors and loved ones.
As soul conscious Christians and congregations, we need to use every biblically defensible and expedient method (permitted within the perfect law of liberty, James 1:25) to turn the world upside down (Acts 17:6). Whose soul are we allowing to go to a devil's hell because we have not told him about the Gospel? How many souls will we allow to die and go to hell before the congregation of which we are members is willing to turn its community upside down?
It appears that many of God's children have forgotten why they are really in this world (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14) and have traded their souls away for a piece of this green earth (Matthew 16:26). This is true especially in materialistic America. In order for a soul to be saved, it must concern itself with its own salvation (Philippians 2:12) and exhibit the same concern for other souls (Mark 16:15-16; James 5:19-20). Dare Christians show less affection for lost souls than what has been exhibited by God, Jesus Christ, the angels and the apostle Paul?
Our friends, neighbors and loved ones are dying in sin every day; what are we going to do about it? Souls are at stake, including ours! (Evangelistic success depends not on passive programs of evangelism organized by a local congregation or its preacher or elders, but evangelistic success begins with the individual. That's each of us!)
If contemporary disciples would properly order their priorities (Matthew 6:33), the Great Commission would be more expeditiously fulfilled in our time; the Great Commission was fulfilled once in the first century (Colossians 1:23). The construction of extravagant church buildings, family life centers, gymnasiums, tennis courts and the general introduction of entertainment and gimmicks into the church greatly and unnecessarily detract from the completion of the noblest assignment known to man (Matthew 28:18-20).
It is a sad day when the inference by which we can (legitimately) build a meetinghouse to facilitate our edification (1 Corinthians 14:12; Acts 20:7) overrides the primary mission of the church -- evangelism. The church that is not evangelistic has no future and may presently lose its candlestick (Revelation 1-3). Entertainment, the responsibility of the home, has neither part nor lot among the God-appointed missions of the church. Though gimmicks may draw numbers, only the Gospel can make a disciple out of a sinner. Many missionaries here and abroad who are dedicated to taking the Gospel to the lost could more readily preach the glad tidings of the Word of God if only more congregations were mindful of their charge to disciple the nations.
The judgment day is approaching, in which some soul, maybe someone with whom you or I work or play, may point an accusing finger at you or me. Will he say that you or I neglected or even refused to tell him about the Gospel, though we knew he was lost? Will God also tell us to depart? (See Matthew 7:21-23; John 15:1-6; 2 Corinthians 5:10-11; Revelation 20:12-15.)
Dear Reader, if you are concerned about your soul's salvation, I would very much like to hear from you. Together, we can turn to the Bible alone for divine instruction regarding the redemption of the most valuable item anywhere -- the soul.