Looking at the apostle Paul’s passion for lost souls, former Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) President Johnny Hunt preached from Romans 9:1-3 at the SBC June 13 in Phoenix.
Photo by Bill Bangham
Johnny Hunt, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga., and former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, gives a brief sermon June 13 during the afternoon session on the first day of the two-day Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting at the Phoenix Convention Center. Believers must develop a passion like the apostle Paul’s to win lost people to faith in Christ, Hunt said.
“The apostle Paul writes with a burdened heart,” Hunt said, “because his own brethren, those near and dear to him, had refused to accept the Lord Jesus as their personal Savior and Messiah.”
Hunt, pastor of First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga., addressing the topic of “Paul, the Soul Winner,” noted, “It is not without significance that Paul’s words in chapter 9 follow hard after chapter 8, for only a man who knows the Spirit-filled life of Romans 8 can appreciate the evangelistic heart throb of Romans 9.
“I have come to believe through my own experience that you can never win people to the Lord unless somehow you develop deep down in your heart a genuine burden and compassion for them to know the Lord,” Hunt said.
He recounted once confessing to his church, “The longer I am in the faith the further removed I seem to become from those for whom Christ died.”
“The crying need today is for us to have a burden for people who are on their way to hell,” Hunt said. “We must lovingly urge them to follow Christ and flee the wrath to come.”
In expounding his text, Hunt noted three things of importance: the sincerity of Paul’s passion for the lost; the sorrow in his passion; and the sacrificial heart of his passion.
Referencing Paul’s words, “I could wish myself accursed from Christ,” Hunt said the apostle was saying he would be willing to be separated from Christ and spend eternity in hell if that is what it would require to get people saved.
“Some would say that it is impossible for Paul to be accursed from Christ because of the Bible’s teaching on the eternal security of the believer,” Hunt said. “Paul had just written Romans 8 describing that nothing can separate us from the love of God. However, by wishing himself accursed from Christ, Paul was simply saying, ‘I am willing to do whatever it takes to reach the lost.’”
Hunt cautioned, “Don’t try to analyze Paul’s statement, for it is not spoken under the coolness and calmness of logic, and maybe sometimes there is too much coolness and too much calmness of logic. Here is the eruption of a man who is so in love with lost people that he loses all sense of reason and logic, and his heart bursts out in unfathomable compassion and he says, ‘I would be willing to go to hell to reach them.’”
Hunt related that after he was saved he was eagerly seeking to win people to Christ and one of his professors at Gardner-Webb College described the combination of his newly found faith and passion for the lost as “ignorance on fire.” Having been a member of Hunt’s church and knowing about the professor’s description of Hunt, Ken Hemphill, during his presidency of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, once introduced him by saying, “I had rather be ignorance on fire than an intellect on ice.”
“We must proclaim the gospel, but remember, it is not good news unless it gets there on time,” Hunt said.
He concluded with this story:
“The powerful soul winner and founder of the Salvation Army, William Booth, was once asked, ‘Do you think you have the best training program to teach people how to witness for Jesus Christ and win souls to Jesus?’
“William Booth replied, ‘No, I don’t think my methods are the best methods. I think the best method of giving people a burden for lost souls would be to take them to the devil’s hell and allow them to experience what it is to be lost in hell, separated from God for an eternity in the fire that could never be quenched. Then I believe men would truly have a burden and know what it is to be soul-winners, because they would see what it is to be lost.’”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – J. Gerald Harris is editor of the Christian Index, christianindex.org, newsjournal of the Georgia Baptist Convention.)