Inspiration informs us that our Lord came to this earth to “seek and save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). The Son of God “came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Mat. 20:28); and, as a result, He purchased the church with His own blood (Acts 20:28). Those who believe (John 8:24), repent (Luke 13:3), confess the name of Christ (Rom. 10:9-10), and are willing to be immersed in water for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38) are added to the blood bought church of the saved (Acts 2:47). No one can be saved unless they have been obedient to the gospel plan of salvation. Christ came to this earth and suffered because He does not wish “that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9). It is easy to see that Jesus’ main focus in life was the saving of souls.
My friends, this is the main work of the church today! We must be about our Father’s business (Luke 2:49), as was our Lord. Everything we do as a body of Christians should be centered around this important task of saving souls. The work of saving souls is accomplished through three main avenues: 1) the preaching of the gospel (Mat. 28:19; Rom. 10:13-14), 2) edifying one another (Eph. 4:11-12), and 3) benevolence work (Gal. 2:10; 1 Tim. 6:17-19). How can benevolence work be used to lead souls to Christ? Let me give you an example.
In 1975, Ben and Beverly Phillips moved to Ketchikan, Alaska looking for work to support their large family. At this point in their life they had no concern for religion and no future plans for such – both had a background in denominational churches. Their only concern was the physical – the here and now, but their lives were soon to change drastically. The trailer house in which they lived caught fire and was totally consumed in only a few moments. Luckily, they were able to get out of the trailer with no loss of life – but while doing so they lost everything they owned. The fire so quickly came upon them that some of them had to run out of the trailer without shoes or shirt. There they stood watching their life burn away – they wondered how they would survive.
Luckily for the Phillips family, the church of Christ in Ketchikan was benevolence-minded, and quickly came to their aid. Above the church building in Ketchikan was an apartment that the local preacher had used in times past. The brethren quickly furnished the apartment for them, and provided them with food and clothing. As I talked to Ben and Beverly about this time in their life, they were deeply touched by the benevolent outpouring of the Christians in this small town. One of the things that greatly impressed them was that the good people did not give their leftovers, but gave Ben and Beverly their best. The church in Ketchikan required nothing of the Phillips family – but were simply there to help.
On Sundays when the Christians in Ketchikan came to worship, Ben and Beverly stayed upstairs and would not come down for worship. Ben and Beverly were invited to attend, but chose not to. The brethren there still helped the Phillips family all they could – they knew to do “good toward all men, and especially toward them that are of the household of the faith” (Gal. 6:10). As Ben and Beverly continued to see the outpouring of benevolence from these wonderful Christians their hearts began to soften. Soon they begin to attend worship, and later agreed to study the Bible with the local preacher. Before long, Ben and Beverly obeyed the gospel and became New Testament Christians. Ben and Beverly told me that had it not been for the benevolent outpouring of the church they might never have become Christians. Today, Ben serves faithfully as an elder in the Lord’s church in Malvern, Arkansas, and his wife Beverly is a hard working, faithful member in the church. To this very day, Ben and Beverly get “teary eyed” as they speak of this benevolence-minded group of God’s people. They said that the Christians in Ketchikan set a standard of benevolent Christian love that they will always strive to emulate. Beloved, benevolence can be used to soften the heart of man – allowing them to see their need for the gospel of Christ. Most will not care how much you know until they know how much you care.
This is why the New Testament instructs, “Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing that is good, that he may have whereof to give to him that hath need” (Eph. 4:28). Paul says, “remember the poor” (Gal. 2:10). “Charge them that are rich in this present world, that they be not highminded, nor have their hope set on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; that they do good, that they be rich in good works, that they be ready to distribute, willing to communicate; laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on the life which is life indeed” (1 Tim. 6:17-19). How benevolence-minded are you as you seek to save the lost?