A Passion For Souls
When I come to the study of the Gospel story, an outstanding feature in the character of Christ arrests and compels my attention – His measureless love for men, His passion for souls. The supreme motive in our Lord’s life was His unhesitating and utter obedience to the will of God. From another point of view I can say that the constraining motive in Christ’s life was love for men. That wonderful career can all be summed up in terms of love. This is how the Apostle Paul himself sums it all up: "Christ…loved…and gave" (Eph. 5:25). In saying that the master motive in Christ’s life was His love for men, His passion for souls, I am not contradicting what I said about His obedience to the will of God.
His obedience to God and His love for men are like the obverse and reverse of the same coin – they are two aspects of the same truth. For the will of God was the salvation of human souls. But let us look at Christ’s life from this standpoint for a moment. This was one of its marks – a deep, strong, quenchless love for men – a passion for souls. Do you remember how He described His mission and errand to earth? "The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost…" (Matt. 18:11).
The Spirit of Christ Reproduced
Do we find this characteristic of the Master’s spirit reproduced in the spirit of the disciple? Do we find in Paul this burning passion for souls?
Yes, we do. I glance through the record in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, I turn over the leaves of the letters which come to us from Paul’s own hand, and I see that the Apostle had this mark upon him – the mark of a holy passion for the souls of men. "The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost," says the Master. "I am become all things to all men, that I may by all means save some" says the disciple Paul (1 Cor. 9:22). Is there no correspondency there? Is not that a case of the disciple being as his Lord? "The Son of Man came not to be ministered unto but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many," says the Master (Matt. 20:28). "I will most gladly spend and be spent for you," says the disciple (2 Cor. 12:15). Is there no correspondency there? Is it not a case of uttermost love in the servant as in his Lord? And this with the Apostle was not mere fine talk. The master passion of his life was this passion for souls.
Did Jesus become despised and rejected of men because of His love for the lost? So did the servant become "the filth of the world, and the offscouring of all things" (1 Cor. 4:13). Did Jesus face hate and persecution because of His holy passion? So did the servant. He faced the stones at Lystra, and the rods at Philippi, and the wild beasts at Ephesus and scourgings at many a synagogue, all for his passion for the souls of men. Did Jesus’ compassions run out to the furthest bounds of earth? Did He yearn for those "other sheep" which were not of the Jewish fold? (John 10:16). So did the Apostle. He was perpetually hearing the call of the regions beyond. "I must also see Rome," he cries. And beyond Rome his eyes travel. "I will go on by you unto Spain" (Rom. 15:24).
Did Jesus in sheer love lay down His life for the salvation of souls? I find the same consuming passion in the servant. "I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren’s sake," I hear him cry (Rom. 9:3). This passion for souls was the ruling passion of Paul’s life. It was for this he lived. Like David Brainard, he grasped for multitudes of souls. Reputation, comfort, home, liberty, life itself – he laid them all down cheerfully upon the altar of his holy passion and this sacred service. Yes, without controversy or dispute, the Apostle had this mark of Jesus – a burning passion for souls.
Who today has a passion for souls?
From a 1908
issue of The Consecrated Life and reprinted from
The Prophetic Round-Up.