Note: I have edited this sermon transcript because it has recently come to my attention that portions of the sermon that meant one thing when spoken, seem to mean something quite different when read.



Matthew 13.23



1.   For the past week I have listened to a number of soul winning cassette tapes by Jack Hyles, the now deceased pastor of the First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana.  During his lifetime he pastored the largest Church in the United States. 

2.   So far, on those tapes, I have listened to the soul winning course Jack Hyles taught at Bob Jones University some years back, a Wednesday night Bible study he taught at First Baptist Church against the dangers hyper-dispensationalism poses to soul winning, and a Wednesday night Bible study he taught at First Baptist Church against the dangers hyper-Calvinism poses to soul winning.

3.   I have come to three conclusions after listening to four tapes, with many more Jack Hyles tapes on soul winning that I plan to listen to:  First, I am convinced that Jack Hyles was a platform, motivational and leadership genius.  After just a few minutes listening to him, only an inexperienced or a dishonest listener would deny that the man speaking is extremely brilliant, an expert communicator, and highly motivated.

4.   Second, I have no doubt, and have never had any doubt, that compared to Jack Hyles I know virtually nothing about motivating men, or about organizing large numbers of people to work together on an important task.  I came to this conclusion many years ago when I attended my first Pastorís School at the First Baptist Church of Hammond, where thousands of Baptist preachers gather every year for instruction, for encouragement, and for fellowship.

5.   But it is my third conclusion that is likely to cause folks to have a serious problem with me.  No one questions Jack Hylesí genius, not even those most strongly opposed to him.  No one doubts my own deficiencies, not even those who are my strongest supporters.  If there was ever a comparison of greatness between me and Jack Hyles I assure you I would vote for him over me.  Jack Hyles was a great man, great in many ways.  I am not a great man, great in no ways that I know of.

6.   But even after a consideration of the great disparities that exist between Jack Hyles and me, comparing his genius with my lack of genius, comparing the size of the Church he pastored to the size of our Church, and so on, I am convinced that Jack Hyles knew almost nothing about soul winning.  Thatís right!  Let me say it again.  Jack Hyles knew almost nothing about soul winning.

7.   What a firestorm of opposition that statement would make if there were Jack Hyles followers in our Church.  Amen?  They would demand an apology from me.  They would accuse me of heresy.  They would ask me how dare I, such a small man, question and challenge and take issue with the ministry of such a great man as Jack Hyles?

8.   Let me answer that objection, because that type of response is thrown at every small pastor who legitimately disagrees with some big man.  If you disagree with Jack Hyles some fellow will ask, ďWho do you think you are to disagree with such a great man?  Heís done more for God than you could ever imagine doing.Ē  Frankly, such a response means nothing to me.

9.   Those who disagree with me about Billy Graham and Robert Schuller and Jerry Falwell and Frederick K. Price and Bishop Jakes and Benny Hinn and Pope John Paul II all respond the same way, showing a fundamental misconception about God and the men God uses (not for a moment granting who in the list of men Iíve named is actually used of God).

10. The fact of the matter is that God does not use great men.  God has never used great men.  From Enoch to Noah, from Abraham to Jacob, from Moses to David, from Daniel to the apostle Paul, God does not use great men.  Rather, our great God Almighty deigns to use men greatly.  Paul said that he was what he was by the grace of God.  There is a difference between a great man and a man used greatly.

11. Because God uses men greatly, there is no appreciable difference between the men God uses.  The greatness is Godís, the glory is Godís, the credit belongs to God and only God.  Itís a subtle form of blasphemy and pride that seeks to compare men with men based upon the size of their ministries, as though the glory should go to some man and not to God.

12. So, I will comment on Jack Hylesí profound lack of insight into soul winning because size doesnít matter.  Only Scriptural truth matters.  And there is a decided lack of Scriptural truth associated with the approach to             soul winning that Jack Hylesí advocated for almost a half century back and forth across this nation.  His efforts in influencing multiplied thousands of pastors, who adopted his approach to soul winning, were misguided.

13. I must say that I applaud his efforts to encourage pastors to seek the salvation of the lost.  But the manner by which he sought the conversion of the lost, and the approach to soul winning that he encouraged others to adopt, is wrong.  Itís wrong in many respects, but the time we have today limits me to a discussion of only one facet of Jack Hylesí many errors on the subject of soul winning.

14. Jack Hyles did not appreciate the great importance of understanding when it comes to conversion.  Perhaps he was affected by his motivational genius.  He was man who could rather easily elicit responses from folks to quickly do what he wanted them to do.

15. Perhaps because of his great people skills, it is obvious from listening to his soul winning tapes that he felt he could introduce himself to a lost person, conduct a short conversation with that lost person, present the Gospel to that lost person, and then lead that lost person to Christ in fifteen minutes.  Fifteen minutes!

16. Folks, I could list many things about Jack Hylesí approach to soul winning that reflects a profound misunderstanding of how to get sinners truly converted, but this morning I will focus on only one conceptual error that is obvious in his tapes.  Godís Word shows us that no one gets saved who does not understand the Gospel.  And understanding rarely comes to a lost person in only 15 minutes.

17. Turn in your Bible to Matthew 13.  Once you find that portion of Scripture, let us all stand to read verses 3-9, and verses 18-23.

3     And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow;

4     And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up:

5     Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth:

6     And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.

7     And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them:

8     But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.

9     Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.


18    Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower.

19    When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart.  This is he which received seed by the way side.

20    But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it;

21    Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.

22    He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.

23    But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.


18. My text for this morning is verse 23, which describes the only one of these four examples which illustrates conversion:  ďBut he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.Ē

19. Four observations about understanding before this morningís sermon.



1B.    This parable of Jesus and His interpretation deals with four ways in which a person receives the preaching of the Word, which is what the casting forth of the seed obviously illustrates.  Of the four ways in which the Word is received only the fourth example, the person who understood, illustrates genuine conversion and the fruit bearing associated with real conversion.  So this parable shows that you must understand to be saved.

2B.    If you question this conclusion, turn to Isaiah 1.18:  ďCome now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.Ē

1C.   This is one of the most frequently used verses in the Bible when addressing the subject of salvation and conversion.

2C.   Notice, if you will, Godís challenge to the sinner.  ďCome now, and let us reason together.Ē  My friend, is it possible to reason with God without understanding?  No, it is not possible to reason without understanding.

3C.   But if you think that a lost personís lack of understanding is overcome by simply expanding on the details and doing some elaborating, you do not understand yourself, Iím afraid.



1B.    When I discuss these matters with the lost I am from time to time told, ďO, I understand exactly what you are talking about, pastor.  I understand fully.  I understand completely.Ē  Turn to Romans 3.11, where you will see why I am a bit skeptical when someone says that to me:  ďThere is none that understandeth.Ē

2B.    Itís time for us to get a feel for this word that weíve now seen twice in Matthew 13 and here in Romans 3.11, the word ďunderstand.Ē  My lexicon says, ďto have an intelligent grasp of something, that challenges oneís thinking or practice, understand, comprehend

3B.    According to Godís Word, Romans 3.11 and the 14th Psalm that Paul is quoting here, God has evaluated and determined that no one understands, no one comprehends, no one has an intelligent grasp of the issue that would challenge their thinking or practice.

4B.    So, no one understands the Gospel.  But you have to understand to get saved.  If you donít understand you wonít get saved.  But you donít understand.  There is, you see, a serious problem.  The lost must understand to be saved, but the lost do not understand.


3A.   Bringing Us To The 3rd Observation: 


1B.    Jesus taught that you have to understand to get saved.  In that same parable we saw that those who did not understand did not get saved.  So, you have to understand to get saved.  But God has observed, and has declared His observation, that no one understands.

2B.    The reason no one understands has to do with our nature.  Let me recite Isaiah 55.8-9 to you to explain, partly, why you do not understand:  ďFor my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.Ē

3B.    Paul also spoke to this problem when writing the Corinthians.  In First Corinthians 2.14, we read that ďthe natural man receiveth not the things of the spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.Ē

4B.    So, as you realize yourself from the verses I have cited, not only does a lost man have the serious problem of not understanding what he must understand to be saved, but he must face the fact that understanding is beyond his ability.  His only recourse is to ask God for mercy.


4A.   I Conclude My Exposition By Observing THE ROLE THAT GOD PLAYS TO UNDERSTANDING

1B.    You must understand in order to be saved.  But you do not understand.  Your inability to understand is so profound that you think you understand when you actually have no understanding whatsoever!

2B.    Besides that, you cannot understand.  It is beyond your capacity to understand the things of God for dealing with sin and providing salvation because God is so exalted and so far beyond our reach.  And also because these things are spiritual issues and a person who is not spiritual cannot understand spiritual issues.

3B.    ďSo, what I am saying is that there is no chance of you getting saved.  Right?Ē  Wrong.  People obviously get saved, even if they get saved in a way most donít comprehend.  But for a lost man to get saved he has to understand.  Weíve established that already.

4B.    So, how does a man who doesnít understand come to understand?  Luke 24.45:  ďThen opened

   he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures.Ē  Here we read that Jesus opened their understanding so they might understand.  So, giving understanding is a divine prerogative.

5B.    But what happens now that Jesus has ascended and is seated at Godís right hand?  Turn to Acts 8.29-38, where we see the Holy Spiritís use of means:

29    Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot.

30    And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest?

31    And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him.

32    The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth:

33    In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth.

34    And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man?

35    Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.

36    And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?

37    And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

38    And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.


6B.    In this example we see the lost man, the Holy Spirit, the Word of God, and the man of God.  This, then, is how understanding comes to a lost man.  The eunuch was making use of the Word of God, doing his best.  But his best wasnít good enough.  It took the ministry of the Holy Spirit, using a chosen man to employ the written Word, to bring understanding to that man.  The result?  He got saved.



1.   How long do you think it took Philip to deal with that man?  Thirty minutes?  Three hours? Three days?  And that was a man so troubled about his soul that he left his country and traveled a great distance seeking a remedy, only to be disappointed.  But he didnít give up.  Then the Holy Spirit dispatched Philip.

2.   How long do you think it would take to bring a lost man to Christ who had displayed no interest in the things

      of God when you first met him, who had never read Godís Word, who had never traveled long distances to worship God?

3.   Think it might take more than fifteen minutes?  Think it might take more than fifteen hours?  Think it might take more than fifteen days?  How quickly does understanding usually come to a lost man, if it ever comes?

4.   However long it takes, a sinner will not get saved unless and until he does understand.  How much must a sinner understand?  What precisely must he understand?  To what depth must he understand?  Itís not for me to say.  But understanding the issues is required to some depth because Jesus said it was.

5.   And God must definitely intervene to provide that understanding, because apart from Godís intervention no man does understand and no man can understand.

6.   In short, beloved, getting someone saved is not something quite so simple that it can be accomplished in fifteen minutes.  For a lost man to get saved he has to understand some things, and that usually takes some time.

7.   Now, brother Isenberger comes to lead us in a song before this morningís sermon.



1.   In the few minutes we have left, this morning, let me direct my remarks to you here today who are not saved.

2.   I want to speak to you about things you do not know, have not figured out, do not realize, and most certainly do not understand.

3.   As well, you Christians here today may want to listen carefully for the purposes of reevaluation and reflection.

4.   I speak to you who have heard a great many sermons, have been to Church quite a number of times, and who have convinced yourself that you pretty well have the things of God and sin and salvation figured out. 

5.   In short, you are well convinced that you understand.  My task today is to show you that you do not understand.  Please listen up carefully for just a couple of minutes and weíll be finished.


1B.    Many think they understand when they actually have only a perfunctory awareness of the issues involved.  They think they understand because they are familiar with the terms and the jargon associated with Christianity and the Bible.

2B.    But it is very clear that you do not understand the issues involved if your actions do not correspond to the actions of a person who understands.  In other words, if you do not do what people who understand do, itís because you do not understand and you are doing what people who do not understand do.

3B.    But what do people who do not understand do?  In the parable of the sower there were three things done by those who did not understand, who did not get converted, though they had heard the Word preached:

1C.   The first one did not hang on to the Word, but it was snatched from him by the devil.  So, Scriptural truth just goes in to you and then right back out again.  You donít keep it.

2C.   The second one received the Word with joy.  ďO, this one must be saved.Ē  No, persecution and tribulation, difficulties in life, and you get offended.  Perhaps you were offended by last weekís sermon on being profane.  Were you one who went quickly to your car and drove home?

3C.   The last are those of you who care for this world and the Word is choked by the deceitfulness of riches.  You may have gotten upset at me rebuking you for putting money ahead of God.

4C.   Iíve obviously not covered everything that I could.  But your actions are not the actions of someone who understands just Who it is you are dealing with (God), and how serious are the consequences of not getting saved (wrath & Hellfire).



1B.    Are you scared of God?  if you are not, then you donít understand.

2B.    Can you sleep soundly at night?  If you can, then you donít understand.

3B.    Are you seeking the Lord while He may be found?  If you are not, then you donít understand.

4B.    Do you make use of means, which is to say you read your Bible, you pray, you faithfully attend church in the hopes you will get saved, and you are peeling off the sins that are dragging you to Hell?  If you are not, then you donít understand.

5B.    Do you fret over the fact that your heart is cold and your mind wanders to sins and your conscience isnít sensitive?  If you do not, then you donít understand.

6B.    Do you tremble at the thought of standing before a holy God in judgment to answer for your sins?  If you do not, then you donít understand. 

7B.    You flatter yourself that you understand, but you donít.  Not really.



1B.    First, you need to recognize that there are things you must do as a lost person, things that will in no way merit salvation or earn Godís favor, but things Jesus Christ commanded you to do anyway.  Read Luke 13.23-24 sometime.  Itís a passage that I would venture Jack Hyles and those who are as wrong about conversion as he was have never in their lives faced.  My friend, Jesus commanded you to strive to enter in at the strait gate, so youíd better make up your mind to do it and then do it.  If you refuse to strive itís quite unlikely that you will ever get converted.

2B.    Second, you need to recognize that if you get saved it may take a while.  I believe sinners can be converted rather quickly.  I believe Jesus is the ever accessible savior, and I always urge sinners to come to Jesus now!  But my observation is that most sinners who get saved do not quickly come to Jesus.  Why not?  Because you donít understand what your problem is and what Godís solution is.  You think you understand, but you obviously do not or youíd be saved by now.

3B.    Third, and with this I will close, you need to make use of Godís means of grace.  God is gracious and so very merciful, but it is folly to expect God to be gracious to you who scorn Him and to expect Him to reach down and save you while you are refusing the means of grace that He has extended to you.



1.   What does it mean to make use of the means of grace?  Itís simple:  Plead with God for mercy, read Godís Word, sit under the preaching of the Gospel, forsake any sin you feel to be a hindrance to your conversion.

2.   In pleading with God for mercy you are crying out to Him to demonstrate to you what He has demonstrated to others, a willingness to give you what you do not deserve and a willingness to not give you what you do deserve, forgiveness of sins and eternal life in Christ instead of wrath forever.

3.   You need to read Godís Word because ďOf his own will begat he us with the word of truth,Ē James 1.18.  True, you will need help understanding it.  But you still need to honor God and His Word by studying it because should you get saved it will be by means of the ministry of the Word.

4.   Sit under every sermon.  ďFor the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God,Ē First Corinthians 1.18.  And in verse 21, ďFor after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.Ē

5.   Finally, forsake sinful hindrances.  Please do not misunderstand by this that I think you need to cast off certain sins before you get converted.  I do not believe that and the Bible does not teach that.  But if you think you will come to Christ while grieving the Holy Spirit during His promptings about sins that sorely tempt you and distract you, then it is likely you will not get converted.

6.   In conclusion, there is great error held these days by supposed soul winners.  I think the reason so few Christians are soul winners is due to two facts:  First, most Christians arenít really converted because they were dealt with in this perfunctory and haphazard manner advocated by Jack Hyles, and therefore have no real understanding of the Gospel.  Second, because there are enough people who are fed up with leading someone in a short prayer after dealing with them for fifteen minutes, only to never see that supposed new convert in Church.  People know in their gut that this is no good, so they donít do it anymore.

7.   For a sinner to get truly saved he has to understand, really understand.  He has to have an understanding of the sinfulness of sin, of the holiness of God, of his own inability to save himself, and of the great sacrifice of Jesus Christ to provide for his salvation.  And such understanding usually comes only after the sinner has wrestled with these issues in his mind and heart, something that usually takes a bit of time.

8.   Sinners should be invited to Christ immediately.  But it simply must be understood by pastors that conversion will not actually occur until there is understanding, which usually happens eventually rather than immediately, if it happens at all.

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