Question: "What does it mean to be 'fishers of men'?"
Answer: The phrase “fishers of men” was spoken by Jesus when He was calling two of His disciples, Simon Peter and Andrew, to follow Him. “As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. ‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will make you fishers of men.’ At once they left their nets and followed him” (Mark 1:16–18; see also Matthew 4:19).
The idea behind fishing is to know the fish you are looking for and attract it so you can make the catch. To catch a fish we must know what equipment to use, the habitat and depth of the water we are fishing in, as well as the kind of bait the fish will go after. After we understand everything we need for real fishing, then how do we relate that to being fishers of men?
God asks us to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18–20). Just as we need equipment to be fishermen, we need equipment to be fishers of men. Putting on the armor of God is one way to be ready at all times with everything we need (Ephesians 6:10–18). Especially important are the shield of faith with which we ward off the opposition from demonic forces who don’t want to see men saved by the gospel of Christ (v. 16) and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God (v. 17). Without these two pieces of spiritual equipment, we will find fishing for men’s souls impossible.
Not only must we have the armor of God as our equipment, but we must also know the fish we are trying to attract. Knowing the lost condition of the people around us will help us to understand that, no matter how good we are at fishing, we will never “catch” the fish on our own. No reasoned argument will convert the soul of a darkened mind, because “the god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4). But God can and frequently does penetrate the darkness with the glorious gospel, and He uses us to do it. He knows which “fish” are His; therefore, we are to seek His wisdom and His guidance on all our fishing expeditions. Prayer is essential.
Lastly we must offer the only effective bait—the gospel of Jesus Christ. To those who are perishing, the message of the cross is foolishness, but to us, it is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18). The gospel message has the power to change lives, shine light into darkness, and deliver evil men from hell. There is power in no other message and no other “bait” can catch the fish of God. “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile” (Romans 1:16). This was Jesus’ message to Peter and Andrew—follow Me, learn of Me, know and understand My mission and My message. Only then will you be able to be fishers of men.