October 5, 2006
Man efficacious for another's salvation?
For instance: I have heard what I call the Ezekiel argument: that someones blood will be on my hands if I fail to stand in the gap and be that watchman on the wall. I know there are other examples but that one comes to mind most.
My personal thought is that God is much bigger than any one person and he certainly doesn't need any one person to do His will. If God has a plan for me to wittness to someone and I fail and that person ends up in Hell, is that my fault? I would think I would certainly suffer loss because of my failure to do God's will, but would not God send someone else or bring about other circumstances to allow this person to make his choice? Could a whole country not recieve the Gospel because one missionary fails to go? Considering the repeated failures of mankind I would think that surely my salvation was not dependent on fallen man. Perhaps someone was meant to wittness to me before the man that told me about Christ did. (maybe or mabe not) But someone was faithful and God sent him across my path.
I'm not sure if it matters in the big picture but I have seen a atmosphere of guilt taught in order to move people to wittness. Seems like the wrong motive for wittnessing. I should want to tell others about Christ's salvation because of what he has done in my life not because of guilt. I know the Holy Spirit draws men to salvation and he uses men to proclaim his word, so man is involved in the process. By saying that someone is in Hell because of a person doing or not doing something seems to take something away from God's power to save. When I have wittnessed to some one I have done so only when I felt led to. I think I am a "normal person", and I would not give much attention to someone peddling religion, especially out of guilt. However, if I got to know someone and saw what was going on in that persons life, I would be inclined to respect what they had to say.
Where does salvation come from? Man? Jesus said, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." (Jn14:6) Peter proclaimed, "Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under Heaven given among men that is required for us to be saved" (Ac4:12) Paul reminds us that it is "not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit" (Tit3:5)
One of my biggest gripes against soulwinnerism is this prideful attitude that many of them have: that unless it was for -them-, the busy soulwinner, that the world would be lost and without hope. They presume a certain air of self-righteousness. They seem to forget that when God looked down from Heaven to see of what sort mankind was, that He found that "They have all turned aside, together they have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, no, not one." (Ps14:3) Does not the word "all" include -them-, the 'soulwinner'?
What if there were -NO- believing witness anywhere in the world, how does God fulfill His word that "His own arm brought salvation"? Romans ch1 addresses this very thing. "For ever since the creation of the world the unseen things of Him are clearly perceived, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are WITHOUT EXCUSE" (vs20)
Even without a preacher or witnesser, the world is without excuse. There is something called "conscience" that God has instilled into every person, to know right and wrong (Rom2:15) and they -KNOW- the "righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death" (Rom1:32) As soon as Adam and Eve had sinned, they -knew-, and hid from God.
A knowledge of the Almighty is contained in pretty much all cultures, handed down through the generations, for any heart that is willing to heed. How many times when missionaries would go into the remotest jungles or desolate places, they would find the culture already had 'stories' of somebody in the past having eaten a forbidden fruit and/or of somebody building a "big canoe" and putting all the animals in it, etc.
There are some missionary-minded people who brow-beat with guilt, that God "has no other plan" for getting out the gospel message, than that -they-, the audience member, 'heed the call' to become a missionary. And soulwinnerism often operates in this way, too.
But God is not limited. How did He call Abraham? Who was the preacher or prophet? ...the soulwinner?
You asked about "whole countries" I don't have the article/s at my disposal right now, I've not filed (for keeping) every last little thing I've ever read. But some years ago I read an account of some nation or tribe someplace, I think central Asia? Near Mongolia? or some such place? Missionaries arrived, prepared to start preaching the Gospel, and they learned quite an incredible story. That group of people -already- knew the Gospel, and even many of the NT doctrines; but had not been in contact with anybody from the outside, nor did they have any copies of Scripture. Years prior, somebody in their group had received a vision from God, presenting the Gospel; and through this means they also learned Christian doctrine. When the missionaries arrived, it was as though their purpose was to 'verify' to them what they had already heard, much as when Paul had been learning from God directly in the wilderness, and then went to Jerusalem to verify what he had learned and had been preaching. (Ga1:16-2:2) God is not limited.
In another case, when missionaries arrived in some remote place, the natives asked them something on the order of, "What took you so long to get here?" The tribe had been in some spiritual place where they were seeking after "what?", they didn't know, and received a vision that a stranger would be sent to tell them what they needed to know. God is not limited. Cornelius comes to mind. (Acts10)
Indeed, the "watchman" is given a job to do, to watch for the enemy, and warn when he sees the enemy approach. God had specifically called Ezekiel as a prophet to Israel, to the "impudent" and "headhearted" and "rebellious house" (2:4-5) In that job that God gave Ezekiel to do, Ezekiel had a 'commission'. That was his 'post' to stand guard. Some people are commissioned to be special ops forces to infiltrate the enemy's camp; some as ambassadors to the enemy rulers; some work in the factories building the munitions. These various ones are not tasked with standing guard to "watch" and "warn". They have their own jobs to do. But often, they too, rely upon the watchman. If everybody was a "watchman", where would the munitions builders be? (1Co12)
But indeed, to the watchman: if he fails in his duties, the wicked will die, and he will have to take responsibility. But also notice that, if he fails, the wicked dies IN HIS INIQUITY. (Ezk33:8-9) Either way, if the watchman faithfully warns and the sinner does not heed; or if the watchman fails and the sinner does not repent; either way, the sinner dies FOR HIS OWN SIN. Even if the watchman fails in his mission, the sinner still has the witness of God's creation and conscience in his heart. He is WITHOUT EXCUSE.
But this is not to excuse the watchman from his duties!
But neither does this mean that the missionary, preacher, soulwinner, witnesser has special 'abilities' or -powers- to "save" people. We are not called to "compel" people to be saved. If you do a quick search on the word "compel", you will notice that it is typically connected with negative or bad things.
Yes, Paul was "compelled" to preach. (Ac18:5) As is any prophet of God. All throughout Isaiah and Jeremiah one finds the expression of the "burden" of the message to Israel, Moab, Ninneveh, etc. In fact Paul says, "woe is me if I do not preach the gospel" (1Co9:16)
But regarding one person compelling another: Saul before he was saved and was persecuting the church, "compelled" Believers to blaspheme. (Ac26:11) He speaks of compelling gentiles to Judaize. (Ga2:14) Or the compelling of gentiles to be circumcised. (Ga6:12)
But how is witnessing done? The same way God did with Israel: "Come now and let us REASON together.." (Is1:18) As Paul did, he "reasoned with them from the Scriptures" (Ac17:2) There was some "persuading" that would also happen. (Ac28:24) Every Believer is exhorted to be prepared to "give a defense" when asked. (1Pet3:15) And the primary thing, "preaching". (Rom10, 1Co1:17, 2Tim4:2, etc)
How is preaching to be done, if preachers are not sent? (Rom10:15)
However, also, just because somebody preaches, that does not 'guarantee' that the hearer will believe. To most of the world it is "foolishness of the message preached" (1Co1:21) They hear the message, but reject it because to their worldly minds it is 'stupid'. Why do I have to believe that Jesus died for my sin, when the world concensus is these days that there is no right or wrong; everybody do their own thing; everybody does "what is right in their own eyes" but God "ponders the hearts" (Pr21:2) "to give to every one according to what his work shall be" (Rev22:12) And God's verdict on self-righteousness is: "Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and understanding in their own sight!" (Is5:21)
Preachers preach, but those who come to Faith in Christ are those whom God "foreknew" (Rom8:29), and so He "draws" them. (Jn6:44) If God, in His foreknowledge because He "knows those who are His" (2Tim2:19), does not draw a person, Jesus said they cannot be saved. Notice the wording: "NO ONE CAN COME to Me -unless- the Father who sent Me draws him."
There is nothing about any fellow-man being 'efficacious' in that picture.
No human being could die for sinful man. All of mankind is born in sin, and the "wages of sin is death" (Rom6:23) A dead person cannot save -another- dead person. Why...no dead person can even save himself. It required the "precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot" (1Pe1:19)
A person, even a Believer, CANNOT "seal" another with the "promise" of salvation. The Holy Spirit does that. (Eph1:13)
A Believer cannot prick the conscience of another, only as they are preaching, being "filled with the Holy Spirit" (Ac4:8), as the words are not those of the Believer, but of the "Spirit of your father who speaks in you" (Mt10:20)
Yes, many soulwinners do a lot of brow-beating, thinking it is the same thing as the Holy Spirit's 'convicting' work. But we, as humans, do not have access to another person at the level of their soul and spirit...only Jesus, the Word of God, does. (Heb4:12-13) Our witnessing to another is effective, only so-far as we allow ourselves to be "filled by the Spirit" (Eph5:18) If we are not in fellowship with the Lord, in the "fellowship of the Holy Spirit" (2Co13:14, Php2:1) we might as well keep out yaps shut...all the good it will do for Eternity..!
Yes, I expect this is raising the dander of some reading this. If so, that's just too bad! We do NOT function with "carnal" means, but with God's "might". Charismania speaks of knocking down "strongholds" as they taunt satan, telling him just how great they are. But the true strongholds, barred up in the sinner's heart, are torn down through God's convicting power.
All a Believer is, is a messenger. We can plant or water, but it is "God who makes it grow" (1Co3:6) Many soulwinners sit there with their hacksaw, hammer and chisel, hacking and pounding away on the seed, trying to break it open to make it sprout. But God does not call us to do that. We are messengers. We reason, we persuade, we give a defense for what we believe, we preach, we proclaim "thus says the Lord".
"How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him bringing good tidings, proclaiming peace; bringing good news, proclaiming salvation..." (Is52:7)
"For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death (yes, "many" are on the "broad way" to destruction Mt7:13 and God knows who they are), and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things? For we are not, as so many, peddling the Word of God; but as of sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ, in the sight of God." (2Co2:15-17)